Free Fiction Friday – The Price of Love – Part 2
The Price Of Love – Part 2
As Chenoth said? If Barh spoke to Chenoth a year ago, why didn’t he tell me before? More importantly, why hadn’t Chenoth helped us yet?
My lungs burned and I realized I held my breath waiting for something to happen. Running my eyes around the cavern, I searched for some sign of Chenoth. Barh’s body shook, but he didn’t move his feet.
“Welcome, Magi Barhingolis.”
I nearly jumped through the rock. The deep voice was strong and commanding, yet comforting. It appeared to come from all around me frustrating my search for the speaker. “Long has been your journey, child. be at ease in my home.”
“My thanks, Chenoth, but I shall find no comfort in your home this day or any. The hour is short and our need is great.” Barh didn’t shift his focus from the odd rock in the center of the room. “I have come to secure your help and restore balance to our world.”
“What do you offer?”
“All that I have and all that I ever will.” Barh’s answer started out almost a sob, but steadied by the last word. I shivered despite the temperature.
“As is proper.” Chenoth paused and I felt my breath catch again. “Are you prepared to do all that is necessary to secure my help?”
“I am.” Those two little words held such sadness I knew something terrible had just happened. I stared a hole in Barh’s face, but he refused to meet my gaze. Movement in the main part of the cave forced me to turn away.
White vapors swirled all around the room and gained substance as more appeared. Like Chenoth’s voice, I couldn’t locate the source, but the fog continued to thicken and grow. Just when I thought it would engulf us, the white, puffy cloud pulled back and coalesced into an enormous dragon. The hulking body filled nearly the entire space with its mass. Only then did I realize smoke had enveloped Barh and a thin line connected him to the dragon.
“Chenoth.” I’m not sure if I said the word aloud or just mouthed it, but with all my heart I knew he was about to take the man I loved. Before I could protest, he spoke.
“I accept your offer.” The last wisp of white pulled away from Barh and into Chenoth. Light filled the room and the dragon looked pleased.
Barh finally tilted his head up and stared at Chenoth with tears at the edges of his eyes. “Will you allow me to say goodbye?”
Say goodbye? I tried to find my voice, but I couldn’t speak. My worst fears had come true and I was powerless to stop the events from unfolding before me.
“You have earned this small boon and more.” Impossibly, Chenoth stood up and stretched his enormous wings. Awe replaced my fear for the briefest instant as I saw the cavern expand and open to the sky.
Barh was staring at me when I looked down. He tried to smile, but his lips trembled so much he had to pull them tighter.
“Goodbye?” I croaked.
“I can’t… I can’t go back with you, Jacks.” Although he whispered, the sound felt like someone shouted into my mind. My mouth wouldn’t move, not that I knew what to say.
“All that I have, and all that I ever will.” Barh started to turn, but stopped and kept his gaze locked on mine. “Someone must give everything to save the rest.”
“No.” I found my voice and shook my head. How could this be happening? “Not you, no! Let someone else. Let someone else!”
I felt my control waiver and I nearly gave into the urge to scream hysterically. Barh stayed my break down with the barest of smiles. It felt like he was trying to remember something happy and that was all the joy he could manage.
“Oh, Jackson.” Tears started to drip down his cheek. “If there were any other way.”
“No!” I screamed as if I could refuse to hear him. “No!”
He grabbed my hands and ran his thumbs over my skin. “Forgive me, please.”
I turned, searching for something to say, some way to stop the stampede of pain heading toward me.
“Please,” he pleaded.
“No, no, no, no!” It was the word that filled my thoughts. “Barh don’t do this.”
“I have no choice. There is no—”
“PLEASE!” I shouted him into silence. For a moment.
“Jackson,” I barely heard him call my name. My grief engulfed me to the point I heard a thunderous roar in my mind. “I need you to tell me, this is okay.”
Shaking my head, I mouthed his last word. How could he think I would ever tell him this was okay?
“Don’t do this to me, Barh.” I shook my head and refused to look at him. “Please don’t.”
“If there was any other way, Jacks.” Barh swallowed twice and took a deep breath. “Last time I was here, Chenoth told me the price of his help. I couldn’t… I wouldn’t pay it.”
I watched in shock when the tears began to drip down his cheek. Soon his sobs wracked his body and he used his hand to cover his eyes. During the war, Barh suffered pain beyond any I could imagine: demonic burns, sword cuts, even the lost of his closest friends. Nothing reduced him to this state. Finally, he regained control, but the tears continued.
“I wouldn’t pay it,” he repeated. “I couldn’t leave you and because I was weak, the war continued and thousands more needlessly died.”
So much that I didn’t understand became clear. Those odd looks, the way his gaze lingered on me, the times he had us stay somewhere “just a few minutes longer.” He knew each visit somewhere would be our last.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
He turned his attention to toward the silent form of Chenoth. “Because I refused to believe it was the only way. In the end, the truth never changed and I failed you and everyone else who looked to me for help.”
I lived for years in constant fear the war would take him from me. I began to cry at the cruel twist of fate. He’d survived it all only to be told the answer he sought required him to sacrifice himself.
“Barh,” I whispered between my own sobs. “You never failed me.”
Despite my attempts, he refused to look at me. “Yes I did. Chenoth explained everything the last time we were here and I refused to accept the truth.”
“What truth?” Every child was told how the gods gave Chenoth and his kind to our world to watch over and protected us. The Degari pose no threat to Chenoth, but they could only intercede when are our need was greatest. Like now. So why didn’t they answer our call?
I stood transfixed, waiting for him to answer. Barh sniffed twice and wiped the remaining tears from his face.
“The Magi exist to serve the people. This we always knew. Last year Chenoth told me that he and the other Elementals could only act if a Magi…if a Magi agreed to be his earthly form.”
The gasp escaped my lips before I could stop it. “You’re the last Magi.”
The Degari must have known Chenoth’s price, because they’d been targeting the Magi with unwavering devotion since the war began. Barh had been the last Magi since before we came here last year.
Barh finally looked at me. “No, I’m not.”
“What?” I couldn’t have heard it right. “How?”
“Three other Magi are still live. The Council quickly recognized the Degari were targeting us. They faked the deaths of three who were our best teachers and hid them in three different kingdoms. Fifteen of the brightest novices accompanied each teacher. The hope is they will survive so our talents will not be lost.”
“If you’re not the last, then someone else can pay…” My hopes were dashed as he slowly shook his head.
“Chenoth was specific, I am the price of his aid.”
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