The One Who Loves You

He takes her the eve before battle, calloused hands groping against ink-stained fingers for her robe. They wrestle together darkly with the tassels, too many, and so he cuts them with a serrated knife. He cuts into her much the same, and she screams soundlessly in pain. He takes her blood but hears only his own moans, too nervous to ask her pleasure.

In battle, she fights with a passion mustered only by the hopeless and the destitute. At the summit of the city on fire, she lays down her life; taking with her the heart of the Archedemon's Taint, cleansing the world with her memory.

The people erect a monument to her sacrifice, and for a few years, make great ceremony of celebrating her victory.

The Bastard Prince becomes king and marries the fairytale Queen. And he is reborn from the ashes of the city and leaves behind the dark haired girl who died to save his kingdom.

The years run by like river water, swift and unsentimental, and time washes the memories clean.

And of her companions, only the elf returns every year; not to the overwrought statue that they say is in her name, but to the small, slender grave beside the rowan tree, where he lays a single rose against the dark soil. Here at the boundary of the Blight she stopped, half the land still lies fallow. Here once a year his weeps, until the tears wash his memories clean.