Excerpt from my novel (in progress) ~ ~ ~ a ‘darker’ scene

This is a darker mood scene:

"The Exhumation"
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Radhmere stood before his sister's cairn. What he was about to do almost made him retch. The slabs of stone marking Esther's ossuary stood like a frozen sentinel guarding her bones, casting a long, triangular shadow along the pale pink ice of morning. The cairn had compressed over the years, seeming shorter each time he visited. How quickly the ice claims us when we can no longer fight. It was almost predatory, like a ravenous wolf. Out past the cairn, the icefield lay barren all the way to the distant mountains. He forced a deep breath of cold air into his lungs.

The rocks were undisturbed, still stacked where they had been placed those many years ago. The absurdity of all this was blatant. It was not the wolves who would disturb her rest, but her own brother. He reached up and removed the top stone. Using the stump of his arm, he balanced it, bent down, and placed it on the ice. How could he actually be doing this? What would Esther think? Could she forgive him this indignity?

He stood back and studied the silent rocks. He had gone over and over this before coming out here. If his suspicion was correct, Esther would want him to know. So, yes, she could forgive him.

Turning to the task, he grasped each heavy stone, lifted it from the cairn, and placed it beside the previous one in a neat line out along the ice. He would make sure every stone was replaced in the correct order afterwards.

When half the cairn was removed, he rested. What was it? Ten? Twelve years ago? The Harrudin had dragged her body home on a pallet that day. Under the fur shroud, her belly had protruded, still large with the unborn child. They had stayed right through the prayer vigil. It was strange. They had insisted on lowering her into the shallow hole themselves, and they stood there like vultures until the Laskyn men had laid all the stones and the cairn was complete. They even pretended to pray for her. Yet he never suspected for a moment the possibility that he was about to confirm. It had been unthinkable.

He worked on, removing the stones one by one, until, finally, he climbed into the oval to reach the last ones that lay directly on top of Esther's body. He knelt beside her and placed a hand upon the stone that rested above her head. His sister's skull would be white and dry underneath it. He shuddered. Esther, forgive me for what I do.

Pressing his lips together, he prepared for the sight of the tiny skeleton that was about to be exposed to the air for the first time. His chest ached. It was almost like a birth.

Leaning over, he lifted the stone that lay upon his sister's abdomen. All he could see were desiccated remains of the shroud. He put the rock down to the side of her body and touched the fur. It was stiff and crispy. He lifted it. It cracked into pieces. Small bits of dry leather fell away through his fingers. He reached down, brushed away the remaining covering, and gasped.

... Sorry, no spoilers!

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(If you're inspired to do any fan art of this scene, I'd be glad to post your pictures here.)

(Also available with a soundtrack as you read, at BookTrack )

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