Hope is a fragile thing. You hold on so tightly and it breaks so easily. The trick is to hold on gently and never let go.
The first night after we left the beach we slept on an island. I still felt upset at Kiira and didn’t wish to talk to her. I also felt a new hope in my chest that maybe Ashleigh would be alive. I handed the tent to Kiira that first night and told her to use it with Jericho, but just keep it down. They didn’t use it. I didn’t expect they would, but I needed to lash out somewhere.
The next night Kiira came to talk to me. She wanted to know why I was upset and I explained it to her and tried to make her see it from my point of view. I explained that if I did to her what she did to me, she would be upset as well. She didn’t agree but tried to make things better. She explained her motivations and Jig’s and why it wasn’t told. As she spoke, I felt my anger melt away. She was sorry and never meant to hurt me. I knew that. And then she mentioned the cuts on his back that wouldn’t heal. And it dawned on me- he had healed Grimm as I suspected! He took it upon himself. I couldn’t explain the joy I felt and the sadness. I asked Kiira if I could use some of her soap. Jericho and Kiira went into the tent as I bathed myself. I went to get dress afterwards and almost put on the old robe I had, nervous to have Ashleigh see me like I was now. As I went to put on the robe I felt something fill me- confidence. I was who I was. Ashleigh being alive didn’t change that. This was who I was and who I had become. I was Alanna Silverkin, sorceress and druid. I would remain as I was.
I held the altar in my hand that night and prayed for an hour before bed for the first time since I had heard the news that he was alive. Hope stirred my heart.
We arrived at the island Sabwa was on. Kiira led us on a road up to the top of mountain on the island, where Sabwa was. I followed behind. I knew that there would be joyful hellos for Jericho. I didn’t want to intrude on that. As we climbed, I felt myself growing more and more nervous. My stomach felt queasy as I thought of seeing Ashleigh again. I couldn’t sort out my feelings- I just knew I was nervous but I didn’t know exactly why. Perhaps it was to let him see how I had changed. Perhaps it was to see him changed. Perhaps it was to face Marius again. Or maybe it was facing Micah again. I wasn’t sure, but for some reason I stopped before I could see the houses and listened. I heard joyful exclamations and Jericho’s name being yelled.
I waited for a time and then decided it was time to enter Sabwa. I sent Meu ahead to Marius and then I walked to Marius. I hugged Marius tightly and for some time. I told him I was sorry and he asked me whatever for. I introduced him to Meu and he seemed pleased. I was joyful at seeing him again. I kissed him on the cheek and then went over to Grimm and gave him a huge hug. I was happy to see him again and he looked well.
Marius then became quite serious and told me there was something he wanted to show me. I steeled myself and followed him. He led me to one of the houses. As we entered there was Ashleigh laying on the table unconscious. My head started spinning and I felt dizzy as my world tilted. I thought I would be okay but I wasn’t. I stood there for a moment in shock and disbelief. My heart ached as I looked at him. He was wearing only pants, the ends tattered. He was quite still. I asked Marius where Micah was and he told me that he was no longer here. I felt a new sadness wash over me. I had desperately hoped to see him again. There was nothing I could do about Micah, but there was something I could do about Ashleigh. I walked into the room and removed my cloak, ready to start what needed to be done. I asked Marius if he could please get Grimm for me and he obliged. I got into my bag and grabbed the altar. Grimm came in and I asked him to lift Ashleigh for me. He did so and I lay the altar out on the table, having Grimm lay Ashleigh on top of it. I took some water and purified it then spread it over the altar and him. “I know you said it was overkill, but better safe than sorry,” I told him. Then I sat on the ground and worshiped. I forced myself to clear my mind and worship as I always had. I didn’t allow myself to think of his body on the table. I glanced up once in awhile, but I couldn’t do it too often or I’d lose my concentration.
I worshiped all day, neither eating nor drinking. I stayed that way until I could barely keep my eyes open. Then I went to the table and lay beside him, adjusting his arms so they were under his head, as he used to sleep. I couldn’t help but admire his body as he lay out. I wanted to touch it, to kiss it, to explore it, to feel it. Instead, I lay beside him and covered both of us with my cloak. I put my arm across his chest so I could feel his breathing and felt his skin against mine, knowing that was enough. I continued to talk to him until I fell asleep.
