Razor Mountain — Chapter 5.3

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

When God-Speaker and Braves-the-Storm returned to the rest of the people, it was nearly dark. Soon after, the hunters returned, not with deer, but with two more hares.

“You said there were deer in the trees,” Far-Seeing said, setting the rabbits on the ground and sauntering up to God-Speaker.

“I only heard something like deer,” God-Speaker said.

Far-Seeing raised a finger and opened his mouth to reply, but he was cut off by Braves-the-Storm.

“There were tracks. You followed them, didn’t you?”

Far-Seeing gave the old man a surly look. “We followed them until it was dark. We found no deer.”

“You found meat,” God-Speaker said, trying to sound encouraging. “If the deer have moved on, then there is nothing else you could do.”

Far-Seeing turned and walked away, scowling. “If you think we can’t track deer, you’re welcome to come on the next hunt. Maybe the spirits can tell us where to find meat.”

It was less of a feast than everyone had hoped for, but once they had been skinned and cooked, there was enough for each person to have a few bites, and the mood around the fires improved. The pelts would be fine and soft as well, caught between winter white and summer brown.

Braves-the-Storm told the people about the small tribe of strangers that he and God-Speaker had seen across the river. They had never had reason to fear other tribes before, but with the death of Makes-Medicine still fresh in their minds nobody was happy to have another tribe somewhere nearby. Wood was plentiful near the trees, so they fed the fires until they burned high and bright. A few of the hunters took turns staying awake, watching the path back toward the river crossing.

God-Speaker stayed awake for much of the night too, but not out of fear of the strangers. The other tribe did not feel like a threat to him. One of the strangers had set down his spear in what seemed like a gesture of peace.

The faint sound of the nearby river made him think of a time when he was a child, and the people had journeyed along the sea. It was so much water; sheet ice and shimmering waves stretching into the distance. That was before the years journeying through the mountains. And what had been before that? All the people knew was the journey, never ending. There were stories of a time long ago when they had lived in snowless lands. Then the ice came, covering everything. Evil spirits bringing cold to destroy the people. What would it be like to find another snowless land? What would it be like for God-Speaker to lead the people to that place?

God-Speaker rolled in close to the stone god and murmured to it.

“Will you bring us somewhere without snow and ice?”

The god was silent and still.

God-Speaker rolled onto his back again. What would they encounter tomorrow, away from the river?

He thought about Makes-Medicine. He tried to remember what she had told him—about the spirits, about the rituals and the herbs and plants that could heal sickness. He could no longer ask her questions. He was afraid that he would forget something important. What secrets had she not passed on to him? What had he missed or forgotten? Those things would be lost to the people forever now.

He lay on the hard ground, staring up into the clear sky. Among the bright stars, there were two streaks of light, one after another. He waited, frozen in place, and watched. Another streak. Another.

These, at least, he remembered. Makes-Medicine said that many signs could be good or evil, to be interpreted by the events surrounding them. But shooting stars were almost always a bad omen.

God-Speaker sat up. The god remained silent; a hunched mass in its pouch. Far-Seeing squatted near one of the fires, half-dark, half illuminated, watching the darkness between the river and the trees. Everyone else was asleep.

God-Speaker lay back down. He closed his eyes and tried to remember everything Makes-Medicine had ever taught him.

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