The small crypt was still in darkness as we approached, on that frozen morning of January. Every year, on the same day, we gather here, on this desolate hill.
As usual, we were silent, as all of us know the place, the rite, the reasons. Besides, had we anything to say we would have done it, without words.
This year, we noticed the trace. Footsteps, in the fresh snow. Our horses noticed also the scent. The scent of a woman. We are rarely surprised by anything. But we were… intrigued.
We dismounted and followed the small path. A crow, perhaps too young to know, or remember, took fright and disappeared in the deep forest.
Our leader gave the sign. In our minds the words of the litany formed:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer…”
Our leader pushed the door open. In ranked order we entered the crypt.
“Fear is the little death…”
As we knelt on the ancient slabs, around our lord and liege, we saw the rose, and the message.
“And when it has gone past me, I will turn to see fear’s path…”
She was here, not that long before us.
The witch, she remembered. Her scent…
“Where the fear has gone there will be nothing…”
Our leader stood up, then we followed him, and drew our swords.
We let our blades rest on the stone, a faint ray of light illuminated the rose.
Our leader bowed. We left the crypt, one by one, leaving him alone with his brother.
Outside, we, wraith knights, waited.
The snow fell.
Every year, on the same day, we gather here, on this desolate hill, since our lord passed away, and we brought his body here, all the way back from the Holy Land.
“Only I will remain.”