THE BLACK BIRDS
A small path winds down the slope. Swathes of smoke pass them by and with every turn it gets darker. They are slipping on the grey rubble. Some places are so steep that they have to climb down backwards on all fours. The air smells of ashes and a bitter taste is gathering on their lips. Little by little, grey outlines become visible on the bottom of the valley, edges and rims of metal piled into an enormous heap. At one stage Georgina seems to recognize black wings in the smoke above it. Set wipes his face. It is sticky and he realizes that his hands and his coat too are covered with grey soot. Georgina remembers the white fur of the druh, the silver stars emerging from his nose.
On their approach they hear the beating of a hammer arising from the metal heap and Georgina understands that the forge is inside. All around, there are broken barrels, bent poles, plates, bowls and shields covered in grey soot.
"What do we do now?", Georgina asks.
Set stops: "You must know."
They havent exchanged a word since they started their descent into the valley. Georgina turns to Laeg pleadingly. He watches the grey swathes rising from the scrap pile. The hammering stops - a sizzling - and the smokeforms a cloud that billows into an enormous mushroom.
"There!" Laeg points to a shed made of discarded metal at the back of the pile.
"He must be there."
A shadow passes over them but as Georgina looks up, there is only smoke. She remembers how they sneaked through the dunes when approaching the ship.
"If we follow the barrels and then duck along the pile ...", she suggests.
The hammering has started again and while they slip through the scrap the ground is trembling under their feet.
"What was that?" Georgina whispers as another shadow passes.
"An auk", Laeg murmurs behind her. Georgina has never heard the name. While they move on she looks up now and then, but the bird doesnt show again.
The bitter taste sticks in her mouth. Set has reached the discarded metal and peers inside.
"There he is."
"Really?" Georgina pushes Set aside and peeks herself through the crack. It is dark inside, she cant see anything but she hears breathing, gasping,and there is a piercing smell. Georgina feels her heart beating in her throat. She clicks her tongue as she did when she met the druh for the firsttime and something moves in the dark.
"Wait, Tiny!" She tries to shift the metal.
"Help me!" she orders Set who holds his nose. The metal sheets give way with a grinding noise, a crack opens. Georgina can see the body of the dog. He is stretched out on the floor, as in her dream, and tears come to her eyes.
"He is dying."
"An fíor sin?" Laeg asks softly into the shed and there is a weak howl.
"We have to get him out." Georgina tries to suppress her tears.
Together they move the metal sheets apart. The smell of diarhoea and vomit that hits them is nearly unbearable. At last the opening is wide enough for Georgina to slip inside. Her eyes have got used to the darkness and she sees the dog lying in his own dirt. He appears only half as big as in her memory, he is so emaciated, and his fur is dark. He must have been locked up here for weeks.
"My poor tiny one." Georgina strokes his head. His coat is stringy and sticky and again he howls a little. Around his neck there is the heavy iron ring she has seen in her dream.
"His paw is hurt", Laeg says crouching beside Georgina. She remembers the trap. One front paw of the dog is completely crushed.
"Do you have a cloth?", Geogina asks. Laeg searches his pockets in vain.
Set puts his hand into his coat and pulls out Emers silver embroidery.
"Excellent!" Georgina takes the cloth from his hand and before Set has time to object she starts to dress the bloody paw with it. The druh moans a little.
Then Georgina looks around: "We have to take him away". Through the cracks on the other side of the shed a red sheen gleams. The forge must be behind.
"How do you want to take him away?" Set looks with disgust at the soiled dog.
"I dont know but he cant stay here." And suddenly the tears are running down her face. "How can anybody treat a dog like that?", she cries.
"Wisht!" Set hisses, but its too late. The hammering has stopped. For a moment there is only the gasping of the dog, then steps. Georgina and the two boys dont move. Where the gleaming cracks were, the wall is opening andthe red light falls on them.
"Thieves!" Like thunder it echoes through the metal shed. A black man stands in the door opening holding a glowing iron bar with a pair of tongs.
"What are you up to?" The man raises the bar and a scarred face becomes visible in its glow. "Stealing my dog, are you?"
"He is not your dog!" Georgina objects, surprised by her own courage. Set and Laeg stand close to her.
"What do you say, girl?" the blacksmith rages. He seems to have seen through Georgionas disguise at once.
