He looked shocked. Not at what had happened to her uncle, of course, but at the speed with which it had occurred.
Whatever his original loyalty was, it was now clear that he had to aid and to depend upon her. He could not find the palace without her or, arriving there, know how to get into it. Or, if he could somehow gain entrance to it, know what to do after he was in it.
From his expression, though, he wasn’t thinking of this just now. He was wondering if she meant to kill him, too.
“We’re in this together, now,” she said. “All the way.”
He relaxed, but it was a minute before the blue-gray beneath his pigment faded away.
She stepped forward and wrenched the axe from Urthona’s chest. It hadn’t gone in deeply, and blood ran out from the wound. His mouth was open; his eyes fixed; his skin was grayish. However, he still breathed.
“The end of a long and unpleasant relationship,” she said, wiping the axe on the grass. “Yet…”
McKay muttered, “What?”
“When I was a little girl, I loved him. He wasn’t then what he became later. For that matter, neither was I. Excessive longevity … solipsism … boredom … lust for such power as you Earthlings have never known …”
Her voice trailed off as if it were receding into an unimaginably distant past.
McKay made no movement to get closer to her. He said, “What’re you going to do?” and he pointed at the still form.
Anana looked down. The flies were swarming over Urthona, chiefly on the wound. It wouldn’t be long before the predators, attracted by the odor of blood, would be coming in. He’d be torn apart, perhaps while still living.
She couldn’t help thinking of these evenings on their native planet, when he had tossed her in the air and kissed her or when he had brought gifts or when he had made his first world and come to visit before going to it. The Lord of several universes had come to this … lying on his back, his blood eaten by insects, the flesh soon to be ripped by fangs and claws.
“Ain’t you going to put him out of his misery?”
“He isn’t dead yet, which means that he still has hope,” she said. “No, I’m not going to cut his throat. I’ll leave his weapons and his gregg here. He might make it, though I doubt it. Perhaps I’ll regret not making sure of him, but I can’t…”
“I didn’t like him,” McKay said, “but he’s going to suffer. It don’t seem right.”
“How many men have you killed in cold blood for money?” she said. “How many have you tortured, again just for money?”
McKay shook his head. “That don’t matter. There was a reason then. There ain’t no sense to this.”
“It’s usually emotional sense, not intellectual, that guides us humans,” she said. “Come on.”
She brushed by McKay, giving him a chance to attack her if he wanted to. She didn’t think he would, and he stepped back as if, for some reason, he dreaded her touch.
They mounted and headed at an angle for the beach. Anana didn’t look back.
When they broke out of the woods, the only creatures on the beach were birds, dead fish-the only true fish in this world were in the sea-lands-amphibians, and some foxes. The grewigg were breathing hard. The long journey without enough sleep and food had tired them.
Anana let the beasts water in the sea. She said, “We’ll go back into the forest. We’re near enough to the path to see which way they take. Either direction, we’ll follow them at a safe distance.”
Presently the tribe came out onto the beach on the night side of the channel. With shouts of joy they ran into the waves, plunged beneath its surface, splashed around playfully. After a while they began to spear fish, and when enough of these had been collected, they held a big feast.
When night came they retreated into the woods on the side of the path near where the two watchers were. Anana and McKay retreated some distance. When it became apparent that the savages were going to bed down, they went even further back into the woods. Anana decided that the tribe would stay put until “dawn” at least. It wasn’t likely that it would make this spot a more or less permanent camp. Its members would be afraid of other tribes coming into the area.