An imagining of Kara by my niece Nici Bueckert. Great job Nici!
Please visit the Sinner Page to read the story in sequence.
Sinner pushed through the tangle of branches and dropped the brush wood beside the small fire Tinker had managed to start. Exhausted, he slumped next to the fire without saying a word. Kara joined Sinner and Tinker by the fire after contributing an armful of wood to the pile. Wolf positioned himself between Kara and Sinner and lay down, resting his head on his paws.
They had run nearly blind through the mist enshrouded forest well into the first night after fleeing the village. It was only thanks to a combination of Kara’s knowledge of the surrounding forest and the monster’s obvious disadvantage, their bulky size and heavy armour, that they managed to elude capture that first night. Tinker had permitted them only a few hours rest in the cold and damp forest. No fire. Then, he had pushed them mercilessly the next day, ever farther into the forest. Kara had led the way while Tinker and Sinner followed. Rayn had shadowed the group attempting to confuse their trail for any would be pursuers.
Sinner raised his weary head as Rayn joined them by the fire, but he didn’t bring an armload of wood. Instead, a large rabbit dangled from his grasp. “I thought we could all use a bite to eat.”
Sinner’s empty stomach growled as he looked at the rabbit with hungry eyes. They hadn’t eaten since the morning they left to investigate the village fire. Freshly energized at the thought of food, he set about building a spit over the fire while Rayn prepared the rabbit.
Soon, the smell of cooked food permeated the little campsite. With the warmth of the crackling fire and a little food in their bellies, the mood of the group improved dramatically and they engaged in small talk. Inevitably, their conversation turned toward their current predicament.
“What now, Tinker?” Rayn asked. “We lost all our supplies with the horses and wagon. We have the clothes on our back, the weapons in our hands…”
“Not to mention that we’ve been driven deep into the foothills of The Great Barrier Mountains by monsters,” Sinner interrupted. “And that staff, Tinker. What are you keeping from us? You split that monster’s shield like it was nothing.”
Tinker leaned slightly forward, a haggard expression on his face. “Boys, some of your questions I can answer, although I had wished to share things with you under less dire circumstances. The monster you fought was a Tia’h. They are from an evil race called Tier’n. They have come from beyond the mountains…”
“Beyond the mountains? No one has ever been beyond the mountains, have they? I thought the things you told us were just stories,” Rayn interrupted.
Tinker sighed. “Not stories, Rayn. The Tier’n are very real, as you now know. They have crossed the mountains and destroyed the village. I don’t know why. Perhaps our young friend, Kara, can shed some light on that. As for the staff…,” Tinker’s voice trailed off as he seemed to consider his words. There was a long silence. Then his face hardened into a look of determination. “Some answers will just have to wait. We have more pressing concerns right now. ”
Sinner frowned. He knew Tinker well enough to know that he would not be forthcoming about the staff until the time of his own choosing, so he would try a different approach. “Kara,” he said, looking toward her. Again, he was momentarily caught off guard as their eyes met, and his cheeks warmed. Quickly, he composed himself. “What can you tell us about what happened at the village?”
Kara looked tentatively at Sinner. “I was not there. I do not know what happened. I live with my Uncle deep in the mountains. We have a cabin there. We came to the village to trade. He sent me home the same morning that you left, said he had some business to attend to in the village, and that he would catch up to me the next day.”
Sinner’s thoughts drifted to the dead man in the forest. Could it be? He had been wearing a cloak very similar to Kara’s.
He focused back to what Kara was saying. “…I saw the fires in the night as you must have. The next morning, I returned to the village and that’s when I found you.” She gestured toward Sinner. “Wolf stayed back with my Uncle when I left the village. He would never have left my Uncle’s side unless something bad had happened.” She fell silent, gently stroking Wolf’s fur as he lay beside her.
Sinner saw the worried look on her face. “Was your Uncle a large man wearing a cloak similar to yours?”
She perked up. “Have you seen him?”
Sinner looked down. “I found a man struck down at the edge of the village. It looked like he had been fleeing…” He paused sliding his fingers over the pouch at his side. He didn’t know why he felt a sudden powerful urge not to tell his companions about the orbs. It was probably best not to bring it up now. Besides, they had other more pressing concerns. The mystery of the orbs would have to wait.
At hearing the news, Kara’s momentary elation vanished and her shoulders slumped. Her bottom lip quivered.
“I’m sorry, Kara,” Sinner said.
“As am I, “said Rayn, who picked up another piece of wood and fed the fire.
Kara acknowledged their sympathy with a slight nod then excused herself and disappeared into the darkness beyond the firelight. Wolf followed at her heels.
Sinner moved to follow, but Tinker motioned for him to sit, so he did.
“I didn’t see any sign of the villagers, living or dead. Did either of you? ” said Rayn quietly.
“I only saw the woodsman,” said Sinner.
Tinker stared into the fire for a time before speaking. “The Tier’n rarely cross the mountains so overtly. They prefer for Sinlanders to believe them myth. It’s easier that way. They will not leave witnesses. Those that did not die will be taken back across the mountains as slaves. Those that survive the journey will wish that they had not.”
He raised his head and looked at each of his boys in turn. “I have raised you both to be fighters, in body and spirit. The time of testing has come. Even though I wish it were different, it’s not. You will be required to be courageous in spirit and strong in body. For where we are going, you will not survive if you are weak. I have kept secrets from you. But now, the truth will begin to unfold and both of you will have to choose what type of man you will become. You know me as Tinker and I have been a father to you, and always will be. But across the mountains, I am known by a different name. To stay here will be death for us. The Tier’n will track us relentlessly till they find us. We must cross The Great Barrier Mountains. That is where my people are. That is where we must go now. We will find allies there.”
Both Rayn and Sinner sat in stunned silence after Tinker finished speaking. Eventually, Rayn spoke. “Tinker, I will go where you go, and your people will be my people.”
Sinner’s head was buzzing with questions, and while he loved Tinker, he needed more answers. “Tinker, I have so many questions. I hardly know where to start…”
Tinker smiled reassuringly. “In due time, Sinner, all your questions will be answered. Even some you may not have thought to ask yet. In the mean time, we need to figure out how to get across the mountains. ”
“So we can expect to journey through The Great Barrier Mountains with no supplies or proper clothing. All the while being chased by monsters,” said Sinner with a wry smile. “Sounds like an adventure to me.”
“I know these mountains.” said a voice just beyond the light.
All three men turned to see Kara step into the firelight, Wolf at her side. She had a look of resolve on her face. She spoke in a firm voice. “I told you earlier that I lived in these mountains with my uncle. The cabin is less than two days into the mountains. We can stop there, get the supplies we need. Then proceed through the mountains.”
He was known as the Black Death to those who feared him. And those who feared him were many, even among his own kind. He bent down and studied the trail of his prey. There was a good woodsman among them. That much he could tell from the efforts that had been made to throw off pursuit. The woodsman was good, but not good enough.
He was still a day behind, but it mattered little to him. He was very patient. There was an old man, two young men, and a girl. He was to hunt them down and kill them. The old man carried a staff of power. That was interesting, but not worrisome. There could be no survivors. There would be none when he was finished.
He stood as one of his shadow beasts padded to his side. “Eager for the hunt, aren’t you? Soon, we will have our prey cornered and then you and your brothers will feast. Go now!”
With his command, the beast leaped into the trees and disappeared. Five more of the beasts joined the first and vanished into the forest. No quarry had ever escaped him, and he had hunted many. He was the Huntsman, after all.
To be continued…
© Peter Wiebe 2013