People of the Sea

By Gear, W. Michael

Tor Books

Copyright © 1994 Gear, W. Michael
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780812507454

The lodge had grown unbearably hot, stifling. Sunchaser shoved weakly at the mound of hides that covered him. Sweat drenched his naked body, matting his long black hair to his temples and stinging his deep-set eyes. Cold trickles ran down his sides. He was so tall—twelve hands—that his feet rested uncomfortably against the opposite wall. The fire in the center of the dirt floor had been built up high enough that the flames leaped and crackled. Golden reflections danced across the shiny coating of creosote on the hide ceiling. He studied them through fever-brilliant eyes, and the images wavered like a silvery mirage on the desert.
“Good Plume? Aunt?”
He managed to lift his head enough to look around. The lodge consisted of a pine-pole frame covered with hides. It spread in a rectangle, four body lengths long and one wide. Good Plume was gone, but from the dimly lit corners of the lodge, tiny eyes gleamed as field mice froze at the sound of his voice. For long moments he watched the small creatures before they began to scurry about in search of food. One mouse jumped like a grasshopper onto the log that held down the southern wall. Long whiskers shivered in glints of silver as he sniffed his way around the bases of two soapstone bowls, hopped over a curved throwing stick used for hunting rabbits and stopped beside a winnowing basket. He chewed a bit of wheat-grass chaff while he stared unblinking at Sunchaser, his glossy sides pulsing with his rapid breathing.
Then the mouse zipped behind the winnowing basket as Sunchaser sighed and settled into the robes. A nightmare sensation of helplessness possessed him. His mouth had gone as dry as the autumn grasses. Was it the fever, or did he hear voices…soft, muted words intermixed with the sputters of the fire?
He let his head fall to the left. Sweat slipped over the skin of his face. Along the northern wall stood a row of thirteen baked-clay figurines. They peered at Sunchaser through sparkling dovesnail-shell eyes. The Steals Light People. In their hands they held the timeless ebb and flow of divine Power. Above-Old-Man stood at the far end of the lodge, looking down upon the Steals Light People. Like Mother Ocean, he was not one of the Steals Light People, but was greater than all of them. Because of that, his figurine was twice the height of the others, four hands tall. His entire body had been painted pure white, but he wore a black weasel-fur headdress sprinkled with quartz crystals that had been glued on with pine pitch.
Sunchaser blinked wearily at the figurine. It seemed to be watching him intently. “Above-Old-Man…” he murmured reverently. “Your death…gave life to the world.” Sunchaser smiled.
In the Beginning, Above-Old-Man was all that existed. He was soft and shapeless like the clouds. He knew that to create the world, he would have to use part of himself. It took a great act of courage for him to open his veins and allow the blue blood to flow unheeded, but it poured out and turned into the blue waters of Mother Ocean, from which every other life form emerged. The froth on the Mother’s surface gave birth to the Steals Light People: Father Sun, Dawn Child, Winter Boy, the Ice Ghosts, the Thunderbeings, Great White Giant and all the others. Even Sister Earth and Brother Sky were born from the vast blue womb.
First Condor, the biggest bird in the world, sprang to life soon thereafter, created from a ball of Sister Earth’s clay. As Above-Old-Man’s blood drained away, he called to Condor. When Condor came, Above-Old-Man said, “Please, Condor, I am too weak. Let me give you the Power to breathe Life into the things I have created. You must hurry, before the magic of Creation dies. Otherwise, everything will just be bone and stone and water. It will never feel or think.”
Condor had to fly very fast to cover the whole world before the magic was gone.
While Condor did his duty, Above-Old-Man grew weaker and weaker, until he shrank to nothingness and died. The world lived because of Him and Condor, but Above-Old-Man became cold and white and hard. Mother Ocean wept. She begged the other Steals Light People to help her, and they made a net of seaweed and put Above-Old-Man in it. First Condor carried the net high into the sky, where Above-Old-Man was reborn as the moon.
Sunchaser could feel the Power of the Steals Light People; it radiated from them like heat from flames. They made the rains come and winter go. As the children of Above-Old-Man, their prayers gave their Father the strength to rise and cross the belly of Brother Sky every night. If the Steals Light People ever failed to pray, the moon would rise no more.
Pinches of sacred acorn meal lay sprinkled at the feet of the clay figurines, just as it was sprinkled on the living Dancers who represented them at the annual ceremonials. Good Plume had laboriously painted, these Steals Light People, crushing the colors from plant roots, flowers, berries and clays, working for long hands of time with a frayed willow-twig brush to get the details right. Then she had dressed them in special, ritually blessed clothing-as befitted gods.
