Sean drew his uncle's curved knife from his belt. He had never drawn it before other than to polish it or ensure that it had an edge. It wasn't a throwing knife: its long curbed blade was made for hand-to-hand fighting and no one had ever gotten that close.
He turned and strode to where the thickest part of the battle had been. Only the bloodstained sand remained to show that hundreds had died there. If they had known what they were doing, earth magic could have done so much more damage, instead they had concentrated on the foundation of the walls, leaving the concept of hand-to-hand fighting to fighters. If they had turned their magic toward Sean's knights and their horses, he could have lost all of them. As he walked, he shed armor, gloves and swords, then he shed his shirt. By the time he reached his goal, he was dressed in only his pants and boots.
Facing the setting sun - looking at it as directly as he could - Sean drew three long cuts across his chest, then he drew three more across the back of each of his arms. He heard a brief commotion on the wall and guessed that Larry or Jenny had recognized what he was doing and wished he'd ordered everyone to clear the walls too.
He lifted his arms into a wide pose and bowed his head. He stepped - one foot close in front of the other - then he turned a full circle, drawing a tight circle with a toe in the process. There were no names this time, no pictures of torture and murder flashing through his mind. War was war and combatants had been killed, but they had been his people once, so they deserved his grief.
As he turned and stepped, there were no tears. The curved knife, already bloodied, switched from hand to hand and back again as he stepped and turned, then stepped again. The profound sorrow that bled from his wounds stained his chest, slicked his hands and dripped from the tip of his knife, held point down. He continued to turn and step, drawing circles in the sand with one toe or the other.
With the setting sun on one hand and the rising moons on the other, he stepped and turned again, the pounding surf once again clocking his steps along the otherwise silent beach.
It wasn't Larry who stopped Sean's dance. Garonne halted as he met the curved edge of Sean's knife and behind it his intense black eyes. "Do you grieve too?" asked Sean. The hand with the knife was held straight forward, his other straight behind him. Once again, his feet were close, one in front of the other; he balanced, poised high on his toes, frozen in mid-move.
Garonne hadn't seen what had happened to the prisoners, but he knew that they were now gone and he had heard the screams - everyone had heard those horrible screams - then the abrupt silence that followed. He wasn't sure who Sean was grieving for, so he picked a neutral answer. "War and grief cannot but follow the same path."
Sean heaved a deep sigh and dropped his arms. He nodded as his heels met the sand. "Yes, they do." He suddenly didn't know what to do with his hands. He wanted to clean the blood from his knife, but he wasn't even wearing a shirt. He looked down at his bloody chest. "I should let it scar," he muttered to himself, but then he felt what Aaunika would say. "Pointless gesture, really." He wiped the cuts away. Then, still wanting to clean his knife, he made the blood vanish too. He turned to retrieve his things and saw someone else picking them up; they met over his shirt. "Captain General Garrone, I would like to introduce you to Ruihano Pyrene," said Sean, as he looked into the brown eyes of Genevieve's brother.
The eldest Pyrene started at the address and Garonne's reaction wasn't much different. "Ruihano, but . . . ," said Garrone.
Sean pulled his shirt on. "He's your lawful lord and commander under me. You will take his orders. You will take my orders and see to it that he is properly reinstated here."