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During the peak of the last ice age 26,000 – 16,000 years before present, enormous amounts of the earth’s water formed as glaciers and caused sea levels to drop; in some places by as much as 300 feet.  This exposed a vast land area known as Beringia that stretched between Siberia and Alaska.  Over the millennia there was an exchange of plant and animal species between the newly connected continents.  Eventually, a small human population also followed.

     They were Paleolithic hunter gatherers from the North Asian mammoth steppe.  They migrated in small groups across the land bridge towards the beckoning mountains to the east.  As temperatures slowly warmed, the people found a safe passage through the Laurentide ice sheet leading south.  Some of them discovered a place of refuge in a lush coastal strip of land on the Pacific Northwest.  Eventually it would become known as the Great Bear Rain Forest.

     As the ice age came to an end, and the earth began to warm, glaciers melted and sea levels rose.  This flooded Beringia (now the Bering Strait), and closed off the land bridge.  Many of the indigenous people who had already crossed over continued to seek new horizons, and they eventually populated all of the Americas.

                     ~                  ~                   ~


     He stood on a rocky headland and looked out over the heaving ocean.  The man couldn’t believe what he was seeing.  There was a huge white object passing by, just beyond the jagged teeth of the reef.  What was it he wondered?  It wasn’t a whale.  He was familiar with the great humpback whales that migrated along this coast to reach their summer feeding grounds in the north.  They were a wonderful sight to behold, splashing their gigantic tails.  But, this was something different, something he had never seen before.  The man continued watching in awe until the mysterious object finally disappeared into the ethereal mist.

     The man’s name was Kiwahani, and he was a member of the Nayarsaikh Nation.  The year was 1778, and what he had witnessed was the HMS Resolution sailing past on its journey of discovery up the Pacific Northwest Coast.  The ship was a 462 ton sloop, captained by James Cook of the Royal Navy.  Captain Cook never came ashore there.  Kiwahani would never meet him.  And, there was no way he could know that what he had seen portended unimaginable changes to his people’s way of life. 

     Kiwahani’s ancestors had lived in the Great Bear Rain Forest for thousands of years.  It was a temperate area situated along the northwest coast of North America, bordered on the east by the coastal mountains and on the west by the shores of the Pacific Ocean.  Their oral history vaguely recalled ancient times when his people crossed a land bridge to the east, and after a perilous journey found refuge in this sub-tropical rain forest that had avoided freezing during the ice age.  Their territory encompassed many inlets, islands, rivers and mountains.  The old growth forest with its dense undergrowth was also home to wolves, cougars, black bear, grizzlies and black tail deer.

     The Nayarsaikh people were not large in numbers and were divided into about thirty loosely aligned tribes or family communities scattered along the coastal area.  Kiwahani’s tribe of fifty-six people had recently left their winter quarters in the interior and were now living in a temporary encampment on the coast.  Here they would gather and preserve food for the coming winter.  The woman gathered seeds, berries, mushrooms, acorns and plants for medicinal purposes, while the men harvested herring roe and fished for Coho salmon.  

     They also maintained a clam garden and hunted seals for their skins and oil.  Some of the men worked on carving ceremonial masks and totems; others were skilled at making sea going cedar bark canoes.  There was a well-established system of trade with other communities up and down the coast, and extending far into the interior.

     Kiwahani was now in his twenty-fifth summer.  His wife had died two seasons earlier in childbirth and now he lived with his mother and brother; and the brother’s wife and two children.  He was the primary hunter for the group, being quite proficient with a bow and arrow.  He hunted the elusive black tailed deer, which on occasion provided a welcome variety to their diet.

     The Nayarsaikh thrived in their environment and believed that all resources were a gift from the creator.  They felt a strong spiritual connection to all living things, including plants and animals.  Their credo was to respect the land, and to ‘Take little and leave much.’ The Nayarsaikh were a generally peaceful people who left little noticeable imprint on the natural habitat.  As they went about their familiar domestic routines they had no forewarning of the horror that was about to descend on them.


