A PURE, low, demented cry tore the fabric of the night. It was a blind, inhuman sound, terrible and brief.
The six people in the log cabin looked up simultaneously; at each other, at the window, at the door. Their pulses jumped, pupils dilated, hairs stood erect – all adrenaline-heavy, atavistic.
"What in God's name was that?" said Mother.
Father stood up and checked the latch on the front door, made sure it was secure. "Wolf, most likely," he muttered. He peered out the window into the night. "Don't see nothin."
"I'm afraid, Mommy." The little boy looked up from the floor where he'd been playing. A menagerie of tiny carved wooden animals surrounded him.
His mother looked relieved to have her own thoughts pulled back to their quotidian domain. "There's nothing to be afraid of, Ollie. Just an old coyote." Then, with a hint of loving sternness: "Now put away your toys and get ready for bed."
This seemed to break the tension that had formed, like thin ice, over the room. Ollie gathered up his little wood carvings and went into the other room to get undressed. Father walked from the window over to the fireplace full of glowing coals and peat. He warmed his hands, then unhooked the kettle that was hanging there and poured himself a cup of hot water. "Anybody want some tea?" he asked.
He warmed his hands, then unhooked the kettle that was hanging there and poured himself a cup of hot water. "Anybody want some tea?" he asked
Mother shook her head. Dicey didn't answer. Dicey was sixteen years old, a child bride. Joshua, her love, had been gone hunting for two days now. It might have been two centuries. Every noise, every change of wind, signaled his danger in her heart. This animal sound riveted her face to the door and masked all other sounds, including the sound of conversation.
Old Uncle Jack, Dicey's father, rose slowly from his rocker, walked three steps across the room, picked the heavy rifle out of the corner where it leaned, and examined it. Rusting old single-action; sometimes it fired and sometimes it didn't. He checked the load, fiddled with the action. "Mebbe go wolf-huntin' in the morning," he mumbled. Wolves were familiar dangers, almost old friends. Uncle Jack spit into the fireplace. The spittle cracked and jumped.
Even Grandma finally lowered her eyes from the window, went back to her needlework. She was a suspicious, unyielding old lady, many hardships old. She lowered her eyes, now, but never her guard. The lines of age that furrowed her face were both price paid and prize won.
"Help your cousin get ready for bed, Dicey." Mother spoke quietly, trying to give the girl something to do besides brood over dark fantasies.
Dicey went into the other room to help Ollie wash up. She found him sitting on the end of the bed, staring out the back window into the impenetrable blackness.
"What do you see?" she asked him.
"Think Josh is okay?" he whispered without looking up.
"Of course he is. Why wouldn't he be?" she snapped. She was angry with the young boy for voicing her own fear. What if the Word heard?
"He promised he'd read to me when he came home."
Dicey softened. It wasn't Ollie's fault her beloved was late. "I'll read to you," she stroked the back of the youngster's head. "Get in your jams real fast and I'll read to you until bedtime. I‟ll read The Magic Pencil." That was his favorite story. In no time he was scaring up his bedclothes.
The cabin gradually resumed its rhythm. The reading, the sewing, the tinkering. Dicey murmured softly to her young cousin, who was nodding off to sleep before the dwindling embers. An ancient oil painting of sailors and nets hung over the fireplace. On the mantel was an old family sword, from the War; some clay figurines; a chipped vase full of dried flowers. A bowl of fruit occupied the center of the table. Colorful crocheted rugs patched over the floor; Grandma's quilt lay on a bed. The fading fire, gray smoke drifting up the flue.
Once more, the unholy moan outside, much closer now. Not like a wolf. Like a nightmare.
Once more, the unholy moan outside, much closer now. Not like a wolf. Like a nightmare.
They all looked up again, six heads in unison, as if on the same string, a string of fear. This time no one looked away from the door. Jack stood up and started toward the rifle. "Father…" began Dicey. And then it happened.
The entire door burst into the room, torn from hinges and lock, and three creatures thundered in bellowing. The first was a Griffin – body of a lion, head and wings of a huge eagle. It screeched insanely; half-flew, half-pounced on Jack before he could raise his gun, and gored his belly open with its razor talons, screaming again in chilling triumph. Griffins hated even the smell of Humans.
