Con Version; Chapter 7, Takano 86

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Stories from the Verse
Con Version
Chapter 7:  Takano 86
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Cooper 2

A couple days later, Varlax came by her campfire.

“Torin was out with some deer hunters, and they found a track. He’d like you to take a look at it.”  Tommy shrugged, but accepted.  What she knew about tracking could be written on a three-by-five notecard, but what they knew about tracking could be written on a postage stamp.  This made her the expert.

Following Varlax and a hunter to the northeast of camp about two miles, she came upon a small dry creekbed.  Torin appeared from behind a tree, and looking up she saw the other hunters were spread out watching for threats.  He led them around the overgrown bushes in the creekbed to a small spring which trickled water out of the ground and into some soft mud.  Right there there was a paw print, three inches across.  It had an M shape on the bottom with a bit of a divot on the top, along with claws.  Very cat-like, she decided.  She had seen house cats' footprints, and this was similar, but far larger.

Looking down at it, she could imagine the large cat creature putting one foot there in the print, and lapping up the water from the tiny pool with its tongue.  Which meant the other foot would be--she climbed down into the several foot deep ravine, and pushed aside a dried fallen leaf.  A murmur of surprise and respect rang out from above her as the hunters saw another pawprint.

Crouching there, she looked about for a sign, for something like her graffiti.  She spotted nothing.  Then she imagined herself in the cat’s mind.  It had been here, drinking, and then when it was full it wanted to leave.  She looked ahead, across the shallow pool.  No, that was too thick with brush, and inconvenient.  A cat could force its way through, but why bother?

Looking to the right and left, she now saw a mark in the top of the ravine where a claw had dug in as it went toward the camp.  Following this, she saw a few broken blades of grass, and followed what she thought was the trail back around the ravine and away from the camp--but her ability to track faded as she got into shorter grasses underneath taller trees.  For some reason, the trees near the spring in the small ravine had been short.

“If I were a cat, what would I want?”

“I don’t know,” Torin said, startling her to jump.  “We’ve never met cats before.  Is this a fearsome monster?” he asked.  That’s right, again I’m the expert.  She crouched down, wrapped her arms around her knees, and thought.  Cats like high places, squeaky mice to toy with, scratching their backs, warmth.  She blinked.

This cat obviously was lost.  There were easily a hundred lakes just within a day’s hunt of their camp, plus all the myriad of rivers and streams that fed and connected them, yet this animal found an anomaly, a spring with almost no water creating not much more than a mud puddle, and drank from it.  Why would it do that?  It could be that it was afraid of something else near the water holes, but the number of large predators had been relatively low and a cat this size probably wouldn’t be put off by anything smaller than a bear, which it could easily avoid.  Possibly it was pursuing prey in this direction, and got a drink where it could, but prey was still abundant especially this far from the camp--there were still plenty of deer, and turkeys, not to mention rabbits and game birds.  No, the answer has to be that it doesn’t know where there’s more water.

That means it must be settled uphill, and came downhill seeking to slake its thirst, finding this before it found any other water source.

She looked around her.  It all looked flat.  Think, she said.  Of course it looks flat, but is it?  After all, water runs downhill, and the network of rivers and lakes must mean that the water is moving from higher ground to lower ground, no matter how slight the difference.  Focus; think.  Yes, indeed, the ground was sloping up slightly to the north.  The cat must have come from there, and probably returned to wherever it had decided to camp.

Without another word, she set out, and the hunting party trailed after her.  Twenty minutes later she came out behind a tree to see a clearing in the woods.  In the midst was a jumble of red brick in chunks that were once walls, ranging in size from single bricks to a three-story high facade with cuts for fancy windows.  Right on top of what must have been the corner of the building, three stories high, stretched out sideways, was a mountain lion.  It was asleep, enjoying the heat of the sun and rocks.

It was not remotely as tall as Vi, and it did not have six legs. It was about five feet plus a bit from nose to tip of tail.  Tommy made quiet hand gestures, and the hunting party silently turned about and headed back.  Once they were well away, she spoke.

“If Lauren were here, she might try to take it on herself.  I’m sure I can’t.”

“We’ll have a Council meeting tonight.  You’ve given us much to talk about and plan,” Torin said, and Varlax nodded, clapping her on the shoulder.  The others did as well, and she made her way back to her campfire as they veered off to tell the others.  Even if she was not sure how to handle the problem of a mountain lion that must have just moved into the area, she was glad to see the idea of the Ruling Council was working.

Next chapter:  Chapter 8:  Brown 284
Table of Contents

There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eleven other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #498:  Characters Restart.  Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.  It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.

As to the old stories that have long been here:

Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel

Old Verses New

For Better or Verse

Spy Verses

Garden of Versers

Versers Versus Versers

Re Verse All

In Verse Proportion

Con Verse Lea
Stories from the Verse Main Page

The Original Introduction to Stories from the Verse

Read the Stories

The Online Games

Books by the Author

Go to Other Links

M. J. Young Net

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