Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 7

I know their names.

By the fire, turning the meat, Svaathe wears a sort of heavy woollen jacket with a broad, high collar, buttoned up, almost covering an angular chin beneath a face of angles, hard, high cheekbones, angled, almost feline eyes ringed with black paint under heavy rectangular black-painted brows, all framed by glossy, thick black hair. Her mouth is so generous it almost seems too big for her face.

Beside her, Makara's flat, forward sloping, blunt-featured face pokes out of a bundle of wrapped grey blanket. She is blue, sky blue, her skin glossy, reflecting the firelight with rainbow colours like oil on water.

They both acknowledge me with a nod.

I sit across from them, and sigh deeply in the warmth, the smell of roasting meat.

We are silent for a time.

"Why do you call me that?" I say.

"Hey?" Svaathe frowns.

"Eagleman. Where's that come from?"

"Well. Places."

"Oh, just tell him, will you?" Makara is fake impatient, amused.

Svaathe smirks, rearranges herself on the stone. "All right. So where I'm from, right, the islands. Down in Gadare. They have this priest. This one man who is sort of separate. Special. And he's the Eagleman, see. Wears a headdress. Wooden beak. Feathers. Lives in a little wicker temple at the top of a cliff."
She waves her free hand over her forehead as if to demonstrate. 

"And every morning there's this other priest goes to visit him. The Eagleman. And this other priest, his job is to check the Eagleman is alive. And he treats that like it's a really important job. And this priest, he says good morning to the Eagleman and the Eagleman, he says morning to this other priest and then the other priest, he goes up to the top of the cliff and starts singing the Eagleman song."

She sings a tune that sounds like a reveille: "Eagleman! Eagleman! Eagleman! Eagleman lives!" 

She smirks. "It's about half an hour long. Goes on and on and on."

I nod. "So what happens when he's dead?"

"They get another one."

"So what is the point of that? Why would they do that?"

"Tupped if I know!" She starts to laugh, – Ha! Ha! Ha! – each laugh like an explosion.

I'm leaning back on my hands. "I don't see what that has to do with me."

"Well." Svaathe makes a big show of concentrating on the meat again. "Felt right."

Makara rolls her round, wide set eyes, hard. "Just tell him, will you?"

"Tell me what?"

Svaathe sighs. "It's the nose. I saw you and I just thought, Eagleman."

Makara is looking away. She is trying not to laugh.

[Collected Writings Index

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