Judgment
By: Manna


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Chastity, Part II: Kent

The frailty of the human body was astounding even to Kent, who had seen more than his fair share of years and still found himself surprised when something new began to ache. Perhaps, he thought, to make up for a fragile outer shell, a human heart—and maybe also the hearts of dragons—had the strength of a hundred warriors.

At one time, she had been beautiful.

She still was, though not for all the same reasons. Her long hair had first streaked with silver—he remembered her expression when she saw herself in a mirror for the first time in ten years—and as more time passed, it had lost all its color, turning the shade of the snow that fell in Ilia.

His own hair had lost its resplendence and was now a dull grey—something that Lyndis had said made him look, "What is the word? Distinguished?" She had stumbled over the word and he had laughed.

He sighed softly to himself as he tugged a comb through her hair. It was still long, as she refused to cut it. The teeth of the comb snagged on little knots and tangles as he pulled it through, and he worked gently with his fingertips to right them again.

Physically, they had both changed, but it was not something that was unexpected. Time had a tendency to do such things, and both of them knew it, but that hadn't made it any easier to accept.

It was easier to accept Lyndis's aging than his own.

But they were well past the beginning stages of "aging", and even though he had lost much of his sight and her hands shook and rattled and wouldn't even let her hold a spoon, they had one another.

How many years, now, had they been on the plains of Sacae? They'd fought to protect an ungrateful world, and years later watched a war raze the same world they'd worked so hard to save.

Loved ones had died in that war, among them their own son, still just a toddler. Both of them had known all along that war, of all things, did not discriminate based on age or gender.

Despite everything, the sun still rose and set, and time marched on like the armored feet of knights off to battle, a steady rhythm that never slowed or stopped.

Sain had always talked about love as if it was something magical—and it was—it was—but magic was a relative term, and the real magic, if it could be called that, was having someone that would stick by you no matter what, would love you despite your quirks and faults, would care about you even when you made them angry, and would look at you, ten, twenty, fifty years later and look past the wrinkles and the bad knee, the thinning hair and the saggy breasts, and see…you.

Carefully, Kent gathered his wife's hair in his hands, and in the low light of evening, began to clumsily braid it. He'd never gotten very good at it, and his eyesight, though still intact, did not care to show him the things that were right in front of him.

After tying the long braid off with a leather tie, he let it coil behind her. Her face was relaxed and peaceful in sleep—sleep that was, more often than not, still plagued with memories of the past. Sometimes she awoke with tears trickling down her weathered face, crying for her son, for Florina, for her father. On those nights, his arms always found their way around her, and she would cling to him as if he was all that she had left in the world.

Her skin was, to his relief, dry, and his calloused fingers outlined the curve of her face. The slope was different than it had been forty years ago, but he hardly noticed the difference. Everything about her he had committed to memory. Absolutely everything.

Her hand was bony as he took it in his own, and he pressed the back of it against his lips. He could remember doing the same motion a million times in the past—probably more. Nothing had changed, he thought, nothing at all. He was still Kent, and she Lyndis.

He watched her sleep, though with his eyesight he could not see her very well.

When she woke, it was slow, unhurried, and she sat up with a struggle, pulling her hand back against her chest.

Her eyes were confused, and as she looked around herself, at the once-sturdy structure they had lived in for the past seventeen years, tears formed in her eyes and slowly began to fall.

"Who are you?" she whispered, her voice trembling, though not near as much as her hands.

His heart ached. "A friend," he forced himself to say calmly. "A friend."

Lyndis swallowed hard and blinked back tears. From what he could make out of her expression, she wasn't sure that he was being truthful.

"We are good friends," he tried again, softly, his voice as reassuring as he could make it. "Don't you remember?"

"Remember? No—" she blinked, and then hesitated, "I…"

"Caelin," he prompted, his hand slowly reaching for her. The distance seemed eternal.

"Caelin…" she echoed.

"Lord Hausen…" When her expression blanked, he tried again, "Rolling hills and trees."

She let him touch her. "There was…a hill…"

"That's right," he said. "You went there every day."

"You were there?" she asked. She sounded a bit more certain.

"Sometimes," he said. "Other times Florina went with you…"

"Florina…" She sounded so very, very far away, but in her eyes, he saw a sudden spark of recognition, and she let him take her hand. He knew her mind was struggling to make connections. "Kent?" she finally asked after a long moment of silence. Her fingers were trembling. "Kent?"

"Yes," he said, tears pricking at his own eyes. Each time she forgot it was harder and harder on him. "Yes, it is I."

She murmured his name again as he wrapped his arms around her and held her with practiced gentleness. "Where were you?" she asked. "I was so lost."

"I'm with you always." Long ago, she had asked him to stay with her always…and he had never wanted anything else.

"I couldn't find you," she whispered. "I looked and looked, but I couldn't find you." She let her head rest against his chest and closed her eyes. "Were you hiding?"

He took one of their blankets and wrapped it around the both of them before pressing his lips against the top of her snow-white hair. "I came as fast as I could," he said, letting his eyes moisten. "I came as fast as I could."


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Author Notes:

Whoa, depressing stuff in my M-rated collection? (What is this madness?) Despite Kent being a man, and despite the earlier chapters, I do feel that Kent, if anyone, is a rather "chaste" kind of person. As Qieru once pointed out, the way he shows love is likely not through mostly physically showing it via physical intimacy, or even by simply showing it via verbal communication, but instead, through acts of service. As I pondered on that idea, I immediately pictured Kent and Lyndis as an older couple. Nothing is as chaste and beautiful as what I call "Old People Love". They aren't in relationships for the epic sex, or because their partner is "hot". They're in it for the reason people should be in love—because they love one another! And carrying on Kent's "acts of service" approach to love, I began this story.

This was inspired partly by my own (now deceased) grandmother, by the book/movie The Notebook, Sardonic Kender Smile's own grandparents (whom she's told me about)…and last but not least, a scene from Big Fish.