She lay across the fire from Fix where she could keep an eye
on him. There would be no guard duty this night, relying solely on
her training and the alertness of her iopiop.
The fire crackled and popped while it danced seductively. Fix
lay on his back next to it, staring at the stars through the canopy
of trees, contemplating the day’s events, trying to figure out what
made someone into a shuggi. For all that he had seen in Varlek’s
memory, he seemed like such a good man. How is it that he could
turn out this way?
“You know, it’s strange, Yuari,” he finally said aloud.
“What is?” she answered no closer to sleep than he was.
“That a man who could love his family so passionately could
hate just as passionately, well, it just doesn’t make sense to me.”
“It does if you think about it. Love and hate are not that far
apart. Passion, without something to temper it, can be a destructive
thing,” she replied thoughtfully.
“How so?” He yawned, feeling the first nibbles of exhaustion
feeding on him while also feeling the deep stirrings of the shuggi.
“And don’t take it personally if I fall asleep while you talk. Sorry
“Varlek loved his family passionately, which is great and is
something to be admired. But did he love, period, or was it love for
things that were his—a possessive love? Love devoid of compassion
for other things is just a strong emotion, so anything that interferes
with that perfect world becomes an object of scorn and hate. It
can be a cause, an idea, or a person. And that sort of love is only a
shade off of hate without mercy.”
“Okay, I can see that. You should have been a philosopher,” he
said a little more distantly. “What do you mean by hate without
She wondered what a philosopher was but didn’t ask. “Well,
I hate the Urilok passionately, but I do not hate them mercilessly.
I will fight and kill them if I have to, but I will not go out of
my way to cause them unnecessary harm and suffering. They are
living creatures and deserve to die quickly no matter how vile they
are. I would not slaughter their innocents—if they have any. Hate
without mercy and love without compassion do not have such
balance. That is why he is one of the hateful dead.”
“Ha-ha,” Bartholomew laughed even more distantly, “sounds
like a music group—the Hateful Dead.”
“You’re so wise. How old are you again?” he rambled on
sleepily, his voice barely audible, the curtains drawn over his eyes.
“Oh wait, age isn’t a matter of age . . . you said that . . . it’s a
matter of chocolate and puppy dogs . . . and little Ish-y things . . .
and . . .”
“But then, what do I know about love,” she said softly.
Yuari listened patiently to his ramblings until he finally drifted
off to sleep. She was deeply worried about him and feared he
might not see this ordeal through. Her emotions were in flux, and
she felt like crying. “Now you know why I don’t like to get close
to people,” she muttered, angrily tossing a twig into the fire.