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Archives: Trials of the Half-Elven

Chapter 6: Derrick’s Burial

    The group rode until sunset. They had crossed the mighty River of Kanon and were now bound northwards toward the capital city, but there was still at least a day of riding ahead of them before they reached the city. A town was nearby, but Derrick needed to be buried before they were caught by any patrols.

    So, a mile ahead of the village, they rode into the woods to find a good spot for Derrick’s body. Kiran dismounted when they entered a suitable clearing in the grove.

    “I think this is a good spot for burial,” he suggested. Since the fight, he fell into the role of leader, but he didn’t like it much. That was why he now only made it a suggestion to the others. He wanted to step back and let Thangroth, or whoever it was before him, take the reins again.

    Flora watched everyone, then sighed. “Umm...Kiran...?” she asked in a shaky voice. “May...I help you bury the body?” she asked as she dismounted Keyo.

    Thangroth gazed at the area. Kiran had found a decent enough spot; it would prove suitable for the boy’s funeral. The dwarf said little more than a few grunts since the incident and while the human had been foolish at times, Thangroth hadn’t wanted to see the boy die. Death was never pretty. Thangroth spoke, “This spot will do. Let’s bury the lad, say our piece for him, and be about leaving. I’ve little love for such grim duties…” He was a dwarf first and foremost, and would never show such things as tears. Thangroth would mourn, but in his own way. The dwarf spoke again, “I’ll carry the lad.”

    “I can dig the grave with help from Gnome. Flora, if you want to help, you can help carry Derrick’s body with Thangroth, or start going through his belongings to find out if he has any family to notify,” Kiran replied. The dark elf turned away and examined the forest floor for a good, clear place to bury the body. Once he found it, he began to cast a spell, summoning Gnome to excavate a grave.

    “I can take care of his belongings,” Olula suggested, sounding quite tired and worn. “Before we bury him, we better go over what’s on his body to see what he has.”

    With keen, hard eyes Trent scanned the landscape for possible pursuers. His bow was lowered but he had an arrow knotted and ready to fly at any time. He considered helping bury Derrick’s body but between the dwarf’s strength and Kiran’s earth magic that task was no doubt under control. Instead the boy focused on sentry duty, opening his senses for anyone or anything that might approach despite the formidable head start they had over Darvis’s flunkies.

    Krisatris sat down on the forest floor after dismounting her horse. Her back burned, and it felt like some of her wounds had torn open. She listened to the conversation over Derrick’s burial and thought on what she knew of Derrick. She couldn’t remember most of his long-winded introduction, but she did remember him saying where he was from and that he had a little sister. “Oh, he’s from a town called Ivory Rose in Alania, and he had a sister named Jasmine.”

    “Then we can address the letter to the Ironfist family there, and we should send his map with the grave marked, and maybe an item off his person,” Olula said. “We should leave his armor and weapons with him though.”

    Flora walked over to Derrick’s body and started to search it. She found an elven ring on his hand and a silver cross pendant around his neck. She took the items off Derrick and walked over to Olula. “Excuse me, miss,” she said with a shaky voice. “These are all the things I found on...umm...Derrick’s body,” she said, showing her the ring and pendant.

    While Flora checked Derrick, Olula had taken his pack off of Dara and started to sort through his belongings. When Flora came over to her, Olula took the pieces of jewelry and slipped them into her pocket. “Thank you,” she said to the girl, then sat down on the ground to keep searching Derrick’s bag. She found the map he so loved to study and looked it over to try and find where they were, and she also noticed that his hometown, Ivory Rose, was marked. Olula was no cartographer, so someone would have to help her mark the grave site.

    Flora walked back over to Derrick’s body. “What should I do now?” she asked, looking up at Thangroth and then at Kiran. She watched the body on the ground and waited for Thangroth to come and help her carry it.

    Thangroth walked over to the boy’s body where Flora sat keeping guard over it then knelt and spoke to the girl. “You can carry some of his other items. I’ll carry him.”

    The dwarf lifted the form and carried the boy’s body as though it were made of glass. When the grave was finally dug the dwarf was even more gentle in laying their companion’s body in repose. It would be a long time before Thangroth was cheerful again. The red-haired dwarf wanted nothing more than to wrap his hands around the nobleman responsible for all their woes and strangle the life from him, but for now he would mourn and the gods help any of the lord’s men they crossed from this point on.

