Ted Garvin, a middle-aged, disabled writer of mixed Native American/European descent, lives in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, with his wife and menagerie. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor's degree, but that and $2.00 (adjusted for inflation) will buy you a coffee. His favorite authors, in no particular order, are Patrick O'Brian, J.R.R. Tolkien, Roger Zelazny, and Homer.
Doggerland - Escape by Ted Garvin
After their escape, they traveled for weeks, with no sign of pursuit. They paused under the shade of a giant oak tree, ate a bite of supper, and debated what to do next.
“I think we should go South, to my people,” said Deccan, swallowing some deer meat.
“The bones are all that will be left, if what you told me is correct,” Bekah said. “They will have been scattered by animals and—I hate to say—partially eaten.”
“Oo!” Aber made a disgusted face.
“That may be true,” said Deccan, “but it is undutiful not to gather them up. Their spirits will not rest and neither will I. I will not be free.”
“The Arkenesai will expect that,” Bekah said. “We should pick a different direction and go. They are sure to be on our trail.”
Aber was silent, with a mouth was full of hazel nuts.
“Why?” asked Deccan. “We have seen no sign of pursuit.”
Bekah reiterated her objections. She'd die first.
After more discussion, they chose a forest path. After scattering the remains of the meal in the hazel—a few hare bones and shells—to confuse the pursuit, they offered a little prayer to appease the spirits of their meal. Mid-autumn, the Vegetation God had died and left the sun-lit lands above to live in the Underworld with His consort, the Death Goddess—there was a crispness to the air.
Bekah insisted that they cover the fire and scatter the ashes, to make tracking them harder. She claimed that she knew the Arkenesai better than they did. She wanted Ani and Aber to follow them, brushing their track, but Deccan deemed that excessive and wouldn't allow it. She was paranoid, but that didn't mean they weren't being followed.
The oak trees began to thin and yielded the field to beech and elm, as the elevation increased. The daylight waned; it approached the time that the Sun Goddess, weary with sky battles, sought Her bed. The young people gathered grass and brush to form a rude shelter for the night. They were comfortable, if not as much as they had been—but they were free, at least for now.
“This area begins to look familiar,” Bekah said, as they ate the last of the griddlecake. “We must be approaching the land of my people, the Mobonii. I wonder if they will welcome me.”
“Why wouldn't they?” asked Ani.
“I haven't been exactly honest with you about my past,” she said. “I left my village because I had been cast out by my parents. After I had traveled for days, my provisions ran out. Then, I was captured by the Arkenesai. The gang who found me took turns brutalizing me until they tired of it. They are a cruel people.”
“Why were you exiled?” asked Aber, his mouth full of stale griddlecake.
“That's none of your business,” she snapped.
“If it didn't mean retracing our steps,” said Deccan. “I'd say we should go back to my people.”
“I thought we had settled this!”
Bowdin broke the silence he had kept for days. The young people had almost forgotten about him, even though he had been carried like a sack of meat.
“I would continue in our current direction, because my people are probably at your village now,” he said. “Our blood is competitive. We give way to no one.”
“We have talked enough,” Bekah interrupted. “It is time to sleep.”
“Shush!” hissed Deccan.
Twilight, the time that the Sun Goddess prepared for bed. The clearing—quiet, except for the excessive noise that Ani and Aber made. The young people had tried, without success, to hunt for roe deer all day, but there had been no sign. Deccan suspected the brothers were scaring them off. Deccan wondered why he had brought Bowdin and them, but Bekah had insisted. Something about privacy and being able to think in peace. When they found a deer, he would attempt to kill one with a slung stone, which he had replenished, at a stream they had crossed. He would stun the doe, then rush in and cut its throat, which would require a difficult head shot.
Thwack! Success. The doe fell, stunned, but still dangerously alive. Those hooves were sharp. Ani and Aber grabbed the animal to keep it still while Deccan reached in, grabbed her head, and slit the throat. The blood pulsed out; he kept his head turned away.
When the doe had finally finished kicking, they field-dressed it with their razor-sharp flint knives, being careful not to puncture the abdominal sac. They bundled up the meat for later curing and left the rest in the bushes, as a sign of thanksgiving. They didn't want the spirit of the doe seeking vengeance. The meat, they would slice into thin strips to smoke over a fire.
Winter being at hand, they set up a camp in a spot sheltered from the wind. They gathered saplings of suitable length, then took one, put its end in a hole, bent it over and attached that to one at the opposite end. After they had a frame, they covered it with tent hide. They hunted more deer and cured the hides outside; almost nothing smelled worse.
Late one evening, as they sat around a fire, watching the embers fly up, they talked about that day's hunting. They had set traps and found them empty. Live hunting had been unsuccessful as well. They wondered if they had offended some deity or in some other way incurred bad luck. The mood was not cheerful.
“Do you think we need to hunt farther afield?” asked Deccan.
“I think something must be scaring away the game,” said Bekah.
“Maybe a predator has moved in?” said Bowdin.
Bekah glared. There was no love lost between them.
“We need to move on. I have a bad feeling.”
“But it is still winter,” said Aber.
“It is also possible that my people are drawing near,” said Bowdin
“How likely is that?” Bekah became anxious.
“My people do not give up easily,” Bowdin replied, “They also probably resent one of their own being kidnapped. I must admit, I do not like it.”
“Enough!” Bekah said. “Did the gods speak to you, He to Whom the Dead Speak?”
“No,” Deccan replied. “In the morning, I will go out and look for clues.”
No one, except Bekah, relished the thought of breaking camp so soon. They banked the fire and retired to the tent to sleep.
They arose before the dawn. By the time the Sun Goddess had cleared the horizon, they were on the move again. When they came to a brook, Bekah insisted that they enter it and travel downstream. The water streamed past their legs, creating small eddies. The elevation was decreasing; oak trees were again prevalent. Bekah strongly believed that this mode of travel would confuse their pursuers. When she was finally satisfied, they left the stream and followed a forest path to the west, leaving wet footprints that gradually dried in the fading light. The leaves from last autumn crunched underfoot. The birdsong stopped abruptly.
“Stay where you are. Don't move,” a strange voice said. “Keep your hands where I can see them.”