Ayre of the Last God
(Book III of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 2000 BY


Click here to go to the most recent post!
Netscape users - click here to hear the music for this page.


"Oh, Merle! You should have been there!" Bessie chittered excitedly, bouncing up and down as she sat on her helmet. "The cats came riding up and Byarl gave the signal, and BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG! We dropped three of them right off - and I think we got a fourth one pretty good. Then, when the rest of them turned to try to fight us, whoop! Zip! Gone!"

Merle grinned. "You should have heard what Xaa said when he heard how you'd done. He said 'Once again, you musties have proven that you are brave and skilled warriors, and masters of stealth and woodcraft. Anyone who thinks of attacking a mustie in the woods is either ignorant or stupid,'" Merle said, pitching her voice lower in comic imitation of Xaa's rumbling growl.

Byarl grinned as the other musties giggled. "Well, I'll have to thank him for the compliment when I see him next," he said, reaching beneath him to adjust his own helmet, which he was sitting on top of like all the other musties. The mus had chuckled when they first saw a mustie sit on their helmet, using it like a stool - typical mustie inventiveness, they thought. The mus had elaborate and ornate family and clan crests atop their helmets, and couldn't do that even if they wanted to. The musties, on the other paw, did not - though they had gotten the design from the mus, their helmets were very plain and utilitarian, as fancy crests and other things would make it harder to hide in the forest, rather than easier. So, they simply draped a cloth or one of their leather garments over their helmets to protect their little bottoms from the heat of the metal, warmed as it was by the sun, and sat on their helmets like little stools.

"Where's Ayori?" Merle asked, looking around their little group.

"Still with Amani," Byarl replied. "She's taking care of that big stallion the mus found lying on the ground."

"What about that she-cat that was with him? The one you said wouldn't let go of him?"

"She's still with him, I think. Nito, you were over there last. What did you see?" Byarl asked, raising an eyebrow.

Nito shrugged. "Last I looked, she was still with him. She won't let go of him. I was thinking maybe we might have to get together and drag her off of him, since after all we're also charged with defending the wounded and the healers, but Ayori told me Amani said it was alright."

"I still don't understand what that stallion's problem is," Merle said, scratching her head.

Nito shrugged again. "I've no idea. Amani tried to explain it to me through Ayori, but I didn't really understand it."

Byarl scratched his chin. "Well, as I understand it, they feel any pain they inflict. Amani said he killed someone - a cat, I think. He felt that death like it was his own, as I understand it."

"Who did he kill?" Merle wondered aloud.

"Probably T'Zama T'Mrr," Byarl said, shrugging. "Lord Xaa said that they found her body beside his, her skull caved in like she'd been brained with a mace. He probably swatted her with one of those big hooves horses have. They're very strong, you know, and that one was built like a big black mountain - it took four mus to lift him and carry him to the healer's tents!" Byarl said, and all the musties marveled. A mus was very strong compared to a mustie. "Well, anyway... Lord Xaa says it's a pity they feel any pain they inflict. They would make incredible warriors, otherwise."

"Will the horse be alright?" Nito asked, wiping down the barrel of his rifle prior to cleaning it.

Byarl shrugged. "That's hard to say. Healer Kargh says there's nothing physically wrong with him that he can see, and Amani says he's right - it's a thing of the mind."

"I think it must be very terrible to be a horse," Bessie said sadly. "They can't talk like normal people, they're scared of everything all the time, and they can't even fight if something attacks them - they can only run away!"

"I think so, too," Merle said, and the other musties nodded in agreement.

"Where's Lord Xaa, Merle?" Byarl asked, taking out his kit to clean his rifle.

Merle rolled her eyes. "Very busy, Chief. There's thousands of corpses to clean up, wounded to care for, supplies to be gathered from the battlefield, and a thousand and twenty-four things I never would have thought of, but apparently he's been trained to think of since he was little. He said he'd meet me tonight, once everything had settled down."

"Hmm... Well, with all these mus milling around and what with the battle, I'll bet there isn't a lick of game within a league of here - probably more."

"Not a problem, Chief! There were lots of birds killed in the battle - and some of them weigh almost fifty stone! We can dress one out, drag it over here, dig a roasting pit, and cook it up for us!"

Byarl grinned as the other musties cheered the idea. "But wait, Merle - we can't eat that much meat! Our whole village couldn't finish that much meat in a week!"

Merle shrugged. "Well, it'll all go to rot anyway, and the mus are already planning on dressing them out and eating them. They don't like the taste of djuducu-birds much when they've been used for riding or burden - the meat's too tough. Still, I think they're as tired of jerky as we are."

Byarl blinked. "The mus are going to dress out the dead birds, too?!"

"Why, yes, Chief. Why, is something wrong?"

"Merle! There's over a hundred thousand of them! If we don't nab one of those dead birds now, it'll be jerky tonight for sure!" Byarl yelped, and leaped to his feet. "Merle, stay here and watch our equipment! The rest of you, come on!"

Merle burst into giggles as the rest of the musties set their rifles down and dashed after Byarl, chittering excitedly.

Click here to read the next chapter!


Chapter One<<<<