To survive in the emptiness of time, little room can be given to tears, and despair is always a familiar companion. When Fadderhan snatched my Enta and carried her away, I threw myself into the endless impossibility of finding her, the delicate thread of hope pulling me to the thin line of luck that imparted knowledge of where she’d been and made the impossible seem possible.
The morning after finding the vast warren of hundreds of hives where she still might be, it first discouraged me that the possible had become impossible again, but then I took heart, for I’d faced the impossible before, and look how far I’d come. After all, my entire life—the entire existence of Mallocrest in the emptiness of time—sprang from the impossible, and nothing, no nothing, would stop me from finding my beloved.
Unlike the single hive, disrupting this place with any kind of attack would work against me, and it would destroy me as certain as a Tsheemaroc swarm.
I smiled grimly to myself. I’d survived the Tsheemaroc swarm. But that had been a miracle, and I would never willingly go into one. Without knowing exactly where they kept Enta, storming into these hives would accomplish nothing.
Patience buttressed my mind like stone, holding back the rage that fought to empty itself like lead from the chambers of my guns upon the repugnant atrocities spread among these shallow dunes.
I spent several days walking the perimeter of the entire warren. I counted four hundred seventy-six hives, though I may have missed a few. Shelters for people and feeders sprawled in between them, feeders attentive to the kazhashas, but the men confined like prisoners. The kazhasha escorted the few men that were free in, then directly out. Only the feeders made their way around without restriction, some even going into hives. The bug demons frequently licked them with their curly tongues.
The most obvious way to make my way through was to debase myself to abject corruption and become a feeder. I forced the thought away, but the longer I looked, the more it stood as the only viable option. Not viable, but the only one available.
It returned to haunt me, and eventually I entertained what it would mean. You’ve heard me describe many kinds of feeders, the most repulsive aberrations of men in constant exchange of their deenay, spreading deformities among all who are beholden to the Desiderasha. I would rather eat a porgrent’s rotten, ten-pound egg yolk than participate with any of them. Yet, for the sake of finding my beloved Enta, I studied the ones in the cluster, considered what kind I might join to commingle among the cluster and hunt her out.
Could I tolerate allowing the ickborlas of the crusties, scaled, rat-like vermin, to bite into me, stay attached, and suck my blood, jumping from feeder to feeder, exchanging deenay and the spark of life? Could I stand the falangiks’ hollow pokers growing from my shoulder blades, embedding into my skin, causing me to grow my own and shunt fluids from inside me into them and back? Could I stand the corruption of the mind that causes them all to worship the Desiderasha above all things, even above the welfare of those they love?
To understand my abhorrence for the consideration of it, you must understand I have loathed the feeders since I was a boy, shunning them and growing my enmity. As a man I saw the destruction they wrought among men, and I hated them. Before I found Enta, there was nothing that would persuade me to join with them.
Before Enta, however, these pathetic fiends were mere threats to me, to my cleanliness, to possession of my own mind, and to my life. When Enta came with me, their repugnance increased tenfold next to the purity of her heart, her soul, and her body, and the threats they were to her lit fire to my rage against them. Above all, joining any of them would dishonor her, in life or in memory, and I would never consider contributing to the corruption of the world she lived in. The mere hint of such a thing would horrify her, and she would forbid me from doing it. This I know.
Yet, resting upon the highest dune north of the cluster I considered that perhaps it was my duty as her guardian to accept the corruption. To ignore her resistance to the idea as the mere naïveté of a child, and accept the corruption of my body and spirit for the sake of her salvation.
I have walked so long on the thin lines of hope and luck, where they cross over to bring me closer to my beloved, I cannot imagine they will stay with me for another hour if I don’t willingly accept the poison that might bring me closer to her.
Fatigue overwhelmed me. Hunger overtook me. I curled up between the scrub bushes that I’d been using for cover and closed my eyes. That night I would not pervert myself to find her. The next day, who knows how far I will go? But that night I accepted my integrity as the stone that anchors me and found peace in ignorant sleep.