Anri stood in front of the coffin. The catacombs she was in was one where important citizens and heroes were buried. She read the words on the coffin again. The letters formed into a name. Dorman Kaz. Anri stared down, remembering Dorman’s tenacity, his unique way of living. She shuffled her feet, a feeling of nervousness washing over her. She glanced around the crypt, to reassure herself she was alone. Dim torchlight lit the stone room. The walls had slots carved deep into them, each with a casket planted firmly within. Each casket was beautifully constructed, and the stone walls were smooth, with a large stone beneath each casket engraved with a carving of the greatest achievement of each person buried within. Some were of a king ruling, another showed a man’s unending charity, while others showed displays of unmatched heroism. They stretched down the length of the crypt, rays of moonlight shining through the ceiling, giving the crypt an eerie, yet calming atmosphere. She could almost feel the history in the room, being surrounded by so many important people. She finally returned her gaze to the coffin in front of her.
“Hi Dor,” she said softly. She shuffled her feet again. “It’s, strange, to see you in this place.” Anri stood in silence for a moment. “Who would have expected a rogue like you to end up here, huh?” She let out a small chuckle. “But that was always like you, wasn’t it? Always so full of surprises. You had a strange penchant for others, you know that? Despite how much you complained, you always looked out for everyone. Especially me and Vezna…” she trailed off. Anri took a moment, composing herself, before a wide smile spread across her face. “Oh, you should have seen it, Dor. The ceremony was beautiful. They carried you, all in garland and roses, through the entire city, through the streets, music heralding your route, petals floating down on you from above. Even the King himself paid his respects, to you!” Anri’s eye’s started to water. “And all those people! Everyone in the city came to see you off. To celebrate you, to wish you good fortune in your life to come!” Tears were now freely flowing down Anri’s cheeks. “Everyone was there. Everyone…” Anri’s legs buckled, and she crumpled to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m sorry, Dor, I’m so sorry. He had so long, and he still didn’t… I thought he would, but he…” the words choked in her throat. The crypt was silent, save Anri’s pained breaths. “I don’t know, Dor, I don’t kno-” she stopped as she felt a presence behind her. She turned. There stood Vezna, slightly behind her, his clothes covered in dried dirt and blood. Anri pushed herself to her feet, composing herself, wiping the tears from her eyes. She stared at Vezna, who’s green eyes stared back at her from under his hood.
“You know it’s customary to remove your hood when you enter a place such as this Vezna,” she sniffled out. Vezna glanced up, as if he didn’t realize it was still on his head. He slowly reached up, dragging the hood off his head. His face was caked with dirt, his hair messy. He continued to stare at Anri. She looked at him back, happy to see him back, before anger began to slowly overtake her.
“Where were you?” she asked. Vezna stood silent. “You’ve been gone for weeks, Vezna. Do you know what you’ve done?” she asked, angrier. Vezna’s lips stayed shut, his eyes never straying from hers. “You missed his funeral, Vezna, his funeral. How could you? He was your friend, and you missed it.” She said, her anger overflowing now. “I saw you walking away from him, towards that forest. I screamed your name, for you to come back. I know you heard me Vezna, you turned and looked me right in the eyes, and still left to what, go and kill those monsters for some sort of, revenge,” she shouted. Vezna’s eyes stayed locked on, unwavering, unmoving. “Your friend is gone, and you couldn’t even come to his funeral, he’s a hero, and you couldn’t come. Do you even care?!? ANSWER ME?!?” she screamed. Vezna’s gaze dropped.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, slowly walking forward. “But he didn’t have it. They took it.” Anri stared at Vezna in confusion as he passed her. He stopped in front of the coffin, placing his closed hand on top of it.
“I had to get it back,” he whispered. “It was all I could do.” He opened his fist, then returned his hand, leaving something on top of the coffin. “It was all I could do,” he repeated as he turned and walked past her. Vezna made his way out of the catacombs, leaving Anri behind. Anri turned back towards the coffin. Her eyes widened as she saw what laid there. On top of the coffin sat a rosary. Anri picked it up, looking at it in disbelief, running her finger over the familiar surface. It was supposed to be silver, but the shine it once had was gone, leaving behind a dull gray. It had scratches across its surface, as if its owner had frequently pulled it past his armor to hold it, usually for luck before a battle. Her finger brushed over the center, which had the symbol of the Fruehmen carved into it. Her finger slowly followed the intricate design of each limb of the rosary, until finally she reached the bottom limb, which had been snapped diagonally. She gently prodded the point. It was still as sharp as ever.
“This was Dorman’s,” she whispered. “He never took this off, but no one could find it when they were preparing him. I assumed it was lost in the battle, but…” she trailed off, staring at the rosary. Then she stiffened, and quickly turned and ran out of the catacombs.
