That night Cato lodged in the house of the chieftain. In the darkness he found the girl rifling through bins of purple leaf, stuffing the plant into her mouth with fever. Cato rose and she lunged forward to attack, punching him in the chest and scratching first at him then at her own eyes. She tried to eat more of the plant and Cato held her arms and pulled her in closer. She screamed that Cato had taken her father and husband and Cato said nothing, holding onto her tightly so she could eat no more. She said that she had not taken enough for the pain to go away, that she would still be here when the gouging started. Cato said I know. Endure and be reborn. She was in a rage now, punching the knight and scratching at his face. He did not release her. He shook the leaf from her clenched fist.

For a time the punching stopped and she grew silent. Her eyes were milk white like a shark before its death blow. She thrust her mouth toward his his with passion and he turned his head away. Use me she screamed. She turned her head angled to catch his lips agape, while tearing her clothes off. Cato imagined the horrible ritual that must have happened behind closed doors every night and pain shot through his heart. Fuck me she screamed, hurt me. He stayed with her in that house as day came and went, holding her as the fight turned to sobs. Soon she was not being held by Cato, but clutching to him, and he redressed her wounds and combed her hair as she loosed the spirits which had coiled around her encumbered soul.

She sat staring at a bin filled with purple leaf as Cato cooked at the hearth. The pain has not left. It will not. Yet it will change. Know its nature and you will know the way to throw it away as a hot coal. She looked at him with hopeless, terrified eyes. What is my nature? Cato sat beside her with a cask of millet and looked deeply into her eyes. Divine, beautiful, a part of the sublime Nature which comprises all things. If I am as you say, she said looking away with tears in her eyes, why do the men take me? They do not know their Nature. As we share thought, that makes us beings of reason. And if so, we are bound by a common law, and thus are fellow citizens. And this fellowship is the world. They are ignorant to these ties, as they consume poisons which blind and possess them. Such a man is vicious, and knows only vice. They will soon know this. Eat, the knight said. She was still half naked. Her bosom was exposed to the open air. She sat with a distant stare, the look of a soldier who had spent too many months slaughtering on some terrible winter campaign. He dressed her and then walked out. But he did not stride far. He peeked through the cracks in the timbers of that house.

The girl sat shoveling the millet into her mouth. After minutes she rose and walked to the bin of the purple leaf. She stood for awhile over the poison, her hand hovering over the vibrant throng. Finally she knocked the bin over and began to sob silently. Cato wiped his eye sockets and tended his mount. He checked the shoes for splinters and massaged the beast’s mane. When he was satisfied that there was enough grazing ground to sustain it, he called for the villagers to assemble.

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