The next morning I awoke and sat back down on the floor. This time I held his hand. I couldn’t bear to not touch him after lying by him that night. I had felt him and now I couldn’t let go. I continued to worship as I had yesterday, neither eating nor drinking once again. Kiira came in after a time and I asked her if she would sit with me. She seemed pleased and I asked her that if she was to worship, to believe he would live, to believe this would work. She said she believed and she sat beside me. I let his hand going, wanting to do this right. I asked her that we do it as we had that night he had walked on the shadow plane with Collin and she agreed. For the day, we worshiped. I handed Kiira food and drink, knowing that she needed the nourishment, even if I was fasting.
At some point, there was talking outside the door, but I wouldn’t allow myself to concentrate on what was being said. Instead I concentrated on the worship. At one point, Grimm came in and sat down and I squeezed his hand. He sat for a time and then left, not participating but supporting. Some time later, Marius came in. I squeezed his hand and gave him a look that said thank you. He worshiped with us and talked quite a bit about how paths are not clear. I didn’t understand what he was talking about, but whatever came out during worship needed to be said, so I didn’t focus too much on it. He went to leave and touched my shoulder for a moment. I looked up at him. His look was one of empathy and I felt a surge of love for him. He was so dear to me, like a father figure now. I wanted to hug him and cry in his arms and talk with him. But I knew I needed to continue to worship and that I needed to be here with Ashleigh. He left and Kiira left soon after. It was growing late and I was growing tired.
I stood up and walked to Ashleigh. I leaned by him and told him, softly, “I know what you did for Grimm. I believe in you. I’ve always believed in you. I’ll always believe in you. I believe you’ll get better, but you have to believe in yourself.” Then I couldn’t help myself. I leaned over and kissed him gently on the lips. Then I put his arms behind his head once more and climbed up on the table, lying as I had the previous night. I talked to him for some time before I fell asleep.
That night I had a dream. It was fragments from the past, snippets of things that had been said and done, all involving Ashleigh. When I woke up, it was all clear to me. I looked at him and I knew. He had taken on the poisons from Grimm and Grimm was unconscious for some time before Ashleigh healed him. It needed to work itself out of Ashleigh’s body. I knew that he would be okay. He had reminded me that he walked a solitary path which was his way of saying he would be fine, go worry about other things.
I lay the cloak beside him and went outside. Everyone was still sleeping. I looked for a fire, like the one we had when we walked to the ethereal plane before. Logan was supposed to meet us here. I had promised to get him and I kept my promises. I found a fire by Grimm’s forge and sat down by it, leaning against a post. I took out the herb that Jig had given me before we left and placed it in my mouth. After a moment, I was looking down at my body and realized I was in the ethereal plane.
I searched for a bit and then realized the Logan wasn’t here. I summoned a horse and rode around the island. It was then I realized that Logan wouldn’t be here yet and set out to find him. I had brought extra herbs with me so that Logan could return to the material plane once more. After 2 days, I reached the shoreline of the beach with no sign of him. I turned around to go back and on the 4th day, ran into Logan who was climbing the road to Sabwa. Together we walked the road and I explained to him what I was doing there and about how he had to take the herb. I felt an uncontrollable tugging of my soul to return to my body. I ran to my body and realized I couldn’t return. I saw Kiira sitting by me. I sent her a message telling her that I was here but unable to return to my body and that Logan was here too. She told me that I should take some of the herb to return. Then it dawned on me…
I sprinted to the house where Ashleigh’s body was. I would put the herb in his mouth and maybe that would return him. What I saw was not at all what I expected- Ashleigh was sitting on the altar swinging his legs. He looked at me surprised. I felt my body trying to pull my soul back and fought it, struggling against the pain. I told him to take the herbs. He told me that they were for me. I told him that he wasn’t the only one who could sacrifice. He took them and nothing happened. I felt my heart sink. I asked him how I could bring him back. He said he had no idea. He was anchored to his body and he didn’t know how he could return. He was so like himself that I couldn’t help but banter back and forth with him. Oh, how I’d missed him! But I wouldn’t allow myself to be a silly school girl about it. I looked out to Logan to see if he was still here. He was flickering back and forth between the planes and finally, he was on the material plane once again, his soul in his body. I felt such joy! Finally, it was time for me to go. I left and returned to my body. Kiira tackled me with a hug. I could practically skip with joy! Logan was back and Ashleigh was alive and I had seen him! I felt so proud that I had kept my promise to bring Jericho and Logan back. I ran to Marius’s house and started looking for books on poisons. I would find a cure. I knew I would. I was Alanna Silverkin, sorceress and druid. I would spend this day trying to bring him back once again. I promised.