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Rated: E · Fiction · Fantasy · #2279346
Long, long ago, two girls set out to have an adventure, they meet a mother and child.
Autumn, 8,500 Years Ago

One grey morning Chutsuk, Hedya’s best friend, arrived at her hut in the Grey Owl settlement.

“What are we going to do today?” she asked.

“I know you want us to have an adventure,” she went on when Hedya seemed to stop to ponder, “but I have not been able to think of an adventure that would be fun and dangerous. Can you think of anything that we might do?”

“Of course I can,” Hedya said. She was always prepared for any kind of adventure. “We will go and see if any bears are sleeping in one of the caves.”

So the two girls set out to explore the caves on the other side of the river that ran by the settlement. However, after a while as they walked, Chutsuk said thoughtfully, “I have been thinking, Hedya. How is it fun to look for sleeping bears? It is certainly dangerous, but if there are bears and we wake them, we will just have to run fast, and that is not fun to me.”

Hedya shrugged. “Well,” she said as they neared the foothills, “it will take a sleeping bear much longer to start running than it will take us.”

As usual, Chutsuk shrugged her agreement to do what Hedya wanted. She felt this was her assignment as Hedya’s best friend. But when they reached the largest cave and prepared to enter, Chutsuk stopped at the entrance, shook her head and declared stoutly, “Hedya, I do not want to go inside.”

Hedya looked at the cave entrance and shuddered. She said, “Well, I would not dare to go inside alone.” So they resumed walking past the cave entrance.

The grey skies had cleared up now, and it had become a beautiful day. Before long they arrived at a small clearing in the forest. They were shocked to suddenly come upon a small brown animal, sunning itself on a flat rock just two arms-lengths from the girls. They had accidentally come this close because the wildcat’s color, with faint black stripes, made the animal very difficult to see against shadows and the rock’s grey and brown spots.

As soon as the girls realized the wildcat had seen them, it leaped off the rock and raced away into the woods. But the girls didn’t know how far it might run because they were running very fast in the other direction.

Once they felt safer they slowed, and the brave Hedya said, “Oh, that wildcat must have been as long as my arm, not counting its tail! If we had stood beside it, we would have found it to stand as high as my hip. It looked as if it weighed as much as your little brother, and he is two sun-cycles old.”

Chutsuk nodded. “Normally,” she noted, “I believe wildcats avoid coming near human settlements. They have their own territories, my father says, which they sometimes share with one or two females.”

“Yes. And I’ve heard they usually stay on the slopes of mountains, and share their space with foxes and martins.”

Hedya hadn’t been aware her friend knew so much about wildcats. She glanced at Chutsuk and the two of them continued walking fast, hoping the cat was not hungry and would not come after them. But before very long, they found themselves in an unfamiliar part of the woods.

“I do not think we are lost,” Hedya said, trying to reassure her frightened friend, “but you said you do not recognize any of the trees or clearings we have passed.”

But after a few moments of looking around, Chutsuk said, “It looks more familiar to me now, so why do we not just keep going in this direction? It will probably bring us back to the settlement. It seems to be the same stream that runs from the cave to the settlement.”

Hedya said, “But I thought this clearing was still a little way from here. I suppose we took a wrong turn.”

“A wrong turn that brought us to the right place,” Chutsuk noted.

As they discussed their further movements, they agreed thdy were in an area of the forest that neither had been in before.

A little while later, beyond a small clump of trees they passed, they suddenly came to the edge of a cliff. Chutsuk, in the lead, stopped short and Hedya nearly ran into her and pushed her over the cliff. They looked out over the cliff and saw that the stream was now a long way below.

“We were not watching where we walked,” Hedya pointed out, fixing her friend with a stern gaze, “and we nearly walked right over the cliff.”

“Well, I would never walk over a cliff on purpose,” Chutsuk exclaimed. “Do not blame me. It was just that I was surprised by it.”

When the girls had seen and discussed the stream far below, they turned to get back on the right path. But the day had grown dim now, and the area looked strange to them again.

