“You’re the Speaker! That’s what you said. So stop the storm! Turn it away.”
Eh Quest’s mouth dropped open in astonishment. Turn the storm away? Even Eh Speak couldn’t have done that. And on the drop of a feather? No warning, no magic, no call for help from the Mother?
Eh Quest looked around but all he saw was a small stream. It did have banks but not high, and they were thickly muddy. It was nothing, no cover at all, but it was all they had. “Get everyone next to the river. Dig as far as you can into the banks, stuff the children in first. Get in as much as you can - and cover everyone with furs.”
Eh Last growled. “That’s no cover! The river will drown us if the storm doesn’t take us away.”
Eh Quest turned on Eh Last with a snarl. “I am the Speaker and I told you! But do as you wish! Run! ”
He ran himself to the bank, grabbed a handful of mud, and slapped it on his body, in a hurried and inadequate form of hunters magic, all that he could do. Others of the clan, disregarding what Eh Last had said, crowded and bumped into him.
“I am Eh. I am a hun— Speaker! I am Mother Ravens!” He turned towards the storm, now only moments away. The Wind Spirits were viscous already, whipping his loin cloth between his legs, hobbling him. His hair came out from the braid and scoured his cheeks and eyes, blinding him, making his skin red.
Through the tears, he saw some rope Eh Mak had made, and tied one end to the largest rock he could find, pitifully small. A strong Wind Spirit almost blew him away, staggering him. Falling to one knee, he ducked below the Spirit, and finished off the knot. The other end, he tied to a wrist. He stood and flung out his arms.
“Here I am, Spirits! Take me if you can!” He could feel those of the second egg, the Shadow People, in the storm. Their evil gaze was like small daggers, and the screams of children he’d heard before became the hunting cries of the beasts from the Shadow world.
Today he died.
The Wind Spirits howled in, gleefully malignant. They ripped through his hair pulling the feathers out and taking them away. They threw small, sharp pebbles into his face and whipped him with thorny twigs. The cries of the seabirds were drowned out by the screams of the Shadow World. The grass on the planes flattened under the onslaught. Thunder so deep he felt it in his bones. Lightening so blinding, he had turn close his eyes and bow his head, letting his forehead take the beating.
The Spirits attempted to pick him up, but the rock behind him steadied him, the rope grounded him.
He called to Mother Raven for help, but when he opened his mouth, the Wind Spirits entered, filling his mouth with a snap. He felt like a squirrel with his mouth like that, and that reminded him of Ba Nut. Where was Ba Nut? Was he safe with Ta Sim or Ta Laf, behind the bank? Or was the loyal little friend trying to crawl to the ‘safety’ of his arms, right this moment?
The thought terrified him and his eyes snapped open to check. There was no little squirrel and he didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Was Ba Nut already blown away? But what he did see still stopped his heart.
His rhino was being pulled away. The spear that meant everything, life and death, was being jerked and rolled away from him. No! Not the spear, he wouldn’t allow it. Desperately, he leapt for the heavy spear, but the rope attached to his arm snapped him short.
He landed with a bone jarring thud, his grunt of pain lost in the unwholesome noise blanketing him. Gasping for breath, blinded by his hair, he reached as far as he could. The spear rolled a bit, catching on the horn that was used for leverage. He whipped his head, letting the Wind Spirit pull his hair from his face. Twisting, he reached with a foot and managed to get his toes around the horn of his rhino.
Concentrating, he pulled the spear closer to him, then his other foot joined the first, and between them he had a good grasp. He pulled it up, his knees hitting his chest, before he was able to curl around and grab it. Holding it close, he squirmed back to the rock and sat up against it.
The Wind Spirit was so strong, he couldn’t breath, and he could feel his heart pounding in fear and desperation. Tucking his chin down, throwing his arm over his nose and mouth, he found a small pocket and sucked in as much air as he could. Thunder rolled and lightening spliced the sky, reminding him that he fought more than one Spirit. The screaming Wind drowned the screaming Shadows, and his ears became deaf to it all.
He grasped his rhino and turned it point down. With everything in him, he stabbed it deep into the ground. With it steady between his bent legs, the rock behind him, and the rope tied to him, he felt almost secure. He wrapped his arm around the spear, and lock-thumbed his hand on the horn.
Once a person had hold of something with a thumb lock, only death separated them, unless he let go. With a furious grin he looked up into the blackened, fast moving storm.
“I win,” he gasped, too quiet to be heard by anything except the Shadow World.
The Shadow World kicked back.
His eyes widened in horror with the Mother of all Wind Spirits came towards him. She spun from ground to sky, twisted and black, throwing everything she touched into the air, or holding it thickly to her body. He could see Tree Spirits, rocks, dirt and what looked like bears, twisting sickly in her screaming heart.
He tried to swallow with a dry mouth.
Taking a last, deep breath, he ducked his head against his spear. He locked his other hand around its shaft. He closed his eyes. “Mother Raven, catch me,” he said softly.