by Just Jae
Contest Entry: A young halfling says a final farewell to family.
A Final Farewell
Skrie Tripfoot stood looking at the empty space one last time. The rubble was gone now, picked through for valuable items, including the bricks and beams that were still useful. The halfling didn't care; she had no use for anything that had been left even though legally, she could have stopped the neighbors from scavenging what remained of her parent's inn. She had picked out what keepsakes she'd wanted years before. Her former neighbors were welcome to what was left.
She held no animosity toward the Hin community, even though they stood by and watched as the mercenary band had targeted her family. The halfling couldn't blame them, really. These last several years, with soldiers, mercenaries, and adventurers making Blackford a regular stop, no one felt safe, least of all the halfling population. The Big Folk always seemed to pick out the Hinfolk as targets.
"Tymora," the young acolyte prayed as she paced the boundary of what had once been the Jaunty Traveler, an inn and tavern at the edge of the halfling district. "Bless this ground and grant peace to the souls lost here. I ask your forgiveness for my actions these last years, though I cannot say I have regrets."
When Skrie had traversed the perimeter, she moved to the center of the lot. Searching the area, she looked for where she had found the finger bone and melted medallion that now occupied the small leather bag hanging around her neck. Finding a patch of blackened soil, she laid her hands on the ground and wept as the last image of her parents' burning bodies flashed through her memory.
"Mother ..." she began, a sob escaping her throat before she could stop it. "Mother, Father, Delora," she continued a few moments later, "please forgive my actions these years. I couldn't let your deaths go unavenged. My life belongs to Tymora now, I go where She wills it. I may never return, but know a piece of my heart will always live here."
Warmth spread through her as the sun shone down on the little spot where once the inn stood. Skrie looked up when she felt a light pressure on her shoulder.
"I seen ya blessin' tha place, Sister," a young Hin boy of maybe nine summers stared at her, wide-eyed.
"Aye," Skrie replied, wiping the tears and snot from her face. "A great tragedy happened here, and I thought I'd put the ghosts to rest."
"Tha's a good thin', Sister," said the child. "This place be haunted."
The acolyte didn't think his eyes could open any wider. She was wrong. Stifling a smile, she rose to her feet and faced the boy. He was taller than she. Then again, she was small for a halfling.
"You live around here?" she asked.
"Aye," he said, pointing into the neighborhood. "Me pa's tha butcher."
"Ah, Nic, I remember him." Skrie thought the boy's eyes would pop from his head.
"You know me Da?"
"Aye, my Pa used to get his meat from your Da."
"Deven!" A voice boomed from the direction the boy had pointed. "What're ya doin', boy? Don' be botherin' tha clergy."
Skrie turned toward the familiar voice. A tall halfling in a bloody apron stalked in their direction.
"He's no bother, Master Butcher," said the cleric. "I was blessing the ground to put Janna, Theo, and Delora to rest."
"How did ya ..." the older halfling peered at her. "Ah, the mite tha' survived. We, ah, wondered what happened to ya's." Nic looked more than a little uncomfortable as he spoke.
Skrie let him be ill at ease. None of the Hinfolk had offered to help when she had dragged herself from the rubble. Terrified of the message sent by the mercenaries, the girl was all but shunned by her community. Oh, they had left a pouch of silver near the bolt hole in which she slept those first days, but real help? No.
"I managed," she said, her look devoid of expression as she looked him in the eyes.
An awkward silence followed.
"Look, uh ..." he started.
"Don't," Skrie said, holding up a hand. "Just don't. They trusted you. They trusted the entire community and not one of you stood for them. So, please, don't."
Nic's face reddened.
"I came back for them, not you," she continued, looking the butcher in the eye. "I came back to put their souls to rest, not to assuage your conscience."
"I ... I'm sorry."
"Sorry doesn't bring them back," Skrie shot back, eyes narrowing and leaning toward him. "If you really, truly want to show you're sorry, then don't let this happen, ever again!" she swept her arm around the empty lot. Unbidden tears rolled down her cheeks, and her voice shook. "Don't let this," she thumped her chest, "happen to your son!"
The acolyte took a deep breath to steady herself. She'd never stood up to anyone like that before. The anger and hurt of being as abandoned as this lot had gotten the better of her.
"Maybe next time, you won't let your friends burn," she said, throat tight, as she turned her back on the butcher and gathered her sparse belongings.
Settling her pack straps onto her shoulders, she heard the boy ask, "why's the cleric mad at ya, Da?" She didn't hear the answer, just a low mumble.
"Forgive me, Tymora," she muttered as she walked toward the city gate.