The Unfinished Song: Initiate
…on their backs, though they did not wear their mud and ashes, and he assumed had no compunction against carrying out more of the crimes which had won them expulsion.
|"Detail 2" by Junalik|
To his surprise, the rovers didn’t attack. They invited him back to their campfire. Shrugging, he accepted—was he any better than they? He found their lack of either resentment or awe oddly refreshing.
“Do you know who I am?” Kavio couldn’t help but ask them.
The noseless, earless one grinned. “I don’t care, Exile. Don’t you understand? This is your chance to escape who you are, become who you want.”
In their camp, they had a captive, some toothless old man, whom they’d tied to a tree. Taking turns, each rover sliced a piece of flesh off the old man’s thigh, ignoring his piteous howls, then tossed the meat on a rock in the fire and ate it.
“We eat first,” the leader, the earless one said, “Then we dance and invite the fae to eat the rest. Who says you have to be a Tavaedi to dance? The fae don’t care who serves them, or how well you dance, only that you do.”
None of the three had magic in their auras, save for a few wild, random glimmers born of strong hates and brooding envies, but— and this was kept secret for this very reason—fierce emotion alone could do damage if combined with dancing, especially if the fae were involved, never mind blood sacrifice and dark bargains. When my Father looks at me, thought Kavio, is it these men he sees?
“So you’re hexers,” Kavio said, “as well as cannibals?”
The two exiles kept chewing. Their noseless, earless leader stopped.
“You’re not going to join us, are you?”
Kavio smiled apologetically. “No. I’m going to free the old man. You’re going to try to stop me. Then I’m going to kill you.”
The leader hefted his spear, which spurred his companions to do the same, but Kavio was already moving. Weaponless, it took him several minutes and cost him an ugly punch to the ear to kill all three rovers. He untied the old man and asked if his clanhold was far. The old man scrambled away, too terrified to answer. Pursuit seemed more likely to scare than help him.
He couldn’t desecrate the dead, even bandits, so he searched near the main path until he found a smaller path which paralleled it, a trail marked as Deathsworn by a black megalith capped by a skull.
To trod the path of the Deathsworn was to join them, or join the dead, and they in turn, were forbidden to taint the paths of ordinary men. The Deathsworn were neither fae nor exactly human, though they had once been human. The fae couldn’t see them. The Deathsworn recruited from all tribes and belonged to none. They were not allowed to involve themselves in tribal wars or clan politics. They performed a gruesome job, and most people loathed and…