The End

-by Marinda

(( I haven't proof-read this, and it is a rough draft, but I just can't bring myself to read it again.

These are all beautiful, thank you all so much. I cried.

This is just one of infinite possiblities. It isn't very good, but I had to write something. I don't write :) ))

Marinda woke early, the sun not yet showing itself above the snowy peaks of Winterspring. The nightmares had been light that night, and she had got a good couple of hours sleep. She carefully swung her legs out of the bed and stood, wobbling only slightly.

She shuffled to the cold fireplace. Cleaning out the ashes of the night before and setting a new fire took longer and longer these days. The swelling of her finger joints was worsening, and the pain it brought when she tried to use her hands was even overtaking her perpetual headache.

The fire lit, she shuffled to her favorite chair and sat, feeling more weary than usual. Winterspring was in the grip of deepest winter, and it was cold.

How long had she lived in this house? It was built in the dwarven style, embedded into a secluded hillside, hewn from the solid granite of this region. It was many years since she had retired from the Bone Splinter, handing back her Exarch's stone.

Her headaches and dreams had become worse, the ones that started after setting foot in... in... she couldn't remember. She became distracted, lack of sleep slowing her reactions and spoiling her judgement. She tried to keep her friends healthy during battle, but she found her self staring into the distance, voices shouting at her for aid. Then friends died.

They were all very supportive. They assured her that she was fine, that she was strong, that she need not worry, but she couldn't let it go on. New blood was joining the Splinter all the time. Strong, bright, quick, Priests brimming over with the Light. She just wasn't needed any more.

She still remembered the day vividly. She took Hardishane aside, told him she was retiring. He tried to stop her, of course, he had to make the effort, always the diplomat. She handed him her stone, and set off for the snows of Winterspring, the snows that were home to her. With the aid of some old friends from the other continent she had built the home that would be hers for the next sixty years.

They had visited her regularly, at first. Hardishane, Alerca, Emm, Lukaine, Hukari and more. Even Morticai, Light bless the miserable old fool!

She laughed, which quickly turned into a racking cough.

Time passed, and people move on. The Splinter had grown to a great size, Hardishane had told her. It was taking up more and more of his time. The boy was very capable and was helping as much as he could, but she knew Hardishane too well, he couldn't delegate the care of his Splinter to any other.

Alerca. she didn't know what happened to Alerca. She suddenly stopped coming, and Hardishane avoided the topic if it came up, and she eventually stopped asking. Allie was a wonderful person, she deserved to be happy.

Emm did well for herself. She established a trading company, amassing quite the fortune in the process. Always busy, was Emm.

Lukaine became strong, always fighting for what was right, and yet always doubting herself.

Hukari? He retired to his lodge, on an island in the cape of Stranglethorn, with Rukra and their fine strong children. He would chuckle in his way and would tell her that she must come visit. She laughed back and agreed, of course, but never did.

Morticai? Well that is a story for another time.

The last she saw was Hardi, must be twenty years ago now. He looked harried, his hearthstone buzzing constantly in his pocket, many voices demanding attention. He had only stayed for fifteen minutes or so, then had made his apologies and left, his tea untouched.

The only people she saw were Grizzleshank and his son, delivering her supplies from Everlook. Her pension from the Splinter covered the costs.

She was eighty years old as of last month. She had missed Winter Vale. She didn't celebrate it, not on her own.

She blinked, opening her eyes. Blast, she had almost dozed off. The fire had gone out, the wood untouched by flame. She hadn't set it properly, the kindling turning to ash before the larger pieces had caught. She went to push herself up from her chair to relight it, but try as she might she didnt seem to have the strength to lift herself. Light, she was tired! Maybe a short nap would see her right.

She let her eyes close, and drifted off to the first peaceful, dreamless sleep in years.

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