Sunchaser’s voice rasped as he asked, “Where is Good Plume, Steals Light People? Do you know?”
They seemed to be whispering; the Thunderbeing’s voice was especially loud. Thunderbeings looked like young children, but they had the shining, membranous wings of dragonflies. And talons grew where a human child would have had feet. As they soared through the clouds, their wings caused thunder to rumble across the sky. He couldn’t make out the Thunderbeing’s words. Or were those sounds only the passing of the mice? Sunchaser blinked to steady the wavering focus of his eyes and fought the drifting sensation that possessed him.
Bright paintings lived over the heads of the figurines. On the long north wall, two zigzags of yellow lightning sliced a path through silver moons and blue stars and lodged in the heart of a crimson sun. The southern wall flamed with orange trees whose branches curled in and around to form the interlocking pathways of a labyrinth. Near the edges of the branches, dark swirls spiraled out, like tongues of black flame.…The Darkness that roasts the soul when it attempts to find the twisting road that leads to the Land of the Dead.
With all of his strength, Sunchaser rolled to his right side so he could extend a trembling hand and pull the door flap back. His clammy fingers could barely keep their grip on the leather, but he managed to hang the flap on its peg. As he did so, the hides slipped off his chest, exposing it to the cold wind that swept Brushnut Village. He relished the shiver that shook him. The crisp scent of pine flooded his hot nostrils and he inhaled deeply, seeking to fill his soul with the essence of the trees.
Outside the lodge, the green pines gradually darkened into charcoal spears. They stood like dark sentinels against the translucent rays of pale pink light that shot across the sky. Sunchaser could see no clouds, but flakes of snow pirouetted through the trees and landed on the frozen ground.
How long had he been ill? He couldn’t even recall when he had retreated to his aunt’s lodge to lie down. Where was she? Was the sickness still ravaging the village?
“They need you, you fool,” he murmured feebly. “Good Plume is old…eighty summers. She can’t work all the Healings by herself. It will kill her. Get up. Get up before it’s too late and everyone that you care about is dead.”
He tried to sit up, but fell back to his hides, panting and trembling from the effort. The interior of the lodge swam around him in a blur of color. He felt sick to his stomach.
Sunchaser had been born here in the mountains at Brushnut Village twenty-five summers ago. He knew and loved each person in the village. How many of them had died since he’d fallen ill? Good Plume’s lodge nestled on the western side of the village, down the slope from the others. But he could hear the moans and cries of the sick.
“Blessed Spirits, what’s happening? How…”
Footsteps crunched on the frozen ground above the lodge, slow, methodic, as if each step required great care.
“Good Plume?” he called again.
“Yes, it’s me.”
She pushed her walking stick through the doorway before she ducked through herself. Snow frosted the fur of her heavy buffalo coat and glistened in the gray straggles of hair that had come undone from her short braid. Her face had a skeletal angularity; her sagging, wrinkled skin was the color of walnut oil.
Sunchaser closed his eyes for a moment.
Good Plume leaned her walking stick by the door and unhooked the door flap, letting it fall closed again. “Are you trying to kill yourself? Winter Boy is still out and about, looking for souls to eat.”
She bent down and covered Sunchaser with hides again, then went to the middle of the lodge, where she removed her coat and laid it by the fire to dry. Her thin arms stuck out from the sleeves of her doeskin dress. She kicked a stump of wood closer to the fire and sat down on it, the beaded hem of her skirt fanning around her feet. Her hands shook as she held them out to the flames. “When I get warm, I’ll heat up that raccoon soup we had for breakfast.”
Sunchaser wet his chapped lips. “Tell me…I have to know. What’s happening?”
“It will just worry you. You’ll use up your strength—”
“Tell me!”
Good Plume exhaled a heavy breath. “Flint Pond died today. Everyone in the village is going mad trying to figure out who should be the next chief.”
“What about Flint Pond’s son?”
Good Plume’s voice broke when she said, “Little Elk died this morning.”
Faint, wavering images of Little Elk’s face moved through Sunchaser’s thoughts, each like a knife in his heart. They’d laughed and played together as children. “And Little Elk’s wife?”
“She’s fine. So far. And we had better pray that Above-Old-Man keeps her that way. She’s gone all over the village cooking, cleaning, caring for the grieving.”
