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Die This Way

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He sits at the table, listening to the wind howling outside the shabby hut. A greasy candle, dripping wax on a cracked plate, is the only light source in the room. Even that is a very foolish move, of course. A telltale sign for his clever pursuers. But he can’t bring himself to care anymore. If he has to go, so be it. It’s the thought of meeting his end like a cornered animal - cold, alone, in the dark - that he can’t stand. Villains die this way. He laughs at this until his teeth chatter.

Oh he would still give them a run for their money and if odds play out well, for their lives. He still has a few tricks up his sleeves, he can at least use his invisibility spells to worm his way out somehow. But his attackers are aware of who they are dealing with now. And if they fail to get him today, there’s always tomorrow, or the day after that. Or the day after that.

He fingers the dirty bandages on his abdomen and stares into the tiny flickering flame. He once dreamt he used his magic to save someone else’s life, rather than his own. Like so many of his dreams, that dream was a reenactment of his last meeting with the raccoon knight.

In that reality Crocket somehow ended up killing the princess, which is what the spoiled brat deserved, really, and EllsMiralls clerics took her prisoner. Or rather Crocket surrendered herself. But they were still so proud of themselves, the idiots. That hideous woman was practically skipping all the way back to their rosy headquarters. They didn’t even notice they were being followed by the criminal they initially set out to catch.

He winces at the slight jolt of pain, as his hand passes too close to one of his newer wounds. If only enemies in real life were that easy to fool. The papers said, one of EllsMiralls top bosses has joined forces with Captain Murphy of Utrecht for the glorious hunt. There’s no use running from those two, they boasted… But no more about all those awful people. The dream was not about them, after all. He leans back on the rickety chair and stares at the dimly illuminated ceiling.

EllsMiralls ordered to execute Crocket, which just showed how blind and ugly their justice system really was. And he rescued her. Stole Crocket away, wrapped her in his cloak and held her close as they slipped like ghosts through the cold elegantly-decorated corridors. The pack of fancily dressed morons could do nothing to stop him. They ran and ran, until that nightmare of a place was far behind them. At one point he even got to hold her hand. It felt so warm and heart-achingly real.

But the best part was still ahead. He asked Crocket to join him and become fugitives together. And she looked at him, and said yes. Just like that. And so the knight of Utrecht, so fond of chivalrous stories, ended up with the irrevocably bad guy. Now, wasn’t that a pretty, pretty picture.

He bites down on one his bandaged fingers and snickers at what demented fantasies mind is capable of conjuring up. The candle is drowning in a pool of wax. The shadows in the corners of the room are dancing triumphantly. And the night is still in full reign. He takes a deep breath and shuts his eyes.

Perhaps, he wouldn’t tell Crocket everything. Perhaps, their days are numbered. But for now they discuss the details of their travelling route, and whether there’s going to be much snow in the mountains. And it’s really a pointless little conversation, because neither of them have enough money to buy any warm things. They laugh awkwardly, and decide to at least get something to eat at the next tavern they pass.

And the sky is full of stars, and the sudden gust of warm wind ruffles Crocket’s hair, and she is standing right next to him, and he can’t help noticing how lovely she looks with that big naive smile, and smeared raccoon make-up and sweaty strands of hair clinging to the back of her neck-

He is forced to open his eyes, when he hears shuffling noises outside. Somebody or something is almost at the door of the cabin, and they are not even bothering to be stealthy about it. The room is dark.

He steadies his breathing and peers out the window, but the blizzard hides his attackers from view. He gets up, puts on his coat and shoes. The rotting wooden planks creak under his feet, as he walks toward the door.

He thinks he’s about as ready as he’ll ever be.

In some alternate reality, Crocket is walking ahead of him and starts whistling "As The Clouds Part". He’s following close behind.