"The dog is a druh", Georgina continues, more timidly, "he belongs to nobody." She looks at Set and Set noods.
"But he stepped into my trap"
Georgina thinks of the crushed paw. Would the druh ever walk again with it?
"I caught him in my net" the blacksmith keeps blustering, "and now he lies in my chains."
"But he doesnt belong in chains, he belongs in the forest", Georgina replies. She is thinking of Finn in his jar. "In his natural habitat", she adds gently.
The iron bar has stopped glowing and the blacksmith puts it down. He wears a leather apron covered with burns and his arms are naked.
"And besides, he is sick", Georgina takes a breath, "he will die."
The blacksmith turns around and hobbles back to the lit room. "Come", Georgina whispers as the two boys dont move and they follow the man.
The red glow comes from the stone hearth in the middle of the room laden with burning coal.
"Get lost!" the blacksmith shouts and waves the iron bar.
At first, Georgina thinks he means them. But then she discovers two big black birds on the frame hanging from the ceiling beside the hearth. Their beaks are sharp and above their small, black eyes, they have white spots making them look as if they were wearing spectacles. The blacksmith pulls a chain and the leather bellows mounted on the frame move. The coal brightens and the birds hop along. The walls of the forge are askew and heaps of coal are piled on the floor. Beside the hearth there is a heavy anvil on which the iron is beaten and around it there are tongs, hammers and rolls of chains. Somewhere a shield stands out from the tools and at first glance it seems familiar to Set. The birds are screeching. They now sit on the rim of the metal water tank and rock their bespectacled heads.
"Get lost!" the blacksmith shouts again and dips the iron bar into the water. It has already cooled off, so it sizzles only a little but the birds spread their wings and flutter through the hole in the ceiling of the forge.
"Those blasted birds. They eat the leather of the bellows and with holes it will not work anymore." The blacksmith draws the bar from the water and puts it onto the hearth. He reaches for a big hammer and swings it back.
"About the dog -" Georgina interjects. The blacksmith lowers the hammer again and turns to her.
"Are you still here?"
"We have to take the dog away", Georgina explains. The blacksmith hobbles towards her the hammer swinging in his hand.
"You have to?"
Georgina notices that Set seizes his bow.
"He will die if he stays here." The blacksmith is only at arms length, now.
"And he is no use to you as sick as he is", Georgina adds quickly.
"True", the blacksmith stops, "he really is no use to me." The man stares at them. His neck and his arms too are covered with scars and on his head there are curly tufts of burnt hair.
"So we may as well take him with us", Georgina insists. The blacksmith is still staring at them. Like a madman, Georgina thinks.
"Please!", she pleads.
The mouth of the blacksmith turns into a grin.
"And what do I get in exchange?"
Georgina is dumbfounded. She doesnt know what to give the blacksmith. She looks at Set still seizing his bow and then at Laeg. But he too is at a loss. The hammer beside the blacksmith starts swinging again. Georgina thinks of Alexandras father who is treating mad people. "He talks with them" Alexandra explained, "and as long as they talk they dont harm anybody."
"What would you like?" Georgina asks cautiously.
"Somebody who keeps the blasted birds away, who guards my forge - a dog, I say" the blacksmith grumbles.
"But we have no other dog." Georgina tries to stay as matter of fact as possible.
Laeg beside her clears his throat: "There is -"
Georgina looks at him.
"I mean, I would know of - a guardian, who would be suitable for this place", the red haired boy explains.
"And where is he?" Georgina inquires in a low voice.
"Well" Laeg hesitates, "I would have to get him."
Georgina turns to the blacksmith: "If we promise to bring you another dog can we take the druh with us?"
"And who tells me that you will keep your promise?" the blacksmith grins.
Again Georgina looks at the two boys.
"We could -" she hesitates but then she remembers the druh in the shed beside. "One of us could stay here taking the place of the dog", she proposes.
"The son of the Sun God." The blacksmiths hee-haws. "And you can chase away the birds and guard my forge?"
Set has taken off Laegs cap and his bright hair is shining in the twilight of the forge.
"I can do anything I want to do", he says in a toneless voice.
"And can you sit patiently like a dog in chains, obey orders, be submissive and loyal?"
Georgina looks at Set doubtfully. First Laeg offered to stay then Georgina but the blacksmith wanted Set.
"It wont take long" Georgina reassures him, "a day at worst."
