Interlude II

Interlude II

Fever Dream

I felt like I had been drifting in darkness forever. I was sure now that the toxin had claimed my life. So, this is death? I still had my sense of self, so I suppose it wasn’t all bad. Though I was experiencing the sensation of falling…

I suddenly picked up speed. For some reason, I became chilled- this wasn’t right.

An eternity later, my feet suddenly slammed into ground with no warning, and I found myself struggling to stand in a void that wasn’t completely black. There was faint light above me and I glanced up to find it was the moon… but it was distorted and waving as if I were looking at it from under water.

My body jerked as I realized that I was surrounded by water, but I could somehow still breathe. A split second later, I suddenly wondered how I still had a body. Am I really dead, or is this just an illusion?

I had no clue what else to do but to swim towards the light. Even though the common laws didn’t seem to apply to me anymore, I still moved as if I were being weighed down by the water. I didn’t really feel anything like pressure or the waves around my fingers, but there was something there that enabled me to ‘climb’ up to the surface.

When I crested, I was completely stunned by my surroundings. The only sounds came from my breath and the calm waves of the sea that surrounded me. Far away I could see a gathering of violent storm clouds, highlighted with lightning and thunder I could not yet hear, as it was still too far away. Nearby I could see a beach, with a forest leading right up to the rough sand.

Where was I? What was this strange place? I had assumed that the dead would end up as bodiless souls, doomed to drift among the five hells until we forgot our past lives. But I suppose this place was much better in comparison. I couldn’t find it in me to be scared, anyway.

With nothing better to do I swam over to the beach, only to find that I was completely dry when I climbed out. I was still wearing the clothes I had put on this morning, and absolutely nothing was out of place. I decided not to question it anymore and chose to seek higher ground instead. I didn’t think I could get hurt or drowned by this point, but I found myself automatically wanting to avoid the flood that could happen should the storm reach this… Maker, I didn’t even know if I was on an island or a continent.

I followed the outskirts of the sandy ground until I came across a short cliff. Deciding that it was a good place as any to sit out the storm, I made my way up the shaky ground, noting how my footsteps didn’t make a sound and how the loose rocks didn’t budge.

It would normally be dangerous for lesser creatures to place themselves on higher ground during a storm; they could be struck by lightning. But I had nothing to worry about- my kind could redirect electrical currents to strike elsewhere by manipulating the earth.

As I reached the top, I found that there was already someone there. Curious, I walked over to the figure, not caring who it was or what race they belonged to. I didn’t have the energy to be concerned about such things anymore- I just wanted some answers, and maybe find a way to get out of here.

“Hey! Excuse me!” I called loudly out to get their attention. I’m surprised the shadowy creature didn’t jump in surprise at the sudden volume. Instead, it just stayed hunched over as if it were in pain, so I didn’t approach any closer. If it hadn’t heard me then, I didn’t want to get close and startle it into thinking I was going to attack. I was hoping the first was a fluke, and decided calling from a distance again- it would allow time for the shadowy figure to compose its’ self and answer me. “Where are we?”

But I didn’t get a reply- it was as if it couldn’t hear a word I said. As I cautiously stepped closer, I discovered that it appeared to be a human man, and that he was holding a young girl in his arms. In the moonlight, I could see that he was an average looking man with a beard that only covered his chin and a mustache that connected to the beard. I couldn’t tell the colors, but his dark hair was shoulder length and held back from his face by a thick circlet.

The man was a king, but he wasn’t someone I recognized. I glanced down at the girl in his arms and noted how she bore some resemblance to him, and was also dressed in royal clothing and adornments. She must’ve been his daughter. The girl appeared to be asleep- or perhaps worse given the way she was completely limp. There was almost no color to her lips and the skin around her eyes was dark, signaling that she was gravely ill.

I was getting close to the King now, and was almost atop him when I was startled by a loud crash of thunder. Even with the sudden noise, he was too preoccupied with his daughter to notice his surroundings- or perhaps I just wasn’t really here for him to ‘sense’.

The world suddenly came alive as the rumbling faded away- as if before we had been frozen in a single moment in time, everything suddenly sped forward. The storm clouds drew closer at an alarming rate, the waves were crashing hard across the rocks at the bottom of our cliff, and a fierce wind had started blowing through the trees. But none of this affected me whatsoever- I still couldn’t smell the salty sea air or feel the ground under my feet, and even my person was not affected by the blowing wind.

