Crag let out a sigh. There would be no easy way to say this, no easy way to tell this to her.
"Mara...I know, you've probably...probably been wondering what's going on. You know a little bit about the war between Elf and human, right?" Crag didn't wait for to answer. "Well, your home...It was attacked. By human soldiers. Your parents...your parents..." He tried to force himself to say it, but a lump grew in his throat.
"They got...killed..." Crag finally managed to choke out, forcing down the lump in his throat. "I was only able to save you."
"Please Crag, protect my baby!"
He swallowed again as he remembered her mother's last words before she was cut down. They rang in his ears.
"Yes, Mara. I-It means dead." Crag couldn't keep his voice from breaking a little as he said it. He came to a full stop, still holding her hand.
"Yes, Mara. Like Tiki." Crag's face was set in a stone solid frown. He gripped her hand carefully in his. "But I promised them that I would protect you. That I would take you away from the war."
"Shh, shh." Crag crouched down beside her, putting his hand against her face. "I'll keep you save. You'll be okay." Though his voice was rough and hoarse, he did his best to sound soft and soothing. He held her hand tighter.
"No, no! Of course not!" Crag wrapped his arm around her. "No, of course not. It was not your fault at all." He said vehemently. "It was those soldiers. Not you."
"No. No. It was not you. You were not bad. It was the soldiers." Crag held her closer, trying to comfort her. "It was the soldiers, never you. Bad things happens a lot, and it has nothing to do with you."
"I promised to keep you safe." Crag said quietly. He took a deep, shaking breath. He held her tighter. He swallowed as another lump started to rise in his throat. There was no place safe enough for them, no place but....
"Mara...I-I'm going to take you somewhere safe." He said slowly and quietly. He didn't know if it was still safe, he hadn't been there for so many years. But...they had no other options. "I'm going to take you to my village."
Crag nodded, even though he knew she couldn't see. He took in a shaky breath. The last time he had been to his village was...was...
He couldn't even bring himself to think about it, and he closed his eyes.
"Yes, Mara...M-my village."
"I-It's far away, so we'll have to travel for a while to get there..." Crag spoke quietly, softly. He kept his eyes closed. He had tried to go as far away from his village as he could, as far as he could possibly go.
"I'll keep you safe every step of the way." Crag whispered softly, letting go of her to straighten up to a stand, holding tightly to her hand. He took a shaky breath.
Crag stayed silent, his thoughts turning dark. It had been years, so so many years since he last went back. He had made sure he stayed far away, leaving in the middle of the night with one last glance at...at...
He squeezed his eyes shut as he started walking. He unconsciously gripped Mara's hand tighter.
Crag jolted a little when he felt Mara's fingers wriggle. He hadn't realized how tightly he had been holding her hand until he felt her fingers squirm. He quickly loosened his grasp.
"I'm sorry, Mara." He said quietly.
Crag's breath caught in his throat. He stopped in his tracks.
"Y-you...you...you can't." He mumbled softly, sadly. "They're...dead."
"No. You can't." Crag said, a little harsher than he intended. A huge lump started to grow in his throat. He stayed standing where he was. "We can't."
"No, you don't want to die." Crag's rusty voice went low, dark, sorrowed edge moving into his tone. "Dying is when you stop existing. When your heart stops beating and you stop living. Your parents are dead. You are alive."
"Well you can't see them because they're dead!" Crag shouted harshly. His eyes immediately widened as the words escaped his lips. He hadn't meant to shout, to lose control, to be so harsh. "I-I'm so sorry..." He stammered quietly.
Crag rushed to her side, hands shaking as he tried to wrap his arms around her.
"Mara, Mara, I'm so sorry! I really am! Forgive me!"
Crag pulled his arms away from the sobbing little girl with a sorrowed look in his eyes.
"I-I'm sorry, Mara." He said, staring down at his hands. "But you can't see your parents. I-I promised them before the died that I would protect you and keep you safe until it was your time."
Crag just sighed and watched her with pained, pained eyes. He had to look away after a moment, staring at his hands as he silently waited out her tantrum. It twisted him up inside to see her so unhappy. But there was nothing he could do.