Ruth Pollard in Jabal Akrad, northern Syria.
The funeral for Mohammed Aziz Mehho was a rushed affair. When his body arrived home, wrapped in an orange plastic sheet still leaking blood, those left in the village gathered quickly at his freshly dug grave.
The men stood in two rows, heads bowed, and prayed. They lowered his body into the ground and hastily raked the stones and dirt over it, grabbing handfuls of fresh, flowering greenery to decorate the plot.
His weeping family were kissed on both cheeks by their neighbours, and the small crowd dispersed as quickly as it formed, the boom of tank shells shattering their quiet grief.
In Tertyah, it is not even safe to bury the dead.
Mohammed, an apple and peach farmer, had been sitting on his balcony when the thumping rotor of a helicopter gunship broke the silence.
While Tertyah's remaining villagers hid indoors, Mohammed - deaf from a childhood illness - could not hear the helicopter's approach. The Syrian Army soldier took aim and shot him through the head.
Then the rockets began. Again and again, the high-speed, high-pitched whine streaks by alarmingly close, shaking and rattling the windows, followed by a deep boom as they land.
Mohammed was rushed to the makeshift field hospital three kilometres away in Salma.
There is silence as the men among his extended family - farmers who volunteered to fight with the Free Syrian Army in this part of northern Syria - look at the ground and contemplate their loss: another relative gone, another casualty of the 17-month effort to end the 42-year rule of the Assad family.
After 40 minutes, the helicopter leaves, the bombardment ends and the villagers breathe a small sigh of relief. But the respite is short - 20 minutes later, the rockets begin again.
Aleppo and its surrounding neighbourhoods are the focus of the most intense fighting, but it is clear a brutal war is being fought throughout the country.
The Syrian Army's rocket fire in the Jabal Akrad region is indiscriminate. Some hit houses or mosques, some land in the surrounding terraced fields. Others hit the pine forests, setting alight large green swathes of the Jabal Akrad range.
It is a terrifying way to live, made all the more difficult by the fact that there is no electricity, water or fuel and the basics must be smuggled from nearby provinces or from Turkey.
Farmers in this region, like 38-year-old Abou al Abed (who does not use his real name because some of his family is still in Syria), have watched a second season of crops fall to the ground and rot, unable to pick or sell their produce because of the siege under which villagers in this region live.
His house is full of whatever he can take from the trees - golden and red apples, peaches, pears and plums - but in reality, life here is at a standstill until the revolution grinds to its inevitable end.
Shops and cafes are closed, there are food shortages, dental and health care clinics are shut and most of the women and children have moved to safer ground. Of Tertyah's 1000 residents, only 70 remain.
''The Free Syrian Army liberated this area and it is better for us to risk the rockets than to have the Shabiah coming inside to terrorise us," Abou al Abed says.
''We lived in such a state of fear you cannot understand. Women were sleeping in their scarf and abayah every night in case the Shabiah came … and when they did come they would bring Kalashnikovs and swords."
Across the road, the call to prayer sounds from Iman Mosque and the villagers of Tertyah gather quickly. There are so few people left here the mosque is only a quarter full, and Friday prayers last just a little longer than 15 minutes.
The mosque was hit by a rocket five days ago and Abou al Abed - who led the prayers in the absence of the local sheikh - was concerned it would again be targeted by the Syrian Army.
So what was the theme of his prayer? "Patience," he replied.
At a neighbouring hamlet, new defectors have arrived home after leaving their compulsory military duty with the 54th Battalion of the Syrian Army.
They proudly show their active service cards, while others climb out of their car to disclose they have defected from the Baath Party in the Assad stronghold of Latakia. Small signs of the regime's gradual disintegration.
But it is the nearby village of Kdeen, home to people of the Merchdiyeh faith - a tiny branch of Shiite Alawite - that illustrates the complexity of Syria's diverse society.
The village falls within the region of the Jabal Akrad held by the Free Syrian Army, and its residents told the rebels they wanted to remain neutral in the conflict and would have nothing to do with the regime.
As such, the village retains a kind of special status in the area, the rebels say.
"This conflict is beyond religion, beyond Sunni versus Alawite. It is a question of people, not religion," Abou al Abed said.
"The relations between our villages are normal - there are friendships between us - but there is also concern."
The Kdeen residents are also living without electricity after the main powerlines were damaged in an attack by the Syrian regime, but unlike residents of the 30 Sunni villages around them, they are able to pass easily through checkpoints and source diesel, food, medical and other basic supplies from Latakia.
No one in the village wants to speak to the Herald when we visit - but unlike most of the other villages in the Jabal Akrad region, they had diesel to operate their farm equipment and it appeared that most of the village's residents had not fled to safer territory.
The concerns of their neighbours centre on where the loyalties of the Kdeen would lie should the Assad forces retake this mountain, so some have prepared for the worst.
Abou al Abed leads us through a peach orchard into dense woodland on the side of the mountain, down a slippery path and then back up along a steep cliff.
Hidden along the ridge is a cave, large enough to hold at least 30 people, lined with rugs, as well as mattresses, blankets and food stores. It was established to provide a haven should the Tertyah villagers' escape route be blocked by the Kdeen residents if the Syrian Army returns.
Later we receive some good news. Miraculously, Mohammed survived the trip across the border to Turkey for treatment. The mood brightens momentarily.
But, as night falls and we sit in the dark rooms of a local house lit by a single candle, his family's worst fears are confirmed. The 28-year-old is dead, and the small glimmer of hope in an otherwise desperate situation is extinguished.