Cannon and Politics
MAU SAT DOWN ON a god stone.
“Where is Cox now, do you think?”
“I hope to goodness the wave drowned him!” said Daphne. “I know I shouldn’t, but I do.”
“And you fear that it did not,” said Mau. It wasn’t a question.
“That’s true. I think it would take more than a wave. Hah, Foxlip said he killed Cox. That was just because he wanted to look big, I’m sure. But Polegrave said something about Cox having cannibal chums. Could that happen?”
“I don’t know. The Raiders kill for glory and skulls. You say he kills for no reason. He kills things because they are alive. He sounds like a bad dream, a monster. They will not know what to make of him.”
“Soup?” Daphne suggested.
“I doubt it,” said Mau. “A cannibal has to be careful who he eats. Milo would make them strong, Pilu would give them a magic voice, and I would give them… indigestion. Who would want to eat a madman?”
Daphne shuddered. “Just so long as they don’t eat me!”
“No, they would never eat a woman,” said Mau.
“That’s very gentlemanly of them!”
“They would feed you to their wives, so that they become beautiful.”
There was one of those pauses that are icy-cold and red-hot at the same time. It was stuffed with soundless words, words that should not be said, or said another time, or in a different way, or could be said or needed to be said but couldn’t be said, and they would go on tumbling through the pause forever, or until one of them fell out –
“Ahem,” said Daphne, and all the other words escaped forever. Much later, and many times, she wondered about what might have happened if she hadn’t chosen a word that clearly belonged to her grandmother. And that
was that. For some people, there is only one right moment for the right word. This is sad, but there seems to be nothing that can be done about it. “Well, I don’t see him being eaten by anybody, or even left on the side of the plate,” she went on quickly, to drown out the last echoes of “Ahem” in her head. “I’m sure the captain was right when he said Cox will take over any vessel that finds him, like an disease. It’s amazing what you can do if you don’t care who you kill. And he will kill. Those two were sent as scouts, I’m sure of it. And that means he’s found a bigger boat.”
“The boat they came in is still here, but a canoe was stolen last night,” said Mau. “I think we are not good at understanding this sort of thing.”
“I don’t think it will make any difference.”
“That’s true. The Raiders are following – hunting the survivors. They will get here sooner or later. But I want to – “
It was a small boy. Daphne could not remember his name but he was hopping up and down like someone who does not want to intrude but needs to, well, intrude.
“Yes, Hoti?” said Mau.
“Er… please, they say they are running out of thorns to fence the big field,” said the child nervously.
“Run and tell them there is a big stand to the west of the Grandfathers’ cave.” As the boy ran off, Mau shouted after him, “Tell them I said to cut the lengths much longer! It’s a waste to cut them short!”
“You must defend your island,” said Daphne.
He reacted as if he’d been struck. “Do you think I won’t, ghost girl? Do you think that?”
“It’s not just your people! You must defend your gods!”
“What? How can you say this to me?”