9

He saw the stone wall, knew the Smokes wouldn’t want to move when they got there, knew he could fly over it, but they could only go through the rubble. The leader would try to hold and then to bolt.

A rush of Smokes just in front was already dithering and moving off to the left. He circled out to the left, corkscrewing to confuse them, and he got them back on course. Smokes could run. And Smokes were smart.

Something told him he shouldn’t be tasting this thick salty stuff but if the Cloud wouldn’t move, the others near would stop, too. Charge the whole lot. Waste of time. He rounded on the big, stubborn one, caught its heel, clamped down. The Cloud made its dumb angry noise, but it moved back toward the mob and the others followed. He made a quick zigzag line in front of his part of the mob, showing them Teeth. Teeth, Teeth, Teeth, Teeth. Then back to his position, running slightly behind them. He looked over at the Starer dashing toward a Cloud way on the other side. The Starer only had Eyes. Eyes.

He was right. The Smokes were nearly at the wall. Black-wet, the wall ran like a river across the moor. He couldn’t see the place where he knew she was, since he’d left the hilltop, but he knew she was only a clear field away on the other side of this wall. The place where she’d gone with the one in big boots and a gun who seemed to be trying to shoot the sky down. Never got it, though.

He was right; he would have to use a powerful eye on the old one, the leader. It was the leader who’d get the other Smokes through and over.

Lowering his tail, he crouched as if he had a saddle on his back, his belly nearly touching the ground.

He held the old Smoke’s eye for a long time. He could have stayed here the night, but he had to get them moving. The Smoke stared back, then broke the look and started moving a little to the right, then a little to the left, but he couldn’t break the look.

He moved in on it.

Deadheel was running a quarter-moon course at the rear of the mob. Good.

The mob was crowding at the wall but the old Smoke wouldn’t move.

He couldn’t waste time, because she was in danger. He had no choice.

He shuddered. He’d have to bark.

The old Smoke crashed through the opening and the rest went spilling after it.

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