I. Temperament

Crow drops a wet canteen at Eris Morn's feet. "Water."

"You made your return quickly." Eris crouches, hunched over bundled splits of pine arranged atop a thick log and resin-rubbed moss. She strikes a well-worn flint with her knife, and flame ignites.

"You're not hard to spot at night." Crow averts his gaze from Eris's sideways glare and looks up to the haunting glow of the Dark Shard of the Traveler. Shivers convulse down his vertebrae, and his eyes drop to the freshly popping wood.

Eris breaks the silence. "Why did you volunteer for the severance operation? For… most operations?"

"To make a difference where others can't. Same as you."

She shakes her head. "No," Eris mumbles.

Crow watches her deftly coax the fire, considering the answer he'd given. He looks up to the distant tree line and changes the subject. "There are still a good number of Hive here."

"But no Nightmares," Eris remarks.

"Is that why you brought me here? This… isn't a place I want to revisit." Crow steps back from the growing flames.

When Eris doesn't respond, he asks his real question:

"Why did I fail?"

"You didn't fail. Our strategy was flawed." Eris stands, stowing flint and blade, then steps in front of him to meet his gaze. "We will attempt the severance again, soon."

"Yeah," Crow replies in a clipped tone. Eris tilts her head, and he can see the green orbs narrow beneath her blindfold.

She points to the ragged, mountainous shard twisting in twilight roil. "Even that toxic piece, separate from the Traveler's purity, can be wielded for good."

The fire roars. He kneels to break her stare and warms his hands. "I know what it can do. I used it—"

"When the Red War left Guardians Lightless, there were some who reclaimed their callings here. They re-forged their bond to the Traveler through a scar. A lingering trauma," she continues.

Eris sits beside Crow and drinks from her canteen. Crow braces for her to continue, but she does not. The bundle of burning kindling collapses into a heap of cinders. Flames spit between the gaps and ash drifts on heated air.

"I'll get more wood," Crow says, hastening to step out of the fire's glow.

"Crow. Small fires like this kept me alive in the Hellmouth. I did not have the luxury of more wood." Eris grips a piece of rusty rebar taken from the Sludge and thrusts it into the sputtering fire. She stirs the cindering wood, opening new gaps and concentrating the larger pieces over a pile of glowing kindling. The flame surges, and heat intensifies. "During these long nights, we must make use of what is available to us."

She knows he understands her but hasn't accepted the lesson.

She hands him the bar, shows him how to maintain the fire's heat, how to find worth in remnants. How to rebuild from ash.

The pair converse as they take turns keeping the fire alive long into the night. The warmth soothes, their shoulders lighten, and Crow pulls back his hood.

When the fire finally dies, Eris gestures to the embers. "Now, you can fetch some wood."

Crow smiles and gets to his feet. "Eris… did you ever try to get your Light back?"

"The past is not for dwelling."

Crow nods and sticks out his hand. She looks at it inquisitively.

"Come on."

Eris stands next to Crow; he clasps her palm and ignites a Golden Gun between their hands. Solar flame dances across Eris's fingers. Crow guides her arm and lifts the gun to the sky. He inhales sharply and howls before cracking a shot through the clouds.

"You're up, Hunter."

Eris depresses the trigger, slowly, doubtful that it would fire. A second Solar streak pierces the atmosphere. Crow laughs. They send round after round skyward, howling pent tension into the night until finally, even Eris finds herself smiling.

Is it you?

Category: Eris Morn

It's just me.

Category: Book: Voices of the Haunted

II. Death and Desertion