     The winter camp was situated several miles inland, close to the coastal mountains where old growth rain forest transitioned to birch and pine.  It was a good sheltered location, far away from the strong coastal winds and the raging ocean.  There were eight houses in the community, as well as storage huts and a large pavilion for meetings and social gatherings.  The sturdy houses were of double ridgepole design, with gabled roofs and constructed with cedar planks.  A small fire kept the interiors warm and dry, while smoke filtered through an opening in the roof.

     Kiwahani closed the door behind him as he stepped out into a light rain.  It was early winter now, and it rained almost every day.  He was dressed suitably for the weather with a woven bark rain cape, and a wide brimmed conical hat of the same material.  He was wearing nothing on his feet, preferring to go barefoot the year round.  Usually the temperature here was mild and it seldom reached the point of freezing.  On a particularly cold day, Kiwahani might wear a deer hide cape to stay warm.  But, after centuries of acclimatization, he and his people were very much at home in this environment.

     Today, he planned to walk to the ocean front to search for any interesting objects that might have washed up during a recent storm.  Often he would find beautiful sea shells and sometimes strange pieces of manufactured wood whose origin he could not conceive.  Once, there had been a metal object attached to a piece of flotsam that he had used to fashion into arrowheads.  Walking the deserted beaches also gave him an opportunity to be alone with his thoughts and to enjoy the serenity of nature. 

     The way to the beach was a narrow well-trodden trail which weaved through the impenetrable rain forest.  The path had been used for centuries, but would quickly be overgrown if not for its constant use.  On both sides of the trail the rugged terrain was choked with rotting blowdown and blanketed with a wide variety of exotic plant life, dominated by thick patches sword fern and salal.  Overhead, a canopy of towering trees restricted the entry of light.  Even on the clearest day, few sunny beams reached the forest floor.

     Near the beach he stowed a bag containing some food and a sleeping robe in his family’s cedar bark summer shelter.  He started a fire using a hot coal transported from the winter camp, and then set out walking.  For the balance of the morning he continued along the coastline which was mainly rock shelf and tide pools littered with deep carpets of seaweed, pea gravel and slippery driftwood.  There were also occasional stretches of sand and some steep headlands that had to be traversed.  Mostly he walked along the high tide line which was on a cant and made for difficult footing.  Still, the beauty of the place was intoxicating, with the senses further enhanced by the briny smells and screeching of sea birds.

     At one point he stopped to examine the body of a sea lion that had washed ashore.  The scavengers were already busy feeding on the carcass, and he noted the footprints of an elusive sea wolf who had come by to investigate.  All along the route he had observed an abundance of fresh bear scat.  So, Kiwahani wasn’t surprised when he encountered a large black bear who gave him a look, and then turned and ran into the forest.  On the return, laden with a collection of interesting sea shells, the weather began to turn.  Large waves were now pounding the shoreline.

     Kiwahani spent a fitful night listening to the storm rage.  It was the most violent he had ever experienced.  The combination of the storm, high tide and a full moon conspired to produce gigantic waves that even threatened to wash away his shelter.  Early the next morning, the storm had subsided and he emerged to inspect the damage.  Walking up the beach he saw an incredible display of strange wreckage.  As he pondered this, a ghostly apparition rose up in front him.  Kiwahani quickly nocked an arrow and pulled back his bow string.


     Igor Lebedev was captain of the 142 ton brigantine Destine, presently at full sail on a southerly heading off the coast of Alaska.  As the ship made way through the stormy sea, Lebedev sat in his cabin drinking vodka and smoking his pipe.  A blanket was draped over his shoulders to help ward off the damp and cold.  Every hour or so the cabin boy would bring in an iron bucket filled with sand and hot shot which was heated up in the galley.  It emitted a modest amount of heat, but did little to improve the captain’s gloomy mood.  Taking another deep drink from the bottle, he thought ‘How did it ever come to this?’

