First, I want to say Happy Halloween! I hope you're having a satisfactory spooky season this year. I also want to say a happy one-year birthday to my book, A Season of Ravens. It came out this day last year, and it's been a great journey. So here's a huge thank you to all the readers and reviewers and friends that have supported me the entire way.
Without further ado, here is a short sin eater story to get you in the mood for Halloween weekend. I hope you enjoy it!
The grave in briar glen
Asher Norwood stood before a grave and tried to figure out how he felt.
Confused. Angry. Tired.
The grave marker had been there for years and the weathering was beginning to show. Words chiseled into the stone were accompanied by bits of moss and lichen that had turned the gravestone into their home. It had been placed just a few days after Asher had killed the man whose bones currently rested in the grave. The man’s family had moved fast to get the situation behind them. Barely any time to mourn or grieve. Asher didn’t blame them, however; if word spread throughout town that the family had lived with a werewolf, they could be killed as well.
“What of the daughter?” they’d say, operating under the mistaken belief that one could simply spread the werewolf curse to another in close proximity. “What of the rest of the family?”
In the end, the family had made up some excuse for how the man had died. It wasn’t hard; there were plenty of ways a man could suddenly drop dead, especially one that lived and worked in the remote village of Briar Glen.
Aethon let out a plaintive cry from his shoulder, tiny wisps of breath curling from her beak into the cool autumn air around them. Fallen leaves swirled around Asher’s feet and he pulled his cloak tighter against the chilly fog that seemed to appear the moment summer had come to an end. Asher reached up and petted the raven on her head with one finger and sighed.
“I know, girl. It’s a grim business.”
Aethon cooed and nuzzled her beak into Asher’s ear. He smiled faintly.
“We should be going. No use dwelling on old mistakes. We can get some warm cider from the tavern before heading out.”
The raven cocked her head to the side and looked around behind them, letting out a quiet caw. Asher followed her mournful gaze and saw a man of middle age walking down the foggy path.
“Mornin’,” the man said in a heavy accent, sidling up next to Asher. “Didn’t mean to disturb ya.”
Asher shook his head. “Not a problem. We were just about to leave.”
The man furrowed his brow. “That someone ya knew?” He gestured to the grave.
Asher shrugged. “Only one side of him. Knew his family a little better. I did some work for them.”
The man gave Asher a sideways glance. “Know how his family is doing these days?”
Asher looked more closely at the man and shook his head slowly. “I believe they’re well. The mother took the family and moved to a nearby village after her husband passed away.” Asher waved a hand over the grave.
“Ah, I see,” the man said. He appeared to think a moment, then said, “What’s got you lookin’ so down?”
Asher stared hard at the grave, then looked back at the man. “I was involved in his death.”
The man squinted at him. “Is that right?”
“It was an accident,” Asher murmured. “The man was...unwell. Sick with something. I was meant to get him out of the village where he could get help. But there was an accident and he died.”
The man continued to stare at him. “Sounds like you were trying your best to help.”
“I was,” Asher nodded. He wasn’t sure why he was telling all of this to a stranger, but it felt good to have someone to talk to. “But I was less experienced back then. I panicked.”
The man fixed him with a somber smile. “Aye. Best to let it go. Folks don’t live long. No sense in goin’ through life worryin’ about past mistakes.”
Asher looked at the grave again. Read the man’s name. Saw how few days he had really lived.
“You’re right. I should let it go,” Asher said, finally. “Thanks, by the way. I appreciate you listening to me.”
Asher looked up from the grave and saw that he was alone.
A shiver passed through Asher’s body and he gave a small, sad smile. “Let’s go get that cider, Aethon. There’s a family I need to visit in the next village over.”