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Episode 002: 
To the End of the World



   Everyone in the village wondered what lay beyond the great plain, and today Sparrow was going to see for himself. The prairies were an endless expanse of grass. No food and no water—it was suicide to try and cross it on your own. But Sparrow and his brother and sisters were the few in their village who could ride horses, and it was up to them to discover what lay beyond the undiscovered country. And with a little luck, and the blessing of Mother Earth, they’d find out where the elk were hiding.

   “I have never been prouder of you, my children,” said Shrew.

   Sparrow was the middle of four children. His older brother Robin usually took charge, even when he was wrong, and his younger sisters were twins. Despite their differences, they were all small in stature like their father, which made it easier for them to ride their horses. Their father had taught them well, for he was the first one to tame a horse.

   “No one knows what lies beyond the great plain,” said Shrew.

   “But, Father,” said Starling. “The elders say the heavens are held up by stone walls at the end of the plains.”

   “Those are stories. No one knows the truth because no one has seen it with their own eyes. More important than finding the end of the world is finding the lost herd of caribou.”

   “We’ll find the caribou, Father, and the end of the world,” said Robin.

   This was Sparrow’s fifteenth birthday. He knew because his father had told him he was born a full moon after the last snow melted. Robin was four years older than Sparrow, and the twins, Dove and Starling, were two years younger. While the children of Shrew sat on their horses, several other villagers came out to watch them. Some of them rode horses, but most walked—riding a horse was a skill that few could master. Shrew and his siblings, however, were small, and their horses were strong.

   “Your mother would have been so proud to see you today,” said Shrew.

   Sparrow and the twins were too young to remember their mother, who had died after giving birth to Dove and Starling. But Robin remembered her well.

   “If there is a wall at the end of the world, I will climb it to the top and find Mother among the stars in heaven,” said Robin.

   “If you do find Mother, will you have the courage to come back home?”

   “Of course, Father.”

   “You are all special. Not because you are my offspring—on your own, you are weak and vulnerable. It is your ekwos that make you strong, and your ekwos are the children of Hope.”

   Shrew patted his old horse’s neck. Each child of Shrew had been given a horse born from the first horse to ever be tamed: the famous horse whose name was Hope.

   “Hope’s children are strong and can carry you on their backs for a long time, but they are also calm and obedient. That is why so many from Kurhass have tried to ride their ekwos and have failed.”

   The crowd around them grew, and now most of the elders and women from Kurhass gathered around them.

   “Do you think they’ll find the caribou?” asked one of the wives.

   “I hope they don’t run into any wolves out there,” said another.

Shrew pet the horse of his eldest son Robin, then whispered so only his children could hear.

   “Watch the skies—make sure you are always heading east. Stick together, and you will be safe.”

   “Farewell, Father,” said Robin. “We’ll see you soon.”

   “Farewell, my children.”

   Robin led the way, trotting down the trail from Kurhass village. They passed several gatherers picking berries and roots that grew along the banks of the river Kur. The women and men stood up tall as the four children trotted past them on their horses.

   “Be safe out there,” said one of the gatherers as she waved.

   Sparrow waved back and smiled. Their horses splashed about as they entered the shallow water and turned downstream. The day was still young, but it was already warm. Sparrow’s fur tunic and pants were folded over his horse’s back. The rays of the morning sun warmed his arms and legs while a thin leather shirt covered his back and chest.

   “I feel sorry for them,” said Robin as they passed another group of gatherers on the banks of the river. “They have to walk around with their own two feet. No horse to carry them.”

   “Father says that is the way of the world,” answered Sparrow. “We are how Mother Earth created us, and it is the heavenly father who blessed us.”

   A splash alerted the siblings to something behind them.

   “They’re trying to follow us,” said Starling.

   Sparrow looked over his shoulder and saw several villagers following behind on the backs of their horses. The riders looked clumsy and had difficulty controlling the animals.

   “Ride faster, Brave,” said Robin.

   The horses broke into a fast trot and splashed through the shallow water. When the river took them around a bend, Sparrow looked over his shoulder and saw the last follower fall from his horse and land in the river.

   “No one’s following us anymore,” laughed Sparrow.

   “Good,” said Robin.

   “They’re bad riders,” said Starling. “They can’t even control their ekwos.”

   “It’s not the riders’ fault,” said Dove. “It’s their ekwos. They’re barely tame.”

