Night was beginning to arrive as the sun dipped slowly into the distance. Fires burning in the ruined city started to cast odd shadows among the collapsed buildings where teams of adventurers, soldiers and clerics of every deity combed for survivors. Rhom, being bonded so intimately now to the flow of life, had been in pain since the battle outside the city had started, and was nearing his limits as he could feel the lives around him struggling to continue.

He would have still been on his feet clearing rubble and healing injured, but Diana had threatened to bludgeon him into unconsciousness if he did not sit down and eat something before he passed out. Despite the pain, he had to smile because he knew it meant she cared. Beside him, resting on a wall was his sword and the blade began to almost hum slightly as someone approached. Rhom need not even look up from his cup of lukewarm tavasa to know who it was. “The sword seems to be saying hello, old man.” Theorne chuckled, “Saying goodbye actually, Rhom. Its time for me to go.”

The tiefling sat his cup down, “So that’s it then? Show up to stop an apocalypse then run off to the next adventure?” Theorne shook his head, “No lad, no more adventures for me. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends since I took you to the temple, and the flames are about to sputter out.”

Rhom realized then that saving him had cost Theorne his remaining time, but wasn’t he quasi immortal? Wouldn’t he just get back up again and keep going? Theorne seemed to read his mind, “Not this time, this is my last death. Sulis needed me to find a replacement, she needs a living champion here in the world and you’re now it. In time, you’ll pass the responsibilities on to another and they to another and so on. Theorne was my name Rhom, but stories as you and I know contain power, and so what was a name will be your title and the title you gift to the next. The story never dies, and life’s mortal avatar only grows more powerful as the legend continues.”

Rhom stood up, glancing back at the blade, “Was this always what you wanted? To use me so you get what you want? Cursing me so you get to die?”

Theorne looked a little saddened by the anger in his voice, “I wanted to undo mistakes I made when I failed my brother, when I was unable to bring him back to the light, when I failed your mother and drove her to revenge the day she saw me plunge that blade into his heart to stop him killing all life. I wanted to save you, to restore good to the bloodline of my brother. I had hoped you would choose to take up the blade, to shoulder my burden… I am sorry that it feels like I manipulated events to make you my successor.”

Rhom took a breath, calming himself down. “No, uncle, I started this journey to kill you for my father and by some cruel twist of fate I seem to have succeeded. But since it seems there will always be a Theorne now, he won’t ever be rid of you will he?”

Theorne laughs, “No, and that will make my passing all the sweeter won’t it?” The old warrior was starting to look older in body now, some grey was creeping into his jet black hair.

A light beautiful woman’s voice seemed to call from the fading sunset. “Theorne…come on, we’ve been waiting to start the party.” Theorne claps a hand on Rhom’s shoulder. “That would be my wife, it seems all my friends and family have been waiting for me…its time to go.”

Rhom suddenly hugs the old man tight, “Thank you uncle, for everything. I’ll do my best to make sure that your legacy shines brightly.”

Theorne returns the hug, “I know you will, lad, I couldn’t be more proud of the hero you have become and when the time finally comes you and I will raise a glass together in the next life. And keep an eye on your cousins if you can, you’re all Dragoons and at some point will do something foolish and brave and need each other.”

Breaking the hug, Theorne starts to walk into the sunlight which has grown brighter despite the sun having almost fully set. As he slowly starts to fade away, a slender red haired woman slips up beside him and wraps her arm into his and rests her head on his shoulder. Rhom watches them go before picking up the sword and returning to the rescue efforts.

Stories never die. They fade, they surge, they get retold with new people filling the roles left by the passing of others. That’s what sustains them, what keeps them alive. Rhom knew that better than most. A story will usurp lives to make sure it is told and will do anything to insure it never ends. Theorne’s story had kept a man from his final rest for generations, and only by Rhom stepping into the role was the man freed. It was a curse, a burden…but it was power and a gift…and Rhom was sure that it would be a very interesting tale when all was said and done.

Just on the other side, Eilonwy asked her husband just what had taken so long to find a suitable candidate to take the mantle. “Surely there were plenty of other heroes that could have done the job?”

Theorne kissed her on the forehead, “There’s always some hero to be that will pick up the sword and slay the monster to save others, beloved. I had to wait for the one willing to pick up the sword to save himself too.”