Valentine and Papa Alexander are walking in the woods. The day is hot, and Papa is getting on in years, so they are not walking too quickly. They climb one hill of seven to look down upon the city. Papa spreads his arms, grins a wolf grin, says, “All this is mine to give. Bow down, bow down.”
Valentine laughs a laugh without mirth, his hyena laugh, and bows. “And take back and give again; given with one hand and taken with the other.”
Papa spreads his hands, shrugs, not without humor. “Well, so.”
The day is hot and Papa is tired. They call for the wine. Wine is sweet, and power is sweet. Sunlight lies like benediction on the city they own. They toast each other and the long days of their triumph, singing praise to God above and God below.
In the night the poison closes upon them, familiar bite. Papa cries out once and foams to death, Valentine sweats, bleeding ever-shifting mazes across his face. “Cantarella!” he cries in his fever, and bites his cheeks bloody to keep silence. Futility: “Cantarella!”
He survives, but not without cost. Four posts they build, floor to ceiling, and each day bring forth a bull. Strapped upside down and slit open, intestines pulled out and discarded, Valentine climbs in painfully to this bath of blood, hands weak upon ragged edge of bull hide, and suffers for his sins.