I’d walked worlds.
I’d traversed the stars.
I’d saved creation.
There was no doubt that my life had been hard. So many times I had wanted to give it up. To throw down my weapon and turn away from my duty as a godsblessed hero. To let them fend for themselves.
But I hadn’t.
And it had been worth it.
It had, in the end, been a good life.
I was humbled; I was venerated. I was a role model for generations to come.
What more could have I asked for?
I’d seen the wonders of the Source, just as he had told me to do.
It had pained me that he was not by my side to enjoy them with me- both of them. But it was their final wish for me, and I would not disappoint them.
And so, I’d traveled the land until my legs could carry me no further. Until my hair had changed, and my skin had wrinkled, and I no longer looked the part of the youthful, triumphant hero.
But still, they celebrated me.
Even now, as the last of my oldest friends sat vigil at my bedside.
And by the look on their faces, I knew my time was now in very short supply.
“Cry not for me,” I instructed Alisaie, my voice raspy and weak as I struggled to stay awake for just a few minutes longer.
To give them a proper goodbye.
Stubborn to the last , I was sure he would say.
With the last of my strength, I reached out to her, wiping the tears from her cheek with my thumb before placing my palm on her cheek. Her chin trembled as she wrapped her hand around my own, watching me with glassy eyes, water threatening to overflow and spill down her face once more.
“We will miss you,” Alphinaud said on my other side, clutching my free hand to his chest. “Our most trusted friend. Our rock.”
Slowly, I tilted my head towards him, a soft smile on my lips.
“I lived a fulfilling life,” I insisted, tired eyes examining his face for what was likely the last time. “I did what I had to do, and I have no regrets. But now, it is time that I go.”
My body began to feel weightless.
And I could almost see them-
“I’m ready to go.”
The twin offered me a solemn nod as a sob escaped his sister’s lips. She squeezed my hand tightly. I looked back at her, my smile widening into my most mischievous grin.
“And who knows,” I continued, that old glint in my eyes. “Perhaps we will be born together again, and go on many more grand adventures.”
Despite herself, Alisaie huffed a laugh, no doubt remembering the antics we had been up to in our youth. She sniffled and roughly wiped the tears from her eyes.
“I’ll hold you to that,” she promised.
“Smooth sailing, my friend,” Alphinaud said, his voice threatening to crack. “If anyone deserves this rest, it is you.”
I chuckled quietly and nodded my head.
“See you later,” I responded, relaxing back against my pillow.
Because this was not goodbye, really. Not for good.
But, I could hear the song of the lifestream calling to me now, and it was too enticing to deny.
So, I closed my eyes.
And followed a little blue bird towards my mortal end.
The afterlife was warm.
As if I had fallen asleep under a tree in late spring, a soft, afternoon sun shining on my face.
Long forgotten memories of lives past ebbed and flowed in the back of my mind and a soft smile graced my lips as I breathed a sigh.
Memories both good and bad, but a relief just the same.
“She’s here!” A sweet, child-like voice flitted to me, rippling just inside of my consciousness. Far away, but near all the same. “I told you I would get it right this time.”
A familiar laugh.
“Yes. Well done, Meteion.”
My brow furrowed in confusion.
That name , I recalled. I had not heard it in…
Slowly, the fog in my mind began to dissipate, the excited chatter of friendly voices becoming clear.
And when my eyes finally slid open, my jaw dropped, the breath leaving me.
I stood in a large field, the grass awash with bright, prismatic Elpis flowers.
And before me-
“It’s good to see you again, my friend,” Minfilia said, standing at the forefront of a large group.
Thancred stood next to her, arms crossed as he examined me from top to bottom, an approving smile on his face. Y'shtola on her other side, giving the small, bird-like girl a pat on the head.
My gaze swept over everyone- everyone .
They had all gathered to greet me. All of my friends who had gone before.