The blacksmith is still hee-hawing: "So we will put the chains on you."
"But that wont be necessary!" Georgina is shocked.
"A dog is a dog", the blacksmith rumbles, "and who knows if the son of the Sun God will not suddenly disappear by some magic."
"I have given my word." Set is incensed. He has taken off his bow and the quiver and put them on the floor.
"Words are just words." The blacksmith takes a pair of tongs and hobbles back to the shed where the druh lies. Georgina follows him hastily. With one snap the man opens the iron ring around the dogs neck. The druh groans a little.
"Soon, Tiny, soon", Georgina calms him. The blacksmith carries the broken ring linked to the chain to the hearth and puts it into the burning coal.
In silence Set, Georgina and Laeg watch the ring reddening. As its edges start to melt, the blacksmith takes it from the fire with his tongs and puts it on the anvil. He only needs a few strokes with the hammer to reduce the diameter of the ring. Then he dips it into the water. With the iron still sizzling the blacksmith returns the ring to the anvil.
"Come on, doggy", he smirks.
Without looking at the others, Set takes off his coat and obeys. At the anvil he kneels down and puts his neck in the ring which is still hot. Georgina waits for a scream, a groan, but Set doesnt utter a sound. With one stroke of the hammer the blacksmith closes the ring around his neck.
Georgina starts up as Alexandra enters the room with Dagmar: "I didnt hear you!"
Alex grins:"If you only walk on the side of the steps, the stairs dont creak."
Dagmar looks around in the green room.
"Nice!", she comments approvingly. The blue veils are still covering the windows and beyond the day is breaking slowly.
"Thanks." Alexandra is flattered.
"There he is." Georgina turns to the sofa.
Dagmar puts the red physicians bag she got from Papa last Christmas down and takes off her field-jacket. Carefully, she starts to examine the dog. She feels his nose, pulls up one of his eyelids; a reddened eye with a washed out pupil becomes visible. Then she pushes the flews up as Forgall did. The skin below is even more discoloured and there are some dark spots.
"What?", Georgina asks.
"Bleeding below the skin", Dagmar explains.
"They werent there before", Georgina says.
Her sister nods. She feels the head of the dog, looks into his ears from which the white tufts of hair are standing out and one of them twitches a little. Then she feels the neck and the body of the dog. As she reaches the little bump on the back of the druh, she stops a moment and Georgina is starting to say something but then Dagmar continues her examination. The druh doesnt move even when she touches the front paw with which he stepped into the trap of the blacksmith.
Dagmar takes the stethoscope from her red bag.
"What is the smell in here?", she inquires.
Georgina and Alexandra sniff.
"We lit the aroma lamp yesterday evening", Alexandra explains, "maybe thats it?"
Georgina tries to remember the smell of the yew oil. Dagmar has turned back to the druh. In silence the two girls watch how she auscultates the dog with the stethoscope. Georgina tries to read from the face of her sister how serious it is. At last Dagmar seems to be finished with the examination.
"What is it? Georgina asks anxiously.
"What I guessed: metal poisoning."
"Is it bad?"
Georgina looks at her sister, full of doubts. Was Forgall right and the druh coundnt be saved anymore?
"Can you -?"
"I can try", says Dagmar cautiously.
Georgina sighs from relief. While her sister gathers some things from in her bag, Alexandra winks at her and Georgina is suddenly very glad to have her sister and her friend around.
With a flat, blunt pair of scissors Dagmar trims some of the rusty red fur from the druhs front leg until the skin becomes visible beneath. Then, she takes a needle from the wrapping without touching its tip and fixes it to the appropriate plastic cylinder. One after the other she punches the needle through the covers of the three ampoules she has placed on the little round table and fills the syringe with the liquids. She holds the needle, the tip facing up, and pushes the stopper up until some of the liquid spurts out.
Then she bends over the dog.
"Can you steady his paw?"
Georgina kneels beside the sofa and holds the leg of the dog above and below the shaved spot. She can see the vein under the skin. Dagmar sticks the needle in.
"It is nearly over, Tiny", Georgina whispers. It looks as if Dagmar is poking with the tip of the needle under the skin, then blood is raising into the syringe and mixes with the liquids inside.
"Good" her sister murmurs. Slowly she pushes the contents of the syringe into the vein of the dog. As the plastic cylinder is empty she puts a poultice over the spot and pulls the needle out.