   “Our ekwos are special because they are the children of Hope,” said Robin.

   “Then we shouldn’t call them ekwos,” suggested Sparrow.

   Robin looked over his shoulder at his younger brother.

   “What should we call an ekwos descended from Hope?” asked Robin.

   “I don’t know,” answered Starling.

   “Why not a hopekwos?” asked Dove. “Hope’s ekwos.”

   “How about a Hoss? That’s easier to say,” said Starling.

   “A horse?” repeated Sparrow. “I like it.”

   “Not Horse,” said Starling. “Hoss.”

   “I like horse,” said Robin. “Let’s call them Horses.”

   They trotted up the river Kur for almost an hour. More than once they passed villagers of Kurhass. Some were picking berries and roots, and others were spearfishing from the banks of the river. The foragers waved to them, but the fisherman threw them annoyed glances because the horses disturbed the fish in the water. The further they got from Kurhass village the thicker the bushes grew along the edge of the river.

   “We made it,” called Robin, who was now far ahead of the others. “The Great River.”

   Sparrow and his sisters caught up to their older brother and saw the Kur River pour over the rocks and sand and drain into the Great River. It was high noon, and everyone was sweating from the sun.

   “Last one in has to make the fire tonight,” shouted Robin as he galloped across the beach.

   The horses broke into a full gallop over the rocks and sand, dodging the driftwood until they reached the shallow water of the Great River. As the horses ate weeds from the shallow edges, the siblings splashed played in the cool, deep water.

   “Drink up,” said Robin.

   Sparrow untied the gourd from his horse’s back and drank as much as possible before sinking it below the water and filling it back up.

   “Where do we cross?” asked Dove. “It’s too deep here.”

   “The Great River straightens upstream,” said Robin. “It’s the same crossing we took on the hunt.”

   “I wish I could have gone with you this year,” said Sparrow. “But they said I wasn’t good enough with the bow.”

   “It was a disaster,” said Robin. “We never found the herd and wandered the plains aimlessly for weeks.”

   After trotting upriver, they came to a part that was calm and straight, and their horses crossed without the water going up past their knees. Once across the Great River they had to dismount their horses to make it up the steep embankment, but at the top they finally saw the great plain.

   “Oh, my,” whispered Starling. “It goes on forever.”

   “It sure looks that way,” said Robin. “But it has to end somewhere.”

   Sparrow stared at the expanse of grass. It appeared to go on forever, and the effect was disorientating. There were no trees, only grass, and the ground itself appeared to ripple like the sand at the edge of the river.

   “It looks like the beaches next to Kurhass,” said Sparrow. “Do you think water once flowed over these plains?”

   “Don’t be silly,” said Robin. “This is the great plain. Don’t you listen to anything the elders tell us?”

   Sparrow was mesmerized. The grasslands seemed infinite, but when he looked very closely, he thought he could see the end of the world.

   "Where should we look for the caribou?” asked Starling.

   “Father told us to head east,” said Sparrow.

   “Race you to the end of the world,” shouted Starling, as she galloped into the prairies, her sister following right behind her.

   Sparrow laughed as his sisters raced through the open fields.

   “What do you say, Brother?” asked Sparrow. “Race to the end of the world?”

   “On three?”

   “One,” said Sparrow, and his brother kicked off running, his horse sprinting through the open fields.

   “Wait for me,” shouted Sparrow.

   He kicked his heels into the side of his horse, and the beast galloped into the fields. The faster they ran, the stronger the wind, until it almost knocked Sparrow off the back of his horse. He leaned low over his horse’s neck. They ran up one hill and down the other side before catching up to his twin sisters. Starling and Dove were laughing as they galloped, zigzagging back and forth. Robin was still in the lead.

   “Faster, Courage,” Sparrow whispered to his horse. “You can go faster.”

   Sparrow dug his heels into the horse’s side, and Courage picked up speed. His older brother was still far ahead, occasionally disappearing over the next hill before Sparrow caught up to him.

   Sparrow felt like a bird flying low over the ground. He could hear his sisters laughing behind him, and he peered over his shoulder to see Starling circling out beside him.

   “Faster, Dove,” shouted Starling.

   Sparrow looked to his left and saw his other sister circling up the other side, but they were still behind.

   “I’m coming for you, sis,” shouted Sparrow.

