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It felt like the funeral had been going on for hours.

Everyone had filed into the great hall and taken their places. The choir sang dramatic songs about long lost heroes and the achievements of the dead, and one by one friends and family members had stepped up to say their pieces; to say their farewells, to talk about how proud they were, to raise a final glass.

Now it was her turn.

The choir sang again as she walked slowly up the aisle; a sad song, yet full of pride. Their voices rang out right up to the roof. Just as well, she thought, otherwise they’d hear how my heart’s banging against my ribs.

She reached the front as the last notes faded into echo. Perfect timing. She caught an approving nod from her father as she turned to face the crowd.

This was the part she had been dreading. How do you decide what to say at a moment like this? It should be something meaningful. Something dramatic. Memorable.

She couldn’t think of anything.

“Thank you,” she said. “Goodbye.”

Her helm was passed to her, and she put it on, thankful that she now had cold metal to hide her face. A sword was put in her hand, and as she raised it in salute the hall fell silent.

The great gate was standing open for her. She walked towards it, the clanking of her armour the only sound. The dead always left in silence.

The gate fell shut behind her, and her new commander greeted her with a surprisingly casual salute.

“So,” he said, “how was your funeral?”

“Long and boring,” she replied, trying not to sound weak despite the tears on her cheeks. “When do we fight?”

He laughed. “You’re not in that much of a hurry to fulfil your vow, are you? Come on. We’ll have a drink first. The enemy can wait. There’s plenty of time to die.”

© Kari Fay