This Sight is Continuously Evolving

Children of the Coyote

Chapter 21
Woman's Blood

Just as the sun's light is touching the treetops opposite there little hole in the stream bank. Tagalong shakes Lizardfoot by the shoulder.
        "Come on Lizard, wake up. Are you planning to sleep all day?" She jokes.
        Lizardfoot rises to one elbow and stares out at the day. He sits up and stirs the coals of the fire. "It's cold this morning," he mumbles as he throws a small hand full of sticks on the fire.
        Tagalong comes over and sits next to him and stares into the blaze.
        "We need to talk," she says with out preamble.
        "What about?" He asks turning to face her.
        "I think you should go on ahead of me for a few days," she says blandly.
        "What? What are you talking about? I will do no such thing. Have you lost your senses?" He blurts out.
        "No, I am not crazy. I just think it will be safer for you if you travel with out me for a few days." She answers calmly.
        "What in the world are you talking about?" He asks exasperated.
        "Well I, well you see I. Oh scat! I didn't think this would become a problem. In all my preparations I hadn't even consider it." She stammers.
        "Would you please start making some sense and tell me what's wrong" he pleads.
        Tagalong takes a deep breath, sighs and then looking at the ground, in a quiet voice she says "In a few days I will have my woman's blood, so for your own safety you must leave me here and proceed alone for a time. I will catch up when it is all over, I promise."
        "No way will I leave you behind in this wilderness for any reason so long as we both have life" he declares.
        "But you don't understand," she protests. "I will have my woman's blood. I will attract predators. It will not be safe."
        "It will not be safe for ether one of us alone. I will not leave you and that is the end of it!" He says firmly.
        After a moment Tagalong throws he arms around Lizardfoot's neck with her head against his chest. "Thank you Lizard," she sobs. "I was so afraid to be alone."
        "I will never leave you alone out here," he says, stroking her long dark hair.
        "Now, how about some food woman." He says with mock gruffness. How do you expect me to protect you with an empty belly."
        "And what would my brave hunter like for breakfast?" she returns with mock submission. "You have a choice of left over fish or.... Oops, I guess the pup ate all the fish but we do have some expertly smoked lamb jerky or perhaps you would like some nice dried fruit and nuts." She suggests with a smile in her voice.
        "What I would like is a nice roast joint of deer but I guess lamb jerky, dried fruit and nuts will have to do." He answers.
        As they eat their morning meal Lizardfoot questions Tagalong about this mysterious woman's blood.
        "How do you know that it is close to the time for your bleeding?" He asks, chewing on a piece of jerky."
        "Well, I feel different, my ankles and fingers become swollen and stiff. I become irritable and...."
        "I hadn't noticed any increase in irritability" Lizard interrupts with a smile.
        "Well, I have, so don't argue with me!" She snaps.
        "How long does the bleeding last?" He asks.
        "Oh, up to several days." She replies.
        "Let me see if I understand," he says. "You say a woman can bleed for several days and not die?"
        "Yes" she answers.
        "That IS amazing. "I never suspected that women possessed such power," he admits. "Can you travel at all in this condition?" He inquires.
        "The first day or so there is some abdominal cramping but after that except for the blood trail, I can travel." She replies. "Why have I not seen women of the tribe walking around the village in this condition?" he asks.
        "The women build a special hut at the edge of the village for us to go to when it is our time. This way we do not attract predators into the our homes." She answers patiently.
        "Yes I know of the hut but I didn't know its purpose except that it was a special place for the women. I always thought that it was a place where women performed there special magic."
        "And now?" She asks.
        "Now, I think that I was not so far off the mark. For it must be magic in deed that a woman can bleed for several days and only suffer some cramping and bloating." He answers.
        "How do you keep from being dragged from the hut by marauding predators?" He asks. "Or, is that magic also?"
        "No, it is not magic," she says. "There is always more than one woman in the tribe whose cycles are the same so we are seldom alone in the hut. Also each day two women, who are, shall we say clean, attend those in the hut by bringing food, keeping the fire going and chasing away predators. This practice was started a generation ago after several wolves entered a woman's shelter killing her and dragging off one of her children before the village could be roused to her defense."
        "Yes, I had heard the story but I didn't know that the special hut was the outcome of the event." He confesses.
        They both sit silently for a few moments, then Lizardfoot asks, "We need to come up with some way to be able to travel with out leaving a trail of blood for the predators to follow."
