By K.D. Wentworth
Frankly, he most well liked people. Rescued from a slave industry by way of a human dealer and raised as his son, one query has haunted Heyoka Blackeagle over the years: who - and what - is he? He feels human, certainly he appears like a a bit alienated member of his father's tribe. So what if he's seven toes tall, hairy, and built with retractable claws? Human is as human does...Right?
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The whole process had taken less than two blinks of the eye. Nisk reached down an arm, beckoning him to come forward and mount. He hesitated. ” Nisk bared his teeth in exasperation, but then thought of the pattern looming below the surface. Patience/in/illusion—nothing was what it seemed. He would have to wait until all participants abandoned illusion for reality, taking on their real forms, and events made themselves known. He leaned back. ” The Black/on/black scowled, then took the offered hand and leaped.
The water’s chill seeped into Heyoka’s bones, making his bad leg ache as he waded downstream in the eel-gray dusk. He kept slipping on submerged rocks and his feet were scraped and bruised. While there was still enough light, he had used the map to plot an alternate route. Now, after passing the foot of the red-orange cliffs that marked the initial rise of the plateau above the river, he finally abandoned the stream. The cooling air carried the dry, pungent scent of low, scrubby brush that covered the ground, and he could smell the river just out of sight.
Surprise rumbled through the watching hrinn as Heyoka wavered, then recovered his balance. The torch flickered just beyond his reach in the rapidly cooling night breeze, a fierce beacon of yellow-orange so bright, he could see the afterimage when he blinked. Blood pounded in his ears in a wild rhythm which knew nothing of soft-skinned humans or their tentative ways. ” The dark-gray tossed his torch easily from hand to hand. The shadows shifted across his muzzle. ” He glided closer, each lithe movement a study in hrinnti grace and strength which Heyoka’s damaged leg would never again be able to match.