Nasty, Brutish, and Short
Evil Fiction by Patrick M. Tracy

Bronar II: Sole Survivor

By Patrick M. Tracy

Tahni watched the muscles move in his back. The early sun coming in the window made everything so stark. All the scars. A patch of mottled skin low on his hip. A burn, perhaps. Bronar sat on the edge of the bed, elbows on knees, head low. At first, she had called it prayer, but she’d come to doubt that conclusion. No, she didn’t want to put a name to it. Whatever happened within him made her feel as if just lying next to him assumed too much, pierced whatever walls he’d built up around his heart.

“You’re always like this in the morning,” she whispered.

Bronar straightened, taking a big breath. He let himself collapse back into bed with her. Tahni burrowed into his arms, her face against his ribs, hearing the workings within his chest.

“I’ll have leave. Soon. Maybe I’ll never make it back. The emissaries of Arvordeth will prevail one day, and he’ll have his revenge on me. I’ll precede him into the grave. That’s what he swore when we destroyed his temple and closed the rift to the Well of Madness.” Bronar’s body tightened, on the point of shivering for a moment before the spell faded. Tahni could feel something in the room with them, like shadows haunting at the verge of the light. Echoes of all the pain of many years bounced from the raftered ceiling and sat, cackling like crows upon the window sill.

“I don’t know that tale.”

He turned his face away, but held her so tight. Tahni reached, her fingertips against his clenched jaw until it eased. “No one does. I don’t talk about it.”

“Maybe you should. At least to someone.”

He shook his head, making a sound she didn’t have a name for. “I’m the last one. We lost most everyone in the venture, and the few survivors, well, he never let us rest. One by one, they fell. It just takes one bad day, one tough break. It’s just me left now, and there’s always an assassin on my trail. No one gets lucky every time.”

“Those dark-swaddled killers in the tavern? I watched you with them. That wasn’t luck.”

Bronar kissed the top of her head. Something he didn’t always do, that moment of stillness as he touched her scalp with the rough-stubble feel of his mouth. Tahni had never met someone so lonely, a man whose every friend and ally had been taken from him. The sole survivor of all his exploits. The bards never told that tale, not even late in the night, when everyone was in their cups and tears were as close as a plaintive strum upon a lute. No one knew the mystery of this road but her, and she ached with it. She tried to think of kind words, something to assuage the hurt in his heart, but no platitude fit, no happy face could be drawn upon the loss.

“Doesn’t change anything. I still have to go.” He lay, wordless, for a long time. “And I don’t want to. This life makes me weary, but I know no other. I just…” Bronar touched his fingertips to the top of her chest, just between the V of her collar bones.

“I…I’ll go with you,” she said, the words escaping before she knew what they might mean.

His eyes softened. “You’ll die. Everyone always dies. You deserve better than that. Better than me.”

She could feel the rumble of his voice through the places where their bodies pushed together. “What if I live? What if this is what we need, and deserving doesn’t enter into it?”

Bronar reached, tilting her chin toward him and meeting her eyes. His face held no answer, but somewhere deep behind the hurt, there lay hope.  

2 Responses to “Bronar II: Sole Survivor”

  1. This was really well written!! 🙂

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