Chapter Thirty-Six: Silent Night

Jonrah had spent some time admiring the tack of his new horse. Well-made, that was for sure, and it was sturdy and yet very comfortable.

Jonrah had at first been reluctant to name this horse; to rename a horse after the original owner lets it go was supposedly bad luck, and that was the last thing Jonrah needed. However, he felt that he was being rude by not dignifying this mighty horse with an identity, and the first name that came to mind was Jasron – the name of Jonrah’s father. However, after a brief examination, Jonrah found that his new steed was a female. Either that, or a male who had been crudely relieved of his manhood.

However, Jonrah concluded that The Eden would likely intent to breed horses, and that the horse that stood before him was a female.

Ellnar had been the name of Jonrah’s mother, who had been a strong woman in life, similar to this horse. She had died only three years after Jasron had, and those three years were the hardest of her life. As strong as she was, she found it hard to cope.

She’d be happy that Jonrah was still thinking of her, even with so many other things to worry about. Maybe she was watching, along with Karlin. Jasron was there too. They were supporting him.

Jonrah had collected wood for a fire, and as he had been searching, picked several berries that he knew were not poisonous, intending to split them between Ellnar and himself. Although Ellnar needed more food, Jonrah had not eaten since leaving Litana, and was absolutely ravenous. Equal shares would have to make do for now.

Berries were plenty, and Jonrah was satisfied before he had finished his share, and so wrapped them in a dry leaf and stored them in a pouch on Ellnar’s saddle, saving them for another time.

The forest was well-sheltered from the elements – the thick layer of leaves above protected the ground below, and so Jonrah had no problem finding wood that was dry enough to make a fire.

With no matches handy, he had to take some time to rub sticks together, eventually creating a small spark that set light to several dry leaves arranged safely in a hand-dug pit.

As the clouds of the day gave way to the stars of the night, and the fire reduced to nothing more than glowing embers scattered amongst ash, Jonrah drifted to sleep for the first time in two days.

Home fills with the smells of Karlin’s cooking. Roast beef, no doubt. A monthly favourite. Hard to come by in Litana.

Descending the stairs, letting the smell wrap him in cosy warmth that only the love of a family can produce, Jonrah finds the familiar setting comforting.

Jodar watches Karlin at the stove, both of them silent. The kitchen is full of love, and although Jonrah’s mind tells him it is not real, his heart tells him it will last forever.

Jonrah opens his mouth to speak, but no words come out. Trying to speak is failing.

As he loses his happy thoughts, Karlin turns to face him, revealing herself for the first time. But it is not Karlin.

Gurden stands before him, only a few metres away, now with Jodar in his arms. With a wicked smile, he says something, but Jonrah is deaf to his words.

The smile widens, and glows a bright orange mixed with yellow. Flames shoot from the mouth, and soon the whole room is engulfed in flames.

Jonrah tried to shout, knowing that if he could only tell Gurden to stop, he would obey. No words reveal themselves.

Gurden and Jodar are reduced to ashes, Jodar crying out, and Gurden laughing, mocking… Only an arm’s length away, but unreachable.

The flames make Jonrah blind to the rest of the room, and as he spins, trying to escape, he is shocked to see Karlin, screaming, jumping towards him, half of her body alight and burning.

Screaming, feeling the sweat cover him from head to toe, Jonrah woke up. Sitting up abruptly, he heard his cry echo through the night.

The fire had burnt out, and his surroundings were silent and dark. Letting his eyes adjust, Jonrah found comfort in the soft breathing of Ellnar, still asleep.

Getting to his feet, he stepped over his armour, which he had removed before resting his head on the dry earth, and found the same tree he had climbed before. With no real effort, but successfully nonetheless, Jonrah found himself at the peak of the tree, looking out over the land.

An orange light told him that Rensh was getting closer. The thousands of lights burning to illuminate the always-awake streets, as if the city was a beating heart, the root of all evil in Crensun, in the entire World.

The towers that were visible even in the dark. The towers that the eagles were circling, some small groups straying from their roosts to spy on the empty ground of the plains.

The Eden were still looking. Jonrah’s goal drifted further and further from his reach.

The End

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