   He broke off to his left to cut off his little sister, who laughed with excitement.

“You’re trailing behind, little brother,” shouted Robin. “Perhaps you belong back there with the girls.”

   Sparrow’s smile faded, and his face flushed with anger. He dug his heels into the side of his horse and galloped as fast as he could. Gripping his horse’s mane, he lowered his body until he no longer felt the wind crashing against his chest. But still… he could not catch up to his older brother.

   “You’ll never be as good as me,” shouted Robin.

   The taunting only made Sparrow hate his brother, so he kicked his horse harder than he would have done if he weren’t angry. He knew it hurt his horse, but the beast ran even faster. He was getting closer to his older brother. They ran over a hill and down the other side. Any moment now, Sparrow was going to pass his brother.

   Robin looked over his shoulder, making eye contact with Sparrow. He was nervous; soon Sparrow would pass him.

   They went down another hill. Sparrow was closing in on his brother. But when Robin made it to the top of the next hill, he yanked on the rope around his horse’s neck and ground to a stop.

   “Water!” shouted Robin.

   Sparrow couldn’t slow down in time, and his horse galloped right into a creek, nearly throwing him over his horse.

   “I beat you,” said Robin.

   “You cheated. You always cheat!” shouted Sparrow.

   “Stop, you two,” said Starling.

   Starling climbed off and walked her horse to the edge of the water. She let the animal drink from the stream while she submerged her gourd until the bubbles stopped coming out. The tension between Robin and Sparrow died down as the two brothers drank from the stream.

   “How much further until the end of the world?” asked Starling.

    “There’s no way to know for sure,” answered Sparrow.

   “I wouldn’t say that,” said Robin. “While we were riding over the last hill, I think I saw it. It’s far, but we can make it there by sundown.”

   “What about food?” asked Dove. “I’m hungry.”

   “I’m hungry too,” said Starling.

   “We can eat when we make it to the end of the world,” said Robin. “If we get there by nightfall, we can sleep before climbing the wall into the heavens. If we’re fast enough, we could be eating breakfast with Mother.”

   “But I can’t wait until nightfall,” said Starling. “I need to eat now.”

   “They’re right,” said Sparrow. “We need to eat. We gain nothing by exhausting ourselves.”

   Robin snorted and turned away from his siblings. The others could hear him mumbling to himself. After a minute, their older brother kicked a tall weed in half and walked off.

   “Fine, we’ll eat. But be as fast as you can. I don’t want to miss out on meeting Mother tomorrow because you three were tired and hungry.”

   Sparrow and his sisters sat on the grass next to the creek and opened one of their satchels. Sparrow unwrapped a thin piece of leather and revealed a greasy white block. He used his copper knife to cut off thin slices, and passed a piece each to his sisters. They shoved the greasy food into their mouths and chewed.

   “Tal is my favorite,” said Sparrow, as he cut off a slice for himself.

   Tal was a staple in Kurhass, and everyone ate it in the winter, and on long journeys away from the village. It was mostly fat from their animals mixed with pieces of meat and berries and roots from the river. It was so fatty they stored it underground where it was cool all year long. Unfortunately, it had warmed up during their ride and was now half-melted.

   “Aren’t you going to join us?” asked Starling.

   “No,” answered Robin, before turning away. “I’d rather eat with Mother in heaven.”

   “How do you know we’ll be able to get into heaven?” asked Sparrow.

   Robin spun around. He looked like he was about to throw something at Sparrow.

   “Don’t you listen to anything the elders say?” shouted Robin. “Our ancestors are up in the heavens watching over us, and at the end of the world, great walls of stone hold up the canopy of heaven.”

   “I want to see Mother again too,” said Sparrow, “but not if it means riding us to death.”

   “You never knew Mother,” said Robin. “None of you did.”

   That was the last word muttered during dinner. The girls finished their tal and wiped their hands and greasy mouths on their sleeves before climbing back on their horses. Sparrow was upset with his brother and couldn’t even look him in the eye. Everyone quietly mounted their horses.

   “I’ll lead the way,” said Robin, and he burst into a full gallop.

   Sparrow and the twins were slower to start, giving their older brother time to get ahead. They galloped and trotted the rest of the afternoon, crossing over rolling hills and down into low dills only to go back up again and repeat the cycle. There were too many hills to count. Although the day started off with fun and games and swimming in the Great River, it was now quiet. They rode as fast as they could, and they never laughed or played again. Robin was so far ahead they could only see him when they were all at the top of a hill.

