Spirit Arrow
By Rod Hunsicker  
Copyright 1/11/2004

It was a fine summer day.   Both suns blazed in the sky with spectacular glory.   A Kregan prairie dog popped his head out of his half hidden hole.   Three riders picked their way along a well-worn path cut through the tall, dry grass.  Overhead a pinto dove flew in lazy circles.   The air was fresh and clean.

Cat Smiling’s zorca snorted and bucked a bit.   The Comanche rubbed his neck and spoke softly in its ear.   The beast calmed down, neighing from the pleasure that came from being attended to.   Cat Smiling lifted his nose to the air.   There was a strange odor of freshly killed flesh.  

“The beast smells blood.   I smell it too.”

“I agree, Cat.   Is it any business of ours?”

“Why not?” mused the Comanche.   “Today we hunt game.  Perhaps, we have found something else.”

They rode quietly forward.   The first was Cat Smiling, Comanche warrior, displaced on the planet Kregen.  The second was Tarks, man from the Hostile Territories, and friend to Cat Smiling.   The third man was Gig Anton, a clansman of Segesthes, and an excellent warrior who had given obi to Cat Smiling.

It was not long before their trail broke into a clearing in the grass that had been torn clear by men fighting on zorcas.   Here, two parties from different clans had met and fought.  Whoever had survived had long departed and the scavengers were feeding on what remained.

Cat Smiling looked on the carnage of the fight, human bodies strewn all about, bloody and malodorousness.   An odd moment of sentimentality came over him, and he remembered his home and family.   His heart grew heavy as he realized that he was very far away from home, and a death like what he saw before him was his only destiny.

Gig Anton grunted from his saddle.   “Two parties meeting without the buffer of obi.  None was asked here, hence so many died.”

“Raiding and killing is well known among my people.   When the weather grows warm, the young men burst out of their thawing teepees to pillage and kill.   Yet, I remember something my Apache grandmother once said.  It has always stayed with me and sometimes it has held back my arrow from a foolish kill.   When I tell you keep in mind that my people are a race of hunters with no domestic herds to feed us.   She said, “Men must kill what they eat and eat what they kill.  If men do not eat men, why do men kill men?"

“These wise words have always followed me over the years,” Cat Smiling’s voice echoed a sad tone.   “Life for some men is very simple.   Perhaps, it is better that they did not have a wise Apache grandmother.”

“Men kill men to eat glory,” said Gig Anton.   “They kill each other for land, possessions and women.   It is as it has always been.  It will always be that way.”

Cat Smiling nodded.  “What say you, Tarks?”

“I say everything is a matter of choice.   A man can chose to be alive or to be dead.  For different men that can mean different things.   These men chose to be dead.  Even the victorious ones.   Some say that life is cheap, only souls are expensive.”

The Comanche stared at his friend for a long moment.   Then he laughed and said, “Wise words, Tarks.   You should have known my Apache grandmother.”

“Hell, Cat, she should have known me!” Tarks said with a chuckle.

Everything that had been of value had been taken by the victors of the fight.   With nothing to gain from remaining, the three men left the scene of the slaughter and resumed their hunt.  They were hunting wild chunkrah, those cattle animals that the Clansmen of Segesthes had domesticated hundreds of years ago.   Because they were domesticated, the clansmen could eat their delicious roasted flesh at any time, but Cat Smiling preferred to hunt his meat.   It was the way his people had always lived so the Comanche enjoyed the taste of wild chunkrah far more than the charred flesh of Clansman cattle.

The day before he had cut tracks of a small wild herd.   This day he had persuaded his friends to go hunting.   A mile away from the battle scene, Cat Smiling drew in a deep breath of fresh air and marveled at life in general.   Hunting, loving, riding made him forget his old hunting grounds and his previous family.   He felt good.   It was at this time that he found fresh chunkrah tracks.

