The Sunset

The Great Hippo's picture

And so it came to pass that the thief (for that was his profession, and he was very good at what he did) found himself sitting besides the paladin (for that was her profession, and she was just as good at it if not better) and watching the sun set fire to the ocean for the hundredth time. And for the hundredth time, the thief said to his friend, lover, and wife:

"Penny for your thoughts. But I expect change."

"Keep it. You need it to buy new jokes."

"I thought you liked my old ones."

And for the ninety ninth time, they laughed and shook their heads at the foreboding sense of deja vu. And then the paladin said:

"I've been thinking."

"Bad habit, that."

"I'm serious."

"What about it?"

"We've been at this whole adventure thing for quite some time, haven't we?"

"I suppose."

"And what have we got to show for it?"

"Oh," the thief said, rolling back on his haunches, "a thing or two. There's the treasure, for one thing."

"Yes, yes, the treasure," she said. "There's that, but--"

"And there's the opportunity to hone our skills to a sharpened edge," he continued. "If I hadn't accomplished what I have, I certainly couldn't steal a man's knickers off his legs without him finding out about it till a day later from a friend."

"Yes, yes, there's skills," she agreed. "But--"

"And there's the fame, too. It's nice having people recognize your name now and then," the thief said, scratching at his stubbled jaw with all the grace of a fleabitten alleycat. "And the girls are nice."

"Yes, yes, there's that, but--wait, what?"

"Just checking," the thief said with a smile.

"Forget all that for a moment. Aside from the treasure, and the skills, and the fame, what do we really get out of it?"

"I don't know. A chance to make a difference?"

She waved to the horizon in front of her. "You and I know that's nonsense. There's no difference to be made. We're rocks thrown into an ocean, scarcely making a ripple large enough to disturb a fish."

"Tell that to the fish."

"Fair enough, but still--"

"What's this really about?"

"I've been thinking about how we're going to die."

"Eh? What of it?" The thief shrugged. "We've beaten death before. Hell, we've beaten it several times. With sharp and pointy sticks."

"One day," the paladin said, her voice tinged with a hint of worry, "We won't."

"So? Cast one of those ressurwhassis spells. I'll be right as rain."

"One day, that won't work."

"What do you mean it won't work?"

"I mean that one day, you and I won't exist any longer. One day, we'll cease to be."

This quieted both of them up for some time. They allowed the silence to do the talking for them; once they grew tired of what it had to say, they both started at once.

"You know I--"

"I think that--"

They looked away. "You go first," the paladin said.

The thief nodded. "I've been thinking, too."

"I thought you said thinking is a bad habit."

"What can I say? I indulge in vice."

"What have you been thinking about?"

"Death," the thief confessed, and added: "I think you're right. One day, we will no longer be."

"And I don't want to lose you."

"And I don't want to lose *you*."

And they were quiet again. For perhaps the first time, they realized what marriage truly meant--knowing that the person who mattered to you most would one day die.

"There's nothing to be done for it, I suppose," the paladin said, looking back to the endless horizon. "Can't be helped. No reason to mope."

But the thief wore a most perplexing expression. And when he spoke, there was a quiver of optimism to his voice, like the bright note of a fiddle wound a centimeter too tight. "Well, not necessarily."


"We could always become immortal."

"Oh, come off it."

"Seriously!" The thief said, and now there was more force, more strength.

"What, like Gods? Just so we could be together forever? Don't be daft. And besides," she added, "Even Gods die."

"Gods schmods. Forget the Gods. It's simple! I don't know why I didn't think of it before, really."

Now the paladin was interested. The thief was often a fool, but she was curious to know just what sort of foolishness he was up to. She sat up and watched him attentively, her eyes narrowed into slits. "What is it that you have in mind?"

And here the thief produced a smile that had all the smug satisfaction of a cat who had not only swallowed the canary, but had cleverly pinned it all on the family dog while he was at it. "We walk off into the sunset and never return."

The paladin was flabbergasted. "That's it?"

"Brilliant, isn't it?"

"That's *absurd*."

"You're just jealous you didn't think of it first."

"It doesn't even make sense!"

"Of course it does. You're just not thinking mythically," he said, and then he explained. "We're hero-types, right? And the stories of hero-types end one of two ways: Either they die in some epic struggle written in iambic pentameter or they walk off into the sunset and are never seen again."

"We can't just walk away! We have responsibilities! And besides, it's not as if we'd actually live forever--"

"Where does a hero go when the story is over? Anywhere. Everywhere. They could be anyone. Every rumor is acredited to them; every anonymous good deed is their work." His smile grew so infectious that the paladin had to fend it off herself. "And thus they live forever."

"That's just--that's just silly," she said, and though she saw the logic in it, she still couldn't understand the trick of it. "What would we do? Where would we be?"

"Whatever we wished. Wherever we wanted. Between the pages of a book. Between the lines of a story."

"I don't understand," she started to say, but the thief had risen to his feet and took her hand into his, and now he was smiling brighter than the sky. And then he turned to the sunset and walked into it, leaving nothing but footsteps behind.

For some time, fear and despair gnawed at her heart--but it was not long till the trick of it came to her, and she found herself smiling for the knowing. And then she turned to the sunset and walked into it, leaving only a trace behind.

The ocean's waves lapped lazily at their footsteps; in time, even these disappeared.

Calmar's picture
Joined: 2006-06-07
I like that. It's an

I like that. It's an original and unconventional idea. Smiling


"La la la, I'm a girl, I'm a pretty little girl!"

--Bel the Pit Fiend, Lord of the First (in a quiet hour of privacy)

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