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  • Amanda Rios

By Your Blade

It had been many nights since Renan of the Ravines had started off on their quest, yet he felt no closer to his goal. 

He sank into the dirt, still a bit wet from the rainstorm that had passed through. His heart pounded in his chest, wanting to burst free from its silvery armored prison. Shoulders sunk from the weight of the metal pads. He took off his helmet, sweat-soaked hair sticking to his forehead. Let it fall from weak fingers to the ground unceremoniously. 

Renan panted. He could’ve sworn he saw Evin’s horse back at the Wyndll Tavern, but chasing it only led him deep into the Firindell Woods, with only imposing oak trees surrounding him, blocking out an overcast sky. A soft boom of thunder in the distance, muted. The sound of singing finches filled an otherwise dead forest. 

He took a deep breath. In. Out. He needed a new plan, lest he wanted to camp here for a night. It would be too dangerous; staying in these woods could risk an encounter with the Luna Guild, ever on his toes.  “But,” he thought, “What are the odds of Evin coming through this forest again? Perhaps I should head back towards the Andalusia River. I know they like to rest there—”

“What are you doing?” A deep, familiar voice rang close to his ear. Renan drew his sword, an arming sword with an oxidized hilt, vines carved into the blade. 

Evin didn’t look any different from the last time they saw each other. The same stature– that of a tall man hunched over due to an unspecified injury that never healed. The same knightly garb: a crimson cape without a single tear or blemish to ruin it, held together by a filigree cloak clasp, polished shoulder and chest armor that would’ve shone had there been sunlight.

And the mask. Gilded, made of a metal much weaker than gold, with eye slits wide enough that Renan could peer into Evin’s gray eyes, a gaze that once brought him comfort when there was none. He wanted to rip them out with his fingers. 

“So you knew I was following you, then.” Renan raised his blade to Evin’s face, the temptation to prematurely slit their throat too enticing to ignore.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“Why else would I be here?” The blade poked into Evin’s chin. A little more effort would draw blood.

Evin pushed the blade aside with no attempt to draw his own, as if this confrontation was a waste of their time. “I don’t know. You left me first. Without a word as to why.”

“I did what I had to do.” Renan hissed, the biting hurt bleeding into his words. Memory rose in his throat like bile. “You sold me out.”

Tears of fury welled in his eyes. Evin stepped back, shocked at the display of once buried honesty. The finches stopped singing. Earth felt as if it were standing still, tilted on its axis.

A stray tear cascaded down his cheek. Renan refused to wipe it away, to avoid acknowledging that he was even crying in the first place. “You lied to me. For months you made me feel that I was more to you. That we were…” His voice faltered. 

Memories danced in his mind. Of days chattering about their past lives and coming up with stories to pass the time, each detail growing more ludicrous and fantastical than the last. Of nights spent up late, soothing chronic wounds, promises made to never leave each other’s side, because they were all that they had. 

Promises broken once a new opportunity presented itself. A bounty of 170,000 riel, for the safe return of one Renan of the Ravines to the Luna Guild. To live once more as an object of wifely care and not a person, with all the bruises to prove his rebellion.

He remembered leaving that night, burning the bounty poster and what correspondence he could find between Evin and the Guild. Running as far as his legs could take, repeating the same phrase over and over. Was it all real? Was it ever real?

Evin stared. They wanted to look away, but Renan’s furrowed brow and scrutinizing gaze forced them to look at him. Words formed on their tongue, two delicate dewdrops. “I’m sorry.”

They said it. They were sorry. That’s all Renan wanted to hear. Perhaps he could forgive them. Perhaps they could start again, put this biting betrayal to rest and move on with their lives. Surely, a new relationship could be built out of the ashes? That he could finally get what he always wanted?

Renan gripped tighter onto the hilt. No. None of these choices satisfied him. It was too late. The wound ran too deep. No apologetics could fix what was broken.

“I don’t forgive you.”

He charged forward. Evin cowered. The blade slashed their face. Blood spattered from their forehead to their chin. A flesh wound. Evin cried out in pain, collapsing to the ground, gilded mask falling apart into two, symmetrical pieces. 

Lightning illuminated the sky, the crisp shatter of thunder following close behind. Renan returned the sword to his scabbard. There was nothing else left to say. His heart sat in his chest, still beating but heavier than before. More dead dreams to carry. 

He left Evin to bleed out on the forest floor.


Art by GOURD


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