"Warfriends" is a sequel to The Tree Lord of Imeten, my second Ace Double, which I wrote over forty years ago. You'll find more information about that book in the ninth installment of my literary memoir, "Tom and Sara Go to Delta Pavonis II". As I mention at the end of that piece, I thought about writing a sequel, even a series, but never did. It occurred to me I could do a sequel as a novelette and I ended up writing four novelettes with an overall story arc, the other three being "Golva's Ascent" (Asimov's, March 2012), "Warlord" (Asimov's, April-May 2013) and "Bogdavi's Dream" (in inventory).
“He has decided to attack the patrol,” Jila-Jen said. “Tonight. In the dark. You and your warband will scout. And carry me and two others.”
Vigdal’s tail started to stiffen. He stifled the impulse and held it curled against his body.
“They will know we’re in the area if we do that,” Vigdal said. “They’ll be alerted. We’ll face an alerted force when we attack the road.”
Vigdal had deliberately arranged himself in a sitting position, with his hindquarters tucked under him and his weight resting on his forepaws-- the most relaxed, unthreatening posture a member of his species could assume. Jila-Jen had tried to reciprocate and he had done about as well as his species could. Jila-Jen was bending forward, with the weight of his upper body resting on the knuckles of his left hand, and he had let himself lean to one side, so he would look almost languid.
No Warrior of Imeten could ever eliminate the threat inherent in his presence, of course. Vigdal could still feel the tensions and conflicts that permeated every conversation he conducted with Jila-Jen’s species. They both knew the dartblower hooked to the back of Jila-Jen’s harness could be whipped into action in seconds. The iron sword at Jila-Jen’s waist could be unhooked and swung against an enemy’s neck in a single, sweeping motion.
The tree people always looked awkward on the ground. In the trees, Jila-Jen could flow across the branches on all fours and sail from handhold to handhold. He could hold himself steady with one hand and manipulate a weapon with the other. On the ground, without his weapons, he would be a prey animal-- a clumsy creature who scuttled around on his knuckles and hind legs, without the natural grace of a fourlegs.
But everything had changed in that legendary age when fate had taught the tree people their hands could be used to fashion things that had never existed.....
“We are supposed to kill the enemy and make them guard their land and their wealth,” Jila-Jen said. “Nama-Nanat says we can do that by attacking their patrol. We will kill every Drovil in the patrol. And attack the iron road if we can.”
Vigdal was holding his big round head slightly bowed, as if he was pondering every word he heard. The tree people didn’t like it when you looked them in the eye without a break. “And what if we don’t kill all of them?” Vigdal said “What if some of them escape and get to the road before us? And we can’t attack the road because they Drovils have been alerted? Are we supposed to give up the chance to steal iron and free captives just so we can ambush a patrol?”
Jila-Jen straightened up. The fur on the side of his head stiffened into bristles that turned his face into a broad angry mask. His free hand gripped the hilt of his sword.
“Nama-Nanat has given his orders!” Jila-Jen screamed. “Nama-Nanat is your commander. He commands! We obey!”
Copyright 2010 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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