On the heels of the Griffin came a creature so deformed and depraved it had never had, nor ever would, a name. Its scaly face had one eye, misplaced, and no nose, and a mouth that could not contain the fat tongue that hung like a piece of meat down the chin, draining foul-smelling matter. Its sex was out. It hated all living things.
While the Griffin was killing Jack, this other Thing crushed the father's head with a single blow. It was about to abuse the terrified mother when the third creature entered and snapped his fingers. The Thing turned briefly, snarled, stopped what it was about to do, and merely killed the mother. Then it grabbed up the two children, Dicey and Ollie, in its powerful arms, and carried them off into the night. The Griffin tore out the heart of the old grandmother, shrieked, and flew off.
The third creature stood in the doorway, surveying the carnage. Three dead, one disemboweled and dying, two abducted. He smiled. He was tall; handsome, in a thin, dark way. His hair was black, and white fangs protruded down over his lower lip. Two great, spoked, brown leathern wings completely enfolded his spindly body. He was a Vampire.
He walked over to the body of the dead woman, knelt, and sank his teeth into her neck. He finished quickly. When he was done, he licked his lips, licked her neck once more, licked his lips one last time, and walked out of the cabin.
When he'd walked five or six feet, and was clear of the portico, he opened his huge webbed wings and flew.
IT was a clear, bright day. The sky showed brilliant, cloudless blue all the way to the horizon in the west, and though the air was still brisk, intimations of spring were everywhere: a V of migrating ducks appeared overhead, the arrow of their formation pointing, like a collective thought, to their destination; the creek that laced over Cachagua Pass was now a stream; fruit trees were suggesting buds.
At the edge of the orchard, two starlings fought over a seed, then hopped up into a high branch as two people approached. Joshua and Rose walked slowly into the clearing.
Joshua was a good-looking young man of twenty-seven summers. Strong, weathered features were set off by placid, blue-green eyes; a gently curving nose came down to a firm, straight mouth. He had the body of an outdoorsman, all lean and no fat; yet there was something soft about it as well, or tender. His whole manner and being, in fact, suggested opposites, hence complexity, consequently depth. Too, he was a quiet man.
His dark hair hung down to his shoulders in soft curls, though frequently – especially when he hunted – he wore it in a ponytail, tied with a length of thong. His chest was bare, his pants were soft, worn leather. He wore high rawhide mountain boots. On his beautiful embroidered belt hung two knives, throwing knives. Stuck in the top of his left boot was a third, for infighting.
And finally, nested into the top of Joshua’s right boot was a quill pen, for he was not only a hunter, but a Scribe.
Rose, the woman he walked with, was his friend and the wife of his best friend. She carried her simple, southern good looks naturally, without burden or taunt. Her grace seemed to come from the earth; and now that the earth was coming alive, Rose was blooming.
Her long black hair fell to her hips over her Lincoln green shift. Tied decoratively into her locks were two beautiful feathers, wing feathers from matched falcons she’d had as a child. She’d set the birds free when she realized it was better to be falcon than falconer; she kept the feathers as reminders of this truth.
Joshua had slept in their barn the previous night, on his way home from a two-day hunting trip.
“I’ll leave you the rabbit, I’ll take the squirrel,” he told her as they stood at the end of the orchard. A squirrel and a rabbit is what constituted good hunting at that time: the woods and fields were played out. Most of the game had moved south in recent years, and Josh found himself having to trek farther afield to catch anything at all.
Rose knew it was a hardship to spare the meager game; but they were friends, and gifts could not be easily refused. So in return she offered to read his eyes: she was a seer, and for some a healer as well.
She sat him on a large rock at the end of the grove and had him fix his vision on a point down the hill, had him stare past all the rolling grassland, the twisting brook and bushy briar, to fixate on a craggy stone formation a hundred yards away, to keep his eyes from moving. She stared intently at his pale blue left iris.
“When was the last time I read you?” she asked as she studied the pigment in his eye.
“Maybe a year ago,” Joshua shrugged.
“That’s too long. You’ve got a lot of changes here. There’s a lot that wasn’t here last time.”
He pursed his lips. A bird of some kind flew past his field of vision, but he forced himself not to look, even though it might have been an omen.
Rose said, “You’ve lost something lately, something important. But you’ll find it again.” She brought her face closer to his. “What have you lost?” she asked.
“Nothing I can think of.”
She ignored his response and continued. “I see a long hunt coming up.” She frowned. “You’ll almost die, and then…” She stared deeply past his iris, through his lens, into the dark of his eye. “And then you will die.” Her face knotted; her vision swam in his thick future. “You’ll die by water,” she went on, “you’ll drown. But then, I can’t see how, but clearly, there – you will live again.” She sat up. He looked at her questioningly. She shook her head: “I cannot see deeper.”
The leaves whispered secrets in the trees as a cool wind swelled, then dwindled. Joshua didn’t disbelieve a word of what Rose told him; he’d never known her to be wrong for him. It was a strange reading, though, strange and upsetting, not like her usual readings. Joshua couldn’t fathom it.
“What should I do?” he asked.
She looked perplexed. “Let me give you some herbs I’ve got in the cellar. They have healing properties that might be of some use on a long hunt. Take them when you tire.”
He nodded. He admired her knowledge. He himself could read and write, of course, and there were some who regarded that as potent magic. Black magic, even. But Rose’s medicine was as potent as any Josh had ever known.
“You anxious to see Dicey again?” she asked. Dicey was his young lover, his dear cousin, his new bride.
He smiled, knowing Rose had lain alone herself for the past ten nights. “Where is that husband of yours?”
She laughed in return. “Should be back anytime now. Seed sellers’ convention in Port Fresno was over yesterday morning.” She walked a few steps into the orchard, picked a small nut off the ground, tried to crack it on a tree. It wouldn’t crack. Josh tried to take it from her, but she hid it behind her back, giggling. He just shook his head at her. So often when she wasn’t a wise woman, she was a young girl.
They walked along a peaceful path between two straight rows of young pear trees. The sun filtered through the thin leaves and landed in fuzzy patches on the ground, where it mottled last year’s dead flowers, broken twigs, cicada shells. The whole sweet world, at that moment, was serene. Ponies pranced in the distance, too far away to be heard. They appeared over the farthest hill, whose loamy slope, on the nether side, met the sea.
“Looks like they’re in love,” said Rose. They both got quiet again, as their thoughts drifted over their own loves.
Rose headed out of the orchard, drawing her buck knife out of her belt as she walked, to pry open the nut she was still holding. Joshua watched the starlings in the upper branches. They apparently decided they weren’t ever going to make it back to the seed they were after, so they flew away. Rose broke open her nut and gave half the meat to Joshua.
They chewed meditatively, feeling very close.
“Love,” mused Josh.
“Love’s the gravity of the soul,” she smiled.
“You mean no matter how high it flies it always comes down?” he teased. “Or do you mean it pulls apples from the tree of life and knocks you on the head till you see stars?”
She threw a flower at him in feigned annoyance. “I mean it pulls spirits together.”
“Ahh,” he bowed. “Like heavenly bodies.”
A blush filled her cheek. She had been Joshua’s lover before the Race War. The time held many warm memories for them both, but by tacit agreement they never discussed it. Not since Rose had married.
She took his hand, squeezed it. “You’re dear to me, you know. You and Beauty both. I sometimes feel as if we’re three circling planets in search of a sun.”
He shook his head, smiling. “You talk like an old book.”
“And you like a loose-leaf with pages missing,” she laughed, pushing him away. They momentarily held each other with their eyes. In the silence that followed, many things were left unsaid. Josh knew he would love her always. As a sister, a confidante; as one who shared his closeness to his other best friend, her husband. Rose, in turn, blessed her fortune, to love and be loved by two such as they. The world seemed a glorious place this day.
“I’d better be going,” said Josh, checking the sun. “Mother gets peevish if I’m gone too long.”
From down the road behind the trees came the sound of hoofbeats. They both heard the gallop at the same time. Rose’s face lit up like summer fire. “That’ll be him coming home now,” she grinned with unconcealed relief, and ran off down the path that led to the main road. Josh, too, smiled happily, for he recognized the familiar pace of his old friend’s approach. They would share a homecoming toast.
Joshua stepped out of the grove, walked along its neat edge to the road, and watched Rose running down to meet her returning love. “Beauty,” she called to him, “Beauty!”
He approached her at a canter, fifty yards away. By the time they reached each other, Rose was panting gaily. Beauty stopped, leaned down, and they embraced passionately for a long few seconds. “Beauty,” she whispered. He brought his mouth down on hers, and they kissed.
