Thursday, June 6, 2013

Page a Day: Forty-Two

            On the opposite side Marcus stopped the herd and dismounted. I rode up beside him and followed suit, and he gave me his oculars and pointed into the maze of smaller ridges below us. With the very last of the light, I saw then where the last of the lost squads had gone. It was a caldera, that sort of canyon that has only one opening, with rock walls slamming down around a craggy bowl. And there Ursus had fought the rest of the two squads of Never-born, all those it had not already killed.
            But this Ursus was not one, but three. Because two were smaller and of the same size, I guessed that the adult was their mother. But I did not want to call any of them small. The sow, standing on all fours sniffing the wind coming into the caldera as the light snow gathered on her gray pelt, would have been half has high as the matriarch of our herd.  And I could judge this because of the size of the bodies of the men fallen all around them. Crimson smeared all the snow surrounding them and spattered their necks and muzzles. Then, in horror I saw that one of the Never-born still moved. A young one gnawed on his legs, and most of the flesh of his thighs was gone. But he beat and beat against the face of the bear that held him. Horrified, I lowered the oculars. I would watch no more. 
            “A sow and two cubs,” Marcus said. He turned away and gave the orders to turn back. 
            I called out to him. “What? Aren’t we going to hunt them? One of your men still lives!”
            He looked back at me, scowling. “He is already dead. He does not know it yet. We would lose an hour. He would still be dead. But we will be gone. They will not follow.” He turned again to mount his mastodon. Seeing that he would not be swayed, I fell in with all the rest, sickened to the core. But even my own mastodon was relieved to turn around. She had not wanted to follow that scent into falling darkness, not even with all the rest of her herd. Still I rode up beside Marcus again.
            “I was ready to fight,” I said. “I felt no dread. The blade you gave has woken for me.”
            He scowled again. “Of course it did. You are omnifex.” He shook his head. “But you are no swordsman.”

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