The warrior bent to retrieve his weapon and swept the sword before him. Sunlight flashed from the silver blade as it cut the fanged head from the viper's body and the return stroke separated the kneeling figure's head from its black robed carcass.
Overhead the storm clouds dissipated; tearing apart and scudding off, leaving dark tendrils spread over the purple sky of dusk. The crows cawed, and as one, they turned and wung their way back toward the forest from whence they came. A scream issued from the crumpled black robes at the warriors feet--the scream of a million tortured souls--as a black mist issued from the rags and shot skyward, to join the retreating crows.
The warrior fell to his knees and spread his arms, allowing the last rays of sun to warm his exhausted body. He then fell to his back and stared up at a point of light in the darkening sky--a star.
He closed his eyes and the warrior had the impression of falling…Up. Up and up he fell, carried toward the bright speck of light on a white mist. He opened his eyes to see a beautiful face looking down on him, smiling at him; deep brown eyes were framed with flowing chestnut hair. Her head was circled with a crown of mistletoe and she was dressed in a flowing white gown, while in her hand was a wooden stave with glowing green runes.
”Wake,” she whispered to him softly. He closed his eyes again to allow the sensation of floating to wash over him, carry him...
“Wake,” he heard again; not so much with his ears, but within his head.
His eyes snapped open and his mouth gasped for breath. His nose and mouth were covered with a mask from which sweet oxygen flowed.
Standing over him was a woman dressed in a long white coat, her hands crossed, one on top of the other, directly over his beating heart.
”He’s back! He’s alive!” she shouted. “Relax Mr. Fitzjanus,” she added, smiling and brushing his thin white hair back from his lined forehead.
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