We posted guards. We checked the perimeter. We even poled the edges of the water before we allowed ourselves the luxury of drinking.
I did not go with the first group to slake my thirst. Instead, I backtracked a ways to make sure we hadn’t been followed through the storms of the morning. Finally, satisfied, I went to the small pool, knelt at the water’s edge, and as I leaned in to scoop the water up to drink, I heard the sharp bark of a rifle and the slamming of a round into my left arm.
It was a through and through shot. Painful as all hell, but nothing I hadn’t experienced before.
My friends dragged me back as everyone took cover, and they called out to one another as they tried to pinpoint where the shot had come from.
None of them could tell. Whoever the shooter was, they had a perfect hiding place in the underbrush, one which enabled them to conceal the muzzle flash as well.
After several tense moments, Bram decided to risk his life in an attempt to get the shooter to reveal himself. So, despite my furious disagreement, Bram stood and stepped out from his cover.
Not even a warning shot was fired.
Several others stood up, weapons ready, and they too were unmolested.
A sigh of relief rippled through the Akatuyians, and I stood up only to have a second round put through my right shoulder.
If my words could kill, my assailant would have died.
As it was, everyone took cover again, and then, as I peered out over the water, I saw the slim shape of a young man rise up. He was unarmed, but a moment later, he let me know he was the shooter.
“This is my water, Duncan Blood. You cannot drink from it.” His voice trembled, hovering on the edge of adulthood and thick with emotion. “If I do, our mother will poison the water and force me to drink of it. Your friends may have their fill, but you may not.”
He disappeared a moment later, and all looked to me.
I shrugged, painfully, and said, “What the hell. Drink up.”
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