I figured then that I was not really there, and was invisible to the man before me. I stood there and just watched and waited to see what would happen next. Well, if he happens to pass through me when leaving, I would at least have proof that whatever I was experiencing wasn’t real.

“Please, come back…” he whispered, his voice raspy from crying. From my vantage point, I could see his shoulders shaking from suppressed sobs, and some tears dropping from his face and on to hers. Judging from his words, the girl must’ve just died. If she was gone though, then this place couldn’t possibly be the land of the dead- it didn’t make sense.

Before I could reflect how oddly calm I was being over this, the man threw back his head and let out an anguished yell. Seeing the display made me wonder about the others I had left behind. They were probably grieving, too… Damn… even in death I was making ‘Tia suffer. I didn’t even get to tell her that I loved her one last time…

The man then stood up with the girl cradled against him. I was now able to see that she was only a child- perhaps no more than twelve in human years. She was so young…

“Elit! Elati! Anyone! Hear my prayers and grant them!” he shouted hysterically before he carefully lifted the body into the air. “My daughter is all I have left! Please return her to me! I will give anything for her life… just please… Please bring her back to me!”

There was an unusually strong wave that crashed into the cliff and sprayed seawater at us, and the winds seemed to pick up from the encroaching storm. But other than that, the gods were silent. I couldn’t judge the man for being so passionate in his prayers due to his grieving, but surely he knew that no immortal would give a damn about him or his child. Humans were plentiful and disposable, no matter what station they held in life.

The man seemed to realize that his shouting was getting him nowhere and slowly lowered the girl’s form. He then sank down to his knees and hugged her prone form tightly.

“Am I truly cursed by the Fates? I may have ignored my readings, but that doesn’t mean my daughter should have to suffer. I alone walked this path of blood and lies by creating this newly founded kingdom. But my daughter… she has done no wrong!”

Ah, so he was an Unknown- no wonder he didn’t ask the Fates for help. Of course, admitting that was just asking for trouble. The gods held no love for those who broke the rules, no matter how innocent the girl was. There was also a distinct chance that if he hadn’t strayed from the path, then she wouldn’t have been born. If that were the case, then she was meant to die in order to correct the damned order that the Fates so desired.

…I suppose that the same could be said of me…

“What was the point in all this? I didn’t even do all of this to become a king, or to gather riches! All I wanted was to give her a better life, after her whore of a mother betrayed us! Could any father be blamed for that?” the man continued before he raised his head. He stared straight at the moon, almost hidden by the clouds, “Tell me Elit! You have five daughters! Would you not do the same for them!?”

I shook my head slowly as I pondered the stupidity of the king. It was awfully arrogant of him to compare himself to a god, though I suppose I could admire him for his devotion to his child. I didn’t really care about the back-story, but I did feel a little sympathetic that he seemed to have lost a loved one because of some fault of the Fates. He most certainly wasn’t the first…

Thou foolish and ignorant king, dost thou imply that the life of yon child is greater than that of thy kingdom?

 My eyes widened at the same time as the man’s. That was the voice of a goddess… but why did she sound so familiar? I should have been more surprised that someone had actually answered him, but I couldn’t help but think about that distinctive tone.

The man barely even gave the question any thought- once he got over the shock and decided he wasn’t going crazy, he quickly replied with, “Of course she is! My daughter is more valuable than the most precious of gold and diamonds. She is the reason I am still alive today- how could I even think to give her up now?”

What would thou give for her life? Would thou give up thy kingdom? Thy own life?

“I would gladly sacrifice both! I would not have brought this kingdom into existence were it not for her!”

He was being very selfish- while children were precious to their parents, that didn’t mean he had the right to condemn the lives of the people who chose to follow him. What did they do to deserve becoming a bartering tool for the life of a princess?

I was certain that the goddess was trying to teach him a lesson and would tell him to move on, but I was in for a shock with her next words.

I will grant thy wish in exchange for both. Father and daughter, mother and son- thine lives shall be forever entwined. Thy kingdom, while on land, shall be property of my lord father and thou shall be my consort for all eternity. Dost thou agree to my terms?

