Even in Death by Alanna J. Rubin

For Sean

The lead lined coffin rolled through the streets with thousands of onlookers staring in reserved silence.

Not that Anholt could see them. The lead blocked the sensors from detecting him, but it also interfered with his ability to see through objects. He could, however, feel the waves of sorrow emanating from the crowd. If only they knew who was actually in here, he thought to himself. Some might think his tactics distasteful, but honestly, this was the only way.  He’d been barred from entering the palace and his face plastered on wanted posters across the kingdom. When Anholt had heard that the revered royal advisor to the king had passed, he shed a tear for his good friend then thanked him for this opportunity.

Anholt took great pains to switch the coffins and buried his friend’s remains on his family’s land overlooking the peaceful golden valley. A far better suited resting place than the opulent one his station demanded. Gareth, always disliked the idea of his remains being interred in the royal catacombs beneath the palace. At least I spared him that, he spoke aloud. Jostling roused Anholt from his melancholy, snapping his attention to the task at hand. He could tell from the movement that the coffin was being placed on the altar in the Great Hall in preparation for the viewing. This was his chance. His heart raced as he waited for the emotions of the pall bearers to grow faint. He’d only have a small window of being alone now that they had left.

Awkwardly he pressed his hands and knees against the lid, but it didn’t budge. “Not funny”, he uttered through clenched teeth as he strained against the lid which seemed to have sealed shut. His arms and legs collapsed as he relaxed, his breathing labored. Mentally he geared himself up for another round when he felt someone approach. Whoever it was, was nervous. Anholt laid quietly, not wanting to alert whoever it was to his presence and silently wished for he or she to go away, but they didn’t. Instead he felt the coffin shake and heard a groan as the lid was pulled up. He prepared himself to attack when he saw the person’s face, “Darcie?” He squawked in surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“What does it look like,” she said in an annoyed whisper, “I’m rescuing you.” Anholt felt a smirk tug at the corner of his mouth.

“Well, that’s a coincidence, because I’m here to rescue you.”

“Fine job you’re doing to. Gareth warned me I’d have to look after you. Was the first step in your brilliant plan to get yourself trapped in my brother’s coffin?”

Anholt wouldn’t admit she had a point. “We don’t have time to argue details. I’m here now, so let’s go.” He tried to nimbly leap from the coffin, but his legs were tired from the strain of his failed attempts of opening it, so his foot caught on the edge causing him to trip. Darcie grabbed him under the arm and saved him from falling to the ground. Can this get any more embarrassing? He silently asked, sure that Gareth would have found the situation uproariously funny. But Anholt’s train of thought was interrupted as he found himself entangled in Darcie’s embrace and staring into her hazel eyes, the same hazel eyes as Gareth. He had held her brother’s gaze not long before his death, when he pledged a solemn oath demanded by Gareth who knew his life on this plane was fast coming to an end. Anholt faithfully promised that he’d take his sister away before the king could marry her. She was chosen to be his bride by royal lottery, but Gareth knew her heart belonged to someone else. Anholt’s pulsed raced as Darcie flashed him a nervous smile and he realized that he was that man. Even more surprising was the flood of emotion their closeness unlocked. He took Darcie’s hand, reveling in her touch, and together they ran toward freedom. As they fled the palace and the kingdom, Anholt chuckled at the wisdom of his friend. “Thank you,” Anholt whispered hoping his words would reach Gareth’s spirit. Even in death, Gareth knew him better than he knew himself.

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