How do I even try and come up with a good intro for this picture that my wonderful sister Emily sent in? There is so much emotion in this woman’s face that it honestly freaked me out a little bit when I first saw it. How do you come up with a story that can accurately portray that kind of emotion? As my parents can attest to since they are in town visiting me this week, I have spent long hours staring at this picture and trying to craft a story. I began three times, throwing out the first two attempts. I still can’t say I’m entirely thrilled with what I did come up with, but at least I can honestly say I tried! Also, I’d love to hear from you all what kind of story comes to mind when you see this picture– let me know in the comments below!
Here’s ‘Fire and Wood’:
Ives of Targue stared across the battlefield, the familiar scent of sweat, fear, and blood reaching his nostrils. Death on full display. Roughly 200 of his own men were lifeless in that open field. Their shields, stamped with the hawk in flight, laid across their bodies. Later, they would be properly buried, but for now, the shield coverings would have to do. There was a treaty to be signed, one that he had been waiting sixty long years for.
Ives’ younger brother, Dain, rode up on his brown stallion. It had been ten years since the man had found his age mate, but it was only really after the battles that Ives saw how different he and his brother were becoming from each other. The fatigue that set in after hard combat showed the wrinkles that were starting to gather along the Dain’s eyes, and the glint of sweat made the specks of grey in his black beard stand out more clearly.
“The Eles are sending over a representative,” Dain said, a small smile tugging at the side of his mouth as he pulled off his helmet and set it on the saddle in front of him.
“Today, our revenge,” Ives replied. “Too long have we waited for this. Too long has our family’s death gone unavenged. No more.”
“A revenge over sixty years in the making. I am ready for a break from all of this. I wonder, though, if you will even know what to do with life when this is over.”
“Wait to find my age mate so I can die. One-hundred and twelve years is long enough to live. I’m ready for the rest one can only find in death.”
“I, too, believed as you. When you find her, though, you will hope death is still a long way off.”
Ives shook his head at his brother’s words. While Dain was one of the fiercest and bravest of the Targue warriors, he had a sentimental heart that could not be comprehended. Ives knew only war. He only cared to know war. Anything more would be simply a means to an end. His end.
“They’re coming!” one of the lookouts yelled.
Turning his mount, Ives waited for the representatives to draw near.
The man who came to a halt on a worn and underfed stead in front of Ives had dried blood smeared across his face and an arm clutched to his abdomen. His eyes were clouded with pain, his teeth gritted in suppressed agony.
“We have come,” he ground out in the tongue of Eles, “to negotiate the terms of our surrender.”
“Very well,” Ives replied in Eles, “but we will only negotiate in Targuelin.”
The Eles man’s nostrils flared with checked anger as he said, “We do not have anyone among us who can speak Targuelin. All of you can speak in Eles.”
“For decades, the Eles have suppressed my people, forcing them to learn a language not their own and use only it to speak while in public. Now, it is your turn to understand just how humiliating that is. If you do not present me someone who can speak in Targuelin by nightfall, we will destroy every last one of you.”
For the space of three or four breaths, the man sat motionless. Finally, he blew out a long breath.
“Very well. I suppose I will have to find someone.”
Ives was beginning to wonder if he really would have to wipe out the last of the Eles warriors when the lookouts once again alerted the camp to the approach of the Eles representative. The man looked even worse than before, his body weight leaning far enough to one side that he was dangerously close to toppling to the rocky ground. Behind him, on an equally poor looking mount, was a woman, one who had taken part in the battle.
A bandage was tied around her right forearm, and the rigors of war were etched in her face. Her grey eyes were deep set and tumultuous, black circles under them indicating exhaustion. Mud and sweat intermingled on her skin, and the faded brown shirt under her chainmail was ripped and filthy, as were her leather pants.
“You speak Targuelin?” Ives asked in Eles.
“Well enough,” she answered in Targuelin.
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Ives felt an explosive pain rip through his body, as if a dozen arrows had pierced him at once. The sudden rigidity of his muscles caused his normally still and controlled mare to sidestep under him. Fighting down the bile rising to the back of his throat and a moan from escaping his lips, he swallowed hard and fixed the woman with a steely gaze.
“Well enough?” Ives also switched to Targuelin, trying to keep any hint of pain out of his voice and his expression neutral. “We will be negotiating a treaty. If you do not interpret correctly, you could be leading to the destruction of many lives.”
