The spot had been chosen when there were still men enough to share the task. It was a treeless hillock that met the horizon and they had built a cairn upon it. It drew the eye no matter one’s approach. But the half-mile trek was uphill and choked by fresh snowfall.
He realized now, with the runestone clutched in his arms, that he should have cleared the way a bit. But he was in a hurry to get his friend buried and erect the marker before he himself died. He considered putting the stone down but decided against it. It was unlikely he would get it back up. Ultimately it mattered little. The lack of a well-trodden path only meant a slightly harder struggle until the end. The end was inevitable.
Being a warrior and a spiritual man, he often had cause to contemplate death. He would regret the lives he’d taken and grieve the loved ones he’d lost. These were easy feelings. They surfaced often. He understood them. It was only when he sat in idle meditation at the Lord’s feet that he felt nauseous finality. Not the kind of nausea brought on by illness. It ran deeper than a physical reaction. The feeling could only be described as epiphany. He would never be here again.
The thought gave him a certain dizziness. The space between his ears would swim, producing for him an experience of the world without his existence in it. It felt as if the ground dropped from beneath him, the fact of his ever having lived falling away. And it was true. Death is long-lived. After a time, it will be as if he had never lived. Of course his spirit would continue on in the afterlife, but he would depart with the nagging feeling that he left something unfinished.