LI - A Good Life

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I knew I would have to go back, and sooner than I expected. I thought I'd get a decade, maybe fifteen years. I knew about the time warp, I understood it would happen before I was ready. But three years? That's all I got? To scrape myself back together and pick the pieces up? My heart is still too weak, my pain still to sharp. Barely holding myself together with tape and string, I face the return. 

And what I'll find there. 

Adras as an old, dying man. His family. A wife. Children and grandchildren, sons and daughters in law. An empire that he built and ruled and now will pass on to others. 

To have to go back and face them...to lean over his dying body and prepare myself for his dying breath, for the second I have to consume the powers back into my own body...

It is too much to be endured. 

Nevertheless, I have to go. This final act must be completed. 

I tread the familiar trail between the Milky Way and Andromeda, the barriers of the latter galaxy welcoming me home with roaring applause and the suffocating hug of a dear friend. 

As I once did, countless lifetimes ago, I hesitate in the sky. As always befuddled by the correct and appropriate approach. Do I reenter in a blaze of glory, the triumphant god returned? Do I throw myself around the sky in a burning ball of light and thunder? Do I rain sparks and fireworks across a dark and clear night sky? All of it seems too much, too silly. In the end, I decide on a private reappearance. I merely pop onto a balcony outside the royal family's quarters. I hover there, tucking myself behind flowing, lavender curtains that whisper in the wind. I wait and watch, hoping a familiar face walks by; Cyrus, Hagne, Xanthos. Instead, a gaggle of people sits in tearstained silence, sniffling and frowning into distances only they can see. The honeysuckle and jasmine smell of the Pernathian air digs up half-buried memories. It swoops through my nose and through the empty chambers of my heart. Stabbing me from inside out with cool comfort and the memory of heated skin and flushed cheeks. 

I push away an old, cruel voice that whispers hateful defeat on my ears. Tempting me with the thoughts that I've been forgotten, that Adras stopped loving me, that my presence here is unwelcome. I banish the voice to the great beyond. 

A little girl with a mop of inky black curls turns to look out of the window. She sees me through the curtains and her face illuminates with all the shock and happiness of a kid seeing Santa Claus on Christmas morning. 

"Eris?" Her thin, high, baby voice questions softly. It's barely a ripple in the air. An older woman and a ten-ish-year-old girl turn to look at her as if she called them by name and not me. 

The toddler stands up and points excitedly, her chubby round arm soft and perfect, "ERIS!" she screams, bouncing up and down on her toes. 

The other children turn their faces to me. There are about fifty of them, ranging in age from the little girl's three years to the eldest on the cusp of adulthood. They all have pieces of him. Dark curls, high cheeks, midnight eyes, soft smiles. Their faces are blended in with other, unfamiliar features, but they are Adras' grandchildren through and through.

A man with a snowy white beard and glossy silver hair moves to quiet them, shushing them with a playful wink. When he looks up and sees me, his jaw drops. Cyrus.

I smile, my heart full and wonderful, fit to burst. I'm so happy to be home, so overcome with joy to be back. 

Cyrus mutters to a woman sitting beside him. Her hair used to be fire red but is now a burnished, rosy silver. She looks up quickly and finds me with knowing eyes and a bright smile. The wife who got to have him, the woman who gave him the life he deserved. Azar. 

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