Chutsuk set out to climb the tallest tree they could see, but she could not go high enough to identify their path back. They sat under another tree talked about how they might find their way home.

“I did not want us to get lost – that is not the adventure I wished to have,” Hedya said with a hesitant smile. “Do you think we can just follow the stream back home?”

“Yes, I do,” Chutsuk said. “We will have to find a path down so we can walk beside it. But first I want to look at the clearing I think is nearby. If we are where I think we are, that clearing is very pretty. And I think it might help us to find the correct path home.”

They headed back on the path, looking for the turn they had failed to make before. When they found the turn, it was almost on top of the clearing Chutsuk remembered. The cleared area was about two lengths across, in a circle, and surrounded with wildflowers and low bushes.

Hedya said, “Oh, how pleasant. Let’s sit and admire the flowers for a while. Then we can go home.” There were several tree trunks that looked comfortable to lean against, and both girls selected one they liked and rested for a time.

When they felt ready to go on, they set off but before long, they came upon a young woman with a child of about three summers. The two were digging up truffles right out in the open, and the girls rushed up to them.

Hedya warned, “There are lots of animals that love truffles. It can be dangerous to pick them alone.”

The woman nodded sadly and said, “Yes. My man sent us out here and insisted that we find truffles for him – he loves them. I knew it was dangerous to come out here, but he told me he would beat us both if we returned without a bunch of truffles.”

She sighed, and the little girl sighed also, copying her mother.

Hedya said, “We just want to be sure you know how dangerous it can be.” The young woman nodded and went on digging beneath one of the trees. The girls agreed they would help her find a few more of them so she could leave before another wild animal came along.

While they were absorbed in that task, the little girl grew bored and wandered off, looking for flowers. When they realized the child was gone, her mother became frantic and they all went looking for her and calling her name.

The child’s mother, who had told them her name was Selba and her little girl was Hahli, was shouting for the child and racing back and forth. Hedya tried to make her quiet down, saying, “There are wild animals in the woods here, remember, and your shouting might bring them to us.”

But Selba kept calling despite Hedya’s warning, though she did mute her shouts a little, and the three young women spread out to cover more distance. After a short while, Hedya called to the others, “Listen! I hear someone shrieking over there.” They all ran toward the sound and were shocked to see Hahli being attacked by a large, wild black raven!

“Be quiet, Hahli.” Chutsuk, a little ahead of the others, called to the child as calmly as she could. She thought she knew how to rescue the little girl from the angry bird. “She must be protecting her nest,” she told Hahli, “and she believes that you are after her babies.”

The child said, “But I am not.” But the bird kept diving at her again and again as she lay on a flat rock. It kept pecking at her head, and little Hahli was trying to protect her head, screaming and crying.

Chutsuk yelled at the wild bird and ran at it, hoping to scare it away from the little girl, but the bird just kept returning before Hahli could stand up and run.

Her mother and Hedya finally caught up with Hahli and Chutsuk, and could see the bird diving at Hahli and pecking at her head. The child was bleeding and crying out, so the three young ladies gathered up some rocks and threw them at the wild bird. It was very difficult to aim at the bird without hitting the child, but they were all as careful as they could be.

After they’d thrown several rocks, Hedya finally hit the bird hard with one large rock and it flapped off a long way. Hahli had time then to stand up and run to her mother, and they looked her over carefully. She wasn’t too badly hurt so they went back to the truffle clearing so Selba could gather up her treasures.

After thanking the girls, the mother and child set off toward their village. Hedya and Chutsuk watched them for a time, and then continued on their way home. It didn’t take as long as they thought it would, but the sun was nearly down by the time they entered Hedya’s hut.

After greeting the dirty girls, Hedya’s mother said, “Judging by the dirt on your clothing, I guess you had a fun adventure after all, did you not?”

Hedya and Chutsuk hung their heads and, saying nothing, moved over to help the older woman clear out the hearth.

When her mother’s back was turned, Hedya smiled at her friend. There would be other adventures.
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