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Andrew
Aug 29, 2014

Free Fiction Friday – The Price of Love – Part 5

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The Price Of Love – Part 5

Epilogue

Sitting on the edge of a parapet in the Magi Citadel, I stared up at the Island in the Clouds. Three months later and he still filled my thoughts. I lost him the day the world was saved. Another bittersweet day in my life.

Part of me wanted to go back to that cave to see if his spirit remained, waiting for me to return. In my heart I knew I wouldn’t find him there, but I couldn’t quell that last bit of hope.

After the defeat of the Degari, Chenoth and his army left our world. No explanations, no words of wisdom, nothing. The blue dragon, however, remained. He refused all my requests for his name, but insisted he would remain with me until the end of my days. His presence only added to the growing legend around me that I couldn’t quell. I wanted the bards to sing about Barh, not me, but my requests fell on deaf ears.

The three Magi who had survived became the new Magi Council. Following words of praise for Barh and sympathy for my loss, they told me I could stay in Barh’s quarters as long as I wanted. While we lived there, I’d always thought of them as our rooms, not his. Others clearly didn’t agree with me.

With nowhere else to go, I remained in the only home I’d known for eleven years. My family had died at the beginning of the war and my home had been destroyed. And with a dragon following me, my options were few.

But I also couldn’t stay. I found no peace among the memories of my home or the citadel. Everywhere I looked, I saw a part of him I loved; his chair beside the fireplace where he liked to read, his books, the trinkets from our travels, the weapons we used to practice and of course our bed. Finding a new home would be hard, but with some help, I knew I could find something suitable.

I noticed my fingers had started to rub Barh’s medallion. Since he had hung it around my neck, I hadn’t taken it off, not even to bathe. I’d often found myself touching it when I thought of him. Turning the gold circle over to read his name inscribed on the back, I noticed it felt warm.

My thoughts were interrupted by the familiar sound of the dragon winging his way toward me. As his hulking blue form, framed by the waning hours of daylight, drew closer, I tucked Barh’s pendant back inside my tunic.

He landed on the battlement and moved carefully toward me. No matter how many times I reminded him the Magi had enchanted the tower centuries ago, he still took care to not damage the stone.

We fell into our usual routine; he’d show up to keep me company, but we didn’t speak. Today he followed my gaze toward the floating Island in the Clouds. I didn’t know how long we stared at the wondrous place, but it had been long enough for me to tune out my surroundings and remember my time there.

When he shifted his weight, I blinked and returned to the present.

It is time to leave this place, Jacks.” His words caught me by surprise.

No one called me ‘Jacks’ except… “Barh?”

My heart ceased beating as hope filled me. The giant head swung around slowly, and I found myself looking into two crystal blue eyes. For a second, I dared to believe, but he shook his snout and the moment past.

“I wish such a thing were possible, but your mate has moved beyond the curtain of life.”

I could hear the sorrow in his voice, and his eyes showed concern. None of it mattered. With that one word, I showed my friend the depth of my foolishness.

“My name is Hasble.”

It didn’t immediate register what he’d said. When it did, my confusion was complete. “Why? I’ve asked for three months, why tell me now?”

“I have a message for you.” The way he brushed aside my question irked me, but before I could voice my annoyance, he continued. “The gods are not unmindful of what they asked of you and Barhingolis. They granted your mate a boon. He has been permitted to wait for you just beyond the curtain. When your time comes, you will be reunited. It is a gift beyond any they have granted.”

“Gift?” The word came out before I could stop it. How could the gods think leaving him on the other side of death was a gift? “That’s not a gift.”

“To the contrary. Had they not interceded, his soul would have been sent back and reborn to a new body. They have agreed to allow you both to enter the eternal together and not be parted again.”

My companion seemed to believe this was a wonderful blessing. “What does that have to do with my leaving our old home?”

“Your task is not yet complete.”

“What? I did everything they asked. Chenoth and his army are gone. There is nothing for me to lead.”

Hasble moved his head in a slow, exaggerated turn until he looked up at the island. “It falls to you to lead what Barhingolis’ sacrifice bought.”

“I did that already.”

“That was but the start. It is Chenoth’s will that you rule from his home in the clouds.”

