Weekly challenge time again: One moment, forever.

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Face it, we've all done the couple frozen in time ending... Wait, you haven't... Well basically after all the trial and tribulations suffered but a couple instead of escaping/ killing the big evil/ getting married, that are frozen by magic or ice in each others' arms for eternity. A bitter sweet ending that often comes with the line "I'm not leaving you behind." And so you challenge this week is to write one of these. It does not need to be a romantic couple, it does not need to contain the like but bonus points for hinting at the troubles they have faced... It should be bittersweet.

And so your challenge:

Time stands still for us.
~An aspiring bard drew a large crowd around him in the town's square. He had a tale to share, one about a Performer that had visited the town long ago and swooned the most beautiful maiden in all the land. He warned those, The Performer's story is actually quite tragic...~

Beneath an apple tree on top of a low grassy hill sat a lone wanderer. His garments slightly worn, since it has been months since he last had enough silver lining his pockets to purchase new clothes, his possessions few, save his sack of essentials, his toothpick, and his lute. His song was his life. His occupation, wandering. Every town he visited came to know him as The Performer. His birth name is only known by the scarce few he considers true friends. To The Performer, true friendship is not so readily shared. He is always kind, he is always polite, but to be a true friend, one who is willing to sacrifice his own life, he must see something inside of you that shines brighter than gold. In a way, this makes The Performer's life easier, he never has any problems leaving a town after he has imparted his stories. The price for this, however, is loneliness.

The day went on and The Performer enjoyed his time, rolling his toothpick around in his mouth, his fingers dancing across the strings of his lute. Hours past, night fell and the chilly wind began to nip at The Performer's nose and ears.

"My my, where has the time gone?"

The Performer asked himself as he entertained the thought of the wind carrying music notes away and swirling them around the rising moon.

"Guess its time to get a fire going."

The Performer reached into his bag and grabbed his trusty flint box.

"Now, Mother Nature, if you don't mind."

The Performer reached up above his head and grabbed some twigs and any dead leaves he could find. After bundling up the tinder, he reached into his bag and grabbed a small hatchet and began to hack away at some of the larger branches within reach. Thirty minutes passed while The Performer gathered his materials. Finally, after enough branches were gathered to last him the better part of the night, he lit the tinder and sat down next to the growing flame.

Light danced across his form, in turn causing his shadow to perform an interesting jig. The Performer was inspired by his shadow's masquerade and decided to provide music for the informal dance. He smiled as he twanged out a marvelous melody of major chords, the shadow's movements flowing along with the music.

"Hahah! Good show my friend. Shadow, you are a true friend. Each day I give you my back and not once have you stabbed me. Ah...yes you I can trust..."

The Performer drifted off into sleep, all the while his nocturnal friend dancing the night away.

A week more of travel led The Performer to a beautiful little town. After a couple days there, he was enjoying the company of his new friends in the pub.

"Hey, Performer! Tell us the one about the knight and the dragon!"

This song, The Performer's newest tale, seemed to be the crowd favorite. He picked up his lute and began to strum the intro. Just as he began to sing a woman stood up in the crowd and started walking over to the table that The Performer was sitting on. The performer noticed the strikingly beautiful woman walking his direction but kept singing his tale. The woman sat beside him and gave him a wink; her caramel features complimented by her dark curly hair, amber eyes, and perfect smile nearly caused The Performer to miss a beat. After a few seconds, the woman began to sing. She sang no words but whatever music that chimed from her soft vocals touched The Performer's very soul. As soon as the duet ended, the place erupted with applause. The woman took The Performer's hand and they both bowed.

"My word you've got quite a voice! Might I ask your name?"

"My name? It's Cassandra. What might your name be?"

"Cassandra, such a beautiful name. My name pales in comparison, you may, however, call me The Performer."

"Very well then, Performer, I look forward to meeting you again soon."

The woman left with a smile. The Performer's heart melted. He was so caught up in Cassandra that he forgot all about his audience. They were all staring at him and as soon as Cassandra left the building, cheer and laughter ensued.

"Yahhaaha! 'Atta boy there Performer!"

"She's a looker!"

"You lucky dog!"

The Performer blushed. He knew he couldn't let this one get away. She was too good to be true...

The next day The Performer settled back down in his usual spot on the table at the bar. He scanned the area constantly for an hour. Finally, the golden moment, Cassandra walked through the door. Immediately The Performer's heart began to race. Tiny beads of sweat lined his forehead. Cassandra looked over to where he was sitting. He smiled at her and waved. She smiled back and motioned for him to come over. The Performer didn't hesitate. He quickly got up and started to walk towards Cassandra.