“Standing Moon is a good woman.”
Good Plume nodded and lowered her hands to her lap. She rubbed her joints as though the old bones ached miserably. When she scrutinized Sunchaser, firelight flowed into her wrinkles, making her look a thousand summers old. “People miss you,” she said gently. “Everyone has been asking about you. Singing day and night, praying for the Evil Spirits to let you go. People need you. They think you’re a better Healer than I am.”
He smiled feebly. “Then they are all fools.”
“You are much loved, Sunchaser. If you up and die on them, they’ll never forgive you.”
“I’m better, Good Plume. Stronger. Really—”
“Your fever is very high, and the Evil Spirits have held you now for three days. If we can’t pray the fever away tonight, I fear for you.”
“No, no,” he reassured her. “It’s not that bad. I just…I’m so c-cold, Good Plume.” A shudder went through him that made his teeth chatter. He tugged weakly at his hides, pulling them up around his throat. “Aren’t there any m-more hides?”
Good Plume rose and went to a pile of folded skins in the rear of the lodge. She carried them back and spread them out over Sunchaser, then tenderly tucked the edges in around him.
Still, he could not stop shivering.
Good Plume’s ancient face darkened. “I must pour some hot soup into you. Stay awake for me.”
She crossed to the cooking tripod where the hide bag of soup hung and moved it closer to the hearth. Using two sticks, she picked up four of the small rocks that sat on the coals at the fire’s edge and dropped them into the bag. Steam exploded upward. A silver wreath encircled her face. While she searched for wooden bowls, Sunchaser said, “I…I must get well, Good Plume. The Mammoth Spirit Dance will start at Otter Clan Village in five days.”
The Dance was held every moon at one of three villages: Brushnut, Whalebeard or Otter Clan. That way, people from up and down the coast as well as from the mountain villages wouldn’t have far to go if they wanted to attend three or four Dances a cycle. The Dances brought great numbers of people together. Many of them walked for days to reach the village where the Dance was being held. And Sunchaser tried very hard to attend each Dance. But sometimes, like this moon, he just couldn’t do it. Perhaps Oxbalm, leader of the Otter Clan, would delay the Dance? Waiting for Sunchaser? Occasionally it happened that way. But not often. And Oxbalm couldn’t delay the Dance for more than a week, because people would begin leaving. Oxbalm couldn’t make them wait just to see if Sunchaser might come.
“Yes,” Good Plume said, “that’s right. And if you are not there, old Catchstraw will lead the Dance.”
“He’s led it m-many times before, Aunt. He’s not as bad as you think. But I…I’ve missed so many Dances. I should be there. Though Catchstraw tries very hard, he is just not—”
“Do you really believe he tries hard?” Good Plume grunted and walked back to the fire with two bowls and a wooden cup. Scowling, she dipped the cup and filled the bowls. “Have the mammoths grown more numerous with him leading the Dances? Hmm? No. None of them want to come back from the Land of the Dead if they think he’ll be the Dreamer to greet them. People wouldn’t attend the Dance either if they knew in advance that Catchstraw would be Dancing.”
Sunchaser’s stomach cramped. Guilt weighted him down like a black wall of earth. “That’s my fault. I should be out walking the t-trails, telling people that it’s the Dance that is important. They think they need me there, but that is not—”
“Sunchaser,” Good Plume said as she set a bowl of soup on the floor beside him, “you try to help too many at once. No matter who asks you to come to their village, you go. You use every shred of your Power for others and save none for yourself.” Spirals of steam rose from the bowl.
“I can’t tell people that I won’t come…not when they are frightened or ill. Someone must give them hope.”
Good Plume removed one of the deerhides from Sunchaser’s chest, folded it and tucked it beneath his head to prop him up. As she tipped the bowl of warm soup to his lips, she said, “It’s all right to care about people, Sunchaser, but you must not let your concern disrupt your Dreaming. If you do, in the end even the people you have cared for the most deeply will hate you for it. Dreaming is the only way you can really help them, and they know it.”
He took a sip of the warm, delicately flavored soup and sank back against the hide pillow. His teeth had begun to chatter so violently that he barely managed to keep his mouth on the bowl long enough to get another swallow. “Perhaps.”
“You doubt me? Don’t. I tell you the truth. You must stop giving so much of yourself to people. Pretty soon there won’t be enough of you left to Dream.”
He started to respond…but he heard voices again, faint, riding the wind like lost souls, calling to him. He closed his eyes to listen better.
