Taye woke with the sun shining on his face. He leaped to his feet and grabbed his pack. Using the tri-pointed spear as a walking stick, he set out at a brisk walk, following the tracks of the matiki. He had overslept, and he had to make up for lost time.
    Midday, he stopped at a small spring and ate some biscuits his mother had made from roots. As he ate, he studied the land around him. The grassy plain stretched endlessly before him. Back at the water hole, getting lost had been a mere idea. Now it was a real possibility. The vastness of the flat empty land overwhelmed him. All morning the only signs of life had been the datis that flew overhead and dove into the knee-high grass for food. The trail of bent grass lay clear before him and the droppings he occasionally found told him the Matiki was close.
Taye stood, and a wetzel hopped into the trail ahead of him, its white furry white tail flashing in the sunlight. The wetzel paused a moment, boldly considering Taye before disappearing back into the tall grass.
    Taye was gaining on the matiki, but he would have to hurry if he expected to get back in the allotted time. Tonight he would continue, using the light of the moon to follow the clear trail. The matiki probably didn't know he was being followed, so he would rest often.
    Puffs of clouds blocked out the sun now and then, but the day only seemed to get steamier. Taye marched on through the heat. His sandals were getting thin, but the thick grass cushioned his weary feet.

    By late evening, dark clouds were building on the horizon. A brilliant flash of lightning ended in a long roll of thunder. He was reluctant to stop even if there had been any place to take shelter. The trail was getting fresher. He couldn't be far behind the matiki.
So intent was he on tracking that the sudden downpour took him by surprise. Thunder cracked loudly, and lightning struck the ground not far away. He instinctively dropped to his knees on the wet grass. Immediately he was flooded with shame by his act of cowardice. He was a Pyean warrior, not a child.
He stood, forcing himself to ignore the huge bolts of lightening as he continued on the trail. A Senior Warrior faced his fear and conquered it. He didn't cower in the grass.
    The rain came down so hard that he could barely see the trail, but to stop now would mean turning back without the matiki. The rain would erase all tracks before long. He started to run, splashing through the water on the trail. He had to catch up to the matiki before the storm passed. The matiki would stop and put his tail to the storm, but Taye wouldn’t allow himself that luxury.
    In the downpour he didn't see the gully until he was on the edge of it. When the ground gave way under his feet, he tumbled down a steep embankment. The fall did little more than knock the wind from his lungs - and yet, he had a strange roaring in his ears. He pushed away from the ground, staring at the sand beneath his feet. His heart began to pound. He was in a wash during a thunderstorm. Too late, he realized the roaring sound was a wall of water.
    He glanced around, frantically searching for a way up the high vertical walls of the gully. The roar was getting closer. He dropped his pouch and ran to the wall, gouging out foot steps with the end of his spear. Reaching as high as he could, he grabbed a root and pulled himself up - toward the safety of the grass plains. He had one hand over the edge when the water tore his feet out from under him. The force of the water ripped him from the wall of the gully, tossing him into the air - smashing him against debris the water had gathered.

Continue to Chapter 3

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