“You pray, don’tcha Rajah?” Singer pauses in her Hedon eulogy and tips her head at me.
“I do.” I lean down and assist her in shoving the body into the earth.
Beneath my fingertips he is just a man. He had seemed like so much more. Now he is mangled flesh and cracked skull. The scent of sweat and soil is in my nostrils.
So this is what vengeance smells like.
We jokingly refer to it as the Viper’s Nest – this gaudy bed with it’s embroidered curtains and cozy warm glow. Now we coil in it together, drowsy in the Saturday predawn darkness. For hours I had stalked him through the night, darting along Assassin’s Path, ready to place my blade at his throat and demand reparations for his unsanctioned departure. In the end, it was sharp words and laughter that we flung at each other instead, weapons better suited to our mismatched companionship.
I am telling Ynk of my journey to Crystal Creek when we hear the door to the Kennel creak open. In the candlelight the intruder is a massive shadowy figure, a large man with a knife in each hand. My roseblade is in my fist as I slip out of bed, through the curtains and into the shadows. Better to fight where I can move than die in my burrow.
The first collision of knife on flesh splatters into the night – Zeff grunts in his bed, his body already weak and ravaged by illness. Then the intruder’s eyes are turned on me – I am discovered even in the darkness. I sprint for the door but he blocks my path. I inhale to scream and the sound is cut short as his Dundee smashes into my chest. I try to catch myself as I fall but my right arm is not moving. My knee catches a chair, and my back slams into the wood of Thorand’s bunk.
The intruder’s face is maniacal in the candlelight.
“This one shall be taken to atone for the sins of the others.” he crows, triumphant. I try to speak but instead cough up blood. His knife is descending to my throat and I try to twist away from it and double over in pain.
Rush of movement. Flash of Iron glow. Clatter of steel as the intruder’s knife is slapped away. He sweeps with the other, a wide blow knocking the others away from where I’ve fallen. Again that swift lunge with those wicked knives. Someone has their hand on the back of my neck and is hauling me backwards. Everything is red-tinged blur. The Kennel is spinning as Death flings himself towards me, determined to strike true.
The steel slides into my chest, burning cold. For a brief moment I marvel in how quiet it is when your lungs no longer heave and your heart no longer beats. Such sile-…
All is quiet now in the small house some call the Kennel. Outside, a man is striding away leaving the door to slam shut on his heels. He is already focused on the next cabin, the next sacrifice.
Inside, blood drips down the woman’s hair, pools beneath her chair and the bare feet of the man who leans over her. Red are her lips and red are his wrists and red is the muscle of her heart, exposed in the gaping wound in her still, still chest.
His hands are trembling as he cups her chin, presses her cheek against his own. His lips are moving.
But the dead cannot hear.