They say that in the very last moments, time slows down. They also say that your life flashes before your eyes. I am finding both of these to be true.
I am cold. The creature which is attacking me is draining every last bit of heat within me, extinguishing the flame of life. Strangely, I do not feel the cold which is overtaking me. Instead, I feel warmth. It is the warmth of a warm hearth, and a mother's embrace.
Mother's love. There is nothing else like it. When I was a child in my mother's arms, we lived in a tiny little hut. We were poor, like all of our kind, and yet Mother made sure that I lacked for nothing.
Father did not like her indulging me. In fact, Father did not like either her or me. He preferred to run off and make love to human women, whether the humans liked it or not. He called me "Ushka". Mother always told me that it meant "Precious one". It wasn't until years later that I learned it was a human word meaning "Refuse".
I hated my father. All I ever wanted was his approval, and he never gave it. So I sought to improve myself to gain his favor. I trained in the magic arts. I trained night and day under any mage I could find who would teach me. I learned the darkest arts, sacrificing everything that I could have had. When the spells called for them, I sacrificed the blood of the innocent. I did not realize that by taking from others, I was costing myself my own soul.
The time came when it was my season to take a wife. My father, after being henpecked for months, went out and sought a wife for me.
Her name was Iona. She was beautiful, and strong. When she saw me, she let out a snort. "This is no warrior." she said. "This is a pathetic bookworm. I will have no man who cannot defeat me in battle."
I was enraged. For years, I had labored to make myself the best that any lutin could be. I deserved respect, so I thought. I will never forget Iona's eyes when magic tentacles reached outward from me. I could feel with them her pulse as I wrapped them around her throat. She felt true terror for the first time, that night, and I savored it. To my deep, deep shame, I enjoyed it. I choked her slowly, drawing out the pain, making her pay for showing me such disrespect.
"Son, stop!" my father cried. "You have shown the woman her place! She cannot be your mate if you kill her!"
But I didn't stop. As her heart stopped beating, I felt the richness of her living force, coupled with the energy of her pain flow into me. When she was dead, I dropped her and turned to my father.
"And what now?" he asked, looking me straight in the eye. "Will you kill me too? You are but refuse, boy. You wish my respect. I can see it in your eyes. You will not have it. If you kill me now, I will curse you with my dying breath as the worthless pink mung you are."
I wanted to kill him as well. I wanted to reach out and take his life away as I did the woman's, but he was right. Killing him would not give me the one thing which I craved the most.
I did not kill him.
From my worthlessness, I ran, but I did not escape it. And slowly, the realization of the horrible crime I had just committed came to me. I had killed an innocent woman. The look of terror in her eyes would not leave my mind. That look was accompanied by others. Lutins- men, women and children I had killed so that their deaths might power my magic, began to cry out from their graves. Human children I had taken from their parents and tortured to death cried for their mothers to avenge them. Animals I had skinned alive because I needed the strength of their agony to boost my power screamed to whatever gods there might be to pay back their suffering.
I can hear their cries even now.
I ran until I reached the sea, but could not escape the souls of those whom I had killed.
"HELP ME!" I shouted to the sky, weeping bitter tears. "Someone please save me!"
I still can't believe what happened, then. A man approached me. It was a human man, with fair skin. His gaze seemed to reach into my very soul, as if he could see the depth of my evils and my worthlessness.
"Ushka." he said.
"Yes." I said, as I bowed my head. "I am refuse."
"You do not have to be refuse." he told me. "You are a precious one, just as your mother said."
I looked up into his eyes, which still gazed into my soul, but were also filled with compassion for one as worthless as I. "I know much about you, Ushka. Your sin is great, and too much for you to bear. I can change that."
"Let me take your burden from you." Say only that I may, and it will be done."
I shook my head in disbelief. "Friend, I do not know how such a thing can be done, but if it may be done, I will give you anything you ask in return."
He stretched out his hand. I noticed that it was heavily scarred. He even had a hole which went straight through. He touched me, and instantly, all of the voices were silenced. The guilt was gone. The pain was gone. It was as if I had suddenly become an innocent newborn babe again.
I knelt down and wept at the man's feet. They, too, were scarred beyond normal healing. I realized that he must have borne the evils of many like me to become so disfigured at such a young age. And yet, mine were not deemed to great for him to bear as well. "I owe you my soul." I told him. "What would you have from me?"
"Go." he said. "Tell others what you have seen this day. When the time comes, I will return for you."
I wiped a tear from my eyes and looked up to thank him again, but the man was gone.
Since that day, I was a new creature. I was still a lutin, of course, but it was as if my very nature changed. I learned how to use my magics in new ways. No longer would I use the spells which would require suffering and death. Instead, I learned secrets which I could use to soothe and to heal.
Throughout the land I traveled, bringing life and healing wherever I went, and never forgetting to tell the story of the man who rescued my soul.
And then I met you.
From the first moment I saw you, I loved you. I knew that you were different. I could see in your eyes that you were not selfish or cruel like other lutins. There was a spark of something special in you.
The day I set you free from your evil first husband was the second most wonderful day of my life. I had thought that my existence could not get any better, but it did.
I'll never forget the look in your eyes when I told you the story of the human man. Everyone else listened for the sake of hearing a good story, or else wagged their head as if I was insane. But you, Vitra. You believed me. "He must have been a god." you said.
I think you may have been right. I might never know for sure. All that I know is the joy that I found because of him, and later, because of you.
Then again, how could any being love such a worm as I enough to free my soul, and then to arrange fate so that I might find a mate as wonderful as you have been to me?
Through the years, you never left my side. Every step of the way, you were with me. Even when Nasoj impressed me into his army and sent me on this very mission, you were with me.
My only regret is that in a moment, it will all be over. If I could stay with you, I would.
I love you, Vitra.
What is this? I can see my own body on the ground, and the darkman standing over me. Is this death? Am I to cease to be? Hello... what's happening?
Oh, Vitra, if you could only see! It's him! The human has returned, just as he promised! It is him, only he is so much more beautiful. He shines with a light that makes the sun hide its face in humility. On his head is a crown. I think you were right, Vitra! He is a god! He's holding out his hands to me.
Where are we going?
Home? Am I to live in the home of a god? I am not worthy to even gaze at you. How can I live in your home?
I'll never understand how you can love me so much as to make me a part of your very family. But Vitra...
It is time for me to go, but I will see you again, I know.
Good bye, Vitra.
I love you.