CHAPTER 22: BIRNAM WOOD TO DUNSINANE 

Gur’mekh came running over to Lenti. He looked down at Demrath, and stared with horror at the ugly hemorrhages that killed him. “Oh my gods!”

The pups, knowing no better, came sobbing to him and huddled next to him. Very gently, Gur’mekh touched each tearful face with his tongue. “He’s gone! He’s gone!”

Lenti ushered the pups away. “Gur’mekh, what do you know of this?”

Gur’mekh looked at her, wondering what she meant by that. “I’ve never seen bleeding like this before. Did he complain of any pain or run a fever? I’m no healer, but I mean this all seemed very sudden.”

Lenti collapsed over Demrath’s body, sobbing. “Sudden?? One minute he was playing with the pups, and the next minute….” She fell over the body. “Oh gods!!”

“I’d be careful if I were you. What he had may have been catching.”

“That’s not a disease! No disease does this!”

“I’m no healer, Lenti. I wouldn’t know.” He took his paw and gently stroked Demrath’s face. “And to think we were getting along so well. He had everything in the world to live for.”

“And now I’m left with three young pups to raise. They will want to know what happened to their okhim. They’re too young to really understand.”

“They have a ma’khim.” Gur’mekh pawed her gently. “I’ll take care of them. They will lack for nothing.”

Tears welled up in her eyes. “Bless you, Gur’mekh! I didn’t know if you were serious about that. You can still surprise me.”

“I was never more serious in my life. You stay here and I’ll get some help. We’ll move him, my little barak ler.”

Gur’mekh started off to get help, when he suddenly heard a loud cry. He froze.

“What did you call me??”

“I’m sorry? I don’t understand.”

She stared at him with a look of horror. “How did YOU know he called me that? He only used that name for me when we made love!”

“Just a coincidence.”

“I don’t think so! There’s a story behind that name, one you couldn’t possibly know, unless….”

Gur’mekh started to squirm. “Don’t get upset, my dear! You’ve been through a terrible shock, and you’re not thinking clearly.”

“Now I remember,” she said, her eyes narrowing. “The bleeding curse of Melmokh! My gods, surely you wouldn’t want to hurt that sweet, gentle ban’ret! He trusted you, Gur’mekh! Tell me you didn’t speak the unholy words!” Her hackles bristled. “Tell me you didn’t!!”

“No, I didn’t! I swear! Melmokh doesn’t even handle petty quarrels!”

“And how would you know that?? You haven’t been initiated!”

“Things leak out! For the gods’ sake, surely you don’t think I would do a thing like that!”

“Oh, I think it! You go around stealing and working mischief. All of a sudden you have this big change! You want to be the pups’ ma’khim in case anything ever happened to Demrath! Who’s the bak’ret you’re thinking of marrying? Was it me??”

“No!”

“Her name, Gur’mekh! What’s her name??”

“I’d rather not say! She’d die if you found out!”

“Or kill, you mean! It’s me, isn’t it?? Be brave enough to say it to my face!”

“You don’t know what you’re saying! You’re hysterical! Besides, you can’t prove anything!” He realized with horror what had just slipped out.

“Maybe I can’t prove it now, but as Roh’kash is my witness, I’ll make sure they all know what you did! Murderer! Murderer!”

“No, I’m not a murderer! I’m not!”

“Murderer!!!”

“For God’s sake, not so loud! You’ll get me killed!”

“That’s what I want! You’d better curse me while you still can.”

“No! I love you!”

“You’ll come to regret that someday. I swear by Roh’kash you will. I’ll never rest till I see you dead!”

She fell on her husband again and began to sob again. Gur’mekh slinked away sullenly.

Inside his head he heard a mocking voice that would not easily be silenced. “Maybe I should bleed her out too. She’s a trouble maker for sure.”

“Don’t you dare!” Gur’mekh answered. “She has pups to raise. Besides, I still love her!”

“Oh, that really touches me,” the voice said. “I’m deeply moved. I wouldn’t dream of harming her because YOU still love her.” Maniacal laughter echoed from the evil presence. “You’re weak. You don’t have the guts to tell me what to do.” Gur’mekh began to gasp. His throat was closing up. “Don’t you dare!” the spirit repeated, mockingly. “She has pups to raise. Besides, I still love her!”

Gur’mekh fell to the ground, almost gagging. “Let me go! What do you want from me?”

“Submission. And I’ll get it too. Now behave yourself and you can enjoy our time together. Cross me and I’ll torture you to madness.”

Gur’mekh gasped in a deep breath and let it out. The air felt good venting his lungs, and he lay on the grass for a long time waiting for his heart to stop pounding.

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