count three and pray

Jurt may have said something. I wasn’t listening. All I could see was the Fence and the gate in it, getting closer and closer but somehow no larger as we walked towards it. I twisted my cold fingers in Ajax’s mane. Contact was getting easier now; all I had to do was subvocalize the words. “Ajax, baby, are you sure? Are you sure?”

Ajax twisted an ear and his whole attention towards me. It felt like a puppy’s breath and the strum of distant thunder while the sun was still warm. “Are you afraid, Telzey?”

Of course he wouldn’t believe I could know fear, or doubt, or be wrong. Sam and I were still gods to him.

Old gods, primitive, little gods. Not the lofty ones of marble Olympus–lesser, nameless, one bare step above the mortals they taught how to use fire, or language, or how to kill with implements of metal and take someone else’s crops. Gods that could bleed and die, and revenge and betray.

We had raised him from a cub, and he was mighty–but he was not full grown yet. He still worshipped his gods, his little, strange, half-sighted gods of the field and the farm and the sky.

“Ajax, if you die, you’ll break my heart.”

Ajax threw his head back and his mind-voice roared out like a chord of deep music. “I will not die, I cannot die. Songs I still have that are not yet sung!