Wednesday 1 June 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 10

I let Svaathe lead the way; she leads us by a circuitous route back to the road, leaving on the other side of the rise the remains of yesterday's work.

We pass by a pale green hillside, flat like a wall behind which something terrible lies. To the west, not far away, we can hear the echoes of the scavengers, their cries of indignation, their controversies and squabbles over choice morsels – this is mine, this is mine, this is mine, keep to your own, keep to your own – and briefly, the wind blows our way, brings the overwhelming stench of the slaughterhouse. Svaathe begins to whistle a bright, careless tune, but trails off before the end. Makara's gloved fingers tighten on the strap of the broad brass gun, faintly obscene in shape, that she carries slung over her shoulder.

The clear violet-blue of the morning sky gradually coalesces into pale grey, and light rain begins to fall, that rain that soaks you through without even trying (a flash of another world, a disappointment), damping down the smell on the wind from behind the rise. It comes as a relief.

The road is slick by the time we reach it. Surfaced with stone melted by tremendous energies, straight and wide and not showing the signs of a thousand or more footprints that came towards the valley where they met me and did not march back to the city whose walls and highest spires begin to appear upon the curve of the horizon, our destination.

They know back there, of course. In the city, they know. How could they not?

[Collected Writings Index