Blood and sweat drip into his eyes. Overhead the Sun burns mercilessly, and its light nearly blinds him. His heartbeat pounds in his temples; his labored breathing sends waves of hot pain through his chest. The battle has moved on, but he can still hear the clash of metal on metal, on wood, on flesh and bone. He can still hear the cries of the enemy, and of his men. He struggles to sit up but the pain is too overwhelming, his body too broken. His vision begins to fade; the sounds of the battle grow dim. Suddenly he is sinking into the darkness, going numb, falling away from the world and the pain, away from his burdens and his obligations and his fears. He is falling into darkness and yet at the same time a voice is calling to him, calling his name, drawing him back into the agony he wants so desperately to hide from. He is ripped from the darkness by this voice and forced back into his battered, aching body. “You cannot go yet, Tanim,” says the voice, deep and cool like darkness. “It is not your time.” He slowly opens his eyes, squinting at the bright sunlight, and sees kneeling beside him a pale, beautiful creature, almost more air and light than substance. His breath is stolen by this specter, and feebly he asks of it, “W-who are you? What do you want with me? I was dying, I was finally free… Why did you bring me back to this horrid place?”. The being gazes down on him through deep black eyes, a pitying smile on its perfect lips. It brushes the hair from his sunburned forehead and lays a light hand on his chest, on the place where the armor is split and twisted, embedded deep in his flesh. “I am… your companion. Your protector, in a sense.” It caresses his cheek gently. “I brought you back because it is not your time yet, my beloved. You are meant for so much more than this. You must live. You must keep fighting. You will be triumphant, and you will lead your people into glory. So you must stay.” Tears well up in his faded eyes. “But I’m so tired…” The spirit nods sadly. “I know that, Tanim. But you have no choice in this.” It leans down and kisses him once, lightly, lovingly, on the lips. “But do not grieve, dearest. I will be watching over you, and I will always be at your side. I will never leave you.” His vision begins to fade again. The hand on his cheek goes cold, then seems to disappear. The sound of approaching footsteps reaches him, and the voices of his men calling “Captain?”.

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