        "I have been thinking about this also," she says. I think I have an idea. Some of the women wrap their babies in rabbit skins with cattail fluff stuffed between the legs to absorb the waste. I think that with a few such skins I may be able to make something to absorb my blood."
        "The next day or two we will remain here to hunt rabbits. You can make what you need and when you are ready we will continue our quest." Lizardfoot declares.
        Two days later Lizardfoot is entering the cave carrying a brace of bunnies, and  finds Tagalong fastening a rabbit skin around her waste. The cut of the article covers the area intended but not much more.
        He stops in his tracks staring with his mouth agape.
        She looks up from tying the thong around her waist.
        "Well what do you think?" She asks as she pirouettes before him.
        "Very interesting" he says rubbing his chin and looking at her speculatively. "I especially like the way it accentuates your backside. Will it soak up the blood?" He asks, dodging the rock she throws at him.
        "I think so" she replies. "We will know by tomorrow or the next day."
        "Here are two more skins for you" he announces, holding the two rabbits out to her. "I have been thinking" he continues. "Maybe we should stay here until your blood time has passed. We have the safety of this cave. There is plenty of firewood available so we can have a continuous fire to keep the predators away. There are fish in the stream and plenty of game in the woods along its banks. We can replenish our traveling supplies and when you are ready we can move on."
        "Thank you Lizard but I am not some week female that will be a burden to you. I can keep up. I can still hunt and fish or do anything else that needs doing. You don't have to make any special plans to accommodate me." She admonishes caustically.
        "Wait, hold on" Lizardfoot cries defensively holding his hands up. "This has nothing to do with weather you are a capable person or not. I know that you are as fit a hunter as I and that you would never burden me." He says seriously.
        "Then, what is this about?" She asks standing with her hands on her hips looking at him curiously.
        "This morning when I went to check the snares" he begins. "I decided to get a look at the country ahead of us. I climbed a high hill and when I got to the top I could see the smoking mountain and the land between it and where we are now." He pauses.
        "Well?" She prompts.
        "It doesn't look good" he mumbles.
        "What do you mean?" She asks.
        "From the top of the hill I saw a land of desolation spreading in all directions from the mountain. This small valley that we are in is the last safe haven that we will find until our mission is accomplished" he continues. "We will need all the supplies we can carry and here is where we must gather them."
        "Did you see water or streams from the hilltop?" she asks.
        "Yes, There is a large stream running along the foot of the mountain and many drainage's connecting to it. Weather these gullies have water in them or not I was unable to tell. From my vantage point I could not see any lines of trees marking the streams I could only see the folds in the land where creeks should be. All the vegetation has been ether flattened, covered over or burned off. I could not tell for sure which."
        "Are you sure we must go to the mountain?" She asks.
        "Yes," he replies. "Each day I become more convinced that our destiny is tied to that frightening place. Last night I dreamed of Coyote again. He was in a land of smoke and mist. He called to me and then disappeared into a place of shimmering black boulders. The misty lands are before us they begin near the borders of the large river that washes the feet of the mountain and continue up its slopes to the summit where the smoke stains the sky black. "Somewhere on that mountain we will find the answer to why we are here. Coyote will reveal his secret there.
        "Then there is the problem of the Puma," he says quietly. "Did you see it?" She asks in a frightened tone. "No, but I found more tracks this morning. It would seam that our one eyed friend has not given up on its quest for vengeance against us. So far we have always had a cave or rock outcropping to protect us. Out there in the waste land there doesn't appear to be anyplace to hide."
        For the next few days the two young people fish and hunt together. They set up a rack for the meat, and keep a smoky fire going.
        On the fourth day Tagalong announces that her cycle has almost passed and when the supply of meat is smoked she will be ready to travel.
        Two days later, Lizardfoot and Tagalong with full packs and with the little canine in the lead begin their march across the destruction that is the land of mists.
        The country is barren. Most of the timber having been blown flat by the earlier eruptions of the black mountain. The trees still left standing are twisted and scorched the rest are scattered across the land.
        The two young people struggle through the tangled dead falls, climbing over, under, and around obstacles. Slowly they move through a land devoid of color, a land of gray ash and blackened trees. The travel is slow and arduous. A whole day is consumed in covering only a short distance. By early afternoon the trio is exhausted, and they begin looking for a safe place to hide.
        They have not seen any outcrops or caves for shelter. Nor have they reached the first of the creeks that cut through the ash covered wasteland.
        "I am exhausted" Tagalong complains quietly. "Maybe we can make some kind of shelter from some of these dead trees." She suggests.
