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“They are not my gods,” he repeated in a whisper, pulling free of the fingers that went limp as he stepped away. He could hear the shuffling of feet behind him, smell the slight tang of perfume as the last member of his family, an old crone the hadn’t seen in years, came to stand next to him.

“Her wishes were to be cremated and cast into the sea,” his great-aunt said, her rasping voice giving him the impression that she might soon join his grandmother, one of his last surviving relatives, in the fabled afterlife they so desired.

“I can’t afford that, and neither could she,” he replied, “And a funeral pyre is illegal in these parts.”

“Those were her wishes,” his great-aunt repeated, her voice gaining a bit of strength as she continued to speak, “She wishes to meet her gods and this is the manner that tradition demands.”

He closed his eyes, feeling the old resentment, the old irritation, creeping back in as he kept his voice low and as neutral as possible. Damn all old folks anyway, their traditions and their beliefs alike. He’d been force-fed this shit from the cradle, about Odin and Valhalla and Freya and the Aesir and on and on and on. He wanted nothing to do with, the old ways were gone for a reason.

“Then you do it,” he replied quietly, “You take the risk and get it done, I don’t care any longer. I turned away from your traditions a long time ago, and I won’t have anything to do with it.”

The old woman said nothing as he turned about, making his way for the door. She offered one parting shot, as he would see it until later, as he reached the opening.

“Honor thy kin, and honor the gods, lest thy flame be spent.”

Despite the sudden chill he felt at the words, spoken so many times during his life, he shook it off, making his way out the door and onto the next part of his day. He had other matters to worry over at the moment.

(to be continued)

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