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"Did you put your disk on her, for this evening?" asked Mujiin.
"No," said Hunlaki.
"She had good calves," said Mujiin. "I saw. I will know her when I see her. I
will put my disk on her for the night."
Hunlaki shrugged.
"You do not mind?" asked Mujiin.
"No," said Hunlaki.
"How shall I use her?" inquired Mujiin.
"As you wish," said Hunlaki. "She is a slave."
They were, as I have mentioned, at that time, near the heights of Barrionuevo.
Indeed, in the late afternoon of the morrow's march, one might be able, from
the track of the column, if the weather were fitting, to see the festung of
Saint Giadini.
It was shortly thereafter that the column halted for the night.
During the night some children were born, and cast to the side of the march.
They were dead shortly thereafter, and the dogs, and then the birds, had them.
Hunlaki that night dreamed of the actions of the spring and early summer.
In the morning the fires were quenched with snow and the beasts harnessed.
That day began like most days on the march, not muchly different.
Hunlaki remembered the boy he had killed on the snowy plains, days ago, only
days from the
And he remembered the riders. He had admired them. He admired the riders, and
the boy. It was too bad, he thought, that such a people must perish.
It was such thoughts that were in his mind when he rode past a newly born
infant. It lay to one side, in the snowy grass.
He had ridden well past it, when he suddenly wheeled his mount and rode back.
"Away!" he called to one of the dogs, smelling at the tiny, living thing.
Hunlaki looked down at it, from the saddle.
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It was tiny, and reddish, lying to one side, on bloody, pressed-down grass. It
was a few feet to the left of the wagon ruts, if one were looking toward the
rear of the column, to the right, if one were looking toward the front of the
column. It was bloody. Mud, too, had spattered upon it, from the wheels of the
passing wagons. It had been born, Hunlaki surmised, but minutes before. The
dogs had not yet had it. The cord which had bound it to its mother was still
with it, and a mass of bloody tissue, to which it was attached.
Hunlaki saw one of the large birds alight nearby.
Hunlaki dismounted and examined the infant. It seemed sturdy. It was crying.
Hunlaki did not really know why he had turned back or why he had dismounted.
It felt very warm, which seemed strange to Hunlaki, as it was lying in the
pressed-down, cold grass. Its small limbs flailed about.
Hunlaki did not care for the crying. "Be quiet," said Hunlaki. Another
warrior, mounted, stopped nearby. "Stand aside," said the warrior, "and I will
trample it." Hunlaki did not respond. "Let us play the game of lances,"
suggested the other warrior. Sometimes the infants of the enemy were used in
the game of lances, instead of the cloth ball or melon. Hunlaki waved the
warrior on. Two other warriors rode by, looking at Hunlaki strangely. Then
Hunlaki, embarrassed, remounted, to continue on his way. He saw the dog move a
little closer. Its mouth was open. Its tongue was out, and moved about its
teeth. The crest was back flat on its neck. Even the bird, which we shall call
a vulture, moved forward a little, awkwardly, as such things move on the land.
Hunlaki looked down, again, at the infant. Then he looked at the dog, and then
at the bird. Then a second bird alit. Hunlaki had seen living infants drawn
about by afterbirth, across the prairie, being fought for by the dogs. He had
seen them torn to pieces, too, by the birds. Hunlaki again dismounted. He
crouched down beside the small body. Curious, he put his hand to the
afterbirth. It still retained warmth. The blood, the fluid, on the matted
grass was still sticky. To be sure, it was cold, and that would slow its
drying. But clearly the child had been born but shortly before, perhaps only
minutes before. Hunlaki wiped his hand on his cloak. He then looked about, at
the dog, and the two birds. He drew his knife. He put one hand on the infant's
head to hold it steady. He put the blade to its throat. He withdrew the blade.
He cut the afterbirth away, leaving enough of the cord to knot, which he did.
He then resheathed his knife and lifted the small life in his hands, looking [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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