Children of the Coyote
Terror in the Mud
Lizardfoot opens his eyes and
jerks his head up just as the sun is peeking above the eastern horizon. He finds himself
in a world of red swirling mists. As the sun continues to climb the red mists fade to
gray. The steam rises from the mud flats all around them. Icy fingers wrap themselves
around our young friends causing their teeth to chatter. Lizard foot gets to his feet and
sinks into the mud to above his ankles.
Tagalong also gets to her feet with the same
result. She shivers as she pulls the soggy robe around her shoulders.
"We must get moving" Lizardfoot says.
"Which way?" Tagalong asks.
"I think we should head for the river,
maybe we can get free of this land of mud." He suggests.
"Which way?" She repeats.
Lizardfoot looks up at the sky to get his
bearings and finds no sun to guide him. The fog has defused the light so that it appears
to come from every ware.
Casting about he makes a decision.
"This way" he says, and starts
slogging through the ankle deep mud.
"Wait!" Tagalong cries. "How do
you know you are going in the right direction."
"I don't", he replies
matter-of-factly. "I figure if we will walk until we come to some sort of stream. We
can then follow that stream down to the river, or if we are going West we will come to the
river eventually. If we are going East the land will begin to rise towards the Eastern
hills. Ether way we have to keep moving."
"What if we are heading back the way we
came?" She asks.
"It's the same," he replies. "We
will eventually come to some kind of water course and follow it to the river. With any
luck Grandfather sun will show himself and will lead us."
"What if we run into the Puma?" She
asks, a frightened tremor in her voice.
"Then we will have an end to this game
once and for all," he answers in a matter-of-fact tone. "We must face up to that
Saying this he turns from her and picks up the
soggy pack. Using the spear as a staff he starts off slowly. Each time he sets his foot
down it sinks into deep sticky mud then there is a sucking sound as he frees the other
foot from the mire. With each step he finds it necessary to use the soggy pack and the
staff for support.
Their progress is agonizingly slow, they
struggle for every step.
The lighter weight puppy on its four feet trots
back and forth between the two humans, whining as if encouraging them not to give up.
After an agonizing length of time Lizardfoot
notices that he can almost see his shadow on the ground to his left. He stops and looks up
at the mist shrouded sky. He can see the pale eye of the sun staring down at them from the
East. The light is a cool white as if he were looking at the moon. Lizardfoot turns to the
left, puts the dim sun at his back and continues slogging along toward the river.
The two young people are walking side by side
with the pup between them. Suddenly the little canine turns around and growls loudly.
As Lizardfoot turns his head to see why the
animal is growling a dark shape emerges from the fog.
Without hesitation the puma leaps at
As Lizardfoot turns to face the cat, his feet
become tangled in the mud and he falls on his back. He can see the tawny terror above him.
He lifts the spear pointing it at his attacker.
The great cat screams as it impales itself on
the sharpened lance. The point impacts on the cats breastbone, slides a short distance
across a rib and pierces the flesh between two ribs. The animals weight drives the spear
deep into its chest, through its heart and lodges against the spine.
Tagalong strikes, as Lizardfoot's spear stops
deep in the lions breast. Moving as fast as she can in the mud and with all her
slight weight behind it she rams her spear into the left side of the great cat. Her thrust
strikes far back along the body and skids along the ribcage until it encounters the joint
behind the shoulder. Here it finally punctures the skin, passes through the animal and
exits the throat forward of the right shoulder cutting the main artery to the pumas brain.
The force of her attack pushes the cat, which is impaled on the end of Lizardfoot's spear,
in an arc to one side
Whether by reflex or as a final attempt to disembowel Lizardfoot, the
dying puma reaches out with it's left fore paw as it falls. The razor sharp talons slice
through the buffalo robe that still partially covers Lizardfoot and rakes his flesh. As
the cat falls it drags the robe from lizard's body leaving four long jagged gashes from
Lizardfoot's right shoulder diagonally across and down his body ending below his left
breast. Thanks to the protection of the thick buffalo hide the wounds are deep and painful
but not life threatening. Even so they bleed profusely.
As the puma hits the ground Lizardfoot
struggles to his feet and unlimbers his short club. Staggering through the thick mud he
falls to pummeling the cat's head again and again until it is a bloody smear on the mud.