Sunchaser?…Sunchaser? Hurry! Where are you? Can you hear me? Come and look! There are mammoths coming!”
A brilliant glow suffused the world around him, filled with the desperate cries of a baby. He floated on that tormented sound with the freedom of a curl of smoke on a still day, rising higher and higher, freed from the cage of his sick body.
The Dream lifted his soul and carried it away on wings of gold…
He found himself crouching in a condor trap high on a mountain. Rocky cliffs jutted into the sky around him. He huddled down into a ball, but cold seeped from the frozen soil, penetrating his heavily fringed hide shirt and pants. Puffs of clouds were visible through the dense weave of brush. They drifted westward, toward the sea. All day long, snow flurries had intermittently frosted the peak. Above-Old-Man must have been looking out for him. The thin, white coating would help disguise his trap.
The trap was a circle of rocks placed around a pit and covered with brush. Forty hands from the trap lay a dead bighorn, its magnificent horns catching the afternoon sunlight. Sunchaser had killed the sheep at dawn, dragged it down the mountain’s rocky slope and slit its belly open so that the internal organs lay in full sight and created a range of smells, from the sweet richness of blood to the stench of torn intestines. Grandmother Condor hunted warily. But only the downy underfeathers of Condor’s wings could complete Sunchaser’s ritual attire.
He spied two tiny black dots gliding against the background of clouds, and he held his breath. He could just make out the white linings of their enormous wings.
The condors descended slowly, cautiously, circling each other, cocking their red-bald heads as their sharp eyes surveyed the conifer forest for danger. A breeding pair. Sunchaser had located their nest a moon ago. It filled a rocky niche two hundred hands down the slope from his trap.
The huge female let out a glorious cry, tucked her wings and sailed as straight as a well-cast dart to the dead sheep. The male alighted beside her and together they hesitantly approached the exposed guts. The female tore into the liver, while the male pecked at the bloody lungs.
Sunchaser pulled his bone dagger from his belt and readied himself. He waited patiently, twisting the fringe on his pant leg as he repeated a mental chant, a prayer of offering:
I see you, Condor. Hear my prayers
In clasping one another tight,
Holding one another fast,
May we finish our roads together,
keeping Beauty before us always.
The condors’ eighteen-hand wing span made taking off difficult, and when condors ate, especially in cold weather, they gorged themselves. Flight would be even harder on a full stomach.
The gigantic birds ate in silence, occasionally flapping their black-and-white wings as they tugged at a stubborn gobbet of meat. After two fingers of time, both birds had slowed their consumption, stopping more often now to stare about and strut through the gutted mess they’d created. The male lifted his head and bent his neck back, perhaps to resettle his stomach. They seemed to have eaten their fill. The female ruffled her feathers and plucked at some annoyance beneath her right wing. The male hopped up on top of the sheep and scanned the open meadow. Soon they would fly away.
Sunchaser burst from his hiding place and raced toward the birds. The male let out a cry of shock and flapped hard, trying to lift his heavy body. The female broke in the opposite direction. Sunchaser ran with all his might. Snow squealed beneath his moccasins as he leaped for the female’s legs. He managed to latch on to the right one.
The condor squawked in fear, and the frozen puffs of her breath twisted away in the wind. The talons on her left foot ripped at his arms while she attacked the top of his head with her beak. Hot blood streamed down his face and dripped from his chin.
“Please, Grandmother,” he Sang as he struck out with his dagger. “Give yourself to me so that mammoths may continue to live in our world.” He struck again and again, feeling the sharp point rip through the feathers and puncture the condor’s black breast and throat. Warm stickiness coated his hand, and offal leaked from the bird’s punctured gut.
The condor shrieked and flogged him with huge, bloody wings. Her mate circled away on the updraft, watching and calling out in terror.
When the female at last toppled onto her back with her wings spread, she stared up with frightened eyes that blinked in the wrinkled redness of her round head. Her large, hooked beak was streaked with gore and bits of tissue. Sunchaser reverently stroked her legs as her neck ceased to writhe. Rasping breaths tore from her lungs.
From tail to head, she stood as tall as many human women, and her wings stretched one third longer than Sunchaser’s height. “Thank you, Grandmother. I promise to use your feathers well and to bury your body with many rare seashells and finely crafted dart points.”
His people had always revered the great birds, and they buried condors with solemn ritual dignity. Born from the blue blood of Above-Old-Man, condors carried the essence of all Life in their bodies.
