|Chapter 16: Blood-Bourne|
Sometime later, Lord Mhoram surprised Covenant by saying without preamble, "Ur-Lord, as you know there were questions which the Council did not ask of you. May I ask them now? I should like to know more concerning your world."
"My world." Covenant swallowed roughly. He did not want to talk about it; he had no desire to repeat the ordeal of the Council. "Why?"
Mhoram shrugged. "Because the more I know of you, the better I will know what to expect from you in times of peril. Or because an understanding of your world may teach me to treat you rightly. Or because I have asked the question in simple friendship."
Covenant could hear the candor in Mhoram's voice, and it disarmed his refusals. He owed the Lords and himself some kind of honesty. But that debt was bitter to him, and he could not find any easy way to articulate all the things which needed saying. Instinctively, he began to make a list. We have cancer, heart failure, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, birth defects, leprosy--we have alcoholism, venereal disease, drug addiction, rape, robbery, murder, child beating, genocide--but he could not bear to utter a catalog of woes that might run on forever. After a moment, he stood in his stirrups and gestured out over the ruggedness of the plains.
"You probably see it better than I do--but even I can tell that this is beautiful. It's alive--it's alive the way it should be alive. This kind of grass is yellow and stiff and thin--but I can see that it's healthy. It belongs here, in this kind of soil. By hell! I can even see what time of year this is by looking at the dirt. I can see spring.
"Where I come from we don't see-- If you don't know the annual cycles of the plants, you can't tell the difference between spring and summer. If you don't have a--have a standard of comparison, you can't recognize-- But the world is beautiful--what's left of it, what we haven't damaged." Images of Haven Farm sprang irrefusably across his mind. He could not restrain the mordancy of his tone as he concluded, "We have beauty, too. We call it 'scenery'."
" 'Scenery'," Mhoram echoed. "The word is strange to me--but I do not like the sound."
Covenant felt oddly shaken, as if he had just looked over his shoulder and found himself standing too close to a precipice. "It means that beauty is something extra," he rasped. "It's nice, but we can live without it."
"Without?" Mhoram's gaze glittered dangerously.