"Bogdavi's Dream" is the fourth and final novelette in a four part series, the other stories being "Warfriends" (Asimov's, Dec 2010), "Golva's Ascent" (Asimov's, March 2012). and "Warlord" (Asimov's, April-May 2013). The entire series is itself a sequel (after 44 years!) to my Ace Double The Tree Lord of Imeten. For more information on The Tree Lord of Imeten, see the ninth installment of my literary memoir When I Was Writing. Readers who prefer the convenience of an ereader can purchase When I Was Writing for the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook.
Leza hiked and braided rope for fifty-seven days. They were planetary days, not Earth days, so she marched for about five hours every day and braided during the last four hours of daylight, using the terrestrial time units the humans on the planet still favored.
There were forty-eight combatants in their little army—three humans, twenty-three itiji, twenty-four male tree people. The male tree people were all Warriors of Imeten and they moved through the trees in a disciplined defensive circle, with a dozen women and children in the center. The humans and the itiji walked on the ground, the humans trudging under the weight of backpacks and weapons. Most of the itiji pulled sledges that gained weight as the rope accumulated.
The humans were the only creatures in the group who were built for sustained long-distance walking. The itiji were four-legged hunters who usually stayed within a day of their home base. The tree people were city builders who normally moved in spurts as they went about their business. The itiji had to spend part of every day pursuing their dinner. The tree people ate some of the meat the itiji killed but they drew most of their calories from the fruits they gathered as they travelled. In the afternoon they joined the humans in the rope braiding sessions.
They were going to climb a cliff that measured about one kilometer from its base to the plateau at the top. The tree people would climb the cliff and install ladders the itiji could climb.
The plateau on top of the cliff was a grassy plain, dotted with clumps of trees. The tree people would mount the itiji and they would attack the human settlement in a single rush, hammers, swords, teeth and claws, against the guns of the gang who tyrannized the humans. The tree people couldn’t fight on the ground without the help of the itiji. The itiji couldn’t climb the cliff without the tree people.
Bogdavi the Dreamer walked with Leza for part of every day. Bogdavi came and went as he pleased, but he always came back to Leza. The itiji had developed a tradition of romantic love and Bogdavi had apparently transferred it to a female from another species. The oldest itiji woman explained the tradition to Leza. Her round itiji face wrinkled into a pattern Leza associated with amusement.
Leza had spent most of her childhood reading factual material but she had dallied now and then in the imaginary worlds inhabited by Lancelot and Sir Galahad. “We have a tradition like that, too,” Leza said. “We had males called knights who courted women they couldn’t have. They wrote poems and did good deeds just so the women would admire them.”
“We find it useful and amusing,” the oldest itiji woman said. “Do your women feel that way?”
“Some of them probably did. I’m not sure how I would have felt. I’m not sure how I feel.”
Leza usually braided rope in a group that included Joanne and four of the tree people. Harold worked with a group that included the leader of the Warriors, Jila-Jen. The tree people gathered the vines that provided the basic fiber and they all sat there, monotonous hour after monotonous hour, working in pairs so they could keep the braid tight as they twisted.
Bogdavi had dreamed the plan. But Bogdavi was not the most practical of dreamers. They would need two ladders, side by side, if they were going to get everybody up the cliff in a single ascent. Each ladder would require two vertical lengths of rope, plus the rope they used to make the rungs.
The two ladders would actually be a series of ladders, each section about a hundred meters long, depending on the exact topography of the cliff. The itiji would climb the ladders from anchor point to anchor point, harnessed to safety ropes managed by Warriors. They were going to need a lot of rope.
Copyright 2014 by Tom Purdom. All rights reserved. This document may be printed out and archived for personal use. All other use is strictly prohibited.
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