Cran Palto | Books | Raheem




Chapter 28

what is true is just; what is true is beautiful
but what is just and beautiful asks the penitent
the wise man raises his eyes to the sky and speaks:
justice and beauty are given to us
it's the propaganda of culture
but we must separate in our mind
truth from beauty
and truth from justice

how are we to do that asks the penitent
the wise man looks to the ground at his feet
and says:
by walking alone and learning alone

—Book of Oleander Wisdom, in the turquoise section

Just as he had the night before, Yigars woke Ipsena while the others slept.

“Hush.” He pressed his fingers to her lips.

She smiled, pressing her lips against his fingers, feeling him decide what to do.

He smiled in the darkness and kissed her, bringing back memories of an entire day in the cabin, kissing and playing all the games of the body. Suddenly she remembered that moment—it must have been mid-afternoon—when, in the height of passion and exertion, she had pushed beyond her own instant of bliss and urged him on, nails clawing his back, eyes staring into his with the flame of inner darkness, moaning in his ear, “Kill me with your dagger! Take this flesh and slay it!”

His efforts had reached a high plateau at that instant so she tightened her entire body, tensing all her muscles, half holding him, half pushing against him as though to throw him across the room.

“Damn you!” He had shouted. “Damn you and your ways!”

It was at that moment she saw it: the face she had hoped to see, the face of the man finally at peace with himself, satisfied that nothing mattered, that the only thing in the universe was the woman he was with.

She had held him tenderly, softly, until Yigars had returned to his own skin.

Three more times in the laziness of furs and the languor of the afternoon, they had crossed the chasm across the void in a single leap of pleasure.

Then the door had opened to Trion announcing that Agra had brought back a doe and meat was on the grill in the kitchen.

Ipsena remembered how Agra, Vaega, and Trion had stood together in the kitchen eating grilled meat while she and Yigars had stood to the side, so close together their elbows and thighs touched while they ate.

“Hush. Come with me,” Yigars said.

Without a word, Ipsena dressed and followed him. Outside, by the faint moon, he had led the way out of the camp and to the animal pen. He pointed at the male bison.

“Come with me.”

He bent down and slid through a gap in the fence. She followed.

The bison was awake. Yigars spoke to it in midrange soothing tones and stood by its head, caressing and patting the side of its neck.

After a while, the great eyes drew narrower, lids closing as though lulled into asleep.

Yigars turned to Ipsena. He handed her a short-bristle brush. “Comb the fur gently, without pulling.”

He handed her a small leather pouch. “After each stroke, pull the fur out of the brush and into the bag.”

As she brushed the splendid beast, methodically pulling the fur into the pouch, she felt a sort of quiet peace.

Heat from the animal rose into her arm. This was rather pleasant, she thought, rather wonderful.

She went to the other side and continued. It seemed time was standing still, and when Yigars said, “Now the mother,” she realized the moon had traveled ever so slightly in the sky.

When they returned to camp, as they crossed the gate, Ipsena lifted her eyes to the stars. She did not recognize the constellations above, yet felt the pull to contemplate the firmament.

Once Yigars had locked the gate and inspected the funnel full of traps, he came back to her and kissed her cheek. She kissed him back on the lips and took his left hand with her right, then walked next to him back to the cabin along the edge of the garden. The moon was further along yet, she noticed, and she hummed the Third Song of Esiron.

Yigars slowed his pace. She was thankful and continued through the litany until, feeling restored, she squeezed Yigars’ hand and whispered, “I’m cold. Let’s go inside and get warm.”

With giggles and layers of fur, they ensconced themselves with tangled limbs and shared breaths in the warmth of his bed.

Next chapter: Slaves

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