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M. Sarrale

(written in 2549)

This account of how the legendary King Dúhar died comes from a collection of short stories by the Qemrí author. Imagining how her husband, Dúhar, might have faced his own death, his widow Défonde comes to his grave, a mound deep in the Forest of Dhelétrels, and begins to construct her own imaginary death.

She had come to find him again, after the intervening years of silence since she had laid him here in his grave.

 What she found would be irrelevant. Whether it was the lord of her people or the head of an imperial dynasty that she eventually resurrected, the husband or the lover she had known so many years before – none of this would matter any more. She would not be bringing back the dead as they were when alive.

Her name was Défonde. She knew this was to be her final journey, and had left the river, heading alone into the depths of the forest, along the grief-stricken route still seared into her memory. Her companions bade her farewell as she left them – she turned one last time to savour the warmth of others, before disappearing into the undergrowth.

Défonde recalled the path along which she had played her part all those years ago as mourning wife and queen, and she saw again the high cliffs rear on either side, pushed her way through the gulleys, over bubbling streams and across sunlight-dappled glades, until at last she emerged into the wide valley where he lay.

Below her stretched a sea of green, the tops of the trees masking a wide, snaking tributary which meandered its languid way towards distant shores. From here she would head straight for the midmost point, to a wide curve in the stream where the king’s grove would now be overgrown and tangled with brambles and thorns.

Struggling through the undergrowth and down ravines and dried-up riverbeds and chines, she finally found herself in a glade amongst the tallest, most elegant trees in the whole kingdom.

This grove, encircled by the tall canopy of trees, was a mausoleum for the king, Dúhar, open to the sky. With the simple grassy mound at its centre, covered with daisies and forest worts, half-lost to encroaching brambles and ivy, hidden now in this deep corner of his kingdom, away from paths, removed from the world he had helped to forge, it would also be his wife’s. She was ill, and had been feeling her disease growing within her day by day; even now she sensed its putrid stain creeping throughout her insides.

She climbs to the top of the mound, lays herself down flat on her back, eyes the sky with nonchalant resolve and reminds herself to say farewell to this life for good. For she has decided to bring to final fruition her plan to send herself into so deep a slumber that she will never wake from it. She has determined to fuse herself with the very earth where her lover also lies, this earth over which she has been walking for all these strange years of life.

Setting her head far back, she straightens her spine into the flatness of the soft, springy grass, and presses her limbs against the ground, as if to hold the whole body as close to the earth as is consciously possible.

This is the first stage.

© Copyright Paul David Holland 2017