8. Respite

The hunter lies unconscious in the mud hut, his naked and bruised body awash in the sun’s glow. Beside him, Tachi and the farmer talk. He keeps one hand on his waist holding the rough material in place. The other hand, however, seems more animate, and his long arm flies about the room as he questions her.

He had motioned to the priestess while she sat beside the patient, interrupting her as she washed the blood from Richard’s body. A cough drew her attention, and she turned to see a tall fat man in the doorway, wrapped with a feedbag around his waist, jerking his head upward at an angle. She had walked to the entrance and drew him in with a whisper, but they were far from whispering now.

“I don’t know what happened to him,” she declares, folding her arms before her. Looking away from Daniel, her gaze falling on Richard, she adds, “We’ll just have to wait for him to wake up.”

The wild hand grabs her chin, and he twists her face toward his. They wrestle a moment as Tachi tries to free her head. Then his thick fingers wrap around her throat. “Look at me, Girl,” Daniel shouts. Her eyes travel up his arm ‘til the two of them come face to face. “You ran off into that forest,” he gives her a shake, “and I should have you flogged for running away.” He releases his grip. “But, I want to know what happened. Did he slay it?”

Coughing, she flops onto the stool beside Richard, her hand landing on his shin. As she rubs her neck, she gazes at that leg, the leg that had stopped her fall, the leg that had been something to grasp while blinded in the fog. The first human she had touched after her masters died.

“Be wary, or you’ll have the wrath of a hunter upon you,” she rasps.

Daniel drops the empty feed sack and takes a step back. Growling, he leans down and picks it up. “I don’t give two bushels what you got rolling around in that head of yours.” Pulling the bag up to his waist he continues, “I traded three pigs for you last year. I own you.” Sneering at Richard he adds, “How I treat you is my business.”

“My masters never made that delivery. He saved me from the monster.” Standing, she waves a hand over the sleeping man. “By rights, I am his.”

Bounding forward, he grabs Tachi’s forearm, dragging her out the door. Once they are outside he sneers, “I own you.” Stopping, Daniel pulls her around to his front. “And, no one in this village will argue with me about that,” he growls, spittle flying into her face.

She smiles, “No one?”

Marching, he drags the priestess along, jerking her arm now and again so that she barely keeps pace. Most of the village still dreamily rests in their huts, but a few old men, their saggy skin hanging bare for anyone to see, lazily sit on their porches, watching Daniel go on with his young girl. He leads her around to the back of the hut, where the squealing pigs roll in their filth.

Opening the gate, he forces her into the pin. In the slippery mud she falls. Daniel laughs, sliding her to the little covering where the pigs hide from the moonlight. Shoving her against this, he takes a rope and begins tying her hands above her head to a peg in the small structure. Rising from this task, the sack once again falls from his waist to his feet.

“Well, my little sow,” he begins. “This seems the proper place for a dumb beast like you.”

Daniel tries to kick a little mud at her, but is surprised to find his feet tethered to one another by the feedbag. Flying into the air, he falls splat into the black manure. A pig begins to nuzzle his face. Getting up, he once again slips, falling into the mud. Naked, he crawls on all fours to the gate.

“And let that be a lesson to you,” he shouts as he walks back into the house.



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