Guided by two superb trackers, Cat Smiling and Tarks, it wasn’t long before they found the herd.   It was rather small, only about a hundred animals, but there were some fine bulls among them as well as a number of cows that looked good for the kill.   Gig Anton sat back in his saddle and grinned.

“I understand the excitement of the hunt, Cat, but it is a lot easier to just slaughter one of your own cows.”

The Comanche shrugged.   “So say all white men,” he murmured to himself in the language of his people.   To Gig Anton he said, “Let’s hunt!”


The familiar thunder of hooves, the smell of excitement in his nostrils, the wood of his bow firmly in his hand, these things brought Cat Smiling to life as they rode down on the herd.   In his own lands, the Comanche had learned, as a boy, that there was a special place in a bison’s body where an arrow must hit to penetrate the great beast’s heart.   Cat Smiling knew that special place on a chunkrah’s body; he yearned to plunge his arrow there.

Suddenly, there was a crash nearby, as Gig Anton’s zorca stumbled over a prairie dog hole.   One of its long slender legs shattered from the impact.   The clansman tried to alight from the falling body, but failed and was taken to the ground with it.   There he lay stunned, half buried in the grass by his mount’s writhing body.   The stampeding herd parted to avoid the downed zorca while Cat Smiling and Tarks made their way toward Gig.


Cat Smiling heard Tarks’ warning yell.   His keen black eyes searched the tall grass, and there, he made out the charge of the predator moving swiftly like an arrow.  Its long, weasel body was propelled swiftly by eight powerful legs and two throbbing hearts.   One of the most feared killers on Kregan was heading straight toward Gig Anton.

The zorca’s desperate thrashing had attracted the leem.   It must have looked like an easy kill.   And, there was Gig Anton, stunned and helpless underneath his mount, also, an easy kill.

It was an impossible shot.   The leem was a streak of dusty brown with only the top of its body barely visible above the tall prairie grass.   It was thirty yards away.  A beast with two hearts in different places in its body was difficult to bring down with one shot.   Yet, Cat Smiling had time for just one impossible shot if he was going to kill the leem before it reached Gig.   Guiding his zorca with his knees, the Comanche drew back his arrow.   The world became silent.   Everything dulled, everything around him, the thundering chunkrahs, Tarks’ yells, Gig Anton lying on the grass, the zorca galloping underneath him; everything became nothing more than simple distractions to the shot.   Cat Smiling nearly closed his eyes as he journeyed to another, bigger world within himself.   Of its own accord, the arrow drew fully back, and then it flew.

The leem flopped in the air, an arrow transfixing its skull.   It screamed briefly, until it hit the ground with a thud, dying as its brain yielded to shock and severe physical trauma.  It rolled over several times and died.

Gig Anton never saw the shot that killed the leem, but Tarks did, and the man from the Hostile Territories rode over to the Comanche with a disbelieving smile on his face.

“A wonderful shot, Cat.   If I hadn’t seen it I would not have believed it,” Tarks said.

“A necessary shot,” Cat Smiling said simply, “let’s see if Gig is all right.”    He spoke no more about it.   It had been enough that the Comanche had felt spirit during the shot, and that the clansman was safe.

The clansman was bruised, but unbroken.   They killed his zorca and freed him from its weight.   Then, Cat Smiling laughed and rode after the fleeing chunkrah herd.  After all, he had not made his food kill yet.


His woman lifted his son to the wagon with a groan.   She was pregnant again, her belly swelling with new life.   As Cat Smiling sat on his zorca he wondered if the child would be another boy.   It was good for a man to have sons.  His mind continued to wonder and he imagined his Comanche sons riding their ponies back in the old country.   For a moment he was homesick.

Those moments of homesickness were more frequent lately, and too often Cat Smiling found himself staring blankly into the distance.   Life among the Clansmen was good, but it could never be as wonderful as living among the People.   His son laughed, and Cat Smiling returned to the present.

“He grows strong,” said the Comanche, sliding off his mount.   “His legs are longer than mine.”