“Very well. One of my men will take you to the negotiating table. I will be there shortly.”
The woman gave a brief dip of her head, then followed her guide.
When she was gone, Ives remained unmoving for a moment, trying to collect himself.
Dain nudged his horse forward to come alongside his brother.
“Her?” he murmured, an odd tone to his voice that Ives had never heard before.
“What are you talking about?” Ives tried to hide what had happened from his brother.
“I saw that expression. The way Fay moved under you. Pain, right? The worst you’ve ever experienced in your life.”
“Let it be.”
“Ives, you just found her. How am I to let it be?”
“As I said before, I’m ready to start aging. That is a welcome change. However, I do not intend to pursue any woman, much less an Eles.”
“You know what that means. The rest of your life spent in a miserable loneliness.”
Shooting his brother a warning look, Ives turned Fay and moved for the negotiating tent.
“In the simplest terms, we will take hold of your lands and crops,” Ives said once the negotiations were underway. “Your children will be conscripted at the age of fourteen. You will only have access to the shared streams on specific days. Taxes will be collected twice a year. You may not have any leader among your people other than the Targue. Any failure to comply with these conditions will result in annihilation.”
The woman looked down at the paper in front of her that listed the full extent of the treaty conditions. Her face was tight, lips pressed into a hard line. Ives tried not to notice anything beyond that. Not the way one piece of flyaway hair laid against her right cheek, or how her eyes seemed eerily alive in the shadows of the flickering candles. They were things he wouldn’t have ever taken stock of before. He knew it was the fact she was his age mate that made new details stand starkly out. He’d fight those distractions, though. They did no good other than to dampen his abilities as a warrior and leader of the Targue.
“Why should we fear annihilation when you are already condemning us to a slow death?” she asked with heat.
“The things you read on that paper are almost identical to what the Targue have endured for years. We survived. Do you mean to tell me your Eles are so much weaker than us that they will fade away from these demands? You should be thanking me. Under these strict rules my people were still able to train up an army to defeat you with. I should enact harsher conditions so that I can rest assured the Eles will never be able to rise up again.”
She shook her head.
“I have been easing up those conditions for years, and you know it. You say you were able to amass an army despite your harsh living conditions? Who was it that banned child conscription and thus made it so that you could get that army together?” She stopped herself and took a deep breath. “War. Conquering. Fighting,” she said. “To what end and purpose? If you look at history, at our ancestors, what has it gained them? At the price of a few thousand lives a small piece of land is gained, only to be exchanged at the price of a few thousand lives later on.”
“Says the woman whose own father paid that price.”
The woman inhaled sharply as silence fell over the small group gathered in the tent.
“Wait,” began Dain, “This is—“
“Avice of Eles. Daughter of Alan of Eles, the man that ripped Targue apart. I believe she’s also known as the Timeless Princess. Did you not notice her lack of translation for the representative? She’s making these treaty decisions on her own. And she bares the resemblance of the entire family.”
“Why would she ever come here?”
“Because,” Avice spoke up, “there is no one else in our troops who speaks Targue. It was come out or watch everyone be destroyed.” She looked at Ives. “You are right. My father did pay the price of lives. Because a Targue before him did. Even so, I have been trying to slowly make things right.”
“And will you be the one who completely stops the cycle of vengeful violence now? Will you be the one who decides the price is too high and remains under subjugation? I do not think you are so self-sacrificing.”
“It is on your head as much as mine. Let the Eles plant and eat what they grow. Let our children become adults before they are conscripted. Let our flocks water at the common streams whenever they need to. Begin the acts that will ensure peace for years to come.”
“What good does our victory mean, then?”
“You rule. You set the laws, the standards. You take taxes. Own land. Can’t that be enough?”
“No!” Ives slammed his fist down on the table. “It is enough when the Targue subject your people to the same things we had to endure for sixty years!”
“Then the exchange will continue.”
“So be it! You will sign that treaty, or you will watch your people and your cities burn!”
Avice glared at him, the paper in her hands shaking, betraying the anger she felt. She snatched up the knife sitting on the table and dug it into her thumb, then pressed her bloodied fingerprint into the paper.
When the paper had been taken from her, Ives said, “You will remain in this camp until the morning. If you try to leave, you will die.” Then he stormed out of the tent.
Ives knew that what Avice of Eles said was true. Eventually, someone was going to have to decide enough was enough or they’d fight each other until there was no one left. It couldn’t be him, though. He had lived too long, fought too hard to suddenly become a peacemaker.
