Kimi rode her own piebald horse as they trotted out of the camp, waved off by Andrid. Kimi felt happy and began to hum a tune. She was going home at last, and her longing to see her family made her excited.
But it was a long way. The Swooping Hawks held a large territory, and it would take nearly a sixday to get back to Kimi's father's farm.
Each evening, Davrael came to talk with Kimi in her tent. Mimola sat at the back sewing so the two young people could talk without her presence disturbing them. At first, Kimi asked her to join them, but she declined saying she had sewing to do. She was embroidering a tunic for Andrid. It was a surprise for him and this was an ideal opportunity for her to be able to get on with it without him knowing.
During the journey, the pair got to know each other better. Kimi liked what she saw of the young warrior.
One evening, Davrael said, 'You remind me of a little mouse, Kimi.'
Kimi frowned. 'A mouse?' she said.
'Yes, a mouse. Not because you're timid. You are definitely not that, but you are small and brown, and very sweet. Your hair is brown and your eyes are brown, and you are very tiny.'
Kimi was not sure quite how to take this comparison, but she decided to accept it as a compliment. She smiled at the man opposite her. He looked into her eyes with his paler brown ones and she felt as though an electric shock passed through her. He seemed to jerk back slightly himself, as if he, too. had felt something. She saw a slight frown pass across his face, then he was back to normal.
Each evening passed in a similar way until they reached the edge of the lands claimed by Kimi's family. Then, Davrael gave orders for his men to stay where they were with the horses and he and Kimi rode on towards the homestead.
The sun had just begun to set when they arrived at the farm. They reined in their horses just as Kimi's mother came out of the house. She carried a bucket towards the well when she noticed them.
Giving a scream of delight and surprise, she dropped the bucket and ran towards the pair. Kimi slid off her horse and ran towards her mother, falling into her arms.
'Kimi, you're back, you're back,' said her mother, over and over again.
Her father came out of the barn at that moment and saw Kimi. He dropped the bucket he carried and ran to where the girl and her mother stood, still hugging each other.
'Kimi,' he said, tearing her away from his wife and hugging her to him. 'We thought you lost, perhaps even dead, and here you are returned to us. Praise to Kassilla.'
Kimi extricated herself from her father and turned towards where Davrael sat on his horse a little way away. She beckoned him to come forward and he dismounted and led his horse to where the family stood. Before Kimi could say a word, her father's face darkened.
'I suppose you've come for a reward. Taking our little girl and then bringing her back. Not to mention the horses. Where are they? I expect you've kept them.'
Kimi's face fell. She turned to her father. 'It wasn't like that, father. Davrael did not capture me.'
'Hmm. Then how come you're with him now?'
'Father, he rescued me. I was captured by the Prowling Lynx. Davrael's from the Swooping Hawks. The Lynx were the ones who stole our horses, and me. They wanted fresh blood in the tribe and were going to make me marry the son of their chief. He was horrible. He's a cruel young man.'
'They're all the same, the Tribes. Thieves all. If it hadn't been the Lynx it would have been the Hawks no doubt.'
Kimi's eyes filled with tears. 'Father, the Swooping Hawks are honest and they've punished the Lynx, including their chief. They would never have done the things the Lynx did.'
'Perhaps they didn't steal the horses, but where are they now? Tell me that.'
Davrael held up his hand and whistled. From out of a stand of trees, three warriors drove the missing horses. Kimi rushed to the gate of the paddock and opened it as the men drove the animals in.
'But you want a reward, don't you? Your kind never do anything for nothing. What do you want?'
'I'm just happy that Kimi is back with her family. and safe. I want nothing more.'
'Well go, then. You've brought our daughter back. There's nothing more for you here. I won't pander to the greed of the Tribes. It'd only encourage more theft and kidnapping.'
Davrael leaped onto his horse's back and, calling to his men, he galloped ioff into the distance.
Kimi rounded on her father, tears in her eyes.
'How could you, Father? Davrael was so kind to me. You were rude and now he's gone.' She burst into tears without quite knowing why.
'Come in, dear,' her mother said. 'You must have something to eat and a nice hot drink,' and she led her daughter towards the house. Kimi turned to look at her father.
'I didn't think you could be so hard, father,' she said. 'Davrael is a nice, decent human being,'
'Of course he is. He wants you to think that, then you'll be able to get round me to provide a reward. Or so he thinks.'
He turned and went back to his work.
Kimi was glad to be home with her family, of course she was, but she did miss Davrael. This surprised her as they'd not known one another very long. then one day, about a sixday later, as she rode along past some trees, a rider came out, She screamed, but then recognised Davrael.
Riding up to him, with a huge smile on her face, she said, 'Davrael, what are you doing here?'
'I came to see you. I needed to see you. Kimi, I missed you.'
'And I you, Davrael. I'm sorry my father was so horrid.'
'Kimi, in the time we've been apart, I realised I wanted to see you more and more. My tribe had moved near to the border of your land, following the horses and so, if you wish, we can meet a few times each sixday.'
He looked so anxious that Kimi almost laughed, but she smiled and said. 'Of course I want to see you, Davrael.'
During the next few months, the couple met as often as they could until one day, Davrael said he wanted to marry Kimi. He had told his father, but he had forbidden marriage with one of the Settlers. The Tribes view of the Settlers was not much better than that of the Settlers for the Tribes. Davrael's father had also arranged for a young woman to visit to see if Davrael liked her, so they could marry. It would be a disgrace and a dishonour if Davrael were to reject her out of hand. The young man told Kimi he would be prepared to give up his place in the Tribe and settle down in one place, if that was what was needed.
Later, Kimi spoke to her mother and told her of Davrael's promise.
'Your father will never agree, even if Davrael does settle down, although I can't see him doing so, The Tribes are wanderers.
'Mother, once our ancestors were wanderers, too, and they settled. I'm sure Davrael can do it.'
Of course, her mother was right. Her father adamantly put down his foot. No daughter of his would marry a Tribesman. He would find her a nice, steady young man to marry, and give them six of his best horses for a wedding present as well as some land.
The pair met in secret then, hoping against hope something would change.
Will Davrael and Kimi manage to change their parents' minds to allow them to marry? Read next month's instalment to find out.
Please leave any comments on this episode in the comments box below.
If you want to know more about Davrael and Kimi, read The Wolf Pack.