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they're not all courageous stories

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Orym had been fighting battles for many years now, and yet getting hurt still didn't suck any less.

This time it was simply a pack of direwolves that had been pursuing them all in the forest - nothing they couldn't handle, at least so they'd thought, before it was revealed that the pack leader was a rogue druid in disguise, and then the battle turned messy. Fearne targeted the druid while everyone else tried to deal with the dozen or so creatures encircling them. They were vicious, they were cruel, their mistress directing them with an iron fist, and for every swipe of Orym's blade that felled one, two more took its place.

There was blood everywhere, pain filling his every sense, by the time that Opal and Fearne finally felled the druid with a burst of magic, and those direwolves remaining took off in fear of their mistress' death.

The moment they were gone, the moment they were in the clear, Orym did a mental headcount. Everyone was there. Everyone was accounted for.

He groaned and sank to his knees, as Dariax and the others rushed over to him. He felt hot blood running heavily from a deep and ugly wound in his shoulder, where one of the direwolves had latched its teeth into him and refused to let go, dragging him across the battlefield until he finally managed to drive his sword into its gut enough that it let go.

"Hey, hey, you'll be okay," Dariax was saying, but Orym's vision was swimming, his consciousness almost gone.

"Is everyone okay?" he whispered.

He heard Opal scoff.

"Yeah, we're fine, what about you ?"

He let show a pained grin, which turned into a grimace as Dariax's hands clamped down on the wound and a burst of divine energy flooded through his body.  He sighed as the magic chased away the pain and the hole in his chest sewed itself shut, and as the spell concluded he collapsed backwards against a tree in relief.

“Oh!” Dariax’s voice was a welcome sound after the cacophony of the battle before.  “Oh, I, um...I didn’t mean to…”

Orym’s eyes fluttered open and he followed Dariax’s apologetic face towards his chest.  The wound was gone, but in its place was a heavy jagged scar.  Orym lifted his fingers and ran them across the raised bump of skin that rested there.

“Sorry, buddy,” Dariax said, wincing.  “I can try and get rid of it later, if you want, but I’m sorta out of spells at the moment.”

Orym smiled up at him.

“It’s okay,” he said, his voice fuller now that the pain was gone.  “It’s not the first one I’ve gotten.”

Opal sat down next to him, her chin on the palm of her hand, eager.

“Ooh, what are the other ones?  Worst I’ve gotten was when my knife slipped and I sliced open my finger.”

Orym straightened up slightly, grateful for the opportunity to breathe without fear of death once again.  The rest of his friends were settling in around him.

“I’ll go get some wood for a fire,” Fy’ra said, before walking further into the forest around them.  Everyone else was clumping together, waiting for Orym to share his many tales of injury at the hands of villains.  He smiled at the ground and shook his head.

“Well, there’s this one,” he said, pointing at the line on the inside of his thigh.  “Don’t engage with spears head on, it’s a bad plan.”

Dariax shifted uncomfortably, tucking his spear behind him.

“And this one’s from a sparring session gone wrong,” he said, gesturing to a small sealed over hole on his shoulder.  “They’re not all courageous stories.”

“What about that one?” Fearne asked, pointing to a patch of roughened skin on his wrist that had now been exposed by Orym’s movements.

Orym laughed. "I actually got that one when Sorin -"

He stopped his words short, dull grief washing over him like a wave.  He hadn’t...he hadn’t thought about him in a while.

“Sorin?” Opal asked.  “Who’s that?”

Orym went to open his mouth, to explain, but found his words dragged down into the void.  The hole where everything “Sorin” ended up.

It had been years.  He thought he was over this.  Thought he wouldn’t needlessly get choked up about even mentioning him.

Everyone was looking at him expectantly.  Orym swallowed hard.

“Sorin…” he began, trying to take things slow.  “He is - ”  He didn’t want to use past tense.  Past tense would make everything real again.  “He’s my husband.”

Opal gasped loudly.

“You have a husband ?” she squealed.  “Why have you never told us, you asshole!  I would have totally not done the whole Nancy thing if I knew you were fucking married .”

“Opal, you would have done the Nancy thing regardless,” Dorian reminded her, and she swatted him away.

“Semantics,” she grumbled.  “Orym, that’s great!  Where does he live?  Is he back in Emon?  Gods, I hope not, I don’t think we can get back in there anytime soon.”

Orym felt overwhelmed, and he struggled for something to say.

“He’s not in Emon,” he said lamely.

“Oh, well that’s good.  Where is he, then?  I totally wanna meet him.”

Dorian seemed to be the only one who had caught onto Orym’s sadness, for his face turned to pity.

“Opal, maybe we shouldn’t - ” he attempted, but Orym cut him off.

“He’s buried just outside of Zephrah, actually,” he said shortly, and he could feel the palpable mood shift.  Opal went quiet with a soft oh .