     As the ship pitched and rolled, Captain Lebedev thought of the chain of events leading up to his current assignment.  Once an officer commanding a ship in the Czar’s navy, alcohol had been the curse which led him to scandal, demotion and ultimately dismissal.  Now, in the latter years of an uninspiring career at sea, he commanded this aging vessel on behalf of a St. Petersburg trading company.  His orders were to make landfall at Novo Arkhangelsk in Alaska and drop off supplies to the trading post there, then proceed south along the coast through the Inland Passage in search of productive new grounds to hunt sea otters. 

     He consulted a rather vague looking chart that some early explorer had drawn, and suspected there had been a lot of guesswork involved.  Very few Russians had been this far south, as the fur trade had been profitable enough in the new territories directly across the Bering Strait.  But years of over harvesting had driven some animal species to the brink of extinction.  Sea otters in particular had become very scarce.  Unlike other sea mammals, these creatures did not have a thick layer of protective fat.  Instead, they were insulated with dense soft fur with up to one million hairs contained in every square inch.  This made them the perfect choice for making warm winter coats.  Lebedev’s company traded sea otter pelts in China in exchange for silk, jade and porcelain, which they sold in North America and Europe.  It was a very lucrative business.

      The Destine was sailing with a skeleton crew of just thirty-six men.  Ordinarily, up to one hundred seamen would be recommended as a full ship’s complement.  Lebedev didn’t know if this was an economy measure on the part the company, or due to a lack of available candidates.  As it was, they had to press fourteen rough looking convicts from the jail in Vladivostok.  It was a far from perfect solution, and one that didn’t bode well, as there were already disciplinary problems.  The men were cold, wet and miserable.  And, because of the reduced crew size, they were required to be on duty for up to twelve hours a day.  With weeks of sailing ahead, a mutinous attitude was developing.

     There was a knock on the cabin door and the captain muttered, “Enter, for God’s sake.”  The candles guttered violently as a gust of cold air rushed into the room.  The chief mate stepped through the door in dripping oil skins and gave a half-hearted salute.  He said, “Captain, we have a problem!” The mate anxiously explained that one of the men had fallen from the rigging and was laying half dead on the foredeck.  He had been trying to untangle a line in one of the sheets, and now the other men refused to climb up to fix it due to the extreme motion of the ship.  He asked the captain if he would take the helm while he sorted things out.

     When Lebedev took the wheel, the first stab of fear entered his mind.  In spite of the alcoholic haze he could see that this was a serious storm.  At last light, they had been sailing cautiously about half a nautical mile from shore.  Now it was dark, raining hard, and a fierce wind was blowing.  As the ship struggled through these uncharted waters, he had no way of determining their current position.  He considered dropping a sea anchor, but decided it was probably better to stay adrift.  Then a wave cascaded over the bow, and the ship wallowed in a deep trough.  Lebedev knew they were in trouble.  He shouted out an order, “lay-a-hull.” But his voice was lost in the fury of the storm.

     The Destine righted itself and continued forward, still under full sail.  That’s when the Captain saw the boiling white outline of a reef.  Suddenly, there was an unearthly scraping sound as the hull of the ship ripped open.  Then the forward mast snapped and the ship tipped to port, already in its death throes.  Captain Lebedev clung to the rail and looked up in horror as a monstrous wave engulfed them.


     Sub Lieutenant Anton Tarasv was the junior officer aboard the Destine.  His responsibility was to maintain order below decks and make sure the men reported for duty on time.  It was a daunting task given the makeup of the crew.  Most of the old salts went about their routines with quiet resignation.  They ‘knew the ropes’ and kept their own council.  The new members of the crew on the other hand were loud, argumentative and inclined to resist authority.  Most of them were convicts, who had been pressed into service against their will.   They knew that at the end of the voyage they were destined to be interred at the penal colony in Novo Arkhangelski.  There they would face a cold, brutal life of solitude and hard labor.

