To Outrun A Tainted Arrow - Pt. 1: The Bearded

We’ve come to trade…” That much Five Maab’tzen was sure he understood. He knew he was not well-versed in the guttural trill of the foreigners, but he had seen them before in the few spaces along the coastline where they were allowed to temporarily settle and conduct trade with the Míg taiin seafolk. Of course, that had been when he was a curious chick recently given into apprenticeship to the healers of the northern reaches. That was when he saw the tall ones, the “bearded”, as the other apprentices mockingly called them… to their backs and well-outside earshot. Even then, Five Maab’tzen had found them as potentially frightening as they were fascinating.

Now, he ran as fast as he could, his lungs feeling like sacks filled with wild, raging fire; every breath stoking the flames inside his chest and his heart, his poor heart, felt like it was about to burst yet he could not hear it because his breathing was so loud his beak fluted the air in and drowned out the panicked beating running through his temples.

“To trade... blows! You... offspring… of hairy…” Five Maab’tzen words came out with a much higher pitch that he ever had used. He was sure it was not the exertion, but mounting panic taking hold of him that made his voice shrill.

Not far enough behind him, he could hear the distinct voices of his pursuers, calling out to each other through the brush. Their voices rang with notes of alarm, so Maab’tzen feel a little sliver of hope; if they were talking so fast and in such a tone, it could only mean he was doing well in keeping a good distance from them and making difficult for them to track any of his movements, but Five Maab’tzen’s gut told him he could not stop. Instinctively, he wanted to climb high up a tree and hide in the foliage, but common sense dictated for him to stick close to the ground and to make the most out of his small size to remain unseen.

The strangers were not wearing the traditional teal-hued armor and fatigues typical to the Ysvalian military, but they were definitely northern seafarers, and the sort of weapons they carried were not the usual sword meant as a deterrent and, if worse came to worst, for their defense when negotiations turned sour and spoiled.

No, these were no traders; these bearded men carried long spears and broad-headed axes… they had not come to merely trade the many rare goods they plucked out of the sea for the bountiful produce and fancy jewelry of the Míg tuiin. Also, those long spears were the main reason why Five Maab’tzen had not taken flight, yet. If he miscalculated, those vicious raiders could run him through with but a simple toss. He saw it happen to many of the other members of his ritual cabal and their appointed bodyguard. Be they meek Tlahuílid with their records or fierce Brálaid with their weapons, those spears ran them through with the same ease. Five Maab’tzen watched in wonder and dread at the skill and majesty displayed by the spear-tossers as they delivered death from over three-score paces.

The buunkun had reached the skirts of a small hill and started scurrying between tree trunks and thickets, trying his best to steady his breathing and remain as close to the ground as possible. He climbed at a slow pace, his lungs still on fire and his chest wanting to burst in a cry of desperation, yet he restrained himself, moving as he figured a Cuhiin hunter would do when stalking their prey. When Five Maab’tzen thought he had climbed enough and found a spot where both a wide tree and a thick bush created enough cover, he turned around and looked down the hill.

He could see some of the Ysvalians still forcing their eyes to spot him, and beyond the low treeline, he could see the sea not far away… and in one of the bays, he could see several other ships arriving and joining two already beached.

Five Maab’tzen’s heart seemed to stop and then beat so loud his ears rang and his chest ached. Now, he was sure the bearded had not come to trade and were frightened by the Xibac rituals being practiced by his cabal when they found them near the beach.

It had not been the necromancy of the Míg taiin that had prompted the tall strangers to attack. They were but a part of a large incursor force and they had come to take what the Míg taiin owned, all of it… and leave nothing in exchange, but dead bodies for the Xibac to sort out after their plundering of the Náhiudd of the North had sated their bloodthirst.

Immediately, Five Maab’tzen realized he now had but one purpose: to shake off these raiders, reach a village, any village, and find a Beak. The Northern Náhuidd needed to know they were about to find themselves bathed in Ysvalidd blood.

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