Sunday, April 17, 2011
Faldur sank down against a tree and fished out a small ration of pipecherry, filled his pipe and lit it. They had all been in what he called “trail trance” since the previous morning. No one talked; it was too exhausting. It had rained, which made everything first damp, then itchy. A hot bath was the principal thing on his mind at the moment. Only two days and one more night to go.
Marenya sat a little apart from the hamen, hugging her knees to her chest, eyes closed. He had not asked her yet about all that had happened during her captivity. He had been too busy, and she seemed unwilling to confide in anyone. He did not like to press her. But he needed to know what they were up against, and exactly how things stood with her.
He let her rest for a while, and when he saw her eyes open, went and sat beside her. There were tears on her cheeks. “What is it?”
“Nothing. I’m just tired.” She rubbed them away.
“Please, I want to know.”
She studied him, as if gauging whether he was truly concerned or just collecting information from her. She knew him too well. “It’s Raynor. No one knows anything about him, if he’s alive or dead. Nighfala’s gone, and I don’t know if she’s looking for him, or wandering somewhere in the darkness alone. And the erdmelesz are getting closer every moment. Every time I lie down I think I hear them marching through the ground.
"Is this what it’s like for you all the time? Because I don’t think I could stand it. I’m ashamed of myself, but all I want is a warm bed and hot food and strong walls to protect me.”
He tilted his head. “It’s like this sometimes. But it’s also very often boring. The best times are boring, when nothing is happening and you only have to patrol familiar paths and check on old friends. And drill.” He smiled reminiscently. “We’ve had some rowdy contests in the middle of nowhere. You see sunrises no one else sees, and fawns being dropped, and the whole length of the Silverbark River trailing down into the valley. And a certain hawin riding across a meadow, or hanging clothes in the yard with the sun on her bare arms.”
She looked at him suspiciously. “Are you just saying these things to calm me down?”
He reached out and drew her to him, and she rested her head against his chest. “I am saying them to calm you down, but they are all true. I have watched you for so long, I can’t imagine not watching you for the rest of my life.” He smiled ruefully at himself. “I don’t know where all these words are coming from; you have opened up some sort of dam. But the truth is, it hurts so much I’m not sure I can bear it.”
“Why does it hurt?”
“I don’t know.”
She was quiet for a minute, then said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me either. I feel like crying almost all the time.”
He smoothed her hair. “You’ve been through an ordeal. Heaven gave hawen tears to overcome their demons; we must fight ours.”
“In other words, we drown our demons, and you conquer them.”
“Something like that.”
“Is there no other way?”
“I can think of one.”
She tilted her face up, eyeing him quizzically, and he bent his head down and kissed her. He tasted salt, and brushed her tears away with his thumbs, comforting her at the same time he sought to conquer his own demons.