Well... I decided there had better be a Recognition to unite the two tribes. But not between Leetah and Cutter. So here (chapter 5) is what I came up with...
Chapter Four: Desert
The humans had burned the Holt, and the only escape route was through the troll tunnels. Unfortunately Greymung had cheated them and they were left stranded in a blocked tunnel, in a schorched, lifeless wasteland under the burning sun.
Quite by chance Cutter and Skywise found the magic hidden in the lodestone, and decided the direction it pointed - right towards the burning waste - must be a sign. And once night fell, they left the shelter of the cave-mouth and began the long journey.
And finally, after three nights, after the loss of two wolves and the painful decision of leaving Redlance and Nightfall behind, they reached the mountains. Strange plants grew in the shadows, plants all covered in sharp spikes. One such stung Cutter as he walked past, and being tired, he lost his temper once again and cleaved it in two with New Moon. And to his surprise saw the blade was wet.
"Leave it to Cutter! He found us plants that store their own water!"
Skywise bent down to drink. Then she saw Cutter wasn't drinking, he just sat on a stone, staring into emptiness. She filled her palm with the sticker plant's juice and offered it to her lifemate.
**You did it, Tam! You brought us to Sorrow's End.**
He reached out to touch the lodestone, which once again hung on its cord between Skywise's breasts.
"Seems to me we wouldn't be here without you, and this. But we aren't all here."
"Stop blaming yourself! It was a human that wounded Redlance. A human. One more life for them to pay."
"I hope we're done with humans." Cutter sighed, and added silently:
**I'll stop blaming myself if you'll stop blaming yourself for what Madcoil did to you! You've shown your worth to the tribe now, lifebearer or not. And I need you. I love you.**
Chapter Five: Raid at Sorrow's End
"Rayek, stop that! You're making me spill the water!" The healer was starting to lose her patience.
"How long will you torment me, oh hair of sunset fire? I have asked you to be my lovemate! Any maiden here would say yes!" The hunter let go of her.
"So go and take any maiden! Stop bothering me. I'm not interested. Which of those words you don't understand?"
"But you are the only one worth having."
He wrapped his arms around her, too tight. It had been a mistake to share with him. He hadn't been interested when it had mattered. Not all the long years she was growing up, and growing up to admire him. Not when she tentatively asked for initiation. His brusque refusal had hurt her, but those wounds were long since healed. No, what really hurt her was he had turned to her only when her healer talents finally matured and she cured his arm, and even then only because initiation with a healer might heighten the changes of Recognition. Only because he so desperately wanted to Recognize Leetah. But soon Leetah was forgotten as she had done what she was famous for - given freely, all of herself, using her healing powers during a joining, sharing with him what she had felt for him when she was younger. Rayek wanted more. For a while it had been fun, but he had been just one of her many friends to her, freely sharing. But he didn't like it that way. He wanted to be her one and only lovemate.
Too bad the childish crush was gone. She had seen him for what he was, an arrogant one, wanting her for her magic and not for herself, a proud one unable to understand there was something in the village that was not his, that would never be his. And she had learned to despise pride.
"Oh! You're holding me too tight! Let me catch my breath - and I'll give you an answer!"
"Very well, then”¦ I release you!"
She ran away laughing, clutching the water jar without spilling a drop.
He called for her, too proud to run after her.
Then she heard the horrible noise. The howling. And a pack of wolves flowed down the hillside into the village. Each shaggy beast was ridden by a pale barbarian, each rider wielded a weapon, and from the throats of both mount and rider the horrible sound came forth.
The first rider, a fair-haired youth, threatened ShenShen with a curved blade and grabbed the water jar from her hands. The second one, a silver-haired female, bent to stab a loaf that had been in Minahd's lap a moment ago. The frightened baker screamed in terror.
But the third rider stopped in front of ShenShen, while the others spread out to steal more food. By then Rayek had come to her aid, pointing his spear at the attacker.
He had a spear as well, and he made a stab that turned out to be a feint - as Rayek twisted his weapon to deflect the blow the wolf stepped closer and the rider kicked him in the face. "Never point a weapon, black-hair, unless you know how to use it!"
ShenShen stood defenseless now, too scared to move. But the stranger did not attack. He stared her right into the eyes.
