Urthona opened his mouth as if to protest. Then he smiled, and said, “I doubt it. See.” He pointed up the slope.
She didn’t look at once. He might be trying to get her to turn her head and thus give him a chance to attack.
McKay’s expression, however, indicated that her uncle was pointing at something worth looking at. Or had he arranged beforehand that McKay would pretend to do such if an occasion arose for it?
She turned the beast quickly and moved several yards away. Then she looked away.
From the top of the slope down to the beach was a wide avenue, carpeted by the rust-colored grass. It wasn’t a manmade path; nature, or, rather, Urthona, had designed it. It gave her an unobstructed view of the tiny figures just emerging from the pass. Men on moosoids. Behind them, women and children and more beasts.
Another tribe was entering the sea-land.
“LET’S SPLIT!” McKay said.
Anana said, “You can if you want to. I’m going to see if Kickaha is with them. Maybe he was captured by them.”
Urthona bit his lip. He looked at the black man, then at his niece. Apparently, he decided that now was no time to try to kill her. He said, “Very well. What do you intend to do? Ride up to them and ask if you can check them out?”
Anana said, “Don’t be sarcastic, uncle. We’ll hide in the woods and watch them.”
She urged her gregg into the trees. The others followed her, but she made sure that they did not get too close to her back. When she got to a hill which gave a good view through the trees, she halted. Urthona directed his beast toward her, but she said, “Keep your distance, uncle!”
He smiled, and stopped his moosoid below her. All three sat on their grewigg for a while, then, tiring of waiting, got off.
“It’ll be an hour before they get here,” Urthona said. “And what if those savages turn right? We’ll be between the Wendow and this tribe. Caught.”
“If Kickaha isn’t among them,” she said. “I intend to go up the pass after they go by and look for him. I don’t care what you want to do. You can go on.”
McKay grinned. Urthona grunted. All three understood that as long as she had the Horn they would stay together.
The grewigg seized bushes and low treelimbs with their teeth, tore them off, and ground the leaves to pulp. Their empty bellies rumbled as the food passed toward their big bellies. The flies gathered above beasts and humans and settled over them. The big green insects were not as numerous here as on the plains, but there were enough to irritate the three. Since they had not as yet attained the indifference of the natives, their hands and heads and shoulders were in continuous motion, batting, jerking, shrugging.
Then they were free of the devils for a while. A dozen little birds, blue with white breasts, equipped with wide flat almost duckish beaks, swooped down. They swirled around the people and the beasts, catching the insects, gulping them down, narrowly averting aerial collisions in their circles. They came very close to the three, several times brushing them with the woods. In two minutes those flies not eaten had winged off for less dangerous parts.
“I’m glad I invented those birds,” Urthona said. “But if I’d known I was going to be in this situation, I’d never have made the flies.”
“Lord of the flies,” Anana said. “Beezlebub is thy name.”
Urthona said, “What?” Then he smiled. “Ah, yes, now I remember.”
Anana would have liked to climb a tree so she could get a better view. But she didn’t want her uncle to take her gregg and leave her stranded. Even if he didn’t do that, she’d be at a disadvantage when she got down out of the tree.
After an almost unendurable wait for her, since it was possible, though not very probable, that Kickaha could be coming along, the vanguard came into sight. Soon dark men wearing feathered head-dresses rode by. They carried the same weapons and wore the same type of clothes as the Wendow. Around their necks, suspended by cords, were the bones of human fingers. A big man held aloft a pole on which was a lion skull. Since he was the only one to have such a standard, and he rode in the lead, he must be the chief.