The arrow had flown true, taking the man who'd come rushing out of the bushes in the eye. The boy beside him had all but collapsed, sinking onto his knees. Standing over him, another arrow ready to dispatch him if necessary, he looked no bigger than a child.
Briefly, a pair of dark eyes met his, but they quickly returned to his crotch--could he blame him for only coming level with his thighs?--as the youth babbled some sort of nonsense to his p***s. Tapping the fuzz-prickled chin with the tip of his arrow, he asked, "Nederlands?" A perplexed look crossed the kneeling male's face. He repeated as slowly as he was able, breaking apart the word, "Ne-der-lands?" The frown deepened, lips pursing, before his brows furrowed. His head shook.
"Tuerkiye," he said, then repeated slowly as he had, "Tuuuueeerrr-kiiiiiiii-yeeeee."
He wasn't one of the men with whom they'd had a violent meeting not so long ago. If not them, then who? The stranger was gesturing to the dead man now, making motions toward the muddy bank beneath his knees and yammering away in that language he couldn't make sense of no matter how hard he listened. It took him a moment, but he understood after a few more rough, sharp gesticulations what he meant.
Keeping his eyes on him, he nodded, letting him get up and gather stones to place around the body. When this was done sufficiently to his liking, the young man knelt and bowed his head to the ground, rising back up and holding his palms upturned before himself. Eyes closed, he began to intone in yet another unknown tongue. Once this was done, he raised himself up and looked toward him.
He had taken the opportunity to get into his clothing, though the young man still stared at him, eyes roaming up and down and inevitably back to his lap, seated as he was against a weather-smoothed stone. He was dressed in leggings and a shirt, shells sewn to the moccassins on his feet, though for the one staggering toward him his clothing may well have been nothing at all.
The man saw then that the stranger's garb hung sodden on his shivering frame, mud-smeared and gray as an overcast, winter sky. His skin was dark as well. He carried himself awkwardly, as if every step hurt. Mumbling to him as if he could understand, the man began to collapse.
His bow and the arrow were forgotten, left to clatter to the ground. Catching him was automatic, lifting him beneath his arm almost as much. He was shaking now, like a man come back from a four day hunt with no kill in hand, both hands grasping his arm. They were eye to eye now, as much as they could be, his chapped lips quivering but no sounds, not even strange ones, coming from them. The tip of a pink tongue flicked out, licked, drew blood, and came back out to lick that away as well.
He almost missed the whisper of noise, as breathless as it was, the stranger looking at his own lips now. The man startled as the other leaned closer, putting a hand on his chest to block his way and frowning. He pushed him back enough to rise, pick up the arrow to return to its quiver, and sling the bow across his back. Pointing to him, he knelt, looking over his shoulder. Raising a brow, the stranger took a knee as well.
Slapping his palm to his face, the long-haired man shook his head and jabbed the smaller one in the chest with a finger before patting his back. Understanding seemed to crash over his face like a blow to head. He rose to his feet, a wince unable to be hidden, before straddling the tall one's back, fitting his arms around his neck. Hooking his arms beneath the knobbly little knees, he hefted the male higher onto his back and began to walk.
It was a quiet march but for their breathing, Chilly fingers brushed the hollow of his throat as they fiddled with the shells on the band of leather around his neck. He could feel the smaller man's breath against the back of his neck, his face pressed into his hair. The familiar rises and falls of the terrain, small hills and steep, rocky descents, passed beneath his feet as he made for home.
He was forced to pause twice when the stranger began to slip from his back. At these moments the grasp around his neck would tighten, but only for a moment. Boosting him up a little higher at these points, they were quickly off on the trail again.
As the first of the longhouses came into sight, he halted, feeling something prodding into his back. It took him a moment to realize what it was, but when he did he looked over his shoulder, a fierce glower on his face. No reaction came from the smaller man but to adjust his body, a little sigh brushing the skin of his neck. Entering the long, wooden building, he slowed to a halt before his father.
His sister, White Lily, sat to one side, her arms folded over her ample chest, giving him a superior stare, a smirk curling her overlarge lips. Turning his gaze back toward his father, he let the small man slip to the ground.
