Fudin stood silently. A single tear traced its way down his cheek from his red-rimmed eyes. He had few left.
It was colder without Nes. He was colder. Hollow.
Fudin placed the last rock upon his brother’s cairn. Behind him stood Bree and Santon. He had not let them help put his brother to rest. It was his duty. His, and his alone.
Bree muttered a prayer to her drunken, reckless god. Santon patted Fudin on the back.
“I’m sorry.” he said again, as if that would make it better.
Fudin ignored them.
Eventually, they left him there, alone with the memory of his brother.
Fudin frowned. It had been all his fault.
When Fudin had left home with his brother to prove themselves, Fudin had come for only one reason. Just one. His brother.
Fudin didn’t care if he earned his father’s pride. He didn’t care if he was accepted as a man. He didn’t even care if he achieved his father’s position as advisor. Those were Nes’ hopes. Nes’ dreams. Not his.
Fudin had come only to keep his brother safe. And he had failed. He had become overwhelmed by his powers right when Nes needed him most. If he had only held on. If only he had been stronger.
He could have held the powers at bay. He should have. But he didn’t.
And so, instead of Fudin protecting Nes from the lycanthrope and succumbing to its bite, his brother did. His frail, weak brother.
Fudin had no doubt that he could have survived the wolfsbane, just as Nes had been certain that he could not.
It was all his fault. It should have been him. Fudin frowned. His body shook, but no tears fell. He had none left. He was empty.
Fudin picked up the burnt card that Nes had found in his spellbook a few weeks past. The men painted on the card glared out at him from beneath their crow’s masks. They eyed him accusingly. Fudin held the singed card to his heart. It was all he had kept of his brother. Everything else he had buried with him.
A shrill caw sounded from above. Fudin looked up to see a trio of crows circling the skies above. Fudin nodded in understanding.
The crows had chosen him, but had taken his brother instead.
He turned then, from his brother’s grave, and walked away.
He would not come back.