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Gasp for breath.
The silver blade protruding from this gut. Writhing in pain. Blue eyes shooting up at their slayer. Throwing imaginary daggers. Surprise in those eyes. Shock and outrage.
"Thou hath slain me, o most foul of villains!"
Gripping at the hilt as hurt strikes back. Step backwards. Regain balance. Fight the new spasmic enemy - the pain as red as ever. Physical this time. Gasp for elusive air.
"A boon on thy families! On all of you! For there hath been too much hate before. Live and learn herein."
Cough blood. Stagger a second. Prepare for the inevitable release of life. Of everything. Let go in emphatic fashion.
"HELL! Welcome thine apocalyptic follower in! Mine own soul is thine to command at will! For now, I am forever dead!"
Now a corpse falling forward. The death of one, an end. An ending to everything. But, of course, there was something before that. There always is.
These are just memories.
Flashes of the future.
A heartbeat. That is all it takes. One thumping heartbeat. Made rhythmically to play the same tune for both lovers.
"The future is so distant for us, my love, yet seems to always require our constant attention."
Tiberius raised his glimmering blue eyes to his love, awaiting a response of sorts. She merely continued with her usual practice, pruning the roses, tending to her garden. Their one true sanctuary where they could be alone. No-one bothered them here. Not with the war continuing its relentless begrudgings.
"If only your father would call it all off, we could escape and live in harmony in a fairy grove somewhere in the South," continued Tiberius, his blue eyes pleading, "where we can watch the gentle purple sunsets, walk among the golden forests, doing as we please, always together. You could even have your own mystical enchanted garden with the rarest of orchids that which cannot be found within these sacred city walls fraught with fighting."
His love silently set down her dainty set of clippers onto the smoothly shined marble table and stared into the naive blueness of his hopeful eyes. Aedella gave him a consoling smiles but she knew she could never lie to him.
"You know that my father is as pigheaded as yours, Tiberius. Neither will back down before the other. And neither will. The never-ending cycle."
"But what if...?"
"No!" Reprimanded Aedella more sternly than she had intended, "there is a blood debt to be repaid and both will fight to the death merely to avenge one. It is utter madness!"
"But within every madness there is an escape. A way to bring back the sane," Tiberius argued.
There was a short pause in which Aedella picked up her clippers, pushed the long golden hair from her face to behind her pointed ears and went back to the careful tending of her plants. Tiberius found it suddenly difficult to search for any words to say to her.
"You realise they endlessly try to break us up?" He managed.
There was a poignant pause. Her elfish face nodded without changing expression.
The reluctant silence was punctuated with the musical snipping that took place over the roses. Tiberius fingered his pointed ears, tossing ideas over in his head. The war, his father, Aedella. It was all too much. Why fight? They were all one race - all elves with their forest magic, their golden skin, their ears pointed. What, then, was the reason to fight amongst brothers?
He knew the excuses for the fighting. As the current prince and heir to his father's throne, he had been well-versed in it. Though, he felt not the hatred that the vicious story was intended to induce. That was due to Aedella mostly. She was princess to the other Kingdom. The one that they were currently fighting. But even war could not keep them apart. The Kings would try desperately, though.
"Doesn't that worry you?"
The snipping stopped again. Once more, Aedella turned to the one she held so dear. She stared balefully into his bright ever-hopeful oceans. She sighed.
"O Tiberius, Tiberius, wherefore art thou, Tiberius?"
"Right here," answered he, not the brightest elf in the woods. Aedella persevered.
"Where do we stand? Amidst this fighting, we are but two people - the poetic lovers kept apart by namesake. While all around die, fresh crop for the Devil's harvest. We reap what we hath sown. Our war caused by two old men, our grandfathers, or mayhaps forefathers, or perchance mortfathers. It matters not who, it hath started and we respect those two who hath killed each other in a brutal qualm over the nothingness of events. The dead now take the living to their graves. This war hath destroyed what the elves hath striven for. Culture, knowledge, peace. These words mean nothing to the barbarians who beat at our doors, our hearts, lead by our parental devils in the undergarments of a lamb! Must we forever live in this lull we mistake as life? Do we exist merely to walk to our graves in the heat of a drawn sword? If we have not the peace and poetry and passion, perchance we exist not at all? We all elves be. All in one. One and all. Why do we murder brothers o'er a mere scuffle in the desert of life? Why can we not live together as one?"
Tiberius was stunned to silence, his deep blue eyes mirroring his apparent blankness. He had never seen his love get so worked up about anything before. She must have very strong feelings about this war. It has to be stopped.
"Mistress Aedella!" Came the call as a messenger sped up the garden pathway towards them.
"Yes, squire? What is it?"
"The castle," gasped the unfit message boy, "it's under attack... By Sire Hanla and his... Elfish forces."
There was a silence punctuated only by the constant gulping of air by the messenger. He had run many miles to pass on the information.
"So," Aedella started calmly aside to Tiberius, "your ambitious father has decided it was time, it seems."
"We have to stop them!" He cried. His blue eyes looked at her gentle golden face and turned away in embarassment when they met her questioning stare.
"He may be a blind, vindictive demon," he explained, "but he is still my father."
Aedella nodded. It was all a matter of blood. He had to save his bloodfather.
