“Granddaughter” Shadar said weakly, raising his head a little from his bedding. “Why do you cry so?” Fayanya looked up and blinked tears from her eyes, and squeezed her grandfather's hand where it lay resting in her lap.
“Because I am losing you, grandfather” Fayanya answered truthfully. “And then I shall have no one.” Her father had been slain before her birth, and she had only the earliest memories of her mother. At eighty-five, Shadar had lived longer than she had any right to hope for. But she was not ready to part with the old man who had raised her and become her world.
“Family is not a thing that you can lose, child” Shadar answered with a cackle, squeezing her hand back. It was a frail echo of the throaty laugh that Fayanya knew, but it was the same laugh nonetheless, and she smiled. “We carry it with us. We etch it in our skin. What is in our very flesh cannot be taken from us.”
They were quiet for a moment, taking comfort in one another's presence, before Shadar spoke again.
“My rebellion may have failed, Tag” he said, addressing her by his affectionate name for her. He had called her Tag-a-long in her youth, when she had proven insistent on following him around relentlessly; and the name had stuck and shortened itself to Tag as she grew into womanhood, and continued to follow him around faithfully, learning all that he could teach her- swordcraft, hunting, horsemanship, songs. In his day, he had been an image of the Xastilians of the old world. Shadar took a sip of water from the skin that Fayanya offered, and continued.
“My rebellion may have failed, as did those before me. But I go to my end peaceful, knowing that your rebellion will be won- or the one that will be fought after you, or after that. There will always be those among our people who will fight. I am proud of them. I am proud of who I have been, and I am proud of you.”
The following evening, Fayanya sat close to the ashes of her grandfather's pyre and looked out across the makeshift camp site. She drew her woollen cloak around her shoulders more tightly, although the embers before her were still warm.
She had gathered the few possessions she would need before her. A flensing knife. Her tattooing knife. The tattered book in which she had been putting into writing her grandfather's old folk tales. She glanced up at the small camp, where a couple of the men were squabbling over clothing from a recently sacked caravan. Looking down again, she took up her possessions and bundled them inside her battered shield; securing them with a couple of strips of leather, and slung it over her back.
This isn't rebellion, she thought bitterly. This is banditry.
She raised a hand to the pendant that hung from a leather thong about her neck- a simple spear shaped in beaten iron- and squeezed it, offering a prayer. Her fingers touched the tattoo that spanned her collarbones; just visible above the neckline of her clothes. She took up Shadar's sword; even older than the old man had been himself. Star-Shard; he had called it. The blade was dim, and a little thin from so many years of sharpening, but it was keen and well maintained. It would serve her well as both weapon and heirloom.
She tied the sword at her hip, took up her hunting spear and waterskin, and slipped as noiselessly as possible into the night, in the direction of nearby Skystead.