Part 2

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Desòchu stared at the small bird in shock. The chirp it had just given sounded mocking, but that wasn't possible. It was just a shimusogo dépa, the flightless bird named after the clan. Or the clan was named after it, he didn't know.

As he stood there, his injuries reported in sharp waves of pain: a bite on left arm, gashes that scored his right shoulder and back, and cuts along his spine. He couldn't see his wounds behind him, but he could feel a slow trickle of blood dripping down the back of his thighs.

The bird fluttered its wings, tilting its head to continue staring at him.

When it didn't make another noise, he looked down at his tingling hands. Sand had stuck to the cuts along his palms, scored into his flesh when he used the rock to crush the skull of the lead tòra. Streaks of blood coated his brown skin—most of it came from the creatures.

Desòchu trembled with the realization that he had just killed something. He took a deep, shuddering breath and then choked on the stench of blood being baked in the heat of the sun. A coppery taste burned in the back of his nose and throat. It wouldn't be long before the vultures and flies came.

The dépa chirped again.

He flinched, the anger rising up with the bird's mocking tone. He glanced around the ground for a rock to throw at it, but then he caught sight of the gash on his arm. Blood welled out of the ragged wound, tracing along the torn flesh. Two lines of crimson snaked down his arm before splashing to the sand.

The dépa was momentarily forgotten at the sight of blood on the rocks. It was just like his mother's death. It was only a few years ago, but he remembered how the bright crimson pooled between the cracks of the rocks.

For a moment, fear rushed through his veins as he felt his own mortality brush against him. He was going to die alone in the desert.

But, as more memories sharpened into focus, Desòchu realized that there wasn't nearly as much blood on the ground as his mother. Her fall from the rocks had also broke bones and pierced her insides. Except for the wounds along his flesh, he didn't feel as shattered as his mother when she died.

He let out a sigh of relief but it ended in a sharp intake of guilt. Tears burned in his eyes as he focused on his thoughts, remembering the little details that he had forgotten with time.

"M... Mama," he finally said to no one but himself.

He looked up. The dépa stood with its head cocked and staring at him. There was something about its gaze that pushed away some of the sadness that had draped over him.

A disquieting sense of determination washed over him. Forcing himself not to grab the rock to brain the dépa, he focused on his injuries. His father's stories, told while he sat on the end of their bed at home, bubbled through his thoughts. He loved hearing the stories of heroic fighting and running, but there were also little moments like how to bandage a wound or the dangers of bleeding too much with creatures prowling the night.

Shifting through his memories, he knew what he had to do.

Desòchu ripped off his shirt, wincing when the fabric scraped against the cuts on his back. Panting, he tore it up and fashioned a bandage. He had never done it before, but he remembered his father telling him how to keep it tight and how difficult it was to tie one with one hand and his teeth.

He managed to succeed after the third try. It was a lot harder than he thought it would be. By the time he patted the soaked fabric to test it, he was crying from the pain and sweating from the effort.

The tòras had bitten his shoulder, but it was a shallow wound. He only had to loop two strips over it to staunch the flow of blood that trickled down his side.

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