Baka's little brother had been harmed by this creature, and he wanted to tear him apart as he lay in a snivelling heap where Baka had tossed him. But Baka was not alone in his anger; his father and brothers had also heard Kidat's call for help and surrounded the creature, adding their own roars to Baka's. Baka moved towards the creature but his sire said, "No, leave him. Your brother needs our help first. He has no fur like we have, he needs warmth. Pick him up and keep him warm while your brothers and I dig a den; then we will deal with this creature.
Baka could not understand why his little brother could not move; he only knew, from seeing many cubs die from the cold when not properly attended, that his brother would die soon. With his claws drawn in, he gently rolled his brother over and scooped him up with his front paws, sat back on his haunches and worked him deep into his stomach fur before using the fur on his forelegs to complete the warm cocoon. Around him, snow flew into the air in a shower as his brothers worked quickly to help his sire dig a hole in the snow deep enough for him and his little brother to curl up in and be shielded from the cold. Once the snow cave was ready, his sire said, "Now we will deal with the creature."
"I want to kill him."
"No son, we will not kill him. That would anger his fellow creatures and they will hunt us down."
"What will you do?"
"We will frighten him and his people enough for them to know he has upset us. That will suffice till your little brother is well enough to deal with the creature in his own way. You go into the den we have made, and keep him warm. We will send for your sister and she will feed him."
Baka watched his kin close in on the creature who whimpered in terror as he scrambled backwards, leaving a trail of yellow wetness in the snow. Satisfied his kin would shepherd the creature home and probably right into his village, Baka settled into the cave and cuddled his little brother to him. "Are you awake my friend?"
"Baka?"The thought came to Baka.
"Yes, my brother, I am here. I will protect you from the cold."
"Can't feel anything, Baka; can't move. Where am I?"
"You are safe, brother. I will keep you warm. Sleep now."
"Where is P'chak?"
"He is not here. Father has dealt with him."Suddenly a faint sound came to him and he lifted his head to hear better, and he heard the distant roars of his kin as they made their presence known in the village. Baka wished he could have been there, to see the village torn apart, but his brother needed him more.
P'pit watched from the safety of his position behind the dung heap as the Rogoch shepherded P'chak into the village, his furs torn and bloody. How different P'chak looked from the overbearing bully he once was. Now he crawled and scrabbled his way through the snow into the centre of the village, moaning weakly for someone to help him. Most of the tribe came running out of their caves to see what was going on, but they dared not go near P'chak as the Rogoch roared their fury. They seemed to know which cave was P'chak's because two of the great beasts headed towards it, scattering P'chak's wife and family. On reaching it they set to work destroying the cave till only a gaping hole beside a pile of snow remained. P'pit wondered why the Rogoch were so angry until a thought came to him from the largest of the Rogoch, "This creature hurt our friend, we will repay."And P'pit knew he had to do something or watch the whole village suffer just because that idiot P'chak hurt Kidat.
While the Rogoch headed towards the next cave, P'pit ran out from his hiding place and yelled as loud as he could, "Wait, wait, no please no."He continued to yell and waved his arms about till the one, whose thoughts P'pit had read, noticed him. "Please don't break our village up because of one of us."The Rogoch turned its great head towards him and roared something to the other beasts. They stopped their wrecking spree and waited. The leader shambled towards P'pit as a scream came from behind the boy. His mother grabbed him and tried to pull him back but he fought her off, and stood his ground as the Rogoch came to a towering halt, dropping his head till his eyes were a few feet in front of P'pit. The boy's eyes widened as he stared back at the beast, knowing that at any moment the beast could make him into dinner in a second and swallow him whole. The beast grunted softly and a thought came to P'pit. "You Kidat's friend; you safe. You come to Kidat."
"Wow, yeah!"Little P'pit turned to look at his terrified mother but she was flat out on the snow in a faint. With a grin, P'pit held up his arms and before he knew it he was tossed onto the beast's back. The Rogoch turned to precede their leader out of the village while P'pit's clan tried to bring their leader down by attacking his legs. The leader knocked them away as gently as he could as P'pit yelled down to his father that he was okay; he was safe and was going for a ride. "Don't worry father, I'll be back soon; Kidat needs me."Then he burrowed into the beast's fur ruff and hung on tight as his unusual steed lumbered away to catch up to the rest of his herd. But P'pit's family were not finished, and attacked with their hunting spears. With a roar of pain, P'pit's steed swung round to face them, roaring loudly. Using handfuls of fur, P'pit slid down to the ground and faced his family. "Don't do that! I'm okay; I'm not in danger. P'chak hurt Kidat and he needs me. There will be no more damage to the village. Just deal with P'chak and I'll come back soon."
