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The pyre had been built and ready for almost an hour now, and the village below the hilltop was aglow with the setting sun. All that was needed now was for the few villagers that were able to come to arrive. The autumn colors wrapped all around me and yet I couldn't keep my eyes off of her face.

She was so beautiful, especially with the lines her years had given her. They spoke a great deal of how much the woman before me had lived. The curved lines etched around the corners of her mouth so that even now, when her face wasn't alight with laughter, they gave the appearance of a smile. My eyes traced the creases on her forehead that always deepened when she'd worry about something or was concentrating especially hard. We had arranged her silver ringlets around her face and placed ivy around the crown of her head. Her dress was a simple moss green, her favorite. I remembered that it complimented her eyes nicely, though the last time she'd worn it was at her husband's last rites.

I struggled to take a deep breath. My chest was starting to constrict against my racing heart. The villagers needed me to stay strong right now, but more than anything I didn't want to be their leader at this moment. My leader, my mentor, my friend, my mother was who I needed and she lay before me, forever asleep.

I felt the warmth of the hand resting on my shoulder before the voice spoke, "Do you need me to say the last rites? Everyone will understand." I turned and buried my face into his chest and he enveloped me in his loving arms.

Shaking my head, "I'll be alright. The villagers may not hold it against me, but I would." I forced another deep breath and pulled away from Grayson and attempted a smile. “Do I look alright?" He nodded; his own weak smile played along his lips as he reached up and rubbed the center of my forehead with his finger, trying to ease out my own lines starting to form there. Perhaps someday one of my villagers will look upon me and lovingly take in the marks my years had left upon my face.

I glanced around the small circle of people who had gathered. Everyone was here now. Not many people, but that's alright because I know Nyanne would have wanted it this way. I stepped around to be at the head of the pyre. I took one last calming breath, felt my chest ease, and began. My heart ceasing its racing with every word I spoke. Nyanne wasn't much for practiced speeches and it rubbed off on me. My words flowed through me, but I am unsure of what I said. Faintly I was aware of the sobs from the circle, but I managed to keep myself together somehow. After talking about the remarkable woman before me I waved the two men holding the torches forward and we all took a step back as they lit the kindling on her pyre.

The flames danced in my watery vision as I raised my voice once more, "Today, the forest mourns. The trees sigh. The birds sing their goodbyes. The wind wails. Today, the rocks weep."

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Image of Stephen Betts
Stephen Betts · ago
Very poignant anc descriptive phrasing that just drew me in and looking for more.
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Image of C.F. Lemley
C.F. Lemley · ago
Thank you for your kind words, Steve. Means a lot to me.
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