Ivory and Bone (Ivory and Bone #1) - Julie Eshbaugh Page 0,1

and it sounds like “a boat,” though that can’t be right. From so far away, into the wind, he could be saying anything.

Pek is a swift runner, and he reaches me before I have time to worry about what he has to say to me that couldn’t wait until I returned to camp. The skin of his face glows pink and tears run down his face from the sting of the wind.

“A boat,” he says. He sets his hands on his knees and bends, sucking air.

“Did you run the whole way from camp?”

“Yes,” he says, tipping his head to let the wind blow his hair from his eyes so he can look at me. Sweat glistens on his forehead. “A boat is on the beach. A beautiful long canoe dug out from the trunk of a single tree—you wouldn’t believe how beautiful.”

I run my eyes over Pek’s face, still somewhat soft and boyish at sixteen. He favors our mother—he has her easy smile and eyes that glow with the light of a secret scheme. “Is this a game? Are you playing a trick on me—”

“Why would I bother to run all the way out here—”

“I’m not sure, but I know that there’s no such thing as a boat made of the trunk of a single tree—”

“Fine. Believe what you want to believe.”

Pek rolls his spear in his right hand and peers off into the empty space in front of us, as if he can see into the past, or maybe the future. Without warning, he takes a few skipping steps across the grass and, with a loud exhale of breath, hurls his spear—a shaft of mammoth bone tipped with an obsidian point—at an invisible target. He had the wind at his back to help him, but I can’t deny it’s a strong throw. “Beat that,” he says, picking up my own spear from where I’d discarded it on the grass earlier.

My spear is identical to my brother’s—a shaft of mammoth bone—but instead of obsidian, I prefer a point of ivory. It’s harder to shape, but ivory is stronger. I grip the spear, tensing and relaxing my hand until the weight of it feels just right. I take three sliding steps and roll my arm forward, hand over shoulder, releasing the spear at the optimal moment. It is a perfectly executed throw.

Still, it lands about two paces short of Pek’s. I may be his older brother, but everyone jokes that Pek was born with a spear in his hand. He has always been able to out-throw me.

“Not bad,” he says. “That should be good enough to impress the girls.”

“I’ll try to remember that,” I say, forcing a laugh. There are no girls our age in our clan, something Pek and I try to joke about to hide the worry it causes us. But it’s not a joke, and no one knows that better than Pek and I do.

Without girls, there will be no wives for my brothers and me. Our clan could dwindle, even end.

“You won’t have to remember for long.” Pek’s gaze rests on something past my shoulder as an odd smile climbs from his lips to his eyes. Suddenly, this doesn’t feel like a joke anymore. My stomach tightens, and I spin around.

At the southern edge of the meadow, at the precise spot where Pek had appeared just moments ago, two girls come into view, flanked by our father, our mother, and a man I don’t recognize. “What—”

“Do you believe me now about the boat?”

I have no reply. I stand still as ice, unsure how to move without risking falling down. It’s been so long—over two years—since I’ve seen a girl my own age.

My eyes fix on these two as they approach, a certain authority in their movements. They practically saunter toward us, each carrying a spear at her side. One, dressed in finely tailored hides, walks slightly ahead of the group. Her parka’s hood obscures her hair and her face is half-hidden in shadow, but there’s no question that she’s a girl—the swing in her shoulders and the movement in her hips give her away.

The second girl is you.

From this distance I can’t quite see your face, so I notice your clothing first. Your parka and pants must have been borrowed from a brother—they’re far less fitted than those of the first girl—yet there is femininity in the smaller things, like the curved lines of your long, bare neck, and the golden glow of your tan skin in