They hid amongst the rocks just outside the mouth of the cave. Dak held a palm-sized stone in his right hand – a small pile of similar stones stacked near his feet. Lin crouched beside him, dividing her attention between the man walking on the charred plains below, and the two fully alert dingos which stood near her side. If either Komaninu or Shisha began to fidget she would soothe them to keep them quiet.
“Can you tell who it is?” Lin asked, straining to see.
Dak shook his head, no. “My eyes aren’t what they used to be.” He considered the figure below. “Judging by his size and bearing, maybe Jacob?”
Lin nodded. “Yeah, kind of reminds me of Jacob.”
So they were lucky. Jacob was not one of Michael’s best trackers.
“I think the wildfire has thrown him off.” Dak said.
They collectively caught their breaths when the man looked up, shielding his eyes from the sun. He mopped his brow, bowed his head, and moved on. As soon as Lin relaxed Shisha let out a little yip.
The man looked up again, but only hurried his pace. He was alone in the wild, and evidently did not relish a run in with a dingo.
Once he was fully out of sight Lin and Dak retreated to the coolness of the cave, followed by the pups, which curled up at their feet.
“We best leave tonight,” Dak said.
Lin wormed into him to make herself more comfortable. “We have water here.”
“We can come back, if need be. We need to find whoever set that fire, Lin. He knows where we are. We don’t know where he is. That gives him the advantage.”
Lin drew in a deep breath and let out a slow sigh.
“Will it ever end, do you think?” she asked him. “The running. The hiding.”
Dak wrapped an arm over her shoulder, cupped her breast, and having no answer said nothing.
They climbed to the top of the cliff by the light of the setting moon, Tetu, and waited behind a low rock face for it to fully sink below the horizon. Dak wanted to leave the area in the darkness between moons, figuring that if their position was watched such timing would offer the best concealment.
The top of the plateau had been desolate enough before the wild fire. Now it was like a scene from Hell itself. And like Hell, it was hot, radiating back heat from Kepler’s unforgiving gaze. Dak reminded himself that they would miss this heat in just a few hours, after the full chill of the desert set in.
They decided to strike out in the direction the fire had come from. Dak hoped to find its origin, and from there that Lin, the more experienced of the two when it came to skills of the wilds, might find a trail to follow. Water was their most limiting factor, so they had agreed before setting out that they would only go as far as half the water would take them. If they found no other source of water by then they would head back to the cave to refill and reconsider their options. For now they went on, Dak steering by keeping the Sentinal over his left shoulder.
As usual, the dingos ran before them.
The second moon, Iah, had just cleared the horizon when a warning went up from the dingos. Dak and Lin froze, trying to fix a bearing on the yips. They had taken only a few steps when the yipping stopped.
“What do you think?” Dak asked Lin.
“I don’t know.” Once a dingo got started they usually only stopped yipping after the kill, or when killed.
They hurried forward, but with caution. It was not long before they heard something racing toward them, then heard one little yip of recognition. Shisha paused only a moment, then turned tail and ran back the way she came.
“They’ve found something,” Lin said, quickening her pace and taking the lead.
Shisha came back three more times to ensure they were following. The next time they saw her she was with Koma, chewing on the remnants of their kill, a brush pig.
“I thought you trained them to save the kills for us.” Dak said with a bit of humor in his tone.
As they approached they forgot the pig for something much more important. A few feet beyond the kill was an open pool of water.
© 2015 by Jon M. Strother, all rights reserved.