Following a skiing accident in Alaska Devin is rescued by a mysterious race of people whom are like no other except one - his brother Vincent
Darren’s connection with Swallow Tail had revealed her fear from the moment Travis King had kidnapped her. Then Darren spent days of uncertainty worrying about whether he should go to her or not. Now when her fear intensified he cursed his indecisiveness, and was worried sick about her and their unborn baby and all kinds of thoughts raced through his mind as he hurried to get to her. Thank God Devin had dropped everything at the first sign of a problem and had agreed to accompany him back to Alaska.*** *** ***
Vincent’s fear thundered through Catherine a day after Darren left and she paced the threadbare carpet beside herself with worry.
“I wish I could help you, Vincent.” Catherine's worried anxiously. Her gaze wandered to the crib in the corner of the chamber, small fists waved above the sides indicating their daughter was waking from a nap. She’d want feeding soon, and Catherine, her breasts full of milk, needed so badly to suckle her. It was inconceivable that she should leave the baby in an attempt to rescue her husband from whatever pitfall he’d encountered. Yet it was so maddening that she could do nothing at all.
The waiting was going to be the worst. Catherine could feel Vincent’s emotions riding high within her. He was frightened. How often was Vincent frightened?
Oh, he’d been afraid for her at times, or afraid when some member of the tunnel community grew sick or were lost, afraid when Father was ill, but he’d never been so gut churningly frightened as he was at that moment, and that in turn alarmed Catherine beyond thought or reason.
She was so far away…she couldn’t possible help, and if she could - where to begin…Alaska by itself was a whole new world to her…but mountaineering?
There was nothing more Catherine could do but flood the connection with calming thoughts and soothing love, and as she settled down in a chair to feed their daughter, this she did with all her heart.
When Swallow Tail and Vincent had left the airport Will had been there waiting. He’d seen everything and had followed the vehicle driven by Travis King. He’d followed it all the way to the hotels where Travis had had them held and though he’d made enquiries at reception no one wold tell him anything. That annoyed him the most, it was obvious that the hotel staff had seen two clan members come in, but no one was telling which room they had been given. Travis King must have paid them well.
Ole Will couldn’t understand it, why had Darren called him to arrange to meet them if Travis was going to do? And why if Darren was so worried about Swallow Tail did he and Devin go to a hotel for a few days before embarking on the trek up Denali?
Will may have shrugged it off as people changing their minds, but he couldn’t. He was used to gut feelings, was used to heeding them, so when he felt he should keep a watchful eye on the comings and goings of Travis King in and out of one hotel and off to another he did so. After a few days that gut feeling paid off and he watched Travis King and a couple of men manhandle Vincent and Swallow Tail into two cars. He followed them at a discreet distance undecided about what to do, and as they arrived at the airstrip watched as Travis and his men bundle Vincent and Swallow Tail into a helicopter at gunpoint.
Too far away to do anything about that, Will trained his binoculars on the helicopter and watched it hover first over Mount Foraker and then over Mount Hunter and over each two dark parachutes opened and drifted down over the summits. Will guessed what had happened but he had no idea why, or who had actioned such a callous thing.
For an hour Will speculated on the best thing to do, and once he had formulated a plan he sat outside Travis King’s home and watched him going about his business there. When Travis King left and headed for Denali obviously to consult the clan, Will made his mind up. He was waiting for Travis King when the man returned home.
Alighting from his vehicle, Travis walked up to his front door surprised to find it blocked by a huge clan member, a nomad, true, but still a member of the clan, albeit ex member. Travis knew him well. “Hi, Will were you looking for me? *** *** ***
“Yes.” Will replied curtly.
Immediately, Travis was troubled. He didn’t like the sound of that.
“Earlier today you took a couple of friends of mine for a little copter ride. I noticed they didn’t come back down with you. Where are they?”
“That’s none of your business. When clients ask for helicopter rides to secluded areas, it’s a mark of confidentiality where I take them. Its no one’s business but theirs.”
“This is true. However, setting them apart on different mountains is foolhardy and I’m surprised that you didn’t try to talk them out of it.”
“How do you know they are on different mountains?”
“Binoculars. I’m also betting that the little chutes that followed them down were their belongings. Strange place to take a vacation is it not?”
“I don’t see what it’s got to do with you.”
“Because they had made arrangements with me to pick them up at the airport, and I was there waiting when you guys came along. Seemed to me from where I stood that you gave them no other option but to go with you.”
