Clan of the Wolf(5)

By: Avery Kloss

“Wash yourself now,” she commanded.

I found my footing, the water a constant threat at my back, the current unrelenting. I knew what she meant about washing myself, my fingers drifting between my legs, to rub here and between my buttocks. Not wishing to linger any longer than necessary, I washed hurriedly, dunking my head one last time. This made me shiver, my teeth clicking together.

“I’m getting out,” I said miserably, stumbling to the embankment.

Ara laughed, humor glinting in her eyes. “She looks like a wet bundle of fur.”

Brushing sodden hair from my face, I glared at her. “It’s your turn next time.” I hurried for the fire, standing before it with my hands out, the warmth feeling wonderful. Grasping my hair, I wrung it, water soaking the ground beneath my feet.

Kia approached with dark, wet hair and glistening skin. Picking up a pelt, she tossed it over my shoulders. “That wasn’t so bad now, was it?” She patted me briskly, a grin of sympathy emerging. “You’ll survive, little one.”

“I … d-d-don’t like it.” Trembling uncontrollably, I wrapped myself in fur, dropping to my knees on a pelt. The smell of wet animal hide lingered around me. “I’m h-h-h-ungry.”

Laughter filled the air. “You’ll have a meal soon enough.” Kia eyed a man’s approach, one of the hunters bringing supper, a slab of meat in his hands. Grunting, he tossed it at her, mamma catching it easily. “Thank you,” she murmured.

He eyed us, his expression bland, but I sensed his disdain. Turning on a heel, he strode off, a dog following.

Chapter Three

Kia prepared the meat, slicing smaller pieces with a sharp stone and impaling them on sticks. These we held before the fire, the meat roasting, searing the edges. I preferred mine less cooked, enjoying the rich flavor of the animal, while Ara browned hers nearly all the way through. Voices rang out then, someone hollering.

“What’s the matter?” Having dried completely, I sat up, the pelt slipping off my shoulders.

“I don’t know.” Kia ate a chunk of meat, chewing heartily. “Ah, good.”

Getting to my feet, I stood on my toes to see, the sun on the verge of disappearing completely, the sky filled with the smoke of many cooking fires. Through a dense cloud of grey came a man and then another, the newcomers who had joined our group at daybreak. They carried an animal, its antlers enormous and the weight of the creature substantial. I gaped at them, stunned by the sight.

“Look at that.”

By the huge gash in the animal’s midsection, they had already removed its insides, tossing the carcass onto the ground with a loud thump. Members of the clan approached, some wide-eyed with amazement, while others pretended indifference. But we all knew this sort of kill was rare, unless the group coordinated an attack. Two men accomplishing such a task revealed a high level of skill.

Lascox and his subordinate, Sutta, approached, the men eyeing the dead animal. “You’ve proven yourself worthy,” our leader intoned, a pleased look in his eye. “We shall feast tonight.”

“I plan to smoke some of the meat,” said Ronan. “But, you and your clan may help yourselves to the rest. There’s plenty.”

“The women will share their berries and nuts.” Lascox glanced at Kia. “Your girls are good scavengers. Give some of what you’ve got to Ronan and Enwan.”

Kia nodded subserviently, not wanting to anger him. “Of course.”

He glanced at the other fires, families gathered to eat. “A little from each will do. All of you must share.”

Kia tossed a few berries into a wooden bowl, her lips pressed together. Then she flung in a sticky clump of golden nectar, an insect or two stuck in the mix. She held up the bowl. “Take this over to them, Peta.”

“But I wish to eat.” I held the stick with the meat, not having cooked it yet.

“Leave it for now.”

“But, I’m hungry.”

“Just do as I ask, girl. Do it.”

I reached for the bowl. “Oh, all right.”

Her scowl softened. “We’ve all night to eat. Delaying the meal a little longer won’t kill you.”

“I’ll be right back. Don’t cook my meat. I like it a certain way, and you and Ara always do it wrong.”

“Why not take it with you? Eat it at their fire.”

“I shall.” I took the stick, blood dripping to my fingers. “Don’t eat all the berries. I want some too.”

“Just go, and do this chore.”

It annoyed me that Ara could remain, my sister sitting close to the fire, dangling a stick over the flames. “Don’t eat my share of sweets!”

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