    Flora got up and picked up Derrick’s sword. She walked over to his body then knelt down beside him and place the sword by the boy’s body. She sighed as she stood up.

    Thangroth had no words. He looked at Flora after she’d laid the boy’s sword down next to his body and spoke, “Thank you lass… does anyone have any words they’d like to say about the boy? Seems only proper as he was one of our companions.”

    Olula set aside the map she had been studying, then picked up Derrick’s pack and carried it to the grave. Krisatris followed her, awkwardly rising from where she sat. The two half-elves stood at the edge of Derrick’s grave, and Olula set his traveling gear next to his feet. “I don’t feel right just taking all his equipment. When we get to town, I’m going to send his family a letter with his ring, necklace and map, with the grave site marked. I need someone’s help to mark where we are,” she said to the group, avoiding looking at Derrick’s face. Finally, she looked up to see his body, and pale, lifeless face. He had been annoyingly hot-headed, oblivious, and even arrogant, but he defended her. If not for Derrick and Kris’s defense, she probably would have found her head in a noose. Tears welled up in Olula’s eyes and she let them fall. Covering her face with her hands, she sobbed, releasing all the pain she had been repressing since the moment he fell.

    It was then that the young man spotted a small rabbit carelessly wandering into view. Without thinking about it Trent drew back his bowstring and aimed at the creature, it was about twenty yards away and with careful aim he could easily bag it. But there was no reason to. He had caught enough fish that morning for everyone. But the residual anger he felt left him compelled to hurt someone, something...Anything.

    Maybe Kiran was right, maybe he was a sadist. But more than that he was angry that one of the first humans he had encountered since leaving the forest was Darvis, a bigoted and hateful man. A man who was nothing like Trent and yet shared the same human blood, and it was that blood alone that anyone who didn’t know Trent would deem important.

    As long as people like Darvis were around Trent would always be one of them in the eyes of strangers. It was why he spent a harsh winter alone in the forest, to go back to his primal self, free of hate or greed. To live on instinct as his ancestors did, who may have been even shorter lived than modern humans, but they were never accused of bigotry. And what bothered young Trent, what really got under his skin was that months of suffering and devolving had been undone in two days by a spoiled noble’s meagerest efforts. He was a blunt ear again, connected by blood and weighed down with the sins of others. It was almost enough to make him go back for the captain’s other ear.

    In a moment of fury Trent released the arrow which tasted nothing but dirt, missing the rabbit by ten paces as it scurried off in a flash. The hunter then drew out a long sigh. “Thought I saw something, it was just a rabbit,” he said before anyone could ask why he shot an arrow.

    Just then he heard Olula sobbing nearby finally purging the emotion of all that she had been through. Sympathy began to replace frustration as Trent walked over to her and reached for her shoulder, but drew back before he made contact.

    “I’m sorry....” was all he could think to say, knowing full well there was nothing more he could do.

    Once it seemed everyone had said their piece and Derrick’s body was arranged peacefully in the shallow grave, Kiran finished the burial;

    “Gnome, dig deep with careful hand,
a grave for a friend in this land.
Hold him dear in earthen embrace,
this treasured friend of ours erased.
Returned to earth from which we’re born,
those still alive, their passing we mourn.”

    Derrick’s body sank into the soil deeper, pulled down by roots from the nearby trees. The dirt moved by the initial dig was pulled down on top of his body until the ground above was flat again, marked only by where the soil was turned. Kiran picked up a few rocks he had set aside while gnome dug the grave, then stacked them over where Derrick’s head lay. He arranged it to make it look like an obvious grave marker, so if his family came to find his body, they would know where to look.

    Olula peered out from over her hands as the earth swallowed up Derrick’s body. She was unaware of Trent’s gesture, but Krisatris had seen it. The fairer half-elf looked back at Trent curiously, wondering why he didn’t try to touch Olula. Instead, Kris sidled up to the dark half-elf and linked her arm with Olula’s. She said nothing, but her physical comfort was enough.

    “He needs flowers,” Olula said, her voice strained from the crying.

    Krisatris rubbed Olula’s arm sympathetically. “Then let’s find some for him,” she replied. Hopefully a little walk would do Olula some good as well. The half-elf ranger led Olula away from the grave, then paused to look at the new girl. “Flora, you can come with, if you’d like,” she offered.

