OUR HEROES: Tira Wolfsdaughter Hank Woodman Haiku Odsdottir Gilead Persia


22. Ungava

he Columbia leaves the shores where Persia was captured with a heavy heart. Kamlak does not believe she is dead and cnvinces the others to hold off mourning for the feline. The decide that when the get to the Longhunter tribe, they will ask Kor's people to look for her and keep the word out for her.

The Paddlewheeler hugs the coast and enters the Brador Sea. They are searching for a landmark Char remembers from his youth. A huge piece of concrete from the Ancients' time, with rusted lengths of metal protruding from it. This will mark the dry river valley which will help them find Kingfall Crater. Char tells them that Kingfall Crater maarks a spot where one of the legendary Demon-Kings fell and smote the earth in his ruin. he story says that his body lies at the deepest part of the lake that fills the crater.

Finally, the landmark is spotted. The Columbia must search awhile to find a place where the launch can be beached; the western shore of Ungava is deeply cut and etched with the ghosts of ancient waterflows. Few streams find the sea there now, but their channels remain. Nevertheless, a nearby spot serves as an adequate takeout and the exporation party is picked. It will consist of Char, Tira and Hank, all members of the Longhunter tribe, Gilead, Haiku, Exon, Soldier Dean, and Farallon. The last takes much convincing before he will enter the wilds, but he finally relents.

The first leg of the journey presents no danger. Tents are pitched for those who use them. Farallon proves to have an expnsive tent that was a git from Master Healer Blaine. It is spiritually reinforced and goes up and down with little effort.

The next day they encounter their first oddity. Gilead is near the front. He is startled to see a man being attacked by a Hangman's tree. He is further shocked that the man looks like his long-lost father. He rushes forward to help and makes short work of the tree. He is blissfully re-united with his sire...

This is not what the others see. Tira sees a previously-undiscovered group of Standing Stones. Hank sees the wolf tribe has built a modern village, using all the techniques he has taught them. And so on. Each person sees a vision of something they greatly desire or which makes them feel good. They each rush forward to meet their dream.

It is Hank who first realizes what is going on. The visions are exactly that: visions projected by some mass of low-lting plants. All around him, members of the expedition lie with blissful expressions on their faces. The plants have begun to cover their bodies, attaching themselves to the skin and draining blood. Hank, having no blood, quickly is rejected and sees through the illusion. He begins rescuing the others, starting with Tira. This is made difficult by the fact that damaging the plant seems to psychicly damage the victime as well. He then turns to farallon, who is farm more covered than the others. He helps revive tira and they in turn revive others. Once the spell is broken, it is far more difficult to be caght again, it seems.

In the course of freeing the captives, Tira and Farallon reveal to anyone who is watching, one of the adept powers rarely spoken of openly. Adepts have the ability to damage the spirit with a touch. In this case, they are damaging the plant's morphia, an action which seems to bypass the psychic feedback that normal damage causes. Not everyone realizes what they are doing.

After all are freed, they argue for some time about what to do with the plants. Hank wants to gather samples or seeds which might find a purpose back in Tallon; most of the others are for burning it. In the end, the decide it would be less of a daner on their return trp if they ust burned it. It is hard and sweaty work, but they finish in several hours.

After another day of travel, they are surprised by an arrow, which is shot from the surrounding rocks and lands at Gilead's feet. With some prompting by Char, he walks over it, ignoring the danger. The shooter is plainly visible. It is a wolf warrior, standing atop the rocks. He is openly daring them to pass a gauntlet. This is a variation of the "counting coup" that Char had warned them of. They all pass the arrow, even farallon, who finds the whole thing silly and dangerous.

Kor LonghunterOnce the test is passed, the wolf becomes quite friendly. He is well-known to Char, Tira and Hank, for he is indeed of the Longhunter tribe. Char elects to remain by a prmoinent landmark, rather than enter the encampment. He is still on his year-long trek and may no return yet. The others are escorted to the camp. Here they are introduced to many wolves, including Kor himself, whom Tira convinces to give Gilead a hard time. Friendly relations are established, and familial ties are strengethened. That night they all tell stories. The city dwellers tell of some of their adventures, while Kor tells them of his adventures in Niagara. He even draws them a map.

He tells them that ovr twenty years ago, he witnessed humans trying to pull a huge stone across an acnient bridge. They were attacked by bats, causing them to bunch up and the bridge collapsed. There was a terrible battle and many died. Later, Kor and his brothers found a wounded bat, gave him food and water and questioned him. The bat told him that the name of their city is Stoneroost, and it lies within a high stone spire at the top of the falls. He further explains that intimes long past it was called Kingscourt. The humans had found ancient stones upon the island that splits the great falls in two. They attempted to steal the stones and the bats protested. They warred with the humans, but the humans were better armed and stronger. Though the humans undoubtedly recovered many of the stones, Kor believes the one at the bottom of the river must still be there.

The party considers his word and map. They wonder how they can exmaine this sunken sone and possibly avoid the dangers of Tronto.

Over the next few days, Tira speaks with her father, telling him of the wonders of Merikia. She also has a long debate with Farallon over the virtues of the Wilds. They agree to disagree. Hank is pleased to see that a few of his techniques have been adoted by the Longhunter tribe. Kor sneaks out to talk to Char. Kor comes to understand that Char's heart does not lie with the tribe and with the old ways. He gives tacit approval for Char to continue living among humans.

Gura, one of the warriors, aproaches the party. he heard the story of Persia's kidnapping. He says it may be unrelated, but he had seen such birds in the employ of a 'magician' named Manicou, who lives in a tower at the other end of the Brador Mountians. It would take weeks or more to get there on foot, but the location is actually closer to where they plan to take the Columbia. They ask him many questions and decide to pursue word of her when they are a bit closer.

Sadly, the time comes to leave this island of friendliness in a cold harsh world. The party takes the same route back and reach the shore without incident. However, when they get there, they are chagrined to see the water blocked by a great creature...