There were too many ghosts living in his own head to worry about those he might encounter here.
Set in the Animeverse, spoilers for episode 7.
Reviews are welcome and bolster my fragile self esteem. Thanks!
COVER HER FACE
Cover her face;
mine eyes dazzle;
she died young.
With ease, he scaled the iron fence, swung over the top and dropped to the ground on the other side noiselessly. He paused to let his eyes adjust to the darkness. Probably he could have waited until daylight when the gates stood open but he did not want to draw attention to himself. An Ishbalan wandering alone in an Amesterian graveyard would certainly do that.
No one would see him now. Even in modern, scientifically-minded Amesteris some ancient fears were too deeply ingrained to be easily dismissed.
Anyone would be disturbed, walking among graves in the dead of the night. He remembered the ghost stories of his childhood. His brother leaping out to frighten him one moment, comforting him the next... He had long ago stopped believing in such things. He had already seen horrors beyond imagining. There were too many ghosts living in his own head to worry about those he might encounter here.
Quietly, respectfully, he began to pass between the graves. Close to the gate the stones were older, slightly jumbled and worn. No one visited these graves. Nature returned in their absence. Grasses and weeds grew unchecked and trees were full and sheltering.
Though it was a home for the dead it felt more welcoming of life than the straight backed, regimented, bleached white gravestones of the military cemetery. He was glad that boy, state alchemist though he was, had chosen to bury her here.
That poor girl. In some strange, horrifying way she had given him a purpose.
After his failed attempt to get into the Central Library he had wandered in a daze. Finally, too hungry to care, too broken to hold onto even the smallest shred of dignity, he had begun scrounging in a trash bin. A man came out of a shop and cursed at him, driving him away like a stray dog. He was still not sure if it was because he was Ishbalan or because he looked like a vagrant. Neither were apparently human in Amesterian eyes.
Well, in Scar's opinion, state alchemists were barely human themselves.
He had been hiding in the shadows when the chimera approached. The creature looked odd but he thought nothing of it. He had never known why but animals had always trusted him. It wasn't until he lay a hand upon it's head that he realized it had been human once, a young human and in terrible pain. It frightened him that he could know that, it frightened him that the knowing seemed to be whispering through his arm.
And it whispered other things too. He felt angry and sick that such a thing could be done and, in the back of his mind came the knowing that if he channeled those feelings he could end this one's suffering.
The violence of it shocked him.
The shock was quickly replaced by fury. It was an alchemist that had done this evil thing. An alchemist that had dared to usurp the power of God and twist his beautiful creation into something broken. An alchemist that had brought such suffering to a child of God.
It was a sign from Ishbala. The state alchemists that had committed such atrocities upon Ishbal, that continued to commit atrocities even now, must be brought to justice.
He had the means to do it.
If he had been plagued at all by doubt, a newspaper had laid it to rest. He had braved the shopkeeper's ire once again in some desperate search for information. He didn't even know what he was looking for until he reached the report buried on third page. Shou Tucker, a state alchemist, was to be executed by the military for an unspecified crime involving forbidden alchemy. The crime had resulted in the death of his daughter, Nina Tucker, age 4.
Again, without knowing how he knew, Scar recognized the chimera had been that man's daughter. He felt almost physically ill. Dear Ishbala, had that man really committed such a perversion of nature upon his own daughter? Just to prove it could be done? Was there any clearer proof of the evil that alchemy encouraged?
It had not said so in the paper. Even Amesterians would be up in arms over such an appalling use of alchemy. The military couldn't have that. God forbid the reputations of it's state alchemists be sullied in such a way.
Tucker was to be executed, but Scar's hand had twitched with the desire to do it himself.
Elsewhere he noted a discreet announcement for Nina Tucker's funeral. He was drawn inexorably to it.
He had not approached during the memorial itself, but stayed at a distance. He did not want to be faced with the inevitable questions. He remembered other burials, so many burials, so many graves. In the later years of the uprising they had crowded upon each other until his people's cemeteries resembled nothing more than quarries of shattered rock.
At least each grave had been marked. Those who had died in the last weeks, when the alchemists had made their final push through the villages, burning everything in their path, had been abandoned where they fell.
There had been no one left to bury them.
No one but the military. The Ishbalan bodies had been tumbled into mass graves, quickly covered and left unmarked to hide Amesterian sins. His own brother's body was long lost to the shifting sands of the Ishbalan desert. He had marked it, but even then he knew it was futile. The desert would reclaim it's own.
The works of man were transient. Only Ishbala was eternal.
He could not visit his brother's grave, but he could honour this one.
The child had been buried on higher ground, an ancient oak nearby. It had been quite pretty during the day but the view was black on black shadows now.
It was such a tiny grave.
He stepped closer to the stone. The moon was full and bright and he read it with little difficulty.
1906 - 1911
She will not be forgotten.
He nodded with approval. The brothers had not contaminated the memorial with her father's name.
Carefully, he searched the pockets of the jacket he had stolen. He felt a small flush of shame.
It seemed like such a little sin compared to the ones he now contemplated. He knew he would be damned, that he would exile himself from decent society. There would be no place for him even among his own people if he took this path...
Retrieving a package from his inside pocket, he knelt before the grave and gently unwrapped it. About a dozen slightly crumpled Ishbalan poppies scattered out. They were the bright red of Ishbalan eyes. Of Ishbalan blood. It was a flower of remembrance. Of promises. Of comfort. His people had distilled it for centuries and made medicine to give rest to those who suffered. An elderly woman on the outskirts of Central had been cultivating them. She was rumoured to be part Ishbalan but, whatever her heritage, it had warmed him to see some part of the world he had known thriving. Perhaps it was a sign that his own people could survive to rise again.
He carefully scattered them among the flowers already laid there. This close to, he finally noticed the photograph. He picked it up and peered carefully at it in the moonlight.
The child's face shone with joy, long brown braids swinging as she clasped her arms around the neck of a large white dog. How long ago had that been? How long since she had been so alive? Unable to look at it any longer, he closed his eyes tightly in pain and quickly returned it. He would have shed tears if he had had any left.
He had known she was young, now his heart ached with the certainty of it.
Alchemy had done this. Alchemy had warped the perfect form Ishbala had given her. He clenched his fist, feeling something... flicker... in his right arm. In the end alchemy had taken her life.
He had taken her life.
It would be the turn of the state alchemists soon. He swore by his God, upon the blood of his people, in the name of this child, by his own hand he would return a measure of the suffering they had inflicted back to them.
Kneeling on the damp earth he prayed. He prayed this poor child would find peace and comfort and love in the arms of Ishbala. He prayed she would find rest. Rest. In the end, he wondered if he had been praying for himself as well. He climbed wearily to his feet.
She will not be forgotten.
The brothers had chosen her epitaph well.
He turned from the grave
and found his path...