John Norman

Blood Brothers of Gor

(Chronicles of Counter-Earth-18)

Chapter 1


'There it is,' said Grunt, pointing ahead and to our right. 'Do you see it?'

'Yes,' I said. 'Too, I feel it.' I could feel the tremor in the earth, even through the paws and legs of the lofty, silken kaiila.

'I have seen it only once before,' he said.

I rose in the stirrups. The vibration, clearly, was registered in the narrow, flat-based rings. Earlier, dimounted, we had placed the palms of our hands to the earth. It was then that we had first felt it, earlier this morning, from as faraway as perhaps twenty pasangs.

'They are coming,' had said Cuwignaka, happily.

'I am puzzled,' said Grunt. 'It is early, is it not?'

I sat back on the saddle.

'Yes,' said Cuwingaka, astride his kaiila, to my left.

The current moon was Takiyuhawi, the moon in whcih the tabuk rut. It is sometimes known also as Canpasapawi, or the moon when the chokechrries are ripe.

'I do not understand,' said Grunt. 'It is not due until Kantasawi.' This was the moon in which the plums become red. It is generally the hottest time of the year in the Barrens. It occurs in the latter portion of the summer.

'Why is it early?' asked Grunt.

'I do not know,' said Cuwignaka.

Our kaiila shifted beneath us, on the grassy rise. The grass here came to the knees of the kaiila. It would have come to the thighs of a girl.

'Perhaps there is some mistake,' I suggested. 'Perhaps it is not what you think.'

'There is no mistaking it,' said Grunt.

'No,' said Cuwignaka, happily.

'could it not be another?' I asked.

'No,' said Cuwignaka.

'These things are like the summer and the winter,' said Grunt, 'like the phases of the moons, like day and night,'

'Why then is it early?' I asked.

'Has it been early before?' asked Grunt of Cuwignaka.

'Not in my lifetime,' said Cuwignaka. 'In the old stories it has sometimes been late, but never, as far as I know, has it been early.'

'Think,' I said. 'Can you recall nothing of such a sort?'

Cuwignaka shrugged. 'I can think of nothing of that sort,' he said.

'Can there be no mistake?' I asked Grunt.

'No,' said Grunt. 'It is here,'

'It looks like it is raining there,' I said.

'That is dust, in the wind,' said Cuwignaka. 'It is raised by the hoofs.'

'It is here,' said Grunt. 'There is no doubt about it.'

I looked into the distance. It was like a Vosk of horn and hide.

'How long is it?' I asked. I could not even see the end of it.

'It is probably about fifteen pasangs in length,' said Grunt, 'it is some four or five pasangs in width.'

'It can take the better part of a day to ride around it,' said Cuwignaka.

'How many beasts are numbered in such a group?' I asked.

'Who has counted the stars, who has numbered the blades of grass,' said Cuwignaka.

'It is estimated,' said Grunt, 'that there are between some two and three million beasts there.'

'Surely it is the largest such group in the Barrens,' I said.

'No,' said Grunt, 'there are larger, Boswell claims to have seen one such group which took five days to swim a river.'

'How long would it take a group like this to swim a river?' I asked.

'Two or three days,' said Grunt.

'I see,' I said. The Boswell he had referred to, incidentally, was the same fellow for whom the Boswell Pass through the Thentis Mountains had been named. He was an early explorer in the Barrens. Others were such men, as Diaz, Hogarthe and Bento.

'It is an awsome and splendid sight,' I said. 'Let us ride closer.'

'But let us be careful,' said Cuwignaka. Then, with a cry of pleasure, kicking his heels back into the flanks of his kaiila, he urged his beast down the slope.

Grunt and I looked at one another, and grinned. 'He is still a boy,' said Grunt.

We then followed Cuwignaka. It was toward neen when we reined up beside him on another rise. The animals were now some three to four pasangs away, below us.

'It is the Pte!' called out Cuwignaka happily to us, turning to look at us.

'Yes,' said Grunt.

We could now smell the animals clearly. My mount, a lofty black kaiila, silken and swift, shifted nervously beneath me. Its nostrils were flared. Its strom lids were drawn, giving its large round eyes a distinctive yellowish cast. I did not think that it, a kaiila purchased some months ago in the town of Kailiauk, near the perimeter, had ever smelled such beasts before, and certainly not in such numbers. Too, I supposed that there were many among such beasts, perhaps most, in fact, who had ever smelled a man, or a kaiila, before. Grit and dust settled about us. I blinked my eyes against it. It was very impressive to be so close to such beasts. I scarcely dared to conjeture what it might be like to be even closer, say, within a few hudred yards of them. Individual kills on such animals, incidentally, are commonly made from distances whre one can almost reach out and touch the beast. One must be that close for the lance thrust to be made or for the arrow, from the small bow, to strke with suffcient depth, to the feathers, either into the intestinal cavity behind the last rib, resulting in large-scale internal hemorrhaging, or behind the left shoulder blade, into the heart.

'Is there always this much dust?' I asked. I raised my voice somewhat, against the sounds of the beasts, their bellowing and the thud of the hoofs.

'No,' said Cuwignaka, raising his voice. 'It is moving now, not drifting and grazing.'

'Sometimes, for no clear reason,' said Grunt, 'it will move, and more or less swiftly. Then, at other times, for similarly no apparent reson, it will halt and graze, or move slowly, gently grazing along the way.'

'It is early,' I said.

'Yes,' said Grunt. 'That is interesting. It must have been moving more than is usual.'

'I will inspect the animals,' said Cuwignaka.

'Be careful,' said Grunt.

We watched Cuwignaka move his kaiila down the slope and toward the animals. He would not approach them too closely. There were tribal reasons for this.

'It is like a flood,' I said, 'or a movement of the earth' it is like wind, or thunder; it is like a natrual phenomenon.'

'Yes,' said Grunt.

'In its way,' I said, 'I suppose it is a natural phenomenon.'

'Yes, in its way, it is,' said Grunt.

The movement of this group of animals had been reported in the camp of the Isbu Kaiila, or the Little-

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