The tent fit into the palm of her hand and as far as Naida was concerned magical, though Temis had snorted and said it was just ‘good design’, especially for a Kushite princess on a quest.
A Kushite princess. Hmm. I suppose. I need to get it set up and get us both in before it goes flat dark.
It snapped open and Naida pulled the flap out before she managed to squeeze herself and the boy inside, with her sitting up and his head in her lap. The lamp gave off its usual glow at night, even as it continued to rattle slightly with the force of Sybaris’s snoring.
The two of them were quickly warm with the tent mostly closed, frosty night air puffing in the one open flap that Naida left so things wouldn’t get nastily stuffy. Naida began looking the boy over carefully, in the lamplight, to see if she could spot something, some reason for his continued stillness.
He wasn’t truly unconscious or he wouldn’t be able to swallow and he had eagerly drunk all she could give him. There was nothing on his head, not even stubble of hair. She pulled her own braids – still as tight and clean as the day Syb had beaded them – into a knot at the back of her head, out of the way.
She thought she saw a shadow of dirt on his neck and tried to brush it off but it wouldn’t move. It was a single strand of hair around his neck. She managed to get a finger under it and pulled, trying to break it. It cut into her skin and into his neck almost enough to break the skin but didn’t break.
“Blast!” Naida stuck her finger into her mouth and checked to see if the hair had cut either of them. Aside from a red dent it hadn’t broken skin.
Obviously she couldn’t just pull it off. She pulled out her eating knife but stopped when the hair put a nick in the blade, digging into it, and into the boy’s skin again. She paused to pour more water into his mouth while she thought about this.
“Someone doesn’t want that coming off you,” she said to the boy, not expecting an answer. It wasn’t long enough for her to pull off over his head, just sliding up his chin until it was almost choking him, but wouldn’t stretch and she couldn’t find a knot anywhere on the circle of it.
She didn’t have Syb to just fix this, or Asteri. She was by herself. I cannot cut it or break it by metal or by hand. I don’t see how air or water would break this. She sat and listened to her breath in the silent desert, felt her heart beat and his. Not air and water, she thought. Not violence or force.
Her moon blood was days away if she had settled into a rhythm but she had her knife. She pricked a finger, the droplet of blood standing up on her skin like a polished little red bead. Naida breathed over it, whispering “Life. Life and Change.” In the distance, clearly even though it was a long way away, she heard a fox yip.
She turned her finger over and rubbed the droplet over the hair in the hollow of the boy’s throat. “Poor baby.” Was that a grimace on his face for a moment? He didn’t like being called a baby? “Poor young man for having an enemy willing to do this to you! I have an enemy who tried to kill me when I was a baby, too.”
The hollow of his throat, the softness where the pulse beat was where the solid hair lay with her blood on it and on his skin. She dribbled a bit of water and suddenly the whole tiny puddle looked like blood. She breathed over it again. “Rot, you,” she said and again the fox yipped.
Sorry about the short post today. I was at Anime North.