Kybel is a tribesman of a primitive society. When he sets off on what should have been a simple hunting trip, his life is changed forever. A massive storm keeps him from returning to his people. While struggling to get home, he experiences a near fatal fall that means certain death—until he is rescued by a mysterious advanced society.
Under the care of this alien civilization, Kybel’s life is dramatically altered as he learns of technology, philosophy, and a modern way of life that he never dreamed existed. Upon returning to his own people, though, he faces a difficult choice. Does he stay with his tribe and teach them all he has learned, or does he choose a different path?
He feels pulled to return to the advanced civilization that not only saved him but now also feels like home, partially due to the woman he has come to love. Unknown to him, his decisions will soon bring him face to face with the greatest challenge of his life: a fight against an alien race that threatens to destroy all he cares about, in this world and others.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.77(d)|
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By Mary E. Williams
iUniverseCopyright © 2016 Mary E. Williams
All rights reserved.
Kybel was a young man in the ways of his people. He was trying hard to impress the elders of his tribe. This morning Kybel was taking his turn hunting for food.
Taking the path down the mountain from his Uplands village, he paused before making his way to the flats below.
He looked down upon the flats from the high ledge where he lay in watch of game. The world looked immense and awe-inspiring. Below were large green patches of huge fern-like trees and open plains of flowing grass where many creatures, large and small, fed each day. Far to the northeast was a large blue blotch that provided water for the animals.
The wind blew through Kybel's long, dark brown hair. Today it was not cold enough to require more than his thin, sleeveless, jerkin and his soft, suede leggings.
Kybel began a slow descent to the lower lands, being careful to make as little noise as possible. A large creature that his people called the hapru was often seen at this level of the mountain. It walked upright just like men. It had hair, golden to dark brown, covering its body. The hapru was not a killer, but legend tells that it had killed out of fear. Considering the size and strength of the creature, it was best not to frighten it.
Often the elders told stories at night around the tribal fires of encounters with the hapru. The stories were of men having come very close to communicating with this creature. Though the hapru seemed to have a language of their own, both past and present generations had been unable to master their so-called speech. Usually, an encounter with the hapru ended in a hasty retreat by the giant beings, leaving little opportunity for attempted conversation.
Old tales told of hapru giving aid to Uplanders after they had been attacked by wild creatures or nomadic tribes. It had not happened in Kybel's lifetime.
Yet, there had been one incident when Kybel was very small, that might have been a tribal encounter with the hapru. A tribesman had fallen from the face of the cliff, not far from the spot where Kybel now stood. The man was later found unconscious, near the fire circle. When he revived, he could not remember how he had come there, but some unusual tracks to and from the spot where he lay looked much like those of the elusive creature.
Since the beginning of all life, to Kybel's knowledge, his people had never deliberately harmed the hapru. The tribe believed them to be a special race. To harm them would be punishable by the tribal law as sent down to the Elders by their God Ta'law.
A narrow winding trail that led from the ledge where he sat earlier gave easy access to the valley floor. Sometimes the ground was a bit uncomfortable to his feet, due to the soft soles of the leather boots he wore.
The sun shone on his deeply tanned skin and sparkled from his dark green eyes. The sight of how handsome her son had grown would have made his mother happy.
He stole quietly down the mountainside on his way to the flats. The skies were clear and blue overhead, but in the distance farther west Kybel noticed the gathering storm clouds. It was evident he needed to finish his hunt as quickly as possible and it meant he must accept whatever game he first sighted and hurry back.
"There will be no impressing the elders today," he told himself drearily. Storms on the flats could be dangerous. Extreme temperature changes and flash floods often occurred at this season.
The waters plummeted down the mountains that surrounded the flats, filling the washes, and the lower, deeper land areas on the plains. Men had died out there during severe storms. Some had drowned or were washed away in a sudden flash of flood waters. Others had been trapped on islands of higher ground for so long that they had starved to death. There were those who had even died by freezing from the terrible cold after an onslaught.
Kybel had come to a place in the mountain trail where he felt free to move with less care, more speed, and assurance. His concerns about the hapru were no longer necessary, for they seldom came this close to the valley floor.
After a great deal of walking, he came to the flats and the waist deep flowing grass. He kept a steady pace as he watched for large game.
Ahead he could see a patch of tall grass that looked as if it had been disturbed. How long had it been since the creature had passed?
Several minutes passed when he came to a wide meadow. He entered the open ground cautiously, afraid that the beast might come charging from the grove of trees or tall grass at the edge of the clearing.
Keeping a low profile, he crept with stealth out into the open. Tracks came into his line of vision. Tracks he didn't expect to see. He could not believe his eyes. The tracks appeared to be those of the nidu. Often, he had seen the gleaming black hooves that hung from the cave entrance of Alman, the high elder. He had only seen a nidu once in his lifetime.