Travis King shuffled uncomfortably from foot to foot, unsure how to answer. Finally he said, “I was on clan business. The pair needed separating. You know the laws. When two like that elope together they have to be parted.”
“But they didn’t.”
“How would you know?”
“I’ve known Darren Clark a long time.”
“Darren Clark? What’s he got to do with it?”
“He’s Swallow Tail’s husband.”
“Swallow Tail’s husband? Rubbish! She eloped with Prowling Cat’s son, The Best of Everything. The two of them run back to New York, to wherever he came from.”
“He came from a home he shares with his wife and child.”
“His wife and child!” Travis King spluttered with disbelief. “Never!”
Will just gazed at him sympathetically. Travis suddenly felt bad.
“As far as I know his wife is quite influential. She can pull strings most wouldn’t have a clue how to pull, and when she gets to hear what you have done to her husband… Well…need I spell it out?”
“I didn’t know. I can’t be held responsible. How come the clan never told me any of this?”
“They are as yet unaware. I believe the couple were coming to relate circumstances to them.” Will knew that wasn’t strictly true however he did not support the idea of deceiving he clan. “So, the thing is now, what do you plan to do to rectify matters?”
“You dropped two innocent people off on top of two of the most treacherous mountains without the tools I should think to aid their descent. By now they could be dead. So I ask you again, what are you going to do about it?”
“There’s nothing I can do. Besides the clan are aware of what I did, and are organising a rescue attempt as we speak.”
Will did not know this, and he was relieved to know something was being done to help. The thing was Travis King knew exactly where he had dropped the couple, and that would save a whole lot of time for the rescue team if they could start at that spot.
“You can still do something. I know you are an expert skier as am I. I say the two of us get someone to drop us up there with a couple of pairs of extra skis and just hope your two victims didn’t break their arms or legs when the parachutes landed.”
“When? Not now?” Travis King eyed his home with longing. It had been a long day, he wanted to eat, freshen up and rest in that order. Though he loved adventure, the last thing he wanted at that moment was to ski down Foraker and Hunter when he felt too weary to enjoy it.
“And what if I don’t want to?”
“Then I’m sure the president of the United States might find what you did more than interesting. If either Swallow Tail or The Best of Everything have perished you could be held for manslaughter.”
“Manslaughter!” Travis King laughed heartily. “For two creatures that aren’t quite men? I think not!”
“Yes, manslaughter.” Will replied feeling his hackles rising. “Perhaps you haven’t heard the news today. The clan were given International citizenship at midnight last night. So not only did you toss two ‘creatures that aren’t quite men’ overboard so to speak, but at the worst you committed a felony toward two citizens of the United States. At the very least you held them against their will when you kidnapped them.”
Travis King swore and fished in his pocket for some keys. “Alright then. Here, take these. You’ll find enough skis for what we need in the garage. I’ll grab some provisions from the house and a thermos and call Bob to meet us at the air strip with the chopper.” He replied defeated.
Will nodded. He knew Travis King wouldn’t try to double cross him. It was obvious he regretted what he had done. It showed in every line of his face.
Catherine had heard the news by morning. Pascal’s pipes were red hot with it. *** *** ***
“International citizenship. You know what that means, Father? Now Vincent will be everywhere. I can’t blame him of course, but he and I still can’t be seen together where it matters the most, here. If we are seen together people will put two and two together and tongues will start wagging and the whole hornets nest will open up again.”
“I’ve been thinking about that.” Father responded. “I may have a solution.”
Catherine’s heart fluttered with hope. “You have? What?”
“Since Jessica looks like you, she could be anybody’s. You don’t owe it to anyone to tell who her father is, so that’s one problem out of the way for the future. So, what I thought of is, how about when she is a little older and you can leave her with me you can take a trip to Alaska, or…or…anywhere really providing it’s a place where some of the clan reside. You could do this over time, making visits, telling people that ask, ‘yes, you knew of your protector in the city but you never actually knew him, and you are intrigued to know more about the clan now that they have come ‘out’ so to speak.’ In time, who is to say that you wouldn’t grow close to one of them? Perhaps even marry him?”
Catherine’s eyes widened with delight and she crossed the chamber to hug her father in law. “Oh, Father what a wonderful idea. I’m sure we could make it work. And then…” Catherine suddenly realised the real implications of that idea. Father’s eyes were bright with enthusiasm. “Then the pair of you could live above, in a house. No need to hide anymore, my dear, and that way the tunnels get to remain a secret.”
