FOREVER KNIGHTS: #3 Forsaking the Vanquished

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Sad Things in the Woods

What’s this?

He caught soft whimpering and the sudden sniff. A child? It has to be.

Why here? He circled the Wake, to get a better view of her high on the jutting rocks edging the water.

Her back was to a massive boulder overlooking her reflection. Legs drawn to her chest under her silver dressing gown. Sobbing softly.

Small. He guessed her age to be around eight.

He crouched next to her, sending stones clicking down into the water.

Gasping at the sudden presence, she blinked blearily.

He met her look until she averted her attention back to the glistening pool.

Her gaze occasionally trailed the movement of a bubble floating onto the grass.

It isn’t safe for you alone out here. Following her view, he was silent. Feeling when her eyes flicked back to him.

“Who’re you?” She finally blurted.

“Alazareth.” He slid his feet over the edge of the rock and dropped to sit next to her. Boots scraping the stone.

“Al-az-reth?” She said slowly, the word catching on her tongue.

Close enough.

“Alazar.” He corrected.

“Why-why are you here?” Her voice was tiny.

Good question.

Stunned at the abrupt directness of the little girl, he reassessed her age. I’d not thought her over seven or eight. The way she talks she’s a bit older than that.

She was understandably eying him warily.

Children usually steer clear of me. He knew how he looked. A formidable presence over six foot. Cropped blonde hair windblown and sticking out. His turquoise eyes would look gray in this dim light, making him seem harder. His simple clothing, complete with dagger on hip, made it obvious he didn’t live peacefully. A fact reflected in the scars crossing his forearms and one winding from his lower lip to the edge of his chin.

I don’t know how to speak to children. Thusly, he could figure no way to explain to her the danger of the creature that’d been watching her. Deciding against worrying her, he rose to go.

She stared up at him with impossibly huge eyes. Now filling with tears.

He hesitated. Don’t do that.

Silent trails coursed over her round cheeks.

Damn it.

“W-would you sit with me awhile?” She gestured to where he’d been.

Still debating leaving, he studied the tear-stained face and renewed hope in her eyes.

“Of course.” He sighed, rewarded by a bright smile.

As they spoke, he was surprised at her intelligence. Very small to have so much knowledge.

As the sun lowered, he looked at her. “Alright, you should probably return home. I’m sure someone worries for you.”

Her face fell. “Okay.”

The following morning, he went to the pond to make sure the little girl wasn’t there alone.

Good. A rustle stopped him from leaving. His shoulders slumped and he slowly turned back as she came through the trees packing some small thing.

“You are here.” She whimpered. “I hoped you would be. Look what I did!”

Craning his neck, he noticed what looked very much like a fluff of cotton clutched in her hands. As she drew close, he registered it was a skinny, very still, squirrel.

Her bottom lip quivered.

Not that. He groaned inwardly. What does she cry for now?

“I killed it!” She blurted.

Involuntarily spewing a rough laugh, he covered it with a cough. “You did no such thing. What happened?”

“I was running here. It ran out in front of me,” She sobbed than stared down. “It looked at me and just...just...” She lifted it higher for his inspection as if the mere sight clarified everything.

He vaguely noticed the smattering of bruises on her face but dismissed them. Likely child’s play.

He crouched to her height. “You merely startled it. Slight animals scare easily. No fault of yours.” Lifting the squirrel’s limp head, he eyed it. Letting it drop he finished, “No fault of yours.”

Things die. It is what it is.

Her eyes were doubtful as tears slipped out to stream her cheeks.

Why with the always crying? He frowned.

Something long still in him, jerked. A piece he’d thought dead. Compassion? Biting his cheek, he considered doing the forbidden. He sighed.

Not our place to alter nature. He reminded himself.

But this was an accident. A niggling voice argued.

Grunting, he gently took the diminutive thing from her trembling hands. “Mayhap we can wake it.”

“Really?” She asked hopefully, eyes wide.

“Close your eyes.”

She did. But couldn’t wait for him to tell her to open them. Popping them wide too soon, she saw what he’d not intended her to. Birds chirped cheerfully overhead and a bright sun drizzled through treetops. Casting her in a warm glow and reflecting in her large green eyes as that light was summoned to Alazareth’s forearms. Travelling to his hands and spreading from them in twining silver currents. One hand cupped the little animal while the other hovered over it. Silver flakes floating between and showering the squirrel.

Wake. He whispered into its mind.

Finally, the animal’s little nose twitched once. Then twice.

Seeing Alazar turn toward her, she slammed her eyes shut.

She was watching me. He groaned inwardly.

“Open them.” He directed. Unfooled by her pretense of not looking.

The downy squirrel sat in his palm blinking at her.

Squealing, she reached a tentative hand to touch it. Pure joy glistening on her face as her tears dried.

It tensed as she caressed down its back. Shimmering petals poured from its fur through her fingertips. She watched them fade before hitting the ground. Opening her mouth to ask, she quieted as his solemn voice rose.

“Remember, Riaura, it’ll not always be. Often when things go, they must stay gone.”

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