Part Eighteen in the Blood and Lies series
Part One: Blood and Lies (pt. 1)
Part Two: Blood and Lies (pt. 2)
Part Three: Blood and Lies (pt. 3)
Part Four: Blood and Lies (pt. 4)
Part Five: Blood and Lies (pt. 5)
Part Six: Blood and Lies (pt. 6)
Part Seven: Blood and Lies (pt. 7)
Part Eight: Blood and Lies (pt. 8)
Part Nine: Blood and Lies (pt. 9)
Part Ten: Blood and Lies (pt. 10)
Part Eleven: Blood and Lies (pt. 11)
Part Twelve: Blood and Lies (pt. 12)
Part Thirteen: Blood and Lies (pt. 13)
Part Fourteen: Blood and Lies (pt. 14)
Part Fifteen: Blood and Lies (pt. 15)
Part Sixteen: Blood and Lies (pt. 16)
Part Seventeen: Blood and Lies (pt. 17)
Verumalleus’ funeral is held later the same day. With Telfor and Vahkragg awake and able to stand they insist, before the body can further decay. The ceremony is attended by all the people of the village, honouring the sacrifice she made to defend them. Zsófia presides over the funeral first showing knowledge of the traditional sacraments to Atyx, cremating the body on a pyre that will burn until twilight. As the sun sets and the hour of passage begins Pan and Telfor speak to her memory over the embers of the dying flame. Telling of her bravery and compassion so the gods may be reminded of her virtues and bless her judgement.
Afterwards Zsófia takes those who knew Veru aside, privately instructing them in the rites of the Wild God. To allow her soul safe passage from His forest without becoming Anathema they sacrificing a pig, given by the villagers, as payment. The rite is short and bloody, Vahkragg and Telfor holding the pig in place so Pan can slit its throat with a bone knife. Growing suddenly dark and towering Zsófia becomes a vessel for The Wild God as the blood spurts from the wound, opening her mouth impossibly wide the blood is sucked through the air into the maw that becomes of her mouth.
The last of the blood drains from the pig, and the Wild God departs Zsófia. The priestess collapses shuddering to her knees, vomiting dark clots of blood onto the dirt. Rubin was nowhere to be seen.
Midnight rises and the waxing moon shines its light upon the ashen remnants of the funeral pyre. While the village sleeps, Rubin stands in solemn introspection alone by where Verumalleus has been cremated. Since the confrontation with Zsófia he has avoided the others waiting for a private moment to pay his respects.
“I’m sorry I was here for your funeral, There was something I needed to do.” he explains quietly to the empty night, “I messed up. I never expected I’d have to do this without you. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to without your guidance. God’s I hope I made the right choice. I’ll see this through to the end, rest well and leave the rest to us.”
The air crackles with power. Placing a palm on the earth the fire had burned, the electricity in the air is drawn into him and dissipates into the ground. He stands and bows his head one last time before turning to walk away. In the spot he had touched the soil a tiny shoot of green breaks free of the soil.
“Since ye’ll be stayin’ a mite longer ‘an expected, ye’ll be gettin’ ter meet me son an’ t’other hunters,” Jacob tells Pan while they are working the field. Vahkragg and Telfor are helping Aria with less less physically strenuous activities, while Rubin shares knowledge with the children and entertaining them with magic. The village fields are small so there is plenty of time for talking while they work, which Jacob is happy to take advantage of, “Aria an’ me ‘ave just the one child. Jack. Luke, who you met before, is our grandson. Jack’s a good boy, better now he has Aubrey to keep him in line.”
Pan wipes sweat from his brow, blisters from the hoe already forming in his palm. No soft city dweller, the revenant is a little surprised by how tiring the farm work feels while the much older Jacob hardly seems to notice the work.
Listening to the old man talking about his home had taught Pan a fair amount about life this far out into the kingdom. Hunting villages like this one are rare in the kingdom these days, agricultural advances have largely made the practice obsolete except for niche markets like fur and bone. The magic of the black forest prevents the villagers from ever being able to clear enough land to safely rely on farming for their needs. At the same time the magic of the forest spawns monsters enough to threaten the villages safety without regular hunts. The culture of the village as a result is very tight knit, men and women join their first hunts as soon as they were judged capable and would regularly travel out until their age slowed them enough to endanger the group. Hunters succumbed to the dangers of the forest, enough that there was a cultural acceptance of death as simply a part of life and the purpose of funerals was to celebrate life rather than mourn passing.
Life here was unusual to Pan who had spent most of his life within the civilised lands of the kingdom, but it was not unpleasant. The old man’s pride in describing his home and family helped with the sorrow he felt.
“What about you, boy? Ye’ got a fam’ly waitin’ fer ye’ back home?”
“No, I’ve never had the time to start one,” Pan answers, the kind genuine interest from the old man into his history feels a novelty compared to the hard questions he’s used to regarding his condition, “Served in the northern bulwark for most of my youth, til I died in duty. I was one of the ones who got back up with his mind intact. There’s not a lot of procedure for people like me so they quietly discharged me and I took up with Telfor and Vahkragg’s offer to turn merc so I could get away from that place. Since then it’s been hard to find a girl willing to look past that, especially when we’re on the road so often.”
“Ah’m sorry t’hear tha’ lad,” Jacob answers conveying offence had not his intention with the softness of his words, switching back to his positive banter he continues, “Still, hard worker like you, Ah’m sure ye’ won’ be lookin’ too long when y’set yer mind to et. Lass might even catch yer eye here once the hunters are home.”
Pan laughs, remembering Veru’s smile and quietly dismissing the old man’s encouragement.
Whoops! Just realised I totally forgot about Jacob’s accent at some point in the previous stories, rookie mistake.
Also the Sonata in Red series will be having a brief intermission, I feel like it’s reached a nice cliff-hanger and I want to let it hang for a short period and use the time to shake things up a little with some quick explorative short stories.