        "That's a possibility," Lizardfoot agrees. "We will have to make it strong enough to keep that puma out."
        "There!" He says pointing to a large log laying over a small depression in the ash. "If we dig out some of the gray dust from under that log, and if we can find enough small trees we can build a hut to spend the night in. "There is plenty of dead wood around for a good fire, so we should be safe enough."
        The rest of the afternoon is spent building the shelter and gathering firewood.
        After digging out enough ash to make room under the log for themselves, their four legged friend and the all important fire, they begin stacking large sticks and small trees against what would become the back side of their shelter. Other trees are shoved under the log to form the sides of the fort. Satisfied that they will be safe here they move in for the night.
        Tagalong has perfected her new fire starting method. By rapidly rotating the rod in a notch near the edge of the base board and placing the whole thing on top of the dry tinder, in a short time hot glowing wood dust drops onto the tinder and is quickly blown into a blaze.
        Their first night in the wasteland is for the most part an uneventful one. They take turns, one watching the fire and keeping it alive while the other sleeps. A short time before dawn while Tagalong dozes by the fire. She is suddenly brought to full wakefulness by the loud screaming roar of the Puma close by. Quickly she throws some dry twigs on the low fire and reaches to shake Lizardfoot awake.
        "I heard it," he says sitting up and grabbing his spear when she touches his knee.
        The three stare out at the dark waiting for the attack, a low growl rumbling in the throat of the little canine. The attack doesn't come. Soon the darkness gives way to daylight and after a breakfast of dried meat, our two adventurers resume there struggle across the desolation caused by the black mountain's periodic eruptions.
        "What did you do with the little fur thing you were warring?" Lizardfoot asks as they are struggling through a maze of blown down trees.
        "I didn't like the way it smelled so I threw it away. I don't need it any more. The woman's blood has stopped." Tagalong answers as she ducks under one dead fall and begins climbing over the next. "Why?" She asks.
        "Oh, nothing in particular" he answers. "I just was thinking that it looked quite appealing, that's all"
        Tagalong stops in her tracks with her left hand on her hip the spear in her right hand with the butt set against the ground she blows a wisp of hair from in front of her eyes and watches Lizardfoot climb the jumble of logs before them. After a moment she shakes her head, mumbles one syllable and continues climbing.
        "That fur thing was not very comfortable and it made me itch" she says after a bit.
        Late in the morning they leave the jumbled masses of blown down trees and enter an area of rolling ash dunes. Here the ash is like chalk dust and they sink to there calves with each step. A cloud of the gray powder follows them as they struggle along.
        By mid day they reach the banks of a small stream. The little creek has carved a deep gully through the soft ash. The sides of the gully are steep and so soft that just the vibrations of there approach causes a large section of the edge to break off and pour into the water far below.
        The two humans and there four legged companion turn west following the stream looking for a suitable place to descend the bank with some possibility of escaping the gully once they are at the bottom. Finally they see another small brook entering from the north. Where the two streams join they have scoured the ash down to a gravel base. Just down stream the water disappears beneath an enormous logjam that allows access from their side and egress to the opposite bank. In front of the logs a small sandy bottomed pool has formed.
        The two weary travelers climb down the pile of logs and make their way to the edge of the pond. Lizardfoot stops at the edge sticks his spear in the ground shrugs off his pack and squats down to scoop up a hand full of the cool liquid.
        He looks up to see Tagalong drop her spear and pack and without stopping walk into the water.
        "I'll drink later but first I need a bath" she says as she dives into the pond. She surfaces near the logjam leaving a gray stain in the water to temporarily mark her progress.
        As she turns to face Lizardfoot she sniffs twice and wrinkles up her nose.
        "Pew!" she exclaims. "Is that me or dose this water smell like something rotten?"
        "I am not sure what you smell but the water does have a disagreeable odor and a foul taste to match. Don't drink any if you haven't already" he calls. "I'm going to walk up stream to the fork and see if both creeks stink.
        He turns picks up his spear and walks the short distance to the "Y". He stands looking at the two waters for a time. He notices that the one coming from the north has a slight milky yellow color. While the one from the East, appears much clearer. Lizard walks a few steps to the East, squats down dips his left hand into the water and brings the liquid to his nose.
        He hears crunching gravel as Tagalong and the dog come up behind him.
        "Pew!" She says again. "Now I Really need a bath."
        "Well, maybe the smell will help keep these pesky little
        biting flies away" he says as he slaps at three of the creatures in succession. "If it works let me know, perhaps I'll go swimming in this foul water also."
