Pinecrest smelled of dust and blood. The windows stood open and a bright afternoon sun shone through, but the smell dispelled much slower than the darkness.
Outside, a blue jay jeered loudly and then landed on the front sill. It watched Cwen as she scrubbed the dark wood floors in front of the fireplace.
The buckets of water she had used to clean the blood away from his body were now refilled and used to scrub the floors. Rheb had lost so much before she arrived. She had ruined her dress in the pools as she cleaned the cuts and scrapes that covered him and stitched the wound in his arm. The warg’s teeth and claws had been like a flurry of daggers as they fought. When she closed her eyes, she still saw Rheb ripping the flesh of its throat and then turning to face the one advancing on her.
He bled to save her and her daughter, and once again she owed him her life.
When the boys had returned to the Broken Cask with their report of the scene, Cwen had been certain they would report of two wolves and a dead half-orc. How could he take on both of them even as injured as they were?
She thought of the second warg sneezing on the pepper she hurled at its great ugly face and she grinned to herself as she dipped her scrub brush into the bucket. Rheb had pulled her bodily from the back of the warg and only because Neilia was cowering in the bushes did Cwen leave him to face both alone. She could have made it bleed more. She could have prevented some of the pain Rheb now suffered on her behalf.
She scrubbed harder at the bloodstains.
Oendir had said to not worry about the floor because he needed to replace it anyway. Still, she did not want Rheb coming home to his blood everywhere. He had said it was his home, and she was going to make sure it was welcoming when he decided to finally come back for good.
Cwen frowned as she rubbed at a particularly dark spot and hoped Oendir would be able to find him hiding somewhere in the hamlet. She was relieved when he offered to look for him, though she was not sure how he would find the time between the demands of a Durrow in crisis.
Still, Oendir’s expression, his joyful relief when she told him that Rheb was not a part of the siege and was in Durrow had been palpable and warm as he embraced her. Her frown faded as she thought of Oendir looking so light and strong as the stress of Rheb’s disappearance lifted from him. It turned to a smile as she thought of their swim in the lake after. They had broken through some barrier that had kept them from each other. She felt it wash away in the cold water. In the way he finally looked at her in the sun.
They could make this work, she thought. They would make this work. After all, Fallowmath was about ancestors and family. All of three of them had broken pasts when it came to family. Perhaps now it was time to start with a clean slate and build a new one.