I remember Germania. I remember watching sitting and watching young boys play at being warriors and soldiers, when there was time, when I was still young myself, maybe fourteen or fifteen. I remember mostly that there was a young boy, twelve at oldest, who had found old Roman armour somewhere, and sat and talked about how he remembered Rome. None of the other boys understood what that meant, but I would sit and listen to him, and he talked about vast armies matching, and shining spears and tragedy. He was young, and he never played with the others, but talked about how one day the Romans would return, and he would lead us against them when they tried to take our forests and our fields, and he would lead because he knew the way the Romans thought.
His eyes were the most piercing blue, and when others told him the Romans would not come here, to a world where there was peace enough that boys still had time to play, he would sit down next to me, and look up, and ask, "you will follow, won't you, when they come back?" I don't know why, but I always smiled, and said, "yes, I will follow you." He would turn dark, for a boy, the way a man with heavy burdens would turn dark in his eyes, so that the blue horizon became like a midnight sky behind a half-moon, and said, "it will not be easy. We may die." It was harder to smile then, but I would nod, remembering his stories, how real they seemed, though none of us had ever seen things like he described. "We may." I would say. "But if we are to die, I shall die with you." He would smile a little, the smile of a man, not a boy, and nod back. "Then it's all right."
When the Romans came, bringing their machines of war and fire and a thousand glittering spears, he stood up and rallied the others to fight. I knew, if they did not, he had lived his whole life for this moment, though he was so young, though he had no wife, no family, no real life. He did not feel young, nor incomplete. I was there, and I followed him, and when he was uncertain, he would stand next to me, staring at the bright helms and the shadows, before looking up at me and asking, "do you remember the Romans?" I always nodded, I always placed my hand on his shoulder, and said, "yes, I remember," for they had started to invade my dreams with the things he had said. "I am going to die here." With his solemn, sad voice, so resolute, so unhappy, he had absolute conviction. "I'll be there." I promised. "I'll die with you." Then something, between sorrow and a smile, would light across the impossible blue eyes, and he would nod his head. "...I know."
His role in the battle finished when a spear pinned him to a tree. I ripped the spear away and caught him as he fell, and turned my back to the world as the rain of archers' fire fell down, trying to shield him from further pain. We fell together beneath the trees, and bled together, as the battle spun around us, before we ever had the chance to even lift a sword. "Ceril." He whispered, for that was my name. "Are you here?" I was there, with four arrows in my back and a dying boy in my arms. "Yes." I whispered. "I am here." He held tight to me, head resting against my chest, and said, very softly, "I forgot dying is so cold." I held him as tight as I could for the pain in my back, and wished I myself were not so cold, to give him warmth. "Don't be afraid." I told him. "We are here together, as I promised." He looked up, blue eyes hazy with pain, and said quietly, "...then it's all right."
I held him as he bled, inable to stand, knowing he would never survive, and I bled too, so it was very cold. "Ceril," he said quietly, when I had almost forgotten he still lived, "I don't want to be alone." It got harder and harder to move my arms, but I found a way to brush the bright gold hair from his forehead and hold him closer still, and bend my head to whisper in his ear, "I'm not going anywhere but where you go." He smiled, suddenly a boy, and whispered, "was it worth it?" His pale hand reached up to cover mine, and as he did so, I whispered back, "yes. I would die again, to be here with you." He was fading, near death, as his slender fingers tightened around my hand, and he whispered, "I was so afraid you'd say that." I smiled, somehow, in spite of how cold everything was, and promised him, "I'll say it again, however many times it takes."
He died when his head rested on my breast and no more breath stirred against my shirt, and I died when I lay down on my side in the cold and closed my eyes so I didn't have to see how still and cold the boy in my hold had become. Endless sleep was mercy compared to the strange sense that I had lost much more than the boy who gave me dreams of Romans.