I was dumbstruck by her offer- she wanted a human for her mate? Just who was he? But more importantly, how was this the will of the Fates? Even the gods followed the Fates and never dared to cross them. Unless the man was completely unaware of his true destiny…or the goddess was turning against her superiors. I couldn’t even fathom the latter being true…

“Consort? Me? Lady of Storms, I am but a human- I cannot live for eternity,” he reasoned with her, seeming to come to his senses after hearing the price for his child’s rebirth. Ordinarily, anyone would consider such an offer quite the honor, but he was reasonably skeptical- humans had no value because of their incredibly short life span.

That is not an issue. I have some control over life and death- having thee live for an eternity is not beyond the realm of my ability. Thy people will be treated well- and thy daughter shall breathe life once again. Death will no longer separate thee from thy child. Is this not thy wish?

Wait… What!? Since when did the storm goddess, or any goddess for that matter, have the power to bestow eternal life to others? Was she lying to him? Or was there something that even my wise elders were not aware of? All of my knowledge came from them and the rare tomes they’d collected throughout their lives.

Now that I knew that the goddess speaking with him was Elati herself, I had to wonder what game she was playing. Didn’t she do something like this before in obtaining a kingdom for Elit? But I had never before heard of any god acquiring a ‘consort’- what could she possibly gain from all this…

The man fell silent as he stared down at the girl and thought it over. I found myself waiting for his answer, curious to see what path he would take. Never had I ever heard of a god speaking with anyone other than their dragon priestess, let alone one who made deals with mere humans. Since this was such a rare occasion, I had no clue if Elati would truly keep her word or if she was just trying to trick him into giving up his land. In a way, her presence here could also be a form of ‘punishment’ for this Unknown.

“It is… I want nothing more than for my daughter to live again. I care not for my people and I am willing to be your consort. I agree to your terms,” he eventually responded as he glanced up at the sky again.

“Tch! …Selfish human,” I muttered, scoffing lightly at his choice. But, I fully recognized that if I were in his position, I would have probably made a similar decision in order to save a loved one.

If I were pleading for ‘Tia’s life, I’d gladly do anything for her, even throw away the lives of many innocents… but I also knew that she wouldn’t appreciate it. Bringing someone back at the cost of others only placed a heavy burden on the soul saved. I couldn’t imagine anyone being able to accept their existence without feeling guilt for those sacrificed. …And I wouldn’t do that to her no matter how much I wanted to be with her. I personally knew what it was like to live for the dead- my parents sacrificed themselves for me and I had to live everyday in their honor.

I didn’t get to hear what Elati had to say about his decision, as everything began to fade and I was left alone in the darkness once again.

“What the… What’s going on?” I demanded, glancing around. “What is this!?”

“You had just witnessed the pact made between Elati and the first king of Eruda. More than four thousand years ago, he condemned thousands of innocent people to become slaves of the sea gods- all for the life of his only child. The Fates wanted you to see this so that you would know how deep Elati’s claim is upon the Erudians.”

I froze at the sound of the new voice- I definitely knew that voice. While the information I had just heard was startling, the presence behind me was far more important to me. Numbly, I turned to the source and could only stare at her. Her form was a little transparent, but she looked just the same as she had the last day I saw her.

“Dantia… it’s you,” I managed to utter as I continued to stare at her. Now I was convinced that I had to have been dead. They say that fallen loved ones guided those who had just passed on to one of the five hells. I shouldn’t be surprised to see her, then…

She hadn’t aged a day, though I suppose the dead wouldn’t grow at all. Her long lavender hair was still up in those adorable ponytails on either side of her head and her golden eyes were still wide and innocent. She was still in the knee length white dress and long boots that I had last seen her in. At seventy, her body was only just beginning to blossom- in fact, she appeared about the same age as that human girl I had seen moments before.

My niece was born a little more than twelve months after I was, so we used to be the same age. Back then, she was taller than me, but now I towered over her, her head barely reaching my chest.

“I fear this is no time to catch up- the more you can see me, the closer to death you are. You still have a chance to live, but you must possess the will to survive,” she explained as she shook her head, her hair flowing around her like ribbons.

