Origin of the Valkyrie Part 3

"Okay," I checked with my sister, "ready to go?"

"Of course," she said.

"Okay, then, time to go. X-ZONE!" the dark blue portal appeared in frony of us, and we entered it without hesitation.

We came back to the endless void, with all the different worlds open to us. It was time to choose which one to go to.

"Rythe?" I prompted. "Which one?"

My sister looked at all the doorways, and focused on one. "That one," she said, pointing at that doorway with absolute certainty.

"Okay, then. Looks like we head to 'Animia'," I read the name above the door. Grabbing my sister's hand, we floated through the door,

And landed right in the middle of a battlefield.

We landed right in the middle of the battle, and noone noticed our conspicuous entry.

"Odin damn all," I swore. "We need to get away, and fast!"

"But how do you propose that?" Rythe asked sarcastically. "I doubt either army will let two beautiful maidens just walk away unscathed."

"Well then," I said as I unslung the Aura Lance from my back, "we'll just have to force our way out."

I started running, fightiong anyone who tried to attack me. Rythe stayed close by, not sure what to do. 'I'm going to have to train her someday,' I thought to myself. But I didn't have long to think about it, because someone new appeared in front of me.

Unlike the other soldiers I fended off, this one looked experienced. His uniform, consisting of a full-body suit of armor and a brown hood, was decorated with many medals. But what was curious, was that his armor was made of stone. Come to think of it, I didn't see any metal at all among the warriors...

"What are you doing here, woman?" He asked bluntly. "This is no place for you."

"Out of my way, good sir," I responded politely. "I must leave now."

"Oh? Well, I can lead you to a safe place..."

Something in his tone bothered me. "No, thank you. My sister and I can find our own way."

At this, the man suddenly became angry. "You have no choice in the matter, woman!" He grabbed for my arm.

And I pulled it away fast, and delivered a punch to his face. "Get away from me," I growled. "If you persist, I will kill you."

And the officer just smiled at this. "Oh, yeah?"

At that moment, the entire Battle of Jade Plains stood still, watching our scene.

I readied my new spear, knowing what would ensue.

"Well, if it's a fight you want," the officer said angrily. He pulled out a wooden sword. I found it an odd choice of weapon, but I didn't dare let my guard down.

He didn't strike just yet. He just started chanting. A strange green light came from his free hand, and it dissapeared. But what manner of magic was it?

My answer came in the form of three giant pine needles, driving themselves into my body. The pain was unimaginable! Three burning hot needles, jammed through my shoulder and chest, bringing me to my knees!

It dissapated quickly, though. I got up swiftly, not willing to fall so easily. The officer, though, looked at me wide-eyed.

"How- that isn't possible!" He shouted. "You should be dead!"

"Are you telling me that that was supposed to hurt?" I bluffed. To show weakness to the enemy is to show them an opening.

He growled. "It doesn't matter," he said with disturbing confidence. "You cannot win!" At that, he pulled out a red pendant he wore, and chanted again. I had to act quickly, for if he could do that again!

I ran towards him, Lance aimed for his heart, but I was too slow. the burning circle surrounded me, closing in on me.

"Not this time, magician!" I jumped over the circle, the heat bathing my feet. I landed in front of the man, and thrusted at his heart. The stone armor, however strong it may be against wood and such, was no match for steel.

His eyes bulged at the sight of the lance, driven right into his heart. His final words, before Death came to take him away, were odd indeed.

"St-Steel Warrior..."

His body fell, never to rise again.

And all those who watched the match became afraid of the Lady Lancer.

The calm lasted only a few moments. Then, a soldier took up his sword.

"She killed the commander!" He charged me, driven by rage. Imagine, a woman beating one of their best warriors!

I swung the Lance widely, making him jump back a step. But his warcry was enough to remind his comrades where they were. An entire army was after me now!

But fortune smiled upon me that day, for the other army took up the offensive as well. The battle went on in full force, and I wasn't alone.

One of the soldiers was able to get a swing of his axe at me, but it glanced off my armor. He noticed this, and set up a cry!

"Watch out! She's a Steel Soldier!"

I still didn't understand. Was steel a rare alloy here?

But the battle slowly drew to an end. The opposite army fled, screaming in terror from "the Steel Lady." I wanted to get out now, but my allies (for this was what we were now) picked me up and carried me off.

