The rain had stopped; the embers had long since faded from angry red to black, when she at last dared step out of her hole. The reavers had long since gone, having taken their share of plunder and savage pleasure. Men and women they had carried off for chattel. Bodies of the old and infirm lay scattered about the burning remnants. Children...they had butchered children, ridden them down in the heat of bloodlust, scattered them and hunted them like they would hunt rabbits. Of course, they had taken them as well.
But her, of course.
She did not remember her father's face. How he had held on to the table as he was dragged inexorably away. His haunted eyes on hers. Rememberance was denial. Rememberance was fatal. She knew in her child's heart, unconsciously, perhaps, that hatred was a winding stair that led her into the fires of Grend. Her father should know. Her father. Who was her father? Only now did it dawn on her to ask. Who had he been? Once she played games with other children, an eternity ago. One particular game, "Hero or Brigand", stood out in her mind now. She had always wondered why the two should be mutually exclusive. Was her father a hero or a brigand? Or both? Grend take your questions, he would say. She could hear him in her mind's ear. Grend was the mage of the netherworld, antithesis of Val, the mountain god. She always wanted why Grend would want her questions, or why he would somehow know all the answers.
She walked among the dead. Ravens cawed and fought for their bounty. The burnt home rose in front of her. The tree still stood, though. Somehow she didn't think anything in the town still stood, it was so ugly and grey and incomplete. There were even apples on the tree. Red apples that stood out against the noir landscape. Red on grey silt and dust. The dust of the dead. She plucked one and bit into it. It was red and juicy and it made her teeth hurt, but it was good, she was so hungry.
When she had finished, the apple core fluttered from her hand. It flew around and settled on the grass like a king. A King with a crown of stalk and dust, and courtiers of dried leaves. How redolent it was, sitting there among the grey grass, pridefully dominating. How the leaves bowed to their newfound sovreign. How they crinkled up with fear and awe. She ate an apple and it became the King of Leaves. She remembered the story of Daer the Kingmaker, who made four kings and outlived them all. What is made can be unmade. That was how that tale was concluded. What is done can never be undone. Her father would never sit by the fire with her again.
She kicked the apple core away. Soon, she knew, it would turn brown and fade and maggots would crawl on it and devour what meat she had not eaten. I shared my apple with worms. I made my King and worms shall unmake him, and eat his noble mien. The apple rolled and stopped. The tree and the garden and the little house, where are they? They are here. The tree is here, the house and the garden. The green bushes that sparkled with sunlight on a spring morning, the grass that swayed with the autumn wind. The apples that would rustle the leaves, the deep and verdant green summer leaves, where are they now? Did the reavers take them too? Or did her father? Did father take them with him when they took him away? The chair at the back, that he had been working on. It was still there. Incomplete. The chair will never finish. Never never ever. What is made cannot be unmade. Not even kings.
She looked at the apple. Not even memories, she thought.
She could feel the tree talking to her. What is done can be undone, what is made cannot be unmade. Thank you, she told him. Then, turning, she left the house, left the apple, and the garden, and picked up a fallen dagger and a sack and walked into the sunset.