Dhurai

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Miira, last Lady of Dhurai, stood on the deck of her house, shivering with cold as she stared out over the only real home she had ever known.

She knew she should go inside, but it was the Golden Hour, and Dhurai had never looked more beautiful. Everywhere she looked, electric orange danced over the gums, setting their branches alight with cool fire, while at their feet, the last roses of autumn shone hot pink and blood red.

Movement in the back paddock caught Miira's eye, and the joints of the exoskeleton creaked a little as she turned to watch the alpacas amble from spot to spot, unaware of anything but the next mouthful of grass. How could she leave when even their dusty fleece shone clean and white against the grey green of the forest?

The light silvered a tear in Miira's eye, but before it could drop, a sudden chorus of laughter drifted up from the gums, as if to mock her weakness. Kookaburras. There had been kookaburras at Dhurai since the dawn of time, and their laughter reminded her that humans were only a transitory part of this ancient landscape.

When the Old Lady was alive, there had still been other properties holding back the bush, but since then, they had all fallen prey to neglect, and the bushfires that raged across the hills every few years.

Now only Dhurai remained, its stubborn resistance a constant challenge to the elements. It had been the first private property to armour itself against the flames, and it was somehow appropriate that it should also be the last.

In the morning, the curators from the National Trust would arrive to take formal possession of the property. They would walk through the house, inventorying every stick of furniture, every porcelain bowl, every cut crystal vase. And when they were done, they would build a time capsule around Dhurai, with the house and gardens safely coccooned inside a ten acre dome.

Protected from fire, the land inside the dome would become a safe haven for all the small lives it sheltered, and the house would watch over them all, an enduring testament to the Old Lady's determination...

...and my love...

Another tear threatened to spill, but Miira raised her chin, and sniffed it away.

She had loved Dhurai from the moment she had first set eyes on it, that day more than a quarter of a century ago when she had arrived to become the Old Lady's nurse and companion.

Dhurai had rewarded her devotion with a sense of belonging she had never felt before, and they had protected each other against loss and ruin ever since.

But now night was coming, and her strength was gone. It was only right that she should bequeath the land to those who could best protect it for generations to come.

If she and Gem had had children then perhaps things would be different, but life was what it was...

A sudden breeze brought the sweet scent of perfume from below. The roses, too, lived short lives, yet what glory they packed into those few, precious days.

"And I'm not done yet!"

As if in response, a last, defiant burst of sunlight cut through the gloom, igniting the roses once more.

"Capture!"

An almost subliminal click sounded from Miira's helmet as the suit caught the moment. Had she been quick enough?

Pulling the faceplate down over her eyes, she mumbled a command, and suddenly Dhurai's last gift filled her vision. Farewell.

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