The Eparch is dying” Lord Hyutyr let out when he entered the tavern.
“WHAT?!” I took off sprinting into the woods, following behind Mother Superior Solace and a few others, including the good doctor Heimir, rushing to Elias’s aid.
My breath left me, I don’t know if it was the shock of the news or the distance and speed I was running but by the time I reached Elias, My head was pulsing, my sides splitting, my legs cramping. I looked to the others at the scene.
“Hollow Song. They got him. He’s dying”
With that last word, I was left completely breathless as a frenzy of panic set in.
“No, no, no, I can’t save him then, I haven’t learned what I need to, maybe if I-” A pair of strong weathered hands grabbed me by the collar and before me Lord Knutt stared me in the eyes.
“Vernon, not Erasmus, just breathe. Do what you need to do and be there for him. Emotions will come later”
A warm calm washed over me as he let me go. One I had not felt in a long time. I fell to my knees next to Elias and reached for his hand. It dashed and darted as he tried to get the good doctor to stop his ministrations.
Elias spoke his peace to both me and Solace. I felt my vision darkening as he spoke, as the words grew distant. Finally, Solace looked up to the good doctor and spoke, which brought me back to the moment.
“WHAT?!” Heimir exclaimed with a look of shock and disbelief.
“It’s okay… Let him go.” I put a hand on his shoulder, which was quickly ripped away from me as he backed away.
Finally, his thrashing stopped.
“I’m so proud of you both. Lead these people well. Good…bye.” His breath left him, his muscles relaxed, and his hand slipped from my hand. I fell backward into the soft grass behind me. My vision darkened again as I stared at the ground in front of me. I had failed. I couldn’t protect this man of god from the grasp of death. All my efforts and the knowledge I had gained in the past months were not enough. Shame seeped into my mind as once again a voice pierced the darkness
“Vernon, are you alright? Can you stand?” The Voice of the Tempest extended his hand. I stared for a moment and took it. My legs were tree trunks as I stumbled upright, leaning on the kindly skald with sister solace on my other side. The blood returned to my limbs as we moved back out of the forest. Slowly I was able to support myself again to walk, and speak once again.
“Thank you for that. I feel I would’ve been sitting there a while would you have not had said something” I said to him. I looked ahead and saw the good knight Knutt carrying the body we were to bury shortly. My mind blurred. I moved with what felt like practiced actions. They buried him and I gave him a proper funeral. When I was done speaking the rites, I stepped away from the group gathered and kneeled. Again I felt that darkness creep back. This time not blinding, or hindering, just…dark. I heard my name again and snapped back to reality.
“Would you like some time, Brother?” It was the Voice again.
“Uhm, yes please” They left me alone with the darkness, with my emotions. I sat. The doubt seeped in again; The doubt, the shame, the anger. I failed. How was I supposed to lead these people I met not more than 6 months ago? I let them down. I let this good man of God down. I was weak. I chose this life and this is what I get for it. I felt the tears streaming from my unblinking eyes. I clenched them and felt the sting of the cold winter air. I wiped the tears away with my hand and stared.
“Please, guide me on this new path. What is the best thing I can do for these people?” I placed my tear soaked hand on the freshly laid soil and prayed.
“Do your best, Vernon. Learn what you can, lead these people with that knowledge” I heard in my head.
My face was soaked, my eyes red. I stayed just a bit longer to clean myself up a bit. I stood and returned to the people. The people who I would help, heal, and lead. The people who would support me when I needed it, and I would support in turn.