Something moved, far off but heading toward him. Pellan’s eyes followed, hoping for a deer, but finding a man instead. It was not a peasant, in rags. It was not Lord Kafi or any of his followers. This one wore a long cloak of coarse weave, buff in color, warm but plain.
A priest from the menhir then, and of no interest to Pellan. He turned his attention to the edge of the forest, where deer were most likely to appear. Minutes passed, then tens of minutes. There were no deer, but the priest continued to inch his way across the snowy landscape, and he too was bound for the forest’s edge.
How hungry do you have to be for curiosity to die? Hungrier than Pellan, apparently. He grunted in disgust at himself, and moved back under the edge of the trees, then northeastward to intercept the priest.
Deer are meat. Red bears are meat, if you are strong enough to kill one. Squirrels are meat. Krytes, lovely in their purple and gray plumage, are meat. Worms are meat, if you are hungry enough.
Man is meat, for bears and wolves.
Pellan considered the priest, who was not of his caste, and whose gods he no longer worshiped. He would weigh about as much as a deer. If he left the skull and other bones in the woods, by spring it would seem as if the man had met with wolves. The meat he could cut into strips, and dry it over a fire. He could say it was from a deer and his wife would never know.
Hungry men think strange thoughts.
Pellan considered the priest as meat as he ghosted across the snowy land, just under the edge of the forest. Then he grunted, and shook his head. Death is just death. It comes to all. There are some things a man cannot do, just to postpone it.
However, a priest so well provided with a warm cloak would not have left his temple without a sack of food. Dried meat, perhaps. Dried fruits, perhaps. Certainly he would have dried leathers of bitter melon, that staple of winter travel.
Pellan wouldn’t even have to kill the priest, unless he resisted excessively. He could be back with his wife and child in an hour, with some of the afternoon remaining to gather fuel. He could warm the hartwa, give them food, then go out tomorrow to hunt, stronger than he was today.
“Please don’t resist,” Pellan thought, as his fingers brushed the axe that hung beneath his arm. More Thursday.