Blood trickles down his forehead, pooling up in the hair of his dark eyebrows and streaking across his forehead when he wipes it away, leaving him flinching the slightest at the sting. But the pain is nothing compared to the pounding ache originating in his black and blue ankle or the bubbling burn that’s currently blistering up across his stomach. Sweat bites as it slides into the gashes lining his left side, and his panting is slow, a rib or three certainly broken.
He should quit, he knows as he kneels on bruised knees and feeds the grass with his blood, should toss the staff onto the ground and raise his arms as high as his weary muscles will allow. He should give up. He should.
But she’s behind him, fingers trembling around the jeweled hilt of the enemy’s dagger—a weapon worthless in the hands of someone with a leg so clearly bent in two. She’s behind him, defenseless, bloodied and bruised as badly as him, but she’s the one in danger, so he takes as deep a breath as his cracked ribs will allow and shoves himself to his feet, using the golden staff to drag himself up.
“What are you doing?” She calls from behind him, voice hoarse as it spills into a coughing fit at the end of her question. She shakes with each cough, body trembling, eyes squeezed shut.
He clenches his jaw. If anyone gets out of here, it’s her. Tightening his grip on the staff, he faces the enemy.
The enemy, covered in her own battle wounds, grins a wicked grin. “Aww, how adorable. You’re so in love you’re not going to leave her here, are you? How cute.” She flings an arm out, the silver blade of her second dagger stained crimson as blood leaks down and drips off. “Don’t worry, I don’t mind stepping over a few dead bodies to get to her. And watching the pain in her eyes,” Her grin widens, though faint fear tinges her every cautious move, “might just be worth one more scar.”
The woman behind him sucks in a harsh breath between her teeth. “Just go, please. It’s too late, we’ve lost. We’ve lost it all.”
He can hear her sob behind him as she begs him to leave the way she did only a month earlier. That night in the castle, when they’d been found after such a long break… he swallows, body reacting instinctively to the terror that had sent him running down the hall, dodging creature after creature, screaming her name, nearly losing an arm and his sanity when he burst into her room and found her levitating, already half-taken in the ritual.
His fingers drift to the deep scar etched across his face: a punishment for the interruption. The priests were right: the ancient ones aren’t forgiving.
Her. Everything he’s done: it’s all for her. He grips the staff tighter, raising it a few inches off the ground.
“So broken ribs and a concussion aren’t enough?” The enemy raises an eyebrow, laughing and cracking her neck. “Fine. I never thought I’d meet someone more masochistic than me, but if this is what you want, kid, who am I to stand in your way?”
He sucks in a shaky breath. He doesn’t want to die, but her. She needs to live, and if no one else will defend the woman he loves more than anything or anyone else, he will give himself up. She screams his name behind him.
The chant. He just needs to remember the chant.
The enemy in front of him crouches, preparing to attack, as the woman he loves shouts for him, pleading.
And he—he takes another breath, looks at the woman he loves, drinking her in, remembering her as she was when they first met—radiant but ornery, kind and strong but too confident in her lackluster abilities, proud and loving and occasionally irritating but, more than anything, beautifully herself—before he can think it through, before he lets himself imagine living the future she whispered to him that night in the keep, before he lets himself imagine holding her hand one final time, he slams the sacred staff over his bruised knees.
The end of the battle pauses before it has truly begun. The enemy halts her movements, staring with a dropped jaw and terror present in every plane of her face as she watches the dark clouds swirl around him. The woman he loves behind him screams and shouts and pounds her fists against the ground, stabbing the dagger into the dirt to drag her closer though she knows it is of no use—some things cannot be undone.
And he, he closes his eyes.
It doesn’t burn the way the priests said it would, doesn’t feel like he is being flayed alive or stuck on a spit like a roasted pig. It isn’t a prolonged torture meant to ravage his soul and send him streaming to the depths of hell. Instead, it’s more probing, then, to his woozy surprise, almost… mournful. Regretting. Like its seen the reason for its release and knows what love it is fragmenting and fading with its every step further into him.
It seems like the ancient one doesn’t want to take his place, but it’s too late. The staff is snapped, and the consequences must be paid.
But this one, Waesoth, grants him one mercy—a memory, a moment of peace for him to relive before he’s nudged fully from his body and sent to whatever afterlife awaits sinners like himself.
His smile, though he won’t live long enough to know, will be recorded, saved in numerous paintings and sculptures and writings; it will be spoken of every moment here after. Legends of his bravery will pass the lips of every human being, but in this moment, he does not think of any of that. No, he focuses instead on this final mercy—his favorite memory.
She sits in front of him, the woman he loves, eyes squeezed shut, lip caught between her teeth until he tells her to open her eyes. an excited laugh bubbling from her lips as she leaps to her feet, throwing her arms around his neck. She’s warm, she always is, and she’s pulling him against her, her nose tucked in the space between his neck and shoulder, on her tiptoes to yank him closer. “It’s okay, you know. You can hug me back.” She doesn’t flinch when he carefully wraps his arms around her waist and when she steps back, she grabs his hand. “This fort is sturdier than the one we’re in right now?”
He shrugs, “I’ll be there to protect you from the monsters, though I can’t say how much this blanket will do.”
She squeals in delight and tugs him forward behind her. “I think blanket forts are the safest forts there are.Especially,” she continues, eyes glimmering in mischief and amusement, “if you’re there.”
The first time he hugged her and held her hand, all in one memory. The first time he realized he loved her. The first time he realized she loved him.
A glorious memory to die with.
He opens his eyes—though they are hardly his anymore—and smiles at her one final time, whispering the words he never had the chance to say just before he fades away.
I love how Jon repeats what Damian said to him in the second panel. Even though he bickers with him and they fight a lot, Jon does listen to what Damian says and takes his words to heart. I love that about their relationship. They act like they don’t get along but in the end, there is this kind of grudging respect between the two of them. It’s great and I honestly can’t wait for them to become real friends.
I got into TAZ with @defenestratin and @sorrydeer recently and have this headcanon where during lunar interludes, Magnus leaves Steven with the Voidfish and they chill while he goes out to shop and stuff!! :D
do you ever think about how when even was manic he said 'we're so going to get married' and then when he was depressed he said 'in another universe we're together for all eternity' and cry
I cry more about what that turned into actually??? They started off talking on such a grand scale, “man of my life” and “married” and “eternity”, and while that might be romantic… I feel like that didn’t serve Even particularly well? If you’re living life as a film, you might make the big gesture and let the curtain fall. If you’re living life thinking of all the parallel universes, you can comfort yourself that one of them is getting it ‘right’. What I really loved about season three was that it wasn’t too precious about anything, Isak and Even enjoyed all the talk about the infinite and du er mannen i mitt liv but it wasn’t what ended up actually meaning the most to them.
What wound up being the most important thing was you and me and this bed and now. And then ‘move in with me because I want you and your dirty socks and your elbow next to mine on the kitchen table’. The everyday, every day. The “now” means more to me than any hypothetical forever and they’re giving everything they could right at this minute. That’s what gets me more than anything with them, seeing them take such good care of each other because they aren’t counting on anything else. Because life is…