His skin was pale, burned by the sun. His hair was red as fire, shaggy like a mountain lion's short mane. And his eyes were a clear, deep purple.
ShenShen had never looked so deep before into any pair of eyes.
"Wh-what do you want?"
For answer he grabbed her, swung her across the back of it and carried her away. She screamed as loud as she could, and heard Rayek calling her name.
The fair-haired youth howled, raising his sword. The other savages came to him, ShenShen's captor among them.
The silver-haired girl smiled at him and said:
"Uh”¦ excuse me, Pike, but it doesn't look like you're carrying much water!"
"Huh?" He seemed to notice the struggling ShenShen only then.
"Oh”¦ I'll explain later."
They carried her up the hill, on to a relatively level landing. The pale people seemed to talk to each other without saying anything. ShenShen wondered if this was the "sending" her sister Leetah was so good at. They ate and drank of the spoils of their raid greedily. She saw the silver-haired one was the only female among them. That seemed strange. Was that why they had taken her - to have more lifebearers? Just as they had taken the food and water - because they were hungry and thirsty? Or had one of them sensed her healer powers somehow? Either way, it was a terrifying thought to have when captured and helpless. ShenShen began to struggle again. The red-haired male was holding a hand on her mouth and his other arm was around her. He was strong. He seemed to be mentally arguing with the fair-haired youth, who was obviously the leader of this ragtag band. ShenShen had learned a lot watching Savah teach Leetah. Expressions could tell as much as words sometimes.
Her captor sat down, keeping a good hold on her, his hands on her mouth. ShenShen bit him. Soon he whispered:
"Uh, listen”¦ I'm going to take my hand away”¦ but if you sceam - well, you won't like what will happen to you!"
He moved his hand. ShenShen screamed.
"Pike, you bird-brain!" The fair-haired youth snarled at her captor. The silver-haired girl stood up to defend him:
"It was my idea, Cutter. Sorry."
"Hmph! You and your ideas."
Soon Rayek reached the top. The other strangers had concealed themselves among the rocks, ShenShen's captor stood alone, with her slung across his shoulders. He and Rayek exchanged some insults, then Rayek made a threat, and a spear-point touched his shoulder. The spear was the one her captor - Pike? - had been carrying, and it was now held by the silver-haired girl. Rayek was surrounded by the savages. The female reached for his spear:
"Let's have the pig poker, long-face!"
"You dare -?" Rayek used his power on her. The girl stiffened and stood unmoving, unseeing.
The others wrestled the spear from Rayek and covered his eyes. He cursed, and happened to mention the name of the High Ones. The savages were surprised:
"How dare you profane our ancient fathers?" The one called Cutter asked him.
"We are all descendants of the High Ones, stranger! Can you not see we are all of one race?"
ShenShen spoke up, still held by her captor. A lot of explanations followed both ways, although Rayek wasn't much help, since his pride had been injured. Finally some kind of truce was reached and ShenShen invited the savages to the village. They had to wait while four females and three children were fetched from some hiding place.
The Sun-Touched welcomed the wolfriders, and accepted Cutter's apology. ShenShen admired how his father got their respect just by being what he was. Cutter suddenly spoke, interrupting him. It turned out they had left two of their number behind in the desert. He declared he was going back to them and asker if there was a healer in the village.
"I am a healer." ShenShen said simply. Rayek argued that she shouldn't go, it wasn't safe.
"I'll do my duty. You can come with us."
They rode on zwoots following Cutter on his wolf. In the desert they found the wounded male and his lifemate.
ShenShen had been surprised to find she longed for this to be over soon, so she could return to the village. Back to the one called Pike. Although another name sang itself in her heart, the name she knew not the meaning of. She knew the symptoms, having seen them often enough. Could it be - Recognition? If it was, there was no choice. After all, Recognition meant children. He might be a stupid savage, but if Pike could give her a child of her own, she would forgive him everything.
Then she healed the one called Redlance. Touched him, formed a tentative connection with body and soul both - and she learned. About the wolfblood. About mortality.
And she decided she had to fight Recognition. The alternative was too horrible - to watch her own children someday age and die. And the worst of it was she couldn't tell Pike why she was refusing him. It seemed his people had no idea of the curse they carried in their blood, and she wished them to remain innocent. So Pike would misunderstand her refusal, he'd think it was pride.
To be continued...