WHEN KICK AH A RODE out of the woods, he had expected the people chasing Anana to be far ahead of him. He was surprised when he saw them only a hundred yards away. Most of them were dismounted and standing on the shore or in the water, yelling and gesticulating at something out in the sea.
Neither Anana nor McKay were in sight.
The discreet thing to do was to turn the hikwu as quickly as possible and take off in the opposite direction. However, the only reason for the strangers-whome he instantly identified as Amerinds-halting and making such a fuss here was that their quarry had taken to the sea. He couldn’t see them, but they couldn’t be too far out. And his tribe, the Thana, couldn’t be very far behind him.
So, repressing a warcry, he rode up and launched a boomerang at the gray-headed, red-eyed man sitting on his hikwu. Before the heavy wooden weapon struck the man on the side of the head and knocked him off his seat, Kickaha had transferred the spear from his left hand to his right. By then the few mounted warriors were aware of his presence. They wheeled their beasts, but one, another gray-haired man, didn’t complete the turn in time to avoid Kickaha. His spear drove into the man’s throat; the man fell backward; Kickaha jerked it out of the flesh, reversed it, and, using the shaft as a club, slammed it alongside the head of a warrior running to his merk.
Having run past all the men, he halted his beast, turned it, and charged again. This time he didn’t go through the main body but skirted them, charging between them and the woods. A man threw a boomerang; Kickaha ducked; it whirred by, one tip just missing his shoulder. Crouched down, holding the shaft of the spear between his arm and body, Kickaha drove its tip into the back of a man who’d just gotten onto his animal but was having trouble controlling it. The man pitched forward and over the shoulder of his hikwu. Kickaha yanked the spear out as the man disappeared from his beast.
By then the first of the Thana had showed up, and the melee started.
It should have been short work. The Amerinds were outnumbered and demoralized, caught, if not with their pants down, on foot, which was the same thing to them. But just as the last five were fighting furiously, though hopelessly, more whoops and yells were added to the din.
Kickaha looked up and swore. Here came a big body of more Amerinds, enough to outnumber the Thana. Within about eighty seconds, they’d be charging into his group.
He rose on his stirrups and looked out across the waves. At first, he couldn’t see anything except a few amphibians. Then he saw a head and arms splashing the water. A few seconds later, he located a second swimmer.
He looked down the beach. A number of riderless hikwu had bolted when he’d burst among them, and three were standing at the edge of the forest, tearing off branches. Their first loyalty was to themselves, that is, their bellies.
Speaking of loyalties, what was his? Did he owe the Thana anything? No, not really. It was true that they’d initiated him, made him a sort of blood brother. But his only choice then was to submit or die, which wasn’t a real choice. So, he didn’t owe his tribe anything.
Still standing up in the stirrups, he waved his spear at the two heads in the waves. A white arm came up and gestured at him. Anana’s, no doubt of that. He used the spear to indicate that she should angle to a spot further down the beach. Immediately, she and McKay obeyed.
Good. They would come out of the water some distance from the fight and would be able to grab two of the browsing moosoids. But it would take them some time to do so, and before then the Amerinds might have won. So, it was up to him to attempt to give Anana the needed time.
Yelling, he urged his hikwu into a gallop. His spear drove deep into the neck of a redskin who had just knocked a Thana off his saddle with a big club. Once more, Kickaha jerked the spear loose. He swore. The flint point had come off of the wood. Never mind. He rammed its blunt end into the back of the head of another Indian, stunning him enough so that his antagonist could shove his spear into the man’s belly.