Eroin glanced at him.   It happened that the side of her face that was leem scarred was presented to him.   She was no longer aware of that scar, her vanity had long since vanished in the rough and tumble life of the Plains.

“I hope he will be tall.   My father is a tall man.   He is a beautiful boy,” she said.   She tousled the boy’s black hair with a carefree hand.   She was happiest when she tended her child.   So far from the comfort of her father’s farm, Eroin had adjusted to the nomad lifestyle of the clanners, but there was always a need for house and home within her.   The boy was home for her, now.

“Yes, woman, he is beautiful.   More important, he is strong and healthy.    He will be a fine warrior,” said Cat Smiling proudly.   He picked up his son and held him over his head.   And laughed.

“I have brought fresh meat, Eroin.   Prepare it,” he said.


He was tired.   It was a weariness that seeped into his soul from the dark places of misery that had spread across his mind.   Valcon sat on a stone and leaned against the shaft of the great Axe of Gisgedalt.   Although he had made a place for himself within the Clan of Terentz, there was unrest in his heart that cried out for attention.   Over and over the same question came to his mind, “Who had ruined the Clan Gisgedalt…his clan?”

He was becoming obsessed with Inomoroti, that mighty warrior who was sweeping his domination across the Plains of Segethes.   He was certain that Inomoroti was involved with the disease and degeneration of his clan’s honor.   The clan axe he held in his hand cried out for the Scythian’s blood.   Valcon twisted the shaft in his hands, over and over in frustrated anxiety.

After he had given the head of Grantec Suun to the leaders of the Terentz Clan, Valcon had returned to the Traitorous Mound (as it was now known among the clanners).   There was little evidence left to shift through.   Everything had been burned out.   What wasn’t burned was buried under tons of drying mud.

The axe fell from his hand.   The Blade stared at it, lying on the pressed down prairie grass.  Then, he drew in a deep breath and picked it up by the head.    The steel was smooth and sharp along the blades.   He caressed the steel with closed eyes as he remembered witnessing this axe in the hands of the old clan elder, Tulenith Belb.
Then, his fingers, though calloused by years of handling weapons, found a notch of some kind in the otherwise perfectly smooth metal.   He opened his eyes and searched for the notch.   Valcon the Blade was past his youth, and his close vision was not quite as sharp as it once had been.  He saw something very tiny etched on the axe head.   He twisted the axe in the sunslight to no avail.   Whatever the small thing was his close up vision was too dull to distinguish it clearly.   He hefted the axe over his shoulder and walked back toward the Terentz wagons.

On the way he stopped a pack of children and asked them if they could see the notch clearly.   When one tall boy said that he could, Valcon convinced him to draw what he had seen in the dirt.   Long after the children had run off, Valcon sat on his heels and stared at the symbol the boy had drawn.   It was the symbol of something that his clan had held sacred: a special tree that grew in a special grove.   Few men knew the location of that grove.   Valcon knew.


 “I will be leaving tomorrow,” said Valcon.   Cat Smiling studied the new lines in his friend’s handsome face.   They had been buried there by despair and hopelessness.   Despite Valcon’s innate humor and vigor, the death and disgrace of his clan had tired his soul.   Now, there was a new light in his blue eyes, a glimmer of hope that the Comanche had thought was gone forever.

“Where?” the Comanche asked.

“I have a new clue.   One last clue.   There is a place that might hold the answers.   The final answers to the mystery of my clan’s horrible fate.   I have a feeling that things will be resolved soon,” answered the Blade.

“How so?” asked Tarks, leaning against a nearby wagon.   It wasn’t his wagon, but then Tarks never was one to care about where he leaned.

Valcon shrugged.   “I’m not sure, by Tuc’s bells.    I have a feeling and a clue.   That’s enough for me.   Just wanted to say good-bye to you, doms.”

He gave Cat Smiling a friendly slap on the shoulder and smiled at Tarks.   Then he walked away.   His broad shoulders were straight, and he had a bounce in his long proud stride.

