I awoke to whispers.
I’d bedded down in a small cave with my new puppy for company. When I opened my eyes, the dog was pressed against my chest, and my shirt was wet. Whatever was whispering had scattered my new pup badly. For a moment, I considered putting him in my rucksack, where he’d weathered the fight between myself and the rat-folk, but this was worse.
Leaving him in my shirt and ignoring the rapidly cooling fabric, I drew my guns and went deeper into the cave, following the whispers.
The voice soon took on a distinct tone, but the language was undecipherable. I’d not heard it’s like before.
At the far end of the cave, I found a wall of draperies, and I cautiously pushed my way through them.
I was glad I left the puppy in my shirt.
The room I entered was neat and tidy. A selection of knives and edged weapons hung in a pleasant array upon the walls, and across the room, posed upon an overturned bucket, was a head.
The eyes opened and peered at me. A dull green tongue flicked out, moistened the lips, and then the severed head spoke.
“She set me as a warning,” the head told me.
“Our mother,” the head laughed. “She was displeased with me. Said my tone reminded her of you. It does not go well for those who remind her of you, Duncan Blood.”
The dog whimpered, and the head licked its lips again.
“I’m hungry,” it said pointedly.
“I’ll feed you your own eyes before you touch my dog.”
The head scowled at me. “Selfish.”
I cocked the Colt, and the head rolled its eyes.
“You’re a warning?” I asked.
It nodded. “Go home, or one of our mothers will slay you. Leave your head as a warning for some other kith or kin.”
“She killed a friend.”
“They’ve all killed friends,” the head laughed. “Too many to count. What does it matter in the end?”
“Nothing and to no one,” I answered. “And what about you?”
The head frowned. “What do you mean?”
“How long can you live like that?”
“For as long as I can speak,” it answered, and I pulled the trigger.
The puppy shook against my chest as brains dripped down the wall.
I soothed the dog, and we left the cave.
Sometimes, the messenger needs to die.