Exhausted and sobbing he sinks to his knees and then in a swoon he falls on his face.
Tagalong is instantly by his side. She gently
places a hand on his shoulder and turns him face up. She gasps as he roles onto his back,
his body is covered in mud and gore.
"Lizardfoot!" She cries, her
left-hand pushing his hair away from his face.
He groans, opens his eyes and tries to sit up.
Fiery pain flashes through his chest. With a sharp intake of breath through his teeth he
lays back down on the mud.
"Got water?" He asks after a moment.
Tagalong crawls to her pack and returns with
her water skin.
She holds his head up, puts the opening to his
mouth, and he drinks deeply of the gritty liquid.
"I sure will be glad to be free of this
mud" he mumbles then he lays back down and closes his eyes against the pain of his
Tagalong reaches into her pack and produces a
piece of rabbit skin. She moistens it with her dwindling water supply and begins to wipe
the mud and blood from Lizardfoot's chest.
He winces at the contact and tries to sit-up
"What are you doing?" He protests, as
she gently pushes him back down.
"I have to clean your wounds" she
"We don't have enough water for
that," he argues. "Help me up and we will get going," "You can't
travel like this" she insists.
"Sure I can, It's only a scratch," he
"But your badly hurt," she continues.
"It's only a flesh wound," he
"A flesh wound! You are bleeding all over
the place," she protests.
"I've had worse" he assures her.
"No you haven't," she rejoins.
"Yes I have!" He replies testily.
"When?" she asks sharply.
"Well, uh, You weren't there," he
"What?" I have always been there and
these are the worst wounds I have ever seen you sustain! Now you just sit still and let me
take care of you!" She says with finality.
For a moment Lizardfoot just looks at her with
his mouth open as if to protest.
"Well, okay, he relents. "But we
can't stay here in this exposed place to long," he continues as he lies back down.
"The puma is dead," she replies.
"We don't have to worry any more."
"Yes, the puma is dead," he says.
"And what do you suppose will come to feed on its carcass?"
Tagalong thinks for a moment. "Maybe
us?" she suggests brightly.
He winces at the pain as he begins to laugh.
"Yes, maybe us" he says through his laughter. "You are always ahead of
me" he tells her. You are right, the meat will be a good addition to our food
"The hide also," she suggests.
"The hide?" he asks. "Why do you
want the hide?"
"You have overcome a great adversary
today" she begins. You have killed a Puma, you must take his skin and ware it as he
did. In this way you will show respect for him and perhaps gain some power over his kind.
By wearing his skin, you will show others that Lizardfoot is a great hunter and I will be
"Wait, hold on!" he protests.
"We, killed the puma. I didn't do it on my own."
"You drew first blood," she says
"Yes, But you saved me from being
disemboweled," he protests again. "Your spear was just as fatal to the puma as
"That is true," she admits after a
moment's reflection, but if you had been killed I would have taken his skin for myself. It
is your club that delivered the final blows. The skin is yours."
With that said she dumps some water on his
chest and begins scrubbing mud from his wounds.
"Waugh!" he protests. "Are you
trying to finish what the puma started? "Let me clean myself, you can start skinning
Silently she hands him the wet rabbit fur and
turns to her pack where she recovers the sharp obsidian flake she had found. With out
further discussion she falls to striping the puma of its hide.
Lizardfoot dabs gently at his wounds with the
moistened rabbit fur and watches Tagalong work.
Using Lizardfoot's razor sharp obsidian blade,
she begins at the animal's belly and works the skin off on both sides laying it out fur
side down on the mud, she strips the flesh from the hams, she removes the tenderloin from
each side of the spine and the muscles of the front shoulders. She places the meat
carefully on the hide and folds it into a bundle.
When the butchering is completed she looks over
at Lizardfoot. The pain of his torn flesh causes perspiration to bead on his forehead and
upper lip. His breathing is shallow as he fights the pain. Blood and fluid drains down his
torso from the angry red edged grooves.
Tagalong kneels beside him. She reaches out and
places her palm against his head. "Tisk, tisk," she mutters. "We must get
you to somewhere where I can care for your wounds" she says softly.
"I'm okay" he replies. "I just
need a little rest."
