And So It Goes
Riding a horse without armor seemed almost strange to him… It had been such a long time since he'd done it, after all, and even when he had ridden alongside Sain and Lyndis during peaceful moments, his armor had been securely in place. It was better to be safe in those days.
But out on the plains of Sacae, miles from any town or village or tribe, armor seemed as unnecessary as the words Lyndis was told did not need to be spoken. He remembered her asking him about it, he supposed to get another man's opinion on what Rath had said to her, but he had not known what to say in response. Yes, there would always be times when words were not needed; many times, in fact, he had felt like telling several other people those exact words. But sometimes, there was a need for them, for getting to know someone better, particularly if you had to spend weeks with them at a time. And, on occasion, there was a time to say things that needed to be said, and yet…something would hold you back. Fear, or shame or embarrassment…perhaps all three. And those words that were absolutely necessary were never said, and the world would go on, and the person who might have needed to hear them would never know. Not for certain.
The wind tossed his hair and he reached a hand up to his forehead to smooth it away, annoyed that it had grown nearly an inch since his departure from Caelin Castle.
After he rode for several more hours and the daylight started to gently fade from the sky, he spotted a few scattered gers, most of them falling apart but a few still able to stand despite the fact that they looked rather dilapidated.
He dismounted and decided that he would continue his search in the morning.
As the sun streamed over his face, he squeezed his eyes shut and turned over, startling himself awake at the feel of the long, dry grass against his face. He blinked and stretched, rubbing his eyes afterward in an attempt to wipe all of the sleep from them.
He looked around him at what appeared to have once been a settled place, and sighed, mostly with relief. He was there, he thought. He would find her soon if she still lived.
He untied the reins of his horse from a scraggly tree and patted her on the nose, murmuring encouragingly to her before he started to walk, leading her behind him.
None of the gers in the near vicinity seemed to be occupied. There was no clothing strung out to dry, nobody sitting in front of their home… The grass had grown long and tall here, he realized. It was most likely uninhabited with the exception of many animals. He walked through, and at the end of the rows of small buildings, he came to a small hill. At the top of the hill was a ger that stood out among the rest. It was sturdy, bigger, and appeared for all the world to be inhabited. The skins of animals were stretched out as they cured in the sun, a few unidentifiable pieces of clothing were draped over a rope stretched between the building and a nearby tree, and there was a fire burning close by, a stick with fish shoved on the ends carefully propped up to cook them thoroughly.
The last thing he saw was a woman, her hair pulled messily behind her in a ponytail that was not worn as high as it once was. She was near the fire, carefully tying a string around a bundle of furs; her back was to him, but he knew immediately who it was.
Unconsciously, he made his way to her, and before he knew it, he was standing only a few feet away. She was humming a song to herself that he did not recognize, and as his hand accidentally brushed up against the hilt of the sword at his side, it made a sound and she looked up and whirled around, gasping.
All that was between them was silence for a good, long moment, and for the two of them, it was all they needed. Lyndis raised a hand to her mouth in shock, nearly falling backward onto the ground from where she crouched, and he…he only watched her.
"Kent?" she finally asked in the accent she had first had when he met her. It nearly made him smile to hear that it had returned full-force.
"Yes…" Suddenly, everything he wanted to ask and see and tell fled his mind. He fell to his knees in front of her and dropped his horse's reins, confident that it would not wander far from him. "Lady Lyndis… it is I."
She blinked and suddenly shook her head, leaping to her feet before she held a hand out to him. He took it.
"Forgive me my lack of manners," she said. "It…it's been a long time since I've had anybody come to see me…"
Five years loomed over his head like a hanging sentence.
"F-forgive me, my lady," he said, following after her as she tugged on his arm and indicated that he should sit in front of her fire.
"Oh, Kent… I am not a lady anymore. To be honest, I am not much of anyone these days."
He shook his head, "Please do not talk about yourself in such a way…Lyndis."
"I'm sorry." She smiled at him and turned the fish over to cook on the other side before she sat down beside him. "It is strange seeing you without your armor on. You wore it so often that I thought it had become a part of you, sometimes."
He cracked a half-smile. "I do not wear it anymore," he said to her, trying to ignore the way her smile made his heart beat so fast that it felt as if it would burst from his chest.
"Why is that?" She raised an eyebrow curiously and watched him as he brushed his hair out of his eyes and sighed.
"That armor was a knight's armor, m'lady, and…I have not been a knight since your departure."
"How long have you been here?"
His question startled her for a moment, and she blinked a few times and smiled faintly. "I came straight here after leaving Caelin," she said, glancing out at the decaying buildings and gesturing towards them with a vague sweep of her hand. "Welcome to my…home."
