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Pearson Mary E, “The kiss of deception”, public translation into English from English More about this translation.

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I finally slumped and looked down at the valley. The whole company lay dead. Vendans didn’t take prisoners. I huddled on the ground, holding my arms.

Kaden still held me from behind. He brushed the hair from my face and leaned close, rocking with me, whispering in my ear. “Lia, I’m sorry. There was nothing we could do.”

I stared at the littered bodies, their limbs twisted in unnatural positions. Walther’s horse lay dead beside him. Kaden slowly released his grip on me. I looked down at my bared shoulder, the fabric torn away, saw the crawl of claw and vine, tasted the bile in my throat, felt the trickle of mucus from my nose, listened to the choking quiet. I smoothed my skirt, felt my body swaying, rocking, as if the wind were blowing away what was left of me.

I sat there for minutes, seasons, years, the wind becoming winter against my skin, the day becoming night, then blinding again, harsh with detail. I closed my eyes, but the details still shone bright and demanding behind my lids, replacing a lifetime of memories with a single bloody image of Walther and then, mercifully, the images faded, everything faded, leaving only dull, numbing gray.

Finally, I watched my hands slide to my knees and push against them, forcing my body to stand. I turned and faced them. Eben stared at me, his eyes wide and solemn. Finch’s mouth hung half open.

I looked at Kaden. “My brother needs to be buried,” I said. “They all need to be buried. I won’t leave them for the animals.”

He shook his head. “Lia, we can’t—”

“We can take the east trail down,” Finch said.

Malevolence permeated the valley floor with the stench of blood still seeping into soil, the bowels of animals and men spilled from their bodies, the snorts and mewls of animals not yet dead and no one bothering to put them out of their misery. The fresh taste of terror hung in the air—This world, it breathes you in … shares you. Today the world wept with the last breaths of my brother and his comrades. Had my mother taken to her bedchamber? Was she already knowing this grief?

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