Tonunda crouched by the edge of the highest mountain to the south. He peered over the bluff to see a large circle in the plains. It was littered with small squares of which he knew to be the homes of men; the village of the Dog tribe, thus named after the packs that roamed the surrounding bush.
It was somewhere among the squares, that he knew that Andessa dwelt; a female counterpart of himself. Their liaisons together had been brief, but binding. For reasons beyond his comprehension, he was filled with elation whenever she was in his presence, yet grief overwhelmed him the moment she ever left him. The last time Andessa returned to her village, she promised him that she would return in the spring. He had no knowledge of what men called “spring.” It wasn’t that he could voice the question. His vocal chords had formed in such a way over the years that to utter human speech was impossible. Apparently, his quizzical stare was enough for her understand his unasked question.
It is when the days grow warmer, after it has been very cold. She had told him.
His brow furrowed; it was a long time away at the time. He remembered that she embraced and kissed him, telling him that it would not be so long.
His brother, Kerm, nuzzled against his thigh, severing him from his thoughts. He patted the grey dog in greeting and stretched his arms. The cords of his back danced against the morning sun on his bronzed skin. His jet, black hair fell about his shoulders in wild disarray. He yapped once, yet the grey dog did not seem to hear the bark, only words which reverberated in his mind.
Where is Natha? Tonunda asked.
Kerm was about to whimper a response when Tonunda suddenly twisted his head. His eyes, green and untamed as the bush-land that reared him, furrowed at the soft sound of growling. He darted off with Kerm keeping pace, then as the scent of Natha filled his nostrils, Tonunda suddenly outstripped him.
A small brown bitch growled and snapped at a patch of dried stalks. Tonunda watched the brown head of a snake dip in her direction. She darted back and flattened her ears to snap at it again.
The reptile reared its head once more when Tonunda’s hand shot out and grabbed it firmly around the neck from behind. It opened its mouth in anger, coiling the rest of its length around his forearm.
Tonunda gave a growl and clamped down hard behind the head, severing it from the rest of its still writhing body. The oily meat tasted good, sweeter than any snake he had tasted before. It was the first snake he had seen for many days, and with its appearance, he knew it marked the start of spring.
Quickly grinding the fine bones in his teeth, he hurriedly gulped the meat and tore the remainder of the snake in half, dropping the two halves on the ground so that his siblings would not fight over them.
His lips curled into a smile as a new scent wafted over the gentle breeze. It was the same scent as the purple flowers, but he knew that none grew near where he stood. He remembered that it was the scent which emanated from Andessa’s hair. She once told him that she bathed her hair in water mixed with crushed; what was it? He queried himself, lavner flowers?
The sound of galloping hooves filled his ears.
“Tonunda!” cried an excited voice.
Not waiting for the horse to come to a complete stop, he ran up its flanks, and crouched with the village girl in a crushing embrace. He hugged her tightly, fearing that if he ever let go, she would be gone forever. What he found impossible to understand, was why he shed tears so freely, yet could not be more overjoyed. He felt the need to ask her, but resigned himself to absorbing solace from the warmth of her body.
For now, nothing else mattered. Spring was here at last, and with it, Andessa had returned.
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