"Then let us make haste!" She told her love, "I know of a secret route into the castle - hopefully we will get there before the rivalry intensifies once more."
All a matter of blood.
The doors flung wide and a heavily armoured elf stepped through from the fraying noises of battle behind him. He reached up and took off his weighted helmet, revealing an old, golden faced elf with sparkling silver hair. The wrinkled mouth cracked into a knowing smile.
"So, the final showdown, then," King Hanla pronounced. The other King on the throne in front of him seemed panicked by the sudden intrusion. He had no armour and he had not prepared himself for any such tussle. But he knew that he was going to have to fight. He unsheathed his broadsword and stood up.
"The final showdown," he confirmed.
Without so much as breaking their humourless smiles, they flung themselves into battle. Their blades connected with a solitary clash before they whirled round to attack again. They exchanged thrusts and jabs in a cacophony of cymbals, not gaining an inch, not giving anything. As the glancing blows were dealt with expertly, over to the side of the room, a section of wall began to shudder. Then, unexpectedly, it slid aside and two elves stepped out into the front line.
Aedella and Tiberius looked on at the two battling aged elves, swords flying right then left in an almost desperate attempt to find flesh. The two of them danced at each other, dummying, parrying, pushing away. A momentary reprieve in the fighting came with neither of them gaining any apparent advantage.
"Father!" Both Tiberius and Aedella cried incredulously.
The two weary fighters turned only one eyes to their audience, only just noticing they were there. They looked slightly surprised and exceedingly irritated by the appearance of spectators.
"Stop this foolishness at once!" Yelled Aedella.
The two Kings looked at each other and flung themselves forward again, despute what the Princess had pleaded. Another series of thrashing blows followed before a well-timed swipe struck the sword of King Hanla and sent it wheeling from his hands. The invading King watched as his sword flew into the ground many metres away. His fearful gaze now turned to the advancing King who wore an insanely happy smile. It only flickered slightly when Tiberius took up a new position, standing in front of his father, arms spread wide, an impassible object.
"You will not kill my father," he stated quietly, blue eyes stern. He wore a dark look. The King in front of him remained grinning.
"Well, if I can't get to Hanla," he started, a mad glint in his eye to rival that of his sparkling silver sword, "then his son will have to do!"
Unexpectedly, he leapt forward, thrusting his silver sword towards the young Tiberius. Aedella looked on, panic-stricken.
"NO!!!" She cried as her father sliced the air towards her love.
The blade struck. Tiberius blinked. Aedella fell to her knees. She looked down upon the silver blade that protruded from her bleeding gut. She shot her sky blue eyes up at her father, who had let go of his sword and was looking horrified at it. At the place where it blurred into his daughter.
"Daddy?" She breathed quietly. Her position slumped as her energy drained. She grabbed the painfully real sword hilt to regain balance as the world span sickeningly before her. Her blue eyes stung, looked horrified into her father's.
"Thou hath slain me, o most foul of villains!" She barely managed to whisper it. She scrabbled at the ground, trying to feel her way back to her feet. Her lack of blood was making her feel light-headed. She stumbled backwards into the waiting arms of an astonished Tiberius.
"Why?" He breathed to her, "why did you fling yourself in front of me?"
Aedella gave him a drunken, distracted glance and staggered slightly before managing to kiss him chastely.
"Because I love you, silly!" She replied, pushing him back so she could stand on her own two feet. Tiberius did not object. For a princess, she had always striven to be ultimately independent. He was in too much shock anyway.
"A boon," she gasped as precious breath eluded her, "on thy families! On all of you! For there hath been too much hate before. Live and learn herein."
She paused as blood sickeningly reached her mouth. She spat it out with whatever energy she had left. But she was too drained. She collapsed to the floor once more, her reddening dress sprawled around her, a fallen angel. Tiberius kneeled down to help his love.
"You can't leave me! There is so much we haven't done, haven't seen. You can't leave now!" He begged to her. He pulled her into his muscular chest, tears rolling slowly down his golden face.
I cannot stay, my love," Aedella sorrowfully mumbled, "but now the blood debt is repaid. The war ends. Don't mourn for me. Don't cry over spilt blood. Remember the before - thy culture, thy poetry. Tho must remember all that hath been forgotten. Now, my love, help me up. For I cannot seem to shake off this disease called life."
She slowly rose with the help of Tiberius. Pushing him away once more. Staggering a second, the fading Aedella scanned the expectant faces. She thought to herself, let's give them something to remember. With the last dregs of energy she could muster, she lifted her arms and screamed her final words.
"HELL! Welcome thine apocalyptic follower in! Mine own soul is thine to command at will! For now..."
She paused as she coughed more blood. Her voice quietened. She could feel her life slowly slipping away, the clock slowly winding down.
"For now," she whispered, "I am forever dead."
Her pupils dilated. Her hands loosened around the sword hilt, no longer willing to maintain the previous pressure. In one painfully slow, elegant movement, her body collapsed delicately inwards and gravity took hold. She twirled downwards, expelling her final breath, chest falling, her whole world falling, dying away. And with a crumple, she hit the floor and her life was over. The war was over. The blood debt had been horrifyingly repaid. By her own father.
And so the war ended.
Of course, more happened after that.
But these are just memories.
Flashes of the past.