“You… you are Tumseneho!” Awan backs away from Kaga.
Kaga falls backwards onto the ground and lets out a laugh like the scratching of squirrel claws on oak.
“No, friend Awan, I am not Tumseneho. I have plenty of blood. To look at you right now you would not think that you had any, ha ha ha!” Awan’s heart is still beating very hard, and his hands are wet with sweat.
“You certainly have no respect and deserve none either, taking advantage of such a situation to play a childish trick!”
“Childish tricks are one of the things that keep me going, along with children’s laughter. But truly we must leave this unhallowed ground… however, may I interest you in a, mm, viewing?”
“You mean to wait until this thing returns. I am not surprised.”
“It is my duty to detail such things. The tribes needs to know about such dangers as Tumseneho, among others.” As Kaga talks, they walk through the carnage. Awan keeps his head up and breathes through his mouth, but his peripheral vision cannot be controlled. Bodies that lay close together were the women and children. Warriors were among the those that had the most bites taken out of their sides or legs.
“Others? Why have I not heard of these creatures before?”
“As you can see, there usually aren’t survivors.”
They reach the forest on the other side of the village and settle down for the night. Awan holds his hatchet at ready and lays his bow in front of him. His legs are taut as he scans the area behind them. There are several gaps in the trees that extend a fair amount into the distance.
“Keeping your options open, eh? You’re learning already. But put this on and you will not have to worry about escape routes.”
Kaga reaches into his waist pouch and pulls out a lump of leaves covered in brown and orange specks. They smell relatively more appetizing than the village.
“So it wasn’t just good acting that helped you survive the onslaught of Tumseneho.”
“That is for me to know and you to observe.”
Dusk has settled over the land and the area is quiet. In the fading light the village could simply be a patch of land cleared for farming if not for the smell. That shape over there could be a pile of kindling, and that tent could be under construction rather than torn to shreds. Awan’s throat feels as though it were about as wide as one of his arrow shafts. Next to him, Kaga’s eyes are very wide, and Awan could swear they were, just a little, pointing in opposite directions. Time crawls by until it is almost completely dark. Kaga does not seem to be breathing but periodically glances over at Awan and grins. After this happens fifteen times, Awan opens his mouth to say something and receives a hard poke in the side. Kaga points ahead of them into the woods on the other side of the village. Two tiny lights can be seen in the distance, bobbing up and down and getting closer by the minute.
There was a time when mystery was commonplace and all manner of creatures walked the Earth, a time just in between the advent of the modern world and the mythology of yesteryear. These tales takes place in that gap between belief and disbelief, when the world was still separated by water and sky rather than brought together by them. Maps were shrouded in mist and changed with each passing day, or perhaps it was the land itself that changed. It matters not, for the heroes and warriors of those days flowed through the country just as the water that streamed through the fields, forests, and mountains that were their domain.
A condor drifts across the cloudy sky, searching for prey. Below, a young hunter strides through a forest of birches. He has black hair that reaches down to his shoulder blades, bound with leather string and intertwined with a single feather. His unsmiling face is unlined, and his eyelids hang low over brown eyes. He is bare chested, wearing only light leather trousers and thin moccasins. Over his shoulder is a quiver of arrows, the outside painted with stripes of green and red in a spiral pattern. It is completely full. Over the other shoulder is a satchel, lumpy with hidden contents. He glances at the raptor far overhead.
“I commiserate with you, my friend. We both seem to be unsuccessful at hunting so far. Naught but scraps and bones of dead animals so far,” he says to himself as he glances up at the bird.