"Woooo, look eh there!"

"Haha, go get'em, partner!"

The jeering of the bar's patrons made The Performer smile on the inside. He blushed on the outside.The performer ducked his head to hide his blushing cheeks. Cassandra knew he was slightly embarrassed. When he got over to her, she rubbed his back and whispered in his ear...

"Come with me, I want to show you something."

The Performer followed anxiously. This had to be love at first sight. The Performer never knew love before, he also never knew the feeling that he had at this moment. He knew that love is such an exciting thing and that he was incredibly excited around Cassandra.

"Excuse me Cassandra, were might we be headed?"

"It's my favorite place. You just gotta see it."

The Performer didn't question her. As long as he was with her, he didn't care where they went.

They walked about two miles out of the town, following a stream the whole time. Eventually they reached a waterfall.

"Wow, its beautiful!"

"This is nothing. Come on, this way!"

Cassandra jumped into the stream, the water came up to her waist. The Performer followed. Cassandra headed for the waterfall then walked underneath it. Again, The Performer followed, entranced by love. Behind the waterfall lied a cave. It was big enough for two people to fit quite comfortably.

"Wow...Now THIS is beautiful...But its far from what i would claim to be the most beautiful sight I've seen."

"Oh really now? And, Mr. Performer, where is the most beautiful sight you have ever seen, hmmm?"

The Performer smiled.

"I've been quite far in my life. I've seen, from the tops of mountains, lush green valleys. I've seen the sun set over the ocean. I see the divine beauty of the heavens each night. But none of that even compares to the most beautiful sight I've seen."

"Well, come on then, what is it?"

The Performer looked deep into Cassandra's eyes, put his arm around her, palming the small of her lower back, and pulled her close. Cassandra tensed up slightly but showed no signs of resistance.

"The most beautiful sight I've ever seen is right here, in my arms."

The Performer eased in and kissed his beautiful Cassandra. Cassandra eased up and fell wholly into The Performer's arms, her eyes closing slowly as The Performer kissed her. It was surreal.

The Performer eased his snug grip and gazed into Cassandra's amber eyes.

"Cassandra, this might sound a little rushed but...I think I love you..."

Cassandra said nothing. She only stared into The Performer's blue eyes. She smiled.

"Performer...might you tell me your real name now?"

The Performer smiled.

"Of course, my dear. It's Leopold."

"Leopold? I believe that's a name from the gods. You should be proud of your name."

"Oh but I am. Only a select few would i like to reveal my name to. I believe you're the only one in this town who knows my name now."

Cassandra smiled.

"I feel quite special then."

The Performer smiled then released his gaze on Cassandra to look outside. It was night already!

"My how time flies...Cassandra, my dearest, will i see you tomorrow?"

"I would have it no other way, my love."

The performer spent a week more in that town, the longest he had ever stayed in a town, save his home village. All the while spending every moment with Cassandra. One day though, Cassandra did not show up to their usual meeting spot. Leopold waited for hours and still she never came. He thought she might have fallen so he went outside of town and picked her a bouquet of wild flowers. He ventured back to town and paid her house a visit. Knocking on the door multiple times proved to do nothing. Maybe she's bed ridden? Leopold opened the door.

"Hello? Cassandra? Hello?"

There was no answer. Leopold continued to search the house. It was empty. No one in sight. Leopold kept looking around for any sign of where Cassandra may be. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Leopold spotted a blood spot on the floor. It appeared to be half cleaned up, a hurried cleaning job. The worst thoughts crossed Leopold's mind. He dropped the flowers and ran outside in a panic. He rushed to the neighbors house and inquired about any strange activity going on. The neighbor reported seeing a traveling merchant passing through selling, what he claimed to be, vials of perfume. The neighbor also noticed that the merchant's covered cart was quite large but it was probably for holding ingredients.

Leopold was distraught. What had transpired with this perfume salesman? Was Cassandra alive? If so, where was she? So many questions...no answers. Leopold, heartbroken, headed to the bar. Once he arrived he asked everyone if they had seen Cassandra. Everyone seemed kinda nervous.

"Look, we like you a lot Performer...but we have nothin to say about that girl.

"Yeah Performer, you really should just keep about your wandering...please...

"What? What the hell is going on here? I want answers now god damn it!"

"Look chief, we got no qualms with you...ah...o.k. listen, you dont say nothin' to nobody about this you hear? I know you love that girl, there was nothin we could do tho. She was kidnapped by sex slave traders. She was the prime target of our town and...well we were forced to help them nab her...They were gonna kill our families! Please, don't blame us!"

Leopold was in shock...how could this happen? He looked around the room at all the blank faces.

