On the other hand, the man had been riding a dragon, or something very much like a dragon. Bitterwood thought of women and children being dragged from their homes by reptilian claws, imagined the destruction of Big Lick with great clarity. He could hear the screams of the villagers, just as for twenty years he'd heard the screams of his own family.
There was only one way to silence those voices.
Glancing over his shoulder he saw Killer limping back to Zeeky and the boy, who were sitting on the ground, talking. No one was looking toward him.
Bitterwood fell to his knees. His arms were losing strength; his legs were bleeding in copious streams. He wanted to fall over, to collapse forever into sleep.
There could be no rest while the voices howled.
Bitterwood raised the poker above his head and swung it, planting the full weight into the man's face. A bubble of blood rose from the man's lips.
Bitterwood felt too weak to move as he stared at the damaged face. A lightness took hold of him, like the fevers that had given his world such a dreamlike quality. The unconscious man's features suddenly struck him as familiar -eyes, ears, nose, mouth- a universal visage, belonging to almost any man. Bitterwood could see himself in the shared structures, and as the world slowly began to tilt he could no longer tell if it was the rider who lay upon the ground, or himself.
Bitterwood raised the poker and swung at the face that might be his own, then swung again, and again, until what he was hitting looked like a face no longer.
The screams now silent, Bitterwood toppled into the ash.
He closed his eyes, then opened them to discover Poocher by his head. The pig was wearing the rider's visor, standing on two legs.
"Evil man," Poocher said, in a smooth and high-cultured tone. He pointed a cleft hoof at Bitterwood in a gesture of condemnation. Poocher said, in a smooth and high-cultured tone. He pointed a cleft hoof at Bitterwood in a gesture of condemnation. "All your works amount to dust. All that remains of you will scatter with the winds." "All your works amount to dust. All that remains of you will scatter with the winds."
Bitterwood found himself concurring with the judgment of the pig. He welcomed this fate. It seemed a very light thing, to be carried off by air, unremembered, unmourned.
"Take care of Zeeky," he whispered before the world spun in a whirl of white embers, then turned black.