There comes a broken sound from the snapping jaws of the firestorm. Vetru looks up at the mouth of the cave, dazed. They tuck the little one behind them.
“I shouldn't have-- I didn't realize-- I knew what I was saying-- This is my fault-- A horrible thing to tell a--”
Dia. For once, she can't seem to summon a coherent thought. Vetru isn't faring much better. She's a shadow against the red sky, now, so heavy it seems the earth is pulling her down by the raw lacerations scrawled across her hide.
“It's okay. I'm okay.”
“I know what I need to do now.”
“No. I can't accept this.”
“We don't exactly have the luxury of playing reluctant hero, do we?”
Dia indicates the little one draped around Vetru's neck with her chin. “Only if this is a story about us.”
Thunder cracks overhead. They share a sobered silence.
“... But I want to give this to you,” Vetru says. “I trust you, now. How else will you...?”
Before they can finish, they realize they can no longer discern where Dia begins and the blackened underbrush ends. She's gone.
Vetru lingers among what's left of the wildflowers. They can't quite shake the feeling that there's a pair of smiling eyes trained on them. From the broken heath comes the sound of dry laughter, and a light refrain:
“I am perfectly capable of making myself useful without your help, you know.”
July 23, 2018