"What have you brought this time?" old Bear asked, turning his eyes to his son. Heat suffused the young man's cheeks, his fists balling at his sides.
"There was a man in the woods. I brought him back here." He reached back, touching the damp arm that rested against the back of his leg. He felt the child then, as if he hid what he'd found behind his back. It was not his fault if the other didn't want to come out.
"A man is not an orphaned cub, Black Wolf." The young man's eyes flicked to where said cub, now full grown, lay curled by his sleeping place. "You cannot keep him."
"He is alone! And small--the size of a child!" Black Wolf protested, his grip on the other tightening as goosebumps rose on his skin. His father lifted a brow languidly, furrows forming in the skin of his brow.
"He certainly hides like one. Man, boy, whatever you are, come out."
For a moment, Black Wolf was uncertain whether the stranger understood. He gave his sleeve a tug. The young man moved out from behind him, grudgedly at first, then with more surety, standing before his father as tall as he could. He said a single word, bowing his head. Reaching down, he took Bear's hand in his own and pecked it, retreating quickly back to Black Wolf's side.
Bear looked toward his son, who was equally confused as to what had just happened. White Lily's snickering broke the tension; Black Wolf rounded on with a hissed, "Be quiet!"
"Enough." The firm statement jarred them both into silence. The elder man's gaze was fixed on the small one, who met his gaze almost timidly. "Anen." The woman rose from where she had been seated at the opposite side of the fire. "Sister, you lost your son during the attack. Have him in his stead."
"Thank you, Brother." Looking toward the young man, the woman's lips quirked upward for what seemed the first time in months. "We will have to trim that fur on his face, unless he really is to look like my nephew's cub. What is your name?" The young man looked from Anen to Bear, then to Black Wolf. The latter moved to him and repeated, "What is your name?"
Frowning, his brows pinched together, the stranger repeated his question with a thick, gutteral sound to his voice, "What is your name?"
"Yes. I asked you that. What is your name?" He pointed to himself. "My name is Black Wolf."
"My name is Black Wolf." Another harsh imitation.
He indicated himself again. "Black Wolf. My name is Black Wolf." Again, recognition seemed to come over the younger man's face as if he'd been struck.
"Oh, sen benim isim istiyorum! Ismim Skandar oldugunu." He pressed a hand to his chest. "Skandar."
"Skandar." The name was odd on Black Wolf's tongue, but was not unpleasant. Taking Skandar's arm, he made to bring him to his aunt. The stranger planted his feet and froze then as he saw where he was being led. "You have to go to her." He pushed at his back. "Go. Move." He frowned as the other stayed still. "I'm not picking you up. Go."
Hands gripped at his breeches. Sighing, Black Wolf looked toward his father and aunt. He might as well have been trying to uproot an oak for all the good this was doing. "Father," he said, stating the obvious, "he's not moving." This drew a chuckle from Bear as Anen moved to their side of the fire. "Her name is Anen."
"Anne." The smaller man looked up at the woman as she reached over and pushed the hair back from his eyes. His arms were around her the next moment in a hug. "Anne." Surprised, the woman blinked before settling her arms around his shoulders.
"You know," she said, looking at her nephew, "I might not let you see him again."
"That's cruel, Aunt," Black Wolf murmured, almost pouting. He found himself in an embrace as well, the thin arms surprisingly strong against his waist.
"Yes, I'm Black Wolf."
"Black Wolf, ben nerede uyuyabilir?"
"What are you saying?"
"Uyu..." The noises were drowned in a quickly covered yawn. The older man looked toward his father and aunt, then his own bed where the wolf lay. Taking him by the arm, he led him there and sat him down to discuss the situation with them. Anen looked beyond her nephew, as did Bear. The boy had moved from the bed of furs and was rubbing at his face, neck, arms, and legs, his boots removed. Sinking to his knees, he pressed his forehead to the earth, rose to a kneeling position, and performed the action twice more as Black Wolf turned to look at him, intoning in the same way he had when he had buried the dead man. By his side, the wolf sat, head cocked far to the left, ears pricked.
When he finished, he crawled to the furs and nestled down among them, pillowing his head against the wolf's flank as it lay down.