I was getting ready to escape, when I realized that, they weren't taking me as spoils of war! They were carrying home their hero!

Sometimes, I wonder if I attract too much attention.

But while I was wondering about my ability to make heads turn and look at me, I forgot about someone important. Rythe quickly got seperated from me, not being able to keep up with the soldiers carrying me away. Realizing that this could be a problem, she turned for help.

"Excuse me," she asked a nearby soldier, "but have you seen a young woman? Blonde hair, wields a spear?"

"You mean the Lancer?" The soldier asked incredulously. He was a young man, hardly more than two and twenty years of age. His sandy-colored hair and light green eyes almost gave him a celestial look, but his attitude soon put that thought to rest. "You know the hero of the Jade army?"

"Umm..." Rythe was ever the cautious one, not wanting to let anyone know too much. "Well, I was traveling with her."

"Wow!" he cried, impressed. "If you know the Lady lancer, then I would be honored to help you!"

"Thank you," she replied, suddenly shy from the admiration the youth was giving her. "I'm... Rythe."

"Liutenant Licec, first knight of the archer's division," He declared with an exaggerated bow. Rythe responded with something she hadn't done in many years: she giggled. "And now, milady, let's find your companion." And thus, they headed off to look for me.

As my sister and her new *cough* "friend" searched for me, the soldiers (who had eventually set me down) led me to the main encampment of their army. It looked no different from any other encampment I saw in my own world: lots of tents and hastily built lean-to's scattered about, soldiers resting from the day of fighting. In a way, it made me wish to go home. But I had a job to do; I could think about home later.

One of the soldiers, by some unspoken understanding, led me to the base of the encampment. It was a large, two-story tent, in a soft green color. The tent entrance was guarded by two soldiers, both of them looking unfit for any combat. I never understood why the best fighters were sent to the front, while those who wouldn't even know which end of a sword to grip were put in positions of guarding important places. But I digress.

The guards looked curiously at me, but stood aside. The soldier who was accompanying me (It is sad; I never learned his name) quickly entered, gesturing for me to follow. With a shrug, I obeyed.

The inside of the tent was no more detailed than the outside. There was a huge wooden table in the center of the tent, and several chairs (all of which were being used now), and that was about it. The men turned to look at our entrance, curious as to what was so important. One of them had stopped in mid-sentence. He was an elder, that was obvious; his hair was completely grey, and his body showed many signs that it had seen better days. Yet he moved and talked with such ease, like a man thirty years his junior.

The soldier stopped, and I quickly followed suit. These were obviously the generals and higher-rankng officers, planning their strategies.

"What in hell is the meaning of this?!" one of the officrs demanded. "Who is this woman?"

"General, sir," the soldier saluted, "I have come to announce our victory over Nohl."

Almost all of the officers jumped in surprise. "You mean to tell me," the Genereal who spoke before asked incredulously, "that we won?"

"Yes, sir!" The soldier's enthusiasm about the event was obvious. "And we owe our thanks to this lady here!"

All heads turned to me then. I just stood there, not letting them see any weakness in me.

"Well, now! This is certainly a pleasant surprise!"

The elder stood up from his chair. He walked over to me, and held out his hand in some strange gesture.

"Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ventarbre, friend of the house of Jade, and military advisor of a sort. And you might be...?"

"Robyn, sir," I answered when I kneeled to him.

"Oh, come now, girl, stand up! No need to show me any respect, I'm just a dirty old man," he said with a chuckle. I smiled. This man was truly a wiseman.

"Now then," he clapped his hands briskly, "care to explain what you are doing here, and where you come from?"

"I am... traveling with a friend," I said evasively. I spoke the whole truth with Cid, for he was in a position to need to know my tale, but I did not trust the generals in this room. How do they deal with demons in this world, I wonder? "We got caught in the middle of a battle, and I tried to get us out. There was... a confrontation."

I suddenly noticed Ventarbre looking at me strangely. Or more accurately, staring at my hair and spear. "I see," he said absentmindedly. "And I suppose you dealt with it with your spear only? You must have very weak anima force to rely on steel alone."

"Umm..." I stalled. Anima force? was that what that warrior used on me? "To tell you the truth, Ventarbre, I had to. I cannot cast such magic."

"I thought as much," Ventarbre said confidently. "Tell me, dear girl, how is Gustave? Is he still alive?"

"Gustave?" I blinked. I suddenly feared I made a grave error.

"Of course, dear girl. I don't know why I didn't see it earlier. The Blonde hair, lack of spell arts, such proficiency with a weapon. You are definitely the scion of Lord Gustave, the greatest of all kings, are you not?"

All of the officers and the one soldier gaped at the "realization". They started murmuring to each other, discssing this turn of events.

"-His granddaughter maybe? The age difference-" "-Should have seen it. The blonde hair and the warrior attitude are so obvious!" "-We might win the war, if she will fight for us!"

I wasn't thinking about what they were saying, really. I was trying to understand what had I just gotten myself into. They think I am royalty? The thought was so absurd!"

"Of course," Master entarbre continued, "I hope the Lady Leslie is well, too. They were always such a beautiful couple, and I-"

"Master Ven," I hastily interrrupted, may I speak to you privately?"

"Oh, of course, my dear girl! Come, we'll go somewhere secluded." He walked right out the door (well, flap), and I had no choice but to follow.

I had never before realized at what speed rumors could travel. But by the time I had caught up with the elder, almost everyone was whispering about "the scion of Gustave". Oh, Ven and I were going to have a REALLY important talk.

"Now, my dear lady," Master Ven finally said when he led me to a small, deserted part of the encampment. There were no soldiers about, and we were surrounded by trees on three sides. here would be almost no chance of anyone being able to spy on us. "What did you want to say to me?"

"This." I'm not proud of what I did. But after he started such troubling rumors that could jeopardize my mission, and I really didn't hit him that hard!

After he stopped screaming for a few seconds, I found a cloth and helped him try and stem the bloodflow from his nose. "I apologize for that," I quickly tried to explain. "But you don't know how much trouble that might have caused!"

"Wh- *cough* What was that for?"

"I am not related to this Gustave that you speak of. And you may have just ruined my only chance at redemption."

"Hold on a minute!" He suddenly shouted with an air of command. "Look, could you please start at the beginning? Like who are you and where are you from?"

I sighed. This was going to take a while. "My name is Robyn, and I am not of this world..."

For the next hour, I explained my home, my training with the Valkyries, my quest, and how I got there. He occasionally asked a question or two, but mostly stayed silent.

"I see," He said when I finished my tale. "So you need the Kris Knife. I believe we can help each other out."

"You know where the Kris Knife is?" I asked suspiciously. The coincidence was too great!

"Well, not exactly. You see, one of my friends, a man known as Wil Knights, once had a knife he said was called Kris. But this knife didn't seem to hold this power you speak of. For all I know, it could justbe a duplicate."

"It's all I have," I answered with a lot of constraint. "Now, will you tell me where I can find this Knights person?" Odin help me, I had a lead!

"Yes," Master Ventarbre siad. But before my hopes could even begin to climb, he added, "provided you help me, of course."

"And what help would you require?" I inquired, using every ounce of my self-control to not shake the man. If he dares to make a move on me-

"I want you to fight," He answered, momentarily stopping me. "We need "the scion of Gustave."

"You want me to fight in the war?" I asked Ventarbre carefully.

"Well, yes and no. I want you to fight as the granddaughter of Gustave."

There was a moment's silence as I pondered what he meant.

"I don't understand," I said at length. "If you want me to fight in the war, then fine. But why must I do it as the 'scion'? What difference would it make?"

Ventarbre sighed, a sigh that I recognized as the start of a rather lengthy explanation. "Robyn, you may be a great fighter- and I have no doubt that you are!- but you obviously don't understand strategy.

"You see, if you were to join in our eforts to stop Nohl, and dissuaded the rumors that you are a descendant of Gustave, then it wouldn't change our chances much. Many armies have had supposedly great warriors, and are rarely afraid of stories about such a warrior.

"But Gustave- Gustave was really one of the greatest warriors that history can remember. People literally fled in terror at the thought of facing him in battle. If our soldiers thought that we had a granddaughter of him fighting with us, then they would surely be more ready to fight, sure of their success. And if the opposition should hear about you, then that would make them nervous at worse, and dead scared at best. You see?"

I... think so," I hesitantly affirmed. "So, you want me to lie about my heritage. I don't think I could really do that, Ven."