“Oh but, Father, the tunnels…they are a secret because of Vincent. Surely, with Vincent living above, many of the tunnel dwellers would come above to live also?”
“It’s possible, yes.”
“You could live with us, in a house, and Mary too of course. If I buy a big enough house, most of us could live there. One big happy family! Oh, what a wonderful, wonderful idea you had, Father!”
Father grinned. He saw no reason why it wouldn’t work. No one could prove that Vincent was the city beast and no one could prove that he wasn’t. The couple would be left to live their lives in relative peace. It was the perfect solution.
On their way up Denali, Devin and Darren encountered members of the clan descending the mountain. They travelled with two teams of dogs and sledges piled high with furs and provisions. The clan stopped when they saw the two men making enquiries as to their visit.*** *** ***
Not knowing what Vincent and Swallow Tailintended to relate to the clan, Darren gave nothing of the truth away but neither could he commit himself to speaking the lie, so he told the clan that they were just visiting their friends.
“They’re not with us.” Merry Wolf informed them. He then went on to relate what had happened to the pair. “We are on our way now to rescue them, if you wish to come with us you are welcome, however we have only enough extra furs for the couple and therefore none for you.”
Darren and Devin looked down at their thermal padded jackets and knew they would not be enough to keep out the bitter cold of Mounts Foraker and Hunter. Reluctantly, they declined.
“May we still go up?” Darren nodded toward the summit of Denali where the clan resided.
Merry Wolf gave them permission. “We will return as soon as possible. Do not try to follow us even when you are equipped with furs. Sultana and Begguya are no places for novices. We don’t want to have to come looking for the pair of you too.”
“I’m no novice…” Darren began but didn’t finish. Even if he and Devin did come back down better equipped the clan would be weeks ahead of them and the delay of waiting for them could only hinder the survival chances of Swallow Tail and Vincent. Besides it was almost nightfall. Thus he saw sense and did not argue further and the two groups parted company and each went their own way.
Swallow Tail had spent her life on a mountain and her living conditions had never been what one might class as warm. Still wearing furs had helped and she and her family, and members of the clan had survived generations of poor living. That’s why she wouldn’t allow negotiating the descent of Sultana to get the better of her, but nightfall was closing in and there was still a long way to go, so Swallow Tail trudged back to her makeshift snow cave, slid inside and prepared to wait till first light.
*** *** ***
It was almost dark when Will literally pushed Travis King out of the helicopter near Begguya’s summit and watched by the open door as the fellow tumbled through the air until his parachute shot him back up again before drifting down toward the snowy mountain. Will just had time to see the canopy fold over Travis King when the pilot announced that they were nearing the Sultana ridge. Will made his final checks and then with a request of, ‘if we aren’t visible by this time tomorrow, send the rescue teams’ he jumped from the helicopter and made his own descent. It was rather nice, he thought as he tumbled haphazardly through the sky. His furs and the packs carrying two pairs of skis fluttered furiously. He wondered what he might look like to anyone who may be watching from the ground, a large fluffy bear falling from the sky, no doubt, not something one sees every day. Then reluctantly, because he was enjoying the experience of free fall, Will pulled the cord for the parachute and it opened above him tugging him back upward before slowly delivering him safely onto the glacier below. It was dark now, the sun had set, and Will could see enough to dig out a snow cave to settle in before it grew completely and utterly dark. He wanted to begin the search straight away, but knew the folly of that. He was there to rescue Swallow Tail not to kill himself into the bargain. *** *** ***
First light would have to do.
There was one thing neither took into consideration. What would Vincent think when he saw Travis King again? He was hardly likely to believe that the man had chucked him out of a helicopter for some kind of depraved prank and then turn around a few hours later and attempt to rescue him. *** *** ***
Vincent had encountered all kinds of people throughout his life and many of them unsavoury. Plus he had no way of knowing that Swallow Tail was not on the same mountain. As far as he was concerned protecting Swallow Tail was no different to protecting Catherine, so when his keen eyesight saw a helicopter hover over the other side of the mountain and then saw the descent of someone on a parachute he was immediately wary. This was either another victim or one of the tormentors coming to check what had become of him. In his snow cave Vincent waited a few moments and then slithered out to remove the large red canopy that signalled his whereabouts. This he stuffed inside out of view slithered back into the snow cave and waited.
