Sincolad looked down at the growing pool of blood. Sadolad moved close and leaned his face next to Sincolad. “After all Seccolog’s children and grandchildren are dead, I will be chie—”

Sincolad swung his dagger around, raising his whole body to give power to his thrust. As he shot his right arm out with his dagger, Sadolad jumped back, but not fast enough. The dagger drove deep into his left shoulder. Sadolad screamed in pain. He felt a sharp snap in his shoulder. He reached out with his right hand, grabbed Sincolad by his right shoulder, and threw him against the rock. The dagger fell to the ground. Sadolad pulled out his own dagger. “Go ahead … finish the job … murderer!” Sincolad screamed and collapsed against the rock.

Sadolad lashed out at Sincolad’s arm with his dagger. “So it is with anyone who raises a weapon against me. Soon I will be Sadolog, but you and all your family will be dead.” Sadolad pulled up Sincolad and threw him face first across the rock. His left arm was still lying on the rock, but now it was across the front of his chest. It had partially cushioned him as his body twisted and smashed into the rock. His right arm hung at his side. Sadolad smashed him on his left side with his elbow several times. “You die now.” Sadolad jerked at the bearskin hat Sincolad was wearing so hard he broke the strap that held it. He threw it to the ground and grabbed Sincolad’s hair and pulled his head back. He put his dagger against Sincolad’s throat. Sincolad made a gasp. Blood foamed from his mouth. Sadolad let his hair go, and Sincolad’s face fell once again onto the rock. “Almost you drive me to kill you fast. You are a dead man, Sincolad. You will die slowly, knowing all your family will follow as soon as I and my fighters reach the village.”

The other men from Romelog’s tribe finally caught up. “Is he dead?” one asked.

“If he’s not dead, he soon will be,” Rayloc answered

“Let’s collect this stuff and get back to the village before the storm gets worse,” another of the men said.

“No,” Sadolad said. “His things are useless. They are unfinished or broken. We will leave this broken, useless man with his broken, useless things.”

“You are bleeding,” Rayloc said.

“Yes, the little weakling managed to sneak a stab at me, but it will heal.”

“Let me wrap it to stop the bleeding. Look … when you stop the blood, it looks like there is something inside.”

“I think the dagger broke. I felt something snap. The tip of his dagger must still be in my arm. We will have the healer get it out. I will wear it around my neck to remember the fate of those who are weak.”

Sadolad and his men left Sincolad against the rock. The snow fell harder, and Sincolad’s body and the depression he was in were covered with snow. The summer would be cooler than normal. His body would freeze-dry and be protected beneath the snow and ice for more than five thousand years before being discovered by hikers. Then forensic scientists would try in vain to solve the mystery of his murder. He would have many names: L’Uomo del Ghiàcio, Der Mann im Eis, Ötzi, or just plain Iceman. His mystery would outlive Sadolad.

Heldolad said something to the two people. They responded in a language Rayloc did not understand, but they sounded like the People. One of the two said something to the droglit, and it responded. The sound it made was a deep guttural rumble that sounded as ugly as the droglit looked.

“I have told them they are in the presence of Warlog. They say they are honored. They speak our language, but you have to listen closely to understand them,” Heldolad said.

The taller of the two strangers said, “Dark Cloud am I. We are brought a long trip. We have been under you much time. We families worry. Where we are? We need go we home soon.”

“What is this animal you bring?” Rayloc asked, pointing to the droglit.

“This Alliance brother. Bring he good magic of earth. This not animal.”

“What do you call this animal?”

“This Alliance brother, not animal. He is Earth People. Call we him Jotek.”

Rayloc sniffed dismissively. “This is a droglit. We will not meet with him here.”

The droglit was led peacefully from the tent.

“I must learn all about your people, your language, and your customs so we can be friends and trade. You will go to my village.”

“We friend will be where?”

“The droglit must go to our village of magicians to teach his magic,” Rayloc said.

“One of we must go with we friend to tell you he words.” Dark Cloud sounded firm.

“Our magicians have magic to understand strange words,” Warlog said. “If they have trouble, we will send one of you to help. There is much we need to learn from you. And you need to learn much from us. It is better that both of you come to my village.”

“Much hard is this. Go we with you now, but soon we must see we friend.”

“Agreed. You go with my warriors to my village.”

Warlog’s warriors led the two men away.

“We must kill the droglit now,” Rayloc said after they were gone.

“I thought that was your intention in separating him from the others, but shouldn’t we learn what we can from him first?”

“The droglits have magic we don’t understand. While we’re trying to learn, the droglit might begin using its magic. How would we know? Somehow, they have tricked all the eastern people. It would be dangerous to let it live. We can find what we need to know from the other two.”

“You’re right. Take care of it.”

