Anthea wanted to convene in the temple in a nearby city to commune with her gods.
So you two marched in. The deadciv had rusting iron gate that drooped in places as if it was melting. The city beyond stank of sawdust and vomit. And all around were giant statues of once-great men, quartered and crumbled to bits. What few denizens still remained scabbed the shadows and alleyways, watching with eyes too big for their skulls and holding their tatters close to their sallow, gray flesh. You heard that foreign word. The one that the boy had used, so long ago.
“Food,” they were muttering. “Food. Food.”
You spent most of the day alone. Wandering the city. Dispensing what corn you had left on your person to the few who dared to approach you. There was a woman with cotton for hair who had no teeth, and made a suckling noise on the corn you gave her. You weren’t sure if you needed to correct her on how to eat it. For all you knew, mayhaps she was doing it right.
There were masses of children, all bone and gristle and tatters hanging off them. It looked like their clothes had been discarded onto them. Like a rich man had dropped a dirty cloth and it happened to settle over their shoulders.
They pressed at you, and you tossed them bits of corn. Did you even know you have corn, Carth? I suspect not. You might find one or two still left in your tunic. Or mayhaps in your satchel, where you keep these journals.
At length, Anthea found you in an alleyway between two scorched homes. Tattered children watched you from a hole on the left wall.
Anthea hadn’t cleaned up since the battle with the sentry. Blood had dried onto her clothes (and other things that looked like dry, red leaves You didn’t want to think about what else they might be).
I’m warning you: don’t try to imagine.
“I missed you in the temple,” she said.
“I know no gods,” you told her. “I can’t remember them.”
Anthea’s linens were pristine as ever. Not a fold out of place. She watched you intently—like something you side reminded her of the your life she knew—that you can never know (do you find that as frustrating as I do, I wonder?) “Do you have any idea how important that temple is?” she asked.
“Should I?” you laughed.
“That’s the temple of Lord Grumlow.”
“Who’s Grumlow?” you asked. You snickered. It was a funny name.
“A servant of the Nailed God,” Anthea said. “A heavenly child, made a lord of heaven after his untimely death at three days old.”
You furrowed your brow at that. “What can one man do in three days that gets them crowned a lord in heaven?”
Anthea grinned like a curved dagger behind her linens. There was a goading edge to her voice, barely sheathed. “Well you see—” she began. “He was a miracles,” Anthea finished first. “They say Grumlow sang praises to the Nailed God whenever he was set to suckling. He was more pious in his short life than most are well into manhood.”
You laughed. The lines of Anthea’s brow hardened. The wrinkles of her linens shifted. “What’s so funny?” she asked.
“I’m much the same whenever I touch a tit. When do I get to be lord of heaven?”
Anthea’s mouth twitched. “That’s not funny,” she said through a clenched jaw.
You kept laughing. Anthea turned red.
“It’s not!” she insisted.
“Crown me a lord of heaven next please!” You wheezed.
And then Anthea was laughing, too.