Nights are the worst for the small settlement, most boats have become shelters ill heated, cramped, but warm enough to prevent death over night. During the day all party members are vigilant but at night only the three pure Orakeen stand watch, unaffected by the fridge weather and consuming darkness. On wind free nights Tamara stands with them, though wrapped in her cloak and always near a small fire for warmth. In the darkness Biseen howls echo filling everyone with terror while unseen eyes watch them and unnatural voices call to the them. Without their own beasts most feel exposed and scared though few would admit to it. Even fewer would be willing to speak up about the terror felt when scavenging, these new woods have a different feel to them then the ones across the lake. On one hand there are more dead things to bring home and on the other no sign of who is doing the killing. There is less eatable greens and everyone is quiet about the footprints in the snow. Regardless they are surviving, thanks to whatever forces are out there, they will see spring, and perhaps, another winter.
Slowly the snow melts away, slowly the grass turns green and the nights are survivable; spring has sprung and all are grateful. The lonely howls are joined by puppies yipping and yowling along, the people, even while frightened, take their turns staring into the darkness. “Uvey,” Tamara stares into the woods, her faithful servant comes to her on silent feet “Something is out there, can you?” He follows her eyes to a point far off.
“Yes Mara, I can.” He is silent a moment “It’s a man and his Biseen. Could be a High Guard or a Valley Orakeen, I cannot see the color of his war paint.”
“Friend or foe?”
“Depends. IF he knows me, foe. Seven Winds never played nice with either clan. If he does not know me then he could be a friend, but either way we should move. It is no longer winter, we must find a safer spot.” Tamara nods and Uvey straightens puffing his chest “Foe, Mara. He’s posturing and pacing. I don’t know for whose sake but he is no friend.”
“What do we do?” She asks, Uvey narrows his eyes and howls at the man startling the camp and Tamara.
“He’s leaving, and so must we.” Tamara nods and turns, marching into the center of the small camp.
“Everyone! Pack and hurry, we have trespassed and are not welcome here. Uvey is standing watch right now, hurry!” Chaos erupts as the group runs to and fro putting fires out, packing things, and dragging the boats back to the shoreline, waiting for Tamara and Uvey to join them. “Uvey, we’re ready, come on.” The Orakeen turns and follows her to the boats, they launch and paddle, following Tamara’s boat up the coast line under Uvey’s direction they navigate northward toward the fjords of the Red Water, Black Water, and Life Giver. The full moon makes navigating easy and the smooth water makes travel far easier then when they first fled home.
They pass the Black Water seeing other boats and fires blazing, shouts echo over the lake but they keep going with no intent on fighting any clan they come across at the moment. Hours pass and complaints start up but Tamara orders them to row on till the sun peeks over the eastern horizon and even Uvey begins to complain. They go ashore and pull their boats into the brush before quietly settling in. Most of the men remain vigilant at the fringes of the camp while women prepare some food or rest. They eat, they sleep, and come night fall they are back on the water making for the Red Water.
The Red Water greets them warmly, there are no boats, no fires, nothing they can see from the water. The islands are steep with narrow shores but with a lot of effort the boats are dragged to safety and the people are allowed to rest. Tamara sits by the fire, Uvey sitting with her quietly. “This is a rough land, Uvey. Have we made a mistake?”
“Time will tell if this is a mistake Mara.” She nods and looks over the camp, everyone pressed together on the small ledge.
“It will take a lot of work to carve out a home here.”
“We cannot stay here.”
“What?” She looks at him “Why not?”
“River clans use these islands to go out into the lake, if we are found we-”
“Will be killed. I’m starting to think there isn’t a safe place anywhere.”
“This land is harsh, Mara, it breeds competition and savagery; if we keep going to the Life Giver we can take an island there, winter will be hard but the waters flow warm and we can fish year round.”
“But?” He shakes his head
“No but, the river is commanded by the tribesmen, the last I heard my brother is their chief, we will be allowed to act as river guard and live there in peace.”
“And if he is not chief?”
“We will cross that bridge when the times comes.” Tamara eyes him but leaves it be for the moment.
They stay for a few days before packing everything up and continuing north. Its three more days before they reach the Life Giver with its steaming water and rampant fish population. They pick the largest island in the middle of the current and while it is a fight to get the boats ashore it is well worth it for the people when they finally get to see what will soon be there home. Tamara directs the set up while Uvey is sent to the mainland to find the base camp of the Seven Winds clans and hopefully his brother. They build small homes one at a time, they are close together and clustered around a central point; Tamara’s home is the last building built, even followed the bathhouse and the outhouses. With that finished most turn to farming or fishing, planting the few seeds they brought with or dragging small fish ashore to be cured in salt or smoked for winter. That is what everyone is focusing on now, winter. So many months away but the small gathering is not made of cold resistant Orakeen and thus will suffer the most in the winter months this far north.