“Good-bye,” laughed Tarks, “what a joke!”


The Clan had paused its massive migration next to a clean flowing river, and many of the women were busy filling water barrels.   Tarks squatted by the river and washed the trail dust off his face, then looked up at the second of the setting suns.   He noticed Eroin struggling with a large jug of water.

“Let me help you with that, Eroin,” he said quietly, taking it from her without permission and holding it lightly.   “Doesn’t Cat help you with heavy work like this?”

Eroin rubbed her swelling belly.   “No, he doesn’t.  He considers it woman’s work, but then the clanners are not much better.”

Neither of them spoke as they walked toward Cat Smiling’s wagons.   The Comanche’s wealth had grown over the past year.  His skill with a bow had gathered him much obi.

“Have you ever been to Havil?” she asked him suddenly.   

“Yes, many years ago.   Civilized country, they call it,” replied Tarks with a smile.   He knew she was from Havil as well as he knew she was regularly homesick.

‘Very civilized, Tarks.   At home I would have a sturdy slave to carry my water if it were necessary to do so.   My father had a water pump in his kitchen.   No need to carry water,” she said proudly.   Her beautiful face brightened with the memory of the pump handle, which her father had freshly painted every month.

“Kregan is a harsh world, Eroin.   So many homeless people live here.   One good thing about the clanners is the absence of slavery.  Of course, that means that everybody works.   Even beautiful women,” Tarks said.

“Beautiful?” Eroin mused as she touched the long leem scar on her face.  “Perhaps, once.  No longer, I fear.”

“Fear not,” said Tarks quickly, “it would take more than a scar to stop you from being beautiful.”

“Thank you, Tarks,” she said softly.

The man from the Hostile Territories stopped abruptly.  “I am sorry you are not happy here, Eroin.   You are Cat Smiling’s woman and as such should be at his side.”

“Yes, I am,” she agreed.   “He treats me well.   Better than most masters.”

“Masters?” wondered Tarks.

“Yes.  He took me from slavers and made me his own.   There was no choice on my part, though I have grown fond of him.   He is a man.  He protects and cares for me, and he has fathered my children.   That is all a woman can ask for on these everlasting plains.   I have fared better than most.”

There was nothing that Tarks could say to her.  He resumed walking toward the wagon.   When they got there she thanked him and he left.   For a moment, her eyes lingered on his departing form.   Then she poured the water from the jug into the water barrel.   There was supper to make.


Valcon the Blade made no comment when his three friends were waiting for him.  Cat Smiling, Tarks and Gig Anton were mounted and provisioned for the journey.  Nor did they speak.   They simply followed the Blade as he rode out of camp.

The journey was without incident.   With two excellent scouts like Cat Smiling and Tarks, they weaved their way around both men and beasts until they arrived at the sacred grove.   At times there was a sense that they were being followed, and on several occasions either the Comanche or Tarks doubled back to investigate but no stalkers had been found.   If they were being stalked it was by very proficient men.

Often the piebald dove circled overhead.   Valcon looked up and commented, “Your guardian, Cat?”

The Comanche shrugged.   “It has followed me since I came to this land.   Some spirit watches me.”


“What else?   Perhaps an ancestor spirit or a spirit of birds.   I am not sure.   All I know is that it watches me,” reported Cat Smiling.

“You don’t care?” asked Valcon.

“No.   Spirits are everywhere.   This one is more obvious, that’s all,” replied the Comanche.

The entrance to the grove was a narrow winding path through a patch of tall thorn bushes.   Tarks poised on his zorca, relaxed and cynical.  “Thorn bushes.   A week’s journey just to get here, and now thorn bushes.   Why is every heroic outing the same?”

“Must you always complain?” asked Gig Anton.

“Complain?   I am merely reflecting, dom,” Tarks said with a laugh.

“Let’s go in,” Valcon said gruffly.   They pushed through the thorns, bleeding and grimacing until they came to a small clearing.   What was once a religious grove was now overgrown; the thorn bushes had begun to encroach upon the iconic stones and the short grass lawn.   Valcon slid off his zorca and walked over to a large tree.   The others sat silently on their mounts while the Blade ran his hands over the tree’s moss covered trunk until he peeled back a piece of false bark and reached inside a secret compartment.   Breathless, he pulled out a piece of tin.   Inside the tin was a parchment with writing on it.

“I saw this in a dream, doms.   Clanners are not known for their literacy, but some of us can read the written words of the civilized lands,” Valcon said as he unrolled the paper.   As he read silently his face grew grim and pale.   Finished he looked at his friends.

“It is a brief confession.   One of the Gisgedalt elders writes about the corruption of his clan by strangers.   Several names are given.  One is Garvos, and one is Inomoroti.   I am not sure how it happened.   Hell, the elder isn’t sure himself, but he points an accusing finger at these strangers.   Garvos must have been a wizard.   It doesn’t matter.   What matters is that Inomoroti was involved in the destruction of my clan, and now he is taking over the Clans.   He must be stopped.”

“Stopped?   He is unbeatable,” said Gig Anton.

Valcon the Blade stared at the young clanner.   “Unbeatable?   The day I believe any man is unbeatable is the day I lose my courage as a warrior.   That is the day life loses its meaning.   No man is unbeatable!   It would be an outrage against nature for that to happen.

“Inomoroti is a black hearted slaying animal, that’s for sure.  I knew him in my younger years.   The perfect killer, I agree.   Yet, to remain sane I must believe that for every animal there is a hunter,” said Valcon, hyrpaktun many times over.

“Generically, I might agree Valcon, but I remember hunting a red leem once in the Hostile Territories.   I was one of a hundred hunters trying to bring it down.   It was remarkably intelligent…. superior to any leem I ever had hunted before.   None of us could catch it.  It eluded our traps and even killed its hunters with impunity.   Yet, in the end it died.  You know how?    A girl killed it.    It was killing chickens in her hen house.   She got so pissed off she set fire to the house.  It went up like a torch and the damn thing burned to a crisp.   Yeah, every killer has its hunter, but who knows who that hunter might be,” said Tarks.

Valcon smiled at the man from the Hostile Territories.   “There is always a touch of philosophy in your careless words, Tarks.   No matter, I have what I need.   Let’s take this proof to the Clans.”

Overhead, a pinto dove circled and circled.


Maeve sat back and stared incredulously at the holographic images.    Through the eyes of the brown and white dove she witnessed Valcon the Blade’s find.   This supported evidence that her own investigations had uncovered concerning Garvos and his manipulative projects among the Clansmen of Segethes.  A strange fear seeped into her soul as she held the image of the Comanche in her mind.   Then she signaled Eeshan that she needed to talk with him.

Her old mentor and friend came an hour later, roused from an afternoon nap and entered her laboratory with a warm smile on his elderly face.   Like all the old Savanti, there was ancient wisdom in his eyes that could not be hidden in the youth periodically given to him by the rejuvenating Pool of Vanti.   He crossed the room and held her hand.

“What is wrong, Maeve?”

“Oh, Eeshan!   Things are growing more and more complicated.   I am not sure what to do.”

“Do about what?”

Briefly, she explained recent developments.   She finished by saying, “What if my Destiny Project has gone to far?   What if it complicates higher level Savanti plots?   Where would that place me?”

“Higher level Savanti plots?   What a curious way to phrase that, Maeve.   It makes us realize what a puppet world Kregen is.   No wonder I linger in my garden.”

“What should I do?” she pleaded.

“Continue with your project.  It is a “destiny” project.   If you interfere with destiny before destiny can be manifested then you contaminate the experiment.   Or, would your efforts to protect imagined Savanti projects be part of the overall destiny?” he said with a gentle smile.