There were heavy footsteps behind him, and he knew it was Dain.
“Your age mate is, not only an Eles, but the daughter of Alan?” Dain said. “I once thought you were the luckiest man in the land, but I’m not so sure anymore.”
“It doesn’t mean anything. I have begun aging, and that is what I wanted. You think I will be miserable without my age mate by my side, but that’s only because no one in our family’s history has ever tried it. I know I will be fine. Let it be.”
He brushed past Dain and went to issue guard orders for their forced guest.
As Ives was heading for his tent after giving those orders, he spotted four of his best men standing along the ridge that overlooked the battlefield. At first, their positioning had him on edge. What was it in the field below that had garnered their attention? But then he saw the smaller figure of Avice just beyond them, her legs carrying her back and forth along the ridgeline in an agitated state of pacing.
Ives was tired. It had been a long day. Night would soon fall, and all he needed was to crawl into bed and sleep until sunup. No matter how he tried to convince himself of that, though, the pull toward Avice was strong. It was the age mate conundrum, and if he intended to spend his life alone, he would have to learn to fight it. Yet even with that reasoning, he found his body moving her direction of its own will. When he got to the ridge, he motioned the guards further away.
When Avice saw him, she took angry strides toward him, the chains protecting her torso clanging together. She did not stop until she was inches away, encroaching on his space. An intimidation tactic, but a move that was having the opposite effect of what she had intended.
“Why am I not allowed to leave until the morning?” she demanded.
Trying to keep his breathing even, Ives moved around her and went to the ridge’s highest point so he could pretend his interest was in studying the activity below.
“My men are collecting our dead,” he said. “Lest the Eles get the urge to try something while those men are undefended, I’d like them to know I have you in my possession.”
“Try something? The Eles are beaten. Wounded. Starving.”
“So you say.” Ives turned toward her, knowing he needed to squelch some of that fire in her. “Would your father not be ashamed that you have let your people fall so far?”
“He’s been dead for twenty years. It is hard enough to deal with the living. I will not take into account the opinions of the deceased.”
“You mother must be dead, too, right? Isn’t that how your ruling bloodlines work? You age until you meet your age mate, then you stop until your other half dies? If your father’s dead, it only follows that she is, too.” When Avice remained stonily quiet, Ives continued. “Not you, though. They say you haven’t aged a day in years even though there is no age mate to be found. The Timeless Princess. She needs no man in order to stay frozen in her youth.” He smirked. “How old are you, anyway?”
“I have passed my one-hundredth year.”
“Impressive. Tell me honestly, though, you have an age mate, don’t you. You just keep him shut away so no one will ever discover that you’re not so different after all. Only this charade can’t last forever. He’ll die eventually, and then everyone will know the truth.”
“You do know how to wag that tongue of yours, don’t you?”
It was not the response Ives wanted. How could he get her to spill something about the timelessness she was known for? If she had an age mate, well, it would be very interesting. As far back as could be remembered, when a member of his family found an age mate, that mate became theirs. A marriage would soon follow. The happy couple would live out the rest of their lives in unified bliss. Ives had no intention of ever following through with any kind of union. If he did, though, he couldn’t help but wonder what the outcome would be if his age mate, Avice, had already found her lifelong partner in somebody else.
“Do you know about how my own family’s ruling bloodline works?” he asked, clasping his hands behind his back.
Avice sighed and began her pacing again.
“Of course,” she said. “You mature until your twentieth year, then remain frozen in time until you find your age mate. At that point, you begin aging again. The opposite of my family’s lines.”
“Right. You know, I think I like the way our bloodlines work better. You are cursed to spend at least a few decades alone once your age mate dies. Having known what it was to love and be loved, you’ll spend lonely years with only your memories.”
“At least my ageless years are spent in ignorance of such a relationship.”
“And it sound like you’ve been very happy with your single life thus far,” she said sardonically.
The way she said it, the fire in her eyes, even the tone of voice, held him in a moment’s spell. He watched her face, unable to look away, taking in every detail from the small scar along her right temple to the brown spot on the ridge of her nose.
“What a look?” Avice said, drawing him out of the spell.
“I was wondering how to best kill you,” Ives lied.
Avice crossed her arms over her chest and did not look at all alarmed.