That smile- sad and forlorn at the same time- tugged at his heart painfully. "I…thought that you were going to try and bring the Lorca back." He looked around him then, at the lack of people and the overgrown grass, then back at her. "What happened?"
"My people are dead." At his shocked expression, she closed her eyes and lowered her head. "Not in a…literal sense, Kent. They do not want to come back here."
"Why not? You were the chief's daughter, were you not? I would imagine that…"
"I am a woman, Kent. They did not want to follow me."
He let the crackling fire and the buzzing of the summertime fill the silence for a minute before he spoke, his voice gentle. "I followed you."
A real smile broke across her face. "For which I am most grateful. It's been a long time since I've had someone come here."
He found that he was afraid to ask the question that was lingering on the edge of his tongue, making it feel heavy and thick with regret and guilt. Five years! …I should have come sooner. "H-how long?" he forced himself to say as the culpability chewed at him. It was something he…felt as if he had to know. How badly had he erred in his judgment, leaving her so utterly alone?
"Uhm…two years, I think." She shook her head and pulled the fish away from the fire to let them cool. "But…I may be wrong. It's not as if I keep track."
He felt sick to his stomach, and his face must have reflected his unease, because Lyndis looked at him with concern.
"Is something the matter?"
He shook his head, looking almost stricken. "I, ah… I am fine." After nearly composing himself and pushing his sick stomach to the back of his mind, he found the courage to ask her who it was that had come to see her last.
Her eyebrows shot into the air in surprise. "Oh? Ahh, you mean you did not know?" At his questioning look, she continued. "I thought that he would have told you, but…it seems that he didn't." Carefully, she pulled one of the fish off of the stick and handed it to him, smiling apologetically. "I'm sorry. It's not much…but…"
"It is fine. Thank you."
"You're welcome." After a pause, she spoke again, not looking at Kent, but rather at her feet. "I've done some stupid things in my life, but… getting injured while hunting in the wintertime was the worst of all. Most animals…run when you shoot them. This one? There was something wrong with it… It charged right at me and gutted me something terrible."
His eyes widened and he almost choked on his food, but she continued anyway.
"I managed to kill it, but… I couldn't drag it back here. I do remember trying, but it's not very clear. I…was injured in battle before, badly even…but it never felt like that!" She looked up and smiled at him, almost as if she was remembering something that she found amusing in some way. "There's nothing like a pair of horns in your stomach to make you feel really good. I almost didn't make it back here before I collapsed in a rather undignified manner."
The sick feeling in his stomach grew worse, but he forced himself to eat the fish that Lyndis had given him, giving her a nod to continue as he did so.
"I woke up sometime later…ahh, it couldn't have been too long or I would surely have died from the cold. I had been shaken awake, and even though I only opened my eyes for a minute at the most, I recognized who it was immediately." Her gaze softened. "Sain saved my life," she said to him. "I dreamed on and off about the Dragon's Gate for several days, but when I woke up again, he told me that he had been flying low over Sacae on a pegasus—I still don't know why it trusted him— enjoying the scenery on a trip back from somewhere or another… He saw the blood, the dead animal, and he followed it to me. I think… I think he was more shocked to see me than I was to see him. But, ah, he was the last person that has come here."
The guilt was clawing at him, nearly tearing him apart. "I-I should have been here," he muttered, looking down at his lap.
"It's okay, Kent. I'm fine. Sain was here."
"But Lyndis… I swore to you that…I would always remain by your side, and I have failed in keeping that promise."
"You came, didn't you?" Her smile warmed him more than the sun ever could.
"Five years, Lyn. I almost did not come. I almost…stayed in Caelin for the rest of my life. Only in a moment of immense regret did I leave. I should have come here right away, I should have turned around and came galloping after you before you had ridden out of sight…but I did not… and I will remember that for the rest of my life."
"Kent…" She smiled and let her hand rest on the side of his face for a moment. "You're here now, aren't you?"
"I…" He cleared his throat and let his hand rest on top of hers, laying the bones of the fish he had eaten on the ground beside him. "I wanted…no, I needed to see you again. That is why I am here, why…I could not wait any longer to be with you. Not because you were once a lady and I your knight…not because I thought you needed me… and not because I swore to be with you always."
Her voice was soft, almost inaudible over the crackling of the fire. "Why, then?"
He turned and wrapped his arms around her, crushing her slight frame to him, his voice a gentle whisper in her ear, "Because it was you, Lyndis… because it was you."
Hurray for abrupt endings? Well… Sorry. Even after a week, I cannot seem to come up with a better way to end this. (I'm quite dis-satisfied.) The title, "And So It Goes", is from the song by the same name, sung by Billy Joel.
Thanks for reading! Opinions are greatly appreciated.