Death always gives birth to Life. Even Above-Old-Man was willing to die so that the world might exist.
The female gasped suddenly, and a breath condensed into a white cloud around her open beak. She blinked at Sunchaser, her eyes drowsy with death. Blood spattered her entire body, but the thick coating of red on her white underwings had come also from Sunchaser’s torn flesh. A mixing of his blood and hers. He gently traced the forward edge of her right wing with his fingertips. “Forgive me, Grandmother.”
He straightened and stood shivering in the glacial air. Dark cloud had blotted the face of Father Sun and left the mountaintop in freezing shadow. The pale dove color of the rock outcrops had turned a deep, dark gray. The male condor still circled above, his head cocked. Alone. Watching his mate’s final moments in silence.
Sunchaser’s soul ached. His eyes met and held the male’s, and they shared their grief. Both understood that death was a fundamental part of their relationship. Condors survived on carrion, much of it either left by human hunters or the humans themselves. Humans had to kill condors to obtain the sacred feathers they used for renewing and sanctifying the world. Human and Condor constantly faced each other asking for life—and knowing that it came only through death.
Sunchaser whispered, “I’ll take good care of her, Grandfather. I promise you. She will fly to the Land of the Dead with my people Singing her praises.”
Sunchaser gazed down at the female. Her beak rested on the curved edge of her wing. She had stopped breathing.
“Come, First Condor,” Sunchaser Sang softly. “Come and guard your child’s soul until we Sing her to the Land of the Dead.”
He knelt and carefully folded Grandmother Condor’s wings. The feathers felt soft and warm. He lashed her wings to her body with a thin yucca cord so she would be easier to carry, then braced himself and lifted the heavy bird into his arms. Her head hung limply, the eyes half open as he started down the mountain.
That night he camped in the lee of a thick stand of fir, sheltered from the worst of the storm. In the flickering firelight, she watched him, her bloody head slightly canted where he had carefully propped it.
Exhausted to the point of collapse, Sunchaser said, “Your body will help the mammoths to live, Grandmother.”
As he watched with half-lidded eyes, the condor stirred. A fiery burning traced its way through the wounds she had inflicted on his head and arms. He blinked, sure that he’d seen a shifting of firelight, a trick of the popping embers playing in the breeze. Power moved, loose in the darkness. Desperately, he fought sleep, drifting amidst the sounds of wind, fire and night, hovering in that half-reality of…
A breath expanded the condor’s lungs, and she lifted her head to stare at Sunchaser. A pale, silver light burned in her eyes. “Now I understand your need for my body, Human. You hunted me with honor. I will take you on a journey. A Spirit Journey far away. You shall see why you must pray day and night to keep the mammoths alive.”
Grandmother Condor shook off the frail bonds he had wrapped her in and leaped from her resting place. She flapped low over the ground, her wing tips brushing the snow, then gained enough altitude to lift into the sky. She circled and swung back around over the jagged rocks and the swaying trees, her talons outstretched.
Sunchaser screamed, unable to flee. She sank those curved, bloody talons into the shoulders of his hide shirt and bore him upward through gleaming layers of clouds. With every beat of her wings, thunder cracked and rumbled over the mountains.
Bright fear pumped in time with Sunchaser’s heart. She needed but to relax her grip and he would fall…and fall…
Look down, Sunchaser. What do you see?”
Terror strangled the scream in his throat. Mountains gave way to green, rolling plains where huge piles of carcasses lay rotting in the sun. White bones gleamed, picked clean by predators. Not just mammoths lay there, but four-horned pronghorns, several kinds of horses, ground sloths, dire wolves, giant beavers, shruboxen, saber-toothed cats, short-faced bears, lions…so many beautiful lions. They lay touching paws in a field of tall, windblown grass, their golden manes shimmering in the sun.
Horror tightened Sunchaser’s chest. “I don’t understand, Grandmother. What is this? What am I seeing?”
This is what the world will be like without mammoths, Sunchaser.”
“Filled with the dead and dying? Why?”
Condor tipped her wings, and they soared northward, toward the land of the Great White Giant, where the Ice Ghosts creaked and groaned as they stretched their glacial bodies. Magnificent deserts passed below him. Red ridges snaked across the land, cut and honed by deeply eroded canyons. Enormous stone towers stood like lances, poking their heads up above the ridge tops to look around.
Because everything is connected to everything else, Sunchaser.”