“If you are going to kill me,” she said, “I suggest you do it quickly to spare us all more trouble than necessary. Do whatever makes you feel better if it means you will be more lenient to my people.”
“We shall see.”
Ives wanted to kill her. No, he wanted to want to kill her. He’d always imagined finding Alan’s family. Of destroying them as the ruthless man had destroyed Ives’ own family. His plans, though, at least where that was concerned, were failing. Because Avice was his age mate, he would never be able to kill her. Even if he could plan for someone else to do it, he’d never follow through on giving the order. He was most cursed of all men. He’d have to settle for making the Eles as miserable as possible instead.
The next morning, when he walked out of his tent, Ives had every intention of giving the order for Avice to be sent back to the Eles. When he opened his mouth to tell his men, though, the words would not come out. Because of who she was to him, sending her away was tantamount to sending half of himself to the Eles camp.
“What is it?” asked Dain, coming alongside him.
Ives shook his head and said, “She needs to go back to her camp.”
“Avice of Eles?”
“But you can’t give that order, can you?”
“No. You should.”
“I think not. You may be ok with spending the rest of your life in misery, but I cannot support that.”
“So what, then? We keep her here? For how long?”
“As long as it takes?”
“And you should be the one to tell her she’s staying. Don’t be a coward and send one of the men into harm’s way.” Dain gave his half smile and walked away.
“You will not be going back to your camp today,” Ives told Avice about an hour later.
It had taken him that long to muster up enough courage. He could lead the charge into heavy battle, fight with the fiercest of foes. Yet telling her those few small words was one of the hardest things he’d ever done.
“What?” There was surprise in her voice and something else. Panic? “Why?”
“Call it demoralization.”
“My people need me. They need to see that I’m ok.”
“Don’t do this. Let me go back.”
Ives spent the rest of the day dodging Avice in his own encampment while simultaneously trying to catch glimpses of her. He kept himself occupied with his generals, planning the strategy for taking over the cities of Eles and devising a new system of rule for the soon to be occupied land.
Dain laughed every time he saw his slinking brother.
“The great war general Ives of Targue, never knowing fear, never bowing to any man, now hiding from his woman. I am glad I lived to see this day!”
“I will kill you,” Ives growled.
The next morning, it was Avice who came to find him.
“May I go now?” she asked.
Ives shook his head and said, “One more day.”
“One more day? How many ‘one more days’ will I have to hear? I’ll come back. Just let me go so they can see me. Then I’ll come back.”
“You expect me to take you at your word? You’d probably run away. Leave your people in the dust and seek your own safety.” And that would hurt, but he kept that thought to himself. It was getting harder and harder to convince himself that the lonely life was what he wanted.
“You know I wouldn’t do that!”
“I know nothing of you.”
Avice pushed a hand through her hair, grabbing at the roots and gave a yell of frustration.
“I know,” she said, breathing hard, “that you feel as if you can’t let me go. That you feel like it’s sending yourself away. I know that. But you have to trust me!”
Ives felt his heart skip a beat in his chest and he studied her.
“Can’t let you go?” he asked. There was a moment where they both stared each other down, then Ives asked, “Do you know?”
“That you’ve started aging? Yes.”
“But do you know?”
Avice looked down at the ground, then back at him.
“That I’m the reason? Yes, I know that, too.”
“I should destroy you.”
“That will never happen.”
“One more day.”
He turned his back on Avice and walked away.
She knew she was his greatest weakness, yet her request was simply that she return to her camp long enough to be seen. Because the request was too simple, too innocent sounding, he knew it could not be trusted. He would not allow her to talk him into anything simply because she was his age mate.
That evening, an alarm went up throughout the camp. Avice of Eles had slipped past her guards and was making a run for it. When Ives heard the news, his chest tightened in anxiety, a feeling he had never experienced before. Without a word, he ran for Fay, jumped on her bareback, and tore out of camp. The horse’s long strides took him down the rocky hill and onto the withering grass of the plains.
She hadn’t gotten far. Only two miles or so out, but she had somehow managed to get a knife, which she was clutching in her hand as she ran.
Ives spurred Fay on faster so that he was able to get in front of Avice and cut off her mad dash. She tried to go around him, but Fay, an exceptionally well trained war horse, knew what her master was doing and managed to follow the woman’s movements.
“Move!” Avice yelled up at Ives.
“Why would I do that?”
“I’m going back to my camp!”
“Not if I don’t let you.”
“I told you I’d come back!”
