A wild-eyed woman, filthy and panting, stumbled out of the bushes and fell to her knees.
Extending her hands, she thrust a swaddled, blue-haired baby at Unn, as if to say, ‘take it’.
Startled, Unn faltered back. Not knowing what to do, he bared his teeth, extending the butt-end of his staff between them, and waited.
He’d never seen anyone like her before, especially not on the Great Spirit Mountain; a mountain he’d climbed since he was a youngling.
Crying and pleading, the woman lurched forward again, obviously distressed or deranged; Unn wasn’t sure which.
Her words made no sense, but her body language sent chills through him, and the hair on the back of his neck prickled. Trembling, still aiming his staff at the woman, Unn stepped back, not wanting any part of this encounter.
Attuned to primal ways, the stench of her fear assaulted him. It was overpowering, and now Unn’s senses were heightened to a disturbance from the path below.
Tears of desperation streaked down her knotted face as she too heard the rustle of bushes behind her.
Unn shook his head and held his hand up to indicate to her that he didn’t want her child. Suddenly an arrow hissed through the air and pierced her.
Dazed for a moment, Unn stood motionless, but when she started to flop over, he leaped to her, scooping the baby from her arms, and ran.
It wasn’t long before he heard footsteps in pursuit behind him.
Looking up the worn path, Unn knew the ground was wet from the rains and his tracks could easily be followed. He also knew that the path led to a dead-end at the top of the mountain.
Looking out to the thick mountain forest, Unn shuddered at the thought of leaving his well-worn path, well aware of the dangers that lurked.
Another arrow screeched by his head, almost piercing him as it had the woman. The hunters called out, yelling in the woman’s tongue, but to Unn it meant nothing. He made a quick decision and leaped into the bushes.
The forest quickly grew dark and thick, but soon the hunters’ voices grew faint, and Unn knew if he kept running, he’d be safe–at least from the hunters.
Questions raced through his mind. He’d never seen hair the color of the sea on a child and didn’t know of their Clan. Should he raise him as his own or try to find the child’s people?
Finally, deep enough into the forest, Unn stopped running to catch his breath. An old man already, Unn was used to trekking, but it was usually at a much slower pace.
Wailing now, the blue-haired child fussed under the tattered cloth.
Moving some cloth aside, Unn saw an odd, red rune in the baby’s hand. It was shiny and barely fit in the small child’s fist. About to pluck it from the baby’s grasp, it suddenly lit up as if a fire burned inside of it.
Feeling an intense heat, Unn yanked his hand away from the rune. That’s when he heard the branch crack behind him and saw the colossal shadow looming above.
Turning, Unn dropped his staff in fright and called out to the Great Mother.
Towering over them was a massive cave bear, reared up and ready to strike.