Prose Landfill for Dead Words (RIP)
In the early morning, they flock to the seaside with sand-white sea lilies dressed in silk mourning robes. Yelrie guides them, walking behind the stiffened body of her dead teacher in morose silence. Between the arms that carry her, Yelrie can see the stiff upturning of her lips, cracked teeth showing. Even in death does she look pitiless.
The sea looms beneath them in the distance, down the stone stairs and past the statue of Saint Paisley carved into the bluff. On the beach lies a grave-like outline of sea lilies and lavender stalks. Smooth stones settle between clumps of flowers, marking her teacher's resting ground. Eyes turning up toward the pink sky, Yelrie can see Brinus watching from the bluff's edge, scales glossy as his beady eyes follow her slow descent down the stairs with bovine curiosity.
The sand is welcomed by the soles of her weary feet. The tide has not yet risen; the four women who carry Saint Keerla move to rest her body among the sea lilies and lavender. Yelrie proceeds to stand quietly by her head, trying her best not to stare. The other priestesses wander a moment to find their positions, Malka coming to stand at her side in quiet solidarity.
"Yelrie," Bathshi says, black hair tossing in the wind, "you may speak, now."
For a moment, all is silent among the priestesses. Yelrie's fingers tie an invisible string over her stomach and rub the thick leaves of her sea lilies. Malka's hand settles on the small of her back and Yelrie inhales through her nose. There is a weight hanging between the rungs of her ribs that makes speaking difficult.
"She was like a mother to me," Yelrie begins. The priestesses bow their heads respectfully, but Bathshi continues her fervent stare out across the rolling sea. "She was a good woman."
"She was a mother to us all," says Bathshi, nearly interrupting Yelrie. "Keerla loved you so, Saint Yelrie. You should feel blessed."
A sigh retreats from Yelrie's lungs, relieved by the notion that her participation was complete. However, Malka shuffles beside her and eyes Bathshi with a knife-like glance. The older woman appears unbothered.
There is a moment where Brinus almost looks at her intelligently, though the full turning of his head sets his beady eyes much too far apart for complex thought and Yelrie's chest falls empty. Then he speaks.
"You do not smile as the other women do," he says. Yelrie doesn't know how to respond. Instead, she stares up with wide eyes and knitted brows.
"Do not speak, serpent," commands Yelrie, raising an open palm toward the dragon's heavy snout. Brinus stares at her around the dark outline of her fingers, unbothered.
"Are you unhappy?" he asks.
Yelrie's mouth pinches at the edges. "Do not speak," she repeats herself, hand steaming. The dragon blinks stickily.
"Are you not happy?" he asks again.
Yelrie takes her hand back with a violent swish of fabric and begins walking. Brinus extends his neck to follow her movement.
"I do not mean to offend," he says.
"You do not mean anything because you are a beast," Yelrie answers.
The dragon lies at the bottom of the well in a pool of drying blood. Yelrie sees the way it sticks to the edges of his oily body, outlines his beastly shape in a thin film of blackish crust. There is a metal chain looped beneath the hinges of his jaw that gapes his mouth open snake-like, yellow fangs swelling through white-pink gums. From this distance, he looks to be dead, but Yelrie knows better; she's seen him move.
"They found him just over the wall--over the mountains."
"Where did it come from?"
Yelrie glances over her shoulder as the women's voices draw closer from behind.
Yelrie's hands slip off the well's edging and she leans back. "Yes," she answers, still looking down at the dragon as he lies motionless in his own coils.
"Has it awakened?" Malka asks her in a hushed voice, as if speaking too loudly may upset the situation. Keerla stands beside her, tall and silent as the Oslav's. Yelrie shakes her head. Huffing, Malka saddles up beside her and bends over the well's lip, squinting down into the darkness with thinned lips. "Is it dead?" she whines.
"Why do you want it alive, you fool?" Keerla mutters, though mostly to herself.
"No," answers Yelrie. "I do not believe so."
Malka shifts her weight between her legs with a grin. Yelrie laughs through her nose and looks to Keerla.
"If it is not dead yet, it will be soon," the older woman tells Yelrie in a bitter tone. Malka looks up from the dragon to meet Keerla's dark eyes. "Do not get your hopes up. Ruuben will execute it soon."
Yelrie visibly tenses and her hands move to grip the edge of the well again, looks down at the dragon with soft eyes.
"How will it be executed?" Malka asks Keerla. "I heard it breathes underwater. Can it be drowned?"
Keerla sneers beside Yelrie. She spits over the well's edge. Yelrie watches the glob of mucus fall into the dimness, hitting the dragon somewhere on its way down.
"With no head, will it?" says Keerla.
"Why must he be killed?" Yelrie interrupts.
Keerla and Malka both look at her. Yelrie swallows a lump in her throat.