The crow’s call broke the still air as she stood, looking at him and he returned her gaze. His shoulders were slumped now, the proud way he carried himself once before gone and his beard was long, colored with whites. His eyes, his brilliant blue eyes that always held the hint of adventure were now dimmed by age and all that he had seen, all that he had lost. To her, he was still her father but to the world he was the greatest warrior of their time. She saw him now for what he was, a weak and old man who had walked many paths but it was all over now, he had resigned himself to death.
“You can’t go,” she spoke quietly and he remained silent, his eyes studying her. The eye color they shared but the stories behind his were his own, there were still more to be told for her.
“I don’t control this,” he said and she shook her head, stepping forward. She saw him tense, he feared her touch for it may sway him in her opinion and she fell back.
“You control your destiny, you can stop this,” she said and he paused again, as always in thought. He sighed, stepping forward and reaching out a hand, cupping her face in his palm. His hand was warm, rough but familiar, the hand that guided her throughout life. She couldn’t imagine it gone, she wrapped her hands around his wrist and closed her eyes, trying to remember this very moment.
“None of us control our destiny in the end, there are some things that are just meant to be and this is one of them,” he said and her eyes opened.
“What will I do?” She asked and he smiled sadly at her. She had always been his shadow, the one running behind him and the one he would thrust high in the air, always there to catch her.
“You will go on, you will find your way and you will tell my story to all the children you will bear,” he said. “You are my story, don’t forget that,” he said and she closed her eyes again, trying to will the tears to stay behind her lids but one fell. She felt his thumb wipe it away and she opened her eyes again, he was looking at her sadly. There were tears in his eyes now as well and for a moment they stood silently. “You will not fail me, I have taught you too well and when your brothers are busy warring with each other for all that I left behind, you will rise above them, you will know what to do,” he said and leaned forward, pressing his chapped lips against her forehead “I love you, Astridr,” he said and she opened her eyes, smiling as best she could.
“I love you, father,” she said and he smiled, nodding.
“I’ve never doubted that,” he replied and she pushed herself against his chest, he froze for a moment. Then wrapped his arms around her tightly and she memorized everything. His scent, his warmth, the feel of his touch and the sound of his beating heart, so soon it would be gone. “Do not let your brothers kill each other, be their sanity but find your own way,” he said and she listened to the vibrations of his voice.
“You ask the impossible,” she said and he laughed, she smiled. That laughter she knew well, it was a laugh only she could bring from him and it caused jealousy from her brothers. She pulled away and he held her face in both his hands, gazing in her eyes.
“You are the impossible, you can do whatever you want,” he said and she nodded, lowering her eyes. “Leave me behind, let me become a story,” he said and she nodded again. He kissed her forehead and his hands dropped, his touch was gone. She looked as he walked away and knew that he could not stay, that if he did he would only change his mind. She did not understand why he must do what he was about to do but she knew he would never be happy if he did not do it. She watched his form disappear from her sight, the man who had become such a legend in the lands and the man who had brought her into this world with his own two hands, lost to her forever now.