There was comfort in the soft glow, and warmth of a kind to be had once all were gathered. Chaos, for a time, had been stilled by the lips of one. As before, she now spoke, holding her audience rapt, understanding dawning in their eyes for what the Father of Words wove. Seated as she was on a makeshift chair amid the piled lanterns, they couldn’t help but watch, and listen.
“The cries are silenced,” she said, raising one slender hand to point into the shadows beyond the boundaries of the settlement. “We have returned, all of us, bringing no traitor, only spoils,” her eyes flicked to the lone mound that marked a tragedy of the last hunt. To think they had been threatened from within, one of their own murdered. The vile act had been dealt a swift and permanent vengeance, some small token for the slain.
“Spoils of flesh and bone, meat, lest we starve. And gifts,” Chloanne, the Father of Words, held a bone dagger aloft, pressing the point against the naked flesh of her other arm. There was no hesitation, no catch in her voice as she raked it down, red beads welling up in the wake of the blade’s passing. Setting aside the blade, she tensed her wounded arm, the long cut oozing for a moment longer, though the blood soon ceased to flow freely. Wiping at the injury, her hand came away wet, though the flesh beneath was unmarred. She couldn’t help but grin, even as her head began to throb painfully, for no gift was freely given, not in this place.
Some had known, the three who had been with her on the hunt. To the others, this was a revelation, and further proof of their faith in their new chosen. A few rose from where they sat, approaching to marvel at what they had been shown. Chloanne allowed the spectacle to continue until all were satisfied there was no trick. Once they were seated, she resumed, pushing away the pregnant silence with solemnity as the ache behind her eyes slowly subsided.
“We all heard that terrible sound, out there among the grass and tangled plants. It was no white beast that gave such a cry. No,” unconsciously she gripped the handle of her dagger, if only to ward off the bitterness of the memory. She had no wish to face such a thing a second time, but the lesson must be imparted. That was the way, and the words were now hers to tell. “It was something else, a thing of horns, hoof and tooth.” A gaping maw had opened where the soft underbelly should have been, angry and wet with stinking saliva.
For a moment, words failed her there, simply recalling the smell was enough to still her. A cough from the back of the crowd returned Chloanne to the present, and she saw the broad shoulders of Benhart settle once more, his shape towering even at this distance. It was enough to spur her on, and begin the tale of their hunt in this third year of the Lantern.