"I called you my friends..."

Leopold walked out of the bar, then out of the town. He went to the waterfall cave. He stayed there for hours, weeping, sobbing, giving up hope.

"All right, enough. I let you have your time. Now are you gonna go find her or not?"

"Huh? Who's there?"

"The name's Renyold, you can call me Ren. You can't see me because I'm a pixi. I live in this cave, I saw you and you're beloved Cassandra. I also saw her get taken away. Now, are you gonna suck it up and go save her? She's not dead ya know.

"What? How? Hmm...How can i trust you?

"Look, you don't have anything else to go on bud. Listen up cause i'm only sayin' it once. They were heading North, through the rolling hills is as far as i could see them until they got out of sight. They were hauling two covered wagons and some hand carts. They were moving pretty quick as well so i suggest you get moving, Leopold."

"Hey, how do you know my name?"

"Don't be stupid. What part of "I live here" Don't you understand? I heard everything you said to Cassandra. You love her, that's the only reason I'm helping. Now, get moving before i decide to use some pixi magic on you or something...

Leopold looked out at the night through the waterfall. His courage was restored in knowing that Cassandra was indeed alive, for now.

"Thanks Ren. If i find Cassandra, I don't know how I'll ever repay you."

"You can just keep away from my home, thanks."

Leopold laughed and shook his head as he left the cave.

About thirty minutes later, Leopold gathered his things and set off northward, towards the rolling hills.

Hours passed and nightfall was upon Leopold. He had to find a suitable place to rest for the night before continuing his search in the morning. His attitude was still confident and his spirits were high. Leopold eventually found a nice rock to sit down in front of and rest his back against. The starry sky and bright moon were a welcome sight. He too some kindling from a nearby bush and started a small fire.

Leopold sat down against the rock and recalled his past, the days he lived a carefree life on the coast. He would sit and watch the ocean for hours, and write poetry to accompany the beauty of the sea. He recited his favorite poem as he nodded of to sleep.

Blissful blue bows
Wondrous waves wander
Docile docks
Cool coasts
Beautiful beaches.

Sunset saunters slowly
Beautiful blue bows
Purple pillars
Red ripples.

Marvelous moonlight mourns
Sad sorrowful sight
Sun's slumber...

...But beckon, brother,
God's grace gives!

Sunrise shines soon.

And with that final line, Leopold was fast asleep.

In the middle of the night, Leopold was awakened by a violent shaking. He mumbled as he opened his eyes, only to see Cassandra in front of him. She embraced him and pulled him with all her strength. She wanted him to get up, but she wasn't talking. Once Leopold realized who it was that was in front of him, his jaw dropped and he began weeping.

"Oh...*sniff*... I'm so glad to see you! I was going to find you, I swear it! Did they hurt you? How did you esc..." Leopold looked at Cassandra's neck. There was a cauterized wound where she was obviously slashed. "You...you're hurt...you can't talk..or sing...anymore...oh god, I'm...I'm so sorry I didn't find you sooner...Cassandra, my love, we must run from here...they...they will be on your trail! Come on!"

Leopold grabbed Cassandra's hand and started running. They ran together through the night, knowing that stopping could lead to their death. Once they felt that the might have mad safe distance between them and the slavers, they stopped for a break. Leopold held Cassandra close and gave her some water. She drank some of it, but coughed it back up. Out came a mixture of water, and blood...

"Please, Cassandra, stay with me." The freezing air of the night was biting fierce at Leopold and Cassandra. "We are so close, I know somewhere we will be safe, at least for now...what was that?"

Barking could be heard in the distance. "The slavers! They have hounds tracking us! We must hurry!" Leopold grabbed Cassandra, but she wasn't able to move much. She was weak from her wound and all the running she just did. "Get on my back!" Leopold hoisted Cassandra onto his back, and with adrenaline on his side, he ran more. He ran along the river, as the falling moon sparkled and danced across the surface of the water, acting as a beacon of hope.

An hour more of running exhausted Leopold. The end was in sight. The icy wind of winter was still on his heels though. All he could think was shelter.

"We're...here...my sweet..." The waterfall cave where Ren lived was only yards away. Leopold carried Cassandra with his last ounce of strength into the cave and laid her down. He pulled out a blanket and wrapped her in it. Blood trails ran from her mouth, down her chin, and onto her neck, only stopped by her tan dress. Her eyes where shut, but she was still breathing, thank heaven.

"Cassandra...I love you...please...stay with me...I...I couldn't bare living without you..." *Bark bark* The hounds were getting close. Leopold looked worried as he stared outside, Cassandra in his arms.

