The Price of Pain is Innocence
Bimeny knew what had to be done next. He couldn’t deal with his own grief as well as Mantu’s, so he flew directly over to Hamu and Halgreth’s house. The hour was late and he didn’t want to frighten them, so he flew to the fire pit and blew a great fire in it. The light of the fire illuminated the yard as well as the entire house. Bimeny went and sat quietly on the steps looking at the fire. Halgreth came out, followed by Hamu. Bimeny spoke without looking up to see who came out.
"They were there waiting for us when we got back. They killed them both," he said, quietly choking on his words.
Halgreth swooped down on Bimeny and held his face to her breast and hugged him. Bimeny wished more than ever he could just make one good tear. He knew if he could just make one, then all the rest would follow and he could adequately grieve. But he really appreciated being held just now.
Caught up in his own grief, Bimeny remembered why he came over. Mantu needed her. Bimeny sat up and looked Halgreth in the eyes.
"Thank you. Mantu will need you now, more than ever. I left him alone to discover... I just couldn’t....." Halgreth placed her finger to Bimeny’s lips to silence him.
"Father is hitching a team now. Do you want to ride back with us?" Halgreth asked. "You can wait here if you want. We seem to have a rather nice warm fire to sit by."
Bimeny grinned just a little, realizing he made a fire with flames twice the height of their house.
Bimeny thought he had better put out the guard he left burning before they had company. So he said, "Thanks, but I’ll meet you there," and leaned forward and pushed gently off.
As he took flight, Hamu pulled up next to Halgreth. "I guess he figured it out!" They watched him wing his way into the night.
The moons were rising now and their light permeated the darkness as Hamu and Halgreth made their way towards Malageth and Reentu’s home.
When Bimeny arrived back at the house, Mantu’s cries could be heard all the way in the front yard. Bimeny wanted the hurt to stop for Mantu as well as himself. Bimeny, who had suddenly gleaned an understanding of how his wings worked, set about the task of smothering the flames on the guard before Halgreth got there. He didn’t want to scare her, as if snuffing the flames would hide what had been done to him.
Bimeny went inside the barn and walked over to the stall which held the two dead guards’ horses. Bimeny started to talk to them.
"I know you can understand my words even if I can’t understand yours, so listen. I am going to let you live, because I have an agreement with this fine steed here, and this is the only reason, so you owe your lives to Stargazer, and you should never forget. As an apology to Stargazer, you two will haul the bodies of the guards you brought here back on this old oxen cart. One wheel is not truly round, so I wouldn’t try taking it too fast. And for me, you will tell this to every horse you meet. If you agree to carry a guard, then you will be burned to death with him. No quarter given. If they are found to carry a guard or a guard’s supplies, or his belongings, I will burn them to death and I may just have them for lunch. Any horse refusing the service of the council and the guard will be spared. And they will be spared because of the horse named Stargazer. Do you understand?" Bimeny asked. They both made horse noises. Bimeny looked over at Stargazer.
"Did they understand me, Stargazer?" Stargazer shook his head in the affirmative.
Bimeny entered the stall and started to place the plowshare over the head of the first horse, who immediately protested. Bimeny held the plowshare up and looked through it as if framing the horse’s picture with the share. Bimeny blew smoke from his nostrils. The horse stood stark still as Bimeny placed it over his head. The other horse stepped into place willingly, having witnessed the previous demonstration.
He opened the gate and stepped back. As the two horses turned around together, they looked at the open gate. Bimeny could see they were about to run. He gently leaned forward and pushed off and hovered directly in front of them. "I wouldn’t, if I were you. I can make it rain fire down on you, and there is nowhere you can run that I can’t get there faster." He landed and stepped back as they moved into position in front of the cart.
Bimeny hooked them up to the cart and moved the cart to a position to block the dead guard from view when Hamu and Halgreth arrived. The timing could not have been more perfect.
Bimeny went and offered his hand to Halgreth as she stepped down from the wagon. She looked up when she heard Mantu’s wailing and looked back at Bimeny.
"He’s been doing that since I came back," Bimeny said. "I didn’t go to him... I can’t cry with him." Bimeny turned away. Halgreth hurried up to the house.
A few moments after Halgreth entered the house, Mantu’s wailing turned to muffled sobbing. Bimeny knew Halgreth was comforting Mantu as she had him just a short while earlier. Bimeny felt jealous. Not for the embrace of dear Halgreth, but for the teary relief Bimeny would never again know. Right now, he missed that release. The knot in his throat seemed stuck there for life.
Bimeny turned to Hamu and asked, "Hamu, would you help me with the two dead guards? I... I don’t want Halgreth to see... them," he said with a pause as he glanced up at Hamu.
Hamu jumped down and put his hand on Bimeny’s shoulder and walked wordlessly toward the cart. Hamu looked down at the smoldering guard and had to turn away and vomit. As he recovered he said, "Thank you," and picked up two rags from the cart to act as a barrier between him and the badly burned guard’s raw corpse.
