The six with him were all Blue Tavaedies, and they could see her, not as Meira, but as an azure radiance too brilliant to bear. They knew he sometimes called her by his dead daughter’s name, and because of that and because her power frightened them, her pres- ence spooked them. They backed away now, shielding their eyes.
“Should we break camp?” asked Rthan’s second in command, Dorthamo. The man’s gaze slipped past the shimmering blue girl, back toward the lean-tos and campfire along the shore of the frozen tarn. “If we don’t leave now, we won’t have time to do the primary hex.”
“If we hex the Yellow Bear tribehold, but leave their allies unmo- lested, their allies will still be free to come to their aide during the attack,” Rthan said.
Dorthamo’s face sagged. “Yes…”
“But if we stay longer, the pass will freeze over and we won’t be able to return at all,” Rthan said. “We must break camp. We must cast the primary hex. Or call off the venture entirely.”
“I don’t think the War Chief would agree to canceling.”
“Neither do I,” said Rthan. He waved. “Go ahead. Break camp. I need a moment to speak to…”
“Her?” Dorthamo still wouldn’t look at Meira. Rthan nodded. Dorthamo swallowed hard. “Is she angry?” Afraid to hear the answer, he scuttled away before Rthan could reply. The others hastened after him, and began to disassemble the hide tents.
The little blue girl slipped her hand into Rthan’s, just as his daughter had so many times.
“I’m not mad at you, Daddy,” she said.
“Don’t call me that. I can’t…” He pulled his hand away. “You said Kavio the Rain Dancer did this. Then the Rainbow Labyrinth must know of our spell. They will try to retaliate.”
“No.” A breeze lifted strands of her hair to play in a chilly wind. Dark, inhuman power shone from her eyes, belying the innocence of her child’s face. “They are fools. As for Kavio….”
She smiled at him, but it wasn’t the smile of a mortal child. The coldness of glaciers and the ruthlessness of typhoons glinted in that cruel smile. He shivered. He loved her. She was all he had, since the murder of his family. He had to admit, though, she terrified him even more than she frightened the others. He knew her better.
Three days out from the tribehold, Kavio found his first fight. Rovers, men who had left their birth clan, but not yet married into a new allegiance, often traveled together in packs, like wild dogs, and like dogs, they hunted. Sometimes for need, sometimes for pleasure.
Three dropped onto the path in front of Kavio. One was missing his nose and ears, which meant he was probably a mariah, a captive destined for human sacrifice, who had escaped in the middle of his torture. The other two were undoubtedly exiles like Kavio, judging by the whip marks…