Teh’rahin did not come back from the hunt, and he was the first warrior Ahi’rea had known well who did not return. Father said they had been hunting evil spirits, but Mother, when she returned bearing news of Teh’rahin, was more forthright. She said they were hunting men.
“You should not speak of these things before Ahi’rea,” Father said to Mother. “She is too young for such evil thoughts.”
“She must think on them soon enough. Halkoriv knew we were coming, and his soldiers were ready.”
“Halkoriv,” Father said. Then, they shooed Ahi’rea from the tent, telling her to go wait by the fire.
She stepped into the cold night and shivered, pulling her doeskins tighter. The winds were swift and harsh over the plains, and the dry grasses whispered around the camp. She heard her parents’ voices from within, muffled and low. Ahi’rea could see the glow of the fire ring from around the Huumphar tents, and the shadows of the returned warriors and their kin. She smelled steppe yams and red squash cooking, and the stinging-yet-sweet vapors of bonebark tea. There would be no meat for days, not until after the Sendings, and her stomach was already growling at the thought. She heard Naph’oin beginning the Sending songs for Teh’rahin and the others. She heard Rahi’sta, trying to sing with him, but crying instead, for her father would never return.
Ahi’rea did not go to the fire. She circled the tent, stepping soft, placing each foot with care, as Mother had taught her. Then, she focused her mind, as Father had taught her, and felt the Sight come to her. She shut her eyes, so as to cast no light, and Saw.
Inside the tent, her parents whispered in anxious tones. Mother was angry; she jabbed her finger out, toward the tent flap and the world beyond. “He may never come this close to our lands again. We should go back. We should call the tribes and kill him now.”
Father’s eyes were downcast. “Lasivar’s son will come to us when it is time. Until then, we cannot beat Halkoriv. We will go deeper into the plains, and await Lasivar’s son.”
“And what if he does not come?”
“He will.” Father looked up; though he was smaller than Mother, he always seemed taller in the Dreaming. He took Mother in his arms and kissed her. “You must trust me. I cannot lose you now, and that is what will happen if you attack Halkoriv. All the warriors in the plains and the skies could not defeat him—but we can hold him where the grasses end. I need you. Ahi’rea needs you.”
Mother returned his kiss, and embraced him. They held each other for a long time, and just as Ahi’rea was about to cease her Sight and go to the fire, Mother spoke again. “He butchered them. Halkoriv. He butchered Teh’rahin and the others. I’ve never seen anything like it. The dark came from inside him, and it ate them.” Father brushed her hair and held her, but she went on. “The dark came from him and ate them, and when it lifted there was nothing left but blood and bone.”
David Thourson Palmer sheared sheep in rural Ohio, studied in the Appalachian foothills, explored Japan by train and pack, and wandered the Central Valley of California. He lives in Columbus. Ours Is the Storm was released in January by Boyle & Dalton. For more, visit BoyleandDalton.com.