Glory in a wonderful death. Dying bravely in battle was the highest honor a warrior could ever achieve. This is what he had always believed.
When he was born, crying noisily like all fit newborns, he was inspected. Would he have been small, or misshapen, or weak, he would've been discarded.
As a child, he was baptized in the fire of combat. His father was harsh, strict. For him, even for his own son, it was learn quickly, or die. And so Lann learned.
At the age of ten, he was sent to study under the priestesses of Morrighan. They hammered into him the faith. That out there was Erinn, the paradise that all of them sought. The paradise that Morrighan had promised to all of them. A promise that could only be fulfilled once every Fomor was wiped off the face of the earth.
Death to all the Fomors. One day, paradise will come. This he believed in faithfully.
Four years later, he was to kill his first Fomor, in front of all the city. He could hear their cheers, the whoops of his friends. He could feel the pressure of their attentive gazes.
He let out a deep sigh to steady himself, and stepped forward into the stadium. He picked a sword, and signaled he was ready, ignoring the murmurs about his lack of a shield.
The gate across from him was raised, and out walked the grey-skinned Fomor, its eyes empty, all black without a pupil of any sort. It looked almost human, although it had horns. It was tall, easily above the boy a few feet. The Fomor took a sword and a shield, and faced the boy. The Fomor was silent, and seemed unaware of the jeering audience. Then it rushed towards the boy with great speed, sword raised.
The boy leapt high, stepped on the Fomor's head, and jumped behind it. The Fomor quickly turned to its back, only to see the steel sword flashing towards its neck. It brought up its shield, and the sword cut into the wood. The Fomor was still silent, and stabbed forward, but the boy was too quick; the sword was gone and so was he.
The Fomor fell to one knee as it felt its hamstrings cut, and the boy was in front of it. The Fomor swung its sword swiftly, but the boy stepped to his side, then cut deep into the Fomor's wrist. The Fomor howled in pain, and its sword fell to the dirt. Panting, it glared at the boy, dared him to make a move with its empty eyes. The boy raised his sword. The Fomor growled. The sword came down, and the Fomor caught it with its horn, much to the boy's surprise. With its uninjured hand, the Fomor grabbed and yanked the sword away as it tackled the boy, then punched him in the chest with its injured hand, which sent the boy flying.
The audience, originally cheering for the boy and jeering at the Fomor, was now shocked into silence. The Fomor roared, and lifted itself up despite its injured leg. It growled at the fallen boy, who was then glaring at the Fomor, unfazed as he got up.
The boy spat blood, and yelled, ran to the Fomor without weapons. The Fomor didn't expect this, and got a punch in the face. Then it felt the boy's knee hit its stomach, and then a blow to the back of its head, which happened to be the boy's elbow.
The Fomor keeled over, and just when it started to get back up, its black blood was spilt on the ground in front of it, and the Fomor noticed the gleaming steel blade impaled through its mouth. The sword disappeared, and then the Fomor's head flew.
The boy exhaled, barely aware of the immense applause coming from the onlookers.
This was it. One step closer to Erinn.
His victory was celebrated. From now on, he was one of his people. A warrior of Morrighan. That night, before he slept to regain the energy spent on the long day, he prayed.
He thanked the goddess for watching over him. He thanked her for her guidance, for her allowing him to fulfill the destiny he wanted. That night, he swore to spill Fomorian blood for all his life. Death to all the Fomors.
Six years had passed since that night. The boy had grown into a man, and his name was a very well-known name among his people. Not only was Lann known for refusing to use a shield, but his name brought up images of a whirlwind with a sword cutting through Fomors. His skills with a sword were second only to his brother's, so they all said.
But even though the six years brought much good to Lann's name, it wasn't the same for his village. After suffering through perpetual Fomorian attacks during the recent three years, the once rich settlement had shrank into a small town.
They were incredibly skilled, the people of his village. Warriors of Morrighan all, they've endured what most villages would see as their quick end, and did it for three years. Their faith gave them strength. They feared no death in battle, for such a fate could only bring glory. With each drop of Fomorian blood, they believed they were closer to paradise. But such incredible strength wasn't enough. It was only a matter of time before their now tiny village was wiped off the map. And they all knew it.
