Word came from the siege front that the Logalla had left Verdanta and broken through the Tranca lines. This was reported to Rolak, who then ventured to his sister’s hut to tell her of their victory. She met her brother at the door, and she was pleased, but when Tyree stepped out of Shuyah’s hut, the smiles and jubilation ceased.
“Why didn’t your warriors stop them as we’d planned?” Tyree asked testily.
“I changed the orders. If the Logalla tried to break out, I decided they be allowed. Let the poor devils try for home. Four or five days on the snow—in their condition?”
“Get the army mounted!” Tyree said.
“Why?” Rolak laughed, a rarity, but the absurdity of the Kodiak’s comment tickled him. “These Logalla are no threat to us.”
“The Logalla are weak. Their horses have suffered even more. We must attack before they reach the twisted forest,” Tyree insisted, strapping on his sword.
“Attack?” Shuyah blinked.
“Once in the forest, they will rejoin their clan. They’ll recover. We’ll have to fight them all over again!” Tyree fumed.
“I will not risk more Tranca lives for your vengeance!” Rolak snarled.
Shuyah looked at Tyree; she tried to make him see. “Verdanta is again in Tranca hands. We have won a great victory, Tyree. Let us celebrate it.”
Ignoring Shuyah, Tyree sneered at Rolak. “Does Rolak no longer have the stomach for killing Logalla?”
Rolak put his hand on his sword and stepped to press his chest to Tyree’s, mainly because the royal guards and many citizens were watching. “I’ve killed men for saying less,” Rolak hissed into Tyree’s face.
“Then call for volunteers,” Tyree said right back with no trace of fear. “Most of your people want to avenge the four thousand killed by the Logalla at Verdanta.” Many in the crowd and even some of the guards murmured their agreement. “They murdered your father, and we’ve merely driven the murderers away. They have yet to pay!”
This time the onlookers cheered, anger building.
“I will not call for volunteers!” Rolak raged. “And if I hear of you doing so without my consent, I will have you executed!”
Rolak turned and stomped away with authority.
“Can you change his mind?” Tyree said to Shuyah. “Get the war council and Koleefus to agree? We must strike now!”
“I am sorry, Tyree,” Shuyah said looking up into his eyes with the same honesty she’d seen so many times in his. Now revenge took honesty’s place in Tyree’s eyes. “I agree with my brother. As would Koleefus and the council, I am sure. To attack a starving army. It is—uncivilized.”
“Well, you’re wrong!” Tyree said returning to her hut and gathering his things. “We must have, indeed, before time began, been one clan, for both the Tranca and the Kodiak can be amazingly foolish.”
“Are you distressed because I do not agree with your need for revenge?” she said following him around the hut as he packed. “Did I not lose a father and two brothers to the same Logalla you now wish to exterminate?”
“The death of my parents, of your father, those are just things that fill the rage,” Tyree said throwing on his riding cloak. “The Logalla are the reason for the rage. They are what corrupts our world. There will never be peace with them. We must kill them when we can!”
Tyree stormed from Shuyah’s hut and went to the horse pens. Shuyah and her royal guard followed. When Tyree opened the gate to the pens, the Tranca horses spooked and shied away from him as though they feared what the Kodiak was thinking. Stepping calmly from the herd of skittish Tranca horses, Tyree’s Kodiak snow pony came out of the horse pens and Tyree closed the gate.
With bow and full quiver across his back, Tyree began to saddle his snow pony. First went the bearskin blankets Tyree would need, assuming he could find shelter upon the snow then the ornate scabbard holding his deadly lance, and extra arrows. Then, strapped behind and to the sides of the bearskin saddle, were wood and provisions.
“You’ve barely enough for two days,” Shuyah noted.
“I’ll live off the wilderness,” he said swinging up lightly into the makeshift saddle that was more comfortable and efficient than any a professional saddle maker could ever produce. At night, it became Tyree’s bed.
“Let me arrange for pack horses. More provisions,” Shuyah pleaded.
“The Logalla will get too far ahead.”
“And what will you do when you catch them?”
