Read an Excerpt
The scene that the child, then the girl, then the young woman tried so hard to remember was clear enough in its beginnings.She had been hustledsometimes carried, sometimes pulled along by the handthrough a dark night, nothing to be seen but stars, and then she was pushed into a room and told, Keep quiet, and the people who had brought her disappeared.She had not taken notice of their faces, what they were, she was too frightened, but they were her people, the People, she knew that.The room was nothing she had known.It was a square, built of large blocks of rock.She was inside one of the rock houses.She had seen them all her life.The rock houses were where they lived, the Rock People, not her people, who despised them.She had often seen the Rock People walking along the roads, getting quickly out of the way when they saw the People; but a dislike of them that she had been taught made it hard to look much at them.She was afraid of them, and thought them ugly.
She was alone in the big, bare rock room.It was water she was looking forsurely there must be water somewhere? But the room was empty.In the middle of it was a square made of the rock blocks, which she supposed must be a table; but there was nothing on it except a candle stuck in its grease, and burning low ... it would soon go out. By now she was thinking, But where is he, where is my little brother? He, too, had been rushed through the dark.She had called out to him, right at the beginning, when they were snatched away from homerescued, she now knewand a hand had come down over her mouth, "Quiet."And she had heard him cry out to her, and thesudden silence told her a hand had stopped his cry in the same way.She was in a fever, hot and dry over her whole body, but it was hard to distinguish the discomfort of this from her anxiety over her brother.
She went to the place in the wall where she had been thrust in, and tried to push a rock that was a door to one side.It moved in a groove, and was only another slab of rock; but just as she was giving up, because it was too heavy for her, it slid aside, and her brother rushed at her with a great howl that made her suddenly cold with terror and her prickle.He flung himself at her, and her arms went around him while she was looking at the doorway, where a man was mouthing at her and pointing to the child, Quiet, quiet. In her turn she put her hand over his open, howling mouth and felt his teeth in her palm.She did not cry out or pull away, but staggered back against a wall to support his weight; and she put her arms tight around him, whispering, "Hush, shhh, you in must be quiet." And then, using a threat that frightened her too, "Quiet, or that bad man will come." And he at once went quiet, and trembled as he clutched her.The man who had brought in the little boy had not gone away.He was whispering with someone out in the darkness.And then this someone came in, and she almost screamed, for she thought this was the bad man she had threatened her brother with; but then she saw that no, this man was not the same but only looked like him.She had in fact begun to scream, but slammed her own free hand across her mouth, the hand that was not pressing her brother's head into her chest."I thought you were ... that you were ... " she stammered; and he said, "No, that was my brother, Garth." He was wearing the same clothes as the other one, a black tunic, with red on it, and he was already stripping it off.Now he was naked, as she had seen her father and his brothers, but on ceremonial occasions, when they were decorated with all kinds of bracelets and pendants and anklets, in gold, so that they did not seem naked.But this man was as tired and dusty as she and her brother were, and on his back, as he turned it to put on the other tunic he had with him, were slashes from whips, weals where the blood was oozing even now, though some had dried.He pulled over his head a brown tunic, like a long sack, and she again nearly cried out, for this was what the Rock People wore.He stood in front of her, belting this garment with the same brown stuff, and looking hard at her and then at the little boy, who chose this moment to lift his head; and when he saw the man standing there, he let out another howl, just like their dog when he howled at the moon, and again she put her hand over his mouthnot the one he had bitten, which was bleedingbut let him stare over it while she said, "It's not the same man.It's his brother.It's not the bad one.
But she could feel the child trembling, in great fits, and she was afraid he would convulse and even die; and she forced his head around, back into her, and cradled it with her two arms.
For days, but she did not know how long, the two children had been in a room in their own home while the other one, who looked like this man, questioned them.The other one, the bad man, and others in the room, men and women, wore the long black tunics, with red.The two children were the centre of the scene.