His dead sister came at sundown. Always at sundown.

As the sky bruised and the shadows grew long into night, he stood to watch the sun disappear behind the mountains. This was when the whispered sound of the evening breeze would crumble into the slow, shuffling rasp of feet. Her feet... cold and white, frayed tendon and cracked bone worn bare over countless miles of frost-rimmed rock. It did not matter how far Kehr had traveled that day, how many rivers he had forded or cliffs he had scaled. She came at sundown.

The large man busied himself with the fire as the shuffling drew closer. Tinder had grown more plentiful as he had descended into the Sharval Wilds, and Kehr tried to find some comfort in the thought of warm food after weeks of dried venison. It was a futile attempt at cheer, as he knew it would be. The limping footsteps always brought a seeping chill, a liquid sense of ice and horror that rippled and lapped against his skin. They came to a stop in the darkness just beyond the firelight.

Kehr did not want to look up; he did not want to address her. But she wouldn't leave until he did. He waited as the fire built up to a crackling blaze, and then he straightened, sighing heavily into the cold twilight air.

"Say your words, Faen. Say them and go."

She took a dragging step into the firelight, then another. Kehr stared into the flames, felt his hand move to the tender scar on his chest. One more step, and she was across from him. A log in the fire shifted, popped, and sent embers floating upward. Kehr forced his gaze to follow the bright specks, to lift from the fire and regard this thing that had been his sister. He owed her that.

The heat was already thawing her pale flesh, and the sickly sweet smell of decay grew strong. Following after her brother these long weeks had wrought havoc on Faen's gray, shambling form, and Kehr barely recognized her.

Her eyes were black pits, sunken shadows in place of the cornflower blue he remembered. All that remained of his sister's golden tresses hung in matted ashen clumps from the sides of her skull, and the sodden weight of one of those tangled clots was pulling the skin loose. He watched as the yellow flesh tore, dropping rotted tissue and hair to the ground in a wet thump. Her thin limbs rattled in the wind, skeletal knobs protruding from damp parchment. Kehr wondered if Faen still felt anything. She leaned forward to point at his chest with a bony, trembling finger.

"Kehr. Kehr Odwyll."

How could she speak with that ruined mouth? The collapsed jaw, the black tongue so swollen and stiff that it pushed through her tattered cheek? How could she be here, shaking with morbid anger after being buried under the broken granite face of Arreat these many years? Kehr knew he should not have returned, knew there was no atonement for him in these fractured lands. He had not been able to find his way to the wooded canyons of his people and had spent long days wandering aimlessly through strange and jagged hills. The valley of the Stag tribe had been a place once green and welcome and familiar. Now everything was changed. Everything was lost.

But Faen had found him. Had found him and followed him as he ran.

"Kehr Odwyll. Traitor. Traitor!"



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