“You began this experiment to learn something.   You developed a program that you felt implemented destiny or at least aided destiny in its function.   Is your original premise less valid now simply because Garvos and his cronies have decided to do something with the Clans of Segesthes?   You have done such a very small thing: the introduction of one man into the scenario.   Garvos and his group have done much more.  Inomoroti has slain hundreds in his quest to oust Prescot as Zorcander.   I marvel at your concern, my dear Maeve.   I wonder at your naiveté.   Let us see what your small thing does to the much greater, more intricate thing that the Garvos group has done.”

“Richart says I should pull Cat Smiling.   Remove him from the equation.   Absolve myself from future implication in plots against the Savanti goal,” Maeve said.   She looked deeply into Eeshan’s eyes for greater comfort.   He was the Elder she trusted most among the super intelligent men and women that directed the efforts of the Savanti to guide Kregen into a pure apim world, and she truly believed that he cared for her on a personal level.   Yet, could anyone as young as her ever know what such an ancient, intelligent mind was really thinking?

“Richart, for all his competency, is too much a man of action.   He spends too much time in his body instead of his mind.   You are a dreamer, Maeve.   Let your dream unfold.   We all learn from dreams, sometimes more than we learn from being awake,” said Eeshan.  He embraced her warmly, as a father might hug his daughter.

“Come with me, Maeve.  Now that you have awakened me from a wonderful nap, I feel you owe me lunch.  Or is it dinner?   Hmm, it doesn’t matter.   I think we should go to Luan’s house and let her prepare us a wonderful supper.  Don’t you think so?” he said, keeping his arm around her shoulders.

Maeve glanced back at her holographic sensors.   

“Fear not, my dear student.   The world will continue to spin without your attention for a few hours.”

Maeve smiled, laughed and said, “Yes, you are right.   As you usually are,” and she let her old teacher escort her out the door.


“I can’t shake the feeling that we are being watched,” muttered Tarks as they rode back to the Clan Terentz.  “Yet, for the life of me I can’t pick up any stalkers.”

Cat Smiling nodded.  “I feel the same thing.   Something watches us that cannot be seen.”

“Well,” Tarks said, “that makes it different from your muddy dove.  At least we can see the bird.”

Cat Smiling looked up in the sky.  The dove was still there.   Lately, it circled above his head more often.  It never seemed to need food or drink, though the Comanche thought it was real because he had caught it in his hand long ago.   Of late, his mind had been venturing often into the spirit, and he thought of his old Apache grandmother.   Many times he had sat by her as a child when she went into one of her trances.   And when she came out of them she always had words of wisdom.   He remembered her last words to him.

“Everything has a spirit.  It is the true power of the world.   Men who do what their bodies demand will always be less than men who do what their spirit demands.   Follow your spirit, Cat Smiling, and the arrow of your life will always fly true.”

The Comanche smiled as he toyed with the image of his grandmother.   Again, like a hundred times before he was grateful for knowing her.

They rode for several days.   It would take longer to catch up to the wagons of the clan because the clanners travel swiftly at times.   Valcon was eager to show his evidence to the clan elders.  They slept little and rode hard.   They came to a small group of Terentz wagons that had separated briefly from the main caravan because of a family dispute.  Here they made camp for the night, realizing that the next day they would join the main Terentz group.


After supper, Valcon the Blade went to his zorca and mounted.  “Doms, I need to spend some time alone.  To think… and to use the bushes,” he said with a grin.   He rode out with the friendly laughter of his doms.

The plains were beautiful.   Stars and several moons lit the night sky.   Valcon finished his toilet and leaped on his mount.   All was peaceful.   He sucked in the clean night air.  Before he could release it the first arrow struck him.   Amazed, shocked, he stared down at the arrowhead that was protruding from his chest.   Numbly, instinctively, his hand reached for his sword.   He managed to pull it from its scabbard before his pin-cushioned body fell to the tall prairie grass.   Rough hands rummaged through his clothing and removed a precious tin.  As he died he heard men and zorcas riding away.

