Green Blood #2 (Science Fiction – Post-apocalyptic)
Twenty years after the Devastation described in Green Blood Rising, the Metchosin clan votes 15 to 14 to allow an exchange student, Erik, to devote all his time trying to harness electricity produced by the trees to recreate “civilization.” Spider, daughter of a clan leader, falls in love with Erik. When a close friend of Spider’s is found murdered, the clan soon discovers the culprit.
The crucial question is to discover what kind of justice can be meted out to punish this individual and protect the fragile community without incurring guilt. There are no police, law courts or jails in this fledgling new world. Will these become necessary? And if so, will this lead to history repeating itself? The clan must answer these questions fast, before the culprit escapes and kills again.
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Spider turned her head toward the south, so that the breeze blowing in off the Strait of Juan de Fuca could push her dark, wavy hair away from her face.
“What are you looking at?” Casey, Spider’s niece, shaded her eyes against the bright March sunshine and shifted her shepherd’s crook to her right hand.
“Nothing,” Spider said. “I hate having the wind blow my hair around so it gets in my mouth, that’s all.” She glanced down at Casey’s long, wispy, brown tresses, which looked, as usual, more like a rat’s nest than human hair. “Doesn’t it bother you?” Very likely not. Casey was only ten and didn’t seem concerned about much except animals and trying to keep her little brother in line.
“Yeah, but Mom won’t let me cut it.” Casey heaved a dramatic sigh. “Nobody lets me do anything. Uncle Jim won’t let me carry my bow when I’m herding, either. He says it’s just a practice weapon and the arrows aren’t heavy enough to do any damage to big animals like wolves and cougars.”
“He’s right, Casey. You’ll have to be a lot bigger and stronger before you can handle a proper killing bow.” Spider reached over her shoulder to adjust the weight of the bow slung across her back. It was a beautiful instrument. Jim, her brother, had carved it for her from an arbutus branch. He’d carved Casey’s staff, too, and probably most of the weapons used in the settlement. He was the only one in the clan who could touch a living tree with metal.
Spider gave up trying to outwit the breeze and turned back to watch the herd of Nubian goats working its way across the meadow, nibbling dead leaves and long dry grass. Some of the goats were browsing new leaf buds along the narrow strip of forest that sheltered the meadow from chilly sea winds. Only partially sheltered it, though, she thought, pulling her deer hide vest tighter. Her parents said all the Pacific Northwest got cold spring winds. They would know, of course, because they’d traveled most of it before the Devastation, as far north as Alaska and all the way down to California. Spider sighed. She’d like to travel, too, and see new places and new people, but the oldsters all insisted there was no place better than Vancouver Island. Maybe that was true but it wouldn’t surprise her if their memories weren’t as good as they thought.
At the top of the long slope that led up to the farm house, Dino, Casey’s nine-year-old brother, perched on a pile of rocks beside the fence that separated Wescara from the meadow. He didn’t have to be there. He could have been, probably should have been, doing something else, but he said he got a good view from the rocks and could see danger approaching sooner than Spider or Casey. She hadn’t argued. Dino adored the goats and he was doing what he thought best for them. Besides, when it came to being stubborn, he was worse than Casey so it was a waste of time trying to argue with him.
The goats were well guarded today. Bandit, the black and tan shepherd collie cross, ranged back and forth in front of the herd, watchful that none of the goats strayed too far, but taking care to avoid hoof and horn. The donkey, Murphy, browsed on the other side of the herd.
The sound of a door closing made Spider look up at the farm house. Not that she could see much, buried as it was in earth, with nothing but the tall, southern windows open to the sun and a view of the Strait.
“Great granddad must have gone back inside,” Casey said.
Usually Larry sat on a weathered bench near one of the root cellars, his rifle across his knees, when Casey and Dino were watching the herd. He often grumbled to their mother that they were too young for the goats, that they should stick to herding their father’s sheep for another year or two. But, Spider thought, he must have realized that he doesn’t need to keep tabs on the kids when I’m here. Jim might be able to touch living trees with metal, but she was the best shot in the clan.
Bandit whined and Spider turned to see his ears perked straight up and his lips pulled back from his teeth in the travesty of a grin. He was sniffing the air and staring at the trees which separated the meadow from Parry Bay and the forest that backed the lagoon.
Whatever Bandit sensed or smelled, she saw nothing but a wall of fir and cedar with dark green foliage, along with bare-branched Garry oak and maples with tiny buds that looked like shadowy clusters of moss from this distance.
But there! A tide of black and brown erupted from the forest wall and flowed toward the goats. Wild dogs! A big pack of fifteen or more, tails streaming behind them, mouths open and tongues lolling, racing straight toward them. Casey raised her staff and screamed. Spider grabbed for her bow but the bowstring snagged on the back of her vest and she couldn’t get it loose.
The goats whirled to face the attackers, heads down, horns ready. From the corner of her eye, Spider saw Dino tearing down the slope, staff in hand. The wild dogs spread out, trying to surround the herd. One already had a kid in its jaws, running low, heading for the trees, Bandit in full pursuit. Two more had one of the young wethers down and were ripping at his throat. Old Murphy charged into the wild dogs, his yellowed teeth slashing at them, his vicious hind feet wreaking their own damage.
The black lead dog, with a muzzle like a mastiff, came straight for Spider and Casey. Casey swung her staff at him. He ducked it, swerved, and leapt for Spider’s throat. She turned her body, still struggling to release the bowstring, and he sank his teeth in her shoulder, his weight slamming her into the ground. The pain jolted through her body, sharp and shocking, the way her bare feet felt when she stepped on a broken clam shell.
She heard Larry bellow, “Get down! Stay down!” then the sound of a rifle shot, echoing across the meadow, reverberating from the trees.
The dog jerked, releasing her shoulder, and collapsed beside her. The rank smell of wet fur rose to her nostrils.
Two more shots went over her head, followed by the whistle of an arrow so close she was sure it grazed her hair.
Jim’s shouts blended with Larry’s and she raised her head. Three more dogs lay still in the grass and Buckeroo, the billy, tossed a fourth into the air with his wide, wicked horns. The dog fell to the ground and tried to scramble away but Buckeroo charged and impaled him on one horn, a permanent end to the dog’s flight.
The rest of the wild dogs melted back into the trees, dragging the dead wether. Casey knelt beside her.
“You’re bleeding! Spider, you’re bleeding!”
She caught a whiff of the blood, like rusting iron. Before she could find the words to assure Casey that she was all right, the child keeled over.
“Look, she fainted!” Dino looked down at his sibling in triumph. “Just like a girl.”