“I’ve missed you,” he told her when she finally let go. She put her hand up and stroked his short, golden beard, his smooth throat; brought her fingers gently down the curly yellow hairs of his broad, sun-browned chest. She missed his body next to hers.
“Climb up,” he said. “Josh is standing out there all alone, he looks like a lost puppy.”
She hiked up her dress, jumped up on his back; and he set off for Josh at a gallop. She loved riding him this way, bareback, her arms wrapped around his chest from behind, her knees pressed firmly about his flexing foreshoulders, her heels gripping his flanks, her face buried in his long, golden mane.
Joshua watched the two ride toward him – Rose straddling his good friend’s back – and he raised his hand in greeting, in affection, in admiration: Beauty was, had always been, the most graceful Centaur Joshua knew.
The three reclined on the grass in the smile of the noon sun, sipping apple wine. Rose lay with her head on Beauty’s side; his tail flicked away the occasional fly. They were talking and joking.
“I’ll bet you’ve completely forgotten how to shoot,” scolded Joshua.
Beauty smiled. “I haven’t drawn a bow since I started farming.”
“Give up this farm,” Josh shook his head. “You weren’t meant to be a farmer.”
Rose kicked lazily at Joshua. “You leave my Beauty alone, he’s a good farmer.”
“And a rich one, now,” Beauty laughed. “I sold every seed in Port Fresno.”
“And strong as a Horse,” Rose continued her thought, patting Beauty’s haunch with just the slightest trace of innuendo. Beauty brushed her face with a snap of his tail.
“Stronger by half than the puny animals you call Horses,” he snorted. “It is said that when the noble race of Centauri migrated to this continent from our own, long Before the Ice, the local Centaurs of this land were so shamed by comparison that they all donned dog-masks and were forever after known as Horses.”
Josh and Rose laughed. Beauty’s pride in his ancestry was well known to them – it was said by many that his great-great-great grandmother had been a leader in the heroic trek over the land bridge which had connected the continents Before the Ice. Sometimes pride in his heritage puffed the Centaur up a bit too much, though, and then he became a target for his friends’ gentle jesting.
“The first Centaur. Now you know, I’d always heard,” smirked Joshua, “that Horses were here first, that one day a Horse met a strumpet on the road…”
“Enough,” said Beauty balefully, “I know this joke.”
“And the strumpet said, ‚I’ve a grand treasure between my legs if you’ve the Horse sense to find it.’” Josh continued. Rose’s eyes twinkled.
“Enough, I say,” warned Beauty.
“So up her love-nest the Horse thrusts his head and when he’s up to the neck, what happens but he gets stuck…”
“Enough!” Beauty boiled. Josh and Rose did nothing to hide their glee. Above all, Beauty was a proper gentleman.
“Sometimes,” he continued, greatly put-upon, “you can be the most tasteless boor. I suppose you’re only Human, though, so I must make allowances.”
He couldn’t long stay angry with those he loved, though, soon relenting to their apologies and prods. And so, well into the cradle of the afternoon they sat, warmed by the sun and the company.
The yard was perched on the high slope of a gentle hill, and in the intermediate distance they gazed on the gray Pacific. Far, far away, near the almost invisible horizon, a small, triangular white sail could be seen.
“A boat alone,” said Josh. “Pirate?”
Beauty shook his head. “Too close in for a pirate ship. Probably the Port Fresno mail run.” He finished his wine.
“What’s the word in Port Fresno?” Josh asked. “Anything about the War? Any new Kings or Popes to worry about?” His tone was light, but he saw a shadow cross Beauty’s face.
“Nothing on the War, but there is something.” Beauty paused, gave Rose a sideways glance. “Bands of savages killing and pillaging all up and down the coast.” He paused again. “Vampires have been seen.”
Rose made a disgusted, loathing sound in her throat. Joshua tilted his head. “Hard to believe,” he said. “Never heard of Vampires coming this far north.”
Beauty shrugged. “That was the rumor.”
There was a long moment’s silence. The sun somehow looked lower in the sky now, the sky itself less joyous.
Josh rose. “Well, I’d best be gone, the day’s not waiting.” The thought of Vampires north of the Line was a chilling one; bleak news for the Human race. Was there no end to troubles on this earth? Josh wondered.