“It was hard to find good ground for a burial, but we managed,” Orym added, as if it mattered.  He remembered it.  The scouting of plots, the day Sorin had chosen his final resting place, the way Orym had wept into his shoulder as they looked out over Zephrah together.

He remembered it, so it mattered.

“I...I’m sorry,” Opal whispered, and he nudged her slightly, in a silent message of “no harm done”.

Dariax was twiddling his thumbs in an attempt to not look at Orym, but Dorian had no such qualms.  His face was soft, and he outstretched a hand.  Orym took it.

“Can I ask what happened?” he said, voice quiet and gentle.

Orym almost laughed.  What had happened?

He thought telling the story seemed in line with what Sorin would have wanted.

“We were together for a while,” he began.  “The ceremony was quiet.  Our life was quiet.  It was...nice.  A lovely thing, really.”

“You didn’t venture out back then?” Fearne asked in her usual mystically curious way.

Orym let out another soft laugh.

“He didn’t want me risking too much,” he explained.  “So I didn’t.  Instead I stayed on to help the Ashari.  Help him.”

“Did he - ”  Opal seemed to want to finish her thought, but didn’t know how.  “Y’know...get hurt in a battle or something?”

Orym winced.

“Y’know, I almost wish it had been like that,” he said honestly.  “Quick and painless.  A hero’s death.”

“It wasn’t, was it?” Opal’s voice was shaking with the guilt of her comments before.

Orym shook his head slowly.

“We didn’t know what it was, at first.”  He played with the bindings on the hilt of his sword, as an excuse for something to do with his hands.  “He kept getting these stomach aches.  Felt nauseous.  We thought he was just sick.  That the healers could magic it away.”

The early days had been fragile.  Always laughing things off.  Refusing to consider the possibilities.

He remembered waking up in the middle of the night to find Sorin on his hands and knees by the foot of the bed, vomit staining the sheets.  He had been too weak to make it to the bathroom.

Orym took a deep breath.

“When we finally found a healer who could diagnose it, it had already spread past his stomach.”

He felt Opal grab his other hand and squeeze, hard .  The ocean of his grief threatened to swallow him whole, and she felt like his only buoy.

“We tried,” he continued, and now he wasn’t saying these things for anyone in particular, but as a way of coping.  He hadn’t told the story out loud to anyone in years , and somehow telling it was lifting a weight from his shoulders, while simultaneously tearing open a wound that had been festering in the closet of his mind for so long.

It hurt to remember.  But he did it anyway, because these were his friends, and they deserved to know.

“We tried so many things.  But in the end, he just kept getting weaker, and it kept hurting him, until he told me he didn’t want to deal with it all anymore.  So we stopped.”

He remembered feeding Sorin warm soup, freshly made, as he lay in bed, wincing in pain at every movement.

He remembered how badly Sorin just wanted to sit outside.  To watch the Ashari fly by the outcropping where they had made their home.

He remembered making arrangements.  Finding the cemetery.  Discussing what he wanted for his funeral.

“He knew what was coming,” Orym managed.  “And the entire time, he just kept smiling at me.  Kept laughing at our jokes, kept making me feel - ”

His voice caught, and he bit down a sob.  There were tears in his eyes, and he felt the back of his throat begin to itch as he resisted the urge to break down.

“He died in his sleep, after everything.”  Orym took another shaky breath.  “It was peaceful.  All he could ask for.”

“Oh, Orym ,” Opal whispered, and hugged him tightly.  Dorian placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.  He could hear Dariax suppress a sniffle.

“I kinda ran away after that,” Orym said quietly.  “I...I couldn’t fight what happened to him.  But I could sure as hell fight other things.  Save people.”

He swiped away a few tears.

“It’s what he would have wanted.”

He felt Opal nod into his shoulder.  She resurfaced and she, too, was crying.

“I’m sorry I asked,” she said.  “Really, I didn’t mean - ”

“It’s okay, Opal,” he reassured her.  “Talking about it helps.”

Fearne, who had been maintaining her ethereal demeanor, leaned forward.

“I didn’t know that people could die like that,” she said softly.  “I’m very sorry.”

Orym shrugged helplessly.

Dorian moved his fingers up Orym’s wrist, to the culprit of this entire painful conversation.

“So, how did you get it?” he asked gently, smiling slightly.  It was an olive branch, and Orym gladly took it.

“We were messing around in the kitchen,” he explained, and laughed at the memory.  “I was making his favorite soup, and he…”

He beamed at the ground, reliving the moment with joy.

“He tried to kiss me.  While I was in the middle of ladling it out.  Burning hot soup, all over my arm.”

Dorian laughed too, as did Opal, and soon everyone joined in, in a quiet testament to Sorin’s memory.

“I think he would have liked you guys,” Orym said, after wiping a final tear from his eye.

“You think so?” Opal asked.

“Yeah.”