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In the Grasp of Death

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In the Grasp of Death

The dark-haired elf stood grimly, with his bloodstained longsword gleaming in the cloudy afternoon. Snow drifted gently to earth, settling upon the dead like a soft blanket. The scent of pine mingled with the reek of blood, and peace settled tensely as the echo of steel faded into silence. A second elf leaned against a tree, his sword protruding from a snowbank beside him. Blood streamed from his temples, staining his blond hair which was damp with the snow. "Gavadrenel," the dark-haired one called. "How are you wounded?" Breath fogged heavily from the other's lips. "Badly, my friend. Quite badly." Another breath, as blood began to trickle from his mouth. "I don't know how much I have left in me, Tai' Finn," Gavadrenel told him. The dark-haired elf paused. "You will be fine, Gavadrenel," Tai'Finn assured him. But the words were hollow. They both knew it. Groaning, Gavadrenel stood up, and took several steps. He stopped, clutching a hand to where blood seeped onto his tunic. Shifting his fur cloak, he exhaled slowly. Tai' Finn winced. "Don't exert yourself," he warned. Gavadrenel grinned weakly. "Walking is hardly an exertion, Tai' Finn." But his face twisted to a grimace as he moved slowly back to the tree. Leaning against it, he took several deep breaths, trembling with each one. With a hard expression, Tai' Finn turned to the trees. Many had been laid bare by winter's affront, and a soft wind rustled the remaining leaves. With the wind, Tai' Finn felt time, moving past him, felt it's inexorable pull against all things mortal. He turned his face to the sky. "To be immortal," he whispered, "To remain upon this world with not a fear for death." His gaze fell to the snow below. "Tis not to be..." With a wistful sigh, Tai' Finn wiped the blood off his sword and slid it slowly back into his sheath. He turned to where Gavadrenel still leaned back against the tree, silent. The blond-haired elf still had the same youthful blue eyes, although they were now touched by sadness, deep and profound. His features were still as fair as they had always been, except for the blood which trickled from his lips, and the blood which stained his temple. Steam escaped him, racing forth from his mouth to dissipate and disperse into the chill. "Tis not to be..." he whispered again. "From this life to the next," Gavadrenel sighed, "I must depart upon this fateful afternoon. Who knows what awaits beyond the next ridge?" He paused, slowly sinking to the snow. "Nobody knows what awaits," he muttered. Tai' Finn's face twisted into a snarl. "It's not fair!" He whipped his sword from its scabbard and hacked it halfway through a tree. "Why one so young? A mere hundred and twenty summers!" "We are young no longer, Tai' Finn. We are warriors, you and I." "You assume too much," he spat. "You are youth, rash and reckless! Any smart elf would still be back in Terron Arvel!" Gavadrenel laughed softly. "I always was the smarter of us both, my friend." "And look where it's brought you. Dying out here in the middle of nowhere!" he shouted. "Bah! This is the life of a warrior! You live a live of violence, and you die a death of violence. We are not meant to die! Not here, not now!" Tai' Finn pulled his blade from the tree and hacked it into another. "Where is the glory we set out to find? Where is the honor that we tried to defend?" Gavadrenel sighed. "There is no glory in killing. There is only honor in death. I have much honor," he said, smiling grimly, "Too much." The dark-haired elf slammed his sword into the snow. "What does it matter when you're dead?" he hissed. Gavadrenel shook his head softly. "I don't know," came the reply. Tai' Finn stalked across the clearing to where the blond elf sat quietly. "Are you just going to accept it, then?" "What else can I do?" he shouted. "Nothing is going to change the fact that I'm dying! Nothing!" He broke into sobs. Tears ran softly across his face, mixing with the blood. "I don't want to die, Tai' Finn..." With tears on his cheek, the other elf sat down beside Gavadrenel. Putting an arm around the dying elf, he shook his head. "I'll be here for you, my friend. I will be here..." The blond elf cried softly. The wind died down, and the air began to cool as afternoon began to wane. The clouds cleared from the sky, and the two elves sat side by side in the snow. The sun began to drop sharply in the west, heralding a cold night to come. As the sunset started to play across the horizon, Gavadrenel spoke. "Do you know what it is to die, Tai' Finn?" He shook his head. "It is to pass beyond," Gavadrenel whispered, "To go forth and beyond that last hill. It is to transcend our reality to enter a better one." He coughed violently, and blood spurted forth to cascade down his chin. "I will enter the new reality with honor, Tai' Finn." "You will, my friend," he said comfortingly. "Do you think I will find such beauty as a sunset in the new world?" he asked. "Better," Tai' Finn assured him. "There will be green grass and even greener woods as far as the eye can see. And there will be silvery lakes, and majestic mountains and valleys, and only the elves to keep you company. And your ancestors will welcome you home, and they will say, 'Gavadrenel, you died with much honor, my friend.'" The blond elf nodded slowly. "I can see it already," he said dreamily. The sun dropped further, and as stars began to dot the sky, the moon rose high among them. The pale orb shone down carelessly upon the winter-bitten land, and the air grew colder. Fresh tears trickled down Tai' Finn's cheeks, tears of remorse and sorrow. He sang the song of passing to Gavadrenel, and when the song was finished, the blond-haired elf spoke. "You must tell my mother and father that I love them," he sighed. "And tell my younger sister, also." "I will do all that, Gavadrenel," Tai' Finn told him. Gavadrenel nodded, as his face took on an uncomfortable expression. "So cold..." he rasped. "Who would guess that death would be so cold?" With a last breath, Gavadrenel died. Tai' Finn rose solemnly and glanced around the clearing at the three corpses nearby. "Three human lives for Gavadrenel. Indeed, it is a cruel world," Tai' Finn said bitterly. He shook his head, wiping tears from his eyes. "I don't want their blood!!!" he screamed. But his anger passed, and he felt despair's approach. Retrieving his sword, the elf lifted Gavadrenel's limp body in his arms. "Tis not to be..." Tai' Finn sighed.



Thanks to Jason J. Romein for this contribution!


 


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