This scene is heartbreaking. It makes me long to know that what Artham said so long ago—“Things will be made right”—is true. Knowing the end of the tale doesn’t make this scene less sad, but it does make my heart burn. (My eyes, too.)
From behind an old log, two stems rose, each of which was topped with a greenish orb that blinked. Eyeballs. Padded frog-like fingers draped themselves over the log, so that they looked like vines or caterpillars resting on the rotten wood. Janner had the troubling realization that the thing was about to jump.
Then something crashed in the underbrush behind him. Janner spun. Two hogpig cloven charged toward him, squealing. Their tusks were black with mold and as long as daggers. Janner swung his sword. His first blow missed, but his second made contact with one of the cloven’s front legs—a front leg that ended not in a hogpig hoof but a human foot. Oood roared as he leaped forward and swung his fists, first at Janner’s hogpig then at the other, which was attacking Kalmar.
The eyeball thing behind the log loosed a rumbling gribbit and leaped over the fallen tree. Its body was like a digtoad’s but with spikes sprouting from a coat of luxurious white fur. Janner didn’t want to kill it. He knew it had once been human. He knew it probably suffered from the same forgetful madness that haunted Kalmar.
Before it landed on him he hunkered down and raised his sword. The hairy digtoad slammed into him and rolled away with a groan. Janner climbed to his feet and realized his sword was no longer in his hand. It was embedded to the hilt in the digtoad’s belly.
The cloven’s eye-stalks twitched on the ground as it gasped for air. The hogpigs were several feet away, one of them crackling to dust and the other wounded and struggling to breathe. Oood slowly turned in a circle, braced for any further attack, but none came.
Kalmar sheathed his sword and knelt at the digtoad’s side. “Janner, it’s trying to speak.”
Janner averted his eyes from the wound he had dealt and knelt beside Kalmar. He wanted to speak but the lump in his throat silenced him.
“Are . . . you . . . a child? A boy?” the thing said between breaths. Its voice was gribbity, but there was enough human in it that Janner’s sadness grew. The digtoad took a deep breath and said, “I remember. I was a boy once.”
—From chapter 53, “The Angry Ones Attack.”