My Last Breath

By FalconWing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing here.

What I'm doing in this shadowy, ghostly place. Surely my duty to Valdemar does no bind me past death. Surely it does not bind Vanyel or Stefen either. And then the answer comes to me.

I'm here because Vanyel is here.

Because I may have died for Valdemar but I'm alive now for him. He is my Chosen, I his Companion and that bond was not broken by death.

I remember thinking it odd that we would even be given this option. This opportunity. This cursed alternative. The option of remaining as ghosts – shadows of our former selves. Remaining to protect our country from harm. I'd never heard of something like this happening before. But then I'd never heard of a Herald being reincarnated as a Bard either. It just didn't happen.

There were supposed to be only three choices to choose from: Leave this world and travel to the Havens to reap your reward; return to this world without the knowledge, to be Chosen again, or; return here with the knowledge this time to do the Choosing.

And yet here I am on the very outskirts of Valdemar, in a place called the Forest of Sorrows. Here I am, with Vanyel beside me and Stefen on the other side of him as we stand at the edge of the forest watching yet another day fade into night. Only God knows the number of sunsets we have seen.

All I know is that it's a hell of a lot.

It's amazing how some days it feels like only a few minutes ago that Vanyel and I stood before Leareth declaring our defiance, and then at times like now, that pivotal moment in our lives seems impossibly distant. So long ago that it feels like a life-time past – which in a way, I suppose it was.

But I feel so tired.

I can feel the weariness dragging on my soul and the fatigue seeping into my bones, and I want nothing more than to just lie down relinquish my mind to the exhaustion that is eating away at me from the inside. But I can't and neither can Van or Stef, though I know they feel the same way I do. We can't because we have a –

And here's that blasted word "duty" again.

– we can't because we have a duty to Valdemar. We have a duty to keep Valdemar and its citizens safe. A responsibility, an obligation, a duty. I know that, being a Companion and all, I really shouldn't feel this way, but sometimes I just get so sick of duty. Times like now.

:'Fandes: Vanyel's warning tones interrupt my thoughts. He always starts cautioning me whenever I begin to dwell on the dire things in life.

I snort and raise my head, meeting his eyes with my own sapphire gaze. :Oh come off it Van. It's not like you don't feel the same way. You're always thinking things like that, and you know it.:

Vanyel breaks the stare, his gaze lowering defensively. :Well I may, but at least I don't do it so publicly: He looks up again, self-confidence restored. :Every time you start thinking on the topic you practically broadcast your lassitude to the whole world. Next time you decide to reflect on how horrible life is, you may want to give shielding a go:

Oooh, he really needs to think up some new insults. I've heard this one a million times and delivered it at least twice that.

But instead of telling him that and risking bursting his bubble, I pretend to bristle as though deeply offended. As he lifts his chin triumphantly, I struggle not to let the mockery show through our bond. A stolen glance at Stef confirms my suspicions that he is quicker than he makes out.

Stefen lifts one eyebrow amusedly, but detracting from the effect somewhat is the fact that his hair – and therefore his eyebrows too – keeps switching from red to blonde to red again, as though it can't make up it's mind which to settle on. That's something that's been happening since he joined us here.

Van and I are always careful to include him in our conversations, and while he can't Mindspeak, Van is able to sense his emotions through their lifebond, and I, through Vanyel. Throughout the years, he has continued to find our little spats a great source of amusement and rarely misses the opportunity to comment on them.

:Are you two quite finished? The tones were dry enough to rival a desert wasteland. :You're as bad as my parents sometimes!:

(Over time we have also become accustomed to his references flicking between incidences experienced by Tylendel and those experienced by Stefen)

Vanyel laughs aloud as he turns to head back down the trail, linking his arm through Stef's. I stay where I am and listen as their soft laughter fades into the distance. Despite the fact that with our Chosen in our heads us Companions will never be truly alone, sometimes I need at least a rough semblance of solitude.

I let out a deep breath and move my weight off my left hindleg. I look up at the stars. They are only shining all the brighter for the black of night that now surrounds them.

I prick my ears as I sense an unfamiliar feeling on the wind. I take a step forward and the chill breeze picks up, blowing through my mane and leaving my tail streaming out behind me. All at once, I know what it is. The wind is carrying with it a sense of disquiet.

Something is coming and it's not good. Something is coming and it's dangerous. Something is coming and it's my blasted duty to be there when it arrives.

But I will be there. I will go because I'll have Vanyel by my side and he'll have Stefen and me by his.

I will go because I may have died for Valdemar but I'm alive now for him. He is my Chosen, I his Companion, and that bond was not broken by death. I'll be by his side until the day I finally depart this life.

I will be by his side until the day I finally breathe my last breath.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks for reading. This one was rather difficult to write and I'm sure that it shows in places. I am hoping to edit this soon but to do that I will need reviews. Anything you thought was good/bad/needed improvement will certainly help so please, please, please review. Anyone who does so will be everlastingly prized (I have been known to go out of my way to review those stories of people who have reviewed mine).

Those who also read and review my other one-shot Mercedes Lackey fic (Even Angels Fall) also posted today will be twice as revered. I am actually happier with that one than this so check that out too.

More fics should be posted hopefully in the near future.

Lotsa luv…

FalconWing.