        Lizardfoot stands and wades across the small creek to the opposite shore. He walks to the northern stream, squats, dips his right hand in and brings the water to his nose.
        "Pew!" he exclaims as he stands and throws the water to the ground.
        He re-crosses to Tagalong's side.
        "This water is probably okay to drink. At least your friend seams to think so" he says indicating the young dog with a nod of his head. "From here on we must be careful of what we drink and eat.
        "Ouch!" Tagalong exclaims as she swats at the biting insects that are beginning to attack her in large numbers.
        Waving her arms to ward off the swarm she rushes past the little canine and splashes up stream into the clean eastern flow. When she reaches a spot where the water comes to her upper thigh she turns around and sits down. She leans back until only her nose is exposed above the surface of the water. The insects hover in a dark cloud above the small exposed brown proboscis and Que. up for their turn at the small meal.
        Tagalong explodes from the depths in a shower of spray, momentarily scattering the flies. She takes a deep breath and then completely submerges. She pulls up hands full of ash from the bottom and begins vigorously scrubbing her body to rid herself of the sulfurous odor that has apparently intensified the fly's attraction to her.
        Two more times she surfaces and submerges the third time she comes up slowly, first her forehead then her eyes and nose are exposed. She stops there and rolling her eyes in all directions searches for the troublesome insects. Seeing that her splashing has evidently dispersed the creatures she slowly stands and looks around.
        Up stream she sees Lizardfoot standing in knee deep water scrubbing himself with ash and then rinsing in the stream.
        When he is done he wades to her side. "I think we should fill our water skins and be on our way," he says. "The flies are too thick in this creek bottom, maybe in the open the breeze will help keep them off."
        "Yes, and quickly" she agrees, twisting her long dark hair to wring out the water.
        After filling the water skins and retrieving there gear they climb the logjam exiting the gully on the north side with the sulfurous creek to their right. A strong breeze from out of the west greets them as they leave the shelter of the creek banks.
        Lizardfoot and Tagalong stand together looking toward the tall black cone in the distance. They can see the jagged peak poking above a dark gray mist that obscures its base and the land between the mountain and themselves. The vista is desolate save the occasional skeletal form of a scorched branch (the remains of an ancient forest of giants now entombed forever) poking up from the ash.
        Lizardfoot looks up at the mid day sun. The normally bright yellow ball appears dimmed with an orange cast to its light.
        Tagalong points out the dark clouds that are forming along the great ridge that is the western extent of the Fug-a-we world.
        "It looks like a big storm coming," she says.
        "We had better start moving" Lizard suggests. "Maybe we can find some kind of shelter before it hits."
        As they move on the wind intensifies. Soon the air is filled with stinging particles biting at the naked bodies of our two young travelers.
        Presently Tagalong stops and calls to Lizardfoot. "Lizard, stop!" She calls. Her words are carried away by the wind.
        She struggles through the ankle deep ash to catch up with him. She reaches out and grabs his pack.
        Lizardfoot stops and turns to face her a questioning look in his eyes.
        "We can cover our selves with our robes to keep the sand from stinging us" she shouts over the sound of the wind.
        He nods his head affirmatively, shrugs out of his pack and sets it on the ground.
        "What do you need?" He shouts into her ear.
        "We must secure the robe around our bodies and over our heads, so we need some strips of rabbit hide." She shouts.
        Lizardfoot turns to his pack and removes the by now somewhat warn buffalo calf skin that tagalong had given him.
        Immediately the wind tries to steal it.
        Lizardfoot manages to gather the wildly flapping skin into a bundle and places it on the ground holding it down with one knee while he rummages through his gear. Presently he comes up with several thin strips of rabbit skin. These he holds tightly in his fist while he stuffs the robe back into the pack.
        By then Tagalong has gotten her robe from her pack and is holding it tightly against her body. Working together, after a long struggle they manage to cover them selves from head to knee, partially protecting them from the flying particles. Carrying their packs in front of them they continue their march.
        The wind blown particles become so thick that it becomes difficult to see more than a few steps ahead the light begins to fade as dark clouds from the west streak across the sky high above our travelers' heads.
        Again Tagalong stops Lizardfoot by tugging on his robe. He turns and comes up close enough that they can put the two hoods of their garments together and speak with out having to shout.
        "What is it?" He asks.
        "The storm" she says. "It will be here soon we must find some place."
