The clan of the Dragon, our party in tow, made its way southeast and we eventually found the Phoenix Tree. It was huge! We could see it from a day’s walk away. I was nervous and excited at the same time. My necklace had stopped glowing as brightly and I can’t for the life of me figure out what that means. I hope Jericho and Logan are both alright. I finally talked to Jig about his leaving and I feel a lot better now…I even promised to see him at least once a year to put on a musical show for him and his tribe. I’m glad that, even if he’s not in Sabwa, at least he won’t be too far away.
After a little more traveling, we finally arrived at the Phoenix Tree. I looked hopefully around, only to realize that if Jericho and Logan were here on the Ethereal Plane, that I could not see them. Jig’s tribe has a ritualistic herb that lets them contact the “Spirit World”. Though we didn’t know if it would work, we decided to see if the herb would let us get to the Ethereal Plane. Jig bravely decided to try the herbs out first. Since he knew his tribal rituals better than I ever could, I let him do it. Alanna and I sat by his side as he passed out from the herb. All we could do was wait and hope that the idea worked.
A long while later, Jig emerged from his sleep. He didn’t seem hurt, which was good, and he had managed to find Jericho and Logan! Unfortunately, he hadn’t been able to bring them back. I bit back a cry of sorrow just in time to hear him say that he thought he might be able to if he tried the herb again. We decided that if the herb on the Material Plane could propel one into the Ethereal Plane, perhaps the plant used in the Ethereal Plane could have the opposite effect, sending one from the Ethereal Plane onto the Material Plane. We decided that we should send Jig back with some of the herb to try the idea out. Still hopeful of success, we went through several more attempts before we saw any results. When Jericho did come through partially, all I could see were flickers, sporadically placed and randomly blinking. We saw Logan a little bit later doing the same thing. When Jig finally awoke, he told us that Jericho had taken quite a beating in the attempt to return and that Logan hadn’t woken up at all yet. Frightened and afraid for them, we sent Jig and Alanna back to the Ethereal Plane using the herb…Jig to drop off a ready supply of the herb and Alanna to, hopefully, heal the wounds.
...Apparently the herb does not have the same effect on all people. Jig passed out, as he had been normally doing but Alanna got up quite quickly, before she was supposed to. I tried to guide her back down to make sure she was alright and to possibly cast a healing spell, but she kept making odd sexual references towards me and tried to kiss me. After that she screamed at me and ran. Afraid that the powerful herb had somehow damaged her brain, I yelled for Jig’s father to grab her and hold her. He did so and after a few moments she passed out as well. We laid her back onto the ground gingerly. I hope that she will be alright. Maybe she just needs a little rest and a heal spell. With all of my close friends fallen around me, I felt a gnawing sense of dread begin to take over. I wish that there was some way I could make sure that everyone else was alright! It was so frustrating to only be able to wait, watch and hope for all of their safe return! I pull out my lute to try and play a song to calm my nerves but it is no use. My fingers bungle the chords I have known since childhood and the churning in my stomach only grows more intense. I put the lute back and morosely stare at the fire, waiting and hoping.
Then I hear a strangled voice call “Kiira” from behind me. I whirl around just in time to see Jericho fall to his knees. My whole body tenses tighter than a bowstring and I see myself run so slowly, so slow! over to his body, face-down and prone on the packed earth. I see hands checking for a pulse and it seems someone else who screams out a heartwrenching, wordless sound of denial as she finds nothing at all. Tears start streaming – unbidden; unnoticed down ivory skin as the woman throws herself over the body of her loved one, screaming “Jericho! No! No! My love!”. The elven woman buries her tears in his back, no more words forthcoming- only an eerily haunting, ululating howl of grief that turns into sobbing, then silence as she collapses into the utter exhaustion of spent grief.
When she awakes, her sky-blue eyes have hardened into glacial ice. With a look of cold resolve, she lifts her head from the one thing that was beyond her ability to control. This was one thing in her life that could not be changed – could not be removed with a spell or made better with words. There was nothing if he was not there…if this was his time to travel to whatever lay beyond the realm of death, he was not going alone. They had made a family together and whatever adventure or hardship lay beyond the impenetrable veil of death’s grim visage, she would accompany him. She would make it her time. Gritting her teeth, she drew her shortsword, the one that he had given her lifetimes ago. Fiery resolve written on her face, she took one last long look at what could have been and thrust the sword towards her heart…
Only to have her wrist snatched by a treacherous fiend, the grip strong enough to knock the startled woman’s sword from her white-clenched hand. Molten anger blazing, she looks up at the other woman. The other one’s lips are moving but through the overwhelming deluge of grief and despairing resolve, all the kneeling woman on the floor can hear his the rush of the ocean drowning her senses. The other woman moves closer, shakes the shoulder of the kneeling woman….