   “I think I see it,” said Starling.

   “What do you see?” asked Sparrow.

   “The end of the world. Robin was right. I think I see the end of the world.”

By now the sun was setting, and the sky had turned a dark red. Sparrow rode to the top of the next hill, and this time he saw the end of the world. It was a large hill, bigger than any hill they had seen before, and it stretched from all the way north to all the way south.

   “I see it too,” shouted Sparrow.

   He dug his heels into the side of his horse and galloped full speed over the next few hills. Quickly, he closed the gap between him and his brother. He rode over another rolling hill, and this time he could count how many hills were left. There were fewer than ten, then quickly there were eight, then six. As he crested over the second-last hill and rode down into the dill, he saw his older brother sitting motionless on his horse. Sparrow raced to the top, only to slow down as he neared his brother.

   Something was wrong. His brother wasn’t looking back, or calling them. Robin was frozen on the back of his horse, as if seeing the end of the world had turned him into stone.

   “Robin?” called Sparrow, but there was no reaction.

   Carefully and cautiously, Sparrow stopped beside his brother. What he saw took him completely by surprise.

   “I don’t get it,” whispered Sparrow. “It keeps going.”

   The twins rode up behind them.

   “More fields?” asked Starling. “When does it end?”

   “Maybe the end of the world is after this,” said Dove.

   That was the first time Sparrow noticed the tears in his brother’s eyes. And in that moment, Sparrow felt sad. Not for himself, but for his brother.

   “We should set up camp,” said Sparrow. “We can sleep at the bottom of the hill.”

   “No,” answered Robin. “We’ll sleep up here. We can see in every direction, and we’ll be able to see anything or anyone that tries to sneak up on us.”

   “You’re right,” said Sparrow. “Let’s camp here.”

   They took the time to tie all four horses together, then rolled out their furs and created a nice blanket on the ground. When the horses lay down to sleep, their bodies protected the siblings from the wind. A small fire in the center staved off the cold.

   When they awoke, it was to the morning sun creeping over the eastern horizon. The golden light startled the horses first, and shortly after everyone awoke. The fire was out, and the air was cold. They each ate a thick slice of tal and drank as much water as they could stomach before they climbed back on their horses.

   “To the end of the world?” asked Sparrow.

   “To the end of the world, little brother.”

   The four siblings galloped across the plains. This time there was a serious task in front of them. They rode fast, and they rode all day. They came across another creek, where they stopped to rest, drink, and refill their gourds. As soon as they were able, they continued their journey. They rode over hundreds of rolling hills and through the endless grasslands.

   They didn’t find a giant hill that turned into a mountain, but something quite the opposite.

   “Slow down,” said Robin.

   Sparrow rode over the last rolling hill and looked into a deep canyon with a winding river and trees at the bottom. There were animals and strange structures down below, and campfires were burning.

   “What is this place?” asked Sparrow.

   “Quiet,” whispered Robin. “There are people down there.”

   “I see them too,” said Starling. “I can see their houses and animals.”

   “We should be careful,” said Sparrow. “We’re a long way from home.”

   “Remember who we are,” said Robin. “If it gets bad, we’ll ride back into the grassland.”

   “This doesn’t feel safe,” whispered Dove.

   “We should walk down on foot,” whispered Sparrow.

   No one argued, not even Robin. The hill down was too steep. They climbed off their horses and walked down the hill, leading their animals by the rope tied around their necks. The hill was so steep they had to go down on an angle, and sometimes the horses would grunt and snort in fear.

   “I don’t see anyone,” whispered Dove.

   “They’re here,” whispered Starling. “I saw their huts and animals.”

   Once they made it to the bottom, they climbed back on their horses and slowly trotted into the valley.

   “The grass is short,” whispered Sparrow.

   “It’s their animals,” whispered Robin. “Look at the goats and sheep. They’re not afraid of us.”

   “This doesn’t feel right,” whispered Dove.

   They couldn’t see any houses or huts, but something felt wrong. The girls started to fall back, but Robin kept trotting ahead. They were spreading out.

   “We should turn back,” whispered Dove. “I don’t want to go any further.”

   “I see people,” whispered Sparrow. “Two of them. By the river.”

