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come, warm yourself by this roaring candle.

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I have seen the glory of the sun, and the darkness of the night. I am the raging waves, and the vital rain. I am respite from the cold, and endurance in despite of hope. I am the sword of justice, and the shield of innocence. I am your executioner, and your advocate before the gods.

 

Words he doesn’t think. And words he never would. Who thinks that sort of thing about himself? An arrogant asshole who doesn’t know how life works. (Which is. Not him.)

 

Why is he bothering? I know it isn’t vengeance, or not just vengeance. The others beside him; they’re seeking glory, a life with meaning. She just wants to protect her family; humanity, and him.

 

She should have died by now. They should have died by now. Madness and despair is waiting for them at every turn. 

 

I don’t even know why I’m not mad. I don’t even know why I stopped to think about this.

 

I’m just here to do my job. These people, with their too-bright souls and their colourful swords, the arrogance that making it past the first few tests gives them… What gives them the right to cheat me? Not that I want to be busier than I am, but I’m working time without end anyway.

 

(They always seem so devastated, either side of this ancient conflict. The innocent who longed to live in peace, beloved. The injured and the desperate, who picked up their swords in the name of righteousness, and a cause whose magnitude they could never fully understand. Not without knowing many things, and people, and the coldness and distance that is mortal reasoning, given time.)

 

They love him. They’ve stayed with him, the way that she did in life - even changed as she was. For the same reason. He’s never ceased to carry them with him, always; in his heart, even as he carries her upon his back.

 

He never puts her down, never lets her far from him; not because he wouldn’t let her go, but because she doesn’t want to.

 

They love him, and they love her, and they love those noisy friends; the one who lives in fear of me, and the one who lives in despite of me. The little girl with the flower name loves the fearful one, and his sparrow. That gentle mother longs to embrace the lost one.

 

That boy and that girl with their masks, they check on him from time to time. They whisper, and cheer him on; they carry with them the hopes of all those dead children, who came home to the old man.

 

How can one person be so beloved? How can one person change so much, for himself and others? How can he defy me, to my face, not even for his own sake; again and again, and I allow it; I listen to those gods for whose favour he turns suppliant. I let him go. I watch him continue on this path. I see him turn the wheel, not even bucking at the constraints of mortal time. The only barrier his body; his most constant resource, unending compassion; his source of energy, the boundless determination that outruns his spirit and his thought.

 

How can he live like this? How can he love still?

 

(How have I existed, beyond mortal time, for so long; and have not yet seen someone such as this appear before me, before now?)

 

I will watch. I will wait. I will wonder.

 

(And when those children cheer him, and the innocent murmur of the kindness of his eyes, and the family he loves whisper to him and her of their fathomless devotion and support; I might speak as well.

 

(“Not today,”)

 

The God of Death will say.)