        Lizardfoot pulls his face away and looks up. Although it is still early afternoon, between the dust and the approaching weather it is as dark as evening.
        "We might as well stop right here. We can't see to go any farther anyway.
        They sit down where they are with their backs to the wind hunched over the packs to protect them from being blown away.
        The pup wiggles its way under Tagalongs robe seeking protection. Tagalong pulls the robe tightly around her self and leans forward with her legs folded around the pack and the furry animal in her lap.
        Lizardfoot makes similar arraignments as the wind screams across the ash lands buffeting the two as they sit choking on air that is mostly grit.
        After what seams like hours the wind's fury subsides, now the air begins to clear and the dust diminishes noticeably. .
        Lizardfoot pulls the robe open where it covers his face and squints out at the world. Black clouds have filled the afternoon sky and it is as dark as night. His nostrils pick up the smell of rain and another aroma that he can not name, "ozone." He peers about as Lightning streaks from the clouds, striking to the West of them. He quickly retracts his head and the two huddle closer together. The Lightning continues to flash around them for many long minutes then as if becoming board with teasing these two lonely travelers it moves on.
        Tagalong feels a hard thump on her left shoulder, then one on her covered head. It is as if some one were throwing rocks at her. She pulls back the makeshift hood to see who it might be and is struck several times by cherry sized hailstones. Yelping with pain she quickly retreats into the protection of the buffalo skin.
        The hailstorm increases in size and ferocity pelting down for several minutes. Fortunately they are protected from the worst by the thick hide and fur of the robes that tagalong had the foresight to prepare.
        Eventually, the hailstorm also moves on to torment the earth further to the East.
        The two Fug-a-we sit still for a time and then slowly they each lift there heads and peek out at the world It is even darker, the wind has stopped as if the storm is taking a breath in preparation for another onslaught.
        Then, come the rains. Not a fine spring drizzle. Not a refreshing summer shower. This rain roles across the land in a dark band that stretches from North to South as far as the eye can see and blots out the western mountains. Waves of huge drops pummel the earth and the two young people drenching them instantly and turning the dry, rolling ash lands into a giant quagmire. The deluge cuts great jagged gullies across the land filling the low areas with quick sand and making any thought of travel impossible.
        The storm lasts long into the night. The two Fug-a-we huddle together miserably, water soaking threw their robes and making small icy rivulets that run down their bodies. As the air temperature drops, Lizardfoot and Tagalong snuggle closer together to conserve warmth.
        By midnight the worst of the storm passes and a light drizzle takes its place.
        With the letup in the storm Lizardfoot remembers that they haven't eaten since morning. His stomach growls.
        He opens his robe enough to stick an arm out and rummage inside his pack. He finds the package of jerky that he had placed on top this morning so it would be handy. Feeling around in the pack he discovers that every thing is covered with ash and that the ash has gotten wet so that all his food is encased in gritty mud. He peels the package of jerky off the top of the pile; mud slowly slides from the soft wet rawhide envelope and falls with a "plop" into the pack. In the dark Lizardfoot scrapes what muck as he can from the package with his fingers, then he carefully opens it. The meat in side is damp but undamaged although a bit gritty. He takes one piece for himself and hands the container to Tagalong. 
        Tagalong accepts it silently. She takes one piece for herself and one for the pup.
        The little canine chews happily while the humans grimace as the ash grinds between their teeth.
        Lizardfoot is about half way through his meal when he remembers the fire tools. Frantically he digs down through the ooze in the pack. At the bottom where he had placed it for safety sits the flat parflech container. As he frees it from the sludge he can hear a sucking sound. When he holds the package up liquid ash slides from its surface. Nervously he struggles to untie the hide thongs with which the container is held closed. Finally he has it open and he feels in side.
        "Soaked!" He grumbles. "Everything is wet, the fire board, the tinder, everything. Now what are we going to do? Without fire we will be at the mercy of the predators"
        "It will be light soon, Tagalong assures him. We will be safe enough then," she continues. "We will be able to dry the fire tools during the day and by tomorrow night we will have fire again.
        "I'm not worried about tomorrow," Lizardfoot protests. "My concern is for the rest of tonight. That one eyed puma can attack us at any time and we will be as mice before it."
        Lizardfoot suggests that they sit with their backs together and their spears at the ready. Thus they spend the remainder of the dark stormy night, eyes staring into the blackness griped with fear.
        Fortunately for our two travelers the storm has temporarily thrown the puma off their track. Even now it is dozing under a log a few miles away. Soon it will rise and continue the hunt.

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