AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
Daidam sat beside Milas as she continued to sleep. Fox was stretched out beside the two women keeping a watchful eye on Wolf who was pacing nervously a short distance away. Coyote had disappeared back into the forest. Fox and Wolf’s ears pricked up and both turned to look across the clearing to watch Moose trot out of the forest.
“I have circled the bluff,” Moose said as he approached.
“Are there others?” Wolf asked.
“No. They are but two.”
“Three,” Wolf muttered.
“Coyote found another at the sacred bones of the Winged.”
Daidam listened to the exchange, watching the new arrival curiously. Unlike Wolf and Fox, Moose was tall, taller than she even stood, with long, gangly legs supporting a thick, barrel shaped body. His head was long, ending in a bulbous nose and he had large brown eyes that reflected a gentleness Daidam did not expect from a creature so large and powerful.
“No. This one claims to have entered Airhini by path,” Wolf answered. “A path that is no more.”
“I do not understand.”
“It is a lie,” Wolf told Moose then he turned to glare at Daidam. “The two-leggeds must be returning.” He snarled. “Speak true, two-legged.”
“What does Badger say?” Moose asked.
“She has returned to her den to consider Daidam’s words,” Fox said.
“The two-legged claims that is how she is called,” Wolf explained.
“Wolf, will you settle in one place,” Fox said. “Your pacing is making me anxious.”
Wolf growled in protest before sitting back on his haunches. “As well you should be with our enemies so close.”
Daidam frowned. “Enemies? But I said we meant no harm.”
Wolf leaped back to his feet, snarling at Daidam. “Lies! Can two-leggeds never speak true?”
“But—” A hand on her arm distracted Daidam and she turned to look. “You’re awake,” she exclaimed when she saw Milas looking up at her. She scooted around, placing her back to Wolf as she momentarily forgot the threat he posed. “How do you feel?”
“Feel?” Milas reached up to touch her face. “Am I not dead?” she asked when she felt the breath she exhaled on her hand.
“I know not.”
Milas looked around. Her brow furrowed when she saw nothing familiar. “Daidam, what land are we?
“The Abyss.” Daidam looked over her shoulder when she heard Wolf’s growl. “She knows not of Airhini,” she explained her use of the unappreciated name then turned back to Milas. “It is called Airhini by those who call it home.”
Milas pushed herself upright.
Daidam wrapped her arms around Milas to help her.
Milas smiled at her friend. Once her body adjusted to the new position, she began to examine herself for injuries. “I feel no broken bones. How can this be?”
“I know not.”
“You should be dead like the other two-legged.”
Milas did not have to ask what Wolf meant, the sorrow on Daidam’s face was sufficient explanation. Before she could say any words of comfort, Coyote called out from the edge of the forest.
“Wolf, stop your growling and help me.” Coyote was panting heavily. But instead of resting, he leaned down to re-grip the edge of a piece of bark with his teeth and resumed his difficult task. He tugged on the bark as he moved backwards into the clearing. The strip of bark was almost as long as his body and it held several round objects.
Wolf trotted toward Coyote. “What bring you?”
Coyote released his grip on the bark then turned to face Wolf. “Food for the two-leggeds. But it is heavy and I am tired.”
“You want me to help?” Wolf asked, indignant at the suggestion.
“I’ll help.” Daidam said. She stood and walked to Coyote. “What are these?” she asked as she lifted the piece of bark and its contents.
“Apples,” Coyote said, grateful his task was complete. “Surely, you know of them.”
Daidam carried the bark to where Milas still sat. “No,” she answered as she set the bark on the ground and picked up one of the apples. “You eat these?”
“I don’t care for their taste,” Wolf said.
“I do.” Fox walked to the bark and bit into an apple. Carrying it back to her spot, she chewed on the juicy fruit.
Daidam handed an apple to Milas then bit into the one she held. “It’s good,” she said, wiping at a trail of juice on her chin.
“Do you not grow them on the butte?” Coyote asked.
Coyote stretched out on the ground, resting his head on his paws. “Interesting.”
Milas chewed on a bite of apple while she observed the creatures around her. “You call this land Airhini?” she asked Fox, who was the closest to her.
Fox nodded as she continued to enjoy her apple.
“It sounds pleasant to my ears, much more so than Abyss. Does it have meaning?”
“It is our Realm. The Realm of Airhini.”
“And what of your butte?” Coyote asked.
“It is the Realm of Arhdahl,” Daidam answered proudly.
“Does it have meaning?”
“No,” Milas responded as she reached for another apple.
Continued in Chapter Seven
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