Part Six: Kumalie, the Dog Killer
Taworri's body shuddered as spring rain beat upon his hide and made the cut to his left shoulder sting as the scab was knocked aside and blood flowed freely. He tried hard to keep off the rain filled flat, but there was little shelter and though he had gained what he'd wanted, there were other challenges around him. Had Alkina and Tallara stayed with their father's herd, then no stallion would dare even think of showing interest, but Taworri was a young colt and still half lame from his escape from Limestone Creek. The appearance of a Brumby Hunter and his blue heeler had been the only way the challenge had been completed, but Taworri, though he'd escaped the ropes of the hunter, had been punished by the son of Thalera, the Limestone Black Stallion, who had not.
As he sulked near the bent gum trees with their delicious smelling flowers, his three dancing mares, and a pale roan daughter of Goonda and Lightning romped in the misting weather. By some luck, Muma had decided to stick around with his band and keep an eye on his Silver Brother's band some more. There had also been some luck, in that Echo the kangaroo had appeared one evening and remained close by. His presence had made many stallions aware that Taworri must have Baringa's favour, but Lightning was ever watchful.
But Taworri knew that he would not be able to stay on the flats much longer. Although related, Lightning was far too interested in Alkina and would often go up to her to greet her, which she accepted. But twice Lightning had tried to push hr toward his band, and only Taworri's nicker for a dance had made Alkina kick Lightning and run back to him. Echo had understood the problem and suggested the lands beyond the Limestone, but this was a very odd thought and Tallara had not been eager to go back to where she'd just left.
"You can't even pass Limestone Creek without Thalera thundering over and making a riot. He certainly would not be above killing Taworri and taking us all off!" Tallara snorted one rainy afternoon as they all pressed close to one another under the gum trees. Echo lounged underneath their legs, delighted for the larger animals' sheltering him. But he could understand her point and more so the other fillies were worried.
"Thalera is quite the guardian, even at night it's not safe and he'll be looking for the stallion that stole one of his fillies. He should not be messed with. But if we take a different route, then maybe he will not threaten us!" Yhi nickered softly, but Alkina was quite unsteady and her hide rippled as water landed between her shoulders.
"But past the creek is the land of Steele and the lands of humans! It is not necessarily a safe place for any Brumby! Perhaps we should just stay here and not even consider moving. Taworri will be able to fend off most colts soon enough, he is almost fully grown!" Alkina nickered softly but the roan filly shook her damp head in disagreement.
"If we stay here, my father will continue to harass you, Alkina. Blood-kin or no, Lightning is not a very subtle stallion. Perhaps we should head toward the lands of the Suggan Buggan?"
"What do you think Muma? We haven't heard your voice and you have wandered many places before." Taworri snorted, nuzzling each of his fillies before nipping the black mane of his ever present brother in a teasing manner. The big black turned to him, nipping his brother's forelock before studying Lightning over in the distance, which remained ever watchful. Then he looked about once more and shook his big head.
"Head toward the Limestone. It might be human lands but you can head toward Davies Plain Ridge and find somewhere there. Maybe even follow that route up north." The stallion rumbled gently with thought, his eyes checking Lightning continuously and knowing full well that his dear brother would be in trouble if he stayed around much longer. "Give it another day of thinking before you do anything, but be cautious of any sudden changes in behaviour between Lightning and the others. After-all, it is not just him you're trying to protect your fillies from."
There had been an almost threatening tone to Muma's words, but once again he had turned out to be right and not long after speaking the trouble began. A new young chestnut turned up on the Quambat Flat and tried to sneak Alkina away. To his shock, Muma was attempting to face him down, but Taworri had charged him with an angry roar and bowled the colt aside before chasing him off with a few well-aimed nips. His roars and snorts of outrage began to attract the older stallions who believed themselves much more experienced in fighting then he. Taworri would not grudge them that belief either; he rarely fought unless it was vital and that factor encouraged his thinking.
So in the middle of the night, when even Muma was asleep and only Echo the kangaroo was ready to witness it; Taworri snuck his herd away. They headed south toward the human's lands and though believing it could be a risk, the palomino stallion felt the risk less likely then if they were to travel through Dale's Creek way and bump into the every grouchy Steel!
The journey felt laborious but they were not hindered in any manner and much quicker then they had hoped to be. Without fail they found themselves in the waters where the Limestone Creek met the Murray River. In delight at their progress, though they had been going the sneaky ways, Taworri felt themselves safe to graze on the edge of the bank, encouraging his fillies to keep their hooves in the cool waters to prevent them leaving tracks of having stopped.
Somehow, he could not say why, Taworri felt that he had been tracked this far already! He had not heard the unmistakable thudding sound of a kangaroo following them, but his hide rippled with the feeling of predatory eyes on his skin. He continued onwards after the fillies finished grazing and they paced along the waters of the creek, fearing to get toward the human land and feeling trouble.
He did not know of course, that there were predators following him. One was slavering at the jaws, eager to attack something that it had seen before, been trodden on by before, and was going to kill and eat. This animal was not even wild, it had escaped its master's hands and been on a rampage around the Murray River. He was sniffing them out, and with his powerful nose he smelt the water's edge where they had rested and knew exactly how long ago they had been there, and followed their scent on. But even this creature did not know that an even more cunning one was following him in complete silence and eager for a chance to get rid of competition….
