In the Woods – ending…

I’d like to thank my sister for helping me out with a few of the details, as well as listening while I plotted the story out loud to her.


When they arrived at the community center, Timo told them what had happened and who they suspected was behind it.  The moment that her name was mentioned, it was clear that the elders knew her.  “She’s not among the local council of elders,” one said.  “However, she does live in the community.”

“If you’d please, wait in the community hall, while we summon her,” another added.  “She has a right to speak for herself in the face of your charges.”

“Of course,” Darius said.  They headed into the large community hall, where dinners and events were usually held to wait.

It was during the week, so the hall wasn’t in use.  However, there was always coffee or tea that could be had.  After all, the elders were there every day, no matter what else might be going on.

“I wonder what she’ll have to say for hers-” Timo started, braking off mid-word.  Sofia screamed and Nora called out his name.  Darius spun to face him and gasped.  Elder Kyander was standing behind Timo.  Her lance was buried in Timo’s back with the tip coming out of his chest.  Timo was gripping the weapon with both hands, preventing the elder from either removing it or banishing it.

Darius met the elder’s steely gaze and summoned his mace.  Behind him, he heard both Nora and Sofia summon their weapons as well.  “You think we’re cowards,” he breathed.  She blinked and he laughed.  “You kidnapped us while we slept and left in a forest to be attacked by vampires.  You attack us from behind without any warning.  You haven’t once faced us directly and we’re the cowardly ones?”

Kyander released the lance and Timo dropped to his knees.  “You don’t have any idea what I’ve been through,” she said, her voice faint.

“No,” Nora said, shaking her head.  “We’ve only survived one massacre, while you’ve survived three.”

“How?” Timo rasped.  He was still gripping her lance with both hands, but he was pale and trembling.  It was clear that he was only still alive because Defenders weren’t normal humans.  “How does a Lance survive three massacres when their Hammer doesn’t survive any?”

“He’s right,” Sofia said, her voice soft.  She shook her head.  “You weren’t even in town when the attack happened in North Pass Haven.”  She gave a small laugh that held no humor and said, “What?  Did you Hammer say that something was going to happen that you’d been through before?”

Darius blinked when Kyander took another step back.  “He did,” he whispered, repeating what the wind had said.  “The boy warned you and you ran away!  You didn’t warn anyone – not even your own family – what he meant and they died, while you lived.”

“Everyone died,” Sofia breathed, shaking her head.  “My family barely made it out because I was able to warn them in time, but you… you could have saved so many and you only saved yourself!”

“And we’re the cowards?” Nora said, her voice strained.  She shook her head.  “Was it the same in Havensburg?  Did your Hammer warn you then too?”

“No,” Timo breathed.  He gave a weak laugh and shook his head.  “The Elder Hammer did.”  He turned to face her, holding the lance with just one hand and using the other to support his weight.

Darius nodded.  He’d heard the message that the wind had brought them as well.  “She said the same thing that your Hammer would repeat years later,” he whispered.  “You, alone among the elders of Havensburg, survived.  You heeded the warning and never explained to the others what it meant.”

“Did they ask?” Nora asked, although they knew the answer to the question.  “They did!  They asked you what she meant and you lied to them – said you didn’t know.”

“And twenty-seven people survived of the hundreds that called Havensburg home,” Darius whispered.  He shook his head.  “We’re the cowards because we survived.  That means we must be cowards.  After all, that’s how you survived.  Right?”

“Shut up,” she screamed, holding out her hand to summon her lance back to her hand.

Timo gasped in pain as the weapon started to vanish.  He summoned his own weapon and lashed out with the last of his strength, striking her outreaching hand.  She withdrew, as if she’d been slapped.

Suddenly, music filled the room.  It was a song that Darius had only heard one other time: when the Elders in Haven-Shepherdtown feared that his brother had been tainted.  They’d sung him into a sleep to keep him from fighting them.  Kyander’s eyes widened briefly.  Then, she slumped to the floor.

“Timo,” Nora cried, as he crumpled to the floor.  Kyander’s weapon was already dissolving into nothingness.  A young woman rushed over to him as well and Darius turned to find that his young brother was there, along with some people he didn’t recognize.

The young woman kneeling beside Timo began singing the healing song and Darius heaved a sigh of relief.  He gave Mykolas a weak smile.  “You aren’t meant to even know that song,” he said, his voice soft.

“I know a lot of things that I’m not meant to,” Mykolas said, stepping over to him.  He hugged Darius and then gave Sofia a weak smile.  “Hello,” he said.  “Mykolas Balchunas, the Balchunas Cross.”

“Sofia Skalas,” she replied, extending her hand.  She shook her head.  “How did you know to come?”

Mykolas shrugged.  “The Koskinen Hammer knew that they’d need me,” he said.  “They swung through on the way from Georgia to get me.  I’ve learned not to argue with Hammers, so… here I am.”

“Good thing, too,” Nora said, her voice soft.  She patted the Koskinen Cross on the shoulder as she healed Timo.  Then, she got to her feet.  “Thank you, Darius,” she said.  “If we’d just gone home…” she trailed off, shaking her head.

“Kyander is grieving and feels guilty,” Darius said, shrugging.  “In her fear, she acted to save only herself and… now, she’s all alone.”

“The Council of Elders will punish her,” Mykolas said, grimacing.

Whatever the punishment was, Darius got the distinct impression that it was something else Mykolas knew when he shouldn’t.  He just nodded silently, watching as the local elders came to gather her up and bring her out of the room.  Then, he glanced at Timo.  He was asleep, but the wound was closed.  He would be fine.

“Time to go home,” Sofia said, her voice soft.  She hugged Darius and then stepped back.  “Don’t be a stranger.  Right?”

“I will write,” Darius said, nodding.  He glanced at Nora.  “That goes for you and Timo as well.  Yes?”

“Without a doubt,” Nora said, giving him a weak smile.

Darius stepped closer to Nora and added, “You should ask him, if he doesn’t seem inclined to ask you.”  He shrugged.  “If your elders won’t allow a union, come up to West Virginia.  Our elders are far less strict about marriage between families.”

Nora flushed and glanced at Timo.  Nodding, she said, “I may just do that.”  She hugged Darius and kissed his cheek.  Then, she joined the other members of Timo’s family as they headed out.

“Let’s go home,” Mykolas said, patting his brother on the arm.

Nodding, Darius fell into step behind Mykolas as they headed out of the room.  Sofia fell into step with them.  “I’m surprised that Petras let you come here without any Defenders,” he said, frowning.

“I didn’t exactly clear it with him,” Mykolas said, shrugging.  He gave his brother a playful wink.  “There wasn’t time.”


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