Chapter Six

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She woke to early morning light filtering in to her through the overhanging ivy that covered the entrance to the shallow cave – barely more than an indentation in the cliff face – in which she lay curled under an animal skin of some kind. There was a bed of springy green bracken beneath her, and she could hear the sound of running water close by.

She lifted her head, shaking it to clear her thoughts; and kept still, listening. She could almost feel her ears swivelling as if she were a deer, tracking sounds outside the cave. There was the sound of early birdsong; a lark somewhere whose carol came down to her clearly, the shrill warble of some small bird, and somewhere close at hand the loud tchack! of a Jackdaw.

She remained still and closed her eyes, concentrating.

The scent on the breeze – through that of the ivy – was that of late summer or early autumn. There was a slight nip in the air....there was a mouse drinking at the edge of the tiny stream which sprang from the cliff face, there was a group of four or five rabbits nibbling the grass close by – and the watching eyes of a vixen close to them. She had cubs to feed, and was hungry. The vixen's scent came to Farinka on the breeze. Gradually the vixen recognised the Awareness of a creature other than herself, and one of her ears flicked, distracted. The rabbits froze. Farinka withdrew her Awareness from the vixen ... and opened her eyes, sitting up slowly and pulling the ... bearskin ... closely around her shoulders. She smiled briefly to herself, Aware of a 'memory' which wasn't really hers, and which hadn't been there a moment ago. She crept on hands and knees to the cave entrance, and peered out through the ivy. She caught the quick flicker of movement as the mouse made a dive for cover.

A faint smell of woodsmoke drifted up the hillside towards her. There was a sudden scuffle below as the vixen sprang out upon an unwary rabbit. The others scattered, white scuts bobbing against the grassy background. The vixen trotted off, the rabbit dangling from her jaws, her brush held stiffly behind her as a counterbalance.

Farinka crept back into the cave, picked up the smooth wooden bowl, and went out to the spring for water. The rock beneath her feet had not yet had a chance to warm in the early sun, and the spring water was very cold. She hastily splashed her face and washed her hands. The cold made her skin tingle.

Her boots – fashioned again from some animal skin; and whose soles were wearing thin – lay beside the crude backpack ...where she had left them the night before... another of those 'non-memories', she thought to herself. She pulled the boots on and tied the laces round the ankles; rolled the bearskin up next to the pack, and quickly pulled the hooded jacket – again skin – over the crudely knitted woollen vest. It felt like lambswool. Underpants, she noticed, were of some kind of creamy woven thread, and very soft. The trousers were of the same skin as the jacket ....deerskin.... and surprisingly comfortable ...they had had a long time to adjust to her shape... although they were by now a little short, barely reaching to the top of the boots. She would have to make some more soon. She pulled the polished wooden comb through her dark chestnut hair, re-plaiting it deftly into the long braid which swung down beyond her waist, and tying a soft leather band around her head, Indian-fashion, to keep the side strands from blowing into her eyes.

She searched the backpack for the last of the bread ration which was stowed in there, and buttered it with herb-flavoured bacon-dripping from a small wooden pot. She sat in the cave entrance, eating slowly, and looking around.

The sun climbed slowly up the sky; the warmth gradually crept into her. She stood, collected her things together, filled her waterskin from the spring, tied the bearskin roll to the top of the backpack, and slipped her arms and head through the straps, hefting it to adjust the balance before tightening the hip strap. She trod, quiet as a cat, down the sheep-track on the side of the hill, making for the smell of the woodsmoke.

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