Trava rushed to the old man, taking her father’s corpse from him. She cradled her dead father in her arms.
The old man made a sound, but she silenced him with a glare. “How could you have let him die?” Trava said. She was furious. Her father should have had more years of life.
The old man looked offended. “I didn’t let him die,” the old man said. “He just died.”
Trava bit her lip to keep from crying. She should have been holding her father when he died. Instead, the old man had been with her father. She should have been the last person her father had seen. Or my mother should have been, Trava thought. She felt a tear trickle down her cheek. Her mother shouldn’t have left. Her father shouldn’t have died. Trava could think of so many things that shouldn’t have happened.
But thinking those things wouldn’t change what had happened.
“Did he speak any last words?” Trava asked.
“You heard his last words,” the old man said. “He asked you to find your mother.”
Trava was relieved that she hadn’t missed her father’s last words.
“He also asked me to take care of this tavern,” Trava said quietly.
“Ignore what he said about the tavern,” the old man said. “It’s not important. Come with me to Arden and find your mother.”
“This tavern was my father’s life,” she snapped. “He built it before he went blind and took care of it ever since. It’s where I’ve lived my whole life! I’m not just going to run off with you.”
The old man looked very offended. “I know how you feel,” he began.
“You really don’t,” Trava said. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t keep pushing travel plans at me right after my father’s death.”
“I can help with your father’s body,” the old man said. He looked a bit scared of Trava. “I know some funeral rituals.”
“You won’t touch him,” Trava snarled. “Just get back to the room I rented to you. You better be able to pay for it. And don’t bother me again!”
“You have more important things to be doing,” the old man said.
“No,” Trava said, “I don’t. I’m going to take my father outside and bury him.” She dragged her father’s corpse, careful not to bump him against any walls. The old man got up and followed her. Can’t he give it a break? Trava thought. She propped her father’s corpse against a wall and picked up a wooden shovel. She pointed it threateningly at the old man. “Go back to your room,” she growled, and looked him in the eyes. His face went white.
“I’m going,” he whispered. She glared at him until he entered his room.
Then she went outside and started digging. She wanted to be at peace while she worked through her father’s death.
She’d scarcely started digging when she heard someone ask, “What happened, Trava?”
Trava looked up and saw Badan.Trava figured he must suspect that her father had died. Still, it was hard to muster up the courage to tell him. Her first words were mumbles.
“What are you saying?” Badan asked. He laid a hand on Trava’s shoulder, and Trava flinched away. He looked a little offended.
“My father died,” Trava said. She blinked a few times, keeping tears from escaping.
Badan’s face went from offended to concerned. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Trava looked down and dug deeper into the ground. A couple of awkward moments later, Badan broke the silence again. “What are you planning to do?” he asked.
She didn’t really know what she wanted to do. She wanted to do the things her dad had asked her to do. Take care of the tavern and find my mother, Trava thought. She didn’t know how the second would be possible if she did the first. Taking care of the tavern would keep her in the village.
She wasn’t sure what to tell Badan. She knew almost everyone in the village thought poorly of her mother. Trava wanting to search for her wouldn’t be received well.
“I want to keep taking care of the tavern,” Trava said.
“Are you sure you can do that alone?” Badan asked. “A woman shouldn’t be the only one to deal with the men that come in to drink. It’s not safe.”
Trava thought she could do it alone. She’d practically been doing it alone during her dad’s illness, though Badan had helped occasionally.
“I can do it alone,” Trava said. “I don’t think any of the men in our village would hurt me, even if they got drunk.” She continued digging. It was slow work.
“Look,” Badan said. “You’ve only been able to run the tavern because people have been pitching in to help you. I’ve been one of them.”
“Can you just leave me alone?” Trava asked. “Come back this evening, and we’ll talk.” She knew she wasn’t in any shape to talk right now. Badan nodded. “I’ll be back this evening, then. I’m sorry I interrupted.” He left Trava to bury her father.
The old man emerged from the tavern. Trava scrunched her eyes closed, then opened them. Why couldn’t people stop bothering her?
She stuck her shovel in the ground and walked over to the old man. “You’re not leaving without paying,” she said.
“And I’m not leaving without you,” the old man said, looking directly into Trava’s eyes. He recoiled as she glared back at him. “I heard the conversation you just had. Give that young man the tavern. Your destiny awaits you.”
“You couldn’t have heard what was said,” said Trava. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Pay, and get out of here, or pay and stay.” The old man had been nothing but trouble, and if he wasn’t going to pay she’d… Trava didn’t really know what she’d do. Even if the old man was a stupid drunk, he didn’t deserve to come to harm.
The old man frowned at her, his face wrinkling. Trava met his eyes, noticing again how her differently-colored eyes made him jump. He pulled some coins out of his pocket. “Do these cover my costs?” he asked.
Trava took the coins. “They do,” she said. “Are you leaving, or staying?”
“I’ll leave when you leave,” the old man said. “But I’m sure that will happen soon.”
“What does that even mean?” Trava demanded. Would the old man ever give her a straight answer?
He frowned at her. “You will be leaving this insignificant village soon. Grander things await you.”
“No,” Trava said. “I’m perfectly happy staying here and running the tavern on my own. That’s what my father wanted. I don’t need you or Badan to tell me that I can’t run my father’s tavern,” Trava spat. She knew it was rude, but her patience had evaporated. At least he’d given her money.
“Your father wanted you to go and find your mother,” the old man said. “He wanted you to tell her that he loved her.”
Trava froze. Her father had said that. But he’d also told her to take care of the tavern. Still, she’d always wondered about her mother. It was so tempting to listen when the old man spoke about her.
But she couldn’t trust the old man. He’d left the room when she’d told him to stay in it. He’d refused to answer some of her questions about her mother. Then again, Trava’s father had confirmed that the old man had known her mother.
Trava leaned against the tavern wall, head in her hands. Too much had happened. And the sun was already starting to descend in the sky. She’d have to ready the tavern for whoever came tonight.
“My mother wouldn’t have sent you to find me if half the things you said about her were true,” Trava said curtly. “I will keep running what is now my tavern for as long as I want. I’ll let you stay until evening, you’ve paid for that already. But this evening there will be no more argument. You will leave this tavern and sleep outdoors. But I won’t tolerate you in my tavern for another night. I suggest you go to your room and get some rest.”
The old man smiled. “That’s fine. We’ll both be leaving this evening, then.” He walked back into the tavern without a fuss. Trava supposed that was enough, though she didn’t like that the old man apparently thought that she’d be leaving with him. She wouldn’t.
With that in mind, she continued digging her father’s grave.
When she finished, she dragged her father’s corpse and placed it in the shallow grave. She shoveled dirt until his body was covered.
“I feel I should say a few words,” Trava said. Most of her tears had now dried on her cheeks. “I know you were a good man, and a great father. You deserved better than someone who ran off and left you alone to raise me.” She was laying bare her feelings, but there was no one around. She could be completely honest. “You did a great job as a father, regardless.” She paused, blinking back a few tears. She couldn’t lose control of her emotions. She had some critical things to do tonight.
“I promise you that I’ll fulfill your dying wish,” Trava said. “Your wish that your tavern be taken care of. I don’t know that I can do the other one. I’ve never seen my mother. You couldn’t even tell me what she looked like.” Trava choked up slightly.
“But I’d like to say thank you,” Trava said. “Thank you for all you’ve done for me, father.”
She stood by the grave in silence. She decided against putting a marker where he was buried. She’d always remember. She waited for a few more moments before heading into the tavern.