by Profe Steve
Alejandra almost screamed as she threw her knife down in disgust. What was that fool Nacoma thinking? What did he think she would do? Frustration battled with rage for control as she stalked from one side of the small camp to the other, hands clenched and jaw so tight it made her teeth hurt.
The fool! And so was she. She trusted him, almost opened herself to him. Almost gave herself. Alejandra had promised herself when she first became a woman that the boy she chose would have to prove himself worthy, and here she was ready to make love to a stranger. A handsome stranger, but still a stranger.
Spike sat at the edge of the stream, purposely stationed between Ale and the boy. His eyes blazed in the growing darkness, his friend’s emotions streaming through him and igniting his own. “Ale hunt? Ale kill?” he asked silently. He had known her a long time. Hunting always put her in a good frame of mind.
“No, my friend, I am not in a proper mood to hunt. My thoughts would frighten away the game,” she replied curtly. She turned to the huge Fen Wolf and approached, noting that Nacoma had left the pool and was climbing up a short grassy embankment on the east side of the river. She hoped he would just keep walking.
Alejandra smiled and wrapped her arms around her friend and murmured, “Thank you, Spike. You always understand.” She basked in the warmth of his body, letting his nearness drive away the dark mood and the sexual frustration she felt. She had been entirely ready for Nacoma and the change had left her nerves jangling.
A flash caught her eye and she glanced to the northwest. Lightning. Ale could see a wall of cloud reaching for the sky, the tops orange where the setting sun still illuminated them. She gasped in awe. Her home on the north coast never had clouds like that and they awed her even though she understood that they spelled storm. Maybe it would not reach them until morning; it still looked far away.
Ale was too tense and keyed up to eat much, so she munched on a strip of tried venison from her pack while she arranged her few things on a sand bar. The night was warm an mosquitoes were buzzing. She lay down in the soft sand and Spike snuggled close, the furnace of his body making her sweat.
Oh well, she needed to feel him more than she needed to be cool. Her eyes refused to close as she replayed the events in the pool over and over, feeling Nacoma’s muscled body in her arms and her own response to him. She ground her teeth.
A light flickered as she was about to drift into slumber and she opened her eyes. Another. Ten more. Ale held her breath. Fireflies! She had never seen them until the last few weeks and they were a constant delight. Her home had bugs that looked similar, but they did not produce the yellow glow that these did.
She watched their slow mating dance for a long time until she finally drifted to sleep to the sound of crickets. Exhausted from the day’s hike and the frustration over Nacoma, she slept deeply and did not hear or feel the rumbling begin nor sense the water in the river slowly rising.
Nacoma seethed as he stalked away from the river. He cursed himself for a fool a thousand times as he strode through the prickly shrugs and tough grass that grew along the bank of the river. Why had he tried? What made him think it was a good idea to use a spell on her? He wasn’t even good at it. Clumsy. Mother had always laughed and called him clumsy.
The sun was fully below the horizon when he dropped exhausted onto the high river bank. The west bank was low and barely above water level, but this side rose twenty feet. The drop beneath him was sheer and ended with large boulders. Nacoma mused about what kind of force the river must have had to deposit the rocks there.
He stared back the way he had come, but could not see any sign of a fire. She probably let hers go out without bothering to keep it going. The night was going to be hot and she would not need it. Maybe. He looked at the horizon and saw towering clouds building, and knew there was a squall moving in. He chuckled. Alejandra didn’t like the lightning and thunder storms she had experienced.
Still thinking about his stupidity, Nacoma eased his way part of the way down the cliff until he found a hollowed out place where the swirling current had left a hole big enough for him to curl up in. Honon carefully picked his way down and laid beside him. Soon the boy and his dog were sound asleep.
*** A bright flash woke Nacoma. It was followed immediately by a deafening clap of thunder. He almost fell out of his nook as he sat up. Honon was below, on the bank of the river, barking madly at the water.
Another flash made Nacoma’s heart race. The lightning illuminated the river and he could see that it had risen several feet. Ale! He had to find Alejandra. She would be in danger. She didn’t know about the flash floods that happened in these parts. He scrambled up the bank and sprinted back the way he had fled.
He made it about three steps before tripping over a rock or tree stump or something in the dark. He fell heavily, crying out in pain as something slammed into his side with enough force to drive the air from his lungs. Nacoma rolled over with a groan and staggered to his feet. The night was almost completely dark, but moon and stars obscured by a thick layer of thunder clouds.
As soon as he thought that at least there was no rain yet, the bottom dropped out and he was instantly soaked to the skin. He pushed himself into motion again, this time going slowly and picking his careful way along the bank. He could not help Alejandra if he broke a leg trying to reach her.
Alejandra woke with a start when the first drops of rain hit her face. Spike was pacing nearby, his nervousness washing over her. She took a step toward the river and immediately found herself over knee deep in rapidly flowing water. The force knocked her down and she flailed wildly, trying to regain her feet.
She had never felt such power in water before, and it frightened her. A black bulk appeared at her side and she seized Spike’s mane in both hands. The Fen Wolf backed out of the rushing river until they were clear. “Spike frightened. Spike hate light in the sky,” he sent.
Ale could feel her friend tremble. He wasn’t used to this kind of storm any more than she was. At least she knew what it was. Her poor companion didn’t understand. He just wanted it to end. He wanted her to do something. Could she? Ale wasn’t sure.
The water reached her feet and Alejandra realized that the river was still rising, and rising fast. She knew that the bank on this side was almost flat and offered little chance to stay above it if it rose much more. She had to try to do something.
She wrapped her arms tightly around Spike’s neck and slid onto his back, “Take us to higher ground,” she ordered. Spike didn’t need any further urging. The huge creature bolted into the dark, trusting his uncanny vision to help him find safety.