   “Where?” said Robin. He didn’t bother to whisper.

   Sparrow pointed to the shrubs near the river where two men stood motionless. They were dressed funny, and it was hard to make out why. Then a knot formed in his stomach.

   “They’re wearing wolfskin,” whispered Sparrow.

“There’re more up ahead,” whispered Starling.

   Sparrow took his eyes off the river as a group of men ran out of the bushes in front of them and formed a long line. There were dozens of them, each carrying a bow.

   “We should go,” whispered Sparrow. “This isn’t safe.”

   “You fear everything, little brother. I’ll go on my own. When they realize we come in peace, they’ll lower their bows.”

   Sparrow and the girls stopped while Robin slowly trotted forward. After walking halfway across the open field, Robin raised his arms in the air.

   “Brothers and sisters,” he shouted. “We are from Kurhass, and we come in peace.”

   One of the men yelped, and a second later, the rest of the wolves returned his call. The entire river valley erupted with war cries and shouts. Robin looked back at his brother and for a second, Sparrow could see the fear in his eyes.

   That is when they attacked.

   “Watch out!” shouted Starling.

   Every arrow released at once, arching through the air and raining down on Robin. He was quick enough to dismount, but the arrows pelted his horse, and the beast dropped onto his rider.

   “Robin!” shouted Sparrow.

   “I’m stuck!” shouted Robin.

   “Girls,” said Sparrow, “I need you to create a distraction. Ride around and get them to look at you. Stay far enough away from their arrows, and never stop riding.”

   “What are you going to do?” asked Starling.

   “I’m going to save our brother.”

   As the twins galloped down the side of the field, shouting and screaming, the line of archers fired their arrows at them, and some gave chase. As soon as the enemy was distracted, Sparrow galloped across the field to his brother and jumped off his horse.

   “Robin,” screamed Sparrow. “I’m here.”

   “I’m stuck. It went right through my arm.”

   Sparrow bent down and saw the arrow pinning his brother’s wrist to the ground. He yanked it out as Robin screamed in pain. The noise got the attention of the archers, and a few of them turned back to Robin and Sparrow.

   “We have to get you out of here,” shouted Sparrow.

   They didn’t even try to climb on the horse. Instead they sprinted while the loyal Courage galloped beside them.

   “Run!” shouted Dove. “They’re chasing you.”

   Sparrow never turned around, but he could hear the sound of arrows landing in the ground behind them. As soon as they made it to the bottom of the hill, the girls caught up to them on their horses. And while the hill may have been too steep to ride down, the twins didn’t hesitate to ride the horses back up.

   “You have to take Courage,” shouted Sparrow.

   Robin didn’t question his brother, who was crouched down, creating a step to climb onto the horse. The weight of his brother winded Sparrow a little, but soon the horse was trotting up the side of the ravine, Robin on its back.

   “I’ll race you to the top,” said Robin in a weak voice.


   Sparrow looked over his shoulder. Dozens of angry men in wolves’ clothing sprinted after him. They were shouting and carrying spears and blunt weapons, and some fired arrows at him. He scurried up the side of the hill on all fours, kicking loose dirt and rocks down behind him. Arrows landed in his footprints as he raced up. As soon as he made it to the top, his sisters reached down, grabbed his arms, and pulled him over the edge.

   “We have to get out of here now,” shouted Sparrow.

   “How?” asked Starling. “There are four of us, and only three horses.”

   None of their horses could carry two people; they had tried it many times.

   “Dove, Starling,” shouted Sparrow. “Ride all day and all night. Don’t stop until you get to Kurhass. When the sun sets, follow the stars West.”

   “We can’t leave you two,” said Starling.

   “My horse will carry Robin; I can out run them,” said Sparrow. “Go now. Don’t look back. Just keep riding until you get to Kurhass and send for Father.”

   The twins kicked off and galloped across the grasslands, looking over their shoulders at their older brothers. As Robin and Sparrow watched their sisters ride away, a storm of arrows came flying over the edge of the valley.

   Robin screamed, and Sparrow turned to see a large black arrow sticking out of his brother’s shoulder. The scream spooked his horse, which galloped off, following the girls.

   “Keep running, little brother,” shouted Robin from the back of the horse. “Don’t let them catch you.”

