Estimated reading time: 14 minute(s)

Summary: No matter what they said in those songs and stories, crusading and living this life in general were both treacherous business. It is admittedly tempting to just take the grand exit calling it a life, but alas, since when heroes get what they want? 

Warnings: Suicidal thoughts, Graphic Violence, PTSD, Depression

Notes: Posted for Ace Awareness Week. \Asexual and Proud/


At first it was always the raging, smoldering darkness choking him like ashes. 

Then started the sound of dripping. He felt the warm liquid trapped between his fingers, leaving delicate spider web traces on his skin. Soon these crimson webs would dry, hardened, cracked then shattered, when his father finally managed to pry out that wretched blade from his hand. His father’s boots squeaked in the pool of blood and guts. So much blood. Yet all it took was just one demon and one human. Mere meat bags, he thought, we were. 

Suddenly an iron grip on his throat, it was his father’s … The rage inside him started to die down like a receding storm, leaving him with those piles of flesh rubbles. The grip was tightened. Good, he thought to himself, good, if this time his father could truly finish him off – 

“Hey, hey, wake up, Commander – ” Suddenly someone was calling him. A claw was pulling his wrist away. The pressure on his throat was gone. He coughed and coughed – 

Kurt Eklund blinked. Darkness receded a little. Now it was merely the absence of light. He saw a golden lizard eye, then recognized Lann, who was gripping Kurt’s left wrist in his lizard claw, a half-finished arrow in the other hand. 

Seeing him awake, Lann looked both worried and relieved. His eyes were vigilant and clear as ever. “I don’t want to interrupt whatever sweet dream you had there, but it is your turn for night watch.” He let go Kurt’s hand.

Kurt Eklund grunted and got up to outside. The cold night drove away the last remains of what Kurt Eklund saw in his mind. He drew a deep breath. His throat still hurt. Icy, snowy air pierced all the way to his lungs. They still had quite a lot to march to reach Drezen, but weather already started to get worse. Kurt Eklund lowered his head, murmuring a short prayer to Pharasma. 

“Nightmares? Must be something really bad if you are praying to the Lady of  Graves.” 

“It’s just a dream.” Kurt Eklund said hoarsely. A patch of bruise probably was forming on his neck. 

Lann looked at him for a moment, apparently not buying it at all. “And obviously nothing serious, since you almost just casually choked yourself to death there.” He looked at the Oread intently. “I mean not to pry. Everyone have their own dark secrets, but what if I was late for only five minutes you might …. just be careful.”

Kurt Eklund nodded and sighed. “That prayer was a pleading to Pharasma. A pleading that let the dead stay dead.” He said before he could stop himself. 

Lann raised his eyebrows. “So you truly worship Pharasma? No offense meant, but we would eventually get her gift anyway, so what’s the point?”

For a while, Kurt did not reply. The chill wind grazed through meadows and forest. He bent down and stoke the campfire. The glowing amber soon turned into a feeble flame. Lann was about to leave for his own tent, but then he heard the Oread’s low voice. 

“Because she knows the whole truth, and grants a powerful and fair gift for everyone.”

“I can hardly see it as a gift.” Lann sat beside him, his lizard part facing the fire.

“It ends suffering.” 

Lann looked at him, first surprised then crumpled a little. “If you put that way … I guess maybe you are right. A good death is a gift. ” He pondered, with a strange gleam in his eyes. 

“Is that what you also want, Lann?” Kurt Eklund asked. 

“You are getting even sharper tonight, Commander. I mean, yeah, since I am very likely to die soon anyway. Like I told you. I want to something meaningful, something can only be achieved with a high, ultimate price. I am willing to pay for it. Do your goddess have anything to say about that?”

Kurt Eklund wanted to say, no you don’t. Death is never a high price to pay, living is. Most death are painful, yes, but many end quite fast. He also wanted to say that you think you are not afraid of death, but you fear decaying and fading away and being powerless.  But he decided to say something else instead:

“In that case, would you like to continue the journey and lend me your service in this crusade business?” Kurt Eklund turned to him. “In exchange, as a follower of Pharasma, I shall grant you a good death.” 

Lann opened and closed his mouth. He wanted to questioned Kurt Eklund, what you could do about me if you were busy killing yourself first? However, the newly appointed Knight Commander now seemed to be an entirely different person from the poor tormented soul who was trying to choke himself to death a few minutes ago. The Oread’s eyes were calm and his voice was hoarse but firm.

Lann swallowed. After a long moment, he nodded. He wanted to quip back, but his way with words failed him this time. “Nice proposal, Commander, I am touched. You better keep that promise.”