“Kiira! Heal him!! He’s still alive!!” Alanna urgently orders me. The name and the the implications give me enough of a sliver of hope to do as she orders, though my head shakes in denial even as I cast the spell. “It will not work…Jericho...he’s…he’s already passed beyond” I manage in a choked voice. I go to retrieve my fallen shortsword and catch a sudden glimpse of Jericho’s chest moving up and down rhythmically. Gasping in disbelief, I go over to him and hug him as fiercely as I can, shortsword forgotten in the dust. Wild joy erupts just as intensely as the crippling grief of earlier on, tears of gladness stream once again down my eyes.
It feels so good to be in his arms once more. I am horrified at what I almost threw away. Jericho and I talk for awhile and I am happy, happier than I have been in many days. I missed him so much. It is only after we’ve been talking awhile that I notice random pieces of his body flickering; almost as if they’re gone. One second there and solid and the next missing from existence. I gasp and tell him, but he doesn’t even know when he disappears. A sudden realization strikes my heart and I realize with a sinking feeling that, just as the herb Jig used to get to the Ethereal Plane wore off after a certain amount of time, so too would this herb. My heart breaks at the thought of losing him again after so short a time but I try to choke back the sob, letting him have the books I bought for him in case he goes back and giving him the music box that plays our song for him to listen to. It’s not fair; losing him so soon.
But the alternate plan that Alanna devises I like even less. She wants to kill him. Kill him!! and then use her staff to bring him back from the dead. It sounds fine in theory but I don’t know if I can bear to watch him die again. And if anything goes wrong, the slightest misstep, and he is gone for good. Tired of arguing with Alanna over the matter, I tell her to go ask Jericho what he thinks. AND HE AGREES TO IT!! It is a decision that I never thought he would agree to. I have such a bad feeling about this. We clear the area and I go to give him one last hug. The cold resolve born of grief that I thought gone when Jericho was healed begins to well up inside me again. My eyes glint dangerously and I inwardly vow that, if the spell goes awry; if he dies, I will go with him. Our souls will go beyond, together – as a family. I clutch his hand and lean in as close as I dare as I watch in horrified anticipation as Alanna carefully and deliberately steps in front of Jericho. I feel his body tense and see his eyes shut for just a moment. His heart is hammering so hard! My breathing starts getting faster and already I feel a terrifying hole begin to fill the pit of my stomach. Try as I might, though, I am mesmerized and cannot look away. The surreal slowness I felt when I saw him die the first time comes back to me. Every image burned into my disbelieving brain. The slow progress of the knife as his body tenses even more and his heart starts beating faster than I thought possible. The glint of steel as I watch the knife puncture a layer of skin and then go deeper and deeper as his eyes widen in a startled look of intense pain. And the blood! So much blood. The tears come once more to my eyes as I feel his heartbeat speed up and then slow down …slowing until it is only a faint drumming and then fading into nothingness as the blood spurts from the open wound and he slumps over; lifeless. I feel whatever beast had taken control of me before begin its animalistic clawing to the surface of my consciousness as I clutch him as tight as I can; so tight that my fingers turn white and I lose sight of what we’re doing. This is worse! So much worse than before!! I cannot think straight – feel only rage and cold, shocked grief so intense that it burns away any coherent thought. The others around me disappear and it is only him and I; nothing else matters!
It is Alanna who calls me back, reminds me of what we’re doing; why we’re here. I step back a few paces and wait, hand on the hilt of my sword, as she waits…and waits what seems an eternity before she finally takes her staff and stretches it out towards Jericho’s lifeless body. I take a deep breath, watching expectantly. A millenium passes in that moment and only as he sits up do I release the held breath. It worked! He’s alive!! I speed towards him and wrap him in a fierce tackle-hug, sobbing in a combination of pent-up relief and joy. Together, we all make our way to the beaches that will take us to Sabwa.
Before we leave the beach, I tell Alanna that we need to talk to her. I know it’s painful and I want to make it quick & get the needed words out of the way. Trying not to raise her hopes overly much, I tell her that Jig and I found Ashleigh’s body floating in the water on our first trip to the newly founded Sabwa. I tell her that he’s alive, though not conscious when we left. I was going to let the others in Sabwa handle the discussion but Jig insisted on telling her that he was still alive before we parted ways. I look up at her, a smile partly forming on my lips as I anticipate her excitement at the good news that one who we thought lost forever had returned and was, at the least, alive. The response I got, however, was not at all what I expected. Alanna regarded me placidly for a few moments, uttered a small “hmm” and then turned away, without any discernible expression crossing her face. Confused, but knowing that Alanna very much valued her alone time to come to terms with things, I let her go as I bid Jig a final farewell and climbed onto the sea turtle that Alanna had summoned for us to travel on with Jericho.