   Sparrow sprinted as fast as he could as Courage galloped away with Robin slumped over its back. Sparrow sprinted full speed, but he was already tired, and he was stumbling over the ground. He tripped but got back up and ran some more. But his lungs burned so much he couldn’t breathe.

   He was done. He could run no more.

   Sparrow collapsed on the ground as his head pulsed. He felt the dry grass in his bare hands and listened to the yelping wolves chasing behind him.


   Sparrow looked up and saw his older brother riding up to his side. The sun lit Robin from behind in a glowing halo that silhouetted the arrow sticking out of his shoulder. Robin slid off the back of the horse, reached down, and pulled Sparrow off the ground.

   “Ride, Brother. I’ll run behind you.”

   Sparrow grabbed Courage’s mane and climbed onto its back with a helpful push from his brother. Robin smacked the ass of the horse, which took off running. As they galloped across the field, Sparrow looked back and watched the angry wolves chase his brother across the grasslands. They ran over another rolling hill, and Robin picked up speed as he ran down the other side. But at the top of the next hill, Robin stumbled and landed on all fours.

   “Robin!” shouted Sparrow. He turned back and ran to his fallen brother.

   As he jumped off his horse, a dozen wolves came rushing over top of the hill. Several of them kept chasing while the rest aimed their arrows and fired. They weren’t yet near enough to hit them, but they were landing closer.

   “Get on, Brother,” said Sparrow. “They’ll never catch up to us if we keep switching off.”

   It took a minute to push his older brother onto his horse, but as soon as he was up, the horse took off again. Sparrow was rested now and sprinted as fast as he could while arrows rained down behind him. One of them fell a few feet in front and to his right. But Sparrow had his energy back, and he sprinted down the hill as fast as he could, across the low plain, and up the next rolling hill. When Sparrow made it to the top, he collapsed. But his brother was right there waiting for him, and they switched places once more. This continued for hours as the wolves chased them, but they managed to slowly get ahead of them until Sparrow looked back and saw they were several hills behind them.

   “Do you think we outran them?” asked Robin.

   “Not yet,” said Sparrow, as he panted. He huffed and puffed and felt every breath burn his lungs. His heart pressure was so great it felt like his veins were about to burst.

   “It’s getting late,” said Robin. “The sun will set soon. Perhaps we should consider setting up camp.”

   Sparrow no longer ran. Instead he dragged the leash with his brother slouched over the horse. Robin was pale, and his lips were blue. The blood on his arm was dried and caked, but fresh, bright blood was still breaking through the scabs.

   “You don’t look good, Brother,” whispered Sparrow. “We have to get you home.”

   “Please,” whispered Robin. “I need to sleep. I can’t keep going on like this.”

   Sparrow looked back and saw tiny figures in the distance. The wolves didn’t seem to be chasing them anymore, but he could still see them standing there all the same. They were watching them.

   “We can’t stop,” answered Sparrow. “They’ll catch up to us if we do. We have to keep moving.”

   Robin groaned and moaned as he lay on the back of the horse. The sun set and the air turned cold. But still they kept moving. Sparrow led his horse by the rope slowly, and to make sure his brother didn’t freeze to death, he gave him his fur coat.

   The night sky was clear, and the stars were bright. But it was freezing cold. All Sparrow wanted to do was lie down and sleep in a bundle of furs, but if he did, his brother would die.

   “Mother,” mumbled Robin.

   “No, Robin,” whispered Sparrow. “Don’t go away. Stay with me. You’re going to make it home.”

   All night, Sparrow walked across the cold prairie, up one rolling hill and down the other side. The grass below his feet crunched with the frost. The cold wind blew all night, and still Sparrow kept walking.

   His brother mumbled about his mother. It almost sounded like Robin was speaking to her. It made Sparrow sad because he’d never known his mother.

   “Please, Brother,” whispered Sparrow. “Don’t leave me. Keep fighting.”

   They walked all night, and it wasn’t until the last star disappeared from the horizon that Sparrow realized the sun was coming up. Behind him, he could still see the tiny figures of the wolves in the distance. There were hundreds of them now, but they were so far away. They must have kept up their pursuit all night long. Surely they would give up the chase now.

   “Robin,” said Sparrow with excitement. “We made it.”

   But his brother never answered. Robin was smiling, but his skin was pale white. His lips were blue, and his body was lifeless. His arms dangled over the side of the horse.

   “Robin, wake up!”