"Hold this" she says and Georgina puts her finger on it.
"Now everything will get better again, Tiny" she consoles the druh.
Her sister takes a roll of band-aid from her physicians bag and wraps it over the poultice and around the dogs leg.
Georgina is beaming. "Thank you", she says and tears come to her eyes.
"It will take a while until the Deferoxamin takes effect."
"The what?", Alexandra inquires.
"The drug I injected. It binds the iron that has gathered in the body and then it is discharged. Ill visit again tomorrow."
Georgina and Alexandra look at each other, embarrassed.
"We eh -", Georgina starts, "we have to bring him back."
"I thought you found the dog?"
"Yes, but -"
"He belongs to my uncle", Alexandra says quickly.
"And he is a blacksmith?" Dagmar asks incredulous.
"Eh-" Alexandra hesitates, "he is -"
Georgina thinks of the metal pile in which the forge is. "A sculptor", she adds.
"Exactly" says Alexandra, "he makes these iron sculptures that rust in the rain."
"But he doesnt look very well after his dog" Dagmar objects.
"He is away - on holidays" Alexandra continues to fib.
"He is returning today", Georgina explains.
"He is abroad a lot", Alexandra concludes.
"Then tell your uncle to find somebody who can care for the animal while he is away. That dog is far too thin for his size and he is dehydrated as well."
Georgina and Alexandra look at her inquiringly.
"He didnt drink enough, thats why he is unconscious and his coat shoudnt be as shaggy." Dagmar starts to gather her stuff together.
"Your sculptor-uncle must bring the dog for a check-up to his own vet and tell him what has happened." She takes the empty ampoules: "Here, give him these. I have also injected a drug to improve circulation and something restorative. He must show these to his vet, so the vet knows what I have done. And here", she pulls a small box from the bag, "these are coal tablets in case the dog still has diarrhoea."
Georgina takes the box and Alexandra puts the empty ampoules carefully on her desk.
"What is he called?" Dagmar wants to know.
"The uncle?" Georgina asks startled.
"No, the dog."
Georgina and Alexandra look at each other. Then Alexandras eyes are caught by the screen of the computer.
"Pixel", she says.
The sky is still grey, as Scathachs pupils gather around the arena this afternoon but the rain has stopped. Laeg has cleaned and polished Sets weapons and now he helps him to put on his greaves and his breastplate. They are made of metal but Set feels light as though carried by them. He remembers the evening when he returned from the floating island.
Set had gone straight to the yew, but Scathach didnt appear and having waited a while in front of the dark tree, he returned to his hut. Had he failed the test after all? He had been ordered to stay on the deserted island until the boat returned to collect him and he was forbidden to take anything sharp, shining or sheltering with him. But then a branch had pierced his foot and George had appeared. Scathach must know that he had not been alone on the island. Doubts kept him awake all night. What would he do if Scathach sent him away?
The next day Set was called to the great hall of weapons. The walls gleamed with armour, shields and swords but he didnt notice them while he approached the shadow in the corner of the hall where Scathach was standing. He was sure, she would dismiss him. The One of the Shadows was wearing a grey coat that seemed to grow from her hair.
"Choose", she said.
Sets heart jumped. So he had passed.
A smile flickered in the corners of Sets mouth as he started to pace the gleaming walls of the hall. The best blacksmiths of the country had forged these shields and swords. Some belonged to famous heroes once and some, it was said, even came from Magnel, the world of the gods. Greaves and breastplates sparkled. Each armour had its advantages, each was a work of art. Set got serious. The weapons he chose now he would have for the rest of his life and the length of his life might depend on them. How was he going to find the ones that would protect him best? He looked at the different pieces one after another until he came to the first one again. Should he ask Scathach for advice? Her eyes were shining in the shadow but they were looking at something far away.
Set started a second time to pace the hall, more deliberately now, stopping here and there. It seemed impossible to choose anything from the profusion of weapons when suddenly he discovered the helmet with the leaping salmon. Now it was easy. Set knew, that this one would fit him as well as the matching breastplate on which the salmon set over the whirls of rapids. He went on to the swords. After some searching he found the one with the waves on the blade. It fitted his hand like a glove and there was a shield on which the waves formed three spirals.
