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Adventure Fantasy

When my time finally comes, I am at peace. I smile and greet Death as an old friend.

Two Weeks Earlier

Clunk. Shuffle. Shuffle. My cane and I make our way down the garden path of my childhood home. It feels fitting that my time will end here in the same place that it began. And my time is coming. I can feel it deep in my bones. And I am grateful. I am tired. Both in my mind and in my soul. I am ready to reunited with those who have gone before me; especially my love. Twenty years we have been apart and it feels closer to a hundred.

Besides I am ready for our next adventure.

The laughter of my great-grandchildren fills the air. They are bounding down towards the pond. All of them so full of life.

A cloaked figure appears at my side. His pace matches my mine.

“You better be here for me,” I rasp.

“Not yet. You have a little time left.” His voice is soft, and gentle. The opposite of what people would think Death sounds like.

“Not much though.” I say.

“No.”

I glance at Death. He seems almost sad. “I thought you would be glad to finally escort me on.” He’s paid me enough visits over the years.

“Grandmother!” The youngest of my great-grandchildren rushes towards me. I do not worry that she will be frightened by the cloaked skeleton. No one can see Death but me. “Come to the pond.” She grabs my free hand.

I look at Death.

“Go on Arwen.” Death says. “Give her a story to pass on.”

Twenty Years Earlier

Candles flicker as Death arrives. No. No. Not now. I cannot lose Lucas now. But maybe… “Can you save him?” My voice is barely above a whisper. Please, I think. There has to be a way.

 “Mother.” My daughter’s broken voice pierces me to my soul. “There is nothing the physician can do.”

I ignore her and focus on the only person who can save my Lucas now. “Please. I can’t lose him now.”

“You know that I do not decide when it is a person’s time. I am only their escort.”

“Onto their next adventure.” Bitterness fills me. How the idea had thrilled me once. That this life was not the end, but only the beginning. That there was another chapter to write even after a heart stopped beating. It had once brought me comfort as friends and loved ones had passed on. Now it only fills me with dread. Mine and Lucas’s story has been so intertwined for so many years; I do not know how to go on without him.

Death’s face-though only skeletal- is full of compassion. “An adventure that you will join him on one day.”

“I don’t want him to die.” My voice breaks.

“Oh Mother.” My daughter’s arms come around me; her chin rests on my shoulder.

“He will never die.” Death says. “How can he when he lives on in the very stories you tell?” Death brings his scythe up and moves it over Lucas’s body in the same motion my Father used to harvest wheat.

I gasp as I see his soul separate from his body. Lucas stands and when he looks at me, I can barely hold back the tears. His skin is smooth, his hair full. All the scars he has collected over the years are gone. A smile spreads across his face. “I love you,” he mouths as Death lays a hand on his shoulder.

My chin trembles, tears trickle down my face. “I love you too.” My voice is barely audible but I know he hears me for his smile brightens.

Death and Lucas disappear.

Six Years Earlier

Fever ravages my body. Through hazy vision, or maybe it’s the smoke from the candles, I see someone I know well. Death. His presence looms large in the room. His silver scythe gleams in the poor light of the infirmary. He walks down the aisle between the beds, wielding his weapon, harvesting the poor souls who have lost their battle with the sickness.

He stops in front of my bed and cocks his head to the side, almost as if he is asking if I’m ready to go.

I smirk. “Not on your life,” I rasp; my throat dry. I have too much to do. And I refuse to leave Lucas like this.

He smirks right back. “What life? I’m dead.”

Ten Years Earlier

I stare at the two cups in front of me. One poisoned, one not poisoned.

How did I even end up in this situation? Especially at my age!

I could have seen this happening when I had been a naïve twenty year old with barely any experience outside of my village. But at forty-six? Ridiculous. What had possessed me to bargain with this pirate?

I glance at the two pieces of parchment between us. Oh yes. We each had half of a map that led to a particular gem that supposedly granted special powers to the holder. So of course, everyone and their mother, including my longtime nemesis Dansen, is now after it. Unfortunately, Dansen had found an intact copy of the map so he’s already on his way while I’m stuck playing pirate boy’s stupid game.

“Have you made your choice yet?” Smugness fills his voice like he’s completely confident he’s going to be the one walking away.

I should have just shot him when it became obvious he wasn’t willing to work together. Then I would have both parts of the map and not be stuck here, staring at two glasses of wine. One of which is supposedly poisoned.

A familiar figure appears behind the boy. I look up at Death. “I don’t suppose you could give me a hint?”

“That wouldn’t be fair.” Pirate boy responds.

I roll my eyes. “I wasn’t talking to you.” Despite that I’m the only one who can see Death, I nod over the boy’s shoulder.

