His body came to rest on the ground far below me and never moved again. I knew the fall had killed him. Despite my injuries, I had managed to defeat the one who had murdered my parents.
Staring at his broken carcass for a few more minutes, I turned back towards the area where we had fought. I saw the stag and the deer that was attending to his injuries and proceeded over to them both.
This time, neither of them attempted to run away. We had reached an understanding with each other. They had saved my life and I wanted to do what I could to save theirs.
I slowly moved closely to the stag while holding my wound. The deer backed away slightly, allowing me to see the damage for myself. I let out a sigh of relief when I saw the hunter’s blade had been deflected by one of the stag’s ribs. I knew that he was going to live.

I reached out to touch the area around the wound, to examine it more closely. I saw the stag was going to let me touch it, and I smiled. I looked up at the deer, who simply looked back into my eyes in the same fashion.
Before I managed to touch the stag my energy level dropped too low. Toppling backwards I slumped into the roots of the largest tree in the area, still clutching my wound. The deer moved over to me, but thinking twice it turned to its mate and made sure he could walk.
I watched through ever wearying eyes the stag slowly climbing to its feet. Both he and the deer then slowly moved over to check on me. I lay in the crook of the largest roots of the tree, while the stag and the deer watched over me.

The deer moved so close to me that I dared to reach up and touch its face. Taking extreme care and using the last of my energy I managed to lift my right hand up to the deer’s face and stroke it gently.
I wanted to say ‘thank you’ to them but I did not know if they would understand it. I only hoped they would realize how I appreciated what they both did for me. Knowing there was nothing they could do and operating on the assumption they both had young to take care of, I did what I thought was best.
Exchanging glances between the deer and the stag I knew it was best if they left me. My mission was accomplished. Anything that happened to me now was immaterial.

“Go” I whispered softly to them both. I was pleased to see they understood by the way I was talking, and both turned away to leave. The deer stopped in its turn for a moment and looked into my eyes for the last time. I looked back and smiled, hoping that I could convey my gratitude with a single thought.
The deer flitted its ears and proceeded away with its mate. They both departed around behind the tree I leaned against, so I was unable to see which direction they headed.
I lay in the crook of the tree holding my wound, in relative comfort given the circumstances. I coughed suddenly and spat out a small amount of blood against the nearby soil. I did not know if I would survive to see my friends again, all I could do was hope.

Hope had got me through the last two days, and I believed hope would see me through the night. I fought to keep my eyes open no matter what. But for the split seconds my eyes were closed I saw my family.
I saw myself, alongside my parents as we had always been in the past together. Happy, free, unhurt and at peace.

I could feel myself within my dreams. On a normal night’s sleep, I rarely paid any attention to my dreams. I sat leaning against the clay face of the gully, over the body of my victim. The hunter.

“You have done well. Very well. Even I was surprised at your candor and your abilities”
I turned to face the source of the voice. His hood was down this time, but I clearly recognized it as the inner part of myself that I had debated with the night before.

“I don’t feel any different. ” I said looking at him, before turning my attention to the broken body of the hunter. I smiled not in an evil fashion but in the fashion of satisfaction.

The hooded figure stopped just to my right. I was in the same ditch that I was in my previous dream, although it had changed to match the look and feel of the gully. Because the gully had appeared to me in the dark, I could only guess what it would have looked like in the daytime.

And what I saw was it. I looked at the face of the hunter and I could see only his face. I could not see my own, or anything resembling me. I had succeeded in my mission, and nothing of me had died with him.

But I realized I had paid a terrible price. As I sat there viewing the success of my mission, conferring with my inner self I knew not if I was dying or very much alive. And now even after the fact, it still didn’t matter to me.

I saw out of the corner of my eye the hooded figure crouching down to my right. I turned once more to face him and smiled as I saw no signs of disproval or contempt on his face.

“You are dying. Did you know that?” said the hooded figure.
“Yes. Probably better than you do,” I said, suddenly bursting out laughing. I settled into a gentle smile. I had defeated the one who had caused me pain and murdered my family.

Facing death came as no great surprise or consequence to me. The hooded figure placed a hand on my shoulder as he had done before.
“Do you find it easy to simply let yourself go and die like this? You have come so far, achieved so much. You have much to live for. And I know your parents would want you to live now.”

The words of the hooded figure carried special meaning once more. Along with the message of the previous dream was a lesson. The lesson to always listen to your inner self.

“I know they would. I suppose I simply don’t have the strength left after the night. My conflict with the hunter took it out of me” I said, staring at the body before me.

The hooded figure moved and crouched in front of me, blocking my view of the hunter’s body.
“No it didn’t. You are far stronger than you think. It’s time for you to come back now. Back to life, back to your friends and of course, back to where your parents would want you to be” the figure said.

