“You speak as if you’ve killed men before.”
Smoke laughed. “Did you truly wonder? Of course I’ve killed men before. It’s nothing and I don’t care about it.” He walked down to the water’s edge where he knelt, gazing at the shapes of fishes swimming at the bottom of a deep, calm pool.
I don’t care about it.
Without warning, a sick heat stirred in his belly. He grimaced, and then he heard himself speaking in a soft voice that hardly seemed his own, “I don’t like to kill women or their children.”
The words were hardly out when the feeling passed. Why had he spoken at all? “Don’t think on it,” he told himself in a whisper. He stood up again and in a firmer voice he said, “Come, Ketty. The days have grown shorter, and we still have some long way to go.”
He turned, and was surprised to find Ketty already on her feet, her sack slung over her shoulder, and her staff raised against him as fear and fury waged in her eyes. “You’ve murdered children?”
He was taken by surprise and his own temper flashed. “They weren’t your people! And anyway, it was a war. The Trenchant commanded it.”
She was aghast. “The Trenchant? You’re a Koráyos warrior? From the Puzzle Lands?”
“Ketty, will there never be an end to your questions? You try my patience!”
“Answer me, Smoke! Are you a Koráyos warrior?”
“I was, but no longer. Now can we go?”
“No.” Ketty took a step back. “I don’t want to go any farther with a bloody-handed servant of the Bidden.”
Smoke’s hands squeezed into fists. A flush heated his neck and cheeks. Ketty must have sensed his perilous mood. She gasped, stumbling away as if expecting him to come after her with his sword. He wondered if he should.
Then again, the wolves were hunting.
“Go on!” he told her. “Go on your way. I’m young yet. I’ll find another woman.” He turned his back on her and walked on, so used to walking now that in the tumult of his thoughts he forgot there was another way.