Inifra spent most of the day with her eyes locked on Starlark. She had been leading the way into the jungle until today, but then she fell to the back of the group. Where she once ignored us to the best of her ability, her attention was suddenly focused tightly on the archer.
Despite the broiling suspicion behind her eyes, I could not help feeling a little jealousy. Perhaps it’s the fact that we have hardly seen a woman in the last four months. Perhaps it is that I actually want this one.
What distressed me most were her questions. There were only two:
“Weren’t there five of you before?”
“Have you noticed the touch of the Makonga lightening?”
I didn’t know what to make of her questions at first. She was clearly working out her own thoughts as she asked them, knowing the answers before I responded. But was there something she was trying to say? Something behind the questions?
It’s true. I barely feel the pressing weight of the Makonga any longer. Did the ritual yesterday work?
However Starlark is certainly changed in the opposite. He has taken on animal, feral qualities. Hunched over, he walks as though the very canopy of the Nanten were pressing down upon him. What do we do to help him? The Makonga’s touch has not lessened but seems to be crushing him.
Her implication was simple: Starlark is the murderer among you, and your missing member is the man that he killed. She didn’t need to say it openly. Those thoughts were just beneath the surface of my own mind. I realized it even as she separated herself from me and continued walking.
Bolton died from an arrow through the neck. It didn’t stick, I never even saw it, yet I knew instinctively that was what had made the hole in his throat. What I also knew, but refused to recognize, was that I was in a place where wounds like that were impossible.
The Nantese display no accuracy with their bows, not as we think of it. What we have seen leads us to believe that there are few marksmen among them. The KoraKora’s inability to hit any of us effectively seems proof of that. But Starlark is an expert with a bow. He can uncork bottles of beer without scratching the glass. I’ve seen him do it.
I rejected the thought at first. It felt like a betrayal to even dwell upon the suggestion, unspoken as it was. And yet, I cannot escape it. I found that I too was watching Starlark. I had been since he came back. I’ve known all along.
Gods, what do I do?