They refused to give in to the Fomors. Glory in a wonderful death. They were all prepared. Every one of them ready to bleed for their goddess, and take down every Fomor they possibly could with them. Every one of them.
Lann wiped the sweat off his brow. He looked across the field. Under the blazing sun was the huge army of gnolls. The Fomors were cowards, after all. They sent others to do their dirty work. For the past three years, it had been mostly gnolls with a handful of Fomorian commanders that had attacked them.
An extraordinarily huge gnoll raised its axe, and roared loudly. Lann heard the roar clearly even from this distance. He knew that was the signal for their attack.
Lann closed his eyes. He prayed. Prayed for Morrighan's guidance, Morrighan's blessing. Prayed that if this day was truly their last day, then may all of their deaths be glorious. Prayed that this day would bring everybody else closer to Erinn.
When the gnoll maces clashed with their shields, swords, and spears, the fight began. It was bloody, violent. Lann drank it all in. His sword sliced through gnoll flesh, his body danced through their weapons. Blood was everywhere. Through the back of his mind, he was aware that their defensive formation had been broken.
Lann spun, slashing a huge gnoll's hamstrings and forcing it to its feet, then gutted the one behind it as one of his remaining friends put a spear through the downed gnoll's eye.
All of them warriors of Morrighan, they fought. They slashed, stabbed, and bled. When the Fomors finally appeared, only half of them remained. But when they saw the Fomors, they fought with a renewed vigor. Their thirst, their desire to spill Fomorian blood for their goddess raised their spirits, and they grew stronger.
It was said that the people of this village were descended from the first warrior who had ever lived. As if testament to the legend, the remaining few roared, and cut through all the gnolls, all of them with the intent to put a sword through a Fomor's heart.
Lann leapt high above a wall of snarling gnolls, sword flashing in the harsh sunlight, and the first Fomorian head to fly that day was his. His brother cut through the legs of the next Fomor to die, then put a sword through its chest.
But skill and heart weren't enough to win the fight. It wasn't long before Lann remained the only one alive, his brother dead next to him. Before he died, he muttered his last words to Lann.
Lann, battered and spattered with blood that was both his and that of his enemies', lifted himself up, taking his beloved brother's sword and will in his left hand. He took a deep breath as he took in the wrecked scenery that used to be the village he grew up in. Then he sighed, and faced the small remainder of the earlier army, now mostly Fomors.
He lifted his right sword up in the air, the silver blade gleaming brightly. Then he yelled. He yelled like he did four years ago when he killed his first Fomor. He yelled for his village. He yelled for his people. He yelled for his brother. He yelled for Morrighan.
His right sword leading, he dashed forward and stabbed a Fomor through the neck, then he whirled to his right, slicing a gnoll's arm off. A Fomor swung its sword at his back; Lann dropped to a crouching position, spun, and cut through the Fomor's leg with his brother's sword, and then stabbed upward through its jaw, the point of his sword bursting through the top of the Fomor's head.
Lann blocked a mace from his side with his brother's sword, and killed a gnoll on the other side when he pulled his sword off the dead Fomor. Then he spun to another Fomor's back, and stabbed it with his brother's sword. He fought, and kept fighting.
The Fomors couldn't keep up with him. His swords flashing, Lann cut through anything he came across. He was in a battle frenzy, and no one would have been safe anywhere close to him. Least of all the Fomors who were unfortunate enough to be caught near him.
He slashed, he stabbed, he bled. The sun was setting when he realized it was all over.
The field was strewn with bodies; Fomor, gnoll, and human. The air reeked, and the crows were beginning to gather. In the center of it all, he knelt. His sword and his brother's sword held in firmly clenched fingers, he knelt. Lann closed his eyes.
He remembered his loving father and his harsh training. He remembered the village boys he grew up with and played with. He remembered the old woman who always gave him free bread. He remembered the rivalry between him and his brother.
And he remembered her. He remembered her melodic voice, her beautiful songs. He remembered her soft cheeks, her wonderful lips. He remembered her clear purple eyes, and the strength inside them.
Through the unheeded tears, he remembered the last thing his brother had ever said: