I’m progressing slowly with this story. Lots of distractions. Lots of contract work, yard and garden work, family events and such. And I’m still laying hard into preparing Price On Their Heads for the next step of publication—mainly reading it out loud. I’m a little more than a third through that.
Nevertheless, I’ve written some intriguing flash, ideas about setting up the story, possible entries into it. Here’s the most intriguing from this week:
Tookya and Pip Flee to the Twins
“There,” said Tookya, pointing.
Pip looked and signed no. He didn’t see.
Tookya stood beside him, head behind Pip’s, and pointed along his arm. From the tip of his finger the Twins rose in the distance, like two fingers of dark gray against a background of diffused gray.
“Oh, I see,” said Pip. “That’s where we’re going?”
In answer, Tookya started walking. He crunched through the snow and stepped high to keep from dragging his feet, but Pip, much smaller, plowed from step hole to step hole behind Tookya. They were high in the mountains, looking down on the Twins two or three days’ distant, no trail, only drift after drift of snow, some thawed and refrozen close enough to the surface to walk with almost a normal swing of the leg, but others, mostly those in shadow from the southerning sun, were loose or, worse, powder. Then they would wallow through the snow, Pip making a swimming motion.
Two days later, Tookya once again pointed, and there the Twins stood above them, backlit by the setting sun, two great sandstone spires pointing to the stars. Tookya had heard of them since childhood, and so had Pip, but neither had laid eyes on them before. The mythical Twins of the First World, now frozen in place in the Fourth. Home of the last skywatcher.
“We can get there before dark!” said Pip.
Tookya held back. “No. Approach is from the south. Up the tilt to the top. Tomorrow.” He began looking around for a place to cold camp. Pip joined him against the base of a spruce, a hollow in the snow, and they shivered through the night, and the next day when the sun climbed to its highest, they entered the lower village of the Twins. Several older boys ran up to them, asked who they were.
“Tookya and Pip from south of the eastern mountains. We seek council with the last skywatcher.”
The boys ran ahead to alert the adults, and soon men appeared, most with tools they could use as weapons if necessary, and Tookya felt they were walking a gauntlet. One man held two large hammerstones, one in each hand, his arms bare to the cold, muscles bulging. Most held sticks. A woman stood with a longbow at her side, the feathers of arrows behind her neck from a full quiver.[i]
A boy about the age of Pip, but longer of limb and his head oversized, arrived to escort them to the big house behind Master Tuwa’s sky circle.
“What’s your name?” asked Pip.
The boy grinned and looked away, bending his neck at an odd angle. “Gawt is my name. Some call me Echo Boy, and I don’t mind.”
“Why do they call you that?”
“Why do they call you that?” Gawt asked, and they both laughed.
Tookya shook his head at the juvenile joke, and at the top he saw a man waiting. He had straight legs and straight back, his hair long and black, and he stood bending his knees, rocking his weight back and forth, as runners do, anxious for the race to begin.
When they reached the man, he thanked Gawt, who slinked away.
“Can I go with him?” Pip asked the man.
Gawt turned and looked. The man made a hand sign to Gawt, who replied that he didn’t mind. “Yes,” the man said to Pip, “go.”
Pip scampered after Gawt and they ducked into a doorway.
“You have been announced as Tookya and young Pip from south of the mountains to the east.”
“I am Ingta. Do you carry weapons?”
Tookya raised his hands and spread his arms. “I do not.” It made him feel naked. He rarely carried no weapon, but he did not wish to threaten in any way the last skywatcher, so he left them below the tilted Twins mesa, stashed behind a rock that jutted out of the snow like a single jackrabbit ear.
“Good. Follow me. We have a fire, drink, food, and then we can have a word with Master Tuwa in his chamber.”
After he had warmed and quenched his hunger and thirst, Ingta led Tookya up a ladder to a flat roof swept clear of snow by wind or broom, and down another ladder through an opening in the middle of the roof. They climbed down into the chamber of Master Tuwa, a great round room, fire in the middle, cleansing smoke trailing up through a square hole of bright light, the early afternoon sun angling from the opening to the floor, smoke and dust swirling in the intense light.
Master Tuwa sat cross-legged on the floor in the oblong square of light. Another man sat in the shadows to Tuwa’s left. At the bottom of the ladder, Tookya followed Ingta, who went to the east wall and turned south, hugged the wall all the way around until they were at the north side, and only then did he introduce Tookya to Master Tuwa.
“Welcome, Tookya of the East. With me is Nanatoona, Master Bone Rattler, of the North.”
Tookya sat and slouched to keep his head lower than Master Tuwa’s. In spite of the bright, cold day outside, the room was warm and still. Dark, but not gloomy, smoky but the air breathable. A young boy tended the fire, and then disappeared into flickering shadows.
“I know you,” said Nanatoona in a high old man’s voice. “You are the only one who spoke against Tumok.”
“That is true,” said Tookya. He knew Nanatoona as well, and he held him in low opinion. The predictions of the old bone rattler were what made Tumok do what he did. “And I will speak against those who guide and encourage him, as well.”
Tuwa sat with a half grin, his eyes half closed. Ingta braced himself with an outstretched leg.
Nanatoona laughed, a wheeze like an old man and tree branches in a stiff breeze. “The bones never lie. But men often do.”
Tookya tensed and straightened. “I do not lie.”
“No,” said Nanatoona. “But Tumok cannot boast the same. You and he are not like the others in your village. They are see nothing and have no motivation, but Tumok sees things and takes them, and you see what is unfair and fight it.” The old man laughed his airy, wheezy way again. “The battle of the ages, between greed and justice. The world will vibrate between those two opposites forever, like these twins that used to stand at the poles and steady the world so that we could live on it, and now they are frozen here forever, letting any tempest blow past without so much as a blink or a nod, even their strength exhausted.”
“What,” asked Tuwa, opening his eyes and looking at Tookya, “is it Tumok has done?”
[i] Kwivi, West, attendant to Sooveni
The Twins is Chimney Rock Archaeological Area near Pagosa Springs, Colorado.