Before I Died
Summary: It's hard to remember who or what I was before I served the Death Lord. But one day, when I face my destiny at last, the memories will float to the surface.
Disclaimer: The only thing I own is the idea that Cauldron-Born can actually think. Everything else belongs to Mr. Lloyd Alexander.
My first thought was "I serve Arawn, Death Lord of Annuvin."
I was given armor and weapons, handed a sword and told to hack at anyone I was ordered to kill. They sent me out with a band of empty-eyed warriors like me to serve our Master and do his bidding. My second thought didn't come until much later.
My troop was passing through a small village on the way to our next mission when I had my second thought. We came across a small child, who looked up at us with wide eyes full of terror.
"He looks like my son," I thought as his mother hastily ran out from one of the houses and picked him up. Because our orders were to kill all who crossed our path, the Cauldron-Born marching ahead of me drew their swords and felled the woman without a second glance. The boy escaped, I believe, because the woman's arms were empty when I stepped over her corpse. I never saw that boy again.
Later, I pondered over the meaning of my thought. When did I have a son? I couldn't remember, but the child's face remained with me, troubling me.
Two years passed before I regained my first memory.
The memory was of a house in the hills. A woman stood by my side, two children at my feet and one in her arms. Perhaps I had a son, after all.
Four months later, my second memory returned. I had been in a forest when Huntsmen, marked with the brand of Annuvin, ambushed me. Everything had gone abruptly dark.
I didn't regain another memory for many, many years. But then…
There was a battle. The Enemies of Annuvin had brought their war into the very depths of my Master's land, and it was my duty to stop them. I slowly marched up the slope of Mount Dragon to stop the invaders, watching expressionlessly as the deathless warriors ahead of me fell to a gwythaint and a boulder. At last I reached the top and looked the Enemy in the eye.
My third memory came to me as I looked into the Enemy's face. He was a young man, hardly more than a boy, yet with a kingly air about him. He reminded me, vaguely, of myself, as I had been once long ago.
He stabbed me with a black sword.
I felt an excruciating pain, and I flung my head back, eyes open wide, and my lips tore apart in a scream such as I had never made before.
I remembered everything then. I remembered my wife, my children, my parents. I remembered our house and my brothers and sisters.
I remembered my son.
As I fell to the ground, I could feel what was left of my life seep out of my body, and I became as I was before I died.