Rose stood and kissed him on the cheek. At that Beauty stood, too. “I will go with you,” he said.
“That had better be a joke,” Rose warned.
Beauty raised his hands in apology. “I have to go give Moorelli his seed money. I should have dropped it off on the way in, but I hated the thought of keeping you waiting.”
She looked skeptical.
“It is a two-hour trot,” he protested, “I’ll be back before the day is cool.” And then, as her frown softened to a pout, he continued, “Cool enough to warm you up, woman.” He bent down, kissed her quick, and grabbed a handful of her bottom. He was rarely so demonstrative in public; but then, Joshua was hardly public.
Rose pulled her fingernails lightly down Beauty’s chest, down his belly, then scratched the sensitive area where man-belly became steed-chest. His shoulders tensed. “You beast,” she growled, and bit his lip. He flared his nostrils, reared up on his hind legs and pawed the air.
“Begone and hurry back,” she shouted, and slapped his rump. He took off down the road. Joshua jumped up on his back at a dead run, and the two disappeared over the hill as Rose watched with a loving smile.
Joshua’s cabin was less than half the distance to Moorelli’s farm from Beauty’s, but a little out of the way. It wasn’t until they’d traveled almost an hour that Beauty slowed to an easy clip, then stopped altogether.
“What is it?” asked Josh. He jumped down to the ground and stretched his legs. He knew the Centaur well enough to know when something was on his mind.
Beauty pawed the earth. “There was something else in Port Fresno,” he said. “I did not want to upset Rose.” He knew he would never understand Humans completely; but of one thing he was certain: they could assimilate only small amounts of information at one time, they could not intuit the large sweeps of meaning that constituted the real world; they had no sense of the essence of wholes, though their understanding of parts was admittedly great. So Beauty was never quite sure what had to be spoken, and what was implicit even to the Human mind.
Joshua’s eyes narrowed. “What?”
Beauty threw his head back and forth, waving his mane. “It is only Humans who are being attacked.”
Joshua met the Horseman’s eyes with his own. “Race War again?”
“Could be. They are kidnapping young ones, though. Pirates, maybe. Slave trade.”
They were both silent, digesting the information, thinking of all the hard times they’d seen and were yet to see. “Anyway,” Beauty went on, “after this errand, I am restringing my bow and staying close to home.” He nodded at the forest ahead of them. “These woods are dark, Joshua. Keep your people in the house after sunfall.”
Joshua nodded. Beauty backed off a few steps and raised his right arm. “Until soon, friend.”
“Until soon,” returned Josh. Beauty ran in the direction of Moorelli’s farm, while Joshua headed into the wood.
Josh knew something was amiss as soon as he neared the cabin. Not a sound, not a movement. No Ollie playing, no Mother singing. He dropped to one knee and listened. Only a mockingbird, mocking.
Joshua put down the squirrel he’d been carrying and slipped a knife out of his belt. He waited. Still nothing. He ran silently through the trees around to the front of the house, to try to get a look in through the west windows.
What he saw was that there was no door. And when he looked past the doorway into the main room, his insides twisted tight.
He ran into the house, knife in hand, and looked around desperately. Dead, all dead. He sucked in his breath, trying to take in the scene. Mother, Father, Grandma, Jack. All horribly mutilated, irrevocably dead. He knelt by his mother’s side, his eyes filled with tears. He held her hand. Cold, stiff.
There was a noise in the corner. Joshua swiveled with knife out, all his fury and grief concentrated instantaneously in the steel blade. But it was Jack moving, not quite lifeless yet. Josh ran over to the old man and held his head up.
“Uncle Jack, what happened?” He wanted to say more, but his voice wouldn’t work, his throat was constricted, and dry as his eyes were wet.
Jack looked up at him. “Joshua, is it you, boy? I’m dyin’, boy. Word help me.”
Joshua shook him gently. “Jack, who did this?”
Jack focused a little. “Two monsters and a bloodsucker, boy. I tried, I tried…”
“What about Dicey and Ollie? What about Dicey?”
“Carried ‚em off,” whispered the old man. “I’m dead, boy.”
“What did they look like?” persisted Joshua. His despair was already forging grief into hate.
Jack’s voice hardly moved air. Joshua had to lower his ear to the man’s mouth. “One was a lion-hawk. One was a bloodsucker. And one foul thing no man should ever give name to and I thank the Word I’m dyin’ so I’ll never have to remember its face.” He closed his eyes, then, and died.