She looks at him for a long moment, and then
she begins making preparations to go. First she goes through the packs and discards much
of the ruined food. She cleans out the packs and refills the larger with the flesh and
skin of the cat. When this is done she turns her attention to the soggy buffalo robes.
"I'll need your help with these wet robes
she says to Lizardfoot.
Slowly, painfully, Lizardfoot gets to his feet.
"What do you want me to do," he asks.
She hands him his spear and folds one of the
robes around the shaft. "Just hold this," she says. She then pokes her spear
through holes she has made in the loose ends of the tough hide. She twists the hide using
the spear as a handle. Stoically he holds on to his end grimacing at the pain. In this way
they manage to ring a large amount of water from the soaked robes.
The two robes, the puma's meet and skin, her water flask and small
amount of miscellaneous equipment go into the large pack. In the smaller one she puts
their lighter equipment, the fire tools and Lizardfoot's water bag.
"Okay Lizard, we are ready to go" she
Lizardfoot is sitting on the ground slumped
forward. He raises his head and looks at her for a moment as if trying to understand her
words. Then he says, "Oh, yeah." Using his bloody spear as a staff he levers him
self to his feet.
"Okay, help me with my pack" he says.
She picks up the smaller one and says
"Turn around and I will help you put it on."
"Wait, That's not my pack" he
"It is now," she replies.
"You don't have to carry my pack, I'm not
an invalid" he grumbles.
"What"? She cries. "Okay you
asked for it." She sets the small pack down and struggling she lifts the larger one
so that he can slide his arms through the straps.
"Are you ready?" She asks.
"Yes, I'm ready," he replies.
Tagalong lets the full weight of the pack
descend on Lizardfoot's shoulders.
The straps immediately dig into the inflamed
flesh. The weight of the pack pulls the skin across his chest and the pain causes his
sight to dim. Lizardfoot drops to his knees then roles onto his back. "Waugh! Get me
out of this," he groans.
Tagalong gently helps free him from the pack.
"Now, will you let me carry this
one"? She asks sweetly.
"Okay, okay" he groans, sitting up
Lizardfoot finds that he can not tolerate the
straps of even the light back on his shoulders so he carries it in his left hand. His
spear in his right he uses as a staff.
The mists swirl around them as they begin the
day's struggle through the mud.
Through the fog the cold starring eye of the
sun follows them as they head north.
As the day warms the mud begins to dry.
By mid day the two travelers no longer have to
pull their feet from the sticky mire with each step. By mid afternoon the mud has hardened
to form a skin that is firm enough to walk on with relative security. The earth quivers as
they pass over the surface. Occasionally they encounter an area that is still soft and
they fight their way through.
They walk single file with the dog leading the
way. Occasionally the pup looks back to make sure she is going in the right direction and
that her companions are following. The light animal trots over the surface hardly leaving
a track on the hardened mud. Tagalong follows a short distance behind her four legged
friend. Lizardfoot, sick with fever and pain struggles to keep up, falling further and
Struggling along under the weight of the large
pack, Tagalong does not notice that the pup's tracks have suddenly become quite deep. With
her next step she sinks to her crotch in a soft patch of mud. Only the pack on her back
stops her from sinking even deeper. Struggling to free herself she sinks to he waste.
"Lizardfoot!" She cries out.
She frees her self from the pack straps and
turns her head to see if Lizardfoot is coming to her aid. He is no where in sight.
"Lizardfoot help me," she cries
No answer comes to her.
The more Tagalong tries to free herself the
deeper she sinks into the quicksand.
The little dog runs back and forth whining.
Occasionally she tries to reach Tagalong but stops when she also begins to sink.
Tagalong is now up to her breasts in the mud
and Lizardfoot is nowhere in sight.
In desperation she begins talking to the dog.
"You must help me my little friend,"
she says in a calm voice. "You must get Lizardfoot. You must go find him and bring
him back to help me."
The young canine stops its nervous whining and
running about. She sits back on her haunches and tilting her head slightly, watching
tagalong with intelligent blue eyes.
"Go get Lizardfoot" Tagalong says.
"Go on, Sky-eyes, go get Lizardfoot," she coaxes.
The pup stands and begins to move along their
back trail. She only goes a short distance then as if torn with indecision she begins to
Tagalong keeps encouraging her. "Go on, go
get Lizardfoot" she cries.