He turns quickly, and I grab a rock.

“There’s no one there.” He says, turning back towards me. Too late. My rock connects with his head. He’s out cold before he hits the ground. I pray he’s only knocked out. I didn’t actually want to kill him.

“Interesting.” Death says. “There was an eighty-nine percent chance he was going to die today.”

“So pirate boy is going to live?” The guilt settling on me disappears.

“His name is Kevin, and yes, he is going to live.”

“Kevin?” I mouth. What type of pirate name is Kevin? “So did that mean I had an eleven percent chance of dying?”

Death smiles. It’s not comforting. “Lower?” I ask. He says nothing. “Higher?” I squeak.

His smile grows wider. “Your odds were better than in the Gorge Incident.”

I give him a look as a bell jangles.

“Ah. My cookies are done.”

“Cookies?” Did Death just say cookies? And did he just imply that he was the one who made the cookies?

“What?” His eye sockets widen. “I have a life outside of reaping.”

“What life? You’re dead.”

Fourteen Years Earlier

I yelp as a board breaks beneath my foot. “Arwen!” Lucas shouts from his safe spot on land. The rotting, swinging bridge hadn’t looked up to the task of holding two people so Lucas had gone first.

“I’m alright.” I carefully pull my foot back up and test the next board. It seems sturdy enough.

“Be careful.” My husband warns me.

I nearly roll my eyes but nod instead and focus on getting across as I silently curse Dansen. He just had to destroy the only decent way across. Vengeful grudge holder. Seven years later and he still couldn’t let go of the fact that I had defeated his father and restored the proper rulers to the throne.

Speaking of…If we ever made it back to the capital, I would insist to their majesties that they needed to invest in better infrastructure if they ever wanted Lucas and me to do a job for them again.

“Arwen run!” Lucas yells. Run? I could barely walk across this thing. “Behind you!” Lucas points. I look over my shoulder. Gad’s teeth. Two heavy-hitters cackle on either side of the bridge’s anchors. The huge axes in their hands tell me exactly what they are going to do.

Knowing I can never make it across in time, I grab tightly onto the safety ropes and offer up a prayer. Axes whistle through the air and straight through the ropes. Screams (mostly mine) echo through the gorge as the bridge falls towards the rock face.

Air is knocked from my lungs. My arms protest under the sudden need to hold up all my weight. I scramble for any foot purchase between boards.  Oh, this is not good.

“Hold on!” Lucas yells.

This time I do roll my eyes.

“Hello Arwen.” Death leans on his scythe like he has it planted on solid ground.

“Seriously?” I demand of him. “You can float?”

“Obviously.”

I stare at him. He stares back. “You know, you could help. Give me a lift or something.”

“That’s not how it works.”

“Would you rather I plummet to my death, Death?” I look down and regret it immediately. It’s a really long way down.

A rope flies down towards me and smacks me in the head.

“It seems Lucas has it well in hand.” Death starts to fade.

I grab ahold of the rope. “He usually does.” I say as death completely disappears and Lucas begins to haul me up.

Six Years Earlier

The first tinges of pink are visible at the horizon. The first sign of dawn. I pull closer the blanket Lucas had brought me during my watch. Just a few more hours and the battle will begin. Armies have been amassing to both sides of the large open field.

It has taken six years to make it to this moment. Six years of sabotaging, fighting, and recruiting. Six years of sacrifice to come down to one moment.

I pray that we will be the victors.

The camp has been restless all night. Soldiers- both men and women, some battle-hardened, and some new to the fight- spend their time sharpening swords and checking bows.

A tall man steps up next to me. His black cloak gives away his identity. “You’re going to be busy today.”

“I know.”

His tone catches me by surprise. He smiles grimly at me- easy to do as a skeleton. “Do you think I relish battle? That I enjoy escorting lives cut short?” He looks out over the camp. His shoulders droop and I think if he could, he would cry. “I would rather take them when they are old and tired and have lived a full life.”

Death and I have met many times. My life is on the line more often than I would like (and certainly more often than Lucas and my family would like) but this is the first time I have ever truly wanted to know what comes next. So I ask. His entire frame seems to soften. “Next?” His tone is wistful. I wonder if Death can die and have someone else take his place. “Next is peace and then onwards.”

“Onwards?”

“Did you think this was the end?” Amusement laces his voice. “There is more to do. Much more.”

More. I like the thought of that. I look over the camp and then the empty field. Many people will die today. Maybe even me. But this isn’t the end. There’s more to be had. I look up at Death and smile.

Three Years Earlier

I squeeze my hands, trying to stop their trembling. Only a few more hours till nightfall and then we will be breaking into a highly fortified castle. Which wasn’t exactly new for me and my friends. Bess, Janie, Mack, Lucas, and I were experts.

But never has so much ridden on us not failing.

The princess- the rightful ruler of the kingdom- is inside. If we can free her, she’ll become a beacon of hope to people. A reminder that things can change. That our kingdom can be put to right again.

Death appears next to me. The sun reflects off his scythe’s blade and I swallow hard. In a hushed voice, I demand, “What are you doing here?”

“I was in the neighborhood.”

My heart feels as if it’s trying to make its own prison break. I look at my friends, bent over a map reviewing the layout of the castle for the hundredth time as I keep watch. “You can’t take any of them.” I hiss. We’ve had each other’s backs for close to three years and I can’t imagine being without them at my side.

“Who says I’m here for them?” Death asks.

My heart does a weird little jump. He’s here for me then. Or will be. I always knew death would actually get me one day. I just hoped it would be longer. I look back at my friends and especially Lucas. My best friend…and the man I love even if I haven’t had the courage to say anything.

“You are being presumptuous. I never said I was here for you either.”

“But you said…”

“That I was in the neighborhood. There are other people around besides all of you.”

I want to sag in relief. Or do a jig. He’s not here for us. And that means… “Then we’re going to be okay? We’ll get the princess out?”

Death tilts his head. “No idea. Actions have consequences. It will be the choices you all make that will determine the day’s outcome.”

“Not helpful,” I mutter.

“Perhaps. But you know, if this was my last day to live, I wouldn’t leave anything unsaid.” He gives me a meaningful look and I do my best to ignore the heat that explodes in my cheeks. “But that’s just me.” He smiles before he fades.

Lucas looks my way and smiles brightly. I automatically smile back.

Death was right. There are some things that shouldn’t be left unsaid.

Fifteen Years Earlier

The sun’s rays stretch towards me as I struggle in the water, trying to free myself from the vines that have caught my legs. Dots dance in front of my eyes. My legs are finally free. My lungs scream, demanding air. But there is no air here.

My movements become jerkier. I’m supposed to be doing something but I can’t remember. Darkness closes in around my vision.

“Not yet little one.” A figure appears, his face hidden in a dark cloak.  He floats next to me in the water. “Reach.” He tells me.

Moving my arms feels as difficult a task as moving a mountain would be.

“Reach.” His command is more emphatic. “You have too much to do to die now. Reach.”

My arms come up slowly. A hand grabs mine and I am pulled upwards. We break through the water’s surface. Air fills my lungs. I cough and sputter as I am dragged to shore.

“Arwen!” I am dropped onto the sand. Lucas’s frightened eyes meet mine. “It’s going to be okay, Arwen. I promise. It’s going to be okay.”

I breathe deeply. My throat hurts and my lungs ache with the effort. A shadow falls across both of us but Lucas does not seem to notice. It is a cloaked person. But I can see his face. A skull. “You are going to be trouble.” He says and then disappears.

Death.

I sit up, shivering. Lucas chafes at my arms trying to warm me up.

Death had come but hadn’t claimed me. Why? I’m no one special. I’m just a farm girl.

But as Lucas helps me back home, I decide it does not matter. I am alive. That’s what truly matters. So I will live so fully that when Death does come to claim me, I will be at peace and will be able to smile and greet him as an old friend.

April 16, 2021 19:57

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6 comments

Lucy Gray
01:31 Apr 23, 2021

Hi Lyn! I enjoyed the story and how you characterized Death. The different snippets of Arwen's life were so interesting. Each part could probably be their very own full story. Nicely done :) -Lucy

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Lyn Carstone
01:39 Apr 23, 2021

Hi Lucy! Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Death was a lot of fun to write. ~Lyn

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Monica June
02:04 Apr 22, 2021

LOVE! This was captivating from the beginning! I liked the feeling of not quite knowing what was going on, but then everything coming together in the end. I liked the use of repetition in the beginning and end, and a couple times in the middle. I loved the main character's relationship with death throughout his/her life. There were some slight grammar errors, just sentences where a comma could be used; but that's just the perfectionist in me, it was very well written. All in all, very interesting, and I loved reading it!

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Lyn Carstone
16:04 Apr 22, 2021

Hi Monica! Thank you for taking the time to read my story! I so appreciate it. Commas are the bane of my existence. I either use too many or not enough. Ah well. Practice makes perfect. ;) ~Lyn

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Luis Medina
14:24 Apr 21, 2021

Quite an intriguing story. I just found this website a week ago but couldn't figure out how to take on this prompt and you nailed it! I felt like I read an entire adventure book with this one. Nice! PS: Please read my first short if you have the chance

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Lyn Carstone
17:46 Apr 21, 2021

Thank you so much for taking the time to ready my story. I am glad you enjoyed it.

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