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Xarkly

One Day

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Image result for snowy wasteland art

The western edge of the Yatl Wasteland, bordering frozen seas

 

Spoiler

 


 

"I'm sorry. I know I haven't visited in a long time."

 

The eternal blizzard roared across the rolling white plains of the Yatl Wasteland, spraying snow everywhere as fresh torrents descended in swirls from the sky above. The sky, like the blizzard, was cloaked in the implacable swathes of thick grey snow clouds that had plagued the southern skies long before ships from Axios first reached the Atlassian shore. Yet in this unremarkable corner of the Waste, the wind seemed to blow a little gentler, a touch quieter; it was in part thanks to Krug's Folly itself, as the colossal wall of ice acted as a wind-breaker for the southern gales, while two steep mounds of snow provided a little more shelter. It was there, between the two mounds of snow and in the shadow Krug's Folly that a small tree stood. Drooped branches bore weedy, reddish-white leaves that formed a sparse canopy that sighed in the frigid wind. Vaeyl, of course, did not feel the cold - only a numb absence - as he eyed the tree. It was a Stormsinger, one of the only trees that could survive in such temperatures, and very rare. Vaeyl only knew of this sole tree in the entirety of the Wasteland.

 

Yet it was not the tree that held his attention, but rather the woman sitting on one of its low branches, kicking her slender legs idly. As Vaeyl approached, his thick boots pressing a path in the snow and his white-black cloak snapping in the wind, she flashed him a smile.

 

"That's alright," she chimed pleasantly. "I'm just glad you've come again."

 

Vaeyl opened his mouth to respond, but for a moment he simply drowned in her deep, navy eyes. Even in the pale light of the Waste, her hair shone like spun copper as it hung in a multitude of beaded braids, framing a heart-shaped face. Her dress was weaved from plain green stout wool, yet it would offer far too little warmth for someone in the Wastes. The woman, however, seemed perfectly content as she sat on the branch, beaming broadly at Vaeyl. He stepped forward slowly, snow crunching underfoot. He did not feel the cold anymore, but that did not stop the woman's silky voice sending chills down his spine.

 

"Meia, I ... truly, I would have come a hundred times more, if not for ..." His voice turned hoarse, and the words died in his throat.

 

Meia, however, tilted her head, and her smile turned a touch mischievous. "How many times have I told you that you don't need to apologize for doing your duties? Not to me, anyway."

 

Despite himself, Vaeyl smiled. "Too many times," he breathed. "But that doesn't make it right. I ... I should have visited sooner."

 

"Do you remember that one ball in Caer Caedris?" Meia asked abruptly. "The Fourth Moon Ball, the one just two years after you gave the Children of Krug Deep Harbour?"

 

Vaeyl frowned at the sudden question, but nodded slowly. The Fourth Moon Ball was always their biggest celebration in Serrimor - they were difficult occasions to forget. "I ... I do. That was when we first heard reports of ..."

 

"The squabble between those two, yes," Meia finished. There was no need to say who 'those two' were. "You were besides yourself with worry. Serris wanted to drive the Children of Krug out of Deep Harbour, Haevolt wanted to fortify Caer Baddyn ... And all the while, you worried about neglecting me at the ball."

 

Vaeyl blushed at the memory. "I ... ah ... yes. You wanted to dance, and I ..." He cleared his throat. "I'm sorry about that. Again." He felt like a fool - that Ball was well over a thousand years ago, and here he was apologizing.

 

"There you go again," Meia said with her persistent smile, and tapped her chin. "Apologizing again. If I recall rightly, it was me who insisted that you go and do and meet with the Bannerlords about what needed to be done."

 

"I know," Vaeyl said stiffly. "But that doesn't make it right. I ... I should have stayed. With you. I should have danced with you."

 

"Vaeyl, Vaeyl, Vaeyl," she sighed, before giggling, as if she had made a great joke known only to her. "Do you think that when we wed, I did not know I was marrying a man with such great responsibilities, that you might not always have time for me?"

 

"No." His voice was hoarse now, and his throat felt incredibly dry. "But I thought ... once it was all over ... we would ... have our time." As he spoke, each word, every syllable, became heavier, and he had to force them out.

 

Meia's smile faded as she locked eyes with him. "We'll have our time one day, my love. It will end one day, I promise, and when it does, we will have our dance." Her smile returned, and a glimmer crossed her eyes. "I promise."

 

"Meia," Vaeyl croaked, before he shuffled forward. In his right hand he clutched a bouquet of five long-stemmed flowers with curled red leaves that almost resembled a flame. Fittingly, the flowers were called the Yatl Flame, and like the Stormsinger, were a rare breed of flora that could grow along the edges of the Waste. Eyes brimming with tears, Vaeyl gently laid the bouquet of Yatl Flames down on the gravestone at the foot of the Stormsinger Tree. 

 

Image result for grave in the snow art

 

"Lord?" came a voice behind him, but Vaeyl hardly heard it. "Lord?"

 

He only stared at the gravestone, at the eroded, jagged letters etched into the stone. They had faded over the years, but each time, Vaeyl had recarved them himself. Now they were glazed in frost, and gleamed with a faint blueish hue in the stormy light.

 

PEACE AND FIRE

MEIA OF AEGIS

 

"Lord?"

 

It was only when a gauntlet touched his shoulder that Vaeyl turned to find one of his men there, clad all in the black and white-trimmed plate of the Ordermen, though a white plume was attached to this Knight's greathelm. It was the plume that marked him as a Bannerlord of the Vaeyl Order, and the hesitant voice unmistakably marked him as Taevynd of Yrodholm.

 

"Lord, I ... I'm sorry," Taevynd said slowly, face obscured by his helmet. "But I - I don't think it's wise to stop here for much longer. Serris and her traitors could stumble on us at any moment."

 

"Yes," Vaeyl said weakly as he looked back to the grave. "I couldn't save her."

 

Taevynd sighed softly, though Vaeyl suspected he wasn't meant to hear. "I - I'm sorry, Lord. There was nothing you could do," he said softly.

 

Vaeyl clenched his jaw. "That's the irony. Here we are, immortal, vanquishers of a Daemon and the most feared army ever to walk the world. Yet I couldn't save my own wife."

 

"You ... you can't fight nature, Lord."

 

"No," he muttered bitterly. "No, of course not. We could fight everything else, but not nature. Not fate itself. I only wish I could have been there ... when she fell ill, and her heart ..." He did not finish. He remained staring at the grave. Taevynd said nothing now, and only clasped his hands at his front, much to Vaeyl's appreciation. Finally, he sighed. "Come, then. You're right; we need to go." Taevynd at his side, Vaeyl walked through the snow hills, to a line of Knights in their black-white armour, waiting patiently on their bear mounts.

 

Vaeyl cast one last look back towards the Stormsinger Tree, and Meia, swinging her legs on one of the low branches.

 

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((why am i crying in the club right now))

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Wonderful!

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