I let out a deep sigh and looked back to him. I was about to speak when I heard a voice in the distance. I listened closely as the hooded figure smiled.
“Do you recognize that voice?” said the hooded figure. I smiled a little, having convinced myself that I would never hear that voice again.

“Yes. That’s Sarah,” I said. The hooded figure smiled and placed a hand on my shoulder again.
“She loves you. You know that don’t you?” the hooded figure said. I smiled and nodded softly.
“Of course I know that. I have never understood why she does though,” I said.

The hooded figure stood up and then pulled me to my feet with surprising ease.
“Well if you ever want to find out, then live. It really is as simple as that. And stop coming here each time you have a problem. I can’t solve everything for you!” the hooded figure said with a grin.

I couldn’t help but let out a laugh. He was right, once again. Simply allowing myself to die here and now would serve no purpose at all.
The hooded figure turned away once more and began walking away from me, up the gully.

The body of the hunter faded and disappeared from my view. I knew that I was telling myself that he was defeated, and I should not think about him any longer.
The hooded figure slowly faded away into the distance. As he did, I sat down once more and made myself comfortable.

Remembering the location of my wound I placed both hands over it and closed my eyes. I slowed my breath and relaxed my body. Within seconds I could feel the warm blood on my fingers, and I knew I was waking up once more.

“Wake up! Please wake up!”
I smiled gently at the sound of her voice. I slowly opened my eyes and looked into her face. Out of the corner of my eye I could see several other people around. A mixture of police, paramedic, and fire services.

It seemed during the fight the fire was partly dislodged and set fire to a nearby tree. I knew that was the only way they could have found me. I turned my attention back to Sarah who was kneeling as close to me as possible, despite a medic taking care of my wounds.

“Hi Sarah” I managed in a whisper. I saw her smile until her teeth were showing. Several tears escaped her eyes as she did so. I could already envision in the days and weeks to come her demanding I never scare her like that again.

As I managed to focus some more, I felt a pricking sensation in my arm. I looked over and saw a blood drip. I smiled thinking about how fortunate it was I had a common blood type.

I looked back up to Sarah again, but this time I reached up and touched her face gently, before my lack of energy forced my to lower my arm. Not allowing me to give up that easily she took my hand and placed it against her cheek.

I smiled at her again.
”I guess you and Peter made it then” I said softly. Fresh tears escaped her eyes as she heard my words. She took my hand again and withdrew something from her pocket.

I felt warm metal touching the little finger on my right hand as Sarah replaced my gold signet ring in its rightful place. I let out a deep sigh as I saw it once more glistening in the morning light on my hand.

I looked up at Sarah again, who simply looked into my eyes again.
“Sarah, I don’t have the strength to pull your face down to mine so if you’re going to kiss me, please do it now” I said plainly with a smile on my face.

I almost grinned as I saw Sarah blush bright red. The medic to my right heard what I said and moved away, having taken care of my most serious injuries.
Looking to her left and right briefly, Sarah leaned down and gave me a swift kiss on the lips.

She looked at me again and I simply smiled, not saying anything else. Caressing my cheek and taking more time she leaned down once more and kissed me full on my lips.

I kissed her back as best as I could, but I was too weak to do so. It didn’t matter, for the feel of her lips was simply electric. I never thought after the previous two days I would be able to feel any joy or life again. But in those few seconds she had proved it to me.

I knew she loved me. I needed to find my heart and my place in the world, but I knew I had the right people to help me do it. I felt Sarah’s lips part from my own as she attempted to embrace me. She was, of course, unable to do so due to the nature of my injuries.

As she pulled back, I saw Peter approaching out of the corner of my eye.
“Where have you been?” I said in humor and mock disgust. Peter grinned and shook my hand in his usual fashion.

It didn’t take me long to realize I had been placed onto a stretcher before I had awoken. I turned to my right, and I saw a little further away a black sack on a stretcher.

Upon seeing it I gave the hunter a mental spit in the face, as he had given me a few hours before. Suddenly overwhelmed by fatigue and shock I leaned back into the stretcher and closed my eyes.

The last thing I saw was Sarah holding my hand, and Peter standing nearby. Despite how far I had come and what I had achieved, I needed to heal. I had much to do to get back to where I was before.

My inner voice was correct. My parents would want me to live and be happy. If nothing else, I would fulfil that simple expectation from now until the end of my time.

I can’t predict the future; I don’t know what will happen. I will take life as it comes and see how it plays out. Before I fell asleep once more the last thing, I felt was my weakened body being moved away on a stretcher.

From that point forward I would always refer to this day as the first day of the rest of my life.

THE END

Thank You for taking your precious time to read this book.

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