CHAPTER 17: ODYSSEUS RETURNS

Fabana had walked for two hours in the hot sun. She was used to pacing a short distance from side to side. The distance to cover seemed almost impossibly vast, and she was weakened by her wound. Her grinding thirst pulled her to the side of the small watering hole she found. Without caution, without even looking around, she stumbled to the bank. Looking down into the water to take a drink, she saw something horrible looking back at her–a face delicate and fresh on one side and hideously scarred on the other.

She was in the middle of her first season, but she knew no male would ever want her. She howled pitifully. “Why, Roh’kash! Why me! I’ve never known the company of a male, and now I’m so horrible!” She collapsed by the bank and sobbed brokenly.

A small group of hyenas heard her and came out of the brush. They wondered who the stranger was. Fabana looked at them apprehensively. “Who are you?” she asked in common speech. “I don’t want trouble. I used to live here, and I’m trying to find my family. Do you know my okash La’kuneh?”

She smelled human and spoke common speech. They wondered if she was truly one of theirs.

“I remember La’khuneh,” the large male said in common speech.

“Jalkort?” She looked at him closely. “Jalkort, is that you?”

“I’m Jalkort. Should I know you?”

She broke into tears. With almost painful reluctance, she said, “Bih hyannicha! Moh keth Fabana!” Gaining strength, she almost shouted, “Bih hyannicha, Jalkort! Moh keth Fabana!”

“My gods!” Jalkort’s tail wagged so hard, his whole back carriage swayed. “Fay! Fay!” He ran forward and kissed her face on the good side. “Barkhal, Roh’kash!” He nuzzled her and rubbed her full length. Seeing the scar, he said, “I’ll rip the devil that did that to you! I’ll rip him alive! Where is he??”

“He’s already dead. I had him in a death choke when the man got his bang stick and put him out.” She tensed up and asked, “How’s Mom?”

Jalkort looked down. “Oh, Fay!”

“What is it, Jal? Is she….?”

“The fire. I’m so sorry.”

“How about my brother and sister?”

Jalkort nuzzled her sadly. He didn’t have to say a word.

She nuzzled him back, a tear running down her cheek. “Then you’re all I have left. Oh Jal, please lean on me!” When he sat by her, she rested her cheek against his and wept bitterly. “I smell like a human and a dog. I want to be rid of that scent.” Bitterness began to well up inside her and she added, “I want to forget that life, to blot it out forever. The man took my freedom, and that dog tried to take my pride. Look what he did to me!”

Jalkort looked at her good side in profile. “Actually, you’re a rather handsome female. Your children will only take your good looks, not your wound.”

“What children? I will die forsaken, and you know it!”

“Our children,” Jalkort said. “Bal dareth, Fabana?”

“You can’t possibly mean it!”

“I do.”

“But look at me!”

“I am looking at you. I’m hunting, and I never take my eyes off my prey. No matter what anyone else thinks, you’re beautiful to me. I always knew you would be my bak’ret.”

Tears began to stream down her face. “There is a God,” she sobbed. “There really is!” She kissed him and said, “Dareth koh, Jalkort! Dareth koh!”

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