“I tried…” Derek utters through frozen lips, the winter’s cold air stinging his lungs with every breath.
His body trembles – not from any outside cause, but his own sorrow which only builds within his crumbling soul. He is alone. Lost to the world, to the friends—no, the family—with whom his trust had been placed. He counted on them as direly as he believed they relied on him… and now he only feels like a fool.
Dreadful thoughts come so quickly, so easily. No inward barriers remain to protect his psyche from that which he fought to forget. The Mother he hardly knew, a cruel witch with no true compassion. The Father he slew so long ago, forever regarded as a hero no matter his devilish inclinations. A brother who, even now, seeks only to bring ruin to the world to enact his own twisted vision of justice – his terrible armies vast and unbeatable. However, no thoughts trouble Derek more than those of his first and only love, her scornful parting words still resonating within his shattered skull.
Doubling over on broken hands and knees, tears drip ceaselessly from both eyes, falling between his fingers and frosting over atop small mounds of snow. He tried to do right by everyone, and sought to right the wrongs his family caused… but he cannot do it alone. That is so painfully clear now as his body shudders, heaving and groaning as every bit of concealed agony unleashes itself at last.
He truly thought he could do it, but it was impossible from the beginning. That damned sword… its powers remained sealed, and now it lies in pieces at the castle. Derek had been convinced he could be the hero, the one capable of ending this madness… but such a person no longer exists. There is no soul alive with the purity required to use the sword… but perhaps that is as it should be. A world so far gone, Derek realizes, deserves no hero’s sacrifice.
As for himself, he is no hero. Perhaps he never was, in spite of the tricks his mind played on him, and the encouraging words of people incapable of sincerity. These past few days, he looked only for a way to delay the inevitable. Even with his worsening condition, standing now at the border to Arlun and the final bridge to assured freedom, he knows he can recover. Perhaps he may live a full life elsewhere before evil catches up with him to lay waste to the last remnants of the old world… but does he deserve it?
“No,” he cries – and repeats, his unending tremors only further damaging broken bones and pierced organs. Before long, his body tears itself apart in a fit of outward sorrow and frustration – blackened blood gathering in a pool beneath him, steaming and melting away the snow.
His journey was doomed from the outset, back when he became infected by the very evil he would later try to defeat. Now less than human, crumpled into an inconsolable heap in a puddle of his own blood, he wonders if death is even capable of taking him.
Derek intends to find out. With one final deep breath, he rises from the ground and stumbles warily to the rotting planks of the long, swaying bridge. Winter’s winds howl as if to talk him down, falling snowflakes encircling him like a sign from above. After all that has happened, everything he endured, he wants only for it all to end. After all… his life has always been meaningless.
An immense calm washes over him once gravity takes hold, pulling him over the creaking rail, toward the icy waters miles below. In his final moments he even smiles, finding comfort in what he knows.
Thus, death finally welcomes the lost Prince with open arms.