"Well, who said you had to lie?" he asked with a sly wink. "All I'm asking is that you not say you aren't a relative, not say you are. And I swear, on the memory of Lord Gustave himself, that if you follow along with this, I will help you all I can to find this Kris Knife you want. Is it a deal?" he concluded as he held out his hand.

Now I was starting to consider. If I were to join with ventarbre, I certainly could learn a lot about this world. But what would happen if people found out?

"Sounds like a good deal to me, Robyn."

The familiar voice pulled me out of my inner contemplating, and sith a smile, turned to see my sister standing there. With a soldier.

"And who is this?" I asked with a raised eyebrow. "Rythe, you haven't been talking about-"

"No, Robyn," she interrupted me. "This is Lieutenant Licec, and he's been helping me find you." She smiled slyly. "Sister, how come you never told me you were the granddaughter of a warlord? Just when you think you know a person-"

"Oh, stop, Rythe!" I laughed. "You know as well as I do that I'm no more a descendant of Gustave than you are!"

Master Ventarbre was standing silently during the whole exchange, but now he spoke up. "Pardon me, ladies, but I am awaiting an answer to my proposition."

That one sentence was enough to sober us up. I was reminded of my task, and how daunting it was. And it would do well to learn about this world...

"I accept your proposal," I answered Ven with a sigh. "Though I fear what may come of this lie, I will fight for you."

"Wait a minute," the Licec said, surprising me. How could I forget that he was here! "Are you saying that you really aren't a relative of Gustave?"

Gods, this mission just keeps getting more and more complicated! "Erm, well Licec, you see... I'm not really from around here."

After telling this story so many times, I don't have to repeat it all now to you, do I?

"I see," Licec stated once i had finished my story (yet again. *sigh*). "Well, although it does not seem honorable I will keep your secret. No one shall learn of your heritage fro me."

I smiled at Licec. He was a good man. A little inexperienced, but he was kind and honorable. And then my eyes strayed to Rythe, sitting down in the grassy field, close to Licec. She caught the glance I sent her, and just turned away and blushed.

"Umm, Licec?" I asked the soldier. "I was wondering, could you train my sister here with a weapon?"

Both of them seemed to blink at this request. "Umm, train her?" Licec stammered. "Well, I wouldn't want to risk hurting her, and-"

"And she has no defense if she is seperated from anyone," I countered. "If we're going to make this ruse work, there are a few things that will be required." Using this segue, I addressed Master Ventarbre, leaning against a boulder in an attempt to keep awake during my tale. "Ventarbre, can you teach me about the history of this world?"

"Why, of course! It will take awhile, but if you study diligently, you can pull it off! Now, we're going to have to make up a schedule for you. There are so many things that will need to be done, and I just hope..."

I just yawned at this point, and lied down in the field. This was going to take awhile, and I was never one for planning. As I slipped off into sleep, the thought of the days to come came to me.

Maybe this was a mistake, after all...


I fell to my knees by the fallen Valkyrie's side. Struggling to hold back tears, I saw my teacher, my friend, impaled on theAngel Slayer, her very own sword.

Oh, Odin...

"Robyn..." she said, smiling. Even near death, she would find reason for joy. "You came. I'm so happy."

"Don't speak,"I told her. "You'll die if you do."



"Robyn," she emphasized. "I don't have long to live as it is. I can only fend off death for so long." She chuckled, turning into a cough midway. "I wonder, who comes to retrieve the valkyrie when she dies?"

"Lenneth... who did this to you? Who?!"

"It... it was..."

She never finished that sentence. Lenneth, the greatest warrior I have ever known, and my first true friend, was dead.


"...iss... Miss... Miss! You have to get up!"

I literally jumped out of bed at that moment, scaring the wits out of the poor soldier.

"Ugh..." I held my head, trying to stifle the raging headache I felt. "What happened?"

"Umm, well," he hesitantly explained, "last night, some of the guys broke out some of the ale and..."

"Oh, gods." the memories came flooding back. How can anyone stand that abominable stuff, liquor? I swear, I will never touch that stuff ever again!

But the hangover was a mere nuisance compared to the feeling of terror that remained. That dream, it was so real... could it be a preminition? I'll have to ask Rythe later.

Which reminds me...

"What time is it?" I asked, still rubbing my forehead.

"Umm, it's about mid-morning now. Master Ven sent me to retrieve you."

