HEN THE SUN GRASPED THE AIR like a dying man and his final deed, when its light seemed to carry clouds unevenly against brilliant hues of violet, he could understand the brevity of life.
Of course, you cannot do it, fool, the freelanser mingled with his fear of failing and spat it on the ground. The darkest night of his life was approaching briskly, and even faster, approached his fate.
He stood outside a cavern. The stony mass jutted out from the side of a hill like hardened mud—practically formed the day before. However, the cavern itself did not matter to him. He feared most what was inside of it and in his mind there raced uncertainties and decisions faster than any warrior he ever fought in his life. His right foot dawdled toward the cave and then back again and even when it took stance ahead, his left foot managed to stay behind. The young man stood there for a while. He saw the world one last time before it would change forever in his young eyes.
Over the high-pitched chimes of morning songbirds and cackle of insects, it was hard to imagine that the freelanser was close to battle. In the peculiar woodland, brilliantly purple hopeflower grew mighty, and on the horizon, stone formations sprung up against the sunset like petrified men.
He adorned himself in the cheapest armor that he hoped the strongest winds could not undo. He bought it days ago, from a beggar, a salesperson, and so far, it had lasted. His padding was leather, emblazoned with an obscure symbol devoid of credibility and faded, the color of rotting flesh and more cracked than the barren lands of the far north. His sandals peeled at their outer soles and his toenails lied grubby and blackened by the earth that bedraggled them from traveling leagues upon leagues by foot. His exposed shoulders were bruised and burned and a figure drawn of lightning lit certain parts of his skin. The freelanser would call them his injuries and a disciplined and proud warrior would flaunt them as glorious scars. The pig leather and bronze gauntlets latched on his hands shined on bright days, but they hid even more bites, scratches, and dried blood on his knuckles.
Yet, a face, his own, he too would bring to battle. His glare was clean and cared for. He was more handsome than any stolen mirror or woman could ever convince him. His hair was thin, cut short, and you could see past each dark and prickly strand on his grey scalp. In the distance, he looked as though he wore a helmet. A helm darker than the night—darker than the obsidian knife that removed a stub of his thumb when he was twelve years old. His eyes were green and dark as flattened grass, of seen horror and torn youth. And ever since, his skin was always pale. He saw the moon was pale too, but never was it as pale the night a beast ate every child in a hoary farming village. He was sixteen then, and he never forgot the blood that dripped off every front step of every wooden hut. The young man was deserving of his external...