Torak woke with a jolt from a sleep he'd never meant to
The fire had burned low. He crouched in the fragile shell of
light and peered into the looming blackness of the Forest. He couldn't see
anything. Couldn't hear anything. Had it come back? Was it out there now,
watching him with its hot, murderous eyes?
He felt hollow and cold. He knew that he badly needed food,
and that his arm hurt, and his eyes were scratchy with tiredness, but he
couldn't really feel it. All night he'd guarded the wreck of the
spruce bough shelter and watched his father bleed. How could this be
Only yesterdayyesterdaythey'd pitched camp in
the blue autumn dusk. Torak had made a joke, and his father was laughing. Then
the Forest exploded. Ravens screamed. Pines cracked. And out of the dark
beneath the trees surged a deeper darkness: a huge rampaging menace in bear
Suddenly death was upon them. A frenzy of claws. A welter of
sound to make the ears bleed. In a heartbeat, the creature had smashed their
shelter to splinters. In a heartbeat, it had ripped a ragged wound in his
father's side. Then it was gone, melting into the Forest as silently as
But what kind of bear stalks menthen vanishes
without making the kill? What kind of bear plays with its prey?
And where was it now?
Torak couldn't see beyond the firelight, but he knew that
the clearing, too, was a wreck of snapped saplings and trampled bracken. He
smelled pine-blood and clawed earth. He heard the soft, sad bubbling of the
stream thirty paces away. The bear could be anywhere.
Beside him, his father moaned. Slowly he opened his eyes and
looked at his son without recognition.
Torak's heart clenched. "Fa, itit's me," he
stammered. "How do you feel?"
Pain convulsed his father's lean brown face. His cheeks were
tinged with gray, making the clan-tattoos stand out lividly. Sweat matted his
long dark hair.
His wound was so deep that as Torak clumsily stanched it with
beard-moss, he saw his father's guts glistening in the firelight. He had to
grit his teeth to keep from retching. He hoped Fa didn't noticebut of
course he did. Fa was a hunter. He noticed everything.
"Torak . . ." he breathed. His hand reached out, his
hot fingers clinging to Torak's as eagerly as a child. Torak swallowed. Sons
clutch their fathers' hands, not the other way around.
He tried to be practical: to be a man instead of a boy.
"I've still got some yarrow leaves," he said, fumbling for his
medicine pouch with his free hand. "Maybe that'll stop the"
"Keep it. You're bleeding too."
"Doesn't hurt," lied Torak. The bear had thrown
him against a birch tree, bruising his ribs and gashing his left forearm.
"Torakleave. Now. Before it comes back."
Torak stared at him. He opened his mouth but no sound came.
"You must," said his father.
"No. No. I can't"
"TorakI'm dying. I'll be dead by sunrise."
Torak gripped the medicine pouch. There was a roaring in his
"Give mewhat I need for the Death Journey. Then get
The Death Journey. No. No.
But his father's face was stern. "My bow," he
said. "Three arrows. Youkeep the rest. Where I'm goinghunting's
There was a tear in the knee of Torak's buckskin leggings.
He dug his thumbnail into the flesh. It hurt. He forced himself to concentrate
"Food," gasped his father. "The dried meat. Youtake
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...