Ander - Part 5: Subchapter 77

Story by Contrast on SoFurry

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He looked at her hand for a very, very long time. They had dropped her in a ditch overgrown with bushes, and her hand was sticking out of the brambles, as if asking a kindly passer-by to help her back up.

Dorin was afraid of what he would find if he parted those bushes. That single hand with its silent request was bad enough, but attached to that hand, somewhere underneath the snow-covered leaves, was the rest of Lana.

The last thing. The very last thing. You have to do this.

Dorin reached out and pushed the branches aside, steeling himself for the horror he would unveil.

She... wasn't that bad, actually. It was the middle of winter, so there were no flies, no ants, no bugs of any kind, and she'd only been dead for a single day, so she didn't have enough time to develop an odour yet.

Some merciful soul had closed her eyes. If it wasn't for the dry blood on her clothes she might have been sleeping.

Sleeping in the snow.

Dorin swallowed the lump in his throat. "Hey, Lana," he said. He knew it was terribly macabre of him, speaking to a corpse, but there were some things that needed to be said, even if it was far too late to say them. "I know you hate me, and I don't blame you. I know you wish me dead, and believe me, you're not the only one. I know you don't want me to touch you, but..." He sniffed and angrily wiped away his tears. "Danado should be the one doing this, but he's not here. He could have killed me last night, but he chose not to. He chose to keep his promise to you instead, and that means I wouldn't be here if it weren't for him. So instead of thinking of it as me, think of it as your brother doing the deed through me, if that makes any sense. I know it's not ideal, but it's the only way. I made him a promise. I don't think he knows I was being serious, but I just -"

Dorin rubbed his forearm across his face. What was he even doing out here? What difference did this make?

It's the last thing. The last thing.

"Come on, Lana. If we hurry, maybe we can set you free before he crosses over. Maybe you can see each other one last time. It's not much, it's barely anything at all, but it's all I can do."

He picked her up (she was surprisingly light), and carried her deeper into the woods. Maybe it was just his imagination, but it felt like she knew what he was trying to do. It was probably just his own guilty conscience trying to impose emotion on an emotionless thing, but a part of him believed that maybe, if she really did know and understand, she wouldn't hate him as much as he hated himself. Maybe she'd even be thankful.

A weak laugh escaped his lips in a plume of mist. "Yeah, right..."

He looked down at the she-wolf in his arms. There was no mist coming from her mouth, and there never would be. But still...

She looked peaceful.

"Just a little further," he whispered. "And then we can both rest."


It wasn't the biggest or the grandest pyre ever built, but it would get the job done. Dorin lay her down on the construction, taking extra care to make sure there were no twigs or sharp bits of wood digging into her back.

He stepped back and looked up at the sky. They were in a small clearing, and the heavens were clearly visible. The air was still, and there were no clouds to get in her way.

This was normally the part where Shekka would invite friends and family to speak, to say their final goodbyes before the pyre was lit. But he wasn't her family, and he wasn't her friend.

He was her murderer.

"I don't think there's anything I can say you'd want to hear," he said, "but I spoke to your brother, and I think you should know what he said to me. I think his words weren't even really meant for me, but for you, so..." Dorin took a deep breath and began. "You were his big sister. You were the one who looked after him when your parents died. You slapped him on the back when he was feeling sad, and made stupid jokes when he was happy. You taught him how to shoot a bow. You showed him how to prepare a piece of meat just right. He was able to bear living inside the walls because you made it bearable. He was never alone, because you were always there for him, no matter what. Sometimes you snored, and sometimes you burnt the food, but you were his sister, and he loved you more than anything. I took you away from him, and... I'm sorry..." He didn't bother wiping away his tears anymore. He just let them fall. "I know it's too late, but I'm sorry!" He fell to his knees, covered his eyes, and cried. This was no way for the head of the warriors to behave, but he didn't care. "I'm sorry I hurt your brother! I'm sorry I cut out his claws! I'm sorry I killed you! You should have gone after me! I was the one who did it all! I'm sorry, Lana! I'm so sorry!"

He didn't know how long he sat there. Long enough for his knees to burn, at any rate. He lowered his hands. She was still there, waiting patiently.

"I guess it's time, huh?" he said and rubbed his nose, wiping away his sniffles. He took a piece of flint and steel from an inside pocket and struck a flurry of sparks into the kindling. It took a few tries, but it finally lit. The flame was small at first, clinging to the twigs like an infant would cling to its mother, but it soon grew into a roaring fire. The heat washed over him, and Dorin wondered if Lana could feel it, too. He could still see her through the flickering flames, her hands folded neatly over her chest.

"Your brother kept his promise," he said. "He did something I could never do. He showed mercy. You asked him not to become another mindless animal like me, and he was strong enough to do it, because he loved you so much. I was angry, and then I was sad, but I realised it was all for the best. It wouldn't be right of him to break such an important promise. It wouldn't be right for him to bloody his hands as I have. That's why..." Dorin pulled Wardo's knife from his hip pocket. The flames danced in the blade like a curse. It had stayed with him ever since its first taste of blood, and it would stay right here for the last. "I am going to do what he could not. But don't cry for me. My hands are already soaked."

Dorin placed the tip against the left side of his chest, right over his heart, and gripped the hilt tightly with both hands. He closed his eyes and slowly started to lean forward. He could feel the heat of the fire on his face. He could hear it crackling. He could smell the sweet fragrance of burning pine needles.

All he had to do was fall forward, and it would all be over. All he had to do was... fall asleep. Yes, that was a better way to think of it.

It was just falling asleep...

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Ander - Part 6: Subchapter 187

187 Kiana didn't think she had ever been in a formation quite as lopsided as this. She had Hezzi's arm slung over her shoulder, and she, in turn, had her arm slung over Valery's shoulder, whose knees were just about shaking under all the weight. Hezzi...

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Ander - Part 6: Subchapter 186

186 _Vallah! Get down from there before you break your neck!_ _But there's this huge bug up here, Father! You gotta see it! Its fangs are like, this big!_ She held her arms as far apart as they would go to indicate the sheer size of the mystery...

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Ander - Part 6: Subchapter 185

185 A deep, low-pitched creaking noise filled the mill. It was the kind of sound you'd hear right before a tree finally fell to the axe. It was the unnerving groan of wood under strain. Mateo had been pushing his shoulder up against what felt like a...

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