“Rule? Rule what?” My answer had to wait, as a commotion below demanded my attention.

I watched as a carriage guided by a Magi seated on the front bench floated toward my position. Behind the gilded coach were three more. Atop these three I noticed the flag of the three principle kingdoms of our continent.

“To make certain the world does not forget Magi Barhingolis’ gift or the need to be ever vigilant, you will become emperor of this land and rule from your home in the clouds.”

I stumbled to find the words to answer. When I recovered enough to decline the position, my rejection was pre-empted by the head of the Magi council.

“Emperor Jackson.” He bowed as deeply as he could from his perch. That he would show me such respect shocked me, but my disbelief widened when I saw the three kings do the same from their carriages. “We are here to escort you to your new home.”

Hasble lowered his head and I mounted out of habit.

“You sacrifice will be noted by the gods, and you, like your beloved, will be rewarded. Though it may seem a punishment to be separated for so long, your time apart will go by in the blink of an eye. It will be a small price to pay for the eternity together you and Barhingolis will be granted.”

We lurched forward and I endured that awkward moment when Hasble worked to gain altitude and speed. Though I listened to his words, all I heard was that Barh and I would be apart for a long time.

Sunlight reflected off something from the Island and it broke my train of thought. A castle that hadn’t been there before sat at the base of the mountain. This place was like Barh; it appeared delicate, but I sensed a hidden strength.

Light caught my eye again and I was reminded of my promise. I could—nay, I needed—to do this. Barh gave all that he had for the world. In his honor, I could do no less. My broken heart might be the price of our love, but soaring toward my magical new home, I had faith we’d both be rewarded.

The End – for Now

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8 Comments

  1. Kathy Clevenger says:

    I know that it’s not possible for all stories to come with a HEA, and usually, I’m okay with that. This one, though, just tore me up. I’ll admit that I’ve been lagging a little in keeping up with everyone’s blogs, so I just stumbled upon this story today and read it straight thru. I really do hope that you will give us some more of Barh and Jack’s story, we need to know more.

    • Kathy,

      I’ve struggled with the concept of HEA all the time. I actually wrote this with this ending in mind then when I submitted it for an anthology I changed it so Hasble was Barh in his new ‘form’. I’m not sure where to go with this – backwards or forward. The problem with backwards is we know the ending. It’s hard to invest in a character who we know is going to die. But I have such a vision for the back story that I may want to tell it. I also see Jackson’s story going forward, the reluctant Emperor who accepted to honor Barh’s sacrifice. My thought with him is to pick up years later when he is looking for an heir. Someone to take on the role of steward of the lands.

      Anyway there is a lot to play with and a lot to decide. I’m sorry this tore you up – even though I was aiming for heroic tragedy. Thank you for not only reading but taking the time to comment.

      -AQG

  2. Martin says:

    Beautiful! I’d like to read more even though the story’s over for now. Curious to read more soon!

  3. Thanks Martin, I’ve soooo many ‘projects’ that I’m just not sure when I can get back to this one. I wanted to do something ‘realistic’ in the sense that if this were a real war, the odds that someone like Barh would survive are not high. In fact in most heroic fantasy, the heroes escape unscathed. Game of thrones is the exception, but there, there are so many players that there really isn’t one main character or characters so it’s not quite the same, but it is still breaking the mold.

    Sadly, I don’t think I can kill off a main character in a ‘published work’ anytime soon and NOT create a huge backlash from readers. So I figured I’d try my hand at it here and see the response. Thanks for chiming in. 🙂

    -AQG

  4. Beautiful. Thank you for taking us on this journey. Even though the ending is not HEA or HFN, the fact that they will once more be reunited eventually is some condolence. I think it’s fitting for the story. I enjoyed the heartwrenching ride!

  5. skylar1776 says:

    I would still like to see Jack as a ruler and his life until he meets with Barh again. Think about it. Maybe when you have time. I liked the story and the characters very much.

    • Skylar

      I actually have a story in mind for this. Something like Jack and his Dragon, where he’s weary of the world but feels trapped because he made his vow to Barh to lead what his sacrifice bought. The story would be about him and the dragon and as they search the world for an heir and what he finds is a child to raise and succeed him.

      That at least is my thoughts for now. 🙂