The teacher/grandfather/father/priest/authoriton/swami/mentor sat before the class.
S/He/It started. “Shall we carry on from where we left off?”
The class pulled out their writing implements and started to trace the shapes they had learnt the day before.
The Hunter came to his ward. It was a long time since the caves; since the trip to spread the light. Now he walked slowly; now his back stooped, his hair grey.
He grunted, pointed to her bow and walked away. She hesitated,knowing what he meant.
Her face broke, tears forming at her eyes. But still she gathered her items and followed him.
She caught him at the lake’s edge. This was where he had built his barge and covered it with kindling. As she approached he turned and smiled. He pointed to the small fires he had built for her, proud at his handiwork, but his happy grunts soon changed to the hacking coughing – and that was too much for his girl
She threw herself at him, crying, mewling, holding him close. He stroked her hair and blinked his own tears away. They both knew this day would come. Both had hoped it would have come a lot later.
They spent the day together. She caught dinner, showing off her hunting skills. She would have to take his place, now, and wanted to prove her worth to him.
As if that were necessary.
He cooked and before the sun disappeared, they lit the fires and placed small, covered lamps on the boat.
He coughed again. Slowly at first, but quickly it developed into deep, tearing hacks. She held him, hoping that she could keep them away.
He spat. It was red.
He took her hand and looked into her eyes. It was time.
She tried to open her mouth to protest but he placed his fingertips over her lips and shook his head.
It was time.
They held for the last time. Long and tight.
Finally, he took his place on the barge which she pushed into the water, before taking her place in her personal circle of fire.
She was to bear witness to his passing. To make sure he didn’t come back, because their Old Enemy had learned a new trick.
The night was cold. Her friend’s coughs echoed over the lake. His breathing rattled until, just before dawn, the final spark of his life blew out. And with that light gone, the Dark rushed in to take it’s place.
She watched the body jerk up, abruptly. Watched it tried to get to its feet – a meat puppet with jagged, uncontrolled movements. She notched an arrow, pushing the tip into the flames. Her heart broke at the desecration. Tears flowing down her cheeks.
The arrow flew, trailing the flame in the sky.
She notched a second.
The first overshot, landing harmlessly in the lake. Her crying ruined her aim. She took a deep, steadying breath.
The second flew. The flaming arrow drove into the chest of her old mentor. Her friend.
It burned its light into the dark places inside.
The body fell to the deck, convulsing.
Burning arrows rained down on the barge, catching the kindling, turning the barge into a pyre.
The Hunter said his last goodbye, and she sat in her circle of light sobbing for her old friend.