Again the pup starts out. A few yards away it
stops and looks back at Tagalong who is now up to her armpits in mud.
"Oh please, Sky-eyes, please get
help" Tagalong cries, tears streaming down her cheeks.
As if finally getting the message the pup turns
away and at run disappears into the mist.
Tagalong clings tightly to the pack for
security but the pack is also sinking slowly into the mire.
Not far away Sky-eyes finds Lizardfoot half
sitting, half lying on the trail. The small pack is under his right side; the spear is
sticking up from where the but has poked through the crust of mud.
Lizardfoot's left hand is still gripping the
shaft high above his head. His head hangs forward and his eyes are closed.
The young dog runs up to him barking loudly.
Lizardfoot does not look up.
Sky-eyes Takes the strap of the pack in her
teeth and growling low in her throat she pulls the pack out from under Lizardfoot's side.
When the pack is pulled out from under him,
Lizardfoot sinks quickly to the ground. The pain of the contact causes him to open his
eyes. Through a feverish haze he sees the small animal trying to steal his pack.
"Shtopthayou!" He slurs. "Gidawayanlemesleep!"
Sky-eyes begins to bark incessantly. Running up
to Lizardfoot and then running towards Tagalong.
Finally the fog in Lizardfoot's fevered brain
begins to lift.
"Oh, it's you little one," he
mumbles. "Where's Tagalong?" he asks casually.
The dog continues to run back and forth barking
"What, What's the mater? Is Tagalong in
trouble?" Lizardfoot asks, trying to rise to his feet.
Twice he attempts to rise, On the third attempt
he is successful.
By now the dog is spinning around in circles
and barking wildly.
"Okay, Okay I'm coming" Lizardfoot
says to the twirling, barking dog.
He pulls the spear from the mud and picks up
the pack all in one slow calculated motion
With agonizing slowness Lizardfoot follows,
staggering behind the pup as she retraces her steps to Tagalong
By the time Lizardfoot and the Sky-eyes reach
Tagalong only her head and forearms are visible. She has sunk to her chin in the mud but
she still clings to the partially submerged pack.
Lizardfoot stagers to the edge of the quicksand
and would have become mired himself but for Tagalong's warning to stop a safe distance
Appraising the situation Lizardfoot sets down
his pack and drops to his knees. He grasps his spear by one end and wincing from the pain
in his chest he lies down on his stomach and extends the other end of the spear toward
"Too short," he mutters. "The
spear is too short," he tells her. "I will try to get closer."
"No!" She shouts. "You will only
get stuck and we will both die."
"The rope" he mutters. "Where is
the rope?" he asks. "In the small
pack" she cries spitting mud from her mouth. "Hurry!"
As fast as his pain and his fevered brain will
allow Lizardfoot crawls to the pack. Turning it over he dumps the contents on the ground.
He takes up the coil and tosses one end to Tagalong whose head, from her upper lip up and
forearms are all that can be seen above the surface.
On the second attempt she manages to grab the
Lizardfoot tries to pull her free but the pain
in his lacerated chest is too much.
He wraps the rope around his waist and standing
with his feet apart, heals dug in, he leans back on the rope. As he slowly sinks to a
sitting position his weight pulls Tagalong up until her shoulders are clear of the mud.
"I can't pull you Tag." He calls to
her through clenched teeth. "You will have to pull your self out. I will do what I
can to hold on.
Slowly, hand over hand, Tagalong is able to
free herself from the mire. With Lizardfoot as an anchor and the little animal whining
encouragement from the sidelines she crawls up to Lizardfoot and collapses by his side.
She is covered with a thick layer of mud from nose to toes.
With the emergency over, pain and fever wash
over Lizardfoot. He lies back on the drying mud with a groan and closes his eyes.
After a few moments Tagalong remembers the half
submerged pack. Taking the rope from around Lizardfoot's waist she ties a loupe in one
After several tries she manages to lasso the
pack and pull it free. This done Tagalong lays down on her back next to the unconscious
Looking straight up she notices that the fog
has burned off and the sky is as blue as the eyes of her little canine friend.
"Yes, Sky-eyes is a good name for you my
friend" she muses.
The dog lies down beside her and licks at her
forehead above the line of drying muck that curves across Tagalongs face forming a 'mud
smile' from ear to ear.
To Chapter 24
Back to the Introduction