“Are you sure you’ve got him?”
Juno had her arm around that unfathomable Charr, trying to keep him upright as we walked through the snowy paths of Hoelbrak. The hunter’s moon shone brightly above us, bathing us all in her radiant glory. With the light of torches illuminating the way, our world had descended into a gold and silver twilight under the watchful gaze of an eternity of stars.
I hope that I am allowed to write whatever tales may be sung of me. I hope that I become worthy of those tales.
A few steps later, my cousin let out a loud sigh. “Ok, I need to stop. He can barely walk, and you’re not looking too sturdy yourself.”
I laughed as the three of us collapsed on the snow, “What can you expect! Victories remain to be won! Glories to be stolen of the bosom of everlasting Fortune as she yet still conspires against you with the fullness of her might and guile!”
Juno looked over at me with a mixture of emotions that I couldn’t quite place. “Freeze!” She didn’t flinch, she knew this game. As though she had been dipped in ice, her face froze exactly as it was.
I studied it closely for a few moments.
“Ok, I’m ready to try.”
“The first thing I see is exasperation.”
One of the corners of her mouth was pulled tighter.
The corner was slightly upturned.
“Then… is that sadness?”
Her eyebrows were slightly upturned.
We sat a moment in the silence, before we both burst out laughing. “Did I get it right?”
“You know the rules, explain.”
She let out a sigh as the Charr leaned back onto the snow, staring up at the night sky with misty eyes.
“I’m exasperated because he wouldn’t be drunk right now if you hadn’t spiked the first ten drinks you bought him, like you do every time that you take someone drinking. He didn’t want to go, and tomorrow he’s going to be even more difficult to work with because of that.”
“I’m happy because it all feels balanced, somehow. I’ve sat and watched this Charr day and night for almost a week now, and he does nothing but look for ways to run away. If I hadn’t sat at the door the whole time and blocked his way, as soon as he came to he would have marched himself right out into the snow, where he promptly would have died. Tonight, I saw him relax for a single, brief moment.”
I nudged her side to get her attention; she’d been staring at the snow near her feet. She looked up at me.
“I’m also happy to see that you haven’t given up trying. I would have a long time ago.”
I looked away from her for a moment; my perpetual grin stayed looking at her while I let myself be.
“I’m sad because I know you’re being cheated, with every breath you draw. I don’t know why they do what they do to you, but it’s wrong. And I hate watching it.”
I smiled once again as I looked at her. This wasn’t the wide grin that I always wore, nor was it the exultation of victory or kin. It was small, quiet, a secret smile.
“What would I do without you?” I threw my arms around her. I might have heard her stifle a tear.
I knew better than to ask her to freeze.
And then Ayroh started talking, his eyes never leaving the stars he did.
“Where did the first father bury his son?”
Startled, we both looked over at him. He was laying on his back, his arms and legs spread wide across the snow. His dark brown fur was flecked with snow, his black robes the same. His tail flickered back and forth as he spoke, setting a meter to the tale he wove with frosty breath.
“When the land cried out for blood
Satisfied, her hunger was
Precious love, it bore the stain
Of father’s love and mother’s pain”
His four horns were carving deep chasms in the snow as his head moved, gently in tune with the rhythm of his speech.
“Upon the stony ground that died
They fought at first, and then they cried
Passed to life, they did not know
For day to come and night to go”
His misty eyes remained unfocused, I wasn’t even sure if he knew we were there.
“A morning sun of righteousness
Shone upon their emptiness
Firstborn son of dying days
Laid to rest for debt he pays.”
His voice wasn’t as stony as many of the Charr that I had met, it carried the tune with a simplicity that reminded me of the stories my father wielded each night when I was young.
“Last at dawn, they came again
Locked in hands, sinking in
Eyes upon the golden sky
With souls to know the wounds inside.”
Juno sat still, listening with a focus that I hadn’t seen alive in her in a long time. Her face was turned away from me. I couldn’t see what she was feeling.
“When the land cried out for blood
Satisfied, the hunger was
Precious blood, it bore the stain
The day that death laid in its grave.”
She looked over at me as Ayroh’s voice fell silent. A hint of sadness flecked her eyes.
“C’mon, you oaf. I need to get this fool home.”
I smiled as I stood, extending my hand to her as I did. When she took it, I lifted her to her feet. Together, we pulled Ayroh to his as well.
And then we went home.