Reaver’s Hunt: Chapter Five


I had to shield her frail body, protect her. Dangers hid everywhere. Recci in the foothills, tulpi in the clouds, the threat under the ground. Capable as she was, her body could not stand up to savage predators.

But when I turned, she was pulled away from me, terror in her wide blue eyes.


Shivering, I opened my eyes. Dim firelight.

I knew this cave. When I was a fledgling, I would keep it stocked for long patrols. How did I come to be here?

With a jerk, I thought of her. My golden gift. Where—

In my arms, I found her sleeping form. Good. Protect her. Carefully, soundlessly, I wrapped us both in my wings.

Though I fought to guard her, I slid back into troubled sleep. Tremors shook me. Nightmares chased me, my flight slowed by an unknown force. I stood in a group of my fellow Sen’ki.

All of them spoke to me, voices lilting, as if in question.

I could understand none of them.


The mellifluous voice woke me. The moment I opened my wings, the last of the dying fire brightened her hair, her softly curved face. Blue eyes bore into mine.

She wiggled, wanting freedom.

I should not free her. The world was dangerous.

But she wiggled more fiercely, and I let her out of my arms. For a moment, she hopped on one foot, the dance interesting.

After a moment, she could walk again. She moved to the coals of the fire, stoking it alight again with fresh fuel. Then she moved to cover me with furs.

When I tried to rise, to push them away, she pushed me back.

Strange. This was important to her.

Therefore, I would allow it.

She moved away, and darkness took me again.

Water. Her cool hand on my face. Underdwellers watching us from the flickering shadows. Thoughts colliding without sense.

We could not stay here. The cavern was too dangerous.

I rose, watching the female place cold ashes from the fire on her hides. Face bright, she made words at me. Could she not sense the peril closing in around us?

Dizzy, I steadied myself against the cave wall. “We must flee. Why can you not understand me? They’re all around—everywhere.”


Her tone turned querulous. I ignored it. Even in my weakened state, her tiny body could not match my strength. Escape was of the essence.

She squawked and slapped at me when I picked her up. The fuss she made hurt my head, my brain. After a moment, she gathered her things. Then, protest or no, I scooped her up and quickly moved to the outside.

Had time passed at all? Oh. Yes. That was sunset, not sunrise. How had I gotten so turned around? Gripping her soft body to mine, I took flight.

For the briefest of moments, I thought my wings did not have the strength, that we would plummet to the ground. But then we were airborne.

Below us, the setting sun lit the vast planes. Pink and blue blossoms of endless wildflowers submerged in dark as we traveled.

I flew on. A broad, slow river, ripples shown in the light of the big moon. It brightened the clouds as well. I searched for sky predators as we moved on.

Then, as the other two moons rose, they were reflected in smooth, obsidian waters. I blinked. There should be a city on the shores of that lake.

Thoughts tangled, I kept on. Heading for safety. Unsure where that was.

Slopes became covered in orange and blue. The striped flowers of silla gave off their heady scent. Soon, they would be under the snow, their riotous colors lost until the next season.

My female squirmed in my grip. She whispered her nonsense words into my ear. The combination of these two things sent a slow burn through my body. How could I be this close to her without—

She wanted me to land, I understood. For a time, I scouted, seeking a suitable place. Trees stood thin in higher elevations, and I sought a landing site.

Pain flashed through me, without source. The skies brightened, darkened, with moons or without and still I flew on in a daze.

We were beyond Sen’ki territory now. There were no shelters maintained. A fallen log to sit on was the best I could do.

She moved away and I caught at her hand.


Her face softened, her cool hand pressed to my cheek.


Good. I knew that word.

And if my golden one said it was so, I must believe her.

She trotted off to tend to her business. I stared south. There was something important to the south. A safe place. I couldn’t remember what it was.

It was so hard to think. Fever burned. I splashed water from the skin on my face.

Throbbing in my arm drew my attention. The cuts had turned black, the entire upper arm turned a dark shade of unhealthy purple. When I made a fist, I grunted in pain.

Fussing sounds. The golden one. She gasped at my arm, theen she tried to talk to me. She raised the waterskin. Pointed at the fire I’d struck.

I shook my head. The fire was only for eating. Then, we would continue.

When she tried to argue, I grabbed her by both arms. With a stern look, making certain she paid attention, I shook my head and spoke one of her few words. “No.”

She tried to respond. I heard “bad” and “no” but I waved my hands. I pointed at the food. Then I pointed at the sky.

There was nothing more to say.

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