There was a steady thumping that was coming from war drums in the distance. It filled the small town with tidings of blood and violence, not far behind. The city was deserted for precisely this reason. If a person were to travel the town, they would find empty buildings, shadowed by other crumbling structures. Everything in the town appeared broken and in disrepair, though once it had been stately and noble. These buildings were shaking with each beat of the drums and dust fell steadily.
Among the large buildings that populated the city streets, there was one, unlike all the rest. It was a poor man's house, a hovel. From the singular window in the front, a warm homely light shone from within. Anyone knew that these folk were richer than any that once lived in the other buildings. What they lacked in monetary riches, they more than made up in other ways.
Tonight, that beautiful house was rife with sorrow. A singular reminder of the war march outside.
Inside, there was a woman crying in a chair. She sobbed into her frayed shawl and her body was shaking with distraught. She removed her hands from her face and revealed a wrinkled face, creased with years of laughter and happiness. Her hair was long, brown, and streaked with grey. Despite her age, she had a timeless beauty about her. It was as if she could pluck at your heart strings with a laugh and cause pangs of longing with a look. Yet, her cheeks were stained with tears that flickered in the firelight, like miniature stars.
“No!” the old woman said in a hushed whisper that carried throughout the room, despite the thumping beat outside that intruded even now. It was a harsh reminder of the war that bloomed not so far away. “You cannot go. Without you, I do not know if I can…” she trailed off as her voice shook with fear.
Across from her was bear of a man, easily a head taller than most men. He was shirtless, with a smooth hairless chest, and when he moved, every muscle rippled with exertion, mere whispers of his massive strength. His entire body was covered with scars from past battles and across his chest was a long vertical scar that left its imprint permanently on him. He had a beard that was well trimmed into a point at a hand's length below his chin. His pure grey head of hair was long and fell down to his shoulders, held together by blue ribbons of silk, like tiny vines. His back was draped with a long braided pony tail, neatly bound by the same ribbons.
The warrior’s eyes crinkled up painfully as he tried to come up with words to express how he felt. He was a man of few words. But, even if he was extroverted, there was nothing he could say, nothing he could do. His decision had already been made.
“I do not have anyone left. You are my world.” she cried and jumped out of her chair towards him, sending it flying back against the wall. “I cannot lose you!” she yelled and ran forward. “They are all gone, all of them, every last one, killed by those, things. If you leave, I will be alone.” Her fists banged into his muscled chest repeatedly and age had not dulled her strength.
His old craggy face scrunched into a sad smile, “You know I do not want war.” he said apologetically, speaking for the first time.
“Then do not go at all!” her old voice cracked with denial, “Is it me? Did I do something wrong? Is that why you leave me now? Is it because we are not with child?”
Spears, swords, clubs, and other weapons had graced this warrior's skin, each, leaving its imprint forever on him. And never had he felt as much pain as he felt now, “No, I never…” he said as he tried to speak what he was feeling. Tears welled up from within his old eyes as the wizened man desperately searched for a way to express himself. What he could not say with words, he said with actions. The old warrior pulled her close with his massive bulging arms and crushed her to his chest with furious passion. Then, he looked down at her and kissed her mightily, silently communicating that she was his everything.
They both experienced the time they had spent together in a flash. From the first time they met, to now. Neither he, nor she regretted any of it.
The lovers did not breath, capturing the moment and hoping it would last forever. With moments like this, trapped in time, they never last long enough, ephemeral and beautiful.
He nuzzled her and pulled away ever so slightly, his forehead touched hers, “I am s…” he started to say as.
She brought an aged finger up to his lips, “Hush. Don't you dare. Give them a piece of the hell they have sown upon our land. Wrap them in your fury and cage them in your anger. Dig into the animal within and throw it furiously upon them. Slay them for me and every life they ruined.” The old woman’s anguish and desperation from before was replaced by vigor and intensity. Her eyes held him with a power that was beyond this world and bound him to a fiery oath of love.
The barbarian leaned in and kissed her again. His pointed beard brushed her face.
Her wrinkled lips returned the kiss two fold and she wrapped her arms around his neck.
Their tears mingled together in the embrace and when he pulled away, her hand lingered on his cheek for a hair’s breath.
“I only have one war left in me.” The warrior said and his voice quaked with sorrow.
“No, come back to me alive. We still have time yet.” she whispered into his ear. Then, reached behind her head and pulled off a necklace from under her shirt. It was modestly hidden for a reason. The jewelry was a brilliant blue sapphire, cut into the shape of a small dagger, easily worth a lifetime of work in a field. She placed it around his muscled neck, “Bring this back to me.” she said.
The barbarian nodded curtly to her and reached down. His hand found the handle of a small wood cutting axe. It was swallowed up by his grip, so massive was his palm. He took his other hand and ran it through her hair loving as he kissed her passionately, one last time. He turned towards the exit and started to duck through the entryway. His head turned one last time and he locked eyes with his love. A mental picture he would keep for as long as he lived; her strikingly beautiful face, the curve of her body, and those intelligent captivating eyes. His thumb and forefinger rubbed the necklace reassuringly.
No more tears were shed as they said their silent goodbye. The warrior left without another word and walked down the cobble stone road. The necklace was firmly grasped in his hand and the pointed edge drew a small drop of blood from his tightly clenched fist.
The old woman followed him outside and watched him go, long after he was out of sight, silently hoping he would come back, but knowing he she would never see him again. “Woe betides the first foe that feels your fury, my love. And let the glory of your death live on in memory, well after your death.” Strangely, she felt no grief for his passing, only pride, “Do me proud.”