After a terrible draught, a few families from his tribe had volunteered to go north to find food as the flats could no longer support enough game to feed the tribe. Weeks passed, when they finally returned carrying several carcasses of their hunt, the nidu being one among them.
Food and game had become plentiful these past five years. Still his memories of that time caused him sorrow. By the time the food gatherers had returned to the tribe, many older, weaker people and the very young had died of malnutrition. Among the healthier, young adults many were ill and suffering.
The returning tribesmen had told them of a land of plenty and beauty. There, the nidu roamed in abundance, north of the big blue waters far away.
Even when the drought let up, there was at terrible toll on the land. Some birds and small game had returned, but it would be a long time before the lowlands would supply enough grass and water for the herd beast and larger game.
The tribal leaders and the older members of the tribe made the decision to divide the people into two groups to ensure their survival. Those who were of younger, healthier households, along with three of the nine elders, had been chosen to return to the land of the nidu. Those households with members that were too old, too sick, or too young to care for themselves would stay behind. With fewer people remaining in the Uplands, there would be enough game on the flats for the smaller tribe.
Kybel had wanted very much to go, but he was the sole provider for his grandfather Upa, and younger sister Rhea.
Kybel's mother died a short time after his sister's birth. She had never quite recovered from the birthing ordeal and became weaker and sicker till her death about six months later. His father died three and a half years later from a wound he received when he was attacked by an animal while hunting. This left Kybel to care for Rhea and Upa. Upa was getting old and too feeble to hunt or work. Rhea was just a child of eleven summers.
"What is it that has brought the nidu so far from its territory?" he wondered, speaking his thought aloud. Kybel followed the tracks that went to the edge of the clearing, into the brush and trees.
He stopped suddenly. He thought he had heard something. Kybel kneeled and pressed his ear to the soil. Hooves. It was the sound of hooves.
Kybel's heart began to beat more wildly. He increased his speed, and picked what he figured was a short cut and hoped his choice would let him cut off the beast in its path.
The trail of the animal never came in sight. Had he lost it? He chided himself. Maybe he should have been listening more often. He pressed his ear to the ground once more. However, he found it impossible to hear over his laboring heart and lungs.
Just a moment later he could hear beating hooves again. They seemed far away. Had the creature gotten too far ahead of him? The weight of disappointment struck him.
"No, I will catch this beast!"
The sound was definitely northeast of him. He set out immediately in that direction, running down a trail as he followed his prey.
A bit further on he discovered some fresh animal droppings. He broke one open and could feel the body warmth from the animal. It could not be too far ahead, he thought.
Now he might have a chance to catch up to it, if only his strength held out. He was beginning to tire. His urgency to succeed, to be worthy to the elders, had wiped out his reasoning and logic.
He pushed on feeling exhaustion creep over him, deciding to rest for a moment and survey where he was. He dropped beneath a large tree. He had just come through a large stand of trees, larger than he remembered having ever seen before. The range was covered with short yellowish green grass and was dotted with small groups of trees as far as the eyes could see. There was a strange hill and another forested area north and east. He knew he had never been this far from home. Fear gripped his breath.
"No, no, I've come too far from Uplands. I've probably already lost the nidu by now!" he exclaimed in frustration.
It would have been fantastic to have returned to his people with that magnificent kill, but now he felt discouraged. He thought he heard something. There it was again. Yes, far away.
"Probably too far away," he sighed again.
Every inch of his body ached and throbbed. His legs felt as weak as a newborn baby. His energy was gone. Could he have heard the sound of hooves again? Pressing his ear tightly to the ground, he listened for a long time closing his eyes.
Sometime later he awoke to a cold splash of rain in his face. In his great exhaustion he had slept! It was drizzling. Storm clouds had begun to move in from the and it was quickly closing in. Soon the heavy rain would start.
It was time to turn homeward. He stood up, preparing to journey back. He stretched himself. The rain felt good on his face and his body, washing away the grime and sweat.
As he headed back, the storm became stronger. The drizzle became a downpour, and the winds began to pick up. A feeling of failure crept over him.
It was at that moment, that movement near him caught his eye.
"The nidu," Kybel declared with certainty. Gazing in the direction, he could see the dark figure of the animal close to some trees, about a hundred yards away. The pouring rain made it difficult.
Cautiously he moved toward the animal, moving as fast as he could. Too fast. He lost his footing and fell into the mud with a resounding plop.
The nidu bolted and disappeared into the trees some way ahead. Kybel followed and came into the wooded area. The animal hid itself.
Walking lightly and quietly through the brush, his strangle cord and his stone knife in his hands, he was ready for the kill. The nidu was so close now he could hear its breath. When he came in range of his objective it was off and running again. He pounced, this time tripping over a fallen log in some dense fern growth.
Kybel jumped up, keeping his eyes on the nidu as it made its exit out of the forested area. It was going east toward a low hill in the distance. He chased after the creature barely keeping it in sight.
