"Later This Somewhere" will be back in a week or so.--KFB
Chapter One: The Tengrem
by Karen Funk Blocher
A short while after Bil and the blacksmith passed beneath Rani’s tree, he again heard the clop of hooves from upstream, and tensed. Was it a tengrem, or a hunter on horseback?
As the sound grew louder, Rani strained to listen, and then relaxed. There were two sets of equine legs coming, and human voices hung in the air. In a moment another pair of villagers emerged from the woods onto the River Road. Like the first pair, they were arguing. The argument ran along much the same lines as that of Bil and Jord, but without the sister.
This time, as the hunters passed under his tree, Rani called out to them. “Ho, there!”
The two horsemen reined in quickly at the unexpected greeting. Then one of them looked up, searching out Rani on his high branch. “There you are! You shouldn’t startle a man like that! You’re Rithe Fost’s boy, aren’t you?”
Rani frowned at the word “boy,” but replied with dignity. “Yes, I’m Rani Fost,” he said. “I—I was wondering how the hunt is going.”
“Why aren’t you with the hunters?” Clif Wipan asked. “Then you’d know what’s happening.”
“Hush, Clif,” Suri Pelch said. “I expect the lad’s only trying to respect Rithe’s wishes. Such a nervous woman! Meaning no offense, young Rani.”
“That’s all right,” Rani said. “It’s true. She is.”
“Anyway,” Suri continued, “It’s not going well, not at all. I’ve never seen an animal as fast as that tengrem. We keep losing it, only to see it again as it circles back.”
“We think the tengrem is between here and the village,” Clif added, “so we’ve split up into pairs to try to surround it.”
“It hasn’t been on the road here,” Rani said. “Not in the last half hour, anyway.”
“I’m not surprised,” Suri said sourly. “It’s probably chasing my sheep while we’re all busy tromping around in the woods.”
“I’m sure that’s all the tengrem wants,” Clif said sarcastically. “It’s not trying to save the kingdom or start a kingdom or kill the mages or marry its pale queen, or any of that other contradictory nonsense it told us this morning. No, it came all the way north just to gobble your sheep.”
“The tengrem said all that?” Rani asked.
“All that and more, when we first confronted it,” Suri said. “None of it made the least bit of sense.”
“That’s right,” Clif said. “Then when we attacked, it pretty much stopped talking.”
“Pretty much,” Suri agreed. “I thought I heard a few words, but most of what came out of its mouth after that was growls and smoke.”
“And flame,” Clif said. He grinned. “Maybe it was getting ready to barbecue a few lambs.”
“Laugh if you like,” Suri Pelch said, “but I’m going to check on my flock. Are you coming, Clif?”
“We can take a quick look at your sheep as we’re circling around,” Clif answered, “but only because it’s on our way. Be careful in that tree, Rani. The tengrem could be anywhere. We don’t want you falling off the branch and into the monster’s jaws.”
“I’ll be careful,” Rani said. As if that could happen! He had never fallen out of a tree, even as a little boy.
Suri and the miller rode on, leaving the River Road just before the bend to take the path that led to the Pelch farm. Rani settled down for another wait.
A short while after Bil and the blacksmith passed beneath Rani’s tree, he again heard the clop of hooves from upstream, and tensed. Was it a tengrem, or a hunter on horseback? Rani strained to listen, and then relaxed. There were two sets of equine legs coming, and human voices hung in the air. In a moment another pair of villagers emerged from the woods onto the River Road. Like the first pair, they were arguing. Rani spoke with them briefly, but Clif and Suri had little news to offer. Rani settled down for another wait, hoping that the next horse he heard would carry his friend Shela. Whenever anything interesting happened in or around Liftlabeth, the selmûn Wanderer was inevitably involved.