Thirty-seven

Thirty-seven

A Chapter by Isemay

In his dream, Cyran was kneeling in front of the altar of the orphanage in Caoria. Brother Somi knelt beside him.


“Why would you refuse the divinity, my son? Have you not been given everything that a child could be given?”


He sat back on his heels and turned slightly to face the man who’d been a father to him, “I have been given a great deal, and I am thankful, but you taught me right from wrong, Father. To kill an innocent child would be wrong even if there are few ways for you to strike at Lady Rook.”


The old priest next to him closed his eyes and then rippled as he rose to his feet, his appearance altering into that of Imos.


“How?” The god’s silvery eyes were hard, “Who revealed such a thing to you and is this why you defy me?”


“Master Odos told me, several times before I understood the words. And I don’t want to defy you, I want you to be as you were meant to be. You taught me right from wrong. You are the god of justice-”


“And you no longer rely on my guidance because you look to Lady Rook? I should have known better than to allow such a twisted, evil creature to-”


“She is the goddess of righteous vengeance, Father, and the protector of gentle souls. She isn’t just but neither is she evil.” Slowly he came to his feet. “There are many things I don’t understand.” He held out his hand as Imos turned to lean on the altar. “We may choose what we become? Lady Rook chose to become what she is, by her actions and her temperament?”


“She said she would replace me.” Imos looked at him incredulously, “You would replace me?”


“No. I would correct you. If I can choose, I would choose to be…” Saying it felt strange as if he were a child pretending to be something else, “I would choose to become a god of correction and healing. I would choose to help and not to harm, unless I must. There were things I saw imperfectly before and there may be more, I want to bring things into the light and make them right. I want to heal the-”


Cyran woke with a start.


“Time to dig.” Grimgrip frowned down at him before making his way past and down the folding stairs. 


It was still dark and he felt as if he’d barely slept at all. Yawning, Cyran rolled out from beneath his blanket and followed down the stairs. The dwarf looked at him oddly.


“You slept in your clothes?”


“Yes. I-”


“You’re awake!” Kwes strolled into the kitchen with a relieved smile, “That means my watch is done and I can get some sleep.” 


“You kept watch?” Grimgrip looked offended, “I would have taken a turn if you’d bothered to tell me it was necessary.” He rounded on Cyran, “And you slept in your clothes to take a turn but didn’t wake for it?”


“I slept most of the day yesterday, Master Grimgrip.” The half-elf offered him a mischievous smile, “And you both have digging to do. I didn’t mind.” 


Kwes vanished up the folding stairs and the dwarf muttered something in his language. “If I were Mylena I’d check his pockets before I let him leave.”


“Lady Rook would be angry with him if he stole from Edun or his mother.”


“True. Let’s see if she’s outside impatiently waiting on us.”


No one was outside when they went to the stable to fetch the shovels. The dwarf tossed him a chunk of heavy bread before they made their way out to choose the spot. Cyran gnawed on it while the dwarf muttered to himself and prodded the ground in places. It was heavy, thick bread with an earthy, almost mushroomy taste. The amount of chewing it required was making his jaw tired.


When Grimgrip had settled on a spot and marked it off with his shovel, Cyran offered the bread back.


Grinning the dwarf took it, “Not to your taste?”


“The taste was pleasant but it’s too heavy. If it could be made lighter-”


The dwarf’s laughter made him feel a little sour.


“At least you didn’t take a taste and spit it out. Both Hammersworn and the Rook thought it was poison.”


He blinked, “I thought she liked dwarvish food?”


“She does, but she’s not a trusting woman. This is a little different than the stone bread from Delver’s Deep. Her first thought when something doesn’t taste right is that it’s poison. Hammersworn wouldn’t try it a second time until her husband and I both ate it in front of her.” Grimgrip started to dig, “He told me he’d considered making a jest and pretending to choke but he knew his wife, her boot knife would have been in my chest before he could explain.”


Cyran started to dig at the opposite corner. Hammersworn and the Rook… “Are they very different? Hammersworn and Lady Rook?”


“In some ways. Syreilla Hammersworn was softer. She wasn’t one to trifle with but her clan, her family, and her friends saw the gentle side she kept out of sight from everyone else. Kaduil told me the mine was the only place she let her defenses down. Rook… She’s hard to see. The woman is dragon’s fire, a flare of bright light in black smoke. You can’t be sure how far the flames reach when the smoke is too thick.”


They worked quietly except for some grunting and what sounded like muttered dwarvish curses when they found a large stone. It was going more quickly than he’d expected. 


“I thought you’d have finished by now.” Odos frowned over the edge of the thigh deep hole.


Next to the older man stood Vezar Edra eyeing him and the dwarf with distrust. 


“Where is Lady Rook?” Cyran felt a sudden worry for the woman.


Grimgrip lifted his shovel and held it in much the same way Cyran remembered him holding his axe. 


The sound of laughter washed over them and Lady Rook appeared from nowhere. With a smile she offered Odos a gem on a chain.


