It had been one day since Swiftflight had died in Woodland Path.
For Losis, it felt like far longer. Time had slowed to a crawl in his mind. Seconds felt like hours, days felt like months.
The striped Fae had been buried alongside all of the fallen hatchlings and dragons that had died since their move to the Abiding Boneyard. Besio had died earlier in the week, shortly after Mani had met his end. All in Woodland Path.
Woodland Path had a lot of blood spilled in it. Just like the Nesting Grounds. Both were places of death, of loss. Too many had died in those places for Losis’ liking.
His children had died from the plague in the Nesting Ground. His mate had died in Woodland Path.
He wasn’t alone at the grave. His sister Betes was by his side. She had recently been trying to mend the broken bond between them. She too had lost children to the plague and the wilderness.
Theria was nearby, close to her mother but leaving the older pair enough room to mourn without interruption. Theria was like a bodyguard, puffing at any dragons that got too close, even her own sister. Nobody was going to ruin this for her mother and uncle. Nobody!
Betes leaned against her larger brother. Losis sighed, smoke curling from his nostrils. It felt like a fire was constantly burning in his chest now, ever since he saw Thrax and Flin return yesterday with Swiftflight’s tiny body. It was painful, yet it brought some kind of twisted comfort.
Losis’ eyes drifted to the ring of scars along one of Betes’ forepaws. He remembered giving those to her so long ago, when they were innocent hatchlings. He shifted, moving to brush his snout over them.
“Things were better before we grew up, huh?” Betes said.
“…Yeah,” Losis agreed, straightening.
“But if we didn’t grow up, we wouldn’t have any of this.”
Betes gestured with a wing at the lair. Their parents lounged out among the dusty ground, watching over young Tero as he wrestled with Ponti’s large paws. Lyme was practicing, trying to learn magic under his parents’ watchful eyes. Parents and children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren milled about, relaxed and happy.
“You have to take the good with the bad, brother,” Betes instructed gently, turning to nuzzle the underside of his throat. “Swiftflight died. We can’t change that. But you can remember her and live on.”
“It’s hard,” Losis choked over a lump in his throat, built of misery and pain.
“It always will be. But it’ll be harder if you just give up and shut down,” Betes said. “Trust me. I know.”
Her red eyes drifted to a lone grave marker. Matous, who was lost to Woodland Path so long ago, back when they lived in the Wandering Contagion. Malar’s brother. The surviving child of her and Winse’s second nest. That kind, gentle soul who had endured his mother’s cruelty so much better than Malar had. Matous would’ve forgiven her for everything.
“Would you try again?” Losis asked.
Betes was unsure what he meant. Find love? Have another nest? Go back to being cruel and coldhearted toward those that loved her?
“I would live,” Betes decided.
“…Then I will live,” Losis conceded.