The Third Age
“Quiet!” I place my ear to the ground and close my eyes.
I feel their presence.
I hear their steps echo through the dark soil they tread upon.
Sensing my nervousness, Tavie settles down next to me. I open my eyes to meet the matching pair to my own. My twin, and my best friend stares back at me, eyes round with fear and trepidation.
We hadn’t meant to carry on so far. Perhaps it was foolish to think we were safe upon the lands of our clan.
“They draw near. We mustn’t tarry any longer.” We both rise from the ground and give a tense look to the woods surrounding us.
The crack of a branch has us both jumping and reaching for the other. With my left hand clinching tightly to my dirk, I flick my chin toward the clearing beyond the great woods.
“Run.” I whisper.
“I won’t leave ye.” The pleading look in her eyes tells me that she speaks true. Another branch snaps, cracking through the air like a whip against tender flesh. There’s no time. They’re already here.
A Lycan burst through the underbrush, teeth snarling and snapping as they barely miss my raised arm. “RUN!” I scream.
We take off through the woods at a break neck speed. “Doona look back.” I yell as Tavie bursts through the dense forest and into the clearing beyond.
The hot breath of the Lycan licks the back of my breech covered legs, nearly doubling my speed as fear spikes through my veins. I leap over a downed tree and spring into the meadow beyond. Several steps behind Tavie, I glimpse three more Lycan’s joining the first. “Faster Tavie. Faster.” I yell. I watch as the distance between us grows as her faster gait takes her further away from danger and closer to the safety of our father’s guards.
A fourth Lycan leaps from the brush to our left just as Tavie rolls beneath a low hanging branch and jumps back to her feet, never missing a stride. But he’s too close, and the they’re gaining on me far too quickly for the both of us to escape.
I dodge an attack to my right and unsheathe my dirk in the same motion, slashing at the beasts throat before pitching right and leaping high to clear a large rock blocking my path. Just as I’m about to the land on the other side, a huge body collides with mine, knocking me to the ground with a heavy thud.
I try to roll to protect my body, but I collide with viscous force into the hard ground. A sharp burning sensation pierces my stomach, sucking the air from my lungs. I slowly roll over, hands reaching for the dirk lodged deep in my belly.
The sound of a struggle causes my eyes to dart toward a man battling the remaining Lycan’s with inhuman-like speed. He’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
His armor clad body strikes down each Lycan as if they were simple hounds and not the raging beasts known to slaughter entire villages.
My breath stutters as I begin to choke on the thick blood now bubbling out over my lips. I collapse back onto the cold moss covered ground. With bleary eyes, I gaze up a the clear sky above. No longer caring about the warrior dispatching the evil bloodthirsty Lycan’s.
My cold fingers fall free of the dirk and land at my sides with an audible thunk. I measure time in the amount of breaths I struggle to take in.
White clouds that look like sea foam upon great capping waves trace through the sky. My mind begins to wonder…what would it feel like to soar upon the clouds? Be way up there, looking down here…
“It’s like leaping into a fast moving breeze. Losing your feet as it carries you higher and higher. Weightlessness settles over your body and suddenly…you are free. Bound to nothing and no one but the emotion that floods your senses.”
I open my eyes, that I didn’t even realize were closed, and stare up at the most beautiful face I have ever seen. Long, dark lashes line piercing blue eyes, with depths of the deepest sea, as they gaze down at me curiously.
“Have I passed onto the great fields?” I ask, a little breathlessly, as I struggle with each rise and shallow fall of my chest.
With a gentle smile he leans down to whisper in my ear. “No, beautiful creature. It is not yet your time.” I cough again and feel the heat leave my body as the sudden chill of death settles deep into my bones.
“Tavie?” I croak between the chest wracking coughs.
His warm finger traces my cheek and jaw as he pulls me into his lap and cradles my broken body close. “She is safe. Thanks to your bravery and sacrifice.” I give a half-hearted smile and close my eyes as the last bit of warmth seeps from my body.
“Good. Very good.” I whisper, because the strength to voice my words any louder has left me.
With great ease and an unlikely tenderness, he begins to rock me as he cradles me to his broad chest. Behind my closed eyes I see a bright light flash beyond.
It reminds me of staring up into the sun as it beams down heartily upon our lands. The thought brings a sad smile to my face, for I know that I will never again watch another sunrise glisten across the realm.
The press of warm lips upon my forehead jar me from my lackluster thoughts. I try to blink my eyes open, but they’re so heavy. Too heavy. My entire body feels as if I am burdened with the weight of the world upon me.
“Forgive me.” His works trickle over my cold skin with a rejuvenating warmth. At first the tingling sensation doesn’t draw my notice, but as he begins to speak in the language of the old, I feel its effects begin to take hold.