Travis King wasn’t quite so safety conscious as Will. Oh, he was clever about many things, and he ought to have realised the dangers of the mountains, but he was also a fanatic about extreme sports. Thus the dangers of being out on a dangerous mountain at night and alone fuelled him with excitement. No holing up in a snow cave for him and waiting till first light as Will had suggested in the ride over, no. Travis rolled up his parachute, stuffed it into its bag, and shrugged into the shoulder straps to stow it on his back. Next he put on his miners helmet complete with flashlight and then his skis and checking that the spare pair were slung and strapped securely to him he pushed off down the mountain.*** *** ***
Swishing this way and that, and stopping many times to search the area he made his descent looking out for anything along the way that would signify the whereabouts of Prowling Cat’s son. One heap of snow looked pretty much like any other but he didn’t really think that The Best of Everything would know about making snow caves to keep warm. He expected that The Best of Everything would be making his own steady way down the mountain despite the darkness. Besides didn’t cats see in the dark? He reasoned. So when he came to rest for half an hour to have some hot coffee and take off his pack and spare skis he had no idea anyone was coming up behind him.
Stealthily Vincent crept over the snow. He never forgot a scent and this man had the scent of the one to whom he owed his being there. Still, just to be sure Vincent made a deliberate sound and Travis King turned enquiring of it. “Who’s that? Is someone there?” Wolves and mountain cats also lived on the mountain.
“You know full well I am here.” Vincent whispered menacingly. Travis King shuddered. There had been too much animosity in the tone for his liking. “Hey, there.” He replied as friendly as he could muster. “How you doing?”
“I’ve had better days.” Vincent found the light on Travis King’s helmet dazzled him. Still he could make out the shape of the man from the neck down and knew that would do. Tearing off his gloves he sprung forward hands and fingers outstretched. A guttural yell of alarm tore from Travis King followed by his lifeblood as it pumped from the artery exposed by the huge rent Vincent’s claws had ripped in his throat. Travis King’s eyes bulged with disbelief and horror as the light on his helmet showed the thick swill of red blood upon the bright white snow. “No, no…” he muttered holding in his lifeblood with gloved hands. It pumped through the material warming his hands beneath.
Vincent stood by and watched Travis topple forward, face down in the snow.
Moments later the man died in his own pool of blood.
It wasn’t till first light that Vincent pondered his actions. Why was Travis King carrying so many provisions? Perhaps that could be explained. But why was he carrying two sets of skis? Chapter Twenty-Three
Vincent had never been on skis in his life and he wasn’t about to start now, though that might not be an option. He worried about what he had done but if he used the skis it would be obvious to everyone that he and Travis King had met up. Questions would be asked, a rescue party would be sent out for Travis King and they would find his bloodless body out there on the snow, his lifeblood outspread like a red beacon.
Vincent did the only thing he could do in the circumstances, he went back across the mountain to dismantle his snow cave and roll up the parachute stowing it away into its pack before returning to and rolling Travis King’s body onto its back so he could dig a deep hole using the man’s tools where the pool of frozen blood laid spread out on the snow, careful not to get any of it on him.
He hated doing this, every single moment of it, but it wasn’t the first time he had had to remove evidence of his killings. Here it wasn’t quite so easy since there were his footprints and Travis King’s footprints to take into consideration and though he had seen only one come down from the sky Vincent wasn’t certain if any other men were on the mountain. So he dug and he dug deep through the fresh snow and ice and when he was satisfied it was deep enough he rolled the body of Travis King into the hole, his rucksack of provisions with him and covered him over with snow.
By the time he was done it was mid morning. Vincent checked and rechecked that not one bit of blood was left on the snow. He covered the body and he covered the area with fresh snow, and then as if that wasn’t enough he hefted as many large rocks as he could lift and placed them over the grave, tucking snow around them, till even he had difficulty distinguishing the spot from all the other similar spots on the mountain. It was only when he’d finished that he noticed he’d forgotten about the skis. Damn! He thought about them for some time and eventually he reasoned maybe forgetting to bury them had been a good thing. He considered his options. He had to make people believe something other than what had really taken place there on the mountain. He had no idea if Travis King’s body would lay undiscovered till the Spring or longer. For now he had to make the pilot believe that Travis King had descended the mountain on the skis as planned. He also had to make it appear that Travis had been following his (Vincent’s) footprints.
