Shadowed By Wings
gently; the whip undulated in a slow wave, barely rising from the earth. The muscles in his whip arm were roped with protruding veins, and a smile played upon his face, like that of a mother well pleased with her child.
    “Eidon,” he said, and Dono’s red-haired adversary strode to the Komikon’s side. “I’ll be gone on the morrow again. You’ll act as wai-komikonpu in my absence.”
    “Yes, Komikon.”
    “Any who shirk their duties are to be publicly lashed each dusk, by your hand, on the lane. Eight lashes, meted out with a venom-free whip. And any who oppose my will regarding my choice of the girl receives three times that number. Understand?”
    “As Re wills, Komikon,” Eidon replied. “As Re wills.”
     
    After the dragonmaster left, the apprentices shuffled toward the hovel and lounged about the ground, untying their leather sacs of destiny wheels and dice from their waists with studied ease. But their poise was contrived as they petitioned Re to favor their dice; the broken skeleton of my latrine was a presence as disturbing as a relentless noise, and Dono’s bloodied form, kneeling still before the sandstone wall, loomed as large as a sepulchral tower behind our backs.
    I staggered over to my broken latrine’s roof, which lay upon the ground like the half shell of an enormous nut, and sank wearily upon it.
    Ringus blew the embers to life beneath the cauldron, then gave orders to this inductee and that to begin preparing the next day’s meal. Servitors bowed before the veterans they had chosen to serve during the day and chanted komikonpu walan kolriks, the dragonmaster apprentice prayers for guardianship, on their behalf. The chants were threnodic. They suited my mood.
    I watched as the servitors sat around the outskirts of the veterans, who began their complex contests of darali abin famoo. I knew virtually nothing about that game of prognostication, though I’d known, as a child, that the pottery clan men had indulged in darali abin famoo during men’s celebrations, when maska ran freely and inebriation ran high. The veteran apprentices, however, played with great intensity and somberness, and the servitors sitting about them watched each veteran’s spin of destiny wheel, each fall of dice, and every forecast those combinations made with equal fervor. No party amusement was this, but a game with serious intent.
    Groans, curses, taunts, grins, and even the occasional scuffle broke out amongst the servitors as alliances swiftly formed and re-formed according to the destiny wheel forecasts. I needed no such forecast for myself: I knew I had no allies.
    Yet.
    For as Eidon spun his wheel and tossed his dice, I saw both him and Ringus glance more than once from their game of prognostication to me.
    I didn’t stand aside to let any queue before me that eve, and no one attempted to make me forfeit my turn, either. I ate what was allotted me by Egg, which looked to be more than on the previous evening, and then I retired to my hammock. I fell asleep instantly.
    I bolted into a sitting position sometime later, heart pounding. Someone had entered my stall, breathing like an angry dragon.
    Darkness all around me, the dense darkness of deep night, lit thinly by weak moonlight. Dono stood hunched and crooked at my side, his features shrouded in shadow. His hands gripped a weapon.
    He raised the weapon. I reared back with a cry.
    “You’ve got a latrine to rebuild,” he said, his words thick with pain.
    I stared at him, mind spinning, and realized that the weapon he held was a shovel.
    “Komikon’s orders,” Dono growled, and he lowered the shovel and leaned on it for support.
    I licked my lips. “I’ll rebuild it tomorrow.” “Tonight. Komikon’s orders. Me and you, together.” I flared my nostrils. “It’s dark, Dono—”
    “Why?” he said, and he abruptly lurched closer, using the shovel as a crutch. “Why’re you doing this, Zarq? What in the name of Re motivates you?”
    I paused, then

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