Chapter 2

Danday, 4 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

While Ceph prepped for the day, Rye wandered. Gazed at the altar. Pored over the wine selection. Taunted the crow. Watched Ceph.

Losday, 5 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

The mood wasn’t dark at the Stop. Just—contemplative. There were unspoken words in the air, but they never smothered like the mists outside.

Brenday, 6 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

Ceph heard feet, and put on a smile for Old Tom.

“Working already?”

“Bar doesn’t clean itself.”

“Make the bird do it. Have a drink with me.”

Byrday, 7 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

A man had hanged himself in room 4.

“Coward.” Ceph cut him down.

The crow cocked its head.

“I’ll judge if I want to,” Ceph shot back. He liked when they passed in the night, peaceful. Like they’d been led here. Not like they’d sought it out, eager before their time.

Lorday, 8 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

“One of these days, I’m moving next door,” said the mortician. “I would save a lot of time.”

Uunday, 9 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

Old Tom’s laugh was a throaty affair. “Kid, you got a great life ahead of you.”

“You kidding?” Ceph grinned. “With my luck, I’ll be dead before you are.”

Sunday, 10 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

“What do you do all day?”

“I run a bar, Rye.”

“I mean, for fun.”

“You think it’s not fun? You’ve never seen a drunk feyling.”

Danday, 11 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

“Everyone wants Trysm copper; Angor can’t compete!”

Ceph frowned. Knew better. Images of the mine, rock, darkness—he snuck himself a drink.

Losday, 12 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

“You’ve never gotten laid?” the merchant asked.

“Nope,” Ceph said, then added innocently, “wait, does the bird count?”

Brenday, 13 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

Sometimes, neither of them would talk all morning, as Ceph prepared the bar. Ceph needed Rye’s silence as much as he needed the bar’s noise.

Byrday, 14 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

“You need another drink,” Ceph said.

The man shook his head. “No money.”

“It’s on the bird. Tomorrow’s a new day.”

Lorday, 15 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

The weather was miserable, but Ceph needed supplies. “Don’t talk to strangers,” he told the hooded crow. “And keep Tom company for me.”

Uunday, 16 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

“You want a drink?” Ceph asked.

“Looking for work.”

“Doing what?”


“Wrong kind of bar for music.”

“No. Exactly the right kind.”

“Why you, then?”

“I’ve seen a lot of death.”

“You’re blind.”

“How observant. Ass.” But the minstrel grinned.

“You can stay,” Ceph said.

“Just like that?”

“Need someone to call me on my thoughtless quips sometimes. The crow just shits in my bed.”

“A wise bird. I’m Nael.”

“Ceph. And that’s the shortest introduction I’ve heard from a bard in a while. You’ll do well here.”

Sunday, 17 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

“Ceph! We got a minstrel now?” Old Tom said. “How much you paying him for the privilege?”

Ceph blinked. “I have to pay him, too?”

Danday, 18 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

“Morning, Ceph.”

“Why are you so cheerful?”

“It’s sunny out. We’re going for a walk.”

“Rye, the bar—”

“Will not burn down. Come on.”

Losday, 19 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

“If you haven’t yet, perhaps it’s not your Fate to die here.”

“Fate’s wrong, then,” Tom said. “I’m ready.”

“Justitia’s books are not wrong.”

Brenday, 20 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

Nael’s music was fitting. Serene. Somber. Haunting, at times. It never intruded, but did for the soul what camaraderie did for the heart.

Byrday, 21 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

“Great Mother Zeanil preserve us!”

“No need. It happens,” Ceph said.

“She just—died!”

“Welcome to the Stop,” Old Tom said.

Lorday, 22 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

The patter of rain was all the company Ceph had that morning. He wondered where Rye was when not at the Stop. Where he wandered.

Uunday, 23 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

“Where’d you learn to play?” Ceph asked.

“Theore’s Duskrise College, at first, but I dropped out,” Nael said. “Travelling taught me more.”

Sunday, 24 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

The man went to his room, and only minutes later, the crow called. Patrons raised glasses to Azrael; Nael segued into a dirge.

Their reactions to death were habit, like clockwork. But it was never without feeling, without respect paid. Every death had meaning.

Danday, 25 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

Death itself couldn’t faze Ceph, but the willingness to go of those who came here always baffled him. Could you ever be ready to go?

Losday, 26 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

The hooded crow disappeared into the rafters, leaving Ceph and Rye to themselves—one watching while the other worked.

Brenday, 27 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

The mists were thick, clinging to clothing like a desperate lover’s hands. Ceph walked the streets alone, surrounded by people walking alone.

Byrday, 28 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

Zeanil creates life. Justitia keeps the books of Fate. Azrael harvests the dead. Cain leads the souls away. Zelrhea rules the shades.

Ceph just observed the process. Over and over.

Lorday, 29 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

No one saw that Ceph wore a mask every evening, smiling and joking. No one but Old Tom. And Rye. And maybe the crow.

Uunday, 30 Gabrianym, 1007 KR

“Where did you grow up, Ceph?” Old Tom asked.

“Here and there. I moved around a lot,” Ceph said.

The crow watched him.

Tom always tried to get more out of Ceph; Ceph never gave it, or asked in return. He didn’t want to talk about the past. People had enough to worry about in the present. The past could inform, but he didn’t want to dwell.

Except—all he did was dwell.

Sunday, 1 Faenym, 1007 KR

They were warriors, bounty hunters in from the mountains. Everyone felt they didn’t belong in this bar. Their raucous laughs grated. But Ceph heard one mention the bandits they had hunted down. He let them stay, though it meant regulars left early.

Danday, 2 Faenym, 1007 KR

“You okay?” Rye asked.

“There was an accident. Up north,” Ceph said. “Mine collapse.”

“You had a rough night.”


Losday, 3 Faenym, 1007 KR

For once, Ceph wondered about Nael’s story. “You’re not ready to die, are you?” he asked.

“Are you?” Nael replied. And Ceph didn’t know.

Brenday, 4 Faenym, 1007 KR

“You fit in well here, Nael,” Ceph said. “You sing the same way they all talk: you never say anything.”

“You’re not listening hard enough.”

…Continue Reading, Elegy of the Twilight Prince