Kinslayer Chronicle Part 16
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and New Year. So wraps up the last of 2013 and I can’t think of any better way to see out the year than with the final chapter of the Kinslayer Chronicle. Yes, you heard me right, this is the last one. I hope and wish everyone had a celebratory winter break and got all they wanted and more with their loved ones.
Chapter 14 – The Finale
“And that’s what I learned,” Lafnis said.
She came to a stop at the edge of the Naupstern woods. The trees still crawled down the craggy hills but sporadically now. Few farmsteads tried to dig ferns from the blasted rock and the cold Janogradt winds pulled at their clothes. The Chronicler shivered beneath his cowl.
“Sounds like a thrilling tale,” he finally said.
“Well, you know how the bards are,” Lafnis shrugged. “I’m sure they have much better flourish. I’m no storyteller.”
“Nor bar maid.”
She didn’t retort. Her face looked tired and her eyes distant. She turned to the land and stared at the distant horizon.
“I suppose you are right, scribe.”
“So, what are you then?”
“What are any of us? A wanderer and a traveller. Perhaps, even, a little lost and looking for my own way. I’m no hero or villain. Just a simple woman.”
And in that moment she unclasped her cloak and handed it to him. The Chronicler looked at it with wide eyes and shook his head.
“Please,” she said, “it will be cold and there’s no use in you getting ill. I have another back at the inn.”
And she pressed it forcibly into his hands.
It was still warm to the touch. With reluctance, the Chronicler wrapped it about his shoulders. The fabric was heavy on his weary body but he couldn’t deny that it held the insufferable weather of that kingdom at bay. He couldn’t help but feel a little more comfortable and a little more safe.
“It’s really I who should thank you,” she said.
And he looked at her quizzically.
“You’ve made it clear that it’s time I moved on myself. My business in Talarheim is concluded.”
“What will you do now?”
“I don’t rightly know. What of you?”
“I shall head back to my quarters. My brothers will probably enjoy the story I bring to them. Most thought it foolish to seek the Kinslayer. Many don’t even believe him to be alive. I suppose this will lend credence to those accusations. It pains me to return home empty handed but maybe I can discover a new lead from my chapter’s monastery.”
“Ah, to return home.”
Once again, she looked wistfully over the horizon.
“Will you never return to yours?”
“I have few fond memories of it,” she sighed. “I do not think there is a place for me there.”
“And what fondness do you hold for it?”
“Well,” she thought for a moment. “I want to remember it like I did when I was a child. A small, quiet retreat in a waving sea of heather.”
She gave the Chronicler a smile and gentle bow of her head.
“Meili watch you,” she prayed and began into the trees.
The Chronicler stood, shifting his satchel and mentally preparing for the distance before him. As he his eyes scanned the scrubby, moss swollen earth, the last of her words lingered in the tickling recesses of his mind. A sea of heather couldn’t be found in these blasted lands. His initial impression of her origins must be accurate.
She had to be from the south. And the strange cadence in her voice almost sounded Memnon. Which would explain its confused cadences for they were a people that stretched over many lands. And then he began to think upon the weapon he had seen her with the night they met. And he began to consider her words a little more closely.
And Scarlet Heather did start to strike him as an odd name for a man.
Revelations sometimes dawn later than they should. He turned, his lantern swinging wildly on the staff as he ran quickly down the worn Crossroads. He was panting and sweating after a short while and had to stop, the weight and warmth of the cloak preventing him from making much progress. But he looked about for the young woman. There was no way she had outpaced him this much moving at a leisurely stroll.
As he stood hunched on the road, he couldn’t help but feel the neighbouring farmstead looked awfully familiar. Though there was little to distinguish the homes in Talarheim, this one looked remarkably like the same home he had run into Lafnis only two days prior. It was then wondered what had brought her out that dark evening. He recalled that wicked weapon and how she held it at the ready when she first accosted him.
And the air almost smelled sickly sweet as it rushed from beneath the trunks of the Naupstern Forest.
Taking one careful step after another, he moved from the road and towards the tree line. His fingers tightened about the length of his staff. His muscles tensed with worry. He could almost feel invisible eyes watching him from the deepening shadows and his heart held its peace as he took shallow breaths. Only the faintest footprints remained in the soft moss. It took much effort to follow them as they wove away from the tumbled road and away from any witness. The hill began to rise as the smell of decay grew more potent.
And then he caught sight of the tumbled stones. The ghostly visage of some faded hero stared up from the severed head that lay in the clutching weeds. The ancient monuments of a people long past barely struggled for air beneath the soft green carpet of the woods. Like great humps were those ancient stones, lying on their sides with furry green ferns and mosses hiding their skin. The remnants of an older stone circle than the one in Talarheim took vague shape. Even the trees seemed to respect the small hilltop, creating a short break in the woods. He paused on the outer limits, turning to see the stretching plains visible above the sharpened tops of the trees below.
Steeling his nerves, he braved rounding the single remaining stone standing in the centre.
Strapped to its front were charred remains. The cold remains of a long dead fire lay disintegrating beneath the charred feet. Neatly folded and laying upon a small mound to the side were the wet and prickled clothes. Leaves from the storm stuck from the cloth in every angle. Reaching carefully, the Chronicler sifted through the folds. The pockets had been emptied but tucked in the recesses of the shirt was a solitary piece of paper. He unfolded it and held it to the sun.
He was not expecting to see the face of Kodie sketched upon it. A list of crimes were scribbled in the margins but none of them were attributed to the Scarlet Heather. Most appeared to be rather harmless, with chief amongst them being the abandonment of time owed to a slaving merchant. There were other references to the releasing of unsold slaves and theft of property.
And he recalled her words.
“Even the greatest hero is just a man – nothing more and nothing less.”
The Chronicler began to believe one rumour about Scarlet Heather.