The Hidden Children HTML version
Chapter 14. Nai Tioga!
How my proper senses resisted the swoon that threatened them I do not know; but when
the lynx, too, lifted a menacing and flattened head on human shoulders; and when the
wolverine also stood out in human-like shadow against the foggy water, I knew that these
ghostly things that stirred my hair were no hobgoblins at all, but living men. And the
clogged current of my blood flowed free again, and the sweat on my skin cooled.
The furry ears of the wolf-man, pricked up against the vaguely lustrous background of
the river, fascinated me. For all the world those pointed ears seemed to be listening. But I
knew they were dead and dried; that a man's eyes were gazing through the sightless
sockets of the beast.
From somewhere in the darkness the Mohican came gliding on his belly over the velvet
carpet of the moss.
"Andastes," he whispered scornfully; "they wear the heads of the beasts whose courage
they lack. Fling a stone among them and they will scatter."
As I felt around me in the darkness for a fragment of loose rock, the Mohican arrested my
"Wait, Loskiel. The Andastes hang on the heels of fiercer prowlers, smelling about dead
bones like foxes after a battle. Real men can not be far away."
We lay watching the strange and grotesque creatures in the starlight; and truly they
seemed to smell their way as beasts smell; and they were as light-footed and as noiseless,
slinking from bush to bush, lurking motionless in shadows, nosing, listening, prowling on
velvet pads to the very edges of our rock escarpment.
"They have the noses of wild things," whispered the Mohican uneasily. "Somewhere they
have found something that belongs to one of us, and, having once smelled it, have
I thought for a moment.
"Do you believe they found the charred fragments of my pouch-flap? Could they scent
my scorched thrums from where I now lie? Only a hound could do that! It is not given to
men to scent a trail as beasts scent it running perdu."
The Mohican said softly: