- By Trokia
The weary warrior - Shimers of a new dawn.
Echilon waited for death. He had been waiting for many years; death always but not quite within his grasp. Instead of chasing it, he waited for it to catch up to him.
His journey had taken him across all the lands of Pendor, his every step slowly becoming heavier than the last. The heat of the southern deserts had taken his strength, the western waters had drained his ability, the eastern forests had worn at his mind.
The final part of his self would be taken away by the frozen north of the cloudmist mountains. Echilon waited for death to take away his soul.
The tightly packed snow crackled as his great sword Trojis drove deep into the ground. A soft grunt came from her wielder as the blade struck down deeply. Echilon looked about his surroundings, releasing another frozen sigh.
He spoke to himself, his gruff old voice grating from scars and years of drinking.
"Good a place as any"
Mist hung over the mountain but his keen old eyes could still make out the village of Shapeshte a ways to the south. He reflected for a moment on the woman he had met there and the kindness she had shown by letting him sleep in her barn for the night.
One memory of kindness layered upon a thousand of pain and suffering. In another life he would have come to the village a conqueror, tyrant or saviour. It didn't matter any more; the separation between good and evil had long been blurred in Echilon's mind.
He shook away thoughts of war and moved towards his sword. He leaned heavily upon Trojis and she bent slightly under his weight as he sank to his knees. The sound of the crunching snow echoed slightly over the mountains; he had not noticed the silence before.
Echilon sensed death's approach.
The air no longer moved as it had, the soft scratches of frost stopped nipping at his cheeks. His hands no longer tensed, the steady steam of his breath no longer gracefully wafted towards the morning sky.
Echilon was one with winter, as frozen and unmovable as the mountains around him. This was the moment he had been waiting for all those long years. He could yet feel the fire within him, a part of himself that refused to surrender to weakness and self pity.
"Come on old man, not here," his soul, his strongest ally, fought for life, full of passion, zeal, pulsating with power.
"Too far" he thought, "Too many lives taken, too many dead friends," His train of thought was momentarily interrupted by a sound upon the wind. No, it was nothing.
"And Anja, poor sweet Anj..." there again, for a time he sat still concentrating, blocking out all other noise, all thought, waiting for the discernable sound of...
"Help me please, someone!" came a woman's voice clear as the snow beneath him, followed by the unmistakable excited howling of mountain men.
His soul ignited and spoke once more.
"Come, Echilon Adamas son of Lowen, put away your doubts, redemption is waiting for you. Take up your sword and become the man you once were." The cold was returning.
"What if I fail her, what if she dies?" he asked himself.
"She will die if you take no action. She will have a chance if you try." Echilon's face twitched at the touch of frost upon his nose.
"I...I will try, Anja, for you I will try" With no more thought he opened his eyes, the brilliance of dawn sat before him.
"Hmm, how apt" he smiled to himself as he stood up stiffly.
A hand clasped around the leather grip of Trojis, he could feel her warmth once more. As the fire had returned to him so had it to the sword.
Echilon rushed past the wind, whipping it with Trojis, mocking the slippery mountains with his balance and pace upon the untrodden snow. It had taken a lifetime to lose his skills and a moment to regain them.
He could sense tension in the air, he could feel the fear of the woman he ran to aid.
Countless times he had lived these moments, in countless different ways, yet something felt unfamiliar.
A unique awareness swept through his mind. Echilon was rushing to his destiny - one last charge of the bloodline of Adamas, Scourge of Torbah, Champion of Rane, Harbinger of Sarleon. So many names for the many sides of one man.
He cast away all thoughts and slowed his pace, as his prey became visible through the morning mist.
He stooped behind a rock to reconnoiter for a moment; there were eleven men, seemingly lightly armored in chain mail under woolen hides. The women was out of sight, but he could hear her.
Despite his battlefield cruelties, he had never harmed the defenceless. He remembered an old friend's motto:
"Fists for pride, weapons for war. Defend your pride and kill for war."
"Silly old bastard, whats that got to do with it" he muttered to himself placing Trojis onto the snow. She sank softly, bathing in the cold as a shimmer of blue rippled like water across the blade.
As the morning mist became heavier, Echilon dug up a handful of the snow surrounding the rock he had hidden behind, and made a small pile. With a small hunting knife, he chipped away at the boulder as quietly as possible, gathering small shards of rock.
Packing the rock and snow together, he mustered up five balls. The men were laughing now and his suspicions were correct. Peeking around the rock, Echilon saw that another mountain man had appeared, larger than the others, clearly the leader in his armor and furs.
Echilon crushed the snow in his fist as tightly as he could. He slowly rose, assessing the situation prior to attacking. His experienced eyes automatically registered the men's positions, their individual sizes, as he chose which to aim at first.
He picked a target, arched back his arm and let fly the first ball, quickly followed by another.
The first snowball skimmed past a tree branch and exploded onto the head of a mountain man, he turned confused, one hand rubbing the back of his head.
The others looked confused and some were suppressing laughter. As the first man looked upward, another ball crashed into his face; he screamed more in shock than pain
and quickly wiped away the snow as howls of laughter came from around him. As the man lowered his hands he saw the blood upon them.
"Attack!" he shouted as another ball hit a comrade on his right, blood and snow billowing into the air.
"Attack, attack!" the rest had taken note of his shouts and in confusion and anger faced the direction of the deadly snowballs. A soft laugh came through the mist.
"The mighty mountain men afraid of a few snow balls?" came a mocking voice. Ignoring the woman the large mountain man grunted to a few of his men.
"Find him, kill him." they nodded in acceptance of the order and with raised axes charged into the mist.
to be continued...