He heard the baby crying again, crying, and crying, and calling his name.…
* * *
Good Plume awakened when Sunchaser sobbed. She sat up in her robes and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Wind buffeted the lodge, roaring with the strength of the Thunderbeings. The door hanging had come untied, and it flapped like wings over Sunchaser’s head. His hair bore a thick coating of pure white snow. He tossed and turned, writhing as though trying to escape a pursuing monster. His hides had slipped r down around his waist, baring his broad chest to the bitter wind.
Good Plume rose and tiptoed over to him. Tears beaded on his lashes. When she put her hand on his brow, relief made her sigh out loud. His fever had broken. But he felt cold, as cold as ice.
“You’re going to be all right, Sunchaser,” she whispered affectionately as she rearranged the hides to cover him again. “Above-Old-Man must have heard all those prayers your hundreds of followers have been sending up…and mine, too.”
Before she retied the door flap, she stuck her head outside. Snow fell heavily, sheathing the forest in a thick, wintry blanket. On the wind’s chilling breath, cries and groans wavered from the village. Some man coughed and coughed. An infant sobbed.
Good Plume squinted when she caught movement in front of the lodge. A dog sat ten hands away, covered with snow. He wagged his tail when she looked at him. “Who are you?” she whispered. “I know every dog in this village, and you’re not one of them.”
The dog rose and trotted forward, whimpering softly.
“Are you cold? Well, no creature ought to be out on a night like this.”
Good Plume held the flap back, and the dog ran inside. She secured the flap. When she turned, the dog lay curled at Sunchaser’s side, his black muzzle propped on his paws. He was a pretty animal, all black except for the tan fur that encircled each of his eyes. The dog lifted his head and peered at Good Plume, and a tingle went up her spine.
“You’re not just a dog looking for shelter from the storm, are you? Hmm? No…I don’t think so. Did somebody send you here? Maybe one of the Steals Light People?”
The dog put his head down again, but the feel of Power that clung to him intensified. A Spirit Helper? Maybe.
Sunchaser had quieted, though lines pinched around his deep-set eyes, and he’d clamped his teeth, setting his square jaw at an angle that made his handsome oval face look longer, his fine cheekbones higher. In the scarlet glow of the dying fire, he looked old beyond his twenty-five summers.
“But Dreaming does that to a person,” Good Plume said softly to herself. “Never known a Dreamer to stay young…in either body or soul. Spirits won’t allow it.”
Good Plume massaged her aching hip bones and hitched her way back to her robes. Having lain down again, she stared at the wall paintings—and then her eyes sought the Steals Light People. They were watching her with a concentration that sent a shiver down her backbone.
“I know you were worried, but I told you he was going to get well,” she whispered. “It’s all those prayers from his followers. Takes that kind of Power to drive out Evil Spirits.”
She could hear the figurines speaking softly to each other, their voices like murmurs of wind. The Thunderbeing figurine stared at Good Plume with unnerving intensity. Her wings had started to look ragged. Good Plume would have to see to that.
“Are you trying to speak to me?”
Legend said that it took thousands of cycles for a Thunderbeing’s wings to mature. Before that, Thunderbeings lived in the cocoons of. Clouds and fed upon the rain. Some versions of the story even said that Thunderbeings could become real children if. They wanted to. They could send their souls down to earth in the form of a bolt of lightning; when the bolt struck near a woman’s womb, the soul could crawl inside the womb and grow into a human.
The Thunderbeing’s obsidian bead mouth seemed to move in the wavering firelight.
Good Plume cupped a hand to her ear. The Thunderbeing whispered so low that she could barely hear the words. “Speak up! What woman? What does she have to do with Sunchaser?”
The Thunderbeing fell silent.
Good Plume frowned. “What’s the matter? Are you afraid of something?” She shook her head, slightly disgusted. “Well, when you’re ready to tell me, I’ll be eager to hear. Now go to sleep. All of you. We’ll have a lot of work to do tomorrow, Healing, and Singing for the sick and the dying.”
She pulled her hides up over her cold ears and closed her eyes. The Steals Light People started talking again, muttering amongst themselves. She fell asleep to the sound of their soft murmurs drifting in and out of the storm’s roar.
The woman’s coming…almost on her way…”
What if…”
Will she catch his soul?”
Copyright © 1993 by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear


Excerpted from People of the Sea by Gear, W. Michael Copyright © 1994 by Gear, W. Michael. Excerpted by permission.
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