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They had been walking, now, for five years. Kalvar Dard still led, the heavy rifle cradled
in the crook of his left arm and a sack of bombs slung from his shoulder, his eyes forever
shifting to right and left searching for hidden danger. The clothes in which he had jumped
from the rocket-boat were patched and ragged; his shoes had been replaced by high laced
buskins of smoke-tanned hide. He was bearded, now, and his hair had been roughly
trimmed with the edge of his dagger.
Analea still walked beside him, but her carbine was slung, and she carried three spears
with chipped flint heads; one heavy weapon, to be thrown by hand or used for stabbing,
and two light javelins to be thrown with the aid of the hooked throwing-stick Glav had
invented. Beside her trudged a four-year old boy, hers and Dard's, and on her back, in a
fur-lined net bag, she carried their six-month-old baby.
In the rear, Glav still kept his place with the other big-game gun, and Olva walked beside
him with carbine and spears; in front of them, their three-year-old daughter toddled.
Between vanguard and rearguard, the rest of the party walked: Varnis, carrying her baby
on her back, and Dorita, carrying a baby and leading two other children. The baby on her
back had cost the life of Kyna in childbirth; one of the others had been left motherless
when Eldra had been killed by the Hairy People.
That had been two years ago, in the winter when they had used one of their two
demolition-bombs to blast open a cavern in the mountains. It had been a hard winter; two
children had died, then—Kyna's firstborn, and the little son of Kalvar Dard and Dorita. It
had been their first encounter with the Hairy People, too.
Eldra had gone outside the cave with one of the skin water-bags, to fill it at the spring. It
had been after sunset, but she had carried her pistol, and no one had thought of danger
until they heard the two quick shots, and the scream. They had all rushed out, to find four
shaggy, manlike things tearing at Eldra with hands and teeth, another lying dead, and a
sixth huddled at one side, clutching its abdomen and whimpering. There had been a quick
flurry of shots that had felled all four of the assailants, and Seldar Glav had finished the
wounded creature with his dagger, but Eldra was dead. They had built a cairn of stones
over her body, as they had done over the bodies of the two children killed by the cold.
But, after an examination to see what sort of things they were, they had tumbled the
bodies of the Hairy People over the cliff. These had been too bestial to bury as befitted
human dead, but too manlike to skin and eat as game.
Since then, they had often found traces of the Hairy People, and when they met with
them, they killed them without mercy. These were great shambling parodies of humanity,
long-armed, short-legged, twice as heavy as men, with close-set reddish eyes and heavy
bone-crushing jaws. They may have been incredibly debased humans, or perhaps beasts