Anri raced out of the catacombs, emerging into the graveyard. It was dark and cold, the remnants of the day's proceedings littering the ground, the grass still trampled where all those that had paid their respects had stepped. The tombstones of soldiers were closest to the crypt, while the tombs of the city’s servants and citizens slowly spread down the side of the graveyard. A stone wall stretched across the outskirts of the graveyard. Vezna stood frozen under the stone arches at the entrance, gazing at the city. She raced up behind him, throwing her arms around his waist. They stood motionless for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know. I didn’t know and I…” she said.
“All those people, mourning for him, honoring him,” Vezna said, staring out at the city. It was bright, and even from the graveyard, the sound of music and celebration could be heard. “All of this, just for him.” Anri tightened her embrace.
“I’m, so sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry…” she started.
“No,” Vezna said, interrupting her. “It’s not your fault.” Vezna shifted his gaze starward. “I didn’t tell you, you couldn’t have known. It’s my fault. And I did it again.” Anri quickly made her way in front of Vezna. He kept his eyes focused on the dark night sky.
“No no no,” Anri started, “this time it was different.”
“It didn’t feel different,” Vezna replied. Anri stood silent for a moment, looking up at Vezna. He wouldn’t meet her gaze. Anri dropped her gaze and pushed her head against Vezna’s chest.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she whispered.
“There wasn’t enough time. By the time I had figured out what happened, the trail was already cold. I didn’t have the luxury of time.” Anri closed her eyes, listening to Vezna’s steady heartbeat.
“Those things I said to you,” Anri started.
“Completely justified,” Vezna said quickly. Anri looked up at Vezna.
“No, they weren’t, it was-” she started again.
“Completely justified,” Vezna interrupted.
“Stop saying that,” Anri replied.
“But it was.”
“That’s not --”
“I did it again.” Anri took a step back from Vezna. She stared in disbelief. Vezna was slightly trembling, staring up at the sky. “I told you I wouldn’t do it again. That I’d keep myself in check.” His eyes dropped from the sky. “And yet.” Anri quickly stepped up next to Vezna.
“But you did it for a reason,” Anri said gently, “to get Dorman’s rosary back.” Vezna shook his head.
“A convenient excuse,” he said.
“Vezna,” Anri started, bringing her hand up to his cheek. Vezna quickly pulled away, turning his back to Anri.
“I did it again,” he repeated. “Doesn’t matter why I did it. I told you I wouldn’t do that again, yet here I am.” Vezna glanced down at his hand, staring at the dirt and blood. “Doing the exact goddamned thing.”
“Vezna,” Anri started, “it’s okay.”
“It’s not okay,” Vezna shouted, quickly turning on his heel to face Anri. She took a step back in surprise. “I went after some stupid trinket as an excuse to do it again, to push everything away. I missed my friend’s funeral, a ceremony to honor him as the hero he was to this city, to go on some hunt for myself.” Anri took a step towards Vezna.
“It’s not just some trinket, Vezna,” she said firmly. “It was Dorman’s, it was special, and you got it back for him.”
“He’s dead, Anri,” Vezna whispered, his shoulders dropping, his eyes lowering to the ground. “Getting his locket back wasn’t for him. It was just an excuse, a stupid excuse, and because of it I missed his funeral.” Vezna backed up into the stone wall, slowly sliding down it till he sat on the floor. Anri approached him slowly, kneeling in front of him, putting a hand on his knee.
“Then why did you go?” Anri asked. “If you thought it was just an excuse, why did you go?” Vezna kept his eyes downcast.
“Because I don’t know what else to do,” he replied. Vezna shook his head. “Anri, Dorman died in my arms. I held him as the life left his body.” Vezna shook his head again, he glanced up at Anri before lowering his gaze again. “You want to know what he said to me? He, he asked me if I heard the music? I told him ‘No, I don’t hear any music.’ Then he smiled at me, and said, ‘Too bad.’ Then he looked past me, as if someone was standing right behind me. He reached up his hand to the sky, then, he was gone.” Anri’s eyes filled with tears. “You know what I felt, Anri? What I felt, after my friend just died in my arms?” They sat in silence for a moment.
“Nothing,” Vezna whispered. “Nothing, nothing, I felt nothing.” Anri sat in silence, unsure of what to say. “I did it again. It was to try and feel something. I thought that if I got his rosary back, gave some payback to those monsters, that maybe I’d feel something.” Vezna looked up, meeting Anri’s gaze. His face was its normal stoic self, only with a slight smile tugging at his lips. But Anri gazed into Vezna’s eyes. A deep sadness was in them, something that wouldn’t come out. “But I don’t feel anything,” Vezna said. “All I feel is angry at myself, for breaking my word, and making you feel guilty.” Vezna dropped his gaze again. “I did it again.” he repeated. He brought his hands up to his head. “I don’t know what to do,” he whispered. Anri quickly moved next to Vezna, wrapping her arms around him, pulling him into her chest.
“I don’t know what to do,” he repeated.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Anri said, stroking his hair. “I’ve got you, I got you.”