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Moving On

Chapter Text

There was a fire in the sky.

 

It was bronze, not quite yellow but not quite brown. The fire was slow, burning its way across the sky, burning everything on the ground. It stained the earth and the dirt and the people, giving everything the tarnished look of an old memory pleasant in nature. Zeredah found this ironic, as the image of broken bodies and steaming barrels laying before her was anything but.

 

She shifted her weight, boots sinking into the mud below her. She looked down, transfixed by the sight of the mud, mixed red with blood and stained bronze by what little light from the fire burned through the gap in the tunnel wall. It clung to her boots as it did the broken bodies in the valley below. She frowned at the sight, then lifted her head once more. The movement was slow, her mind and body too hazy to react quickly to anything around her anymore. She stared out to the mass of twisted corpses and bones before her; once a fierce battle field, now nothing more than a bloody mass grave.

 

13

 

13 bullets

 

13 people

 

She’d fired 13 shots. She wasn’t foolish enough to hope she’d missed; shed been trained too well. Her hands were too steady, her vision too clear, the jerks too timed, the falls too sudden.

 

The kills too clean

 

13

 

12

 

10

 

9

 

7

 

3

 

6 battles

 

54 kills

 

She was just as much a monster as any of her allies. Just as much a monster as her enemies. She wondered if such terms were even allowed to be used by such a monster as she.

 

There was a taste in her mouth, bitter and soft and hard and subtle. She breathed in once again (had she been breathing before? she couldn’t remember. she couldn’t remember anything) and the taste flooded her mouth, overriding the haze that had controlled her (how long had it been there? was there even anything to remember?). She blinked, and turned her attention to her left. She was both surprised and not to see her old mentor standing not four feet away in that damned darkened tarnished bronze tunnel. Two bodies lay between them and she struggled to rack what little presence of brain she had recovered to find the faces belonging to those now faceless corpses beside her. She came up short, only able to remember the black eyes they all shared; that, and the look of hopeless acceptance in them- like a doe caught in a trap who knew she was about to die and had accepted it. Bile rose in her throat, and she snatched a hand away from the barrel of her rifle to slap it over her mouth, mud covering her hands and her face and her boots and her grave like those around her that died and those below that died and those down there she’d killed and whose own face was missing and-

 

‘I won’t turn into that.' She thought desperately, her right hand gripping the gun that had become both her lifeline and her death hard enough to burn.

 

I won’t turn into that

 

I won’t turn into that

 

I won’t turn into that

 

I won’t turn into that

 

I won’t turn-

 

“Hey,” Her head snapped up (when did she lower it?) and ripped her eyes open (when did they close? when? whenwhenwhenwhenwhenwhen) to the sight of her old mentor, stained in bronze, a cigarette between his fingers. Smoke curled from the end, swirling and flowing up into the air; the grey of the smoke a burnished bronze, belonging so firmly in well loved memories that her mind failed to compute when she was (when? where? was there even a difference anymore?)

 

“I don’t smoke.” A memory told her.

 

A younger voice, innocent (too innocent she’s going to die she’s going to be tarnished and stained and burned and ruined by blood and bronze and-) “So why do you smoke then?” (stainedstainedstainedstainedstainedstainedstainedstainedstained)

 

A sharp sound rang, more jagged edge and points than the laughter it was mimicking. “Because either you have something to wake you up, or you never wake up at all.”

 

Two matching sets of black eyes stare back at her: one old, one not. She’s not sure which is the oldest pair. She’s not truly sure she wants to know which it is. Bronzed smoke clouds her memories and eyes and she can’t tell the difference between memory and reality or if there was even a difference (was there ever a difference? isn’t all reality a memory being made as it passes by?)

 

Two sets of lips pucker slightly.

 

Not displeasure, never displeasure.

 

Both sets open. “What’s your name?” She still can’t tell which set it is that speaks; which set it is that’s older. Which set is from her memories? 'I suppose it no longer matters,' she thinks. Then she considers the question. He’s well aware of who she is, he always was. (More memories. Her brother standing proud- awake and alive and there and smiling and it hurts- and there beside him sits a small halfling. Grey skinned and black eyed like them all, but blonde and willowy and small and gorgeous like nothing they’ve ever been. He knows her, she knows him- they clung to what they had when he was gone and all they had was each other because all either had was him). But she’s no longer the same as she was when she was young (young and free and awake and innocent and-). She’d gone to sleep like her brother never wanted; she’d woken up like he’d still taught her to.

 

Zeredah laid dead with those who’s faces were stolen and whom laid in their blood, stolen away to be covered and buried by bloody mud and stained bronzed by that damned fire in the sky. The monster stood above it all, looked down from her hole in the mountain, her hole in the sky. She counted again the deaths she caused. The bodies she’s made. The faces and lives and loves and hopes and dreams she’d stolen and left to rot under the mud.

 

The fire fell from the sky, and everything was rusted with blood and death.

 

“… Persefoni.”

 

Only death remained.