A/N: By the Light, it's been forever since I last tried writing a multi-chapter fic... It feels like coming home. So, anyway. I was dissatisfied with the fate of one of my favourite characters in AMoL (and in the series overall), and this is basically me wanting to give him another chance. And that's the lamest introduction I've ever written for a story of mine, but I hope someone will give it a shot anyway.


Prologue


He woke up in pain, and for a time, pain was all he knew. He was nobody, nowhere, just a fragment of awareness balanced on the counterpoint between consciousness and oblivion, reluctant to make an effort to pursue the former and the increased pain it might bring, yet afraid to let go and surrender to the latter. In the end - he couldn't have said how long it took - pride was the deciding factor in the struggle. He could take the pain, it told him, and perhaps death wasn't such a bad option either, but he couldn't simply give in to oblivion without even remembering his own name.

He gasped and his eyes fluttered open. The sudden exposure to sunlight triggered a hammering pain in his skull and, with a faint groan, he let his eyes close again. He lay still, now aware of the hard, uneven, rocky ground beneath him and the wind sweeping over him. He tried to steel himself for another attempt at discovering where he was, but darkness claimed him before he could make the attempt.

The next time he regained consciousness he couldn't see a thing. After a moment of panic he realised that it didn't necessarily mean that he was blind, just that the sun had gone down. It felt colder - not that he could have been sure of such a thing - and he began shivering violently. Survival instinct kicked in; he couldn't stay there if he wanted to live. That nobody had found him until now meant that probably nobody ever would. He just had to get up and move by himself.

He tried moving his limbs cautiously to see whether anything was broken. A sharp pain jolted through his left arm, but otherwise his body seemed functional enough. Gritting his teeth, he pushed himself up into a sitting position with the support of his right hand and inspected his surroundings. He still couldn't see much, but his eyes had grown used to the darkness and he could make out the general shape of the landscape around him.

He had been lying in a depression in the ground, a rocky spot in the middle of what appeared to be a lush field a little way off the edge of a glade of impossibly tall trees. A sardonic half-smile tugged at one corner of his mouth. Of course he couldn't have managed to pass out on the soft grass not two yards from his location.

Which begged the question… How had he come to pass out anywhere on this field, anyway?

He fought down a rising wave of panic as he realised he had no idea. He shook his head sharply - a gesture he immediately regretted as it set off a near-blinding headache - and tried to focus his thoughts. His condition suggested a fight, and that he had been left lying alone suggested that his comrades must have given him up for dead. If he had had comrades. Perhaps he had been travelling alone and been set upon by bandits? He did a quick search; he didn't appear to have anything valuable on him, no purse or jewellery or weapons. So he could have been robbed. The pain in his head could mean that he had been hit - head trauma sometimes resulted in memory loss. The thought calmed him down somewhat.

He hoped that the memory loss was temporary. He firmly refused to think about the alternative. He needed to not be falling apart in hysterics if he wanted to live.

He stood up - the process took more time than he would have liked and left him dizzy and trembling with the effort. He was even weaker than he'd initially thought. How long had he been unconscious? He pushed the thought from his mind - he had no way of getting answers right now - and assessed the situation. He could stand. He could probably walk, at least for a while. And doing so would more likely increase than decrease his chances of survival. He still had no idea where he was - or where he should have been, for that matter - but he figured that it was useless to worry about directions when any direction could, to the best of his knowledge, be as 'right' or 'wrong' as any other.

He picked a direction and started off.

He walked for a time, sat down to rest, got up and walked some more, and repeat. A part of him wanted to conserve his strength, while another part reasoned that without water and food he was only going to grow weaker if he waited around long enough. He was hurting all over so that he barely paid mind to any individual aches. He thought the left arm was feeling worse than it had when he had started walking, but he couldn't be sure. A small voice at the back of his mind whispered 'infection', but he silenced it. He didn't need the distraction - couldn't afford it, in fact.

He had been walking for what felt like weeks but could only have been hours - the night wasn't yet over - when he saw the fire. It was but a dim glow but bright to his eyes that were used to the darkness. He knew he could not afford to wonder whether the fire's owner would be friendly or hostile; if he didn't get help, he would be dead anyway.

He made his way towards the light with excruciating pace; he almost began to believe that it was a hallucination, the way it never seemed to come any closer. Twice he fell, and the second time it was all he could do to force himself up again. Stars swam across his vision and he stood still for a long while, breathing raggedly, holding on to consciousness by sheer force of will. But eventually he was able to continue walking.

He was perhaps a hundred paces from the source of the light when his knees folded and he landed hard on the ground. The impact sent a fresh jolt of pain through his injured arm and for a moment he could just lie still, gasping for breath. He knew with a sinking feeling that he wouldn't get up again; he barely had the strength to lift his head to glare at the light, so close but it might have been on the far side of the Spine of the World.

The idea of calling out for help didn't sit well with his pride, he found; what a ridiculous thing to be even thinking about in his situation! He should have been more worried about whether he could make enough sound to be heard.

"Hello?" he called out; his voice sounded weak to his own ears, yet at once loud in the stillness of the night. He couldn't begin to guess whether it carried far enough. After a few more minutes he was no longer sure if he had actually managed to call out or whether he had just imagined doing so. "Is there somebody there?" he tried again, although his mouth was so dry that the words were most likely completely unintelligible.

The sound of footsteps might have been just his imagination. In fact they probably were; he dared not get his hopes up. The voice that spoke seemed to come from very far away and the words made no sense. He wondered idly whether he was hallucinating an actual foreign language or just total gibberish.

The sensation of a cool, soft hand brushing his hair from his face felt startlingly real. He forced his eyes open once more - when had he closed them? - and tried to focus on the glowing figure looking down at him. With an enormous effort he could make out a face - the glow was from a ball of light floating somewhat to the left of the face - the expression was concerned but calm and composed.

"Don't be afraid," the voice - real, he dared finally believe it was real - said. "You'll live."

Darkness claimed him.