"You found them", Scathach said as Set turned around and again there was mockery in her dark voice. The first time Set had seen the armour with the salmon and the sword of waves was on the island with George. His doubts rose again: Had he stepped into a trap? Had he given himself away with his choice? Scathachs mouth was twiching. As if to smile, Set thought, but then she had vanished. After a while Set carried the weapons he had chosen to his hut.
The other pupils fall silent as Set approaches the arena this afternoon in his freshly polished armour. He stops at the edge of the square field and somehow, a circle forms around him. He looks at Noisi but Noisi is just turning to his brothers and the other pupils too, avoid Sets glance. Only Cat and Cur on the opposite side of the field stare at him, their faces spread with a leering grin. The bad feeling that has followed Set for days, gathers in his stomach. The arena is staked out with poles flying yellow and green pennants today. These are the colours of the king of Ulster, the colours of Sets uncle. He has no doubt that he is facing his great fight. Set wonders if he should go to Noisi and his brothers as if nothing had happened. But then, he stays where he is; he doesnt belong to them. He thinks of George. She too was different and if two are different, she said, then they are equal again. For a moment he wishes she would be here, or Ferdia. A musty air passes over the arena. Less than five steps away from Set there is Scathach in the shadow. In silence the pupils take their places between the green and yellow flagged poles according to their age and position. Only Set doesnt move. He has seen a second figure in the twilight behind Scathach. He seems taller, broader than usual but Set knows him. He drops his sword and his shield and races towards him.
The shadows recede for Set, Scathachs coat hisses as Set brushes against it and then he faces his friend. Ferdia carries his sword and his shield and the armour made of horn he got from Scathach when he had finished his training with her.
"Ferdia", repeats Set stretching out his arms. But Ferdia doesnt move, he doesnt put down his weapons and his face under the brown helmet of horn remains serious. Set stops and suddenly the bad feeling wells up in him. Ferdia is not here to help him, to protect him - for a moment Set feels like throwing up - Ferdia is his enemy.
"Setanta", there is no mockery anymore in Scathachs voice, "and Ferdia ..."" Set swallows. The younger pupils who know Ferdia only from hearsay are whispering.
"... as your past your future too, you will be bound together", Scathach continues, "and what you share will determine the destiny of many." Set searches in Ferdias face for a wink, a smile but the features of the friend remain rigid, his eyes dull as if they had never met before. Infuriated Set turns away and marches back to this weapons.
In silence Set and Ferdia take their positions in the arena. Laeg, having watched the meeting of the fosterbrothers with the other pupils, now stands outside the field just behind Set keeping his javelins, spears and all the other weapons ready that might be used in single combat, while Ibor, the charioteer of the king, who brought Ferdia to Scathach, places himself laboriously behind Ferdia. Ibor is a small, plump man who keeps boasting about great deeds and it is said that even the horses made jokes about the wig of rabbit fur he wears to cover his baldness. But today nobody feels like joking.
"According to the demands of hospitality the horn-armoured has the choice of weapons", Scathach declares from the shadow of the oak in the corner of the arena.
"Bow and arrow", Ferdia calls out. A murmur goes through the lines of pupils and in his surprise Set forgets even his anger about the behaviour of his friend. Did Ferdia not hear that he is the best archer amongst Scathachs pupils? Or is this how his fosterbrother tries to help him? Set cannot make out Ferdias face under the brown horn helmet. Uncertain, he returns to the edge of the field and takes his bow and an arrow from Laegs hands. Because Ferdia had the choice of weapons it is Sets turn to shoot the first arrow. He places himself sidewise, one foot inside one foot outside the arena, the bow in his left hand. Ferdia has remained at the same place. As the attacked he has the right to recede up to the rear edge of the arena and to place himself sidewise as well in order to offer as small a target as possible. Also, as soon as the buzz of the string can be heard he may duck, jump to the side or up if he can escape the arrow by that.
Set waits but Ferdia doesnt move. Again anger wells up in Set. Does his fosterbrother really believe that he might miss so big a target? Set places the arrow before his face, its shaft touching his chin and his nose, and its tip in front of his eyes pointing at Ferdia. The armour of horn is not only impenetrable it is also flexible so that a missile will bounce off and return to the attacker. Set will have to hit his enemy at an unprotected spot. The neck between armour and helmet? That might be fatal. Set lowers the arrow, he does not want to kill Ferdia never mind how angry he is. In the calf below the greaves? Ferdia too went through Domnalls school. The pain will not bother him and if the arrow doesnt cut a sinew by chance Ferdia will continue to fight as if nothing had happened. Set pushed the arrow a bit higher. Between arm guard and glove? Thats it: with a pierced wrist Ferdia will be helpless.
Set places the arrow on the bow, the end clutched between index and middle finger of his left hand as he has done a thousand times. Slowly he starts to draw the string. He remembers how Ferdia and himself used to leave Sualtams court secretly before daybreak to go hunting. Sometimes they started a deer or a stag and watched it until it got their scent and disappeared into the undergrowth with long, angular jumps. Once, Set raced after a stag. He was only six or seven years old then and he had almost caught up with the animal when it suddenly stopped and turned towards him with lowered head. Set was looking into the points of an enormous set of antlers. Ferdias steps were far behind. The stag pawed the ground of the forest and Set knew the animal would attack him as soon as he moved. Ferdias steps came closer, slowed down and stopped. The stag raised his head, a tremor went through his body and then he was gone. Set turned around and looked into Ferdias eyes, never before had he seen them so green. It was the first of many times his friend saved him.
It is silent in the arena. The string is fully drawn now. It cant be too difficult to escape the arrow. Ferdia has but to move sideways. If only it were over, Set thinks, if only the arrow would already be in the air. The sickness sticks in his throat. Set chokes. The string buzzes, the arrow flies, but Ferdia doesnt move. Jump, Set thinks, jump, please -
A scream pulls Set from his numbness. Ferdia still stands on the same spot and before Set understands what has happened the laughter of the pupils rolls over him. Ibor who had moved to safety on the side of the arena while Set was drawing is holding the arrow in one hand and is rubbing his backside with the other. The rabbit wig has slipped from his head and his plump face is dark red. Set has not only missed his target, he has missed it by several steps and hit the royal charioteer in a place that would make him as an archer the laughing-stock of the whole of Ulster.
Scathach raises her arm and the laughter of the pupils subsides. Now it is Ferdias turn to draw the bow. Set feels the heat in his cheeks, his face must be as red as Ibors. How could his shot go astray like that? He looks at the grey sky over the heads of the pupils.
It takes only a moment for Ferdias string to buzz and the next instant Set feels a tickling on his calf; the new strap of his greave is undone again. Laeg gasps audibly. The arrow has hit the leather strap without touching Sets leg. The pupils start to beat their shields with their swords. Ferdia stands unmoved by the cheering. Again Scathach raises her arm.
Set doesnt believe his ears. That hospitality demands to let Ferdia choose the first weapons is a matter of course, but now it is Sets turn to have the second choice. He opens his mouth but closes it again. Scathach has never revoked any of her decisions.
"Javelins!", Ferdia calls. Again a murmur passes through the pupils. Ferdia is reputed to be the best javelin-thrower amongst the warriors of the king. Now, Laegs face too is red under his cap, as he passes Set the javelin. Its point has the shape of a salmons head with fanned out gills and its end resembles a fish tail. The javelin doesnt fit into Sets hand today. He turns it, changes his grip but without improvement and he throws it knowing that he will miss Ferdia. The fish head ends up in the middle of the arena and the javelin breaks with a loud crack. Sneering noises ring out. A brown fog is gathering in Sets head. Ferdia too throws his javelin to short, but it ends directly in front of Sets feet and the feathers at the end of the swaying shaft caress his cheek jokingly. The pupils beat their shields even more with their swords and shouting mingles with the clapping.
Set isnt surprised anymore, as Scathach calls Ferdias name again. This time the fosterbrother chooses sword and shield and Set knows this is the end: These weapons will decide the fight. "Adh mór", Laeg whispers as he passes Set the shield with the three spirals, but Set doesnt hear. His head is filled with brown fog. Without noticing the shouts of the pupils he moves to the centre of the arena. On Scathachs order he raises his sword. The brown fog is also in front of him and beside him now and Set cuts into it. He hears how his shield gets hit, his helmet, but he doesnt feel it. He only sees the fog and blood. It trickles over the waves on his blade. He would like to stop, but already his sword whistles through the air again. He cant stop it, he cant let go of it. The fog reddens. A crow shrieks. Sets sword hits again and again. People are calling. He keeps beating until a rattling groan resounds - the red is everywhere and Set sinks into it.