Thursday 26 May 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 8

While I locate my pack – it contains a woollen jacket of sorts, which I shrug on and lace up with a sort of gratitude – Svaathe pulls the meat away from the fire, sniffs it, then picks up her knife and stabs it.
"Done." She starts carving hunks off the bone. "God, I'm hungry."

She hands some to Makara, who bites into it, wide-mouthed, and I know that I have already glimpsed the two rows of triangular pointed teeth the blue skinned woman has, made for tearing, not chewing, but it's new and I have to stop myself staring.

The meat tastes somewhere between beef and mutton, juicy, not stringy. I haven't eaten meat for years; I eat this all the time. It is, rough roasted, rare in parts, the best meal I have ever tasted. I devour it.

Svaathe talks with her mouth full, not caring for what I can see. "So you got a name?" She swallows, loudly.

"Gideon." No hesitation there. But this is not my name. It's not a name that feels like a usual name, either in the other world I remember, or here. I look into the darkness in the back of the cave, as if someone's going to walk out and explain this to me.

"Huh. Where's that from?" Svaathe takes another bite, spits a bit of gristle into the fire, which hisses, pops. Makara is tearing intently into her cut, eyes shut, making noises like some ravenous predator after the hunt, but she's listening.

"The Exiles. South East." I realise that this is true, and in this context. It seems to be enough for her. She nods, gulps down some more meat. 

A couple of mouthfuls later: "So how did you get away?" 

I realise what she's talking about, the thing that's been hanging over the cave since I crossed the rise. I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand, and open it to answer. No words come. 

Makara's meal has gone, bone and all. "He didn't." 

I try to say something else, but they're both looking at me like they've seen something terrible, like a field of slaughtered corpses. 

Svaathe and Makara eventually put their heads down, Svaathe lying facing the fire, knees curled up, head on a raised arm, Makara behind her, almost protectively, arm gently laid around Svaathe's waist. 

No one said a single word more. I cannot sleep. I am half afraid I will find my friends gone when I wake.