Tyree squeezed his legs in the way that prompted his snow pony to lurch away, down the trampled path in the snow leading out the northern side of the Tranca camp.
The wind was the Logalla’s enemy. It swept frigid air down from the north and the emaciated Logalla army that had occupied Verdanta had to march into it. By the time Tyree caught up, his third day on the trail, it was snowing heavily, and he had already passed a thousand Logalla lying dead in the drifts.
Tyree had devised a plan to stalk and kill the weakened Logalla one-by-one all the way to their safe haven in the twisted forest. But the wind was a better killer even than a Kodiak, so Tyree never put his plan to use. Tyree could not bring himself to kill a single Logalla. His eyes kept seeing Shuyah’s look of disappointment at his determination to kill a beaten and starving enemy. He at first felt foolish, and then remembered he did not act upon his hate. His hate, at least for now, had been turned to a kind of pity. He came to realize what Shuyah must have known: their plan to retake Verdanta had become even more cruel than she feared it would be.
By the fourth day, the twisted forest came into view and less than a third of the Logalla army from Verdanta remained alive. The blizzard had waned and light flurries danced in a wind that had slowly become a whisper.
Tyree rode up the switchbacks of a snowy ridge to gain a view of the twisted forest and the staggering, dying Logalla’s return. With his eagle eyes, he saw the beaten warriors of the Verdanta occupation forces trudge toward the black and haunting trees. To them, it was sanctuary. Many walked on frostbitten feet, their horses having died under them in the bitter cold of the last few days.
Movement at the edge of the forest caught Tyree’s eye. Out of the twisted trees rode a mounted Logalla army of thousands. They encircled and slaughtered the defeated army returning from Verdanta, killing all and their skeletal horses as well. The massive army withdrew leaving almost two thousand of their brothers lying in patches of red upon the pristine snow. No trace of the Logalla’s humiliation at the loss of Verdanta would remain—at least not past the next blizzard.
For the next four days Tyree rode his snow pony south, back to the Tranca camp. He knew they would be staying close to Verdanta for some time, rebuilding the devastated Tranca colony. He hoped Shuyah would forgive him. For the first time since he was a child, he was ashamed. Upon his arrival at the main Tranca camp he was told that Shuyah and Rolak had moved into Verdanta to oversee the reconstruction.
Within her mists, Verdanta was well on the mend. All the destroyed huts had been replaced and the rain catchers were beginning to grow back up from their bases under the experienced hands of Tranca carpenters. Tyree was reminded that the Tranca were a more domesticated clan than were the Kodiak, in many ways, more civilized. They built things, things of permanence, things the Kodiak never considered.
It still hadn’t rained but a spattering in Verdanta while blizzards raged almost daily not ten views away. Snow had to be packed in from the main camp to provide water for the workmen. But the big snows of winter were coming, and soon Verdanta would be lush and vibrant again.
Tyree’s return was heralded throughout Verdanta. Bets were made on how many Logalla the Kodiak had killed. He said nothing as the citizens of a clan that was once his enemy crushed around his tired snow pony with congratulations for a deed never done. None knew the truth he held, the horrible ruthlessness of the enemy that he’d seen.
Rolak watched the spectacle from the door of his hut. His blood raged as Tyree unsaddled and fed his pony then went past Shuyah’s warrior guards and into her hut.
Word had been passed to Shuyah long before Tyree entered the mists into Verdanta. She stayed inside her hut and stood in her most gossamer garments. Tyree’s long absence had given rise to a hunger in both of them they had never before experienced. Her mood, however, was sullen. Tyree threw off his cloak now wet and stifling in the heat. His beard had grown in rich and promising. He took off his brave iron armor and sword and tossed them into a corner.
“Did you kill many of them?” she asked, refusing yet to rush to his arms.
“None,” he said, not wanting to spoil his return with details of the slaughter he’d witnessed.
She came to him, kissed him deeply, for she knew he would never lie to her.
LOOK FOR CHAPTER 17: "DUEL"
COMING SOON TO TEENOVELS "SNOMADS"