They were going to kill him. Jerem knew this with a certainty that stretched back centuries, the knowledge his the ancestors whispering methods of fighting, of evasion, but it did not matter.
"I did not eat the brain," he told the judge of these city people trapped between walls. "I found the child dying, aided him into his next life, and ate his body. Yes. I was hungry: eating is what we do when we are hungry - is this different in cities?"
Anger met his questions, but Jerem ignored them. The city-folk fought with words, none wishing to sully themselves in a duel (and they would lose, Jerem knew, unless they sent their past: many of the ancestors whose knowledge was also his could kill with ease). So he fund words, speaking past the certainty of his death -- so many had died, this way!
Jerem knew he should have wondered at his hesitation, asked the ancestors: but he had got lost in the storm, and the boy seemed a gift from Those Who Wait; the gods of his people, living or dead. He let the judge's words and anger wash over him, offering up no apology to their rudeness.
He only wished he could ask them to not harm his brain, to give his head to his people, when the next one came through -- but he dared not given them a need of his to use against him, not this easily. He would not harm the People for something this slight, even if his voice was lost to all who would come next.
"I am sorry," he whispered to the ancestors. Tell my son I am sorry I will not be able to watch him grow, that I will not be able to advise him, to speak with him in the sacred world after we are dead and both men. I ask that he learns from my lesson, and it told to never act from instinct."
"Plead?" he said, catching the voice of the judge. "I am not innocent of what you call a crime, and you will have me dead in any event. I offer you no plea, because it cannot matter. To make words not matter is extremely rude, you know."
They didn't understand, but he hadn't expected them to.
Death was exactly like the ancestors had said it was, and also entirely unlike.
It was very cold, and very dark. He waited for the Network to make a connection, to join the voices.
And he waited.