Running up the slope of the hill, he found the ground was covered in rough loose stones making the climb exhausting and treacherous. The nidu seemed to have run out of strength too. The beast stood part way up the hill, as if waiting for the kill. It was just a little further on, only a few yards ahead.
Kybel began to climb the hill, slipping often as the rain pounded down on him.
"Ouch!" He fell, hurting himself. Stones cut into his flesh. They stuck to his hand when he lifted it to examine his injured palm and wrist. They reminded him of the cinders found in the fire pit.
Looking above him, he could see that the nidu had gone farther up the hill. He put away his knife and pulled his slingshot from his pouch. He needed a heavy stone. It appeared as if all of the nearby stones were the lightweight cinder rocks.
Moving toward the south side of the hill, Kybel kept the nidu in his sight as he headed to a small outcropping of different rock. He grabbed a heavy stone, placed it in his slingshot as he climbed above the nidu.
The nidu had only moved a few feet farther away. He wondered why it did not run. It had had no problem getting to this place. Or was he wrong?
Lightning blazed across the sky, and the wind and thunder made an almost unending noise. He edged his way down the slope toward the animal, taking care not to slip and fall.
As the lightning flared again, he caught a glimpse of the animal's foreleg and shoulder. It was bleeding profusely. The nidu must have fallen without Kybel having seen it. He must kill the creature now to end its suffering.
It seemed to wait, anticipating the final moment. Yet its natural fear made it move away slightly each time Kybel came a bit closer.
This must be a clean kill, for the nidu is a worthy prey. With the raging winds, he knew he must get in close and aim carefully. The animal did not move. Kybel crept close to the animal with care. He was soaked to the skin as he made his final move. By the will of Ta'law, the wind and the rain died down temporarily. He took careful aim and swung his slingshot. The animal barely moved for the stone had penetrated right between the eyes. It was done.
Kybel climbed down to it trembling with excitement and cold. Taking out his stone knife he cut the throat of the nidu to allow the blood to drain and made sure the body of the animal was uphill from its head.
He sat by his prey in the rain. Despite the downpour, he opened his waist pouch and took out some dried fruit and meat. In the excitement of the hunt, he had forgotten food. Now that it was over, his hunger became overwhelming, along with his exhaustion. He felt as if he wanted to lie down and sleep.
His knowledge as a hunter told him he must find a place to stash the animal until morning, or it would be eaten by night predators. It was necessary to do it soon or contend for it; yes, fight. The night animals would smell the fresh blood and move in.
Kybel finished off his meal. Looking about the base of the hill, he hoped to discover a hole, or a crevice, where he could place the nidu. This would make it easier to cover it until morning.
The storm appeared to be letting up, but he knew this was not true. In the west, thunder and lightning were strong, and seemed to be moving closer every moment.
Finally, after diligently searching, he found a deep hole. It was so dark inside that he could not see into its depths. Kybel knew what he needed was a torch so he could find out how deep it was.
He searched further and found a branch, covered by a cinder rock slide that was dry enough to burn. Taking some dried leaves from the branch, he made a pile. He produced some animal fat, wrapped in hide, from his belt pouch and rubbed this on the branch. Then bringing out pieces of fire stone, he repeatedly struck them into the dried leaves. After much persistence, a small fire blazed to life. From this he lighted the tallow covered branch.
Before Kybel entered the hole, he went back to check on the nidu. It was still there. The rain had discouraged the advance of scavengers. It was just a matter of time though before their growing hunger brought them out.
He went down into the unknown darkness of the deep hole. It was apparent that the hole was a cave. Angling back into the hill, he found it was much colder. Ahead of him the light danced off a glistening surface. When touched the crystal covered walls, he discovered that it was truly ice.
"Ice!" he thought, "The nidu would be well protected. There was no sign of anything having ever lived here."
With the last of his energy, he dragged the animal down the cinder hill and down into the cave.
After placing the nidu deep in the cave, he made his way back out. As he left the cave, he noticed the darkness around him was not just due to the storm. Night had come. The storm was increasing. The wind and rain were getting worse. Thunder and lightning surrounded him.
Kybel chopped down a good sized bush with his knife. He wedged this into the low opening of the cave and secured it tightly with a pile of cinder rock at its foot.
Where was he going to find shelter for the night? The cave would have been far too cold. Where then?
Feeling somewhat frightened and alone, Kybel started looking around for a warmer spot, where he could take cover from the storm. It was too late to return to Uplands. He would probably become hopelessly lost in the attempt.
Taking his torch, he headed into the trees he'd come through earlier. He looked about and found the fallen log he had tripped over. He leaned it against a large tree and piled fern branches around it to construct a fair shelter of sorts. He crawled inside and fell asleep. He hoped the gallant nidu would be all right.
Excerpted from Kybel's World by Mary E. Williams. Copyright © 2016 Mary E. Williams. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
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