|Chapter 9: March to Crisis|
"All right. Say it. Somebody."
The First delivered a fierce cut that severed a honeysuckle stem as thick as her forearm, then wheeled toward him. The tip of her blade pointed accusations at him.
Linden winced at the First's anger, but did not intervene.
"Giantfriend," the leader of the Search rasped as if the name hurt her mouth. "We have beheld a great ill. Is it truly your intent to utter this dark fire against the Clave?"
She towered over Covenant, and the light of Mistweave's campfire made her appear dominant and necessary. He felt too brittle to reply. Once he had tried to cut the venom out of his forearm on a ragged edge of rock. Those faint scars spread like fretwork around the fundamental marks of Marid's fangs. But now he knew better. Carefully, he said, "He will not do that to me and get away with it."
The First did not waver. "And what of the Earth?"
Her tone made his eyes burn, but not with tears. Every word of his answer was as distinct as a coal. "A long time ago," with the blood of half-mindless Cavewights on his head, "I swore I was never going to kill again. But that hasn't stopped me." With both hands, he had driven a knife into the chest of the man who had slain Lena; and that blow had come back to damn him. He had no idea how many Bhrathair had died in the in collapse of Kemper's Pitch. "The last time I was there, I killed twenty-one of them." Twenty-one men and women, most of whom did not know that their lives were evil. "I'm sick of guilt. If you think I'm going to do anything that will destroy the Arch of Time, you had better try to stop me now."
At that, her eyes narrowed as if she were considering the implications of running her blade through his throat. Hollian and Linden stared; and Sunder tried to brace himself to go to Covenant's aid. But the First, too, was the Unbeliever's friend. She had given him the title he valued most. Abruptly, the challenge of her sword dropped. "No, Giantfriend," she sighed. "We have come too far. I trust you or nothing."