    Flora watch as Derrick’s body disappeared in the earth. Huh, what was that? she thought. These elves are amazing, she thought as she heard Krisatris voice. She looked at Olula and Krisatris and then at her horse. “I will be back, so please don’t go nowhere,” she said and walked behind Krisatris and Olula.

    “We’re not going anywhere,” Kiran assured Flora. As the three girls wandered away, he went to pick up the map Olula was studying to figure out just where to mark it.

    Krisatris and Olula headed into the forest with Flora in tow. There were a few flowers on the forest floor, but not enough to make a bouquet. Olula stopped to pluck a few, but the girls kept walking until they reached a small meadow flush with spring blooms. Olula knelt in the tall grass and began to pick nearby flowers. Krisatris stood guard beside her, and picked a few flowers herself, but the ranger was staying watchful of their surroundings.

    As Olula filled her bouquet, she was able to calm down from her cry so she could speak again. “Have either of you ever lost someone close to you before?” she asked both girls.

    “Yes,” Flora said, picking some flowers. “It was my grandmother. She was the only one there to take care of me,” she said to Olula and Krisatris. She continued picking more flowers and fixing them in a bouquet. “My mom and dad left the village to continue their travels, but they were never heard from again.”

    Flora finished her bouquet a few seconds later. “Well, I’m done,” she said, counting the flowers. “Are we going to make them into one big bouquet, or are we going to leave them in singles?” she asked, trying not to feel sad. She slowly stood up and dusted off her dress.

    Olula reached out for Flora’s bouquet. “We’ll make one,” she replied. Bundling the flowers together in her hands, she added her own story, which wasn’t much. “I haven’t seen much death, even though I grew up in an occupied village. Anyone who fought against the Marmo died before I was born, and I had very little family besides my own mother. She is ill, and I’m afraid she doesn’t have much time left. I don’t think I will see her again after this...” Olula looked down at the collection of white, pink, yellow and blue blooms in her hands. “What about you, Kris?”

    “I lost everyone,” Krisatris stated blandly. “My parents abandoned me, but when I was ten, I was adopted by a human family. My father—their father—taught me to become a ranger. He would send me out into the woods for a week at a time to hone my skills, but when I came back from my last trip, they were all dead.” Kris suppressed the emotions that her past brought up. She left out the mention of her change to a werewolf, which happened a year earlier. That would be a hard subject to reveal to them, but she would have to do it soon, there was only a week before the next full moon. “Bandits raided our village. I left to find the gang that did it, but I haven’t found them yet,” she finished, then passed the few flowers she picked to Olula.

    “Oh Kris...” Olula gasped. The half-dark elf stood, then wrapped her arms around Krisatris, who was quite surprised by the gesture, but she returned the hug.

    “It’s alright...let’s just go back,” Kris said a little awkwardly and patted Olula on the back. Olula nodded and pulled away, then started walking back to Derrick’s grave site.

    Flora followed them back to Derrick’s grave site. She wasn’t good at walking in front of people or in a crowd. She just stayed to the back looking at the flowers and then slowly looking at the clouds. She sometimes enjoyed cloud watching, but she stopped doing it when she left her village.

    The three girls returned to the grave site where Kiran, Thangroth, and Trent waited. Olula laid the bouquet in front of the stones on Derrick’s grave, then spoke a quite prayer for him, “Falis rest your soul, Derrick. I will never forget what you did for me.” The tears came again, but only in a trickle down her dusky cheek.

    Flora knelt down by the grave. She gave a silent prayer to Falis, then stood and looked at Olula. “Are you alright?” she asked her, feeling a little sad.

    Olula nodded and wiped her cheek on her sleeve. “I’ll be fine,” she replied to Flora with a sniffle. “We should get ready to go.” She stood up and shook the dust out of her skirt.

    Thangroth said nothing. His face was impassive and the young dwarf reached into his pouch and removed a fine gemstone; a sapphire, which he examined and then he set into the ground just at the head of the grave. It was a strange family custom of his, but he considered the boy a friend. The dwarf spoke, “Sleep well lad. May this small token speed you on your way to whatever good reward awaits you. I’ll not forget you.” He looked at Olula and waited while they prepared to finish this sad endeavor.

    With their duties to Derrick complete, the party left the forest with heavy hearts and made their way to the next village to stay the night.

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