     Twenty-two year old Anton Tarasv was a recent university graduate and scion of a wealthy trading family.  His father had arranged to have him placed as a junior officer on one of the company’s ships, to give him some hands on life experience.  Since Vitis Bering had claimed Alaska for Russia 37 years earlier, opportunistic traders had made fortunes there in the fur trade.  Tarasv Sr. felt that exposing his son to this side of the business was a smart move for the future.  The young man was enthused about the opportunity and eager to learn.

     In university, Anton had excelled in his studies, and had participated in numerous sports.  He was physically fit and an exceptionally skilled swordsman.  Young Anton approached his new position with full confidence in his abilities.  That confidence was severely tested when he met Viktor Drago, the uncontested leader of the convicts that had been recruited for the voyage.  He was a vicious criminal who only escaped the gallows when a magistrate had sentenced him to life imprisonment in the new penal colony.  Drago had immediately challenged the young officer’s authority, and now was being held behind bars in the ship’s brig.

     Below deck, the conditions were beyond miserable, as the putrid smell of vomit wafted through the stale air.  There was no heat, and the dim light came from candles in two swaying hurricane lanterns which cast flickering shadows.  The men were cold and their clothing was constantly damp from duty on deck.  Now, as the sea became rougher, they had to find handholds to keep from being flung about.  To make matters worse, they had been told there would be no hot food that day because the fire in the galley had been extinguished, as a safety precaution.  Disoriented from the violent movement of the ship, Lieutenant Tarasv wondered ‘what am I doing here?’ The men were in bad shape, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to call them to duty.

     Resistance from the convicts had grown as conditions of the ship had gotten worse.  These men had no prior experience with the sea and were terrified by the enormity of the storm.  The tipping point came when one of their compatriots fell to his death from the rigging.  In response, one of the men had cracked the chief mate over the head with a belaying pin.  Thus aroused, some of the convicts proceeded to release Drago from his imprisonment while others broke into the ship’s arms locker.  With no foresight as to the next move, the Destine had fallen into their hands.

     When the ship hit the reef, it slowly keeled to portside, rendering the lifeboat on the starboard side inoperable.  Drago and six of the convicts desperately unfastened the ropes which secured the only available boat, and then pushed off just as a giant wave washed over the ship.  The Destine was totally swamped and just minutes away from breaking up.  Some of the men had been swept into the icy water, while others continued to cling to the doomed ship.  The majority of the crew were still trapped in the hold below decks.

     With the sudden impact, Lieutenant Tarasv had been thrown entirely from his feet.  When he looked up, he could see water pouring in through a gaping hole in the hull.  Then the world turned topsy-turvy as the ship rolled, and he was tossed violently to the opposite side of the hold.  All around him panicked men were screaming.  It was then that the ship broke apart, and he was swept into the sea.  Lungs bursting, he surfaced, and then was pulled under again.  The next time he surfaced, he was taken by a huge wave and rolled over and over.  After what seemed like an eternity, he washed up on a sandy beach.  When the surf tried to reclaim him, though half-drowned, he fought and scrambled to higher ground.  Then he blacked out.


      In the pale light of dawn, Anton’s freezing body shivered back to consciousness.  He was still wearing his pea jacket, but it was soaked through and gave him little comfort from the cold.  He was sprawled on a sandy beach, and as he regained his senses he could hear the sound of the surf breaking nearby.  Suddenly, he recalled the horrible events of the previous night.  Sitting up, he cast his eyes over the beach in front of him.  It was littered with debris from the doomed ship.  Then he saw the bodies floating in the water.  Two more lay on the sand nearby.

     Anton rose up and walked over to examine them.  He could see that one of the men had been practically eviscerated as he passed over the sharp rocks of the reef.  He lay there with his eyes bulging, his pale face reflecting a look of horror.  The other man had apparently been swept into the reef with his arms protectively extended. They had been shattered, and were now twisted in a grotesque fashion.  As Anton stood there, the unfortunate man convulsed and opened his eyes.  He whispered, “Help me!” Then he gasped deeply and expired.

