Everybody has a story about the fall of Rome. There will always be lore passed down through lips who have never known life without the airtight embrace of meritocracy. If you ask they will speak of a battle, of cults, of javelins. Perhaps they will rhapsodize about the bodies strewn across streets, perhaps they will even remember a name or two. But perhaps you will get lucky, perhaps you will find a scholar or a historian just obsessed enough. They might tell you of a woman made of everything sharp and the stubborn grey monster who fought by her side. They fought valiantly, the story says, but in the end the monster was slain and the woman was lost. That is all they will tell you, for that is all they know.
Such memories are a whisper of wind, but a vivid whisper all the same. They paint a picture of a school, far, far away from the rubble of Rome and the laughter of the children roaming its fields. At the head of this school sits a woman dressed in black and covered in the searing memories of war. Her name is forgotten to most these days, but if you were to listen to the voices of the children and friends who reside in her creation, you would hear how adoringly it is said. This is especially true for the goblin who sits at the desk next to hers, the very same one who threw himself into the wrath of raining javelins for her. The same one they will tell you bled out on the floor of a dying city. And yet, here he sits, scarred, but breathing.
He is so proud of her, so proud of the things she has built and the life she has made, for herself, for the children she took in, and for him. He does not forget that it is her who saved him. Although she does not speak of the claustrophobic grasp of the sewers or the deep green that stained her skin, he knows that the nights she wakes up crying for him, it is more than just a bad dream. He always rushes to comfort her, leaping up from across the room to envelope her as tight as his arms can muster. They share a room these days, two beds facing each other. At first he had taken the room across the hall, but he couldn’t ignore the way the scars ached and pulled and when they both found each other pacing the fields as the world around them slept, they knew that separation was not an option anymore.
Not every moment is tainted by the sorrow. When dawn breaks and the silent night bleeds to the noise of lessons and chatter, the woman feels a sense of content that she had once believed impossible. She remembers what it was like to be as young as her students, and she finds no greater pride than to see them with the freedom that was denied to her for so very long. Some days she has visitors, men and women who ride in from far away places just to get advice, to ask for protection. She remembers a time when her talents were used as weapons by people who relished in controlling her. She remembers how far she has come since then. She is sought after, she is in control.
The goblin has found his own ways to breathe. He could never seem to hold roots so long without feeling them turn to shackles around his feet. Most days he is out doing work, his bow drawn, defending the lives of the people he cares for. Sometimes a visitor will ask to hire him and he will remember with a faint sadness the brave friends he once fought besides. When he returns a part of him still wonders if he’s where he’s meant to be, but when he sees his friend returning as well, he knows everything is okay.
Sometimes they sit together and tell stories to the rows of students. They tell tales of a time only they remember, of a dashing halfling who wasn’t afraid of the flame, of a headstrong orc whose love for the world could win battles, and of friends along the way that held up the world when everything seemed to fall apart. Sometimes a student will ask where they came up with such a tale. Every time they will share a reminiscent smile, they come from the heart.
In some other time the world falls apart and is reassembled, their friends mourn and remember and accept. The world moves on and history forgets, but for now they can be happy.