“What if I don’t believe you?”
For the first time, Ives knew he had allowed what he was thinking and feeling to make its way into his voice. The fear was there. The worry that she’d leave, and he’d never seen her again. So much for his attempts at autonomy. So much for his staunch belief he could fight the pull of an age mate.
The fury fell away from Avice’s features, and she faced away from him toward the direction of her camp, looking to be deep in thought. Ives wondered what about, and if she meant what she had said about returning.
“Why do you think I want to go back so badly?” she finally asked.
“Two possible reasons. Maybe one of them or maybe both. You want to check on your people or you want to run away.”
Sighing, she turned to him.
“Neither,” she said. “If I don’t go back, they’ll rally. They’ll think you’ve killed me out of revenge, and it would give them renewed vigor.”
“Are you trying to tell me you don’t want that?”
“That is exactly what I’m telling you. It would mean more deaths. Deaths on both sides, but mostly for the Eles. I don’t want that. I have signed your treaty with my blood, and it would hold up if you let me go back and show them I’m alive.”
“You say they will have renewed vigor, but…” Ives’ words trailed off as he saw the faint cloud of dust rising from the direction of the Eles camp, a sign that someone was on horseback, heading for them.
Avice turned her head to follow his gaze and gave a small gasp.
“I told you!” she hissed at him. “Go!”
He could let her go. Let her be taken in by the Eles, but then he might not see her again. In the last few days, he had come to realize that was not something he wanted. In fact, it was the furthest thing from it.
Nudging Fay in the sides, he moved toward Avice and reached down far enough that he could get a tight hold on her and yank her up on the horse with him.
“What are you doing?” She flailed around, trying to get out of his grip.
“Taking you with me.” He urged Fay into a full out gallop.
With two bodies to carry, though, Fay was losing ground to the pursuing rider. Even so, Ives felt confident that they’d soon run into a group of his guards that would have come out behind him in search of the escaped Avice.
They didn’t make it that far. Something slammed into Ives’ back, piercing through the skin and into his body. An arrow. He groaned and slumped forward, then felt himself leaning to the side. He was going to fall, and there was nothing he could do to stop. He released his hold on Avice so he wouldn’t take her with him.
As he fell, Avice screamed something. Lying on his belly, Ives looked up and saw that she had tugged Fay to a halt and was spinning the horse back around.
“Don’t move!” she yelled at him as she flew by him and toward the approaching rider.
“Don’t,” he said, his voice weak. It wouldn’t have mattered if he had been able to yell, though. He knew she would do whatever she wanted.
He rolled to his side to watch her.
The Eles warrior slowed as Avice approached him, but still had his bow ready in his hand. He stopped when Avice was a few feet away, and the two shared an animated conversation. Ives wondered if she was giving order for him to be finished off, but somehow, he knew that wouldn’t be the case. For some odd reason, she was trying to save him.
Despite whatever words she said, the warrior moved his mount past her and approached Ives, Avice yelling at him as he did.
“Don’t Rez!” Avice and the warrior had come close enough to be heard. “If you kill him, you are condemning us all to death!”
“Without him,” the man called Rez said vehemently, “they will be lost. Scattered. It will be a perfect time to strike.”
“No! They are strong. Much stronger than us. Organized. His death will not stop them.”
Rez dismounted and pulled another arrow from his quiver as he walked purposefully toward Ives.
“Don’t do this!” Avice pled again.
The man was no longer listening, his eyes fixed on his target as he strung the arrow.
Ives watched him wordlessly, pain radiating through his back, refusing to utter a word against his approaching death. He was a warrior and there was no shame in dying a warrior’s death. That way he wouldn’t have to worry about age mates, or the fact that his was the greatest of enemies. He wouldn’t be plagued by half of him being drawn to her and the other half fighting to stay away. He wouldn’t have to worry about death from old age or disease. Yes, he decided, a warrior’s death was the best way to go.
Avice ran up to the Eles warrior and grabbed his arm.
“Rez, no! For the last time, stop! I am your leader, and I’m ordering you!”
Rez shook her roughly off and pushed her to the ground. Ives felt a rush of defensive anger well up in him.
“If you cannot see what the best course of action is,” said Rez, “then I will show it to you!”
As he strung the bow again, meeting Ives’ eyes with a victorious smirk, Avice pushed herself up and flung herself at the man. She wrapped her arm around his neck and threw them both back so that they fell to the ground. Through vision blurring with pain, Ives saw them struggle. He tried to get himself up to help her, but it was a useless endeavor.