After a few moments he formulated a plan and started putting it together.
First he strapped a large rock to each of the skis.The weight of the rocks kept the skis heavy enough to symbolise the weight of a man but didn’t keep them close enough as two legs would. He thought about it long and hard and in the end knew there was nothing he could do about that, he would just have to hope no one took that much notice. Perhaps it would snow again and solve the whole problem. Vincent looked up at the blue sky and knew that wasn’t likely any time soon.
Next he twisted the parachute tight and strapped it in place, tied two ends to each of Travis King’s skis and two ends to his belt picked up his pack, the spare skis and walking down the mountain he tugged the other skis with the rocks on board behind him.
A moment or two the skis caught up with him slithering down and catching him in the back of his ankle but Vincent just grimaced and walked on. All he was trying to achieve was the prints of skis going over his footprints and this way of doing that was the best he could hope for.
After a few yards he looked back. He was impressed! For all intents and purposes just as he’d planned it appeared that someone had walked down the mountain through the deep snow and later someone else had skied down following the first person’s tracks. Now all he needed to further his plan was a deep fracture in the mountain, one suitable to toss the skis and make it appear that the skier had tumbled over the edge and fallen to their death out of sight far, far below.
It was the sound of the helicopter that brought Swallow Tail from her snow cave to look up at the sky. She wasn’t sure what to expect, but was still surprised to hear an echo of, “visible…tomorrow send…rescue….” Her first thought was jubilation, her second, anxiety. It wasn’t Darren, although she could tell he had returned to Alaska. Therefore, the person was either a member of the public performing a death defying stunt since it was almost nightfall or it was a clan member, neither of which she wanted to see right then. She didn’t think for one moment that it might be Vincent. That was a miracle too much to hope for.*** *** ***
Frantically she searched around in her pack for anything that might be useful as a weapon. If the person was a member of the public and against the clan she may need to defend herself, but she had nothing that might be considered hard or lethal enough to do that. In the end she resorted to a rock that she prised from the snow and stuffed beneath her furs where she could use it when close enough to the person. Then she returned to her snow cave, shuffling back inside and dragging snow around the opening until she could just peek through a small hole in the direction from where the newcomer would approach her.
It seemed an age; in fact it was several hours and first light before she caught sight of the hood of someone dressed in furs advancing beyond a ridge of snow. Having exceptional vision, Swallow Tail’s heart began to race as she discerned that familiar gait, and as he grew closer the bearded face of ole’ Will sent Swallow Tail’s heart racing.
“Will, Will!” She exclaimed bursting from her snow cave and running to him. She flung herself into his arms.
“There now, Lassie I’ve got you, I’ve got you. Sure am glad to see you in once piece too. You okay?”
“Oh, Will. I’ve never been so glad to see you in my whole life. What are you doing here?”
“I organised a rescue mission.”
“So someone has gone for Vincent too?”
“Yes, I sent Travis King.” Will grinned anticipating her reply.
“It’s okay, Little Lassie. I saw what he did to the two of you and I made him see reason. Once I explained a few things I was able to talk him into going to rescue Vincent while I came for you.”
Swallow Tail was silent and thoughtful.
“What’s wrong?” Will asked.
“If Vincent sees Travis King anywhere near him, he might not give him time to say he has come to rescue him.”
Will looked grieved. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
Swallow Tail looked over to Begguya as if from where she was she could see Vincent and know how he had greeted his rescuer. Though she had no bond with him, she had a terrible feeling that all was not as Will may have hoped for. Will followed her gaze. The look in her eyes said it all. “If Vincent has done anything to Travis King, Lassie that will be King’s fault. And I can’t say I blame Vincent if he has. The thing is…how will he get away with it?”
“Are those skis for me, Will?”
“Aye, Lassie, they are.”
“Give them to me, quick. We need to get to Begguya and see if they are waiting for us. And if they aren’t…well…” She hesitated uncertain how to finish. Will seemed to know. “If they aren’t then I’ll take a hike up there and find out why.”
Ascending and descending the mountains was an arduous journey even for the clan and it was almost a week before they met Merry Wolf’s party, that is Will saw the group of Clan members approaching and had Swallow Tail duck out of sight till he had spoken with them.
Merry Wolf greeted Will warily. “What are you doing here?” He asked brusquely.
“Same as you. Rescuing Swallow Tail and the Best of Everything.”
“Then were you just going up or coming down?”
