The Ruins

The Broken Oath Part 6

Listener padded into the hollow tree on silent paws. His big, bat-like ears twitched. He regarded the blood-spattered trunk as if uncomprehending. The sound of scales scraping the ground echoed in the silence. He glanced over as Bringer paused at his side. “They’re dead.” He murmured. His voice was muted, and he had to sit down as dizziness overcame him.

“Yes.” Bringer hissed. His head low and subdued.

“I thought you would be happy.” Listener couldn’t seem to control his mouth, more words kept tumbling free. His purple eyes glistened with moisture. “I heard what Star said. For all my wisdom, for all the time I spent listening to the desert,” he stared at Bringer, “I never suspected you.”

“I hid it well.” Bringer’s voice was as cold as stone.

“You knew I was watching?”

“I expected.”

Listener hung his head, his pelt burning with shame. “I failed them. I failed all of you.”

Bringer moved closer until the fox could feel his cool scales against his fur. He assumed that the contact was supposed to be comforting but it had the opposite effect. For a few moments, the two old friends rested in silence. The sun had set long ago, and the night insects chirped. It was surreal that the desert could continue as usual when four of its greatest inhabitants were gone. It wasn’t right.

When the moon reached its pinnacle, Bringer left. “I’m burying them.” Listener announced in his soft way. He wasn’t sure if Bringer heard. The cobra’s tail tip twitched once before he disappeared out the way he had come.

His paws numb, Listener set to work. He carried each of his friend’s bodies to the tallest dune. It took until just before dawn to dig a grave big enough to hold all of them. He thought that they would have wanted to stay together in death as they had for most of their lives.

He laid Star in last, marveling at how small he seemed. He tucked the meer in next to Greatwing and then stepped back to stare at them. His friends. They looked like they were sleeping. He wrapped his furry tail around his haunches and turned his brilliant purple gaze to the claw-scratch of a moon. “I’m sorry.” He murmured. “I should have done something. I should have saved you.”

He lowered his snout to glance at the bodies. A rush of bitterness overcame him. He was known for his listening skills, for his wisdom. But nothing he heard had warned him of this. No matter how hard he listened he couldn’t predict Bringer’s deception. The oath was broken, shattered beyond repair, and it was his fault. He was beginning to think that patience was not a virtue, it was a curse. If he had only acted sooner…

He shook his head. “Goodbye, dear friends.” He managed to choke. “May you find good hunting, may you never feel pain again, and may your paws lead you to the stars.”

As the dawn flaunted its beautiful colors across the sky, Listener buried his friends. Then, with his claws still clotted with soil, he ran. He ran as fast as he could towards the river. He could not return home. Not after what he had done. His family would be safer without him around anyway. He knew Bringer’s secret. He was probably the snake’s next target. Why he hadn’t already sapped him of life was a mystery to Listener. In a way the fox wished that he had, then he wouldn’t be forced to continue with the shame. Without his friends. Instead of death, he would exile himself from the desert. For everyone’s own good.

Leaving Bringer, the last Firstblood, in power. Leaving Bringer to his victory.


Listener squeezed his eyes closed to shut off the negative spew of thoughts. His paws pounded the sand and his midnight pelt rippled in the strengthening sunlight. He did not look back.

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