It was not long till dawn broke through the trees and the herd found themselves in enough cover to remain hidden. A small clearing amongst some thick red gums meant that they would be completely sealed away from the eyes of any curious stallions marching up a worn muddy track that sat near them. It seemed a risky place to find rest, but Taworri had not smelt any sign of recent use of seen any spoors to make himself suspicious, plus the fillies were tired. They huddled close together and began to sleep.
But their sleep was not interrupted at all, and when Yhi awoke, she noticed how the sun was already starting to head away. Shaking her head and stepped aside from where Tallara had been leaning onto her, Yhi began to nibble some shoots of grass and then spotted the danger. Before she could squeal and alert her friends, a big dog had leapt out of the trees and slammed against her legs. It tried to bite them and she flailed around, catching it with glancing blows as she shied and bumped back into Tallara. The growl alone from the dog woke the others up, and Tallara, Alkina, and the other fillies dart forward. They leapt through the trees and continued to run, hoping to get away.
Taworri was terrified of what to do, he could loose Alkina and the others to any random stallion that heard their panic, but Yhi was being mobbed and this dog was eager for blood. Already the animal clamped his big teeth into the top of her rump, scoring the flesh before being bucked off. Yhi was tough, that was for sure, but when the dog lunged at her again, Taworri roared. He dove forward and managed to grab the dog's scruff and shake him about. He let go, the dog was a little freaked out, but it soon retaliated and turned on Taworri this time. But to their surprise, Alkina and the others suddenly returned looking terrified as a very large dingo with a set of white legs and muzzle rushed after them and then turned to the dog.
Before Taworri could even guess what was going on, the dingo attacked. But though the creamy stallion awaited the pain of cutting teeth within his hide, there was no pain. Instead, he witnessed the dingo jumping on the other dog. Taworri realised they had a chance and nickered to the fillies to follow him. But being scared, the girls were very nervous of moving. The palomino stallion swiftly rounded them up and nipped them on – it did not matter where they went as long as they got away from the dogs that were fighting to the death behind.
Taworri led the fillies on through the snow gum forests; he sought for the slight rising that the rounded ridge of the Davies Plain formed ahead. The group had to gallop fast as each time they began to slow down, they could hear panting far behind. It was worrying to think that the dogs might be following them on, and Taworri had to keep darting back to nip Tallara on whenever she froze in fear. Eventually Taworri spotted the trail for the ridge thanks to the Buckwong Creek; he decided that they would only need to run a little further on before they should stop.
The shadows of night returned and the small mob of horses had been settling by the worn and broken gum trees on the edge of the creek. They had only moved on a little further and found the few patches where there was grass to nibble. It seemed secure here but Taworri's hide continued to shudder as he felt the predatory eyes watching him again. It was getting worrying, as Tallara would often start and squeal continuously until she spotted there was no trouble. Taworri would have to nuzzle her, but he was confused how a filly born of Baringa's line could be so foolish – but then again Lightning was not exactly the greatest stallion in the Silver Brumby bloodline.
Alkina and Yhi did their best as well to comfort the filly, but whenever a Mopoke called she would make a silly noise and there would be even more fear. Eventually though they calmed again and fell into a gentle sleep once more, this time Alkina decided to keep watch. As she watched the moonlight dancing on the bark of the bent trees, she knew her body would seem to glow and if it were not for being of guard duty for the sake of her half-sister, she would have danced for joy to be high up and closer to her beloved moon.
"Go ahead and dance… I'll keep watch." The voice was layered in saliva and Alkina gave a start, nudging Taworri awake. His hide rippled, disturbing Yhi, but she instead leant closer to the others and ignored the sensation. Taworri was still beside Alkina, and they stared into the darkness at a pair of hungry eyes. The eyes twisted this way and that, and then moved closer. It came out into their view, and the dingo was there!
"Who are you?" Alkina nickered softly, her ears and nose straining toward the animal. The dingo leant in and they pressed noses, damp button to soft velvet. He seemed eager to be friendly and Taworri was confused. He could tell by the lingering scent of blood, that this was the same dingo as earlier. When it stepped aside and settled down by his feet, Taworri nickered the question.
"Fear not! I am Kumalie, the Dog-Killer!" The dingo grinned, licking a canine with his tongue to emphasise his point. But then he yawned and eyed the nervous filly that was still sleeping. "The dog that bothered you is dead, I made sure of it. I won't hurt you either, if that's what you're thinking big-boy! I am a friend to the brumbies of the South and the North. My friendship comes from dancing alongside the strange dwarf foal Choopa. I heard what humans had done and had seen the dogs being used to nip and chase – so I thought I would make sure that the sacred horses are not disturbed."
His words confused Taworri, who then nibbled at his ears in interest. It was true, there was a strong scent of brumby from this dingo but he could not be too sure if Kumalie was telling the truth. But then the dingo yawned and rolled onto his back, showing off his vulnerable pale belly.
"If you want to kill me, stomp on my belly now, I will not move. If you wish to trust me, stand it upon me – I will not move my friend…"
Next Time: Part Seven – The Faithful Guards
Kumalie seems a genuine deal, but could he really be of help in keeping an eye on the fillies? Requesting Echo the kangaroo to keep an eye on the Dingo, Taworri decides to go forth and find another member for his mob. But time will pass and things will change, not to mention Yhi will be in danger when Cloud's grandson Snow arrives on Davies Plain….