Chapter Twenty-Five

And The Old Fox sent messengers to all The Churches. "The time has come. The journey begins! Gather your people. Let the people in Lo journey to So and also, those in Mi, then come on and join us here in Tr. Let those in Li journey to To, and those in Min, also. Then, together, let all there come to Ti. And there, those with me, will join them."
2 So it was The Children of Spirit gathered in Ti. One-third of The Land of Tr encamped about the city, and there they made preparations, gathered extra feed for their cattle, and extra water skins.
3 And the order of their march was set. More fighting people were also trained, for in the winderness they would need more protection against bandits and some of the wild mountain tribes.
4 By the time the rains had stopped, all was prepared. The people in the area were in a way, sad to see them go.
5 Finally, ahead of the column The Old Fox marched out, and their Journey began.
6 At first they moved quite easily over the wilderness road, but then came to its end, and the journey through the wilderness became laborious and hard. Oftentimes, men had to precede the caravan, filling in holes, or clearing brush, so that they could pass.
7 Sometimes, they passed over only grassy hills, and the going was rather easy. It was on one of these days, that Gray Dove took a break from his duties and sought out Loyal Dog, being carried on his litter.
8 In the weeks that had passed, he had been too busy to visit his friend much, and it would not have made much difference. The wound had not healed well at first, infection had set in, and for many days Loyal Dog fought for his life. Even now, that he appeared to be getting better Gray Dove worried about his friend.
9 As he approached his litter, he found him awake. "Greetings, brother!" Gray Dove cried. "How goes your journey today?"
10 "With much pleasantries," Loyal Dog told him. "These fine fellows carry me with such gentleness and caution you'd think I was an egg about to hatch! Though, I do regret being such a great burden on them."
11 "If you were a bit more of a burden," one of his men criticized, we would be pleased!"
12 Gray Dove smiled at the man and touched his shoulder. "We do have to work," he said, "to get some more meat on his bones. But he's filling out agian."
13 "Not fast enough!" the man answered. "Perhaps that Healer needs a better cook."
14 Loyal Dog lifted himself slightly on his litter. "My cook is just fine!" he scolded. "I cannot help it if my stomach will not hold much!"
15 "That it holds anything at all," said Gray Dove, "is fortunate. I still intend to give you more lessons on how to use a shield!"
16 He was about to say more, when a young fighting man ran up. "Warlock!" he cried, "The rear guard sends an urgent message. There is a large group of men following us, and quickly approaching our rear."
17 "How many?" asked Gray Dove.
18 "Perhaps two squads," the fighting man told him.
19 "Excuse me, brother," Gray Dove told his friend, "but duty calls. I will try to get to your tent this evening. I intend to beat you at Pegs yet!"
20 He quickly hurried off to join his people at the rear of the column. When he got there, he found the rear guard spread about on a hilltop, watching the path they had made behind them. Sure enough, there was a large body of men, at least two squads, with several ox carts.
21 "They look like King's fighting men," said Gray Dove, "but in this wilderness we can take no chances. Bring back some more men. Form ranks here on the road. We will meet them here."
22 Soon, they were ready, but when the soldiers saw them, they did not form ranks, but simply halted, and two of them came forward, without their shields, and stopped about half way to The Children of Spirit, and laid their clubs on the ground. "They want to talk," ordered Gray Dove, "hold your positions. I'm going down."
23 With another man he approached the strangers. About twenty paces away, he and his companion laid their clubs upon the ground, and continued on. The strangers came to meet them. One was obviously a sub-leader of The King's army, and he was the first to speak. "With whom do I speak?" he asked.
24 "Gray Dove, Warlock of Spirit, under The Old Fox," was the answer.
25 "At last!" the other man cried. "I am Gray Boar, this is my brother Standing Boar, King's barracks at Ti. We have been trying to overtake you for days! We have one of your people with Dreaming Fox. He appeared in our city several days after your people departed, and was going to journey after you alone. But my leader forbade it, and sent us with him. A good thing, too, for we have seen signs of bandits everywhere. They must be folloiwing you like hungry dogs!"
26 "If they are," replied Gray Dove, "we have not seen them, or, any sign either."
27 "When you have been patrolling this wilderness for five years," Gray Boar explained, "you know things, you see things others don't. They're there, all right. As soon as you relieve us of our burden, we'll pretend to head back, but swing out around your flanks and see what we can net!"
28 "Then perhaps," said Gray Dove, "I had best take your charge so you can be about your business."
29 "Very well," agreed Gray Boar, "I will say, though I will miss him. He is good company, a good teller of

Page 61

Go To The Next Page