"To his right Kakoaw stands holding a short spear with a sharp stone lashed to its end. He stabs toward Pyramie with the spear . . .



But he does not come close. He is fixated on the fire in the boy’s hand while Marnea screams at the edge of the opening. “You enchanted her! Don’t be afraid of the boy, Kakoaw!”

“Stand away from us!” Theo demands.

“He is a devil,” Kakoaw grunts, “I must kill him.”

“You will not touch him!”

Pyramie stands rock rigid until he sees the boyish fear in the man before him and waves the fire at Kakoaw. The Hunter jumps away. Marnea does not.

He thrusts the small burning bark toward her and shouts, “Get away,” in his young voice, but Marnea comes forward without fear and smacks it out of his hand.

Then she backhands him hard across the face and knocks him headlong against the tree. He is dizzy, his face stings, and she comes forward and grabs his hair, dragging him over to Kakoaw’s feet.

“Take him to the village. You will come with me.” She points at Theo.

“You cannot talk to me like that!” Theo shouts.

“He poisoned you. You must be purified,” she exclaims and takes Theo by the hand and walks off toward the village.

“You cannot touch me. Stop touching me, Gatherer.”

“You have violated the Way. I will bring you for them to decide.”

“Stop!” Theo shouts.

Pyramie has never seen a Gatherer touch one of them before. They are not allowed. Then he squirms and Kakoaw squeezes the air out of him until he cries without sound for lack of breath.

“You cannot touch me,” Theo is saying as she fights with the large woman.

“We will see what Dahtah says. He will know what we need.”

They soon reach the bottom of the steep trail and begin climbing. Then they are at the top of the hill, passing the Gatherers’ quarters. To the left sits the platform on the promontory cliff where Terreo cleanses the victims for Ashirah.

There the altar stone lies on its side, about the height of a man’s knee. The other flat stone stands taller than a man’s waist and is the rostrum where the Leader speaks to the assembled. Behind these stones is the drum made of dried-stomach over a bramble frame with the fur-wrapped femur to make the percussion over the savannah.