For Favor

Atop a low hill, under the shade of an ancient tree, sat a fully-armored knight propped uncomfortable against the marred bark. His legs spread out in front of him haphazardly and his shoulders slumped with ease. The knight's helmet rested at the bottom of the hill where it had rolled to; the visor was open, drinking the refreshing clear water of the stream. Every now and then a crimson or gold leaf would float into it, then lazily out again.

A few sparrows flitting from branch to branch, chirped playfully in the tree's canopy above him. The wind moved softly over the rolling hills towards the setting autumn sun, hoping to catch summer's last breaths. It carried the sweet smell of lavender and the soothing rustle of the sea of grass. The knight took a breath haggardly, choked for a moment, and sputtered, coughing.

The knight's armor was freshly polished from the day before. Little dust had gathered on the glinting steel; only his boots seemed to have been speckled with mud. There were few dents in the armor; a sign of mastery, not lack of experience. He had been a natural at tournaments and had proven capable on the field of battle. 

Atop his perch he couldn't see the carnage he had been a part of all day; only when the wind changed directions did the sickly sweet smell of rot waft to him bringing with it the crushing pain of a life lost. He ached. For the smell of home. For the warmth of a hearth. For the love of a woman who only knew his name. He ached for the pain to go away. 

He had no misconceptions about his predicament. He knew, on that hill, he would die. It was already happening. Slowly life trickled out along the shaft of a crossbow bolt in his chest. He had watched it happen to hundreds before him - many by his own hand. That was over now though; only death now. 

All that mattered to him was the small piece of fabric folded and pressed between his fingers, a grip only death could break. It was threadbare now, though it didn't much matter. It was hers. 

And then the day ended. The long darkness began and the kerchief, begrudgingly at first, fluttered on the wind to join the stars.