Like a rusted hinge yawning open, like the petrichor of the first rain of the season, like stone bricks sliding into mortar, like a great iron lock clunking into place, like gears machined separately meshing perfectly,
the world snapped into place.
For a moment you could feel it. The sharp fresh smell of the new air. The magic fits together differently here. The stars are a millennium newer! You can taste the energy here, the untapped potential, the peace before the panic of the fall, the eye of the storm, the water in your lungs,
and like a dream on waking, it dissolved into the background. Became just… part of the fabric of the world.
And with that, the rest of reality. Enderis looked around the map room at the bodies of— yes, they were his friends. Unharmed in any way apart from the fact they didn’t have souls in them any more. They looked for all the world as if they were asleep, and rather content. He caught Jack’s eye, and in silent agreement they grabbed a pair of Burne’s— well, this is Rufus’s body, and Burne isn’t in it any more— Rufus’s limbs, and started the long journey towards the church.
He didn’t stay to the end of the service. The Canon’s words meant nothing to him. What the fuck’s a ledger anyway? That, and a snippet of unusual birdsong piqued his interest. The ranger muttered the quiet words and furtively made the hand movements that initiated the spell he’d mentally labelled “Sneaky Fucker”, and slunk out the back.
He didn’t have to go far. A short walk north, and down the ledge where the cloven hill hadn’t quite met up properly, and there it was. A largish bird, the shape of the crows he knew from the battlefields back home, but with a white chest and beautiful bluish-green iridescence in its plumage. Sitting on its own on a branch, it feasted on the snail whose shell it had dashed against the trunk, and warbled something mournful-sounding at the ranger.
He sat down and slowed his breathing. The world spun for ten minutes until he opened his eyes and asked, “Why are you here?” The bird looked confused. “aaark Don’t you know the rhyme? The human chicks sing it for a reason. aarkk It’s true.”
“I’m not from around here. I don’t know the rhyme.”
“arkk The air changed earlier, and the west became fire, aaarrrkk and the human nests appeared again. aaarrkk Was that you?”
“No”. He pointed at the church. “It was my friends in there. It took their life”. He was fighting tears.
The church bell pealed, just once, to signal the end of the service. The bird started, and flew away. Enderis hadn’t noticed the two others until then. As they flew, they sang. A haunting song, even if you can’t understand the words.
One for sorrow,
Two for mirth
Three for a funeral,
Four for birth
Five for heaven
Six for hell
Seven for the devil, his own self