The thieves ransacked the cottage, killing all but one of its inhabitants in the process. The sole survivor, a youngster barely the age of two, was left in the middle of the dirt floor to fend for himself. His father's body lay to his left, his mother's to his right. Without tears, without any outward show of emotion, he watched the renegades fill their gunny sacks and dash out of the cottage door. As if he was cemented in place, the boy sat there, in between the bodies of his parents, until neighbors – once they were certain the bandits would not return – ran to the cottage to see what was left of it.
The boy was taken in by his mother's older sister who had remained childless up to that point. His aunt lived in somewhat isolated cottage many miles west of Ahnak, not very far at all from the tragedy that took place that warm, foggy summer night. The cottage was much like his parents' – one room with one door facing the dusty high-plains pathway that branched off of the main road that connected the seacoast with Ahnak. The boy grew up in that tiny abode, learning from his aunt how to hunt, to fish and even to tend a small garden. What they could not kill, gather or grow on their own, they traded for with the goods they themselves could garner.
Even though the high-plains path was merely a tangent from the main thoroughfare that ran directly from Ahnak to the Great Sea, those who traveled it were few and far between. This meant the things they needed off and on but could not get or grow on their own had to be procured via other means. The woman owned neither horse, mule nor ox, so she had no way to transport herself and the boy. When necessity dictated, they would walk to the next closet cottage; the closet village was too far for the woman and boy to walk to. But the boy's aunt, his adopted mother, had a knack for knowing which travelers to seek out and from which to hide.
Most who ventured on this side road were adventurous Haarigoians exploring the hills and valleys of the high plains. Now and then, even Muad shepherds following their herds stumbled upon their cottage. For over ten years, the two of them survived – some years barely, others with more than enough food to spare.
By the time the boy was twelve, he had developed into a strong hunter, a crafty fisherman and an accomplished gardener. But his favorite vocation was fishing. He made his own hooks out of shards of small animal bones and fishing line out of plant fibers that he grew in the garden. Even though the fruits of his fishing labors were not as bountiful as the other vocations, fishing allowed him time to sit by the edge of the spring-fed stream behind their cottage and ponder his future. Whenever the memories of his violent and deadly past crept into his present thoughts, he forced them deeper and deeper into his subconscious. Each time he cast his line into the cool waters of that stream, it was as if he was throwing those images into deeper and deeper water.
One winter day, when the wind blew hard and fierce out of the northwest, the boy and his aunt were returning from a re-stocking trip to the small hamlet that sat at the junction of their high-plains path and the road to the Great Sea. When they had left the village, the weather was pleasantly warm for that time of the year, and the wind was nonexistent. But as they neared their home, as if to somehow push them back in the other direction, the wind came roaring over the high ridge that separated the valley in which they lived from the Great Sea many miles to the west. And to make matters worse, just as they were sight of the cottage, they were attacked by a pack of feral wild dogs.
Before they could make it to the door of the hut, the dogs had tackled the old woman to the ground. To keep them from grabbing onto the boy, the woman remained passive, allowing herself to be bitten, clawed and ripped to pieces. She shouted for the boy to run which he did. He ran with all his might to the only place where he knew he could be safe: a tiny cave just up the small ridge on other side of the path from the cottage. He didn't even look back as he felt if he did, he would suffer the same fate as his adopted mother. As he arrived at the mouth of the cave, one of the dogs latched onto his left foot, nearly pulling him down from the rocky outcropping of the small cave. Without thinking, the boy pulled his skinning knife out of its sheath and buried it to the hilt in the dog's neck. The hound released his grip, and the boy scurried into the cave.
He could hear the rest of the dogs barking and growling below him but did not want to look out at them. He knew what he would see if he did, their gangrene-ladened maws dripping with the blood of his mangled caretaker. Once again, he was alone; once again, he sat motionless; once again, he could do nothing but wait.