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Story Data

Posted August 17, 2005

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Series: The Edge of a Knife

Title: The Courage of Men

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.

Rating: PG-13

Summary: A:tS, LotR. It has been said that the line of Luthien will never fail. 400 words.

Spoilers: Set during A:tS 5.22, "Not Fade Away", and AU for LOTR.

As the sparkle in the depths of Wesley's grey-blue eyes dies out, Illyria remembers, much too late, where she has seen it before.

They had been a broken people already when she had reached them. They had been driven forth from their lands by the Dark One and his armies, thinned by slaughter and privation to a mere remnant of their former might. Their women and children they had sent ahead, or hid in caves and crumbling, abandoned structures; they fought on only to delay her, hoping against hope that their heirs would survive to one day defeat her even as she was defeating them.

They were nothing to her, mere slime, a mass of worms infesting the body of the world she intended to one day rule. And yet, when she had faced their leader-- she, then many times the size of a human and armed with swords that reaped great swathes of lives with every swing, staring across a blade-length's span of cleared battlefield at a mere chief of Men with a blaze of light on his brow-- she had felt his gaze like a blow to the thorax.

"The day may come when the courage of Men fails," the Man had screamed, raising his puny sword aloft like a flaming banner as she reared over him. "But that day is not this day!"

His hair had been darker than Wesley's, his height greater, the weight of muscle and scars of battle shaping a leaner and stronger frame, but the eyes were the same: they gleamed like stars, a depth of wisdom and power in their gray depths that did not belong in beings of such low stature. She had slain him without a care for who he might have been, but the encounter had been indelibly etched into her immortal memory.

It seems strangely fitting that her Guide should be descended from such a Man. After all these years, the courage of Men still has not failed, and in the death of another of his line she has realized her own humanity at last.

Illyria lowers his body gently to the ground, feeling the surge of grief and rage within her body, and shifts from Fred's form to her own. There is vengeance to be done. But afterward...

... she recalls a circular sketch in Wesley's books, and plans for an even greater day of reckoning to follow.


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