Some men cannot go quietly into the night. Some make Death earn it. Once every couple of nights, Garrek tries death. He goes into the night to see if he really is ready to die.
"You are going like a dog then?" asked the young girl as she wheeled her barrow to a stop.
"Yep," answered the old gruff man. He was old and grizzled, he walked with a limp even though he jerked his strong muscles to hide it.
"Does anyone know?" the girl asked.
"No," answered the old man.
"Want me to tell the family?" asked the girl with the utmost care and caution.
"Jen, leave me be and get that barrow home before dark," answered the man. "Hounds be out soon, best you home before they hound you."
"No harm meant, I'll be on me way then," she said as she started to push her wheel barrow. As an after thought, "Do it well then." With that she turned her body and mind from the dieing man.
The man had already turned far from this moment and the girl. His way was to go to the woods. He was going to die. He was going to die like a dog.
He was an old hound of sorts himself. He used to chase and hunt and howl to his own moon.
He ran with the best. His squad, his team, was the best of the Guard.
He had fought and killed and lived. He had wept and bled and lived.
Now he was going to die. In his moment of weakness he would be alone.
That is just how things worked. In a world of tough men and warriors the worst thing to be is weak. Garrek was not nor would he ever be weak.
We could not stand the thought of anyone, man or beast, to see him as such.
That is why when he reached the dark glade he found as a young man, he unsheathed his sword and he waited.
The world watched him and he hated it. The world saw him while he waited to fight for his life and he hated it.
The wolves bayed from far away.
He smiled. The steel fangs of the wolves would be fitting. He had been a wolf.
His eyes had been fast, strong, intelligent. Now the glint that had been there, faded. His movements were no longer precise and strong. Now they were measured and shaky.
The wolves bayed but from closer than before.
He took in a deep breath and released it. His lungs rattled like the wind in the trees. He payed it no mind. A warrior had no mind. He had only his body to do the thinking. His body moved. Not by his thought but by his need. He strengthened his hold on the handle of the sword. He held it high.
It was important to hold the sword high. Gravity helps pull it down for a strike this way. With his age, he needed to fight with his experience.
The wolves crept quietly toward him.
The wolves would have been hesitant had he been younger. He was old. He was dieing.
The wolves did not hesitate.
Two circled wide, moving to approach him from the rear. Three stayed with in his field of vision. They approached menacingly, without fear.
Fear was a healthy thing. It kept the body from harm.
The wolves lacked fear. They were not kept from harm. Harm in the form of steal. Garrek's sword flashed forward and caught the largest yellow eyed canine full on in the face.
The dog was dead. The wolves to either side of the now dead wolf sprang back with snarls of anger.
They came back faster than they had retreated. Garrek stepped into the charge. He slashed with his sword. He connected with the wolf on the right, directly in its left shoulder. The beast fell. The other retreated, now it felt the fear.
Garrek turned using the momentum of the sword. He faced the other two wolves. They had thought to take him from behind. He had expected this flanking and they paid for their arrogance. His swing caught the wolf to the left and followed through to the one on the right. They both died. They did not go silently.
The remaining wolf came then.
It hit Garrek high. Its paws touching Garrek's shoulders just before it's jaws could sink into his neck.
Garrek reacted to the sensation of the paws on his back. He fell forward and twisted his body. He dropped his sword and pulled from his belt a lengthy knife. His body came around, knife first. The blade entered the wolf. Garrek made sure to keep the blade vertical so that it could more easily enter through the rib cage and find the vital organs.
The wolf yelped a cold yelp. They landed together. Garrek held the wolf as it died in his arms. Garrek held the body till it went cold.
The sun rose.
The sun rose on the glade. Death had come there. Much death. Death had not come for Garrek. He pushed the body off and stood. He pulled his knife free and grabbed his sword. After wiping the blade clean on the grass, he sheathed it.
His jaw held firm, he turned and walked back the way he came. He returned to his hut. His wife met him at the door with a nod. She had already warmed water in a tub for him to wash.
For the fifth time this month, death had rejected him.