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Kin-strife for Christmas
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So It Goes: Epilogue

The new moon lasts sixteen long years of war and fearful deeds. Lettered lawlessness guts the kingdom and hundreds of thousands of unfortunate stomachs before the end – not that anyone's counting.

For no one wants to remember, later. When his children's children's children ask Ambarin what he did, he says he seeded his land and hunted geese. Stood on the wharf, by the boats, and called to them.

“Geese don't come to calls,” they say, and he says that monkeys do if you leave cookie, which makes no sense. They leave an old man to his mutterings.

He did hunt geese – Longnecks. Drove them out of Pelargir in the winter of 1432, raised his children on that blood money.

They're back now with Eldacar, of course, the Longnecks, and every last one of them he meets is the girl in the lock-holes. He knows Hal did her – both ways. All ways. Left a pretty, pious corpse – he remembers the pendant wound carefully round her hand – on the snow that moonless night. Fitting holocaust to fire one man's awful dream.

And Haldarion died, too, in the war of restoration – the first one, that's now called the rebellion. Got shot in the back taking a piss in the river. So it's told. Had a funny rope line on his neck even so. Better than the Captain, though, who threw up blood one morning and died two days later, his belly all blotched purple. People found a lot of funny ways to die in those days.

Not him, though. He wasn't ever good at it – too much by the book, he somehow always found himself safe in the charge. He never took a swim in the river in his armor. Never tripped and fell on an inconvenient sword or knife or stick. His bread and meat were never worse than anyone else's. He was nothing to anyone – peach fuzz, who never did aught.

Or so they think, who sit in gilded chairs and make graves for men to fall in. Because he did do the boy himself. It was a mercy, really. Lad was already rail-thin, and tearing his hair out over his sister 'til he couldn't see for blood in his eyes, though Ambarin felt them burning a hole in him even so...

But they caught the parfumičre, and everyone on Isilwen's line, and really, he would've hanged anyway. Poor speechless boy, better to go gently – hand over nose and mouth while he slept, and Ambarin sang “Hush, babe, close your eyes” – sweet lullaby he's sung a thousand times since to children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Over in minutes, and the boy never felt a thing. With the cell door locked snug, no one was the wiser but him and the shade walking in his steps. Boy's blind and mute now, but he lies beneath Ambarin every night like a sheet of crystal shards and sweetly torments him with loving images of his sister, who comes to lie quiet with him.

His wife knows, he thinks. She's put him to bed countless times after he got forked on some bad bottle, and he'll weep a river of tears, babble apologies, tell her she's beautiful, beautiful – he wants to say he loves her, but even drink can't pry that from his tongue. He's not always sure who he's talking to – his dark-haired wife or the Goldilocks shade, but it doesn't matter.

He's in his candlelight years now, though he's not so old, really. But he's dry – dry as the insects cocooned in spider silk. He spends a lot of time these days watching the violin spiders weave their webs and delicately drink their victims to their pulpy dregs. The Haradrim call Castamir 'The Spider King' – damn foreign insults, but it's true, it's true. He wonders if the insects go peacefully to sleep, like the boy in the cell, or if they're more like him – if they spend their last hours and days – which must be years to such short-lived things – feeling life run dry and empty, strangling in a spider's web, but not quick enough.

He should quicken it, he thinks. He's a man, not an insect. But he never was very good at dying. Maybe if he'd had a talent for it, he'd have done something worth doing and gone out by hanging or the sword – maybe drawing and quartering. Burning - he'd be good tinder, bloodless as he is. There were so many ways to kill traitors once...

But he's terrible at dying, and so he'll just tail out, and hopes one day soon to be forgotten. It would be sweet, to be forgotten. In the fading light, his ghosts await, more substantial by the day and he's terrified they will forgive him, they smile so gently sometimes. Children these days – no one wants to remember!

Everything's so dry, so dry, but he just can't forget because – he weeps to say it – he's never been good at dying, not even to himself.


And that's a wrap! All of Day 24's prompts are used.

Thanks, Juno and Aranel, for hosting the game!


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