Joshua ran through the cabin, looking for something, anything. He wanted to run, to fight; he felt, for a moment, as if he were going crazy. He picked up a chair and smashed it repeatedly against the floor, he kicked the wall. Then he sat down on the rug and cried and cried and cried.
When he finished burying them, he sat down at the table in the main room and stared into the cold fireplace. He felt hollow, but somehow clean. Purposeful. His life to this minute was over: his life from now on had commenced.
He pulled the quill from his boot and dipped it in the tin of ink he’d just mixed from ashes, dried blood, and water. On the thin paper before him, he methodically wrote:
Here lies the family Green. Old woman Esther, sons Jack and Bob, and Bob’s wife Ellen. All were Humans. Murdered viciously and without provocation by a Griffin, a Vampire, and an Accident, as sworn by dead Jack. Jack’s daughter, Dicey, and Bob’s son, Ollie, abducted by same. Surviving son Joshua, hunter and Scribe, hereby sets the record and claims Venge-right, on this 14th day of March, After the Ice 121.
Joshua Green, Human & Scribe
He slipped the quill back into his boot. He rolled the parchment into a tight cylinder and fitted it into a thin, stainless steel tube, which he sealed at both ends. He had a whole box of these tubes – Scribe-tubes, they were called – stored under the bed. He took two more empties and strapped one to each leg. Finally, he wrote an identical statement on another paper and secreted that one in his belt.
He went outside and dug one last hole among the four graves he’d just laid. The day was dimming, he was tired. He felt an oppressive need for sleep coming over him. Soon he would rest from his ordeal.
When his hole was two feet deep, he dropped in the paper-filled tube and began to cover it over. He had to stop momentarily, as another wave passed over him, a pressing, physical need for sleep. He closed his eyes. The absence of visual input relieved his dizziness somewhat; but the sense of sleep pressure was replaced by a discrete pinpoint of light, deep inside his internal field of vision. It seemed far away, this tiny bright spot, but it tugged at him, exerting a gentle pull, like a cool draft sucking softly down a well, like static elec-tricity, like the ambivalent gravity of a first kiss.
He opened his eyes. The sun was almost down. He finished filling in his hole and marked the place with a wood marker bearing the standard symbol of the Scribe – a snake twisting inside a circle – which he carved into the wood. Only then did he notice the black smoke rising ten miles to the north. He stared at it dumbly for a few moments, then whispered the dreadful realization: “Beauty’s farm.”
Grimly, he started running.
Joshua was a hunter, which meant it was not rare for him to run two or three hours without pause; so he reached Beauty’s farm easily in less than an hour. He needn’t have hurried.
The farmhouse itself was razed, smoldering in its own charcoal. Beauty stood staring, weeping mutely into the rubble. He was at once majestic and beaten.
Josh walked over to the Centaur, his own anger and sorrow fed anew by those of his friend. There was shared grief, a new bond between them. And shared hatred, the strongest bond, perhaps, of all. They were compatriots, now, in the land of loss.
He told Beauty his story, what he’d found at home. Beauty told Joshua he’d returned to the farm an hour earlier and found… this. Rose was gone; no trace of Human remains in the ashes. The one thing Beauty had found, near the house, was Rose’s knife, sticky with blood.
“But it wasn’t Homan blood, I know that smell well,” said the Horse-man. “It was vile blood.” He squinted back his tears, his venom.
Josh nodded. “Jack said one of the creatures was what sounded like an Accident.” They couldn’t look at each other.
Beauty held up Rose’s bloody knife. “A wounded Accident, now.” He threw the knife into the dirt.
Some feet away, beneath a broken board, Josh saw a Falcon feather. He picked it up, and they both stared at it with burning eyes. It was all that remained of Rose.
“I’ll take it for my quill,” said Josh. “It’ll give us power to find her, if I use it to write with.” He cut the tip into a quill point with his knife, and stuck the newly fashioned pen into his boot, replacing his old one with it.
Beauty did not believe in the power of Scribery as did Josh; but he knew that from this time on, whatever resources they could tap, whatever powers they could individually draw upon, they would need.
They looked at each other a moment, and the moment was theirs. Joshua set the record, marked it with his sign; and the two young hunters made a plan.