SEENTY TWO
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Rheôvhan carried his crying daughter back to his house, followed by Chandrha, Giselle and the other cubs. He had no reason to ask what happened. The flow of blood had diminished, but it was still noticeable enough to warrant immediate attention.

In the house Giselle took charge, asking for bandages. Chandrha rummaged in one of the cupboards, took out a roll of bandages. Not much, but it would have to do.

I staunched the flow as best I could,” Giselle said. “The wolf didn’t reach the bone, so...” Her shoulders twitched.

Ad‘herha and the other cubs hovered near the door. Ad‘herha wanted to check on her sister, but Rheôvhan told her to stay where she was, Giselle was taking care of her.

I’m a little curious,” Giselle said as she wrapped Lhorhanha’s right leg, “how did you come to have a roll of bandages in your cupboard.”

I guess we can thank Arak for that,” Chandrha said. “We told him we don’t get sick, but he said we might get hurt.”

And your daughter did.” Giselle stood up. “She’s lucky, but you tell them not to go out there anymore.”

I’ll handle that,” Chandrha said. She turned to Lhorhanha. “I want you to lie down, and rest that leg. No more going out today.”

What about me?” Ad‘herha asked.

No.” Firmly. “And you cubs go home right now.”

They left without a word.

You’ll have to change the bandage later,” Giselle said. “I’d say tonight.”

Thank you,” Chandrha said.

Giselle hesitated at the door. “I have a favor to ask.”

I can guess.”

It’s not like I can go anywhere right now. I don’t have a choice.”

You’re still under arrest for the murder of Gairmond Arak,” Chandrha said. “When the supply plane gets here they’ll take you back to Toronto.”

Giselle opened the door, stepped outside. Chandrha followed her, not sure if she should keep the young human in her sights, or if she should let her wander in the village. She was sure Giselle wouldn’t be a threat to the villager, but she had killed another human being, and that made her dangerous.

Why did humans kill each other? Why did they declare wars? The word ‘war’ did not exist in the Tereskàdian language. While the human word consisted of three simple letters, the purely Alharhanian word had a rough edge to it, a word you wanted to spit out, just to get if off your tongue.

Murder, rape, kidnapping... what made humans engage in these activities? She tried to shake the bad thoughts from her mind, but they stuck. When she was a cub on Tereskàdhar the Alharhanians had come, and they had killed and raped, taken away cubs, some younger than five. Still nursing from their parents. Water had to be a substitute until their whistling dragons produced milk, but it wasn’t as nutritious.

She wanted to say something to Giselle, but she let her go.

She could run away, Jhevharel sent. Want me to watch her?

No.

No?

We’re a long from civilization. She won’t go anywhere.

What about the wolves?

The wolves. Still skulking near the village. She could smell them, hear them. Seeking prey. Like the khobharet on her planet, they wouldn’t hesitate to take a cub. She had to make sure they were all safe.

She ran after Giselle, leaving Jhevharel behind, surprised. The human was heading down the path where her mate had carried out Lhorhanha a short time ago.

Giselle,” she called, “don’t go in there. The wolves...”

Giselle said nothing, kept walking.

Giselle...”

The girl stopped, but didn’t turn. “What do you want?”

Were you thinking of going into the forest?”

And what if I am?” She turned to face Chandrha. “You said so yourself: When the supply plane gets here, they’ll take me back, and I’ll be indicted for murder. The fact that Arak was a miserable, low-life blackmailer won’t matter to them.”

What are you going to do? You want to come face to face with the wolves? Are you hoping...?”

I don’t care about the wolves. If it happens, it happens.”

Please come back with me.”

Life in prison is not what I’m looking forward to.” She turned back to the forest, took a few steps before stopping again. She stood with her shoulders slumped.

I don’t know what to do, Chandrha sent. I don’t want to force her to come back. That’s the worst thing I can do right now.

Step away from this, her whistling dragon sent. Let her figure it out for herself.

She didn’t want to step away from this. If something happened to the human, she would blame herself. If the wolves weren’t out there... Even if they weren’t, where could this girl go? The path wound through the forest, ending at the lake. Then... nothing. Just trees and brush. If you managed to keep going, you’d get lost in a short time. To the lake and back, that was the only option.

You can’t go beyond the lake,” she said.

I know.”

The way she had said that worried Chandrha.

Giselle whirled around, anger deep in her eyes, her hands clenched at her sides. “When you kill someone, you’ve got nothing to worry about. You killed Colonel Westwood, but they won’t charge you with murder because you’re someone special. If Arak had attacked me, and I had defended myself, I’d still be charged. You... you...”

Chandrha waited for her to continue, but the girl grew silent. She didn’t want to explain to her, as she had done to a lot of humans, that her species’ mindset was totally different from humans. She could not kill a human being unless she was attacked.

Prey, Jhevharel sent.

We differentiate between the two. Humans aren’t prey.

Giselle had continued her walk, leaving Chandrha at the edge of the forest. Jhevharel wanted her to follow the female, to stop her. What then? If she let her, whatever happened at the lake would haunt her for the rest of her life.

Giselle,” she called.

The girl ignored her.

Giselle,” she called again. “I know what you want to do. That’s not going to solve your problems. What about family back home? Parents... siblings...”

We have to stop her, she sent.

Jhevharel took to the air. He sailed over Giselle’s head, landed in front of her, planted himself firmly on the ground.

Tell your whistling dragon to get out of my way,” Giselle said, “or I might...”

Don’t...” Get out of the way. She didn’t want to believe the girl would try something so dangerous, but right now it wouldn’t surprise her.

Giselle, please. You don’t want to do this.”

Jhevharel backed away as the girl moved closer to him. If she attacked her whistling dragon, he’d have no choice but to defend himself. He’d unsheathe his claws, and he would use them.

Each step that Jhevharel took backward was matched by Giselle. He had unfolded his wings, but in this position he couldn’t get into the air. He’d have to run ahead, wings spread, in order to climb up.

Turn, Chandrha sent. Turn and run. She wished whistling dragons could get airborne from a standing position, but they had to do it as they ran, flapping their wings. Rather awkward, and sometimes humorous, but not right now. His goal was to get away from the human, from her objective to end her life.

Jhevharel had turned, running away from Giselle. Moments later, he was in the air, circling above the trees.

You win that round,” Giselle said as if they were engaged in some kind of sporting event. “I can go down to the lake, or I can do it right here. If you want me to stay alive, you can’t come any closer.” Her mood, already dark, had darkened further.

^Rheôvhan,^ she sent through her whistling dragon, ^bring Montelier. I have Giselle out here in the forest, and she’s thinking of doing harm to herself. The lake... or... me. She wanted Jhevharel to do it, but he got away from her in time.^

^He isn’t with the RCMP anymore.^

^Doesn’t matter. Bring him.^

^What about the cubs?^

^Tell them to go over to visit one of their friends.^

^I’ll see what I can do.^

She wanted to scream right now. See what he could do? What was that? A girl’s life hung in the balance, and Rheôvhan’s remark had come across rather casually.

Once Daniel de Montelier arrived, what could he do?

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