That sallow-eyed witch.
I mean literal witch. Shaman. Rattle-shaker. Whatever term you want. When she first stepped out behind the “head-man,” I genuinely thought she was an actor. As perfunctory and fumbling as most of their little shows were, I had to credit Jebith and Salar at least for this: they presented a convincing façade of devotion. While their whole “Seven Mothers” concept was flawed on its face, they spared little expense when calling up a passion play. This…Elronda, was it?…was the very image of Jakaleel. In the Citadel, though, an actor had to smear her teeth with butter to get them that yellow. I thought, for a moment, that the Crone of Hags had come for me. That she saw me in her temples, knew I’d read her words without permission. But that wasn’t enough to earn my ire.
It wasn’t even what she did to my bone that made me hate the woman, honestly. I’d time enough in Elkoi to grow accustomed to that pricking, burning feeling when a dozen eyes are on you like spiders. I was only too happy to unload it on Punk and Moss and the other one, to help them feel how I did when the witch snapped the bone and cast it into the fire. Besides, I stand by my argument; if they didn’t want us bringing back just any marked bones, they should have furnished us with better instructions.
As if these savages could think that far ahead.
No, I hated the witch because of the things she said afterward. How she held me up as some omen, some future-figure. I thought leaving Elkoi would be getting free of all that. It’s what I was running from, after what I heard Jebith whispering in her shrine. I wouldn’t be their child of prophecy, so why would I submit to the far more ignominious—and less well-insulated—fate of doing so for these arsescratchers?
Cacodemon’s Fa…no, I shouldn’t even think like that.
Still, none of them said anything. Hopli didn’t jab me about the wrong bone, Erik didn’t get puffed up that I had some shine of meaning upon me. Fruznari—I’m not sure he even noticed, but that boy’s got problems aplenty as it is. Then came the hunt, and the pheasants and the cat. They didn’t flee, they didn’t trip me into those teeth. They left me standing, they stood by me. Hells and hazards, it would have been easy enough to point a finger at the little sphere-boy when the pheasants disappeared, and I’m sure Punk and his would have allowed it.
Instead, they stood with me. They stood in front of me. Well, one of them fell on the ground and bled, but that easily could have been me too.
The worst thing that’s happened to me since coming out here is that I got a little cold. Thick as my skin is to snickering and laughter, it’s still just skin. I don’t have fur, or furs. I’ve got a shirt, and about six stone extra weight hanging around my waist. I could have died.
We can’t have that. Not until I know for sure it’s safe. So I’m out here, before the sun, sitting in the cold morning air. Gritting my teeth against the bite. Curling my hands into fists around the two grinding molars I’ve gathered thus far. I know the tooth thing seems odd, and it’s good of the other lads not to mention it. They don’t understand, they won’t understand. I’ll let it be one more weird Nongrot thing, for now.
But if teeth define my destiny, it falls to them to divine it as well.