Hearing that brought me some hope, but it also confused me more. “Are you saying that I’m not dead?”

“Not yet- you are on the cusp. Your body can barely sustain your soul, but if you have the will, you can survive it. This is the dimension that the Fates control- where those sitting between life and death are convinced to make a choice. The Fates want for you to pass on, while Mommy, Grandfather, Grandmother, and I wish for you to continue living,” Dantia told me before she placed her hand over her chest to gesture to herself. “I have been chosen to explain your choices and help you decide to live or die.”

I was taken aback from that bit of news. I had mixed feelings about hearing that my parents and Cegil’s mate didn’t want me to join them in death. I could understand in some way why they wanted me to live, but that was about as far as I could understand unconditional love. They were all pretty much strangers to me, since they’d all passed on before I was old enough to even remember their faces. Unless they were able to watch over me this entire time, how would they know if I even deserved a second chance?

I suppose I could also ask the same of Dantia, but unlike with my parents and Oria, we had grown up together almost like twins. She knew who I was and how I behaved as a young falcie. Even if she hadn’t watched over me as matured, she knew that I wasn’t a bad person and would vouch for my character.

“I suppose I understand why you’re here then, but why did I experience that vision? You said it happened four thousand years ago? So what does it have to do with me?” I asked now that I had a better grasp of the situation. I wasn’t sure if any of this was real or if this was a very elaborate dream, but I believed that I was having a near-death experience. If I was running a fever, then I could be in a delirious enough state for my mind to invent this.

“That vision is the Fates’ main reason why you should pass on. It’s the ultimate cause of your unease and everything that Ariat is. You chose an Erudian for a mate. When you killed Anatil’s servants and took her away from the sea, you invoked Elati’s wrath- that’s why Cyirlie came for your life,” she informed me, appearing rather grave.

My mind immediately went to Port Sibest on the day of the tidal wave. ‘Tia had been swept away by the waters and was surrounded by monsters on a sand bar. I rescued her and chased off the mermaid, but I didn’t think that they were agents of the sea goddess. …So I was right in thinking the suddenly violent wave had something to do with her…

…And Cyirlie… she was ordered to kill me, so why did she come under the excuse of wanting to see if I would go through the ceremony with her? There was no point if she was going to kill me anyway. A direct order from the goddess meant that it had to be carried out immediately, not at a later time. And why exactly was she upset that I’d found someone else? Dragons didn’t possess romantic feelings- and they generally had multiple partners during the heat phase of their mating cycles. I would have to guess that she wanted to satisfy both the Fates and the goddess anyway with a quick ceremony right then before she carried out her mission.

A goddess could plead to the Fates to excuse someone from a reading, so Cyirlie really had nothing to lose by assassinating me. It was very clear that she hated me and wasn’t hiding any other emotion. She didn’t have to offer me the chance to go through with it (not that she would do so for my benefit), but I couldn’t see why she didn’t kill me on sight.

“Wait- who is Ariat? Is that her real name?” I inquired when I focus back on the conversation. I thought ‘Tia was named after a goddess… though she never really confirmed that- she only let us assume it.

“She bears many names, even mine it seems, but Ariat was her very first one. She is a special Erudian- one that managed to escape the oppressive role that is placed on her kind. However, she is still bound to the sea, and she will have to return one way or another- Elati saw to that when she made the pact,” she replied as her golden eyes gazed up at me.

“Okay, so by ‘special’, you mean she can leave Elati’s waters whenever she wants? Or is there something else about her that’s important?” I inquired, hoping to be clear on mystery of my sirsa while I still had the chance. I apparently had plenty of time to decide what I wanted, given the fact that Dantia’s form hadn’t changed much. She was still transparent and I sought to take advantage of the opportunity until I noticed any significant change. But even if this happened to be a very convincing fever dream, at least any answers my mind came up with would help me figure her out better.

They say the human mind was powerful because they could summon images that they thought were real, but really, any mind had the power to transcend the body if the conditions were right. I would think with my being in this state, I could reach out to knowledge that I might’ve inherited from my ancestors. It sounded crazy, but I was willing to give it some consideration since I had nothing more to lose… well, nothing other than my life.

