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Lema didn’t mind the trickle of blood flowing from the back of her hand, in fact she pushed the hand even harder into the jagged floor. It didn’t matter; she could always visit the Danaralins later to have it healed. They’d do it, even though they wouldn’t approve. She was fine with that, and fine with the pain if that’s what it took to keep Kellin alive to her.

Her red-rimmed eyes sought the altar through dark hair that was starting to mat, unkempt since the funeral. They didn’t use gastroliths here. Instead, the braziers burned through enchantment so they could be continuously fed the bundles of Stingroot provided by the dutiful attendants. The dance of red across the altar made Hannick’s already twisted face dance.

Stinging Eyes — Environmental

Stringroot smoke is hurting your eyes.

 

Labored Breathing — Environmental

Stringroot smoke is burning your lungs.

The notifications had long since faded into the background, moved to the periphery of her thoughts by familiarity, but the pain wouldn’t be similarly ignored. That was good. The physical pain was something she could hold onto when emotional pain threatened to sweep her away. She tracked the Bleeding debuff, unsure when it would be enough, when she’d get to—

Warmth washed over her, the warmth of the deep caves where she and Kellin had hunted together, hidden from each other, hungered for each other. And then he was there, and the warmth of the caves blossomed into the actuality of them. His hands were as warm and sturdy as they’d ever been when he lifted her to her feet, and she shed her sorrow like an old blanket. He fussed over her hand, and her hair, and her puffy eyes, and then they talked and walked for what seemed like an eternity. There were so many memories to revisit, after all.

And then the moment was gone.

It was part of the remembering that she wouldn’t—couldn’t—prepare, and so each loss was as sharp as the first, when Eren had come to her with frenzied eyes, interrupting her beadwork to report that the caves had collapsed and swallowed her husband.

Lema collapsed herself, and howled, unable to care when the purposefully sharp protuberances opened her forehead and cheek. From the floor Hannick’s face could have been laughing, but she couldn’t help but feed him her blood, her pain, and her sorrow, magnified by the clouds of Stingroot and the serrated teeth of the floor. All welcome offerings to the God of Pain.

Later, helped to the temple’s door by one of Hannick’s acolytes, Lema stood listless, having sobbed through every tear she had. Passing dwarves turned their gazes away, hurrying down the broad tunnel of the Holy District toward more savory vistas. No one wanted to acknowledge the role played by pain in their lives, nor by the domains of the other “undesirable” gods whose temples littered that part of the gallery. Lema didn’t care. They’d find their way to Hannick in their own time.

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Wilson A. Bateman

Bio: Wilson A. Bateman was raised all around the world, but predominately in Utah. Never able to constrain his interests to one field, he has degrees in German, Biology, Professional Writing, and Computer Science. He thrives on mixing Psychology and Philosophy into his work, and has recently made his debut in the Fantasy and LitRPG genres with his books: Auger & Augment and Serpent & Spirit.

He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his beautiful husband and their three hideous children.

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