“Well done, my little rook. I think he intended for you to keep it, he gave you more than what I need.” The older man’s expression had changed to pleased surprise in the blink of an eye.


Syreilla put a hand on her hip and the woman’s expression somehow managed to look amused and offended at once. “You can give it back, old man.” 


Laughing quietly, Odos tucked the stone into his sleeve, “Later, perhaps.”


Vezar Edra was eying her like a starving man would a loaf of bread as he reached out his hand for her, “I should go.” It was clear, at least to Cyran, that he wanted an invitation to stay.


“You can help us dig, instead of standing there.” Grimgrip muttered, putting his shovel back in the dirt and leaning on it.


“Go on, Vezar.” Watching his cousin kiss the half-dragon felt somehow wrong, like watching a bird nest with a snake. He averted his eyes. 


“I can help dig, it isn’t like I’ve been working all night.” 


Cyran glanced back as she hopped down into the hole. Vezar had vanished. She tilted her head at Juddri, and for a moment looked very much like a bird. 


“Are you sure you’re a dwarf and not just a short human? I’ve never heard a dwarf complain-” Syreilla broke into silvery laughter, leaping with impressive agility to sit on the edge of the hole  as Grimgrip swung the shovel at her knees. 


“You’re acting like an elf this morning, Rook.” The dwarf glowered at her but Cyran wanted to hear her laugh again.


“I didn’t think dwarves complained about digging either.” He had to fend off the dwarf's attack with his shovel, but he was rewarded with more of the half-elf’s silvery laughter. 


“Enough,” Odos spoke sharply and, he thought, gave him a particularly disapproving look. “This isn’t the time for laughter and play. Edun is going to come out soon.” 


The smile vanished from Syreilla’s face and she dropped back into the hole. “Is there another shovel?”


“This may be more useful.” The older man passed down a large bucket instead and Cyran nearly asked where he’d gotten it from but it didn’t seem like the time for questions. 


They set back to work silently. He and Grimgrip filled the bucket and Syreilla would pass it up to Odos. That she could lift it at all was impressive and to do it over and over again he wondered if it was some sort of strength she had from her divinity or if elves were strong despite their slightness.


“That should be deep enough.” The dwarf eyed the floor of the hole and smoothed it slightly with his shovel. 


Cyran offered Syreilla assistance in climbing out, allowing her to boost off of his thigh and as the dwarf looked at him expectantly he realized it would only be kind to offer the same to him. Grimgrip clambered onto his thigh and still needed a little more height, so he braced his arms and gave the dwarf a second step. Regretting, as the heavy man’s boots bit into his arms, having offered at all. 


As he shook his arms and prepared to leap for the lip of the hole, the half-elf reached over the side with a faint smile and helped him, pulling him with more strength than he expected. 


Once out, he sat heavily, looking at the wrapped bodies. “Thank you, Syreilla. That’s them?”


She looked to Odos as if she were uncertain and the older man nodded, “Vezar knew which bodies were the right ones and taking them went quickly. There were a lot of them down there.”


Something like shame marred her delicate features. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help with that part, the smell…” 


“You have a delicate nose, my little rook.” Odos smiled faintly. “I’m keeping the smell at bay for all of us right now.”


Whatever Syreilla tried to say in response was unintelligible as a yawn interrupted her. He remembered suddenly that she’d mentioned working in the night.


“We may need to impose on Mylena for another night’s stay.” Grimgrip glanced back toward the house. 


He opened his mouth to agree but Syreilla spoke first, “No, I went to work last night and the old man will be able to take us through his door. We can rest at Delver’s.”


That brought up a new problem entirely.


“I…” Cyran frowned and looked at the house remembering what he’d decided. “I think I should stay to look after them.”


“Why?” Odos’ eyes hardened. “Did you pray to my brother after I warned you not to?”


“I did. I felt,” he cleared his throat and tried to be calm in the face of what felt like malevolence, “I felt like I needed to.”


“And what did he say?” Somehow, without changing drastically, it was painfully clear that it wasn’t an old man whom he’d angered, it was a god.


His mouth went dry.


“Speak up, cousin. If he’s going to lash out at a child to hurt me I need to know.” Her eyes had gone hard as well and reminded him strongly of Imos.


“He commanded me to kill Edun. I refused. I spoke to Kwes about it and I believe I should remain and see to it the boy stays safe.”


Syreilla got to her feet with what looked like an angry imitation of amusement spreading over her face. “No need, cousin. I made sure Edun could call me back if he needed me before I left. I’ll meet you all at the mine. I’m going to Brosa first.”


“He’ll be expecting you, Rook.” Grimgrip shook his head, “Wait until you’re rested.”


The laughter that came out of her was nothing like the silvery amusement from before, this sounded like a creature impersonating human laughter and it sent chills down his spine. 