What I took to be a simple mulling of thoughts on Alanna’s part, however, quickly become something else. It was the way she acted. She had been a little distant since she had returned from her journey but this, this was downright cold. She spoke only when I said something to her, and then only a curt, short reply. And, while the journey before we had made it to the Phoenix Tree had seen us laughing and talking as old comrades, I noticed that now she seemed to make it a point to avoid me. After about the third night and with no Alanna making an overture to talk, I went to her and asked what was the matter. She was hurt that I hadn’t told her earlier! I couldn’t see it. If our situations had been reversed, I would have wanted to be told Jericho was alive as we were rushing off to the exact place he was at – not a month or two earlier, with worries and doubts about him pulling through and far away from where he was at. I had thought I was being kind by waiting to tell her. She did not see it that way though. I did the best I could to apologize and then awkwardly tried to let her have her space as we made the final leg of the journey to Sabwa.
When we arrived, Jericho was nervous at first. It was sweet and made me chuckle a little inwardly. He was welcomed, of course, with hearty smiles and hugs. I felt like part of the family as Marius welcomed me back as well. Ashleigh’s condition, sadly, remains unchanged but at least he is still alive. Micah left once more, no doubt to forge his own unique path. At least he stayed to help build the houses and to help Ashleigh as much as he could. Marius showed me the house that had been built for Jericho and I, an almost exact replica of Jericho’s old house, with the addition of another floor containing another bedroom and a small room for the baby. I smile at the love that had gone into the crafting as my thoughts turned, surprisingly, to the family I had left behind in Corindan. I wondered briefly how my parents were doing, if they were okay. It would be so odd to have a permanent house that wasn’t in the treetops; was on the ground. Shaking the thoughts, I gave Marius a hug and thanked him as he left and Jericho and I officially made the house our own. Whatever had happened before, I felt peaceful – at home.
The next morning I awoke to Jericho just sitting by me, watching me with a sweet smile on his face. I smile as I wake up and think of how lucky I am to have him here with me. I couldn’t have found a better man if I scoured the world for five hundred years I think to myself as I sit up and give him a kiss. “Breakfast?” he asks and I nod an enthusiastic yes. He only moves to the bed however and I give him a confused look as his eyes glint mischievously at me. I shake my head and say “Fine, I’ll go get it” and start to make my way downstairs. He grabs my wrist before I can make it far from the bed, though, and a ray of dawning realization lights my countenance as I fall back into the bed, chuckling at myself…
When the afternoon rolls around, I make my way to finally see the others in the village. Everyone is doing fine, except for Ashleigh, who is still not moving. I move cautiously towards Alanna, who is sitting by his side. I see the pain and determination written on her face and I sit next to her. She asks me to help her and I breathe a sigh of relief that she at least made an attempt to talk to me again and I nod that I will do whatever I can. The rest of the night we spend talking to Ashleigh, as we did that first night that he walked in the Shadow Plane with Collin. He will make it. He will. My thoughts turn inward, as they tend to do when I’m talking this way. The rest of the afternoon and part of the evening I spend with Alanna, only returning to the house when I must.
The next day, I awake to find Alanna slumped against a post in Grimm’s forge. I thought that she was just tired but it turns out that she had taken the herbs that would take you to the Ethereal Plane!! I could only assume that she had gone to find Logan’s spirit and felt worried but confident that she would succeed. It was only after the second day that I realized something was wrong. Every time Jig had gone, he had been back way before this. Frantic, I cast as many healing spells as I could. They seemed to have little effect, though, and I simply watched and waited for signs of a change, either good or bad.
After a lot of thinking on my part as I waited for Alanna to recover, I decided that I couldn’t yet settle. While I could find my peace here, I wouldn’t be able to truly be happy until I knew that the friends that had come with me on my journey were happy and safe as well. I decided to try and find a cure for Ashleigh and make sure that Alanna was as taken care of and happy before I settled down permanently. Maybe I would even find a way to send a message to my family, let them know that I was okay and happy. When I told him I was going to leave he sent me on my way, simply saying that I had his blessings. I gave him a look that spoke volumes as I walked out of the room we had been in and left to go pack up my things. A couple of days and misunderstandings later, Jericho agreed to come with me on our journey, to return when we were finished and settle permanently in Sabwa. Just as we were finishing up our discussion of that Logan popped back into existence. I rushed to give him a welcoming hug, grateful that he had made it back alive and unharmed. Alanna was soon to follow. I heard a sound from me and I whirled around, giving her a full-on tackle-hug; relieved that she too had been unharmed and had returned to us and grateful that our paths had not split in this way.