by thefourpartland

This is an excerpt from the new material written for NaNoWriMo, and is a short scene between Tarranau and his wife, Ceinder. Also, as always, SPOILERS ABOUND.

The work of cutting through the forest went on unabated, day by slow day, as the army of Hálsiend dragged itself closer to the seashore and to Hádsw?pa, the small town from which Þracian’s assault had been launched. There was little in the way of entertainment, and at any one time perhaps a tenth of the army was engaged in hunting, foraging, and scouting. The humans and the airmages regularly lead those excursions, as their ability to pierce the trees with their magical sight allowed them unique advantages when hunting for game. As did their ability to bring down the game at a great distance. Still, it was dull, tiring work when it came down to it, and they would return to their tents at the end of a day to find they had moved but a mile or two, still in terrain that was beaten muddy by the passage of so many claws.

Tarranau was busy cleaning his armour, as best he could in the circumstances, when Ceinder came to sit by his side. They remained quiet for some time, until the watermage broke the silence.

“I still wonder about Ddif and Fyn. About whether I could have saved one of them, or both. I don’t think I’ll ever stop wondering, either. I think it’ll be one of those memories that just stays around, all through my life.” He paused, before continuing. “Have you ever noticed how our failures dog our steps, and our successes flit away on the wind? It’s like that damn incident at the mines. I killed miners, innocents, but I saved you, saved my friends. But I never remember that, I just remember the faces of those I killed, the aftermath of my actions.”

“Tarranau, if you’re going to turn into that mopey sot who nearly got murdered because he was too drunk to defend himself, I’m going to kick your ass from one end of the campground to the other.”

Despite his mood, the watermage chuckled. “No, no, I’m well beyond that. I hope, anyway. I just wish my successes were what came to the fore when I thought about something, rather than my failures. I have to live with the absence of my friends every day, knowing I can never see them again. I don’t want to dream about it as well.”

“Then don’t. You’re worrying about one of the things you can change. Why do you think Á?ðan is compulsively happy all the time? Because of his perspective on life, on his view that everything, no matter how trivial or dangerous, is a new adventure for him to explore. There’s always something over that horizon, and it’s rushing up to meet him. He’s looking to the future. You’re looking to the past. The past is dead and gone, immutable. You can’t unsay words, undo actions, so give them a rude gesture and turn towards the rising sun.”

“You know, you always have the right things to say to cheer me up.” Tarranau wrapped an arm around his wife’s shoulders.

“Yes, I also remember having to tell you to marry me.”

“Hey now, I asked you.”

“After I’d given you the kind of hints even a toddler could understand.”

“The kind of hints that involved the words ‘I’m coming with you’. You didn’t really go for subtly, dear.”

“I didn’t want to have to wait the rest of my life.”

“I’m so glad you treasure my intellect.”

“Your intellect, yes. Your common sense wandered off when you were a small boy and never came back.”

“And yours didn’t? I at least have the excuse I was being forced to come over the mountains to Læccan. You volunteered for it.”

“I had my reasons. Even if most of them involved an oaf.”

“There you go with the flattery again.”

“If you like, I have a whole list stored away against those times I might need it.”

“I think I could do without you trying to sweet talk me any more, my dear.”

“Good, because I think there are other things to do aside from talk.” So saying, Ceinder pulled her husband to her feet and led him away.


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