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The Cold Days: Part One

I will die up here in the high mountains, she thought. And be like Solanda, Mother's old friend, who vanished as the deer vanish. (A demon tricked me by looking like a boy). "You climb too high," the hunter said, squatting down on his haunches and leaning against a boulder. "Nothing eat up here." Mira finally got her voice: "Why are you here?" "I follow you." He smiled. Mira stared down the great mountain, knowing she was trapped, that she had climbed too high where monsters are. He had stalked her like a deer. And she had been as foolish as a deer. "To kill me?" He gave her a surprised, then puzzled look. "Why I want to kill you?" "To give the gods their sacrifice." He looked at her for a long time, and Mira felt strange. He was handsome, his hair and beard night-black, his blue eyes arrogant, confident. A smile that was very close to a smirk. He was a savage-looking boy, but she saw that he was a boy, not two seasons older than her. His deerskin leggings were well-used and torn ragged, made by skillful hands, but not any of the river tribes. Slung over his back was a very ornate spear thrower. A brace of feathered arrows in a wolfskin pouch flared out of his back. His right fist gripped a long spear crowned with a tooth of flint. Rawhide thongs belted his leggings; on his waistbelt a stone hatchet and long stone knife were strapped. His arms and legs rippled with savage muscles. Mira clutched her little pointed stick. She edged down the mountain slope, to see what he would do. "Why did you follow me?" He was a shadow now, against the boulder, but she could see his white teeth grinning. "You are very pretty," he called out of the evening. He didn't follow her. He wasn't going to hurt her. She scuttered down the slope, grinning now, heart pounding and sudden blood in her face. What he said to me...! "You climb too high, Pretty One!" his voice echoed behind her, making a crazy thrill in her stomach. "Run home before it gets dark." Her face burned red. "Why!" she called, grinning over her shoulder. "Because a knife-tooth has come to this mountain."
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