“Angrist! Now!”

The command rang through her mind, but around Merasiel the only sound to be heard was the drip of water as the ferryman’s pole broke the surface of the pool, propelling them onward. Mendel had ceased his mad rambling, and the rest of her companions were silent, each of them lost in their own thoughts.

Merasiel clutched her remaining dagger in her hand, replaying the battle in her mind many times as she sought a different outcome that would have prevented them from this hell. As much as she considered each misstep, once again Gabriel’s command echoed in her ears and she flipped Angrist around hilt first and returned it as he requested. She felt again the keen loss as the weapon left her care, but she reminded herself that the dagger was not hers to keep. Once again, Gabriel and Gestlin never surfaced from the water. Once again, Magnifico fell, then Dane, Mendel and then herself. The Northman outlasted them all, but even he was overcome in the end by the creature that would not die.

In the midst of the fevered battle, one of her own daggers had been knocked from her hand and disappeared into the depths of the pool the hydra-creature had called home. It had not made the trip with her into the afterlife, and she mourned.

900ce, Estrelere

The still of early morning in the Elven city of Estrelere was broken by the hurried arrival of a scout from the north. Merasiel usually slept lightly and would seek out each scout that returned, anxious for news of orc movements in the area, but for once, exhaustion caused her to miss it. She had worked late into the night with her daggers, and had fallen into bed well after the midnight hour. She awoke in an instant, however when the door to her chamber opened. She blinked a couple of times as her vision came into focus on Lesthial, Elder Oronthil’s wife.

Merasiel opened her mouth to wish her a good morning, but froze at the expression on Lesthial’s face, her greeting held prisoner on her tongue. She stared at Lesthial expectantly, and eventually the purpose of the early morning intrusion came to light.

“A Scout from the north arrived while you slept. There is news…”

Merasiel arose and began to dress hurriedly, the familiar scowl settling on her face. “What is it,” she stated, already suspecting that the news was not good.

Lesthial folded her hands together and shook her head, wisps of her golden hair rippling with the movement. “I am sorry Mel-hên. The orcs they had been tracking attacked with greater fury than before. Your parents did not survive….”

Merasiel heard no more. She finished dressing, and left the room at a run. The scout was in the main chamber still, head bent in whispered discussion with the Elders. His head was bloody from an injury that had yet to be tended. All heads looked up and conversation ended when she entered the room. The silence screamed in her ears. The scout approached her then, grief resonating from his every movement. When he lifted his hands to her, she saw what he carried: a bloody belt with a pair of sheathes attached. From the tops of the sheathes, the pommels and hilts of a pair of matching daggers could be seen.

“We were able to recover them after we defeated the orcs. I am sorry.”

My mother’s, Merasiel thought. She always said that one day they would come to me.

Merasiel’s sorrow never showed outwardly, but her hands trembled as she took the precious gift. All that remained of her parents lay in her outstretched hands.

The ferryman’s boat rocked gently as Merasiel’s thoughts returned to the present. She gripped the dagger more tightly than she realized, yet she felt nothing. And why would I? I am dead. She slipped the dagger into her boot, taking great care to secure it so that it would not fall out, and then instinctively shook out her hand, silently musing over the absence of the expected pins and needles sensation. Across the boat, Mendel had begun to ramble again. The jolly priest had ever been a source of comfort to them all, bringing healing and light to dark places. He rarely lost his temper, and to see him in this state caused her some concern.

Her worry over the monk ceased as she felt the pressure of something being slipped into her hand. She looked down and saw Gabriel’s gloved hand retreating from her own, leaving Angrist in her outstretched palm. In an instant, she felt the shift as the dagger once again became linked to her. She continued to stare at the dagger as she spoke. “We are dead. What need have I for this?”

Gabriel shrugged, and a tendril of mist that had crept close to the boat twisted in the disturbance of air and dissipated. “Perhaps there is a need, perhaps not. In any case, I believe this was meant for you to have. And,” he paused and nodded towards her boot. “You seem to be missing one of your own.”

For a brief moment, Merasiel’s mask crumbled, and the sorrow she had buried for her family, and her people, for so long showed starkly on her face. And then just as suddenly, the mask returned, the lines on her face smoothing themselves back into the soft frown that marked her aloofness. “Thank you for the gift, Gabriel. I will ensure that it’s taken care of.” With that, she slipped Angrist in the sheath on her belt. As the snap of the hilt meeting the top of the sheath met her ears, she considered the gift of something so precious and her concern over the state of those around her. While she felt no less dead, she felt comforted in the company of…..friends.