The Unfinished Song: Initiate
“Of course the mighty Imorvae War Chief spares his own son!” someone else shouted.
Father’s knuckles whitened on the ledge of the balcony, but his pride would not let him stoop to correct the accusation.
“Let Kavio begin his exile, here, now!” cried another voice. “We’ll see how long it lasts!”
Ugly laughter rippled through the crowd.
“Lower the ladder,” Father said to the Tavaedi warriors who still guarded Kavio.
Even the guards looked dubious. “The crowd will rip him apart as soon as he’s down the ladder.”
“Lower the ladder,” repeated Father.
Kavio might have expected Mother to object to this, but she had not accompanied Kavio and Father back to their house from the kiva. In her typical way, she had disappeared without a word of goodbye. I guess she hasn’t forgiven me for turning down her offer.
The warriors lowered the ladder to the street. The crowd began to cheer. Someone took up the chant again.
“Death to Kavio! Death to Kavio!”
He knew his cue when he heard it, Kavio thought sardonically. He stepped forward into the torchlight and the sight of the mob.
Another roar went up in the mob, and so many people tried to press close to the ladder that it almost fell into the street. One of the men pushed back the others, shouting, “Let him come down first, if he dares!”
“That’s my invitation, I believe,” he said to Father, grasping the ladder.
“If new evidence or new witnesses step forward to exonerate you,” Father said, “You could resume all your duties as a Zavaedi in the Labyrinth. Is there anything you want to tell me, Kavio, which you didn’t want to say at the trial?”
Kavio thought of Zumo, and what he might have said, did his cousin not share Auntie Ugly’s unreasoning hatred of everything Kavio was. The chances that Zumo would change his testimony seemed slight. To say the least.
He swung his legs around and descended the ladder into the waiting crowd.
They didn’t even let him climb down the ladder, but shook it and pushed it over. He flipped in the air as he fell and landed on his feet, but at once, enraged men and women assaulted him from all sides, some with their hands and feet, some with rocks and sticks. The sheer volume of kicks, sticks, punches, pinches and pummels drove him to the dust in a heap of bruised flesh.
And he thought he had been ready to die. He fought for every last breath, made them pay for every blow with two blows back of his own, but still they were winning, they were going to beat him to death right under his own balcony, as Father watched impassively from above.
A strong arm clasped and dragged Kavio back to his feet. He could breathe again.
“The judgment was exile!” his helper shouted at the crowd. “You will not commit murder tonight!”
Blood dribbled into his eyes, so it…