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This was the last job. He knew it and had accepted it. The dagger wound in his gut was proof of that. He could feel the burn of whatever had coated the blade spread into his bloodstream. He knew that whatever it was it was not put on the blade to make his last moments peaceful.
That didn't matter though. What mattered was the bundle he carried on his back. The bundle that made soft sounds and wiggled in its carrier. What mattered was what that woman made him promise. "Save her."
Grell had been riding along the great north road on his way to the Kingdom of the Winds. He had been traveling there to give up his life of a mercenary. He wanted to seek redemption for his life of violence and greed.
No. That wasn't it. Grell never took money from those he found to be evil. Maybe he wanted to receive forgiveness for the lives he had taken.
That wasn't it either. Those lives he took had been those of evil people... or those of people that were trying to kill him.
It was because of her. It was for the one he couldn't save. The one that had shown him kindness and if he had been able to spend more time with her maybe he would of given up the sword then.
Instead she had been killed by a deeply disturbed noble. One who thought that all those in the world were for him to do as he pleased.
He was to late to save her.
The noble that had killed her though had been slain..... eventually. The time he took with him was lost to him, but the pleading he remembered. Pleading for him to just let the noble die. That memory allowed him to sleep when he was unable to find peace.
The baby shifted and began to cry.
The men that were after him would hear her... would hear them.
He lifted his hand from the wound and groaned. The flowing blood was turning black, he was feeling weaker. He didn't have long.
That didn't matter. He was almost there. She would be safe... He would be gone.
The man that had stabbed him had gotten a lucky shot in. If Grell had been ten years younger he could of parried the blade. If his sword arm hadn't started to lock up due to the untreated wound from the job before he could of countered and taken him and the four that were with him.
"Almost there." He was surprised that he had even spoke. His voice had come out strained and ended with a cough.
He wasn't wrong though. He could see the large doors of the temple. They would take in the babe. Maybe they could save him. Maybe he could fly. Maybe he could raise the dead.
He let out a choking gurgle. He meant to laugh but the blood was filling his lungs.
Soon old man. Soon.
He reached up to knock on the large wooden doors, but collapsed against it.
Several ragged breaths later the door opened and a priestess gazed down at the broken form before her. She had thought to shove the door shut but was stopped by the quiet giggling of the babe on his back.
"Save her." Grell groaned. "Mother dead. Bandits..."
The priestess nodded and took the bundle from his back. With a nod she shut the doors, the loud clunk of a wooden bar across the door.
Grell smiled softly to himself as he lay on the cold ground. Tiny freezing flakes of snow falling upon him.
"They can still find her."
Grell's eyes flew open. If they found his body here they could then take her from the temple. They would hand her over and his promise would go unkempt.
He pulled out his longsword, Urd, and used it to help push him to his feet. He kept from looking at his feet. He didn't want to see the pool of black blood that had collected under him.
He didn't need to see that. He needed to get to his feet. He needed to keep his promise.
Grell staggered back the way he came and did not waste his time staying quiet. He wanted them to find him. He needed them to find him.
They found him in a clearing, leaning on his longsword. They encircled him. The man that had stabbed him pulled his dagger to finish this old man.
"You know i could let you die here." The man called out to Grell. "It doesn't matter. The girl will die. Whomever you gave her to will die."
He smiled and shook his head. "I am already dead."
The man with the dagger nodded to a man to Grell's right. They were going to have the man kill him, here and now. They thought he had only one sword... and one good hand.
The man to his right brought down his blade, ready to take his head at the shoulders.
Grell used his short sword, Mugen, and stabbed the man in the chest. As the man fell Grell removed the cowel that had hid his face from the world since he had left home long ago.
"I am Grell Grainstaff. I fight to protect. And I die here for her." He growled, blood dripping from the corners of his mouth.
The man to his right fell dead as a man to his left charged him.
He felt the blade enter his back and out his chest. His dark blood flowing faster from his wounds.
"NO!" He screamed as he lifted his longsword and cut the man from navel to neck, spliting him nearly in two.
The man with the dagger took a step back as Grell stood up. His deformed face was nothing compaired to the scars and wounds he had suffered throughout his life. The sword in his back stuck hard and made loud scraping sounds on his ribs as he breathed.
"You should be dead!" The man with the dagger shouted out and in desperation tossed the dagger at Grell.
He didn't dodge. He let the blade sink into his shoulder.
"I am dead." Grell groaned as he lifted his longsword with his left. "And so are you."
**********************************************************************
His body was found in a clearing. A wound to his gut, shoulder, and a sword impaling him through the chest and back. A look of peace on his face.
The bodies of the King's guards were around him. All slain from how it looked by the old man in the tatterd cloak.
The little princess would never know of the man who had saved her from her uncle's killers.
And that is how Grell would have wanted it.
All stories have a beginning... a middle... and an end... 
This is an end.
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May 20
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