That night, Kara and Ada played the prayers to Setheria asking zir to receive their dead. Kara sang requiems for each of their fallen. Ada played laments that carried the tears and sorrows of the living to Setheria’s ears. The wind keened in the trees, sharing their grief. As they finished the rites, Kara felt the tug of a breeze.
Ada took her hand and pulled her away from the bonfire. She promised, “One last word with Dree.”
“I’m coming with you.” She tightened her grip on her hand.
Dree was waiting for them in the shadows. “You served me well, my champion.”
Ada was wary. “Have you truly released me?”
“Yes. I always keep my word.”
“We won today but the Jormuna will not leave the Dreezians in peace. We must travel
deeper into the mists.”
Kara pointed out, “They’ll follow.”
“I’m sure they will. But it will take time for them to find us again. Their ruling family is dead and new leaders must be chosen. Meanwhile, I’ll need a Champion to guard the gate.”
Ada grimaced. “I thought…”
“Not you. I won’t have Kara hunting me.” Dree smiled slightly. “No, you’re tired. Rest now. I have another in mind.”
Mona joined them. “There you are, Mama… oh.”
Dree said, “I was just saying I need someone to guard the gate while I take our people across the ocean.” Mist was beginning to gather around the camp, formed by her breath.
Mona said, “I see.”
Ada protested, “Not her.”
Mona said, “But who else? I can pass for Jormuna. None of you can stay; they’ll know you on sight.”
Dree said, “Smart girl. Do you see why I selected her?”
Ada growled. “Was this your plan from the beginning?”
Dree didn’t answer directly. “I am of the land and the people. I protect my own, whatever the cost.”
Kara took hold of Mona’s hands. “You have a choice. Dree can’t force you to do this.”
Mona answered, “I’ll do my duty. Now go.”
Kara and Ada reluctantly returned to the fire. They conferred briefly as the clan’s sorrow softened to quiet grief. Ada took up her fiddle and played songs of life and laughter to remind the people of all that was good and the joys of living, of the songs shared when the dead were still alive, that sorrow and joy danced intertwined.
Mona smiled fondly as Kara join in Ada’s song. “Will I see them again?”
Dree said, “I will allow you to visit on occasion. It is the least I can do. So you agree to be my champion?” She drew her dagger.
Mona kept her eyes on her family and clan. “Yes. I am ready.”
copyright 2014, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved