Year 2, Day 324

It’s now my fourth day of searching, and I still have not found them. I did see a band yesterday—not the people I am looking for, but their ornaments were similar. I thought it over last night and most of today, and decided to contact them. Cautiously. I hid where I could hear them speaking, enough to know they spoke the language I learned from Songbird, and who knew? They might have been at the gather, and be able to tell me where I should look.

Their camp was by a water hole, and I walked in with my hands spread, just before sunset, ready to teleport away at any sign they were hostile—I had not forgotten those others! “Greetings,” I said carefully. “Do you know of the band that has a child called Songbird?”

They looked at each other and the men, their ribs painfully obvious, took a tighter grasp on their spears.

“They call their shaman Storm Cloud,” I went on, and one of the men took off at a run for the center of the camp. The others continued to surround me, their spears held at the ready, but their expressions were more of fear and concern than of hostility. I found myself hoping the fear did not escalate to panic—I didn’t really want to teleport back to the shelter.

The man who had run off returned, accompanied by a panting man whose halo of gray hair was surmounted by something similar to the headdress Storm Cloud wore when she was acting in her capacity as shaman. The headdress was somewhat askew, which made me doubt that he wore it on other than ceremonial occasions.

“Great God Jarn,” he gasped, “forgive us for using your sacred knowledge to keep ourselves fed, but Storm Cloud said the knowledge was to be shared.” And he fell on his face before me. The men with the spears gave me a horrified look and backed away.

Do not interfere. To the hells with that! These people were hungry, and if any knowledge I had shared would prevent that, good!

“It was to be shared,” I said. “And I am pleased if you can use it.” What knowledge was he talking about?

As he led me into their camp, my nose provided the answer. Fish. The band I know had shared their knowledge of the fish traps, and given that game was scarce on the ground, the additional food source had been a boon to this band.

Not enough to make up for the lack of rain, I thought, given that the water hole was small. Could Patches and I drive one of the half-starved antelope I had seen toward them? Not today, perhaps, for it was already getting dark, but in the morning? But “Great God!” How am I to convince them I am merely a castaway?

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