They reached the lodge after three long days. The second day, the rinaani accepted riders again, though Keelath hardly found it more comfortable. Rinaani didn’t move like breezeriders did, and Rosen’s ears were tight against its skull after an hour of Keelath bumping around like a sack of turnips on its back. It leaned over him like a great black phantom and whuffed indignantly into his hair as he lay, trying to sleep, that night.
“I know, I know,” grumbled Keelath. “Give me a break, will you? I’ve never done this before. It’s all so grel-damned new.”
The rinaan nickered, lipping his hair in a manner almost exactly like Keelath giving his younger brother a noogie, then wandered off to drink from a nearby stream.
Keelath closed his eyes, but sleep was a long way off. The hard-edged fear from the battle had worn off by now, and now he could think about it more clearly, but he found that just as painful. He had been a part of the Gladerunner unit for only a year, hardly a long time for one wuyon‘mar to get to know another, but he still felt their loss as a gnawing ache somewhere under his ribs. When he had looked back from the hilltop, he been unable to pick out any Gladerunners still standing among the horde of bandits, so at least he hadn’t been abandoning them, yet he wondered if he could have changed their fate. Why was he destined to have survived that fight, alone of all the others? Logically it was just the luck of Rosen’s presence and his decision to mount up on it, but spiritually, it seemed such a waste…
Keelon had spoken — infrequently — of such losses in the Kingslayer War. “You can either sit and brood about it, or you can move on,” he’d say gruffly, as he knelt before the small shrine to the Light in the back of their house and refused to meet his son’s eyes.
Keelath had thought Keelon meant it derisively, but now he wondered. There was a time and a place for everything, as his mother said. Perhaps there was no shame in considering the woes of the fallen, so long as he did not become drowned by them. His fingers found the symbol of Shen-Bahan he kept on a cord around his neck, and he held it, thinking, until at last, sleep claimed him.