They found his body in the morning.   His three friends stood solemnly around it.   The suns had risen and the morning was glorious, yet none of those men could feel that.   All they felt was loss and sorrow.

“Now what?” asked Tarks grimly.

“His evidence is gone.   Only you can read, Tarks, and I don’t think your word alone will be enough to accuse Inomoroti of anything.   It is over,” said Gig Anton.

“No,” growled Cat Smiling, “it isn’t!”


The Comanche held his son in his arms and smiled.   He had named the boy, Wolf, because of the tot’s lupine yellow-brown eyes.   He petted the child’s black hair and pressed his lips to the boy’s forehead.

“What is wrong, Cat?”  Eroin asked timidly.   She had never seen her man so pensive.   There had been a faraway look in his eyes ever since he had returned.  At first she had thought that was because of Valcon’s death, but now she knew that it was something more.   

“Nothing is wrong, Eroin.   Everything is right.   Tomorrow I leave on a raid.   Put the boy to sleep and come to my bed,” he said softly.

That night he held her more tenderly than he had ever done before.   There was love in his caresses, and she cried when their lovemaking was over.

Again, as he had done many times before, Cat Smiling rode away with his friends.   This time she wondered if she would ever seen him again.


Assassins had slain Valcon.   They rode in stealth so that the same thing would not happen to them.   Cat Smiling and Tarks used the best of their scouting skills to creep along the trail to Inomoroti.   Gig Anton trailed behind like a faithful dog, eager to keep faith with his obi leader.

  “What is the point of this?” asked Tarks.  “We have no proof that Inomoroti participated in the corruption of the Gisgedalt clan.   No one will listen to us.”

Cat Smiling turned his grim face toward Tarks.  “I am not going to Inomoroti to talk.”

“To fight?   He will kill you.   Even Valcon thought he was unbeatable,” blurted out Gig Anton.

The Comanche shrugged.   “We’ll see,” was his only comment.

No assassins attacked them, though they still felt that they were being watched.    They avoided all human contact and lived on trail rations or an occasional kill.   Inomoroti lived in his own camp, created by those who had sworn obi to him.  This camp was growing so large that it was already larger than any normal clan.   Most of the clanners thought that Inomoroti was planning to start his own clan.   He even kept elders in his camp to simulate a true Clan, but no one was foolish enough to believe that none other than Inomoroti was the absolute power among those clanners from which he had gathered obi.

It took them fifteen days to find Inomoroti’s camp.    When they had, Cat Smiling took a day to rest.   At night he dreamed about his grandmother and about hunting buffalo on the plains of the old country.   When he woke up he was a little sad, but that sadness dissipated quickly in the bright, warm sunslight.

He went off by himself and painted his face black.  He chanted his death song.   He cleaned his mind of all fear or weakness, and when he was ready he rejoined the others.

“My spirit says the time is now,” he announced to his friends.

“Tarks, I would ask one thing of you,” he said softly to his sword dom.

Tarks didn’t pretend that this was anything less than a very serious situation.  “What’s that, Cat?”

“I trust you to place my son in strong, caring hands,” the Comanche said.   As he said it he looked deeply into Tarks’ eyes.   An understanding bloomed between them.

The man from the Hostile Territories nodded.   

“Neither of you need ride with me into the camp.   There is no need for you to be put into danger,” said Cat Smiling as he leaped upon his favorite zorca.

“I’ve come this far,” groaned Tarks.   “Let’s finish it.”

Gig Anton agreed, and they rode slowly down into Inomoroti’s huge, sprawling camp.   Strangely, no one challenged them.  It was as if word had been left to let Cat Smiling into the camp.   The Comanche remembered the Scythian’s friendliness back at the Traitorous Mound.   Cat Smiling didn’t question this curious sentimentality.  He used it.

