"I'm the one that should be sorry..." Crag said in his quiet, hoarse voice. His tone was filled with sorrow, with pain, weariness cutting through his words dully. He put his face in his hands miserably.
Crag closed his eyes as memories started to flood him. Memories of the attack, of Mara's parents, of the soldiers...
And memories that were much older than that.
It made him push his hands against his eyes with another shaky sigh.
Crag moved forward carefully, gently. He gingerly grabbed the little girl's hand, carefully guiding her.
"No, no. You don't need to be sorry. I'm sorry." He said quietly, sincerely. "I'm really sorry, Mara."
Crag carefully started to lead her towards where her stick laid on the ground. Silently, he picked it up, gently pressing it into her hands.
"There you go." He said softly.
"No, no no. Of course I'm not mad at you." Crag said gently. "I could never be mad at you. I was mad at myself. I'm the one who should be sorry."
"I really am sorry, Mara." Crag sighed. "But I promised your parents, your mommy and daddy that I wouldn't let you die until it was your time. I promised I would keep you safe for the rest of your life." He reached for her hand, gently taking her hand in his.
"C'mon. We have a long way to go." Crag said quietly, even though she was already walking. He started to walk with her, slowly, patiently. He was silent, a brooding look on his face and a heavy sadness in his eyes.
Crag walked along, quietly surveying the forest around them. He silently reached into the pouch on his belt and carefully pulled out a battered old compass. As he looked at the forest and down at the compass, he started to plan their route.
"This way." He said after a moment, starting to guide Mara in that direction.
Crag plodded along slowly in silence. He held Mara's hand protectively as he walked. As he moved, he could help but think about the last time he had been to his village, his home. He closed his eyes for a brief moment as a lump grew in his throat.
"We're so sorry for your loss..."
"If there's anything we can do..."
Crag growled out loud, trying to push the memories away.
"It's so sad...so terrible...they were so young..."
"He's alone now, poor soul..."
"An act of revenge, they say..."
Crag could still hear the pity in their voices, the fear and curiosity. It made his stomach clench. How would they see him now? What would they say?
He could still remember looking back over his shoulder as the moonlight filtered down onto the quiet gravesite...
Crag silently steered Mara away from some bushes. He still held his compass tightly in his hand, gently squeezing it's well worn metal and leather cover. He slowly started to slide it back into his pouch. His fingers brushed up against the little ragged doll that lay hidden in the leather of his pouch. He swallowed hard an quickly pulled his hand away.
Crag noticed Mara's little cringe.
"Are you alright?" He asked, a little worriedly. "Did you step on something? Is it your shoes?" He was starting to fuss a little, like a father over his child almost.
"Alright." Crag nodded quietly and went back to watching their path with a brooding frown.
((Okay. Got it. :) ))
Crag walked just a little faster, still holding Mara's hand gently as he surveyed their surroundings. He listened silently, keeping a sharp watch.
Crag came to a stop, moving back to help Mara up to her feet and silently tied her shoelaces.
"Sorry." He muttered. He had nearly forgotten she moved slower than him.
"Well...Yes. I think so. I haven't been there for years." Crag said after a moment. He put a hand on top of his pouch. "There were some elves living there last I was there, but it was mostly human."
"No. No. They're good people." Crag said, insistently. He gave her hand a comforting squeeze. "Kind people. They wouldn't turn away an Elf, even with a war going on."
Crag set his mouth in a hard sharp line.
"Because." He grunted simply. He stared straight ahead, eyes growing dark as memories started to rise.
Crag stayed silent, his footsteps heavier for a moment before going back to normal. He brought his free hand up to rub his face, feeling the rough stubble there.
"Are you tired?" Crag asked. He could feel the little girl slow, her footsteps getting heavier. He felt tired as well, still sore from sleeping against the tree while it rained. "I'm tired too."