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Oct 14, 2019 2:21 AM
we're not sorry

She cries for a very long time, until her head throbs and her mouth is dry and every muscle in her body aches from the wracking sobs.

There's no reason to stop any sooner. She has forever.

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When she finally has no more crying left in her, she sits on the edge of the river, face a mess of tears, and thinks.

There is a plain of dreamless sleep, for those who want it.

There is drowning in the river.

She has no right to ask Elantine for favors. Not now, of all times. She could drown herself, maybe, but -- he'd protested, at the end. It would be cruelty, still, to lay her final ending on his shoulders.

Nine years, it seems, were not enough. She has to go on.


She unpins the beautiful pins. She unwinds the starry fabric from her body.

There's smooth rocks, here by the river, lovely as the cairn of that little boy so long ago. She wraps the fabric around a handful, tucks the pins neatly in.

Don't think me ungrateful, my lord, she prays to Aton, holding the little bundle as she stands naked on the riverbank. They're very beautiful. But they're not mine to keep, and I don't know how else to give them back.

She tosses them in. They sink quickly out of her view in the dark waters of the river.


The only thing left on her body is the bracelet. She twists it, thinking, crying.

She was allowed to keep it, for a time. Because he trusted her. Because he trusted her enough to let her carry a weapon that could harm him--


She almost doesn't expect it to work, when she summons the blade. But it does.


Cutting off her own hand is harder than she expected, and she didn't exactly expect it to be easy.

It needs so much force. She can't get it in one blow, and after the first she knows exactly how much each subsequent attempt will hurt. She screams, she cries, she bleeds everywhere, she holds her breath and keeps trying, trying, trying, throwing herself into the pain.

For a little while, she hurts too much to grieve.

When the hand finally comes off, she manages to throw hand and bracelet and sword alike into the river before she passes out there on the sand.


When she wakes up, she's tucked into a feather bed, in a room with heavy curtains drawn over the window.

Her arm is bandaged carefully at the end, and there's something scrawled on the cloth in ink.


Kamila wishes her sister were here to read it for her, just for a moment, before desperately unwishing that.

After struggling with the letters for a minute, she gets up -- steadies herself, with her good hand -- goes to try to find her hosts.


There's a staircase in this house – at the bottom, there's a young, dark-skinned woman in a tight braid and bright purple clothes.

"I've never seen anyone lose pieces between the river and here," she observes, portioning out fried potatoes into bowls.


"It was on purpose. -- Thank you for fixing me up, ma'am."



She mixes cheese in with the potatoes, sprinkles on some kind of spice.

"I like medicine. It's not usually very useful here."


"People don't -- have accidents, injure themselves?"


"All the time. But the Lord fixes it if you ask."

She holds a bowl out towards Kamila.


"Thank you, ma'am."

She takes it, eats mechanically. Maybe you can starve, here, but she's already decided not to kill herself.


She puts a bite in her own mouth, watches Kamila.

(It's incredibly rich food, full of salt and fat and spices.)

"You could fix it right now, even. It's just a prayer."


It's a lot to stomach; she manages not to make a face, but she's not eating more than a few bites or she'll be sick.

"Like I said, it was on purpose."


She nods.

"There's some like that."

She takes a slightly too large bite of potatoes. It takes her a moment to swallow.

"...I'm not so good at showing people around. But I could try it."


"You've done enough already, ma'am. But thank you."

She sets down the bowl. "You'll forgive me if I leave already? I'm afraid I'm not very good company right now."


She nods, and after a moment of consideration, waves slightly.

"Come back if something else needs fixing," she says.


"I will, ma'am. Thank you again."

She goes out softly, naked as she came in. She really can't bring herself to care.


The afterlife, she finds, is ... quiet. Or it can be. She's not exactly seeking out company.

When she's hungry, she can find branches heavy with fruit, bushes lush with berries, without ever needing to walk far; most of them she's never tasted before. (She scarcely tastes them now. But she eats, because it's the right thing to do.) When she's tired, there's grassy hillocks, clovered vales, beds of pine needles springy beneath their trees. The breeze blows chill, sometimes, but never bitterly cold.

