“What about the other tribes that come through the pass?” she said.
“Oh, they’ll be coming through during the next few light-periods. They’ll go even further up the beach, toward their camps. We were lucky that there weren’t other tribes waiting at the pass, since the storms lasted longer than usual.”
“Do you attack them as they pass by your stronghold?”
“Not unless we outnumber them greatly.”
Further questioning cleared up some of her ignorance about their pattern of war. Usually, the tribes avoided any full-scale battles if it was possible. Belligerence was confined to raids by individuals or parties of three to five people. These were conducted during the dark-period and were mainly by young unblooded males and sometimes by a young woman accompanied by a male. The youth had to kill a man and bring back his head as proof of his or her manhood or womanhood. The greatest credit, however, was not for a head but for a child. To steal a child and bring it back for adoption into the tribe was the highest feat possible. Nurgo himself was an adopted child. He’d been snatched not long after he’d started walking. He didn’t remember a thing about it, though he did sometimes have nightmares in which he was torn away from a woman without a face.
The caravan came to a place which looked just like the rest of the terrain to Anana. But the tribe recognized it with a cry of joy. Trenn led them into the wooded hills, and after a while they came to a hill higher than the others. Logs lay on its top and down its slope, the ruins of what had been a stockade.
The next few days were spent in fishing, gathering nuts and berries, eating, sleeping, and rebuilding the fort. Anana put some weight back on and began to feel rested. But once she had all her energy back, she became restless.
Urthona was equally fidgety. She observed him talking softly to McKay frequently. She had no doubts about the subject of their conversation, and McKay, reporting to her, gave her the details.
“Your uncle wants to take off at the first chance, But no way is he going to leave without the Horn.”
“Is he planning on taking it from me now or when he finds his palace?” she said.
“He says that we, us two, him and me, that is, would have a better chance of surviving if you was to go with us. But he says you’re so tricky you might get the upper hand on us when we sight the palace. So he can’t make up his mind yet. But he’s going to have to do it soon. Every minute passes, the palace is getting further away.”
There was a silence. McKay looked as if he was chewing something but didn’t know if he should swallow it or spit it out. After a minute, his expression changed.
“I got something to tell you.”
He paused, then said, “Urthona told you and Kickaha that this Wolff, or Jadawin, and his woman-Chryseis?-had been gated to this world. Well, that’s a lie. They somehow escaped. They’re still on Earth!”
Anana did not reply at once. McKay didn’t have to tell her this news. Why had he done so? Was it because he wanted to reassure her that he had indeed switched loyalties? Or had Urthona ordered McKay to tell her that so she would think he was betraying Urthona?
In either case, was the story true?
She sighed. All Lords, including herself, were so paranoiac that they would never be able to distinguish between reality and fantasy. Their distrust of motivation made it impossible.
She shrugged. For the moment she’d act as if she believed his story. She looked around the big tree they’d been sitting behind, and she said, “Oh, oh! Here comes my uncle, looking for us. If he sees you with me, he’ll get suspicious. You’d better take off.”
McKay crawled off into the bushes. When Urthona found her, she said, “Hello, uncle. Aren’t you supposed to be helping the fish spearers?”
“I told them I didn’t care to go fishing today. And, of course, since I’m one of the Lord’s agents, I wasn’t challenged. I could tell they didn’t like it, though.