The Cyneweard

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Part II - Our Common Grave:: 31

Singing. He heard singing.

She was singing again.

She was singing for him now.

Another exhausting day was nearly over. He was one day from his journey to the shadow of Mount Hewn, along the Cracked Plains and Waring Woods where he would spend three torturous weeks. She was singing for him, filling him with courage, leaning her back against her side of the wall, he against his.

When she had finished, he asked, "Will they ever let you out of there?"

He heard her sigh. "I don't know the answer to that. It may be never."

"Impossible. There is no never or forever."

"Is that what your mentor tells you?"

"Yes, and I believe him to be right. Nothing lasts forever and everything will eventually happen. So no such thing as forever and never."

"But you can devote yourself to someone forever," she noted.

He had no answer for her and instead closed his eyes. Cyrus couldn't imagine that level of devotion. He was not quite thirteen and was devoted to very little, even his own family. The Empire, he guessed, was his sole devotion, and even that was forced upon him by his father.

"Cy?" she called in her soft tone.

He grinned. Only she could call him that. "Yeah?"

"How long will you be gone again?"

"Three weeks," he replied, frowning.

"That's quite a while."

"Tell me about it. Master Parton never participated in it but has been told it is the toughest test of anyone our age."

"You'll be safe though, right?"

He shrugged, aware she couldn't see him. "I'm not sure how far they go, to be honest."

"Promise me you'll be safe."

"I'll try. I'm going to try my hardest."

"Can you come over?"

He pushed off the wall and eyed the tree. "Is it safe over there?"

"My nanny is out shopping."

He started to climb. "Give me a moment."

She hugged him the moment he was upright from the drop over. He wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his head on her chest. She was a head and a half taller than he was, but he saw no issue with this.

They pulled away from each other and she gave him a beaming smile. "You've gotten taller."

"So have you," he replied.

Brisa gave him a wink. "Don't worry, you'll catch up soon."

"I hope so."

They both laughed. After a few moments, she hugged him again, holding on to it as she whispered, "Good luck."

"Thanks," he replied just as soft, patting the middle of her back. "I'll make sure I come back a victor."

"Would you like me to sing to you?"

"With me here?" he asked, having never had the pleasure of an upfront melody.

"Yup," she said, her smile radiant. He couldn't help but smile in return.

She began her song and Cyrus found himself lost in his own bliss. He watched her as she vocalized the melody that had crept its way into his heart. It echoed in his head. He hoped it would never leave.

He woke with her lips on his cheek.

"Time to go, Cy," she whispered, her large green eyes locked to his.

Cyrus rubbed at the corners of his eyes and stood, having slouched and fallen to a sitting position against the wall. He yawned. "Sorry," he replied as he stretched away the stiffness in his back. His cheek burned where her lips had touched. He was certain that a bright red blush had enveloped his cheeks.

Her smile was wide. "Not a problem. Glad I could help. Good luck tomorrow."

He nodded to her and they embraced one last time before he vaulted back up the wall.

Cyrus was woken two hours after he had fallen asleep by Master Parton, who had slammed a fist on the young boy's shoulder.

"Quickest way to disarm?" he shouted at Cyrus.

"Remove the offending hand," Cyrus replied, sitting up and pushing back from his mentor.

"Strike the neck where to kill a man in three minutes?"

"Under the hook of the jaw."

"Who is Chevro?"

"Alchemist's idol."

"You have a slugthrower and a dagger. The slugthrower needs reloading. You have an attacker coming right for-"

"Throw the dagger, reload one slug, fire into attacker's head."

"You don't speak the language and you think you're under suspicion."

"Disarm. Run."

"You're being rushed. You have no weapon."

"Grab shoulders, side step, pull down in direction of attacker's rush. Knee to back of neck. Disarm. Kill."

Parton leaned back. "Pick a lock or break the jamb?"

"Pick the lock if you have time. Break door if in hurry."

"Three enemies, one with projectile weapon, one with arrow weapon, one with sword."

"Slugthrower, arrow, sword. In that order."

Parton smiled. "Welcome to the Crucible. Your chariot awaits outside."

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