Sighing in resignation, I finally opened my eyes to the world. The small tent I was in was luxurious when compared to the rest of the camp. It only had a bed, a table, two chairs, and my equipment, but it was more than what most had right now.

"Tell master Ven I shall be there in a moment."

"Yes, Lady Steel," he saluted before running off to do his appointed task. It was a good thing, because then he didn't see me wince at that title.

Ever since we came to this world two weeks ago, I have had to put up with being called "Lady Lancer" or "Steel" or the Scion". And the almost godlike reverence they give me, all because of a lie.

I shrugged, realizing the futility of just moping about it, slipped on my boots, and walked out my tent.

Walkingacross the encampment, I drew many stares. Despite my time here, people still seemed to think of me as an unbeatable force of nature, who will single-handedly bring their army to victory.

If only they knew.

I soon came to ven's tent, being of similar build to mine. The only real difference was that his had two guards stationed outside his flap, and it was a lighter shade of green. Proving the importance of him to this army, I guess.

"Ah, Lady Robyn, you're here!" Ven welcomed me as I entered his tent. "Come, time for your lesson!" For the past two weeks, I have spent every morning with Ven, learning about the history and culture of this strange world. Today, he spent three hours telling me about the story of Gustave's life.

Gustave. The man who was almost a god. The man who single-handedly brought peace to the Merchmin region for a long reign. The man whose name I was quickly becoming sick of hearing.

At Midday, we broke off to tend to our own affairs. He went to the other generals, discussing their strategies. I left, to find Rythe.

The day after our arrival, Lieutenant Licec was appointed as Rythe's bodyguard, and trainer. Not being known as my sister (we look too different; me with my golden blonde hair and blue eyes, her with her hair the color of midnight, and eyes that seemed to hold information beyond her years), she was thought of as just my traveling companion, but she was still held in reverence as well.

Iapproached the training ground, where Licec and Rythe were drawing a crowd with their training session. Rythe had decided on using a staff for her weapon, and despite being only a beginner, she already wielded it very well. But my trained eye could see that Licec wasn't trying as hard as he should, either afraid to hurt Rythe, or just didn't want to defeat her.

The growing affection between those two was so obvious, but they didn't see it. Their constantly being together, long talks under the stars, those many glances they kept sending the other when they weren't looking; it was all too obvious. They were in love.

"Robyn!" she called as soon as she saw me. "Watch!" At that moment, she charged by Licec, and swung her staff with enough force to knock him off his legs. I stared at her in amazement. That move, though so simple, held such power! How did she?

"Something called 'Bone Crush'," she happily told me. "These people are amazing! They can tap into the power within their weapons, and draw out powers and techniques that can be extremely powerful! You should check with Licec sometime, he could teach you a thing or two!" She was like a child, so happy was she. When we first started this journey, she was so somber, willing to leave our mother to die. Mother...

But now, she was almost a whole new person. Her eyes, normally downcast and somewhat... well, creepy, were now nearly sparkling with life! Licec was obviously a profound impact on her life.

"Later," I replied with a shake of my head to clear my thoughts. "Right now, I need to talk to you. it's important."

"Why, Robyn? What could be so important?"

"Odin," I replied gravely. "I fear that Ragnarok is upon us."

"Robyn, that dream probably didn't mean anything! I mean, the chances that you had a prophetic dream-"

"Well, what about you? You're my sister, so isn't it possible that I could have a vision or two?"

"Robyn, it doesn't work that way!"

I was getting really frustrated with my sister. She had been a lot easier to deal with lately, but this...

We were currently in my tent, discussing my recent "vision". Rythe was skeptical of my belief, and thought I was just over

"Okay," she sighed, "let's go over this again. Exactly WHAT happened in this dream?"

"Well," started hesitantly, "I remember we were in this... cavern, and There I saw Lenneth, trainer of the Valkyries and my first true friend. She was on the ground in pain, and I saw her sword stuck inside her chest." I chuckled without humor. "To think, the greatest warrior ever, impaled by her own weapon."

"Get on with it, sister."

"Right. Anyway, I ran to her, and knelt by her body. She opened her eyes, looked at me, and... smiled..." I trailed off, feelings of inexplainable guilt washing over me.

Why would she be so happy, in her last moment of death, and I was what she saw? I, who forsook the ways of Odin, and brought shame upon her for not convincing me? I... I betrayed her...

I shook my head to clear my thoughts. I'll wallow in my own self-pity later. Now, I have to deal with Rythe.

"Anyway, she looked at me, said my name, and... for some reason, I told her to call me 'Esker'. Wierd, huh?"

" 'Esker'?" my prophetic sister asked. "Why would you want to be called that?"

"How should I know?" I snapped back. "This is the FUTURE, remember?"

"Okay, okay! Geez, sorry."

"No," I sighed. "I should apologize. Gods, this dream is getting to me!

"Anyway, I tried to help her, but... she seemed to accept, even welcome her death... And before she was able to tell me who did this, she... passed on..."

I turned silent at the end of my tale, trying to figure out what in Niflheim actually happened there. *sigh* Lenneth... you were always there for me. When Loki first found me, and attempted to... to... But you came, and you protected me. I will always thank you for that...

And I will, when we go to see you.

"Rythe," I said suddenly, "we're leaving. I have to see Lenneth, and Odin. This could be bad." I glanced at my sister. "Rythe?"

Rythe stood there with a glazed look in her eyes.

Oh, no...

"Well, Robyn," she intoned geravely, "you may have to wait awhile. The battle starts today."

The two armies met that very same day. On one side, there was the Laubholz army, who broke the treaty of Hahn and started advancing on other territories. On the other, there was the Jade army, dedicated to keeping the peace and stopping Laubholz. And there was me.

I was wearing really obvious and somewhat bulky steel armor. It was supposed to show me as an obviously Steel warrior, and to let the enemy know that the rumors of the Steel Lady were true. But all I could think about was how heavy that armor was.

When the two armies were finally in sight of the other, they stopped. The tension was so thick, neither side wanting to make the first move. After about five minutes with noone moving, with no sound except the howling of the wind, someone made the first move.

And it was me.

I raised my Aura Lance in salute to both sides. "For the glory of Odin!" I cried as I raced down the hill to meet with the opposing force. The soldiers behind me, though confused by my cry and startled by my action, responded quickly and followed me to glorious battle.

Meanwhile, the Laubholz army was also charging to face us. Their archers started firing volleys of arrows at us, and giving their comrades cover. But they did not hurt me, for I was in my natural element. My lance swung in many quick arcs, deflecting any arrows that came near me. And not but ten seconds later, I met with the enemy in full combat.

The battle is now but a blur to me, of fleeting moments of defeating my enemies and aiding my allies. But there is one part that is all too clear in my memory, something that I will never forget.

At some point, I was cut off from most of the Jade army, and I was surrounded. My armor was dented in every sensitive area, my grip on the Lance slipping on the still wet coating of blood. I was tiring, and I new that my end would soon come.

But then, a familiar form appeared at my side, with twenty warriors right behind her. It was Rythe, and she had brought help.

"Tsk, tsk, dear sister!" She exclaimed with mock scolding as she delfected a few attacks with her staff. "You should know better than to try and take on a whole army!"

"I do," I replied with a grin, despite the obvious threat all around us. "That's why I'm just taking care of the Left flank of the army!"

"Allow me, Steel Lady," another familiar voice cried. Licec emerged from the throngs, and joined the two of us. From then on, we were an unstoppable fighting force. Enemies and allies alike scrambled away to avoid the fury of our fighting style, and we soon made ou way to the backs of the army, and we faced the General of the entire Laub army.

He never said a word, he just glared at us with hate-filled eyes. Yet he kept his calm, and drew his sword. It was made of a different material than the others, apparently made from the bone of a very big (and I'd guess dangerous) animal. He charged at us, and started attacking furiously with his sword.

Even with the three of us against just him, we were hard pressed to hit him. His skill with his sword was astounding, able to delfect almost all of our hits, and performed manouvers I thought impossible by mortals. But in the end, he couldn't hold out against our teamwork and skill. He fell to the ground, unmoving.

"we- we did it," Licec said between gasps for breath. "We've won the war!" He threw his hands into the air, his lance pointing to the heavens, leaving his guard completely down. And that's when he struck.

The General, who was not dead, focused on Licec. And before any of us knew what happened, three large, sharp projectiles slammed through Licec's body, leaving gashes in his shoulders and chest. And his face, that look of total surprise etched with pain, when he looked down at his wounds. That look will never leave me, no matter what I try.

Nor the sound of his body hitting the ground mere moments later.

Part 4