The fire needed rekindling to make our morning coffee, and it must have been half an hour before we exchanged any words. I was on the point of telling her my dream when I saw a little gold glint out of the corner of my eye.
Walking over and scuffing the earth aside with my foot, I found a curved dagger with a jewelled hilt half-hidden there. It was a crude piece of work, of no particular antiquity or value, but it was of especial interest to me. I had seen it the night before gleaming at the belt of the bearded leader of the band.
I picked it up and brought it back to camp. My first instinct was to say nothing. What was there to say? If it had not been a dream, then – how did we escape? Had we escaped? I wanted to say nothing, to keep riding on to those cyclopean ruins which have so long dominated my imagination. This, surely, was a mere distraction. But no, something had to be said:
“Have you seen it before?”
“How did we escape?”
She looked at me with her great brown lustrous eyes, and then, with a single swift movement, reached up to free the flap of her headdress. It fell to reveal her face.
Even in the abominable scenes I had witnessed the night before, two or three bodies at a time straining over the bared femininity of my companion, her face had never been revealed. Indeed, the bandit chief had ordered his man to cover her eyes, as if fearing some evil influence from them.
What I saw now was the face of an angel – perfect, chiselled features, and, as she proceeded to unwrap the rest of her head adornment, long sweeps of hair descending like a net about her.
“Do you love me?” she asked.
“Y-yes, I love you.”
“Yet you watched me defiled by a dozen men last night.”
“I’m sorry. There was nothing I could do. I thought they would kill you right away. I’m sorry.”
“Do I disappoint you now you can look upon me?”
“Of course not. No, but … I mean, are you real, is this real?”
“This is real.”