“I’m going to have a chat with him in the ashes of the temple there and make sure he knows it’s a fiery death sentence for anyone who harms a child I’ve brought under my wings. I’ll rain fire down for anyone who asks me to on behalf of a child, but mine, I’ll bring a little extra for mine.” 


The baring of her teeth and the flames flickering in her eyes were the stuff of nightmares and he couldn’t suppress a shudder.


“He’ll learn not to cross my rook.” Odos sounded smug but Cyran couldn’t tear his eyes away from the Golden Rook. “If you’ll protect my fledglings as well I’ll make certain that Edun is looked after. You can’t eat dragon’s fire and he may need looking in on from time to time.”


“Done, old man. Let me meet them so that I can tell them my name properly.” 


Her face softened and he found he could breathe more easily. He looked to the ground. Like dragon's fire was what Grimgrip had said. Glancing at the dwarf, he received a curt nod as Grimgrip cleared his throat. 


From the house came Edun and his mother carrying what looked like small wreaths made from dried flowers and herbs and some men’s clothes. 


“I thought they might need to be…” Mylena looked at the bodies wrapped in the tent nervously. 


“You don’t want to open it, Mylena.” Odos spoke solemnly. “It’s them, Vezar Edra, the most trusted servant of Hevtos himself, helped me wrap them. You can bury the clothing with them if you think they would appreciate it. The rites used to encourage people to bury their loved ones with some of their things.”


“Why?” Cyran frowned looking at the bodies as well. Imos discouraged it. The dead were beyond need.


Syreilla spoke softly with her head tilted as if listening to a whisper, “It makes it easier for him to make them comfortable. He does his best, whether you leave something or not, but it’s kind to make it easier. Kind to him and kind to them.”


“I…” Mylena looked stricken for a moment, “I have more I can-”


“It's not the amount, it’s the intent. Kings could be buried on a pile of gold but if no one who loved them laid a single coin of it,” Syr waved her hand, “It meant nothing. The clothes, the wreaths, they’re enough.”


Cyran swallowed, looking down in surprise and shame. Had they been harming good people by not following Hevtos’ rites? He didn’t have long to contemplate it. Grimgrip nudged him into motion and the three of them maneuvered the wrapped bodies into the hole with as much respect as they could manage as the women and child looked on. It was difficult not to retch as the smell wafted over him with some of the movements.


Once they had finished he reached for a shovel and Odos gave him a scowl and a sharp gesture.


Mylena asked quietly, “How-how do we lay these?”


Syreilla looked baffled, studying the hole. He felt a moment of dread that she might ask him to go down with the bodies.


“Could someone lower me?” Edun asked looking up at her.


“I think so.” She smiled and gave the boy a nod.


Cyran felt ill at the thought of the boy having to endure the stench. “The smell, Lady Rook. He shouldn’t go down.” He drew in a breath to offer but she was already speaking.


“He won’t be there for long. I’ll pull him back up.” Syreilla studied the child’s face, “If you’re sure.”


“I’m sure.”


He was appalled that no one else objected but he held his tongue as Grimgrip helped the boy into the hole. The half-elf looked as though she were trying to hold her breath as she lay at the edge to pass the things Mylena was holding down to the child. The least he could do would be to help her bring the child back out. Cyran went to kneel next to her as Edun respectfully laid the clothes on top of the canvas and carefully moved around the bodies to lay the wreaths at their heads. 


When he’d finished he came back to the side and reached his arms up. The air wasn’t so foul and he suspected that Odos had done something to make it easier on the boy. Once he was out of the grave, Edun went to his mother and embraced her tearfully as Odos and Grimgrip began filling in the hole. Cyran stayed close to Syreilla.


Mylena rubbed at her eyes and then cleared her throat. “Is that it? There isn’t-isn’t more?” 


“You can both say something if you like. There used to be priests who would offer you some words of comfort and say something pretty, but Uncle Hevtos will listen if you speak his name and ask him nicely. Saying good things about the dead and leaving out the bad parts is the polite thing to do when you do that.”


Edun managed a laugh despite his tears and gave her an exasperated look. 


“I’m not good at priesting.” She sounded slightly defensive and it took effort not to smile.


“I think…” Mylena straightened and squeezed the boy who still had his arms around her. “I think we’ll wait until you’re done and have left before we say a few things. That seems…” she looked down at Edun, “private.”


Syreilla nodded, “I understand. I’ll go start getting the horses and wagon together.” 


He started to follow her but made the mistake of glancing back at Odos, who jerked his finger toward the pile of dirt that needed to be moved. The older man gave him the shovel and stopped to speak quietly to Mylena and Edun before following Syreilla.



© 2021 Isemay


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Added on February 1, 2021
Last Updated on February 1, 2021
Tags: thief, dwarf, elf, dragon, gods

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Isemay

Germany



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Spent some time away from here but I've come back to peek in and post again! Review my writing and I will gladly return the favor! I love reading other people's stories, and I try to review hone.. more..

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A Chapter by Isemay


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A Chapter by Isemay