His father stepped forward to confront him. "What did P'chak do to Kidat?"
P'pit looked back at the Rogoch, and a thought came to him. Shocked he turned back to his father with an angry glare. "P'chak was very bad. He attacked Kidat and did something that made it so he could not fight back. Then he ripped his furs off and...and...tried to... make him his bed-mate."
P'pit watched his family move into a huddle to discuss what was to be done; then his father sent one of P'pit's brothers away at a run. The rest of the family moved towards a still whimpering P'chak with determined steps. P'pit's brother soon came back loaded with furs, and his father sorted through them, selecting the best. Bringing them to P'pit, he said, "Take these to your friend and tell him P'chak will be dealt with according to our custom."Looking at the Rogoch, he added, "I know you can understand what I am saying, even if it is only through our thoughts. We understand that what you did to P'chak's cave was a warning to us. If Kidat wishes to return to the village he will be welcome; I will see to it. I will allow P'pit to go with you, but please return him unharmed."The Rogoch grunted and lowered his head in agreement. He tossed P'pit up onto his back then reached for the furs and tossed them up as well. Once P'pit indicated he had them secure, the Rogoch turned and trotted away.
Something soft and wet pushed against Kidat's lips, waking him from a peaceful slumber. His fingers tingled with returning feeling, and he felt warm fur wrapped round his body; but this was not the fur he was used to, this was warmer and something vibrated through it, humming softly. Then he heard a soft growling and he opened his eyes to see a familiar face smiling down at him. "P'pit?"
"And about time too! Come on, you need to feed."
"Uhh?"Kidat's eyes almost crossed as he focused on the teat dripping warm milk onto his lips. The warm fur shifted beneath him and furry arms drew him closer to the teat. He opened his mouth and the sweet, salty taste of Rogoch milk filled his mouth. A deep purr of satisfaction came to his ears, and he slowly realised what was happening. The Rogoch were taking care of him, keeping him warm and fed till he could move again. He closed his eyes and drank with the contentment of a baby. He roused again to a sharp, almost painful tingling all over his body, and found that, if he concentrated, he could clench and unclench his fingers. It hurt like nothing he had experienced ever before but he recognised the signs of recovery. He wasn't cradled by a Rogoch anymore, but lay on a bed of straw, a precious commodity in these frozen parts, under a blanket of fur. He gazed up at an icy ceiling; he was in a Rogoch cave for sure. He looked round and saw P'pit sitting by his feet, working on a mound of furs with a large bone needle and thin leather strips. I wonder what he is doing, he thought.
P'pit glanced up from his work and smiled. "I'm making you some new clothes; P'chak destroyed your others."
Kidat stared at him in surprise. "You read my thoughts!"
P'pit's smiled widened with delight. "Of course I did."Then the smile vanished and the boy looked troubled. "You won't tell anyone will you? No one is supposed to know."
Kidat closed his eyes and tried to work things out. Not many Chpuchkians could do that at such a young age unless....Oh Great Gpuchk! He's was one of the chosen! Long ago, the ancients had spoken in their writings of Gpuchkians who were born once in a thousand years or so, with great mental gifts and abilities, and who only appeared in times of trouble. A lot of Gpuchkians believed the birth of a chosen one brought the troubles with them, and the mothers were hunted down and killed before the baby could be born or soon after when the baby was killed as well. Over the centuries, many babies had perished in this way, often mistakenly after the mothers were heard to proclaim their pride that their baby was special. Of course all babies were special, to their mothers. So now, mothers hid their babies away from prying eyes. Not so much in these outlying regions where the writings of the ancients were hardly regarded as important. The great ruler D'bactu and his human wife had decreed that this killing of innocents should stop, but they were finding it hard to put the law into practice and have people obey it.
