The next morning was again bright and clear. Jeb got his pack ready for the hike out of the valley and back to the tribe’s summer camp. It was not a strenuous trek, and since he did not have the herd with him, he take some rugged shortcuts that would get him to the camp faster. This part of the tribe’s lands had several valleys that were excellent for pasturing the flocks during the summer; the other shepherds would be in the other valleys pasturing their portion of the tribes herd. He and Ydar would be up here for a month or so and then they would rotate off back to the tribe while another pair came up so they could bring the cheeses they had made down for further processing.
Keeping the herd separate was also a safety precaution. In the event of raiders trying to take the herd, they might take one but not all. If the camp was attacked, then the tribe would flee into the valleys and meet up at a pre-arranged rally point. Raiders were never much of a problem anymore, but the older members of the tribe remembered what it was like when they were children and they enforced this style of organization.
Jeb watched Ydar moving the flock from the coral to the pasture on the valley floor for the days grazing.
“I hope I am doing the right thing, maybe I should go up and see the cave too.” The thought had crossed Jeb’s mind more than once during the night. He had wanted to ask Ydar to take him to the cave before he left, but didn’t because it was Ydar’s, and he did not want to make him feel worthless or that he did not trust his descriptions. Jeb was the elder, would succeed his father as the head of the family when he died, and Ydar resented that a lot. Jeb knew that he hid the resentment well, and tried not to show it. Unless Jeb had an accident and died, then the prospects of Ydar becoming a chief after their father died was slim to none. That was probably why he was so excited about caving and the Lost Ones. It was the prospect of finding a treasure and starting his own tribe that made Ydar scour the valleys they herded in every season.
Jeb liked his life. He did not think it was fair that he should be the heir, but that was how it was done in the tribe, and he was good at it. He had tried once to share in cave exploring with his brother, but did not like the closed spaces, and also felt that his brother did not really enjoy having him along. So he let Ydar do it alone, he only insisted on knowing where he was going, and since Ydar had shown him the TicTic, and how it worked Jeb was confident he would be able to find Ydar by following the line if he failed to return to camp by the arranged time. It was an arrangement that kept the peace between them.
Jeb was not sure that Ydar would keep his word about exploring the cave, but since the door Ydar described seemed so massive, and unmovable, Jeb had little concern that he could open it until they both tried. And anyway Jeb thought, if Ydar had opened it he would have gone in and then they would know what was in there. There was probably nothing in there anyway. All the ancient relics he’d seen were mostly unusable junk coming out of those open pits. Every tribal area had these hills, covered in grass and trees, but dig down ten feet and you hit clay and once you were through that, it’s a mass of stinking filth. Jeb was not so interested in the past and gods and their adventures, but rather in the here and now.
Jeb left the cave with his pack and went down to the valley floor to say his goodbyes. He told Ydar that he would be back in about three or four days. They shook hands and Jeb turned to leave. Broorr began walking with him and Jeb turned and said, “Stay with Ydar and be good,” giving Broorr a knuckle rub on the top of his big head. Broorr barked a single loud bark then sat down and watched Jeb leave the valley, his big tongue hanging out and head cocked to its side.
Ydar stayed where he was waiting till Jeb was out of the valley. He went back to tending the flock. He hated shepherding, but it was what the tribe did. He kept his mind occupied with planning the exploration. Jeb might turn around and come back because he forgot something or had decided that they should both go back to the tribe’s encampment so he kept working to keep up appearances. He went out and did a quick patrol of the flock, counting them to be sure that they were all there. They never went anywhere anyway without him and Jeb to move them, and Broorr did most of that work anyway. Broorr was watching the flock, sitting on a rise in the shade, occasionally barking and running out to move a yearling back into the fold if it moved too far out of the group.
Ydar went back to their cave to get his pack and then went out and sat with Broorr till noon. The waiting was too much for him, Jeb was not coming back now. He could get past the bodies and explore further and find something really amazing. He grabbed his pack, refilled his water skin and turned to Broorr and said, “Guard! I won’t be gone long.”
Then Ydar left the flock and ran up to the cave to find his treasure. Broorr watched him go, and then went back to watching the flock.