Ren had been watching for a little while now, he was outside when he saw Leopold running, and followed him back here. He felt terrible for the man...He could sense the life being lifted out of Cassandra...

"You really love her...I...I can do one thing to make sure you two are together...forever..." Ren's tone was obviously sad. "But you have to be completely willing for it to work."

Leopold started crying, "Anything...Anything to be with her..."

Ren let out a tiny sad sigh and started conjuring up his magics. The air grew still inside the cave. The cave floor seemed to shift, until it was apparent that the cave floor was growing around the two lovers. In this moment, Cassandra opened her eyes and stared at Leopold.

"It's going to be ok...Cassandra..." Leopold leaned down and kissed Cassandra as crystal tears fell out of his eyes. He kissed her until he was completely enveloped in blue crystal, forever locked in an expression of true love with Cassandra.

~They say Ren sealed the cave and allowed no one entrance...but, once a year, on the night of their eternal commitment, the cave opens up and everyone can go pay their respects to the crystal statue of the lovers. You know...I think that might actually be tonight....~
The doctor looked at his wife, and saw the light fading from her eyes. As he hit the button that would freeze her until a cure could be found for her disease he rested his head on the ovate pod that encased her. None of his efforts for the last five years had proven adequate. Perhaps someone else will be successful.

"How can I exist here without you?" he asked her still form. He moved to his desk and scrawled a hasty note and stepped into the pod beside hers and closed the door hitting the internal button and freezing himself as well.

The note read simply, "These are my attempts to save my wife. If you can cure her unfreeze us both, if not. Leave us together in eternal unity."
"This... sucks," Magnolia gasped, face buried into his neck. With panic, she realized she could feel his pulse begin to steadily, though softly, slow. She knew her own was doing the same. Her hands gripped his shirt and vest, as if just that action could force him to stay with her.

"When I imagined how I would die...I did not think... it would be skewered... like a shishkebab," Ian conceded, leaning his head back and closing his one good eye, the other still hidden beneath a patch. His hand rested on the back of Maggie's head, slightly shaking.

Through both of them, a ballista bolt was stuck, pinning them both to the wall of the fort. Maggie whimpered and buried her face into Ian's shoulder, the other's lips against her temple as he squeezed his eyes tighter. The fort was rocked by another explosion, a different Fae thrown against the wall, ragdolling near them. He groaned, rolling over. The two tried to ignore him. Not much they could do.

"I... had honestly thought we were done... done for in Alba," Maggie stated haltingly.

"With the leaf-fae?" Ian asked, smiling painfully. "Ch-child's play. Morenal. Morenal and her damn... d-damn illusions. "

"I did think you'd... shiv me," Maggie chuckled, only to wince, her breath rattling. "Ian... are we dying?"

Ian rested his cheek against Maggie's head, a small catch in his throat as he answered, "W-we might be."

"I-I'm so sorry. I sh-sh-should have stop-opped it-" Maggie tried to say, but Ian pressed her face to his shirt, shushing her.

"Not your fault," Ian breathed out.

They stood there for a while, pinned to the wall like two butterflies to a board, as the blood began to dry on their uniforms. Eventually, Ian realized that Maggie's breath was coming in faster and faster gasps. Her grip was loosening, and she'd stopped muttering to him about their previous misadventures, keeping his mind off of the mess they had managed to get themselves into. He had convinced them to go back, even when she'd said they shouldn't, that they could finally get away from this life, and he had royally screwed them.

Stupid. Should have ran off into the country with her. Had a kid or two. Had a life, he thought, as he looked down at the woman he had hoped could have been his wife.

She was no longer breathing. He wept. The man to their left continued to moan.

A team of medics came through what seemed like seconds after - in reality probably minutes, hours, days, what did it matter, she was gone - and they set their bags down in front of him to begin the process of freeing him.

"Please stay still, sir, we're going to-"

"No," he gasped.

The medic, green, both figuratively as well as literally, blinked in confusion.

"No?" he asked.

"Him. Him first," Ian wheezed, pointing with a finger towards the man a few feet beside them.

The medic hesitated with trepidation, but his older counterpart, recognizing what lay before him, nudged his younger partner and shook his head.

"Leave him be. We'll... come back," the older medic said, his mustache bristling in sympathy, before hurrying off to the other, proffered charge.

Ian leaned his head back against the cool wall and waited, the sounds of war slowly dulling in his ears. By the time the medics were done with the man who'd hit the wall, they found him clutching the woman he was pinned with, but no longer breathing, two victims locked together. The men knew they would have to take them down at some point, but there were bigger things to worry about, like getting their current charge to the makeshift infirmary. No, for the time being, they were a monument of war, embracing around an instrument of death.