     The young officer was shocked by what he had witnessed and sunk to his knees, overcome with emotion.  He lowered his head and thought, ‘God, help these poor men.’  What can I do?’ A violent shiver then racked his body and brought him back to reality.  There was a light rain falling and he was reminded of how terribly cold he was.  When he looked up, a diminutive figure was approaching wearing a most unusual conical hat.  The man’s face had a faintly Oriental caste, which featured penetrating eyes and a wispy mustache.  Alarmingly, he inserted an arrow in his bow and drew back the string.

     Anton rose to his feet and cautiously extended his hands palm out.  He expected to feel the punch of an arrow in his chest at any moment.  He desperately implored, “Please, please don’t!”  The other man looked at him quizzically while holding his position, and after a long pause released the tension on the bow.  They stood there looking at each other; it seemed like forever.  Then the man spoke in a strange dialect that Anton couldn’t understand.  In response, Anton shrugged and pointed to the wreckage.  The man nodded and offered a tight lipped smile.

     The two men were initially tentative with each other as they turned to examine the chaos on the beach.  When Anton started to shiver uncontrollably, the man named Kiwahani touched him on the shoulder and motioned that he should follow.  They walked some distance up the beach, and then came upon a clearing containing several bark huts.  Kiwahani led Anton to one of the huts, and motioned for him to enter.  Inside a fire was burning and the temperature felt like a hot summer’s day.  It was the first time Anton had been warm since leaving Russia. His benefactor then handed him a gourd of water, followed by something that looked like dried fish.  After eating the food, Anton removed his wet pea jacket and hung it on a peg to dry.  Then, with his back to the wall, his head nodded forward, and he fell into a deep sleep.

     When he awoke, the man was gone.  The fire had died down to coals, but his jacket was dry, so he slipped it on.  Sticking his head outside of the hut, he estimated it was now mid-afternoon.  The rain had stopped, and the sun was shining.  Anton decided to go back to the area near the wreckage to search for other possible survivors.  When he got there, he removed his boots and trousers and waded into the surf to recover several floating bodies.  He pulled five men from the water, and dragged them up beyond the high tide mark.  Next, he salvaged any useful materials including rope, a length of spar, a section of canvas and assorted pieces of wood.  Finally, with reluctance he removed an oil skin cape and a couple of wool sweaters from the bodies of his former shipmates.

After returning to the hut, Anton blew the fire back to life, and sat back to consider his situation.  He knew he was marooned on a remote coast a least a thousand miles from the nearest civilization.  No one would have the faintest idea where to start looking, so rescue was unlikely.  He was reminded of Robinson Crusoe, a favourite book from his childhood, written in 1719 by Daniel Defoe.  In the book, the shipwrecked Crusoe laments that his island was a ‘dreadful place, out of the reach of humane kind, out of hope of relief or prospect of redemption.’ Lieutenant Anton Tarasv could see the parallels with his own situation.   Like his boyhood hero, he had been swept into an otherworldly Land of the Lost.


     Viktor Drago and his band of criminals had just launched the lifeboat, when a giant wave washed over the ship.  It had propelled them over the reef into less threatening waters, where they rowed furiously to reach the shore.  When the boat furrowed into the sand, the men jumped out and dragged it beyond reach of the waves. Then they looked around in bewilderment and uncertainty.  It was dark, and a steady rain was falling.  With no better alternative, they flipped the boat over and propped it up with oars to create a shelter.  They decided to huddle there and await the dawn.  From this vantage point they watched as the Destine broke up on the reef, and sank beneath the waves.

     Early the next morning rain continued to fall, although the storm had abated and the wind was reduced to a gentle onshore breeze.  Drago and his henchmen were cold and hungry and very uncertain of what to do.  They knew they were probably the only survivors of the shipwreck, and were now stranded on this God forsaken coast.  They scouted the beach in both directions before finding a well-trodden path that promised to lead somewhere, as yet uncertain.  They followed it through a thick rainforest and eventually came to a clearing containing several rustic houses.  Dogs barked as they approached, and then several aboriginal men came forward from the village to greet them.

