The March of Ages

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“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”

To My Dearest Bael,

This will be the last letter I write you for a while. I do not mean to leave you alone but the events of the past few months on our journey back to Voltierra have led me to the conclusion that I need to make some changes in my life, for my own benefit. Let me tell you what we’ve been through and I hope that you will understand.

After we boarded the Crimson Raven, Stangil and I spoke with Braeden Brightburn about the voyage. As luck would have it, Kalloruth sent an emissary on the ship with us. It was Odoth Iluith, that weasel, and his naïve wife, Sosyth. We rounded the north-western edge of the Drekaran continent and navigated around the large islands. I was successfully able to merge their charts with our maps and piece together the known world.

Fighting Fire with Fire
Several weeks into sailing, we spotted a ship on our rear. It was gaining on us and would be upon the Crimson Raven in a day. The crewman in the crow’s nest recognized it as the Dreadnought, captained by the mercenary Eisseth. Eisseth was the threat that I had a dream about nearly a year ago after we left Aesteryl, who had kidnapped Briar and the other new humans.

Stangil gave her a chance to run up a white flag by sending a message via arrow. It was returned to us with mocking. We launched flaming ballistas immediately. The battle was horrific. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever seen. Eisseth could control fire; she was more disciplined and stronger than I. My disintegration tickled her and she could diffuse my fireballs before they hit her ship. Luckily, Belaric and the others were distracting her with flaming arrows and I was able to get a few good fireballs shot at the Dreadnought. I took out several oars on the port side and prevented her ship from ramming us. Eisseth also sent over fireballs and, unfortunately, I was unable to stop all of them from damaging our ship and killing our men. Snuffing out the fires on our deck was a new manifestation of my powers. I am thankful that I could focus so well in the heat of battle; that may have saved some lives.

Both ships crashed together, bow to stern. Stangil swung from one of our masts to board the Dreadnought and I took a moment to gawk at how amazingly heroic he is. I have come to rely on him as more than a companion or friend, but as someone to whom I would entrust my life. Others followed his lead and we brought the fight to their deck. Stangil blew a hole through the top deck with Cybil and jumped below to avoid a fireball from Eisseth. I laid down a wall of fire that no one, with the exception of Arianna and Eisseth, could walk through.

As Stangil returned to the fight above, the sea ceased moving. The waves froze. Everyone stood still. Memories of you and your father flashed through my mind. Happy memories that I locked away half a lifetime ago returned to me and flooded my mind. I saw Leviathan. I saw Eliah. I saw you. I saw the fire that consumed our home and took you and your father away from me. When the visions faded, I snapped back into the present. Many people were still dazed and stunned. I assume they saw things as well.

Belaric stood up and told me not to look behind me. Of course, I looked. There was a portal. On the other side of it was you. I saw your handsome, innocent face for the first time in twenty years and it brought me so much peace. Belaric said that he was told this would happen and that he was prepared as he began to run to the portal. I tripped him and the portal closed.

For that, my love, I am not sorry. In that moment, I realized what he was going to do and I could not let him. As much as I miss you and though you are a piece of my heart, I could not let Belaric sacrifice himself. I could not lose one more person that I loved. I do not know if Somnambuliss had set him up or if he really would have been able to pull you through, but I refused to find out if it was a cruel trick. As the portal closed, Belaric screamed and my heart sank for him. I had previously been blind to how much he wanted to make me happy and how unhappy I had seemed to others. It was a wake-up call.

Speaking of waking up, the battle resumed. There was fire everywhere. I was sweeping away dreadnoughts and shouted at Arianna to snap out of it before she got hurt. Belaric shot two arrows deep into Eisseth. Arianna struck her from chin to sternum. Stangil was about to finish her when she pleaded, “stop.” We gave the command for everyone to hold. Stangil and I gave our word that if Eisseth answered all of our questions, we would let her go. She told us that Tol’Storig had hired her and seemed to know little else. That was enough for us.

I pleaded to Stangil to give her over to Briar and the two other new humans because they were owed some vindication. Stangil insisted that we gave our word and must let her go. I hesitated. I thought about ending her right then and there. Eisseth had caused so much destruction and pain and even as she was bleeding out, she was laughing at us. Then, Stangil turned to me, said that I was too good a person to have to do this and snapped the demon’s neck. He then took one of her eight horns as a trophy.

No one could speak for a long while. I wanted to retreat into my cabin and never leave. The dreadnoughts surrendered and agreed to work with us. Braeden said he could salvage both ships. I treated as many wounded as I could. We kept busy.

Smooth Sailing
I found Belaric as soon as the high priority tasks were delegated and carried out. We had a heart to heart and he explained that neither of us were happy and he saw an opportunity to make me happy. He wanted that for me, no matter the cost. I told him that that was not what I wanted. I was moved by his sacrifice but it was not his responsibility to change my past and I certainly did not want him to pay the price. I love him, Bael. Belaric makes me happy and has brought to light feelings that I had hidden and ignored for years. I want to be with him and I think that I could make him happy; I would at least like the chance to try. For that, I need to move on from my past and stop living frozen in time. I think that was why I was able to shake the effect of the memories more quickly than others… I’m used to it.

Stangil, on the other hand, spent as much time as he could in the following weeks repairing both ships. He exhausted himself every day until he ran out of work to do. The guilt he felt for breaking his word broke his spirit. Finally, Stangil had to fill the silence and talk to Julian. Stangil poured his anguish, guilt, and angst into Julian and, in return, was consoled. Julian never judges Stangil; he supports him. It may take a very long time for Stangil to forgive himself and I know a little something about that.