Bimeny felt no sorrow or remorse over the death of either of the guards. He just wished he had stayed. Then Mom and Pop... He tried not to think about it.
"Come on," he said, as he led Hamu and the cart to the other guard’s body. Bimeny reached for the arrow to save and re-use, when Hamu stopped him.
"Leave it," Hamu said. "Let them see what became of Gandoo’s arrow. Maybe it will be seen as an omen from the grave." The two carefully helped the body into the cart. Bimeny escorted the horses and the cart to the lane.
"Don’t stop for food or water until you are back where you came from. I will check on you now and then. If I find you have not followed my instructions completely, then I will most certainly dine on you tomorrow. Now go."
He slapped the first on the rump, which gave him the response he wanted. They left dragging one wheel five feet for every revolution of the other. Bimeny knew they would tire quickly and confirmed his suspicions about an hour later, when he spotted them drinking by the side of the road.
He swooped down and yelled, "You’d better pony up!" and blasted a fireball on a stump just off the road for effect. He knew he wouldn’t have to check up on them anymore, and returned to the house.
When he arrived at the house, Mantu and Halgreth were getting in the wagon with Hamu. He landed in the back of the wagon quietly. Bimeny had learned well how to sneak up on the unsuspecting horses.
"Oh! Bimeny, you startled me," Halgreth said. "We are going to our house for the night. We have laid Malageth and Reentu out. We shall go tomorrow morning and make a special place for them."
The next day, they all got up early. No one slept well. Their sleep was fitful and full of bad dreams, but Halgreth made them a wonderful breakfast. Hamu sat terribly quiet. He had hardly spoken a word since they loaded the guards into the wagon. Hamu’s love and admiration for Malageth was quietly finding his heart strings. Were Reentu not in the picture, Hamu thought he would have been a good husband to her. His heart ached, but out of respect, it would have to remain his secret.
They found a place under an old tree out back. It overlooked the valley and Malageth used to come there to think. Mantu thought she would like it there, so the graves were dug and the bodies reverently placed within. What followed were three days of mourning and celebration. Some of the townsfolk came out when they heard the news. Most came just to pay respect, but some came out to get the true story. No one really knew what really happened at Gandoo’s house, and then this!
This type of crime never happened here, and the stories were unbelievable. Assassins! But if it were true, then where were the bodies? Bimeny had no trouble recounting the events in their entirety. Bimeny played down Mantu’s part and even took credit for killing the guard in the barn with Gandoo’s bow. He figured you couldn’t tell if spies were sent in to get information so he treated it as if he knew they were.
"Bimeny, why did you lie?" Mantu asked quietly, when they were alone. "You know I killed that guard, not you."
Bimeny looked his brother squarely in the eyes. "Mantu, I can’t un-dragon myself any more than you can un-horse yourself. There is nothing I can do to make them not come after me. But there is no reason you must run and hide. They can only kill me once, no matter how many I kill, so why not let them believe I did them both? Besides, I intend to attack them."
"You want to attack them?" asked Mantu. "Do you have a plan? We will need time to prepare!"
"Aren’t you listening? You are done." Bimeny reiterated. "You have to tell them you blame me for Malageth and Reentu’s death. Tell them I’ve changed, gone mad, we have become enemies. This way, you and Halgreth can make the promise and I can have a place to stay when all this blows over" Bimeny said. "I’ve thought about it and this is the only way. I can fly and you can’t, so having you with me will slow me down, and if you are with me, then you become my weakness. The only way to win is for me to attack the council from its farthest point from here. It will take the attention off of you and show we are not in league together."
Mantu protested. "They were my parents too. I deserve some revenge myself. You are my brother. I will not turn my back on you."
Bimeny pleaded with him. "This is no time to be stubborn. You will have your chance for revenge, I promise. But if we are both made criminals, then the council gets our land. I need you to protect what Reentu and Malageth worked so hard to secure for us. This is the only way."
Mantu thought for a long time. He didn’t like it, but he knew his little brother sized it up right. To make it convincing, they were a little less cordial towards each other for the next two days of mourning and celebration. On the last day, they really played against each other. Mantu started telling people Bimeny brought it all on them.
They finally got into a brawl with Mantu punching Bimeny and Bimeny setting fire to the barn and then flying away. Everyone pitched in to put the fire out. After that, it wasn’t hard to convince anyone Bimeny was, indeed, insane. Even those who had gone home heard about it. With so many witnesses and Mantu’s bloody hand where he hit Bimeny, who could refute the claims?
All except one: Reanna, the girl from school who refused to accept it. She knew better. Or at least she thought she did. She still had some strong feelings for Bimeny. There’s something to be said for a guy in shining scales, after all.
Halgreth and Hamu weren’t even told until sometime afterwards what the two boys schemed together. After hearing, they understood and agreed.