“She has no power and had no importance when born. She is able to travel freely, but only as long as she remains near the sea. That was why Anatil sent the tidal wave- they wanted to make sure she couldn’t escape to land again.” For a moment, my niece appeared uncertain as she glanced away. “I do not understand why, but the goddesses seem to need her for something. They’re searching for something called a Hels Meyuun, and apparently Ariat either knows where it is or has a key to it. Until that matter is settled she will be drawn back to the sea, even if she does not want to go there.”

Those words again… The pirates Cegil had been talking to in his investigation mentioned this ‘Hels Meyuun’, too. I had no idea what it was, and neither does anyone else, it seems, but it seemed to be very important to the gods. We’d all researched it, but the origin of the name was from the ancient god tongue- something so old that even Makhis’ra couldn’t find a translation for it. In fact, it was so old that even my elder dragon friends couldn’t guess at its’ meaning.

I was disturbed that ‘Tia seemed to have some role in this mess, but I had a strong hunch that she knew nothing about it. I never got ask her about the Hels Meyuun or see her reaction to it, but she would’ve been only a child back then, and I highly doubted a little girl would’ve been told anything. Of course, though I still didn’t know if this was all real or not, I could feel that the truth was being told here. Given how little I knew of my mate in her years as a pirate, I couldn’t help but feel she had some connection to the problems of the sea.

“Are you not going to ask?” Dantia suddenly questioned me, almost appearing amused.

“What did you want me to ask?” I countered, catching on that she had something she needed to say. I actually had many questions about ‘Tia, but I was afraid to ask them. The more I thought about her coming close to the ocean, the more I worried that I was going to have to someday let her go. Every little piece of information I picked up has seemed to point to her having to leave. I had been hopeful when she mentioned that she was unaware of her origins- that she wasn’t Erudian, but it seemed that she was wrong.

“You should be wondering what this has to do with you. After all, it is through your feelings for her that you chose to take the fall- will you continue to live for her? Or will you save yourself the grief and sever ties with her through death? The Fates only wish to warn you of the possible suffering you could experience if you continue on as you have,” she answered with guilt apparent on her face.

I could only stare at her incredulously. Had she just implied that the Fates were worried over the idea that I could suffer? Since when!? How could she even say as such to me? Even though she didn’t know her own father, she was still secretly raised by his beliefs. Dantia didn’t exactly hate the Fates as much as Cegil did, but she did question their authority.

“If the Fates are that concerned, then why did they make it a point to punish me and everyone around me? How could you side with them?” I didn’t mean to use such a harsh tone with her, but hearing that really hurt. It was like she was betraying us.

But thankfully, she didn’t let it bother her too much. She expressed a similar hurt expression as me before she replied, “Technically, the Fates didn’t ruin your life- their followers did. However, even knowing this, I still do not approve of them. They are no longer the benevolent immortals they used to be in ancient times- they’ve become as corrupted as those who worship them.”

“Then why warn me now?” I ask with a shake of my head. I calmed down a little upon hearing that since she was just proving a rational point- I’ve always heard ‘The Fates’ this and ‘The Fates’ that, but it was always from the mouths of those who wanted to burden everyone with readings.

“In a way, they’re not really evil- it’s just that now, they stopped caring about moral issues in favor for order. Death, no matter how traumatic it is for all involved, has become a way for everyone to rest from the turmoil of life. That’s why they just want to give you fair warning- and from what I’ve heard, most people just give up and take death. If only I had such a choice…” she trailed off almost bitterly.

Unlike me, Dantia wasn’t allowed that chance- she was murdered by hunters who thought she was some evil creature who would go off to destroy human lives. They took full advantage of the fact that her powers hadn’t developed and made sure to incinerate her body when she’d taken her last breath. Garroe had said that they wouldn’t have even known it was her if the cold-blooded beasts hadn’t bragged of their ‘feats’.

“I don’t know what to make of this, but you have nothing to prove to me- I don’t want to die. I still have so much to do, and I can’t leave ‘Tia like this. I promised that I wouldn’t,” I told her, earning another saddened glance. It was then when I realized that she was much less transparent than before- I could barely see through her now, though all that surrounded us was darkness.

