The Loneliest Traid

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  • Published: 2 Apr 2017
  • Updated: 13 May 2017
  • Status: Complete
Love and death and war and Gods and blood and magic and dancing and rest and revenge and kings and fate.
Don't worry, within these three stories you'll know yourself,
And I will put you back together again.

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87. The Ones who Live Within the Dead

Chene went to the beach first, and didn’t look for Gomez’s corpse just incase that he found it really.  He wasn’t sure if he could see him weaker.  It would ruin his illusion that he had really been the one to die that day, covered in bugs and plague and raining arrows.

    “For me, meet me, and find home.” he sang.  The song was sad, but his tone was sadder, and his mind sadder still.  Outside that realm, his heart was weighed and the beast often walked alongside him now, afraid of stopping Chene with the grief and the power of which he did carry.

    He waited, he sang all night, but no one came to him.

    Gomez was dead, and he knew that there was nothing in this world that could change that.  Now, he had nothing, but years and years to wait.

    He turned from the beach, already hallucinating, his mind clutching onto every shadow and hearing every footstep that might not be there - just praying that he would find his friend in all the empty space between that day and the day he too died.

    Chene had nothing.  There is something very mysterious in having nothing, and most will never feel that.  Didn’t we say already - how can you feel lonely when you know you can walk until your feet give out and you’ll find yourself falling into arms regardless of what you thought?

    So that’s what he did.  Our hero, born to a corpse, raised by mortals that haunt him still, and the boy who walked from his home until he made something of himself walked again, to become a man who’d make nothing of his legacy.

    He thought of walking to the desert cabin.  He could see it now, growing old and dying alone in somewhere where Noom could outlive him in their fireplace, growing fat on honey and jam, milling flour until his bones became brittle.  Maybe he’d walk to the town to sell what he made, and meet the farmer who’d be the only one left who recognised him or knew what he had done.  Or even, if he was brave, he’d see Meliae and the elvish children and he could stay with Gomez that way, in the world he loved, and wait out his life.

    He found the red horse grazing by the bay.  When he gently approached it with food, it ran over to him, ignoring the apple and nuzzling against his shoulder, against Noom, who sparked and snapped happily.  The dragon wrapped itself around the horse’s snout, and licked at its cheeks.

    Chene looked at the golden ribbons around her ears.  “Ruby,” was printed out in fine grey letters.  

    He scoffed, and looked out to sea, where he felt the same small tug at his heart.  He wasn’t sure if Gomez had had a guardian angel, but he thought that he might now.

    He rode back the way he came, the nights passing over his head, the moon so close now, so proud.  The world was dead from this side on, but it was quiet.  He wasn’t sure if the war had ended, or if everyone had just up and gone.  Sometimes, loneliness stops the world from turning, and the faster he rode, the more it felt like starting it again.  He pushed his body until it made sense again, until something was real.  He starved himself to hurt, he tired himself to sleep well.  He was a man waiting for something to happen, and he didn’t know what.

    Noom clicked a little song in her sleep, and he knew the lullabies well by now.  He sang with her, the stars brightening, their attention on him now.

    “For me, meet me, and find home.” he hummed under his breath, the world seeming brighter now with the stars out, the clouds pulling back around him.  Even Mavros seemed kinder now.  

    He stopped outside of the town he recognised as the one by the cabin.  The desert was cold, vacant, and the town more so.  A scattering of buildings with closed doors and closed blinds.  He dismounted and walked through their little village, watching the dead flowers shake their bare heads in the gentle wind.  The canopies above his head dropped sand like stalactites.

    Ruby nudged his arm, but he was stuck in the middle of the town.  There was nothing for him here either, and so he kept walking.  That was what the lost do, if they are truly lost.  Walk, until they find something.  A waypoint, hope, death.

    The town was closer the woods than he had thought, and he found himself against them when he left their gates.  Ruby whined, waking Noom with a start, but he kept walking.  His legs seemed shaky, but he knew this was where the rope was pulling him to.

    The Woods of the Dead were nothing like what they were when he was a child.

    They were alight now, softer, no edges, the death seeming like a passing thing.

    After a while, death starts to seem temporary like that.

    The spiralling trees had names carved into hearts, there were footprints, in pairs.  The air was no longer filled with rot and hot touches.  The air was cool, static, and almost sweet.

    It twisted, no longer his world and the one he knew, but one that opened to the second realm.  It’s land was washed clean, its people turned new.  But he still remembered the slashes he was raised on.  He still felt the world and how dark it had been.  He didn’t want to follow his line any longer, not alone, not if it was bringing him back to face what he had known.

    He stopped, resting his head against Ruby’s neck.  This is what the lost do.  Pray for it.  A waypoint, hope, death.

    The Gods never looked out for him, not the man who gave his life trying, just trying to be good and falling down each time he rose up against the world.  But maybe now, they could hear him, in the light of their eyes, under the stormy Mavros skies, maybe - just for once - they would listen.

    “Hey,”

    He stepped back, pulling his knife from his belt.

    The man didn’t budge, and stepped closer with a look of wonder on his face.  Although the woods were bright and fading, he was real.  He was scarred, and dirty, and real.

    “You look familiar,” he said.  

    “I’ve never seen you before,” Chene barked, the knife hot, hotter, the glow of the world scaring it from his grip.

    “I know,” the man laughed under his breath, shaking his head, disbelieving, “But you look like our leader.  He died, just as the war ended.  But you look just like he did when he was young.”

    Gomez saw how the man didn’t blink at the blade, but only moved closer, and decided to let himself weaken, submit.  If he did die, what would he leave behind?  All it would mean is that he could find Gomez again.  No more waiting.

    The man - a boy, really - was short, stocky, but a print of Chene’s features.  Sharp as a whistle, scratching voice and shining bronze.

    He gleamed at him, “Our leader had a son?”

    “Yeah?”

    “One that was lost before he was born.  His mother died, and she was found, but the infant was stolen by witches.”

    Chene tried to play off how he shuddered, “Really?”

    The boy sat beside him and rooted around in his pockets for something, “Let’s see if I can find it - they named him after an old hero from the great war, she loved the son but our leader…  He killed so many.  Now that he’s dead, we’re looking for someone to lead us.”

    “I’m sorry, I should be going-”

    “Here, here it is!” the boy pulled out a necklace from his pocket, “They left the child with a pendent, maybe you recognize it?”

    Chene sighed, but took the pendant from him.

    His heart stopped and started, reborn again.  This was the pendant he was raised holding when he prayed, the carvings of the tribe the witches swore off.  He had dropped it when he made it out of Mavros.  And here it was again.

For me, meet me, and find home.

“You know it, don’t you?” the boy said, “It must be fate.”

    “This… I still remember it.”

    “You’re Chene,”

    “I am.”

    The boy stood, and took Ruby’s reigns.  Chene followed after him in a dream, his soul stitched together with each word his followed with.

    “You’re the son of the ruler of the Forest of Dead, and if you come with me, you’ll find your family again,” he smiled, “We’ve missed you, sir.”

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