Rayloc went to the tent where the droglit was being held. He walked up to it and looked closely at its face. It tried to smile, but Rayloc could tell it was nervous. “Kill it and burn the body.”

The droglit ran for the opening of the tent, throwing Rayloc into the dust as he ran. Rayloc had not thought it could understand his language, but it was clear the droglit’s magic was strong. “Kill it!” Rayloc roared from the ground.

It ran a few more steps, and then it fell with many arrows sticking from its body. Rayloc’s nose, left arm, and several ribs on his left side were broken. Before being taken to the medicine man, Rayloc instructed the warriors to burn the body as quickly as possible. “Burn it in the hot fires of the copper-smelting hearth so there are only ashes left.”

“No!” Sotif screamed. He tried to run to stop them, but three warriors restrained him. The Spirit Fire screamed and shuttered and hissed as the water was poured on it. Sotif fought and finally slipped free from those holding him. He ran and threw himself into the fire pit. It was warm and slimy from wet ashes.

Warlog, Rayloc, and the warriors stood in a circle around the fire pit watching Sotif’s agony. He sifted through the ashes. Some spots were still warm; others were already cool. Sotif found a hot coal on the side of the pit. It burned his hand as he held it. He blew on it, and it turned bright red. This was the last spark of the Spirit Fire that had symbolized the strength of the Alliance since the beginning. Sotif could not believe he was holding the final gasp of the life of that spirit. He did not notice the pain in his hand, but he could smell his flesh burning. It occurred to him that he would have to carry the mark of the Spirit Fire until he could figure out what symbol the Great Spirit would prepare for his people. The burning coal was in his left hand. Almost without thinking, he pushed it high on his left cheek in front of his left ear. The pain was excruciating. For a blinding instant, a light seemed to flash in his head, and he saw a vision of a group of ancient Earth People dressed in loose animal skins standing around a fire. One built a new fire over a living baby girl, and the fire took her spirit and became the Spirit Fire of the People. Sun People came to destroy the Spirit Fire, but a flood stopped them. The Spirit Fire moved behind the flood to the Heart of the Bison. A strong Spirit Man of the Sun People followed to destroy the Earth People, but Kectu defeated him.

The old stories had never been so clear to him. Sotif would not let these warriors be the ones to put the Spirit Fire out. There was a puddle of water near the center of the fire pit. Sotif crawled to the puddle. “Mother Earth, I return the Spirit Fire to you in honor. I will carry the mark of the Spirit Fire to your people until you give a new symbol.” As he said the final words, he immersed the live coal of the Spirit Fire into the puddle of water. It hissed and then turned cold in his hand.

Sotif turned to Rayloc. “I am the History Man of my people. I put the Spirit Fire out. You had no power to do it.”

Finally, the signal was given. Broken Stick pulled the arrow taut on the string, and the shaking stopped. At the last second, the man he aimed at sensed something. Perhaps he had seen the signal, or he had seen Broken Stick or one of the other men move. His head popped up, and he started to turn.

Broken Stick’s arrow seemed to fly as slowly as a circling hawk on a hot summer day, but it moved faster than its target. Broken Stick watched the arc of the arrow flying to its mark. The man screamed and fell.

Broken Stick could hardly keep up with what happened next. Three of the Sun People fell. The second in line began to try to reach his bow. The other two started to run. Broken Stick picked one and quickly shot his second arrow. He followed his arrow with his eyes. It hit the man just below the hip. At the same instant, two other arrows hit him, and he fell. The second man in the line fell at the same time.

Broken Stick saw the last man stumbling in the snow. As he loaded his third arrow, he saw two other arrows fly, and the last man fell dead.

It happened so fast Broken Stick stood with the third arrow still in his bow. All the Sun People were down before Broken Stick could shoot three arrows! Two of the Sun People were still writhing on the ground. Cool Rain and Standing Bear used their daggers to kill them.

In only a few moments, the group of Sun People had turned into dark, silent lumps lying in the snow, surrounded by pools of red that were unrealistically bright on the white snow. Broken Stick saw another side of war now. An ecstatic feeling flooded through his body. His people had won! He had won! There had been much confusion in that first battle at the Heart of the Bison. He remembered he was excited, but he was afraid of Warlog’s army. He had to worry about making his escape. This time, it was a complete victory. The worry as he had waited in ambush, the emotional build up as he watched for the signal, the doubt, then the release of the attack all built up in him, and now it was over, and they had won! No one from his people had been hurt. Leco was saved. Broken Stick surged with excitement and emotion like nothing he had ever known before. He wanted to laugh and shout, but he remained quiet. This was the side of war he had not known. This was why Warlog created his army and made war. Broken Stick knew the secret of war. Now he knew there would always be war.