     Without making any effort to communicate, Drago and his men savagely attacked the men with their cutlasses, and then pursued the survivors as they fell back to the village.  The Nayarsaikh people tried to rally to defend their homes and families, but they had been caught unawares, and against these maniacal cutlass wielding criminals, they stood little chance.  As the slaughter continued, many of the people melted into the forest.  One exception was Kiwahani’s mother, who was the tribe’s Shaman.  Standing bravely before Viktor Drago she had “called upon the ancient God’s for mercy,” before Drago brutally cut her down.

     Drago and his men were able capture a number of the women who were now being held in one of the bark houses.  A guard was posted outside the door, while the other men ransacked the remaining houses looking for anything of value.  They entered one of the storage huts, and removed part of the food supply.  After gorging themselves, they turned their attention to the women.  Amid the screams that followed, several Nayarsaikh men re-emerged from the forest. Once again they found themselves fighting against men with sharp metal cutlasses, and were quickly dispatched.  The orgy of rape and destruction continued, and then as a final act of madness, Drago’s men set fire to the village.

     Smoke filled the air as Drago and his followers withdrew back along the pathway.  They had burned all of the houses, including the storage sheds that held the Nayarsaikh’s winter food supplies.  Before leaving, they had searched for clothing and other items that might be useful for their survival.  Drago now wore a warm deerskin cape, and a few of the men had donned odd looking conical shaped hats.  One man carried a clay pot containing hot coals to start a fire at their next campsite.  All of them were burdened with heavy baskets filled with stolen goods. 

      In a matter of a few hours, these criminals had wrought horror and destruction upon a peaceful people who had lived there for centuries.  Not yet finished with their degradations, they led two female captives who had been secured with ropes around their necks.

     They were proceeding through the forest when two men approached from the opposite direction.  As the distance shrank they were shocked to see the face of Lieutenant Tarasv, who appeared to be accompanied by an indigenous man.  The men hated this prissy officer who had exerted dominance over them aboard the Destine. They dropped their burdens and with raised cutlasses went on the attack. 

      For just a moment, Anton was frozen with shock.  Then he quickly followed Kiwahani, who had darted off the narrow trail into the dense forest.  They advanced a short distance, then turned to see that just one of the convicts was following.  When he was closer, Kiwahani loosed an arrow which struck the man in the arm.  Letting out a scream, he dropped his cutlass and turned and ran. Later when they emerged from the forest, Anton was carrying the cutlass, a weapon for which he claimed great skill.

     Kiwahani could see a massive cloud of smoke up ahead, and he knew that something was terribly wrong.  Still, he was not prepared for the apocalyptic scene of a village utterly destroyed, with bodies lying everywhere.  His brother approached, eyes widening, as he looked at Anton who stood there with a cutlass in his hand.  Kiwahani was also puzzled over the relationship between Anton and the other men, who were clearly responsible for this carnage. 

      Inspecting the damage, they finally came to their mother’s house.  His brother had already pulled the charred corpse of their mother from the ashes, and it was obvious that fire had not been the cause of her death.  Kiwahani looked at Anton, his face a mask of grief and confusion.  Anton was horrified by the mutilated remains, and felt a tremendous sense of guilt by association.  It was frustrating that with the language barrier there was no way he could explain.


     The shattered Nayarsaikh people had reassembled and were tending to their dead and wounded.  All around were the anguished sounds of keening and lamentation.  Of fifty-six tribal members, eleven had been killed and several injured.  Their homes, possessions and winter food supplies had all been destroyed, and two precious young woman had been abducted.  As darkness fell, it was a desperate situation.  One of the elders suggested the possibility of relocating to the summer camp.  But, with the raiders having departed in that direction, the idea was ruled out.  Then, to make matters worse, a cold rain began to fall.