“If that were true, then you wouldn’t be here. There’s no need to hide your fears, Uncle Satel, I know about them and some part of me can’t blame you for having them. You’re scared of losing her- and what better way to avoid that than to die before her?” It was almost an accusation, but I knew that wasn’t her intent.

I flinched a little when she drove straight to the root of my uncertainty. I couldn’t say that I wanted to escape my fears this way, but she was right- I loved ‘Tia so much that I had done everything in my power to make sure she would’ve be nowhere near the ocean ever again. I knew that even by taking her as my mate, Elit still had a stronger claim on her- and that I had no right to keep her should she choose to return to her master.

“But what’s the point in dying? I’d lose her anyway through this method,” I muttered as I turned my back to her. In a way it was sad- I missed my niece greatly, but I couldn’t bear to see her as she became more and more solid. I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that I was losing and that I was probably seconds away from actual death.

“It’s not so much the physical separation that disturbs you- you simply don’t want to find out who she would choose in the end. Should Ariat return to the sea and be happy living her old life, then that would mean she chose her master over you, thus proving you never held her heart.” Her words hurt so much that I found my right hand clutching the shirt over my chest. Long daggers of pain were twisting in my heart.

I didn’t want to know. Even though ‘Tia stayed with me and seemed to get along with me, she never once told me that she loved me. Sometimes I had to wonder if I was ever making her happy. Sure, she’d smile for me and didn’t avoid my company, but was she really happy? Was my love for her ever enough?

I shouldn’t even be having these uncertainties- my instincts weren’t wrong and we are compatible. I just couldn’t help but think that I had to compete against a god for her body, heart, and soul. How could I even hope to surmount a god, let alone the entire sea?

“Silly- of course she loves you!” Dantia chimed in amusement. This had to have been a dream- she was reading my mind.

I jumped when I felt her hand on my shoulder. It was solid and I could feel her- was I too late? Am I dead now?

“If she didn’t love you, then she wouldn’t be crying over your body and praying to her god, the Maker, and even the Fates for you to survive. You know how devastated she was to lose someone dear to her. Why put her through it again?” she added, making me freeze in place. It was a revelation so strong, that I temporarily forgot my predicament- and I didn’t bother to question how Dantia would know of ‘Tia’s past, since it seemed nothing was secret here.

‘Tia didn’t need to say that she loved me- she showed it every day. Most of what she did in the homestead wasn’t for Cegil or for Elit- it was for me. She put on a dress that made her uncomfortable just for me- and she was struggling to learn how to read for me. I still didn’t know why she was trying to keep her inability a secret from me, but I’d overheard her talking to Cegil as to why she was trying to learn.

“Elati knows where Ariat is now- it’s only a matter of time before someone will try to escort her home. Will you not be there to prevent that? Or, if she does return, how do you know her love for you wouldn’t be strong enough to have her still choose you over her old life? If you die now, you’ll never find out,” she added as she walked closer to me.

Right again- death would prevent me from finding out my fears, but it would also prevent me from discovering if they were unfounded. What was wrong with me? I was acting afraid over simple ‘what ifs’- even if my heart ends up broken, I would rather keep going on to protect her and my clan, no matter what happens.

…And Dantia just said that Elati was coming for her- I couldn’t just let that happen. ‘Tia will return to the sea when she wants to, and I will do everything in my power to keep her away from the sea gods. I turned to tell my niece this, but I was stunned to find that she was becoming very transparent- I was very relieved.

“…You’re fading,” I remarked, revealing the obvious. Dantia’s eyes widened before she raised a hand to look at herself.

“I am?” she questioned back before a smile appeared on her lips. “Good. That means you overcame your worries and chose to live. I knew you would go back- you’re just not the type to give up so easily.”

Suddenly, the chill that I had been feeling till now faded away, and was instead replaced with heat. It was like I was standing in the middle of a bonfire and I found myself breathing heavily, struggling to stay standing in the inferno.

“Looks like you’re returning to your body, so I guess this is goodbye. Don’t ever come back here until you’re old and ready, Uncle Satel!” she warned me with what was her attempt at a serious face. Dantia was always too cute to appear intimidating… just like ‘Tia.

“Dantia, wait!” I called out when it sunk in that I was really leaving. “I need to tell you that I’m sorry. …I was the one who convinced you to leave, so… your death was ultimately my fault.”

