LYSIS

The village is behind them, faded into the colors of a late summer sky.

When they departed, Amani had held fast to Safiyah's hands until she promised to come home again, in time. To Zavala, Amani gave only a nod and a sad smile.

Soon, the stone structures of the Iron Lord encampment rise on the horizon.

Zavala and Safiyah pass where they first found Hakim. The bodies are gone, the blood long soaked into the earth. The burned trees have new growth around their wounds. But the fragments of rusted wreckage along their path, picked over for any useful pieces, are still half-buried in the soil.

At the gates, Safiyah presses her knitting needles into his hands.

"To keep you warm," she says. He nods his head and thanks her, his voice small.

"You will survive this," she tells him. She knows he has no choice.

Safiyah departs to find the people who need her. She feels Zavala's gaze cling to her until the gates of the Iron Lords disappear into the horizon.

***

The gates of the encampment open for Zavala, alone. Saladin says little, passes no judgment, tenders no admonition. All he says to him is this:

"Love is a moment in time. We are not."

Zavala wonders, for an instant, if Saladin speaks from experience. He does not ask but simply takes a breath and follows Lord Saladin.

***

It is decades until a message arrives from Amani—half crumpled and discolored from the uncertain journey it took to reach him in the Last City. "Come quickly," it reads. "Before it is too late."

But he arrives too late.

Amani stands at the grave among the mourners, stooped, old. He nods to her, catching her eyes for a moment. A sad, familiar smile crosses her lips again before she returns the gesture in silent thanks.

He waits until most have left before he approaches the headstone. He holds a flower, picked on his journey. It was fresh when he found it, but its petals are bruised now as he gently places it on the churned earth of her grave.

Zavala rises and sees a woman standing beside him. They have the same eyes, warm and kind. Her daughter.

"How did you know her?" she asks. His breath catches, unsure of how to answer a simple question from one mourner to another.

"I'm an old friend," he says, unable to keep the weariness from seeping into his words. The woman looks at him askance; he wonders, briefly, if she knows of him, his history. Her brother. But she simply nods and thanks him, and nothing more is said.

Years later, he visits the woman's grave. Then her son's. Her son's son. The graveyard grows thick with headstones. He makes the journey each time.

They do not come to the Last City for 10 generations. The Hidden tell him when they are born, when they are sick, and when they die. He never speaks to them when they are alive, but at each grave, he leaves a token and a question: Can you forgive me?

The Red War does not claim them, but when the City grieves for those lost to the Vex and the Endless Night, Zavala grieves for the last of Safiyah's descendants. This time, there is no body for a grave.

Now, Zavala sits at his desk. The knitting needles are worn with use. He holds them carefully, remembering how she had placed his fingers so that he could follow her movements.

He casts on a length of yarn and begins again.

Loose Ends, pt. III

Category: Lords of Iron

Mark of Medal

Loose Ends, pt. III

Category: Lord Saladin

Mark of Remembrance

RRHEXIS

Category: Book: Triage

Lion's Pride

Category: Zavala

Message from Aunor I