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The Way of the Hunter - Burying Memories (Chapter Thirty-One)

Alya Elvawiel
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It is another gloomy day. The light from the sun is obscured behind a thick blanket of grey clouds, depriving the sodden earth of the warmth of its rays. A light rain is falling, and the rumble of distant thunder holds the promise of another approaching storm.

She stands silently with her cloak pulled tightly around her, water dripping off the rim of her hood, as she ignores the cold rain pelting down mercilessly on them. The few people around her are silent as they focus their attention on a white-haired old man in a priest’s garb, who is droning on about the assurance of hope and salvation in the afterlife.

But lost in her own thoughts, she barely listens.

The last couple of weeks have been difficult for her. She had spent many sleepless nights pacing around the keep, fretting, hoping and praying.

She had been powerless to help in any way, and she hated that feeling of helplessness.

Then, in the end, they had told her that there was nothing more that could be done.

And being the one in charge, it was down to her to make the necessary, and unpleasant, preparations, and she did it all with a heavy feeling in her heart.

She looks up at the slate grey sky. The rain continues to fall incessantly, making the funeral ceremony seem even more depressing.

The priest finishes his sermon, picks up a handful of dirt, and sprinkles it into the open grave.

Then he looks at her expectantly.

She sighs, dreading what she has to do.

But I have to look brave for the troops.

With a deep breath, she steps forward calmly, forcing down the despair that is welling up inside her. Bending down, she scoops up some earth in both hands, the wet soil feeling clammy and sticky in her palms.

As she moves to the edge of the gaping hole in the ground, she spies the wooden coffin at the bottom of the grave, simple and unadorned, with a wreath placed in the centre.

Her composure very nearly crumbles then, as grief clenches her throat. Tilting her head up into the bleak cloudy sky, she has to close her eyes to will away the tears. Icy cold drops of rain sting her cheeks, as they mingle with the hot tears she is fighting to keep at bay.

She feels a gentle hand on her shoulder. She turns to find the white haired priest looking at her, his grey eyes reflecting sympathy and patience.

Take as long as you want, his kind eyes seem to say.

She inhales deeply as she tries to regain her self-control, the fresh scent of rain, grass and damp earth permeating her nostrils.

Then, with renewed determination, she strides right up to the edge of the open grave, holds out her handful of dirt, and slowly lets the soil trickle between her fingers. She watches as the earth speckles the surface of the wooden coffin, marring the simple smoothness of the lid, and she utters a silent prayer.

Her role completed, she steps back as two men with shovels set to work on their grim task. She watches with morbid fascination as they ladle up huge piles of dirt, and toss them rather unceremoniously onto the coffin. The casket slowly disappears beneath the accumulating mound of earth.

She doesn’t notice when everyone else has gone, and continues staring until the grave is completely filled, until the last spade full of soil is patted into place. Then, when even the undertakers have left, she slowly walks towards the freshly filled hole, and kneels down beside the tombstone. Reaching under her cloak, she removes a small bouquet of white lilies, and places them reverently on the grave.

The headstone is no more ornate than the coffin, a simple slab with some words and numbers carved into its face. She gazes sadly at the name on the stone as she feels a rush of guilt.

Fate can be so cruel. They were just starting to connect on some level, and she was just discovering how many things they had in common.

We don’t seem very different at all.

And then this happens.

I’m so sorry it has come to this, she thinks, as she lowers her head. But you will never be forgotten.

You will always have my utmost respect.

She turns at the touch of Bevil’s hand on her arm. The sadness in the lieutenant’s eyes is apparent, and she could see her own grief reflected in them.

“Come along now, Captain,” he urges gently.

There is much to do at the keep.

“Just give me another minute,” she whispers, and Bevil bows understandingly before retreating behind a copse of trees to give her some privacy.

Turning her attention back to the tombstone, she wistfully traces a finger across the name etched into the slab, feeling the cold stone and the indented grooves of the letters under her fingertips.

Then she stands up, and with one final look at the empty grave erected in memory of their missing Knight-Captain, the new Captain of Crossroads Keep, Kana, trudges slowly through the gates of the fortress.

The Way of the Hunter Chapter 31 - Burying Memories © Alya Elvawiel

Migrate Wizard: 
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