Left or Lived

“I didn’t do this.” Charming would have added ‘Deputy’, but the epithet no longer seemed to apply. Mondroon just stood in the boat staring under the gang and under Charming’s feet. He held himself steady on the easy shuffle of the Benhá by grasping a charred pile with the claw of his hammer. She repeated, “I didn’t do this.”

“You brought it.”

Charming thought about that for a moment. She had brought it. She’d brought Gane; she’d brought Roundmartin; and she’d brought the destruction of her only home. Though Mondroon didn’t know it, she’d probably brought the ruin of [cool named monastery] too—maybe her second home, maybe her last. “I didn’t do that either.”

“Well, it came.” Mondroon glanced up at Charming and then Outward. “And you left.”

“Left or lived?”

Even clinging to the pile, Mondroon’s shrug indicated there was no real difference. Charming hmm’d noncommittally. Another denial would be a waste.

Mondroon looked back to Charming and caught her eye. “Gonna stay? Gonna help?”

No and yes. “That’s not really an invitation is it?”

Mondroon smiled. Maybe the burning of Song had changed everyone Charming thought. Maybe it wasn’t just her. Maybe she could stay. “It isn’t much of one, but we need all kinds.”

The last three words echoed one of the last things Gane said to her before he died and they brought both a painful stone to her throat and a tidal swell of warmth to her chest. Charming stepped a quarter turn to face away from Mondroon and hide her tears, but a sob wracked her body anyway.

Charming put up her hand to ask for a moment. She drew a breath to clear the stone and then another to speak, but walked away instead. Walked Upward over fresh aluminum decking and through the rising skeleton of new construction to the Leaf and to the flit deck she’d just climbed down from.

317 words on day 712