     The next morning, some of the men began to build temporary shelters with lengths of poles and cedar boughs.  Warming fires had been started, using retrievable bits of wood from their former houses.  There was no food to eat nor medicine to treat the injured, and worse, they had lost their Shaman and most capable medical practitioner.  The babies and toddlers were now at particular risk.  In desperation, runners had been dispatched to neighbouring tribes to beg for assistance.  Meantime, a few of the woman had gone into the forest to dig for roots and tubers while others sifted through the ashes looking for anything salvageable.  Kiwahani had departed earlier with his bow to hunt.  The recovery from this disaster would be long and painful.

     Abandoned by his new friend, Anton sat at the edge of camp sharpening his cutlass with a piece of smooth rock.  The weapon had a slightly curved, single edged blade which ended in a sharp point.  Its three foot length was similar to the swords and sabres he had trained with.  As he worked, Anton could feel the animosity emanating from the people around him.  All morning they had refused to make eye contact, and stayed as far away as their tasks permitted.  The young man was consumed with guilt over what had happened, and a deep anger was building inside of him.  He felt that he had to do something to make things right.    Rising to his feet, he took a final look around and then left the camp.

     Later, as Anton neared the ocean front he suddenly came face- to-face with one of the convicts.  The man had been posted there as a sentry by Drago, to give early warning to any approach.  Clearly surprised by Anton’s appearance, he was slow to react.  He roared and raised his cutlass in a clumsy hacking motion.  Without hesitation, Anton thrust with his own weapon deep into the man’s undefended torso, quickly ending the encounter.  Picking up the dying man’s cutlass, he continued on towards the beach.  He thought, ‘One man down, one wounded by Kiwahani’s arrow, five remaining.’  Anton hadn’t yet considered what his next move would be,  but, he’d have to be careful.

     Anton followed fresh tracks in the sand which led towards the Nayarsaikh summer encampment.  As he approached, he could see smoke rising over the clearing.  He moved cautiously into the shelter of the trees, and inched forward until he could view the camp from a concealed position.  Then he watched for about an hour until finally a man emerged from one of the huts, apparently to relieve himself.  A short time later he heard screams, followed by loud voices and raucous laughter.  Anton had no doubt about what was going on inside, and he was repulsed.  Thinking only of the welfare of the two young woman, he stepped decisively from his concealment and shouted Viktor Drago’s name.

     Drago promptly appeared, and with a second man they advanced towards Anton waving their cutlasses in a menacing fashion.  The one man lunged aggressively, and Anton countered with a stroke that sliced open his arm.  Drago then attempted a powerful downward slash which Anton blocked with his two crossed blades, and followed with a kick to the convict’s sternum.  Staggering briefly, Drago angrily attacked again swinging his blade in a wild fashion.  There was the clatter of steel on steel as the two men blocked and parried, and when they finally locked together hilt to hilt, Anton spun completely around and slashed Drago’s Achilles heel with his second blade.  Drago screamed and sunk to his knees, then Anton administered the coup de grace with a final blow to his neck.  He quickly turned to address the other man, and was surprised to see him staggering with an arrow in his chest.

     With their leader dead, the other convicts offered no further resistance.  Kiwahani, who had appeared in the nick of time, and Anton forced the remaining men to launch the lifeboat.  With a promise to never return, they rowed off to an uncertain fate. 

~                       ~                       ~

      The following two years were difficult ones for the Nayarsaikh people as they went about recovering from the horrors that had been visited upon them.  But, as they had done many times before in their long history, they persevered and survived.  Once they had been made aware of Anton’s role in rescuing the two young woman and punishing the raiders, he was gradually accepted by the tribe.  He and Kiwahani became fast friends and eventually were able to converse with one another, as Anton learned the Nayarsaikh language.  Anton had become adept at maneuvering the cedar bark canoes, and he enjoyed spear fishing beyond the reef.  On one summer day he saw a sail approaching along the coast.  Anton thought that if he paddled hard, he might be able to intercept the ship.  He wondered ‘What should I do?’  Then pausing for just a moment, he decided.

By Michael Barlett


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