   He shook his brother, but Robin didn’t move, and his skin felt cold.

   “Wake up, Robin. Wake up!”

   But there was nothing.

   Sparrow stopped at the top of the hill, carefully pulled his brother from the horse, and laid him on the soft grass. The morning sun broke over the horizon and brought with it warmth. But his brother was still cold, so he covered him with all the furs he could find.

   He looked up to see if he recognized his surroundings, but everything was the same in every direction. Other than the sun rising in the east, he had no bearings. He didn’t know how far he was from Kurhass. He missed his sisters, and he missed his father. But most of all, he was missing his mother and brother.

  Sparrow knelt down and rested his palm on his brother’s forehead. He felt warmth, but he quickly realized it was the sun that was warming him up.

He wanted to scream, and he wanted to cry, but all he could do was stare up at the sky and wonder why.

   “You’re with Momma now,” whispered Sparrow. “You were right. You were going to see her again.”

   He sat down on the grass and buried his face into his palms. And for the entire morning he cried into his hands. Occasionally he wiped his tears with his sleeve. It wasn’t until he heard voices that Sparrow finally stood up and scanned the horizon. Something was close. He could hear them.

   “They caught us,” whispered Sparrow.

   It was too hard to make out the details, but people were definitely closing in on him. What was he going to do? Should he leave his brother and ride away? Should he put his body back on the horse and carry him home? Or should he bury him here and ride away?

   “Heavenly Father,” prayed Sparrow. “Please help me.”

   Sparrow stood in shock. He saw several horses and riders galloping towards him from the West. When he looked east, he saw hundreds of wolves coming after him.

   The riders circled around him. Sparrow recognized his sisters and father, and several spare horses following behind.

   “Are you all right, my son?” shouted Shrew.

   “Father,” called Sparrow. “It’s Robin. He’s dead.”

   Shrew jumped off his horse and rushed to the body of his son. The twins cried as Shrew shook Robin’s cold body. He laid his son on his side and pulled the arrow out of his shoulder before laying him on his back. Then he pulled a small satchel off his horse and pulled out a white paste made of roots from the river Kur. He pressed the paste into the arrow wound on Robin’s shoulder. Then he took some red berries, rolled them into a red mash, and poured them into Robin’s mouth.

   It wasn’t until Robin rolled his head and groaned that Sparrow realized his brother was still alive.

   “Let’s get him up,” said their father. “We need to make a fire and clean his wounds. If we don’t, the rot will take him.”

   “We can’t stay here, Father,” whispered Sparrow. “The wolves are hunting us.”

   “Wolves?” asked Shrew, looking around. “I don’t see any wolves.”

   Sparrow pointed to the eastern horizon, at the hundreds of wolves coming after them. But he wasn’t looking at wolves. They were something else.

   “Caribou,” cried Starling. “You found the caribou.”

   While the kids watched the caribou in the distance, Sparrow struggled to make a fire. They had some kindling from the packhorse, and very quickly, the crackling and fragrance of burning wood filled the air.

   “Mother?” whispered Robin. “Is that you?”

   “It’s me, Son. Your father. Don’t worry, my boy. You’ll be okay.”

   Once Robin was back on a horse, the rest of the kids followed behind on their horses. They rode slowly to keep Robin from undue suffering.

   “Is he going to be okay?” Dove asked her father.

   “He will survive today,” said Shrew. “But we need to get him back to Kurhass. He needs real rest.”

   When they finally rolled into Kurhass at the end of the day, the village healers carried Robin away. There was still much for the elders to do to make sure he beat his fever and recovered from the wounds.

   Sparrow was exhausted. He stumbled through Kurhass to the family hut. Several villagers called out to Sparrow about the caribou, but he ignored everyone. His only mission was to find his bed, and when he was alone in his hut, he lay down in front of the fire and wrapped himself in bear fur. He barely heard his sisters enter the hut behind him.

   “You found the caribou,” said Starling. “The village is sending out messengers to let the hunters know where to find them.”

   “I just want to sleep,” whispered Sparrow, his eyes still closed.

   “You saved the village,” whispered Starling.

   “And our brother,” said Dove. “He says he saw Mother.”

   “As long as he is alive,” whispered Sparrow, “that is all that matters.”

   Sparrow closed his eyes, and although his sisters kept talking, he fell asleep.


The End

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