“Coming down. Copter dropped Travis King off on Begguya to find The Best of Everything.”
“Aye, with a bit of gentle persuasion he agreed to help. Anyway, I’m glad you’re here. There’s something I need to speak to you about.”
The other clan members gathered around to listen, and Merry Wolf appeared anxious. “What is it? Can’t it wait? We need to find the runaways.”
“I’ve found Swallow Tail. She’s safe.”
“Where?” All clan members scanned the area around the base of the mountain. They saw nothing and didn’t really expect to. Members of the clan were experts at concealing themselves.
“Bring her to us. I will return her to her mother.”
“No! How dare you defy me, Will. In fact why am I even speaking with you? I should not be stooping so low. Bring my daughter to me, now! You have no business in clan laws, you are no longer one of us.”
“I’m sorry, Merry Wolf I can’t do that. Swallow Tail is married now. I am returning her to her husband.”
“Her husband!” Merry Wolf exclaimed. Then quietly he went on flatly, “The Best of Everything.”
“No. Swallow Tail did not elope with The Best of Everything.” He could see Merry Wolf’s mind racing.
“Then who? Darren Clark!”
“Yes, Darren Clark. And they are married now and…” Merry Wolf tried to butt in but Will silenced anything he may have been about to say with the words, “She is with child.”
“With child.” Merry Wolf slumped forward. He looked gravely ill. All his dreams shattered in that one moment. Even though they were prepared to alter the law, his daughter had brought shame upon his family not to mention The Sin of Pride’s. What would he tell them? Oh, it was awful, awful! Merry Wolf turned to leave. “Take her. I don’t wish to see her ever again. She has brought ostracism upon my family, upon the clan! She is no daughter of mine!”
“Father!” From her hiding place Swallow Tail ran toward Merry Wolf. Sadly he turned to face her. “What is this you have done, my daughter?”
“I’m sorry, Father but I love him.”
“Love? What is love? You know our laws, Swallow Tail. We have honour and pride and stability in marriage we do not need love. And you are with child? A human child? I’m sorry, my daughter but you can no longer be considered one of us. You are lost to me.” With tears in his eyes he turned away from her calling to the clan members to follow. “Come we must go to Begguya and find The Best of Everything. At least Prowling Cat can find pride in his son.”
“Father…you may as well know…”
“Wait, Lassie.” Will halted anything Swallow Tail was about to say and turning to Merry Wolf he announced; “I’ll find him. You go back to your families. The Best of Everything won’t be going back to Denali.” About to reply Merry Wolf stared at Will sensing something amiss and waited for him to continue.
“Prowling Cat, Tongue of the Bear.” Will addressed the two fathers of The Best of Everything and Radiance. “I know of your plans and your dreams for your son and your daughter, but it will never be. You see The Best of Everything is already married and his wife is with child and when I have rescued him, he shall be returning to his wife in the city.”
“The child is born, Will.” Swallow Tail announced. “They have a daughter that looks like her mother.”
Gasps rose from the clan, with Prowling Cat and the Tongue of the Bear reacting as Merry Wolf had moments earlier.
“Why did he not tell us?” Prowling Cat exclaimed.
“Why did you not tell him of your plans to marry him to Radiance?” Will asked and continued, “You are both as much to blame. That’s the trouble you have these laws and you just naturally expect members to like them or adhere to them, even when some of the clan no longer reside among you. And now that you have gone international, your laws need to change. People like Darren Clark and the wife of the Best of Everything are attracted to and love clan members. These might appear to be the first cases but I can assure you they will not be the last. There will be others that will come along and fall in love with your sons and your daughters. You can’t expect to go out into the world and not expect that to happen. Neither can you continue to isolate those that do.”
“We don’t need to change our laws to suit the world. They should respect us, not try to change us. This is what happened with the Native Americans, and where are they now? We will not let that happen to us!” Merry Wolf exclaimed angrily.
“So be it. In the mean time, perhaps you will do the decent thing, Merry Wolf and allow your daughter to accompany you as far as the foot of Denali and from there she can make her way to my place and wait for us there. It is inconceivable that she should traipse up Begguya to help me find The Best of Everything, with her being with child and all.”
“We met Darren Clark and that other fellow on our descent eleven days ago.”
“Yes, who is he? Do you know?”
“Yes, he is the brother of The Best of Everything.”
