The story so far: The gods have fought. Their fight is over and they are gone. Tollon stands amidst the wreckage. Now read on . . .
The last thing my sister saw was me, the person who had run her through with a sword. Mia’s neck was broken. Katrina was blown to pieces. It hardly matters that Honorable Strunstur’s eyes are gone. And for what?
“To save a world of people.”
Hands take me, arms take me, I’m enveloped in warmth as I cry uncontrollably. I see my sister dying before me. I’ve lost her twice, this time for good, and at my own hands. Oh, Mrokitar was in control, but Jallia will never know that.
“She did. I told her.”
I hear that repeated several times. It slowly sinks in. Not that it matters much.
I hear the same thing over and over again, and I finally sit up and look at who’s been holding me.
She answers my question before I can ask it. “You can’t kill a fairy by breaking our necks. We heal.”
“The others?” I ask.
Mia hesitates. I sternly call her by name.
She still hesitates, and then comes out with it. “Katrina’s dead. There’s nothing of her left. Alesca is alive, but unconscious. I don’t know what shape she’ll be in when she wakes up, if she wakes up. Honorable Strunstur . . . he tore his heart out with his bare hands as a sacrifice to Mrokitar while Katrina was engaging Ovedisca. I think it was his own idea. He’s dead.”
“We were going to fight a god,” I say.
Mia looks about. “Judging from the bodies and the wreckage, I’d say we did. We won. Isn’t that what matters, Tollon?”
“Is it?” I get up. I pull my sword out of Jallia’s body and sheath it without even bothering to wipe off the blood. I pick Jallia up and carry her corpse to the front, where I lay it on the altar. Mia brings a cloth from somewhere and drapes it over Jallia’s body.
I look behind the altar. Honorable Strunstur is there, a look of joy on his face, a blood-soaked hole in his chest.
In front of the altar, Honorable Alencar fell where she stood. I kneel down and take her pulse. She’s still living. I stand up and look at Mia. To her I say, “Is this what really matters, Mia?” I feel my anger rising. “We were pawns, nothing but helpless pawns, in a fight between gods.”
Even as I say it, I know it is a lie. Whatever Mrokitar did to me, it means I can understand some things as she would. It had to be us, we each played a role according to our natures. How and why that is so, I cannot explain. But it is so.
I’ve wanted to be a hero when I grew up. I’ve just become one. I’ve saved our world from devastation by Ovedisca’s vanishing sickness.
And I realize being a hero, some person who enjoys flashy successes he can brag about, is worthless. I didn’t really do much of anything. Mia can say we’ve succeeded, and we have, but in light of how it happened, it is a vain and empty claim to honor.
So what is the real honor here? I don’t know. But I do know one thing. We need to bury our dead. We need to help Honorable Alencar recover, whatever that takes. And then we need to go home. That’s what matters now. That’s the most honorable thing we can do. That’s the most honorable thing I can do.
And that is what we do. I dig graves. Mia cleans the corpses and helps Honorable Alencar when she wakes up. She wakes up sane, fortunately, though tired and horrified. The next day, in the rain, we stand by three graves, one of which is empty, to mourn our dead. And then I use a magical spell Honorable Alencar learned, when Mrokitar forced her to do research in the library, to take us back to our world.
END PART FIVE
(Yes, to be continued . . .)