As he had prepared himself for this personal combat, his visions had told him the exact moment to ride down to confront the Scythian.   As luck or destiny would have it, he rode up to meet Inomoroti as the Scythian was practicing early morning archery.   At first Cat Smiling had thought to meet Inomoroti with a lance, but his dreams had told him that the only chance he had to win was with the bow.   The lance was the traditional weapon of personal combat among his people, but his people were also very pragmatic, and so was Cat Smiling.

He had placed his thunder arrow first in his quiver.   When he had first made weapons upon coming to this strange new country he had carved a lightning bolt in honor of the Thunder Bird along its carefully constructed shaft.   It would be the arrow he used to fight his deadly foe.

With all the pieces in place, Cat Smiling felt more confident to meet the Scythian.

Up close, Inomoroti’s personal aura of power and deadliness was almost overwhelming.  He had to fight for obi only rarely, now.   Most clanners had heard of his skill and yielded to him helplessly.  Only the most brave or foolhardy fought him.   Cat Smiling rode up to him with a frozen heart.

“Little brother,” the Scythian laughed when the Comanche presented himself.

“I am Cat Smiling of the Nermernuh,” was the reply.   Inomoroti narrowed his glacial eyes in understanding.

“I am Inomoroti of Scythia,” he said harshly.

“Now we have made the pappattu, I will fight you at once for obi,” Cat
Smiling uttered the traditional words.

“Will you?” returned Inomoroti with a playful smile.   “We have already met, Comanche.  I do not need to accept your obi challenge.”

“Are you afraid?  Must I petition the clan elders?” asked Cat Smiling in an even voice.

Inomoroti shook his head.   He was supremely confident.   “No, that will not be necessary, you fool.”

“You already hold your bow in your hand.  Meet me on the plains with it,” challenged the Comanche.

“Very well played, little brother.  I have heard of your legendary skill with the bow.   You seek to face me armed with your greatest strength.   Very good.   But, you should know that my skill with a bow was legendary before your earliest ancestors fell out of their mother’s womb.”

Cat Smiling said nothing.  He simply waited with the impassivity of his race.

Many warriors had gathered around them.   They all looked at their leader to see what he would do.  Inomoroti shook his head.

“I understand you, Cat Smiling.  We come from the same old country.  I had hoped to spare you, but I see now that Inomoroti must ever ride alone.   So be it!  Let us fight!”

While the others watched, hundreds of warriors belonging to the Scythian and two friends supporting Cat Smiling, they rode out alone on the field of combat.   They faced each other from a hundred yards away.   With no word between them they rode fiercely toward each other, bows in hand, arrows ready to fire.

The Scythian’s arrow killed Cat Smiling instantly, but the Comanche’s body never flinched.  His  dead fingers still held back the arrow until the perfect time, then released the deadly missile.  Impelled by the Comanche warrior’s spirit, the thunder arrow destroyed the Scythian’s heart.

Their zorcas swerved from each other to avoid collision.   Two human bodies fell into the tall grass and stained it with gushing, red blood.

The whole camp was stunned.   No one had believed that Inomoroti could be killed.  They gathered around his dead body in horror, though many rejoiced to be free of disagreeable obi.   Tarks and Gig Anton gathered up the body of their friend and bore it away.

That night many rebellious clanners burned Inomoroti’s body on a great funeral pyre.


“And so it ends,” said Eeshan as he watched the drama below with Maeve and Richart.

“What does this mean?” asked Maeve.  She held her pretty face with white hands.

“It means your experiment was a success.  It means that there are greater hands of Destiny that shape the fate of Kregen other than the Savanti or the Star Lords.   It proves that ultimate destiny is always in the hands of a man’s spirit,” said the elder Savanti with a wise smile on his lips.

“Or a young woman’s,” he added mischievously.


Cat Smiling’s body had disappeared during the night.   Tarks and Gig Anton returned to the Terentz camp without it.


Tarks held Eroin after he told her of Cat Smiling’s death.   Then he placed his powerful, bronze hand on Wolf’s infant head.

The End