~ To Wish For Home ~
As quiet as an elkaleen, Sharah of the family Hast stood
in the Elfaxen forest and watched the person who had collapsed not far from
where she was standing behind a giant tree. The three-unit diameter, much
taller than a normal Trio-World man, of the katrok tree’s base provided more
than ample protection from being seen while she could see satisfactorily all
around her. The man, not wearing anything, had stumbled in her direction and
fell with a mighty thud to the floor of the forest. He now lay still as the
frost-laden leaves he fell in.
Usually, she wasn’t one to watch men without clothes, but
this one certainly needed watching. Something had happened to him. Even on
Elfax, nakedness wasn’t a sight she usually saw, especially in the freezing
temperatures of The Freeze. During The Heat, the Elfaxen natives didn’t wear
much clothing compared to what her home planet of Mallen wore, but at least
they wore something.
She stayed silent, keeping her ears open, listening for
any disturbance among the branches and undergrowth. The brisk cold air blew
into her face, taking her breath, but she kept watching. The birds had
ceased their chirping. What few birds that hadn’t flown toward lower
elevations for The Freeze didn’t even call between them. No sound could be
heard. It was an unnatural silence, amid the fallen leaves and barren
outreaches of the arms of the trees.
Time crept by just as a snarl, the slowest of the forest
creatures, might rush toward its destination. Now, it might be safe to
approach the fallen man. Sharah stirred very little on the ground around her
as she closed the units of the distance between herself and the fallen man.
She stopped again and peered around, and then glanced
down at herself. If the Elfaxen man awakened what would he think of her
garments? Most likely he had never seen anyone like her. She was an
unusually clad female. Her knee-high tanned-skin boots and breeches, also of
tanned skin, brought only a whisper to trained ears. A long sleeved cottalin
tunic covered her upper body and brushed her thighs and became visible only
underneath the open front of her thigh-length fur coat.
Her garb, which was that of a Malleneese woodsman, belied
the fact that she was a woman. The plait of long blonde hair and soft
feminine curves, which she couldn’t hide beneath the cottalin tunic said
otherwise. A blade handle at her waist peeked from under her open coat and a
projector filled her hand as she approached the stranger with the caution of
a seasoned warrior. She would take no chances.
Finally reaching him, she crouched beside him and placed
her fingers on the pulse of his neck. He was still alive. His long
brownish-black hair mixed with the frozen leaves into which he had fallen;
the plait above his pointed left ear fell across his face.
He didn’t even have the short Elfaxen sword or a weapon
of any kind on his person. Had he lost them in his run from his enemy? Well,
she wouldn’t know unless she talked to him and, right now, he remained
She gave him a shove and turned him over, gasping at the
hard muscles that defined his abdominal area. This man was a fine specimen
of manhood. She rarely saw such a balance of sinews and bones.
A Cherrok. That was easy enough to decide. His coppery
complexion and brown-black hair with plaits beside his pointed ears
represented easy clues. His lack of clothing did not. The Cherrok men
usually wore tanned leather vests, loin covers and soft shoes. This man had
a wide metal band circling his neck and lying flat against his collarbones.
The symbolism of the adornment meant something, but she couldn’t remember.
The metal band wasn’t anything like the beaded collar of yellow, blue, red
or black that marked an Elfaxen slave’s neck. Even though she’d never seen
an Elfaxen slave, she’d heard too much about them.
She took in a deep breath. A handsome man lay before her
even if he was an Elfaxen. His face was chiseled in masculine features. His
body rippled with the muscles of strength. She had seen few men his equal.
How would anyone defeat such as he?
Since he wore nothing, surely he had not come to this
area prepared for the unexpected drop in the mountain temperatures. Far from
his home, at least three Elfaxen quartermonths to the nearest Cherrok
village, he wouldn’t have expected to return anytime soon, especially to get
across the Northern gap before the harshest part of The Freeze, which made
the fissure in the valley nearly impassable. Only the very brave... or
very stupid… crossed the gap during the deepest snows.
Oblivious to his surroundings, his eyes remained closed,
and he bled. A red sticky stream of blood ran down from a small round hole
in his ribs. Someone had aimed for his heart with their projector and
missed, hitting him in the rib cage instead. Lucky for him, maybe, but if he
didn’t stir and seek shelter, he could freeze when the temperature dropped
with the fall of night.
She slapped at his face with her open hand. The shock
should have stirred him, but he didn’t budge. A small stream of blood
appeared at his hairline. She used her index finger to move the hair aside.
He must have hit something on his impact with the ground. The large rock
beside him most likely. The evidence of impact showed a small wound just
above his temple. She slapped at him again. “Cherrok. Wake up. You need to
He still didn’t move.
Well, she just couldn’t leave him here or he’d die for
sure. Neither wound looked bad but the cold would surely get him if she
couldn’t awaken him. What should she do? All of Jaho’s creatures needed help
at one time or another. Would that make an Elfaxen savage any different?
Somehow, she just couldn’t bring herself to let him stay here and freeze.
She would tend any wounded animal of the forest, and what more living thing
of the forest could an Elfaxen be?
Sharah stared at the handsome face. What to do? She
couldn’t manage the man without her merka. He was too big for her to drag
the four deci-units to her shelter. She would have to come back for him, but
she would have to hurry, because there wasn’t much light left in the day.
She’d have a hard time getting this man to her shelter in the daylight, much
less at night when the poorly marked trail would disappear completely into
After pulling some of the drier leaves from around where
he lay, she covered him, nearly burying him in the loose debris from the
forest floor. It would provide some protection from the increasing cold, and
maybe from whoever might have inflicted those wounds.
Why hadn’t she thought of that before? The assailant
could still be around. She stood, peering around her and listened. Nothing.
The usual quiet still remained. If anyone else prowled about the forest
she’d hear them. Her ears were trained for sounds that didn’t belong, just
as any good hunter’s were.
Satisfied that she had done all she could do until she
returned, she lit out toward her shelter with nearly the speed of a bastis.
Comparing herself to one just proved all the more that her imagination
worked more than normal. The feline-type creatures were nothing more than
myths, after all. But there had been times when she thought she’d actually
seen the creatures roaming around outside her shelter. She even thought
she’d heard them, the deep feline cry rumbling through the trees.