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Ridgerunner - Deborah Christian 2011

Ridgerunner - Deborah Christian 2011

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Published by: Knightsbridge~ on Jul 05, 2014
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Ridgerunner

© 2011 by Deborah Teramis Christian
I ran the ridges with Trida above the domes of Vesic. "Vesic-on-Vesic",
they called it - a joke, Trida explained. The !tpost was named for her kin-
parent as was the pond below it.
Vesic-the-!tpost stood well above Vesic-the-"ond, scattered among
ridge and fold above the valley bottom. "ink geoplast freckled j!ngle green,
every one a terra-climed dome. #ree$ing cold they were, with parched dry air,
!ninviting and alien. I stayed away. The ridge r!n was my pleas!re of choice,
and Trida left her strange ways to bind o!r friendship in that manner.
%er kin-parent, the "xenolog", enco!raged her, and blessed o!r friend-
pact. &he asked to learn the '!n. I agreed. (e had traded )ames, and were
committed to play the 'ace. It wo!ld be kin-pact if she s!cceeded, friend-rite if
she failed. I made that *!ite clear, and still she insisted. &o the '!n began.
#irst the co!rse is ta!ght. The marshes kill, the gro!nd slows, the trees are
*!ick, b!t treachero!s. %igh gro!nd is felt, not fo!nd. I ta!ght her the tricks, and
the heart of the challenge. +atch the other o!t - he dies. )o shelter to be fo!nd,
-o! are gone. &tranded on swampbog, .one. /etween branches, .one. /!t
reach the 'idge 0tho!gh I try to prevent yo! - yo! win. 1et me stop yo!, and yo!
go with the 2eathcrone.
The ancient h!nt commenced again. "rimeval. /loodthirsty. To r!n is to
chase. To chase is to h!nt.
'idger!nner0s %!nt.
I ta!ght Trida the r!les, and I obeyed the r!les3 my knowledge became
small, my j!ngle sense nil. I became my h!ntling0s best example3 bo!nding,
r!nning, panting as if strained. I pa!sed before a gnarlst!mp4 she b!rst into my
view. "+a!ght yo!," she breathed. !r eyes locked4 she smiled, teeth showing,
t!rned and loped away. 5s if I were cornered. 5s if she were already +lan.
%ow, then, co!ld I know that her folk were ignorant of the %!nt,
Time came for her trial. The Vesic slopes were overgrown, years aged
since lightning had licked them clean of j!ngle rot and made them fertile for clan
fields. Trida0s goal3 5!ren &pine, rising above the domes and forested slopes.
5!ren &pine, stark ridge above the morass of valley bottom. %er hope3 to
o!tpace me. To win to the high gro!nd, to evade my p!rs!it, to follow the ridge.
%er parents wished her well.
(e began with r!les agreed. )othing forbidden. 5ll challenges to be
met. I to prevent her ascension, and she to prevail against me. If she co!ld.
&he fled from Vesic pond, fleet before my baying call. 5way from pits
and trackless bog - she recalled my example, better than I had tho!ght she wo!ld.
I pict!red her piercing stare4 the voice that smiled, "+a!ght yo!".
The final challenge drew near.
&he flew ahead, !p slope and over stream. 6in and friends gathered to
refresh and cheer her on. 5llowed.
&o was the fire I sparked near her home. They wo!ld abandon their h!ts
and move. (o!ldn0t they,
%ot moist wind fanned flames !p the mo!ntainside. .eoplast scorched,
then melted transparent before the flames - b!t the Vesic clan was...chirushz. &o
*!ickly had they appeared in this valley, so *!ickly co!ld they leave, I had
tho!ght. Instead, they remained, keening their ang!ish, fighting the firegod0s kiss,
and staying to die in glorio!s %!nt.
5nd Trida ran on, winning almost to her goal, and clanclaim by right.
I stopped to watch her progress. &he had avoided my trap, b!t pa!sed
when she smelled the smoke. &topped, and to my s!rprise, ret!rned. &he so!ght
her dome, where kin and family had r!shed inside, wailing and fighting the god0s
progress, snatching belongings like greedy g!rns.
(o!ld she sacrifice herself for her family honor, (o!ld wager or past
kin-claim weigh more,
I had tho!ght to see her win o!r wager, !ntil she neared her h!t. I stood
nearby, masked by smoke and raging flame as she disappeared, sho!ting, inside.
&creams within silenced with time, and Trida did not come o!t again.
I looked at the fire-blackened ridge above. Trida heard my whisper, for
she receives friend-rite tomorrow.
I breathed with mirthless smile. "+a!ght yo!."
7 7 7
This story previously appeared in a small-circulation science fiction
magazine called Profusion in 1995. It is the first science fiction
short story I wrote for the Saadani !mpire setting" around 19#$.

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