“Swallow Tail will fill you in. She has met The Best of Everything’s wife, she can tell you all you need to know. Now what were you saying about passing Darren Clark and Devin Wells?”
“We passed them as we came down Denali. They were going up, so I shall take my daughter home, where I am sure her husband awaits.”
Will and Swallow Tail looked doubtful. Under the circumstances it could be a trick.
“I would prefer to go to Will’s home. Darren can meet me there.”
Merry Wolf was not happy but nodded nonetheless.
“Will, I’d like to go with you to help find my son.” Prowling Cat announced suddenly.
Merry Wolf stared mouth agape and Prowling Cat shrugged. “Our laws need to change, brother, as previously suggested. Will is only outcast due to those laws, that doesn’t mean he is not still one of us. He is clan through and through and nothing alters that fact. Like your daughter and my son, they are still clan. They are still distinguishable by their looks. And if what Will maintains comes to pass in time there will be more outcasts than there will be clan. Our numbers will dwindle. We do need the new law, true or we will go the way of the Native American, but we can no longer outcast those that choose a different way of living. It is time to embrace a new way of life. The International Year of the Beast has changed the way of our life forever and we can never hope to remain the same. For better or for worse, those days have gone. But look, we’ll talk about this some other time. I have a son to rescue.”
“Aye, and one that’s not used to being out as we are, much less surviving on a mountain as hostile as Begguya”. Will added.
Merry Wolf nodded. He did not take his daughter by the arm as he may once have, he beckoned her to, “Come.” And meekly she followed behind with the rest of the clan.
All the way to Denali having much to ponder, no one spoke, but Swallow Tail thought that thanks to ‘ole Will some major changes had begun to take effect that day at the foot of Mount Foraker.
*** *** ***
Formidable was a word Darren had given to describe the elder members of the clan. With their stature and their physique he felt small and weak in comparison, and brave as he may be, Darren decided that being on Denali with most of the elders away in the search party now was the time to speak with the wives and the older children of their families.
Whatever Swallow Tail may maintain, Darren did not support her idea of deceiving the clan, and he knew that Vincent did not either. Still he hoped his wife might understand and forgive him and that he wouldn’t make things worse than they already were when he stated, “Are you looking forward to The Best of Everything’s return, Radiance?”
Devin gave him a sudden sideways glance but said nothing. He hoped Darren knew what he was doing.
Radiance took time to answer. She did not wish to offend anyone, and yes she was in a way looking forward to the return of the Best of Everything, but for his family’s sake not for hers.
So she answered tactfully. “Yes I am. For I am sure Indigo Sky and Prowling Cat will be glad to have him back where he belongs.”
Devin bristled. He knew his father would too, if he had heard that remark.
“But what about you? Surely you will be glad to see him also? After all he is your betrothed.”
Radiance could not meet Darren’s eyes. She looked down at her feet and picking up a small stick began tracing patterns in the dust of the cave floor. It was pretty. Where the light from the fire caught the ridges she made with the stick the dust glowed orange.
By her silence Darren saw his chance. “I have something to say that you should all know. I’m not sure what Radiance will think of this, or any of you really, but…” he glanced at Devin who now understanding what was going on, and he nodded his approval. “Well the thing is…I asked Radiance those questions for a specific reason. I was testing her reaction if you must know for the news I must impart.”
Only One gasped and looked toward her daughter with a question in her eyes. Radiance looked back with denial in hers.
Darren saw none of this, he went on; “Before The Best of Everything arrived here, he did as you know, reside in New York City. That is his home.” Indigo Sky attempted to deny this, but with one hand Darren bade her silent until he had finished.
“It is his home because…his wife and child are there.”
A collective gasp rose from the female members of the clan seated around the cave. Some of the older children stopped playing to listen.
His wife and child!” Radiance exclaimed. Darren was relieved to notice that her eyes shone with happiness and relief.
“Yes, his wife and child. Catherine is a district attorney in the city and their daughter, Jessica is new born.”
Radiance had never known such joy! For the return of Swallow Tail and the Best of Everything had so much riding on it. The clan laws would be changed now, and that would mean… “I must go find Fleeting Time.” Radiance announced running from the cave. “He will be so happy!”
“Fleeting Time? What has he to do with anything?” Indigo Sky looked toward Only One.
Only One sighed. “My daughter and Fleeting Time are in love.”
“Ah.” Indigo Sky stated knowingly. “Then the new law will stand.”
“What new law?” Darren asked.
