The Land of Fortanis was one of second chances. Sometimes even third or fourth chances, if you were lucky maybe even more. Death wasn’t a sure thing there. Eventually everyone died, just not the first time around.
But this wasn’t the first time for Her and so the specter of fate hung heavy in the air. Everyone tried to reassure the Man as He paced in moonlit shadows. “She has a strong spirit” they said. And yet the Man paced. It was His fault. Somehow it was His fault she had died. He was supposed to be stronger, better able to protect the ones He cared about. No one had been strong enough that night, at least not strong enough to protect them all. Many had died not just Her. Yet the Man still blamed himself. It seemed He was never strong enough.
He stood for a time, mind blank of any real thoughts but filled with swirling emotions struggling to rise to the surface long enough to form words. As He stood struggling someone called to Him “She made it, She’s back”. He didn’t reply. A flood of relief washed over him. But still he didn’t go to Her. He couldn’t bring himself to face Her.
He could hear people talking, greeting Her. But something was wrong. Normally it’s a joyous thing when one returns. But the voices were still subdued. A fog of sadness still blanketed the small crowd. But He saw Her then through the crowd of well wishers. Disheveled and wrapped in a blanket or someones cloak, tiredness and sadness were etched into Her face like they might never leave it. Yet somehow She was the most beautiful thing he had seen all day.
Their eyes met as He watched from shadows cast by moon and lantern. She ended Her conversation and moved away from the well wishers. They kept their vigil waiting and hoping that more would return as well.
She moved to him slowly and wordlessly they embraced. They stood in each-others arms for what could have been hours or seconds. Time didn’t matter. She finally spoke.
“I can’t do that again. Ever. I won’t come back next time. I’m sure of it.”
The Man’s pulse thundered and His mind raced trying to comprehend what she was saying. This was it? Her last chance? But there was still so much to be done, so many battles to fight. How could he ask her to stay by his side through that? How could he let Her do it if She insisted?
They sat then, in a pool of soft yellow light at the edge of the camp. The shadows and moonlight held at bay around them. Few words were spoken. They both understood what had happened and neither one had solutions to the problems they would face. They were both young, just hours ago it seemed that they had all the time in the world and their time together had just begun. Now the end of that time loomed dangerously close like walking the sharp edge of a cliff.
They held hands. Sometimes they looked at each other and sometimes they couldn’t bear too. In the silence the Woman caught His eyes.
“I love you.” she said.
In an instant the world snapped into focus. His mind stopped racing and focused on those words. His path forward was no longer a tangle of questions, He knew what He had to do. She would live Her life as She saw fit, She always had and He hadn’t been able to do anything about it in the past so why would that be different now? She would live Her life and He would defend it with everything He had.
“I love you too.” the Man replied.
The two of them sat like an island in their pool of light. The world raged on around them but for that night they were together and that was all that mattered.