So this is where anyone who reads this blog glares at me and says, “Where the frak are your updates?!”
I look back at them, wide-eyed, and say, “Well, there was this thing where I was sort of taken on an unexpected holiday” (not a euphemism for anything dreadful, this is literally what happened; one minute I was happily scribbling and the next, pow! Wales!) “and then lost my Net connection.”
Lo! The sort-of-average daughter returns!
J is for Justice / Judgement
Melinda has no idea what is awaiting her if – she wants to say when, but she is too aware of her own situation to do so – she dies. She has come too far to believe in any sort of simple answer – any sort of hell or heaven or purgatory – but she hopes the others (List, Mary, all the people she’s left behind to get here) will find… something. Some semblance of peace.
Sometimes she lights a candle, for those that have passed It’s good practice.
She has lit far too many candles in her time.
K is for Kill
Her hands are trembling.
It’s the firs thing she notices. She’s standing in a pool of blood, and what she notices is that her hands are shaking. You see, normally she’d be far more aware of the man – her former master – lying at her feet. The blood is his.
There’s importance in blood. Life force life magic. Yet she’s never spilt it in quite this way before – expected to in battle, perhaps, in some way with at least a little honour, not in a quick graceless strike relying on deception. The taste of her first kill is still on her tongue, and it is bitter.
L is for Lethe
Someday, she will find the waters of the Lethe, and she will drink deeply.
M is for Martin
Martin is the healer’s son, and his duties involve watching the patients for signs of chill and shock; giving the herbs his mother has prescribed; and making sure they won’t turn violent. He’s strong – though loathe to admit it – and as kind as he can possibly can be when confronted with his sneering mother. He tries. (His hands constantly smell of herbs; his sleep is constantly disrupted due to his mother calling him out for night watch. He tries.)
“Still no wife, eh?” Her customary greeting. He laughs with too much bitterness in the sound as he ducks into the tent.
Swordswoman. He originally thought the word a mistake, or said in jest, but when his eyes settle on the newest patient, he realises that it is indeed a woman lying battered and blood-soaked on the cot, wearing pieced-together armour – leather and some chain.
When she opens her eyes in shock as he is dressing her wounds, her irises are older than his will ever be. For all their beauty something in them makes her terrifying and pitiful at the same time. He reaches out in more ways than one, an apple in his hand. She takes it, her eyes flickering up to meet his.
The keystone of the bridge is lain down.
“You remind me of someone I used to know, now and again,” Melinda reflects.
“Huh?” List manages, through a mouthful of apple.
“Just flashes of it, sometimes.” A small, contented smile plays on her lips, her eyes on the wall but also somewhere miles away, centuries ago. “He was strong. Stubborn. He had a way with people and with words, and he could never see his own potential.” She laughs, with a slight shake of her head. “I miss him.”
“Miss him or” – List raises an eyebrow – “miss him?”
A pause. “The latter, if you must know. He made me the happiest I’d been for a very long time, and I… cared for him.” She turns her gaze back to her paperwork. “Very much.”
List pauses in his crunching, swallowing before asking, “What happened to him?”
“In the end?” Melinda raises her head, meets his eye. “He died.”
“I’m sor – “
Melinda shakes her head, holds up a hand to halt him. “The thing about humans is that they are, ultimately, fleeting.” She smiles brightly at him and sees his surprise at the unreservedness, the lack of bitterness in the sweetness if it. “But aren’t they beautiful before they go?”
List thinks that over, and then shrugs. “I s’pose. But does that really… y’know, make up for losing him?”
“He was ready. He was happy, and I found that I was as well.” She steeples her fingers on the desk, looks down at them. “Far better people have had worse.”
List’s voice is tentative as he asks, “Would you change it? If you could?”
Her serenity is unbroken. “There is nothing to change. It was short, in the grand scheme of things, but it was enough.” She looks over his shoulder, to the door, then back to him. “I’m afraid I have accounts to deal with. Dreadfully boring; there’s not a thing in the pile worth staying for.” She smiles at him, but it’s smaller and the brokenness has returned to it.
He takes his cue. Nodding, he unfolds himself from the chair and exits the office. He closes the door, exhales a breath and smiles at Mary, heading to her desk and asking her how her day’s been. All the while he’s turning things over in his head, waiting for Melinda’s words to make sense.