Children of the Dawnland
A DEEP, AGONIZING GROAN trembled the air, and Old Mother tern tipped her wings to dive closer to the Ice Giants. Below her, glaciers stretched for as far as she could see. In places, the ice had broken and cracked, forming great dark canyons where she could see no bottom. In other places, massive blocks of blue ice resembling jagged mountain ranges thrust up so high they raked the bellies of the Cloud People.
Another groan erupted, followed by softer whimpers, and she tilted her white wings and headed south.
Old Mother's flock regularly flew great distances. She had seen much of the world in her forty summers, andknew something was changing. The air and oceans were growing warmer. Flowers were blooming earlier in the spring, and the short-faced bears were waking up from their winter slumbers earlier. Even more disturbing, in just her lifetime the size of the meltwater lake to the south of the glacierswhere her flock nestedhad almost doubled. Once, she had tried to find the far western shore of the lake. She'd flown for twenty days straight, and never found it. The lake seemed to go on forever. Every summer, the water rose and forced her people to build their nests farther and farther south.
Unfortunately, that had not stopped the humans from hunting them.
That was her mission today. She was scouting for human hunters.
She flapped her wings harder and flew out over the vast blue lake. Icebergs the size of small mountains floated in the water, bobbing and twisting, and far to the south, she saw the smoke from the human campfires. It rose into the cold air and created a gray smear over the treeless tundra. Old Mother tilted her tail and angled down toward the village.
The humans made strange nests. She had watched them erect the wooden pole frames and cover them with mammoth or buffalo hides, and wondered how such nests could ever be safe for their children. When a fox attacked a tern nest, the fledglings could leap up and run in less than a heartbeat. Human children, on the other hand, could be cornered in their hide nests and slaughtered. Shehad seen that happen, for all was not well in the world of humans. They seemed to be constantly at war with one another, and they
Old Mother's eyes widened. Far below her, she saw a line of children walking toward the lakeshore, in the direction of her flock's nesting area.
Her heart raced. She soared down for a closer look. Each child carried a hide bag. In terror, she let out a high-pitched squeal to warn the rest of the flock, and dove straight for the last child in linea boy with a dog trotting at his side.
Copyright © 2009 by Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear Reader's guide copyright © 2009 by Tor Books