With all the excerpts I’ve already published from Princess of Fire, the discerning reader will probably have no difficulty whatsoever figuring out the main story line. Oh, well, as if the title didn’t give it away.
I just wrote this– another little scene I think conveys something important about Kathy, who she is, and what she’s doing.
Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
Rain had gone off to tend to some business back in Kathy’s apartments. Kathy worried that the girl was going to miss her lunch. Everyone, she reasoned, needed to keep their strength up.
When Rain did return, Kathy turned to twit her about being late to the trough. The look on the girl’s face stopped her. Damn it, Rain was actually crying, and that wasn’t something Kathy recalled her doing once through this whole business.
“What is it?” Kathy demanded, standing. True and Ivory, who were eating with her, looked up in alarm.
Rain appeared unable to speak for a moment. Finally, she said, gasping, “Buster.”
Kathy knew as soon as she entered her rooms and saw Buster’s cage. Instead of it containing a nose-twitching ball of energy, looking out to greet her, there was only a brown and tan fluff of fur, lying very, very still in the exercise wheel. She went over, nearly stumbling because she was having trouble seeing, and opened the top of the cage.
He was already cold and stiff. Kathy took him out and sat right down on the floor, holding him in her hands. “Oh, Buster,” was all she said.
They carried him down to the Lesser Courtyard, wrapped in a white handkerchief that was more than ample enough for him as a shroud. The Householders cleared ash away from a patch of ground— it took them a while, because the stuff kept sifting back in. Then they dug a hole a good two feet deep. Kathy laid Buster in it, then knelt in the ash and covered him back over with her own hands. When she was finished, she sat back on her heels and cried.
True came to stand beside her. “I am very sorry, Divine One.”
Kathy snuffled. “I should have expected it, I guess. I had him for four years, and meriones unguiculatus rarely lives much more than four or so. I just didn’t think….”
“There’s nothing to reproach yourself for, Divine One,” True said.
“I’m not,” Kathy said. “It’s just…I’ll miss him.”
Off in the distance, the mountain rumbled. They all looked up, but it was not the start of a new eruption. A gout of ash and gas rose upward, but after a moment the mountain subsided back to just emitting a small column of smoke. To verify, Kathy checked her inner sense—and was that now becoming routine? Either way, she sensed there was no eruption building.
Here’s one life beyond your reach, you son of a bitch, Kathy told the mountain.
She stood, shook the ash off her skirt. “Come on,” she told the others. “There’s work to be done.”