I felt tears prick the corners of my eyes as a tall elezen in chainmail stepped forward, gently gripping my shoulders with both hands. I stared up at him with wide eyes, and when our gazes met, he smiled softly.
“We were waiting for you.”
With a sob, I threw my arms around him. Haurchefant chuckled as he wrapped his around me in response, lifting me from the ground as he pulled me into his tight, comforting embrace.
“I missed you,” I said with a wavering voice, looking over his shoulder as I clutched him tightly. “All of you.”
When I pulled back, they crowded around me.
Wiping my tears. Welcoming me, crushing me with hugs. Laughing and joking with me. Just as we had in the old days .
“Well,” a familiar, haughty voice said suddenly, above the commotion and immediately I froze, the merriment dying down for a moment. A chill snaked up my spine. “You certainly took your time.”
“You cannot be cross with her, Hades,” pointed out a second. “ You were the one to insist she travel while we had a rest.”
A click of a tongue.
“Well if she’d had any sense of decency, she would have been faster about it.”
Slowly, I turned. The wave of my friends parted as I did, giving me an unobstructed view of the pair that now stood behind us.
Emet-Selch stood at the edge of the group, his arms crossed over his chest, a dour, unimpressed expression on his face as he took a good look at me. I raised a brow, matching his stance with my hands on my hips.
“And here I was, thinking you’d be happy to see me,” I posited, hanging my head with a deep, histrionic sigh. “I suppose that’s what I get for following your instructions for once. Live , he told me and now complains that I did . See if I ever listen to you again.”
He opened his mouth to argue, but next to him, Hythlodaeus shook his head as he released a breathy laugh, folding his arms into the sleeves of his robe.
“See, Hades?” He teased. “Now you’ve gone and upset her. It’ll be your fault if she doesn’t want to be reborn with us again.”
Emet-Selch rolled his eyes, though his lips twitched upwards as his gaze locked with mine. In response, I huffed a quiet laugh out of my nose, giving him a gentle, knowing smile and relaxed my arms to my side.
He never could resist giving me a hard time, could he?
“She missed us too much, I think, to allow that to happen,” he said softly, then held his hand out to me. “What do you say, my love? Shall we give it another go?”
My eyes widened at the offer, and I hesitated for a moment.
I was ready for it. I didn’t want to rest. I wanted them . They were all I wanted, all I ever truly wanted.
But surely, it was too soon? Would my friends not want time with me too?
So I twisted back to see them, and was met by a multitude of grins. Every single one of them .
“Stop that,” Moenbryda instructed, a feline smile on her lips as she waved her hand in my face. “Put yourself first for once.”
Tears stung my eyes as I looked up at her, then at each and every one of them in turn. Those who had been with me through thick and thin, who had given up their lives for me, for the world. Those who I had loved, and loved me in return.
“Go on,” Y’sayle urged, placing her hands on my shoulders, spinning me so that I faced Hades and ‘Daeus once more, both waiting patiently as I made my decision.
When I didn’t move immediately, Thancred stepped out of the crowd.
“Don’t worry about us,” he insisted, placing his hand on the small of my back. “We’ll be right behind you.”
He gave me a hard push and I stumbled a few steps forward. Quickly, Hades reached out and grabbed my hand, pulling me against him to steady me. His arm wrapped around my waist, gripping me hard as if he never wanted to let go.
Not that I wanted him to, either.
My face broke out into a wide smile, looking back to my friends once more.
“Thank you,” I said. “For everything.”
“Are we ready?” Hades asked, looking at Hythlodaeus, then me.
“I think so,” ‘Daeus said first, leaning down to take my free hand. I wrapped my fingers tightly around his and nodded my head.
“Where will we go?” I asked, looking up at Hades.
“Somewhere boring, I think,” he decided. “At least for the first.”
“Not too boring, I trust?”
Hades clicked his tongue and shook his head.
“Nothing is ever truly boring with you two around,” he accused, lifting his arm into the air.
And without another word, he snapped his fingers, and everything went white.