he old man was sitting by the window, remembering past times, when he was young, when he was a warrior.
The battle was over. It had been over for more than 50 years and he could still feel the smell of blood fresh in his nose. He could still hear the war cries that emerged from the thousand throats and that were silenced with the singing sound of metal against metal, by the sound of whistling arrows in the air.It had been a glorious battle for everyone but for him. On the blood-soaked ground lay his past, his friends and companions scattered among his enemies. He looked down at his feet, almost expecting to see the multitude of cadavers there, and was suprised to only see his own feet, the feet of an old man, feeble, weak.
Once he had been in that battle, he had lifted an axe as heavy as destiny itself and screamed in anger and hatred against his enemies. He had felt the metal sing for a moment in the cold air before sinking deeply into flesh, scratching against bone. He could almost feel the wooden handle of the axe in his hand and he was saddened when he saw it was only the handle of his old walking stick.
As the sun touched the horizon and turned the sky into a turmoil of reds and oranges he remembered the faces of his friend of battle, remembered them all as if they were standing in front of him once more, joking before the fray. He could remember how their features had turned to ice as the shadow of Quepur touched them, an arrow, the edge of a sword or axe, all of them acting as the scythe of the Queen of Death.
As he took a few steps against the open window he could hear the lonely singing of a nightbird, calling to the new-born darkness, greeting it as it slowly advanced over the land. Sending everything into shadows.
He did not realise it but the song of the bird was for him, it was a herald for its mistress, the Queen of the Darkness itself. Queprur was coming to get him at last.
With a slight smile he moved away from the window, walking slowly as old men do, heading for his bed. The bed he had once shared with his wife and that now was empty, waiting for him.
As he slowly moved his old body to lay between the blankets his beloved one had woven for what seemed like an eternity ago, he suddenly felt his head heavy with memories. The faces of his parents, his fellow warriors, the woman he had loved, the children that had been taken from him by Queprur, all of them were so clear in his head, and they were all smiling at him.
The old man closed his eyes as he smiled back at them. He did not see the pale woman clad in black that suddenly appeared by his bed, looking at him with strangely soft and tender eyes.
In his sleep he felt a cold yet gentle hand touching his forehead, gently caressing it.
He felt light, as if he could float forever.
There was no darkness nor fear in his mind as he slowly vanished, letting himself slide into that last loving caress.
Queprur smiled softly as she left behind the empty shell of what had once been a warrior.
The room seemed filled with the chirping of a thousand nightbirds for a single moment.
And then there was only silence and the night.
Story written by Lucirina Telor Vevan