The boar was so close I could taste the stench of it. I pressed the butt of my spear into the rocky ground and shouted a challenge.
The bleeding pig squealed and charged right onto my spear. It hit the crossguard and broke it off. I held on, staring at my death.
Tem covered my body with his. He screamed as the pig gored him. I crawled away, pulling him with me. Dad cheered as the pig bled out.
Dad and I lay bloated with pork at the door of our hut. Dad said, “That boy, he’s too stupid for you. Getting gored like that.” I blushed.
Dad turned serious: “Truly, Sawi, it can’t be. Tem returns to his tribe next month, or those Yah will kill us – like they killed your Ma.”
“I know, Dad.” He laid his hand on mine: “If Tem doesn’t heal up and go home, your brother’s life is forfeit – and all our lives too.”
“Chief!” screamed my best friend, Iv. Dad stood. Iv wept: “Your son! The Yah have murdered their peace hostage. We are at war.”
Dad ordered Tem and I inside. We sat silently, holding hands. Tem kissed each of my fingers. I said, “My tribe must kill you now.” “I know.”
Tem said, “Everyone dies. My life switched with your brother’s life bought our tribes ten years of peace. That is enough for me. I am full.”
4 – do day 5 very late tonight!
Dad stood guard while the village waited for him to decide the blooding hour, and who would make the kill. Tem and I didn’t leave the house.
“Sawi? Will it be your Dad who kills me?” “Don’t speak like-– why are you smiling?” He grabbed my hand and pulled me awkwardly, so I fell.
Tem kissed me, knocking our noses together. I gasped. “You fiend! My Dad’ll kill you—oh!” We dissolved into helpless giggles.
Dad saw me staring into our fire and said, “I will stop the blooding as long as I can.” I looked into his eyes, and bowed my head.
“Tem! Wake up!” He blinked at me. I said, “I’m going to go into Yah land – and save you.” He said, “Don’t get killed.” “Same to you.”
Tem said, “My Mum loves me. She’ll help you.” I held his hand, and kissed him carefully. We didn’t knock noses. I crept away into the night.
I found the ruined stream where my mother’s bones still lay, with many others from both tribes. The Yah bank was black with shadows.
No-one stabbed me as I crossed the naked grass. I stepped into the freezing water, dislodging old skulls so they rolled on down the river.