Again, the faces turned toward Paul, and he saw the expectancy in them, lowered his eyes. An elbow nudged him and a voice hissed: "Would you bring the destruction on us?"
How can I say I was his friend? Paul wondered.
Another face arose from the circle opposite Paul and, as the hooded face came into the light, he recognized his mother. She removed a kerchief from the mount. "I was a friend of Jamis," she said. "When the spirit of spirits within him saw the needs of truth, that spirit wthdrew and spared my son." She returned to her place.
And Paul recalled the scorn in his mother's voice as she had confronted him after the fight. "How does it feel to be a killer?"
Again, he saw the faces turned toward him, felt the anger and fear in the troop. A passage his mother had once filmbooked for him on "The Cult of the Dead" flickered through Paul's mind. He knew what he had to do.
Slowly, Paul got to his feet.
A sigh passed around the circle.
Paul felt the diminishment of his self as he advanced into the center of the circle. It was as though he lost a fragment of himself and sought it here. He bent over the mound of belongings, lifted out the baliset. A string twanged softly as it struck against something in the pile.
"I was a friend of Jamis," Paul whispered.
He felt tears burning his eyes, forced more volume into his voice. "Jamis taught me . . . that . . . when you kill . . . you pay for it. I wish I'd known Jamis better."
Blindly, he groped his way back to his place in the circle, sank to the rock floor.
A voice hissed: "He sheds tears!"
It was taken up around the ring: "Usul gives moisture to the dead!"
He felt fingers touch his damp cheek, heard the awed whispers.
Jessica, hearing the voices, felt the depth of the experience, realized what terrible inhibitions there must be against shedding tears. She focused on the words: "He gives moisture to the dead." It was a gift to the shadow world---tears. They would be sacred beyond a doubt.
Nothing on this planet had so forcefully hammered into her the ultimate value of water. Not the water-sellers, not the dried skins of the natives, not stillsuits or the rules of water discipline. Here there was a substance more precious than all others---it was life itself and entwined all around with symbolism and ritual.