The sight below the ridge is horrifying. “Colonel?” What have we gotten ourselves into?
Juan exclaims, “There must be a million down there.” He continues, mumbling, “What can we do if they turn toward Silver City?”
Answering softly, from her guerrilla warfare experience, Henrietta gathers her senses and tells them, “We cannot stop that. We must fall back into the mountains and fight...”
Below them the valley teams, full of horses, wagons, banners and people, all advancing East. The Horde stretches as far as Henrietta’s party can see, in both directions.
“Are we in time?” Alaya’s hoarse voice is almost lost.
As they watch, a group pulls out of the massive column. The smaller faction heads up the hill to where they wait. At Kalapati’s gesture, Juan assembles a pole and unfurls their banner. She’s seen the outriders. The Librarian’s symbol waves weakly in the languid breeze, still not close enough to be read by that Horde, except for the handful of riders fast approaching up the incline.
“What if that mob is the secondary force?” he utters. “The smaller one?”
“We’re here to learn their destination.” Kalapati responds. The flag waves over their heads as they stand at the top of the rise.
“What are they riding?” Alaya wonders. Kalapati pulls field glasses from her pack.
“Wait...” Her voice is filled with awe. “They’re riding reindeer!”
Most of the party stops far below them. Now Henrietta can see family groups trailing the leaders' mounts. No, reindeer mounts. Children riding on carts with yurts and supplies. A large herd encircled by riders pause on the flat expanses below. A group of five continue riding up to the ones waiting.
Two old men and two old women, with one young boy, coming with them.
“The elders of the Dukha greet you,” the boy intones.
“Alaya, greets you for her father, the Librarian of the Southwest. As does Colonel Blackhand, of the Silver City Regionals.”
At that, one of the women speaks. The boy puts it in Alaya’s tongue, “You, and your Regionals. Are going to fight the Horde?”
Kalapati answers, “We will never surrender. If we must, we will retreat down into the mountains of Mexico”
After the boy relates what Kalapati has said, one of the old men shakes his head before he speaks, then the boy explains, “They plan to attack straight through you. To drive you before them to the Gulf of Mexico. After you, they will head south into Mexico and the southern American nations.”
As Kalapati responds to that with a wave of her hand, What will be, will be, Henrietta wonders, How much can this group know of the full plans of the Horde?
Her horse nickers, and shifts. Alaya pulls on its rein and addresses the older ones. “You called on us. To bring us here, for a request?”
“We are the last of our tribe.” The boy says as one woman speaks. She pulls out a large worn book and hands it to the translator. The boy keeps up his translating as his strange mount approaches Alaya. Her horse skits nervously. Handing it up to her, he tells her more of what the old lady is saying, “This is the story of our tribe. Since before the Collapse. We want the someone who remembers we lived on this earth to be your people. The Librarians.”
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