As leader of their tribe, P'gark had undertaken the long journey to Home City to annually register the tribe and its numbers, and in the later years, when his health began to fail, Kidat went with him; and he had been amazed at the knowledge he picked up just by listening in to people's thoughts.. He had often visited the great library while P'gark went on tribal business, and had read the holy writings of the ancients. Many Gpuchkians could not understand the old hieroglyphics of the ancients, but Kidat just had to concentrate his mind on the pages for the lines of writing to merge into clear prose. That was how he discovered about himself and his heralded coming. He also found the extensive account in the news manuscripts about a spaceship falling from the sky. The report gave the information that when rescue squads arrived at the crash site, there were a lot wild Rogoch moving about the ship, and for their own safety they had to drive the animals off before they could approach the ship. All the occupants had perished in the crash, or so the story was told. But they also reported seeing three polar white Rogoch among the fleeing animals; a rare sight indeed. Kidat had smiled when he read that part of the report, realising that the three white Rogoch could only be Baka and his mother and sister, Dida. Another of D'bactu's decrees had saved the lives of the Rogoch that day, and subsequently his own. The Rogoch provided furs, meat, and fuel for the fires, and the killing of these great beasts, whether the tamer ones living near the cities or the more ferocious ones in the outer districts, was expressly forbidden.
Ferocious? Never! During his visits to the libraries, Kidat had read about the planet called Earth where D'bactu's great lady wife came from. She had brought a lot books from Earth, including some children's books., one of which Kidat had read, and learned that Terran children had a toy called a teddy bear which they took to bed with them as a sleeping companion. Yeah, that's Baka and his family, alright; loveable teddy bears only giant sized and very much alive. As he thought about these things, P'pit put his sewing aside and picked up a small container. He moved to sit beside Kidat's head and raised it, putting the container to Kidat's lips, "Here, drink; you need it to get well again; Dida said so."
Kidat took a mouthful. "Mmm! This is good, what is it?"
"It's Dida's milk. She's let me take it from her every day."
"Every day? How long have I been here?"
"This is the third day; now come on and drink it; Dida will be annoyed if you let it go to waste, and so will her babies who could have had it instead."
"Oh, well, in that case I can't very well say no."Kidat managed to get it all down before exhaustion took over. When he lay down again he had to admit that he felt a lot better even if he was tired.
P'pit nodded and said, "The Rogoch are a hardy species and their young have to have the best start in life their parents can give them, so the mother's milk has to have all the best possible ingredients for her babies to survive. The Rogoch want you to survive."
"But I've slept for three days? I can't believe that."
"Well, look at the baby Rogoch; how do you think they sleep so well; it has to be in the milk. Now, I've got to get your clothes finished so we can move you in the morning, and I can go home."
"Thanks for looking after me, P'pit; I appreciate all you've done. What will happen to me now?"
"Can you move yet?"
Kidat tried to move his left arm; pain sliced through unused muscles. "Yes but it hurts too much."
"But you can heal yourself."
Kidat grimaced. "I don't know if I can; I've never tried before now."
P'pit frowned at him. "But you've healed others; look what you did for my grandmother!"
"I know that, but I still don't know how I do things. It doesn't work all the time."
"Well I can help you."P'pit put down the container of milk and placed his hands on Kidat's left arm, closed his eyes and said, "Think about your pain, Kidat. Think deeply till you see only the hurt in your arm. I'm thinking about it too. I'm willing the pain to go away; you must do that too."Kidat closed his eyes and pictured his arm as a vessel filled with pain, and in his mind he began to tip the vessel so that the pain drained away, little by little. He reached a point when he felt too weary to carry on, and opened his eyes. P'pit smiled down at him and said, "There, that's better isn't it. All you have to do is rest for a bit then try again till all the pain in your body has gone and you can find the source of the pain. I think it's in your neck."
Kidat shook his head. "I don't think I'm good enough for this healing thing. I can make predators leave the village alone and defend myself against people like P'chak, but even that is hit and miss; and explains why I never knew P'chak was about to attack me. I sensed him somewhere behind me but I never realised how close he was."
"That's something you will have to learn to deal with, Kidat, or it will happen again. You can deal with danger if you can see it. You will have to learn how to deal with danger all around you, like I do."
Kidat stared up at him; yes, this was a chosen one alright. Mental skills were learned and sharpened as one got older, but this one had the gifts already. As he gazed up at P'pit, he noticed subtle changes in the boy's features, his skin beginning to wrinkle and his mop of black hair turning white. Shocked, Kidat realised he was looking into the face of an ancient.
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