For the short period of time that I had known the dwarf we’d become accustomed to his loathsome loud and angry nature. He was for lack of refined words, quite obnoxious. There’s no secret to a Drows, Dwarfs and Elfs live long lives. By any estimate the cleric that sat down on the rock, had lived for several hundred years and lived them hard. He wore the scars of many battles like armor, insulating him from anyone foolish enough to complain about his commanding nature and dismissive attitude. No one could deny how he cut through hordes of enemies like they were butter, smashing himself up the slope leaving the drain and finally with a two handed swing left a fanatic worshipper flailing and screaming as he fell of the ledge. We stood at the very zenith of the Islands high ground overlooking the ruin and gorge down to the stream below dividing one part of the interior from the other, with the roar of the waterfall drowning out the last sobbing sigh as I pulled my sword out of another worshippers chest.
The rush out of the drain, to purify the hollow of a large three to the outlook point of the harbor to the top had been hard on the dwarf.
His skin was pale, clammy and sweaty. He grit his blackening teeth, taking large gulps of air as he trekked up the slope. Amidst the screams of death, sprays of blood and vanquishing of foes I noticed that his eyes got more glazed and empty. It was as if he was fighting the enemies as much as he was trying to hold onto the inevitable.
Our ranger, only focused as battle drew close sat at the very edge of the highpoint sniffing something he’d found in the sacrificial bowl, apparently some kind of mushroom of other similar item and the Halfling dug through his backpack looking for a spell component he’d muttered he’d lost.
The ranger made a point out of commenting about the thick cloud floating across the harbor further off and elicited a retort from the Halfling on how it looked almost like the root he needed for his lightning bolt.
None of them noticed the tired dwarf staring at his trembling hands. Or that he looked at me noticing his trembling hand clenching, as he tried to limber his fingers to stop trembling. It was at that moment the dwarf realized that no matter how hard he hit something – how many times he mended someone’s wound, bolstered their courage or bellowed for people to stand in the face of almost certain death that the end had caught up with his life and there was very little else he could do about it.
For the first time that I could remember from the time we met in the village to the evil grin when he pushed the Halfling over the edge the dwarf smiled faintly and almost relieved.
‘I guess that’s that’ he said and let out a long foul breath, slouched forward, erect in his armor and died.
The ranger didn’t notice. He was lost in his opus and ode to the clouds and dancing snow flakes studying the mushroom he was about to eat with the same intense scrutiny as someone peering through the amber liquid of a potion or wine for minute flaws.
The Halfling did, the realization made him drop his pack that spilled out the disorganized content of clothes, books and ingredients like a colorful bloom on the ground.
Mid day the sun fought the cold air, aided only by the crystal power holding the dragons’ magic at bay. The flakes melted slowly as the touched the ground but not the dwarfs’ cold skin. Like Misery’s snow capped mountain peak the clung to his stiff body like hugging fairies trying to wake him up. For a moment, just this brief glimmer of hopeful moment I thought he’d open his eyes, with fire that would melt the snow on his armor and nestling itself in his beard and stare at me with intensity ‘I’m just messing with you’ he’d muse and stand up and stomp of to the tasks ahead that could bring him back to the buttery lit corner of the tavern and the misappropriation of the life that finally robbed him of its light.
But he didn’t. Instead the hollow of the wind rustling the tree shading his lifeless body and howling as it crawled up the slope serenaded his last unsung deed and carried his last breath away as if it also lifted his soul on Valkyrian wings to his last resting place by the side of other fallen brothers.
‘Oh my’ said the Halfling faintly covering his face with his hands, peering through the spread fingers with horror.
‘Oh my indeed’ said the ranger without knowing and put the mushroom in his mouth with delight and chewed it up with the enthusiasm of someone looking forward to the hallucinatory effects.