“In your absence, the elders discussed a new law. It was dependable on the return of Swallow Tail and the Best of Everything. If they returned wed to one another the old laws would remain, but if they returned with Swallow Tail married to you, the laws would change. Instead we find it is my son who is married to another, although the elders may decide to pardon this since he has not been brought up under our laws, and might yet stay with the old law. We shall have to wait their return to see what they will decide.”
Tongue in cheek, Darren announced, “Oh, I don’t think they will stick with the old law now. You see Swallow Tail and I are married and she is expecting my child.”
More gasps erupted around the cave. Indigo Sky laughed, quickly followed by the other mothers. “Ut oh, seems our daughters and our sons will all be thanking you and Swallow Tail in time, for having the courage to change things around here. I know there are many that are betrothed who love some other. Seems my daughter will be able to choose her own husband.” She looked down at her sleeping babe and pondered the years ahead. Whether for better or worse love was going to be allowed to rule over the laws of the clan for the first time in their recorded history. Only time would tell if it would work for the continuation of their kind.
“Jessica looks like her mother.” Devin announced seeming to read Indigo Sky’s mind.
“That does surprise me.” Indigo Sky replied. “No offence but I felt that if any of us were the dominant race it would be us.”
“Uh ha, but maybe this is evolution in the making.” Darren announced. “Perhaps the time of the clan is reaching an end. You stated that your laws would change depending on what news Swallow Tail and the Best of Everything returned with.”
“Yes, but they are not to change so vastly. We will still advise the children that they marry only clan members, and we hope that many will support this. It is the betrothing law that will cease. Clan members will be allowed to marry whom they choose within the clan, or if they really wish to do so, they may marry others outside of the clan. Love will have a chance to reign.”
“Then that is good news. I wish we had known this. Swallow Tail wanted you all to believe that she and The Best of Everything were married, because she didn’t want Radiance and The Sin of Pride to be heartbroken if they knew the truth.”
“I am surprised that she would do this.” Her mother, Growing in Grace replied. “Did I not bring her up to speak our truth? Why would she wish to deceive us so? That she married The Best of Everything instead of The Sin of Pride is as bad as marrying anyone else. The Sin of Pride loves her dearly. He will be hurt no matter who she refused him for.”
“That’s what we said, but she wouldn’t listen. To be fair she had the feelings of The Sin of Pride and Radiance at heart. She hoped that by saying she and The Best Of Everything were married it would lesson the blow considerably.”
Her mother nodded. “Yes, I suppose I can see reason there. But I am still dismayed that she would resort to deception or even enough to even think on it.” Growing in Grace stared accusingly at Darren who defended himself. “Don’t look at me. I haven’t taught her to be like that. She thought up the idea all on her own…wait a minute…” Darren looked toward Devin.
“Oh, that’s right blame my brother. Well let me tell you, Vincent may not have been brought up in clan ways but he was sure as hell brought up to know right from wrong. And if you remember he was dead against Swallow Tail’s idea as much as the rest of us.”
“Yes, he was. I was forgetting that.” Darren looked on apologetically toward Growing In Grace and she apologised. “Maybe Swallow Tail can answer these questions when she returns. We should not argue among ourselves, since we can do nothing but speculate. Now, I am sure Indigo Sky wishes to feed her daughter.” The baby had begun to stir from her nap and wave her fists in the air. All could see the babe was growing hungry. “So perhaps the two of you can make yourself scarce for a while. There are other caves you can shelter in if you find outside too cold.”
Darren and Devin stood up, and bade the cave dwellers goodbye. They went out onto the snowy mountain missing the cave’s warmth immediately and looked around undecided. “What shall we do now?” Devin asked. Looking longingly toward the mountains of Hunter and Foraker. “I wish we could have gone with the search party.”
“Me too. But I feel Swallow Tail is well, and she has only a little anxiety for Vincent. I’m sure the rescue team will find and return them soon. I just hope Swallow Tail doesn’t stop speaking to me for blowing her cover. I’d suggest we go wait for them at the foot of Denali, but I don’t know which way the clan will return. There are many pathways that lead up here, for escape routes when they were needed.”
“I’d like to take a look around. If the law is to change, then maybe I can find someone up here.”
Darren laughed. “You’re joking, right?”
Devin’s eyes twinkled merrily. “Yeah, come on! Of course I am.”
To be continued in Chapter Twenty-Four and concluded in Chapter Twenty-Five.