Dream or real, I wanted to get that off my chest before it was too late. I’d always blamed myself for her leaving the homestead. It was, after all, my foolish suggestion to go search for Cegil. But when I brought it up to her, I was planning for us to go together after our powers manifested. Unfortunately, once the idea got into her head, she snuck out the first chance she had- without me.

Her eyes softened as she placed her hands behind her back. “My death was the result of my naiveté and misguided arrogance. I wanted to see Daddy so badly that I honestly thought I could survive out there. I didn’t think twice about the dangers that awaited me, nor did it ever occur to me that any creature would seek to harm me. You didn’t make me go- it was a decision that I made on my own.”

I could see much of Cegil in her- she had a lot of time after her death to reflect her mistakes and accept them. It was a true tragedy that she couldn’t live on to practice what she had learned from them. She was such an innocent falcie- and a devoted daughter to a father that was barely there. Damn it, of all people who could’ve died that day, why did it have to be her? She didn’t do anything wrong!

“Dantia!” I called out when she disappeared. I was hoping to say a little more, but I had to accept that my time was up. I did feel greatly relieved to hear that she didn’t carry any animosity with her upon her passing. Really, she was too nice to hate anyone- I wouldn’t even be surprised if she forgave her killers, too.

“When you wake up, do something for me, please.” Her soft voice echoed near my ears, proving that she wasn’t completely gone yet.

“What is it?” I inquired, somehow keeping my voice calm. Even after my revelations and renewed desire to protect my mate, I still was greatly affected by seeing my niece. Dantia and I were very close and her death had devastated me back when I was younger. I didn’t want this to be the last time for me to see her, but I wasn’t willing to join her. Granting her final request was the best I could do.

“Tell Daddy that I love him- and also tell him that Mommy and I want him to move on. We’re not there to comfort him anymore, so he needs to find someone else who can.”

That, too, was a trait that was long missed in the clan. Dantia was always honest and selfless- it was in her honor that I tried not to lie to others, though I couldn’t muster half the selflessness that she could. I bet even Cegil would tear up upon hearing that after all these years his daughter still loved him.

Back then, I didn’t understand why my parents weren’t there, and felt as though I couldn’t love them because I didn’t know them – I still couldn’t feel much about them, though I had lost most of my animosity. But she just listened to the stories Garroe would tell us and forgave him because she knew it wasn’t his fault for being away from her.

“Of course I’ll tell him- he’ll be happy to know that. He loves you too, you know,” I added, just to make sure she knew.

“I never doubted it. Thanks Uncle Satel…” I wonder what it was that helped her to forgive and understand Cegil’s absence? Perhaps I needed whatever it was so I could feel the same way about my own parents. Her voice grew weaker and I knew that this time it was over. She was back in the land of the dead- and I was among the living.

I had been standing in a dark void with her, but now I felt as if I was lying on my back. For a long while, I was just floating in that void, much like I had been doing before when I had first gotten here. I still couldn’t tell how much time had passed, or even how long I had been away from my loved ones, but eventually sensed that I really was… somewhere.

There was a difference in the air around me and I could hear a little better. I was uncertain if that was because I had just returned to my body, or if said body had finally recovered enough so that I could perceive my surroundings. I noticed that my heart was beating rather strongly and that my limbs were shaking a little. I still felt hot, and I could detect sweat pouring down my face.

“…His body is stabilizing and his fever is beginning to break. I believe it is over now- he will live,” Didra’s voice resounded above me, almost cracking from emotion. Soon after her announcement I heard many voices around me express relief and happiness.

My eyes felt too heavy to open, so I couldn’t find out who was here with me or if I was still in Didra’s lab. It sounded as if there were more than just my immediate family nearby- too many to fit in her private space.

“Thank Elit,” an emotional voice muttered close by me. I knew instantly that it was ‘Tia and suddenly I felt terrible for ever doubting that she cared about me. I wanted to gather her up in my arms and never let her go again, but unfortunately, my body was still too weak to do so.

For now, I wanted to rest a little longer- then, when I could move again, I wanted to continue securing my future with my mate. If anything, I shouldn’t give ‘Tia up so easily. I was going to give Elati the fight of her infinite life.

‘Tia was mine.

To the Next Chapter

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