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A little town, somewhere in America….

“They are your gods child, they are our gods, they belong to those that believe.”

“No,” the younger man said quietly, defiance plain in his voice, “They are not mine, they have never been mine.”

A wheeze preceded the pained words of the woman whose bedside he knelt by, a thin, wasted sound that belied how little time she had left. Despite that pain however, despite the effort it took, the claw that reached out to grasp his shirt collar was not weak, nor was it forgiving as he felt her ragged fingernails score his flesh ever so slightly. He did not pull back, but neither did he allow her to draw him forward.

“They have been your gods,” she breathed, angry now, “since you were a child on my knee. And they,” she rasped, “remain so to this day. They will find you, one day. And you,” wheeze, “will have, to answer, to them.”

He remained silent, not wishing to refute her any longer, but also not wishing to give into the delirium she had been living in for so long. Aulic was not a boy any longer, he didn’t feel any need to cling to the old religions or ways of his mother. The old gods, as far as he was concerned, were dead and had always been dead, and good riddance.

“Promise me,” she rasped, still holding onto him, “I will not, be interred, in the ground. Promise me…”

He knew what she wanted, what she’d always wanted, but he was still loath to agree to it. At that moment it took every ounce of will he had not to roll his eyes, but he didn’t speak. He didn’t trust the words that were itching to come off of his tongue. Instead, he merely nodded, feeling the movement as a wooden gesture that required only the acceptance of gravity followed by the sheer willpower of raising his eyes to hers again. As he did however the hand clutching his collar slackened, and by the time their eyes met, she was gone.

(to be continued)

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