The two Eles rolled and then Rez went still while lying on top of Avice. Blood began to drip to the ground on both sides of the bodies. After a few seconds of stillness, the bodies began to move as Avice pushed Rez off of her. The knife she had been holding while running across the plains was hilt deep in the left side of the warrior’s chest.
Avice scrambled to her feet and looked down at the dead man, her limbs shaking with the realization of what she had done. Despite the ripping pain in his back, Ives’ attention was focused solely on her, gratitude that she was alive and uninjured rolling in waves through him.
“You killed him. An Eles,” he murmured.
She nodded her head slowly up and down, then turned haunted eyes on him.
“I couldn’t let him kill you,” she said. “I told you to let me go back you fool! I told you this would happen!”
Ives watched her a moment longer, then the pain and weakness overcame him and a groan escaped him. When she heard it, Avice’s eyes went wide, and she was on the ground by him. Using her strength to turn him on his side, she gently took hold of his head and rested it in her lap.
With all the air that seemed to be in her lungs, she began screaming for help.
Soon, the sound of an approaching horse could be heard.
“Ives!” It was Dain.
“He’s badly hurt,” Avice said in a sob. “Get help!” A moment passed, then Avice yelled again. “Go and get help!”
“I can’t leave you with him!” The fear and frustration was clear in Dain’s voice as he leaned forward in his saddle.
“She’s…” Ives had to take a deep breath. “She’s fine. Go.”
There was another quiet moment, then Dain gave a yell of frustration and spun his stallion around.
Avice pulled him in closer and placed a hand on his cheek. “Help is coming,” she said. “Hold on.”
His eyelids were beginning to feel so heavy, and he closed them against the weight.
“No!” Avice shook him. “You can’t die! Not now. Not when we’re finally together!”
The pain was starting to spread from his back through the rest of his body, making it hard to breathe. He had to know, though, had to ask about her words. The meaning behind them. He forced his eyes back open.
“You and I are meant to be together. Sixty years ago, I was there. That day my father went to Targue. The day your family…” She trailed off, her eyes taking on a faraway look as moisture gathered in them. “I had hidden myself among his soldiers so I could go with him. I saw when you were dragged out of your home,” she continued. “You said something to my father. I don’t even remember what it was. All I remember is the pain when you spoke. Red hot pain streaking through me. It felt as if time itself stood still in that moment, and it’s continued to feel that way ever since.” When Ives tried to make sense of her words, she gave a sad, sob-laced laugh and said, “You’re my age mate you ignorant fool.”
“Timeless Princess. Because of…because of me?”
She nodded as the tears began to slide down her face, and Ives couldn’t stop a small smile at the revelation.
“Sixty years,” she said, “knowing my age mate was a sworn enemy. Trying to do whatever I could to slowly bridge the gap between our peoples. Hoping for a day of peace when I could finally come find you, to hopefully see the realization and change in you when I first spoke to you.” She shook her head. “Then, you brought your army. When I read the treaty three days ago, I wanted to hate you. To resent you for ruining everything I had been working so hard far. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t hate you. All I could think about was getting back to my camp so that I could make sure the Eles did not try to attack out of retaliation. It was for their good, but also for yours. I couldn’t bear the thought of you being in danger again. You wouldn’t let me go, though!’
“I didn’t…I didn’t know.” He swallowed. “Thank you.”
“Coming to me. Helping me…age.”
She readjusted her grip on him.
“We are fire and wood, you and I,” she said quietly. “When we come together, you begin to die and disintegrate to ash while I grow stronger, live longer, fuller, brighter. I know, because of me, your life has begun its course toward death. But I want that course to be very long and very full. With me. So you see, you can’t go now. You have to fight to live!”
Ives thought back to what Dain had said. About how finding an age mate made a person want death to still be far away. In that moment, Ives was aware of how true that was. Even as life seeped out of his body, even as he felt the pain and what it meant, he wanted desperately to live. Suddenly, one-hundred and twelve years did not seem like nearly enough time. Not when she was around.
“Will you try?” Avice asked. Leaning down over him, she brushed her lips against his. When she lifted her head, she said, “Will you try to live? Will you try to keep on breathing? Even if it’s just for me?”
Ives was able to muster enough energy to move his head up and down.
“I’ll try,” he said.
“I promise I’ll try.”