The remainder of the trip was uneventful. We noticed nearly ten thousand southern Feoral organized off the coast. Over a dozen banners, including the Burning Dogs and the Chosen Sons were present. Several hundred Dolgari were enslaved and forced to feed the Feoral. We stopped by Magnus Plains for Stangil and Julian to search ruins for some of Rheumaous’s possessions. Finally, we went upriver for a few days and moored in Lake Sayesteya.

Rolling Out the Welcoming Mats
We were greeted upon our return by Gregar, Rheumaous and Ithaca. Then, we were escorted to court where Aristos presented us and thanked us for our blah blah blah. Gauladek was in the crowd, watching as we walked in with Odoth Iluith and Sosyth. Low and behold, Seripathia was sitting in a council seat next to the king’s mistress, Asala. I was surprised to see so many faces from the other continent had arrived before us.

An hour later, Stangil and I spoke privately with Aristos. Honestly, I would rather have nothing to do with kings and people in power and I am happy when my name is not remembered. Aristos was aware of the Feoral in the south and said that it was not our place to get involved. Seripathia is not on the council, but she is present because Elrathia sent word that she could be trusted. I have to say that that woman has terrible judgment… then again, I’m usually not a fan of people who poison me. In retrospect, it makes sense that those two are friends; they are both so fond of getting their way by poisoning others.

Strange, ghost-like beings were attacking people in the Western Lluaran forests. Rondal was a hero and had saved Luke. Luke had been badly injured so he and Roash were sent back to give word on their progress. A black and red dragon, whom Stangil is confident is Trellius, is also attacking that region. Trellius is the dragon whose son Stangil killed twenty years ago. I remained mostly silent while the two men argued over dragon eggs. Aristos was not happy that Stangil was openly discussing this in front of me. Stangil stood up for me. I was exhausted from the frustrating uselessness of politics and glad to leave when the conversation was over.

The last bit of pomp that we had to endure was a feast in our honor that night. I wandered around the city, not knowing where to go because, of course, the last time I was here I failed to find a home. I found my way to a familiar home… and saw Belaric being greeted by several of his daughters. They invited me in and I told him who I saw in court and that I was not going to the feast. Belaric, the man who supposedly prefers to be home, insisted that the feast would be fun with so many “characters” mixed together, so I borrowed a dress and we went.

A Feast for Heroes
I spoke with Odoth at the feast and watched the weasel squirm when I mentioned Gauladeck was present. I shared words with Gauladeck, who it seems is more of an ally than an enemy. Luke sought out Stangil but was not well-received. I ran into Bruinen… he is doing well. I was so surprised to see him that I could barely speak. Stangil and I spoke to Roash, who was a regular urggen’s ass. I decided to let my vengeance rampage go and let the past remain in the past. I sat at the bar next to Belaric, who easily rallied my lifetime of pent-up anger and we agreed that I would find Stangil, he would find Roash, and we would meet at the summer house in the woods.

I Waited Half My Life for this Moment
When Stangil and I arrived at the house, we saw Roash tied up in a chair and Belaric bleeding profusely from his gut. Roash had gotten a good swipe in with a knife, cutting through his abdomen. I rushed to patch him up while Stangil checked to make sure Roash was secured. I confronted him a second time about the night of the fire. After a few rounds of vague facts, we retrieved some useful information. Roash set the fire. Roash pulled me from the house. He did these things because Noella (Cyth’s sister, a seer) saw both you and Eliah as a threat to Cyth in the future. She told Roash that you would become something evil. I wanted to destroy him.

I wanted to make him feel what I felt and the only way to do that would be to hit his weakness, the family he loves… Cyth’s widow and son. But as easily as the anger came, it disappeared. I know the truth now. I no longer have to bear the guilt that I carried for so many years. I didn’t care what happened to him at this point. Vindication, revenge… it all seemed so pointless. Nothing I could do to him would bring you or Eliah back. Nothing I could do to him would give me back the half of my life I wasted on grieving. I was ready to walk away.

Then… Roash said that Rondal was probably dead. Before I could react, Stangil had cut him in half. I cleaned the room while Stangil buried the body. We brought Belaric home. I watched over him all night to make sure he would survive. I will be keeping him under wraps while he heals so no one will be suspicious. People will notice that Roash disappeared… I need to fade back into obscurity for a while.

Stangil needs to be home with Julian and their children. If the time comes that Aristos sends more people out west, Stangil will volunteer and I will go with him. But my plan for now is to make Voltierra my home.

Closure
Bruinen asked me to dinner. He professed his love for me… after fifteen years. A heart like his cannot imagine the darkness that I carry. He cannot fathom the things that have changed me, changed all of us, over the past year. For that, I am grateful. Humanity as a whole should never have to see the things that we have seen. For our race to thrive, we need to be happy. Survival means a few of us have to face the horrors of the world privately.

Anyway, I told Bruinen that I would love to get to know him again and meet his children. However, for now, I want to pursue this special thing between me and Belaric. Not to mention, I have a few other things to try out, like settling down in civilization. This is why I have to stop writing you for a while. You will always be in my heart, son, but I need to move forward. I will never forget you and the past year has shown me that new things can happen in my life without losing any memories of you.

With all my love,
Your Mommy – Serafina

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