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The Pillar of Dominance

Chapter 19
Battle in the Clearing
An hour before dawn, after putting out the fire, and gathering their
few belongings, Nella indicated the direction they were to take, and the
group set off on the final leg of their journey. They formed a single file line
along a narrow path leading toward the Wanderers’ Mountains. Wooffen
was at the rear.
“Ooooh-woo, the rat on the bone, and the bone in the bog, and the
boowggg dooow-wo-wn in the valley oooohwo-wo-wooo!” Wooffen sang.
Using a knife, Salvador cut off a small piece of fabric from his tunic and
ripped it in half. He scowled as he stuffed the woven fibers into his ears.
Warren snickered behind him.
“It really is a curse,” he said to Nella, who smiled back, enjoying
Wooffen’s silly song.
“I never thought I’d hear anything like it,” she said.
Bloom joined in, whistling the backup tune for the singing Basset
Hound. He had a deep, clear sounding whistle and was a master of vibrato.
Warren and Nella exchanged surprised glances at this new musical
They crossed through a small clearing. Salvador had moved ahead,
determined to escape the music. The dusty trees stood motionless, reaching
out their yellowing pine needles. Thin clumps of grass rustled underfoot as
they passed.
Suddenly, there was a yelp up ahead. Wooffen and Bloom cut off their
tune in mid-song.
Warren rushed forward. “Salvador?” he called. Up ahead, his brother
was swinging upside-down from a branch, high above, suspended by one
foot. A loop of thick rope was tight around his ankle. A dozen guards
dressed in dark red uniforms stepped forward from the brush holding a net.
They threw it over Warren. He wrestled inside it. Looking around through
the squares formed by ropes that contained him, he saw an entire army of
men encircling the clearing. Across the field, three men in yellow uniforms
and one in green were bound at the wrists and tied in a line. They were
clearly prisoners from other clans. Warren looked at the countless soldiers in
red uniforms spilling from the trees and he had a sinking feeling in his chest.
Bloom looked down, his hood low over his eyes. Six guards
approached him, but he blasted them away in one smooth motion. Three
crolackrolite stones fell from his palms. He did not bother to pick them up.