114: Nam

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She couldn’t do this in a trance, because she might need to help her comrades fight, so she began sinking herself into the Maryhahdil hunter’s reverie, creating the binary mind that combined herself with her totem spirit, her Gedin, becoming one, as an expanded predator consciousness.

The huntress stared down through Ooe’s eyes as the specter skimmed the treetops while, back in her body, she cast her mind outward through the forest. The dove had found two Ilidi scout units, both small, fast moving all-terrain types, no larger than buffaloes or the saber-tusked forest boars of Trin, but behind them, flux sense told of a pair of larger battle units now entering the radius she could sense.

Ooe had a brief visual on them, confirming them as Ilidi models, but then her mistress noticed a flux-flame ball firing into the air from a place that did not seem to have any intelligent presence. Neither the one firing nor the one targeted were apparent. Responding to her mistress’s command, Ooe left the scouts and headed that direction, to get a visual of the mystery.

Everyone in the camp had now manned the fieldstone perimeter fence, firearms at ready. Rogan had his handgun out, while the rest were wielding Orosjoese daisywheel rifles, products of Cantaree cottage industry. Fionna had given Jack her weapon, so she had armed herself with Meadhbh’s weapon.

The huntress understood that these weapons looked primitive to Trinan soldiers, but Rogan had told her that the crude rifle balls they fired weighed more than three times as much as Trinan bullets, allowing the Orosjoese mercenaries to preload them with far heavier flux charges. Right now, with the possibility of meeting warbeasts, these firearms that could theoretically stop tanks were reassuring.

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Ooe couldn’t find the source of the flame ball from earlier, and her master was about to turn her back to the scouts, when another ball erupted from the woods. The dove specter veered to get a better look, and had a brief glimpse through the foliage of the guardsman, running on foot.

Her hunter’s reverie was almost lost in the shock. He was there, easily within her range, but she could not sense him! She kept Ooe circling, and drove her mind out that direction to probe for the Thamadin that should be with him, but Simkit was nowhere to be found.

A moment later, Ooe spied an Ilidi aerial sub-unit flying in a serpentine path, clearly searching the same grounds.

She turned to Rogan. “Jack is out there! I think he’s alone! I’m going out!”

Rogan’s eyes grew as he turned at her, and she could see his thoughts clearly in them. She’s about to run out there into danger like a fool again.

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But she had no time to care about it. She activated her movement une, the weightless feather and the cheetah claw, and bounded over the stone wall into the woods, her strides covering multiple yards per step.

Her objective wasn’t the guardsman, though. She set her path to intercept the two scout units that were clearly on their way to intercept him.

The scouts reacted as soon as they noticed her approach. The huntress was doing nothing to stealth herself. She wanted them to see her, for now. Only one of the scouts diverted toward her for now. Her speed was now one of the critical factors in protected the guardsman. The other was her words.

She was confident the scout unit saw her clearly. At least, in flux sense. She stopped short of where it would see her visually, and used her owl feather to go into stealth.

The unit stopped, wary of the sudden loss of contact. She moved carefully up, using huntress skills earned in the Alyrhian rainforests to prevent disturbance to the foliage around her that might give away her position. She could see it in the distance, a two-legged thing vaguely resembling the beasts that Earthers called ‘velociraptors’.

Once she was confident that she was within clear hearing distance, she dropped her hunter’s reverie and touched the tooth on her necklace that contained a spirit which gave her the power of voice amplification. She didn’t need the limb strength it could also give her, but she could feel the Trinan lion spirit filling her limbs with power anyhow.

The language she called out was neither English nor standard Bruxilan, but the Ilidi dialect of Bruxilan that was mostly unintelligible to standard Bruxilan speakers, in the same way the Gireidil dialect was.

“Ilidi scout unit! Why do you pursue my companion?”

She was glad her mother had made her fully master the personal pronouns that were unique to Ilidi speech. Proper Bruxilan and Gireid lacked these, calling everyone ‘this one’ and ‘that one’. With the rest of the grammar being so similar, it was hard to remember to use the pronouns instead.

“Identification is desired,” it responded in equally amplified tones. “Why do you disguise your position?”

“Why do you harass us? We are peaceful travelers!”

“Your actions at Krio-Ilocei are known. You acted with violence there.”

“We were attacked by a Gireidil warbeast! We naturally defended ourselves!”

It was quiet for a short while. “The destruction of a Gireidil warbeast is confirmed. Also, subsequent violent contact with Gireidil forces.”

Was it accepting her story? She hoped so.

Finally, it said, “Drop your stealth and allow a scan.”

Her blood froze. What would it scan for? Weapons? Natural biology rather than warbeast? Or was it able to distinguish genetics?

She could sense that Jack was nearing the compound, but the other scout beast was close to intercepting him. He still had not lost the pesky aerial sub-unit.

She decided to risk it. It was more likely the unit was not equipped detect her Gireidil genes. And hers were mixed with other blood anyhow…

Touching the owl feather, she whispered, “Sifash.”

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