Today is the last time I look back over my shoulder since the flame of my final journey begins to grow hot. It is the one moment of fear I will allow, and as I wait here in this calm I can finally breathe. Further beyond I can see the figures of past battles clobber one another in a fantastic dance of terror. I stand on the tallest, largest, stone to watch the display in perspective as I did when I defeated every single enemy. But I know this time is different -a beast I have never faced before. My chest heaves slowly, and I feel the entrapping worry subside. In my denouncement of this pain, this liberation, I force my head to turn back around. I sheild my eyes from the blinding light and the enchanting song of the wind blowing quick, but my heart yeilds me to find solstice. I peek through my fingers.
"Shallow isnt it?" The man at my side says, his knees slightly quivering in the water.
"What do you have in mind when saying that?" I ask.
"I thought of the things that haunt people, make them feel sick with regret and sorrow. You reek of these things, Conrad."
"How do you know I'm burdened?"
"Because you smell of a broken heart. Alas, I would say it be a temptress that did you in but I know a seriousness like yours is rare. Mustn't have been a women."
"Not yet," I joked.
"What were you thinking about, just there, sir?" He asks.
"Of how this too shall pass."
I trudge in the mossy muck of the river with the sighs and groans of my men behind me. Most of them let their hands cling tight to the warmth of their wolf skin pelts, and look about the forestry in wonder. I keep my hands skimming the tops of the crystal clear water, and watch as groups of brown scaled fish fly away in fright. The man at my side has a good head on his shoulders, and his pelt of bear fur tells me of his honor. I look about the sporatic red hair shagging down across his neck and forehead, his eyes averted to the handle of his sword, and silently vow that he will not die on this day. An arrow strikes the trunk of a tree before me, it's stem made of red bark and the tips marked by yellow. I catch the spit in my throat and let out a screetch similar to that of an eagle's cry. My eyes close quick, in unison my men and I pull our thickened sheilds over our heads from our backs and hunch in the water so we can huddle close.
"MOVE," I say.
In one giant sheild we growl and sputter when moving on, the 'clings' from the multiple arrows hitting the metal echo in our ears along with the 'clucks' made in the launguage of the enemy, the Keepers. A fish wriggles through my black, knotted beard, and I find it within me to chuckle in yet another near death experience. Ahead is a huge waterfall we have traveled long to find, this is were the basalisk occupys, and so I bring my thumb and index finger over my eye to another lad next to me. He passes the signal on until the Dark One recieves it, and without hesitation I stand up. Heavy clouds of ash rise over us to hover. I feel the yank on the fox's tail pinned to my leather belt, and the ring from the jingling bells at our hips begin as each man pulls the tail of the other. Arrows fly in multiple directions, but the aim proves mistaken as not one hits any of my men.
"Stay close, brothers," the red haired man says behind me. I take the first firm step to the waterfall, continuing in long strides in order to keep the essence of time on our side. The pull on my belt builds in tension as the rest of my men move under the shaking globs of the water. Tiny pebbles grind under my boots, and the 'clucks' cease as the last man slips in. I feel the adrenaline rise in my body from the backs of my calfs up to my shoulders. I know some of us will die very soon.
"Give us the Light, Dark One," I command.
With a single spark, a fire begins in the gloved hands of the Dark One. Most of the men watch the fire rise in his hands with fascination, their rough cheeks flush as they wease. We are in a cave, but if legend proves the walls are hollow and can crumble. I step out of the water onto the slabs of grey stones that make up the flooring and stretch. A low deadening groan fills my ears as I watch every man's hair fan back, eliciting my men to tremble. I turn slightly, then all at once to watch a collassal golden scaled stump of a lizards tail slide back into the darkness of the cave. In one quick motion I draw out my sword, and feel my blood pump in the bulging veins on my thick pale arm.
"TODAY," I say," Be it the head we cut off by the silver ends of our swords, and the skin we shank off for new pelts of honor."