People talk to her, sometimes, when they see her. They're mostly kind. She tries hard to find smiles for the kindest ones, but extracts herself as quickly as she can.

Someday she'll have to try to be -- human, again. Someday her sisters will grow old and die, and they need to find her close enough to whole that it won't frighten them. But, the gods willing, she has a long time still.


She prays, sometimes.

Not to Elantine. Never to Elantine. She doesn't have any right -- and it's not as if a god can tell her to go away and never pray to him again, so she has to do it herself.

To Aton, she prays often.

At first, it's mostly thank you, and I'm sorry. Every time she wakes up, every time she goes to sleep, before every bite of every meal she makes herself eat -- thank you. I'm sorry.

Sometimes, when she wakes crying in the dark, the prayers are -- the same, but longer. Thank you for keeping him safe from me. Thank you for making sure the right thing was done. Thank you for succeeding where I failed. I'm sorry.


Over time ... she doesn't recover, really, but she settles into the grief. She makes little offerings to Aton: a perfect peach, a spray of buds, a pair of shoes someone pressed on her. At first she just drops them in the river; over time, she learns to make little ships out of birchbark, sets them afloat on those.

(She never stays to watch them sink.)

I miss you, my lord, she prays to Aton, lying on her back by the river and watching the stars. I'm glad I got to speak to you, one last time, even if that's selfish of me. I'm sorry to have hurt you so much. I wish I'd had more to give than what I did.

I'm going to try to be good here, once my sisters come. I don't think that's very long, as you count it. I don't expect you to be proud of me, but I want to be someone you could be proud of.

Thank you for carrying me, that last time. It was awful that you had to, and I'm sorry. But thank you.

I don't ask you to forgive me, not when I can't take back any of the words I said. But I hope you will, someday, even if I'm long gone by then. Not as my god, but as my friend. I think we were friends, once, at least. Maybe that's presumption. I'm sorry.

I miss you.


She prays to the Wright, sometimes, too. She doesn't know if he can hear her, here, but ... if any god besides the gods of death can hear voices here, surely it's Wanders-In-Strange-Lands.

Am I bothering you, sir? Sorry if this is weird. I don't know you very well. I'm just ... lonely.

If you're listening, I wanted you to know that I -- don't want to change you. I didn't -- I had to tell the truth, I couldn't promise I'd never want to -- no one even knows what happens to mortals after they move on -- but it was your question and I wanted you to know that I like your forge. It's a good forge. Sir.

-- I'm not trying to make excuses, I promise. It's not -- I don't want to make excuses for it, I don't have any qualifiers for it, I meant it about leaving no stone on stone if I had to.

But only if I had to.

Is it all right if I keep talking to you, sir? I think I count as a wanderer by now. And I'm -- trying not to bother Elantine. -- he probably understands but if he doesn't, if he thinks I'm not praying to him because I'm upset, you could maybe tell him? I'm just trying to -- let Aton keep him safe. As much as I can. Not that I'm ... a threat to him? I hope? But.


I'm sorry about the sword. If it had just been a gift from you I would've kept it. It was a really good sword.

I feel like you'd probably think the hand was cool, at least.


She's very hesitant, the first time she prays to Physis, but she does.

You probably can't even hear me here, Immanence.

I guess I'm just talking to myself like a crazy person now. I'm okay with that.

I haven't seen any possums here. I'll keep looking.

There was a field of poppies the other day. I didn't go near, they belong to a certain god, but I looked at them for a long time. Did I ever thank you for the poppies? They were lovely.

Thank you for the hug, too. I think about it a lot.

It's been a long time since I've had a hug.

Which is my own fault. There are lots of people who would give me hugs. I'm not complaining.

Just. I'm glad the one from you was so good. It's been lasting me.


She doesn't know how long it takes, before she starts praying to the moon. She's not really keeping track of time.

My lord?

Why did you throw in your part?

I don't understand.

Please, I wish I understood.



Of all the gods who could have answered, it's this one.

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