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Prompt: Setting — The Bone Cathedral


The chapel is still, cold. The patience of a thousand loyal retainers has leeched from each iron disc into the pale stone walls so that it always seems to be waiting; for orders or its next ward, Malus isn't sure.

Behind him, Jaril and the smith's daughter stand as still as they are able, but no matter how obedient their hearts and minds are, a crypt is a crypt to their spirits. He thinks of Maria's laughter, her life, in this stillness, and hesitates before the alcove. Her coin sits chill and heavy on his palm.

He cannot place it.

"Girl."

The smith's daughter steps forward hastily, kneels, graceless and smeared. Malus's fingers brush the hilt of his dagger, then move past it to the buckle of his swordbelt. He places the coin in one of her upraised hands, lays the blade across them both.

"Take these to your father," Malus begins, and Jaril's breath catches in his teeth.

"Lord," he begins, already dropping to his knees, but Malus knows the cost. He goes on.

"Add her salt and bone to my blade, that her strength add to mine; that her wit aid my plans; that her life might continue to support my own."

The smith's daughter's eyes are empty with shock, but as he waits for her response, he sees the slightest kindling of warmth there. "My lord, I will."

She shuffles back on her knees, clearly unpracticed at the courtesy, and vanishes into the night. Jaril remains on his knees, hands raised in supplication, head bowed.

"My lord, you know I must tell your father of this," he says at last, unbidden, but he has earned that right from those higher than Malus, and besides that, it is true.

"I am aware." Malus thinks, gaze locked on the coins sitting in his progenitor's alcove. "Convey my request to retain the sword, regardless of the punishment he decrees."

"It will only make him angrier, my lord."

"I know."
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June 2013

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