A/N: Thinking about the elements of irony and tragedy, and experimented with them both to produce this odd little number. I have a knack for the confusing crack fics, so don't stress if you can't quite figure out what's going on. And because this gimmick was so popular last time I used it: if you understand, smile and have a cookie. If you don't, have a cookie anyway. Joy to the internet cookies.
At the End of the World
This is a world of beauty so great it can take your breath away, and ugliness so foul it can knock the air from your lungs. This is a world were reality is sometimes so soft around the edges that you cannot tell the difference between sleeping and waking. This is a world of dreams; this is a world of nightmares. It can be dramatically tragic, intensely joyous. But more often than that, it is merely strange.
It is the kind of world where you, a lone traveler on your way home from a little business trip, might stumble suddenly across a strange, quiet man sitting alone by the woods. He's the kind of man who makes you stop walking, because though he's said nothing to you, something in his very presence calls to you, touches your curiosity and even (though you don't know why) your pity.
This is a world in which such a man would call out gruffly to you, on a grey, dismal evening as the shadows of the cloud-dimmed sun deepen into the gloom of night. It's going to rain in a few hours, probably, and you're still a little too far from home to be sure you'll beat the storm even if you walk fast. So you really shouldn't be hanging around on the roadside listening to the short, curt words of the strange, brooding man with his long grey trench coat and dark, impenetrable sunglasses.
But you do, because what he says is as fascinating as it is horrifying, and like a passerby at a car wreck or a bar fight you can't seem to turn away.
"Listen to me," he says, and coughs once, hoarsely. "Please."
The 'please' sounds awkward in his mouth, as if he hasn't ever really said it before. That - and the little drop of blood you see fleck his fingers when he coughs before he quickly stuffs his hand into his pocket – compels you to step closer, to kneel on the ground near to where he sits, his back against the tree, legs splayed out in front of him as if he's forgotten that they are there.
"Some people are going to come here soon. People from my village," he starts again, voice calmer now and with no hint of pain or fear. "They'll find me here, and when they do, they'll ask you what happened to me. Tell them - " Another brief cough. He takes a deep breath, and leans his head back against the rough bark of the tree.
"Tell them," he murmurs, and his eyes are closed, his features composed, "that I defeated my enemies. Tell them that I lived as well as I could, and died the same." His voice is hoarse, and when he grimaces suddenly with pain, you see the ominous red tint staining his teeth. But he holds up a gloved hand when you reach to touch him, and though he says nothing and the gesture is weak, you settle back on your heels immediately.
He's not a normal man, you can tell this even without looking at the metal-plated band around his forehead, etched with a strange symbol that you may have seen once or twice, but you can't remember where. He's one of those fabled warriors then, from old stories that your grandmother told you as a little kid. He's a creature of legend, he's a myth - he's dying on the side of some rough peasant road. And he's telling his last words to you, some stranger who just happened to stroll by.
"Tell that mutt," the stranger mutters, though if he's still talking to you or not, you can't say for sure. "Tell him that he can be leader if he wants. I don't care. I just wanted to be part of the pack."
The spiky dark head lowers, slowly, as if he is bowing to the inevitable as graciously as he can. "And tell her - " he chokes, chest shuddering unevenly. "Tell her she is… better …than they think."
Now you do reach out, and put a hesitant hand on his limp arm.
It's a strange world, where strangers witness the death of a legend, and wonder who he was.