We came home cold and defeated. Although we had won a great battle, we had not accomplished what we had arrived there to accomplish, and suffered greatly for it. Flame was in and out of consciousness the three day journey home, but I knew he would be fine. Someday, he would understand that he is not to blame for the horrible misdeeds done by the Earth tribe, and maybe I will live to see the day he moves on from Eva, a girl he barely knew anyway. Though, she did risk her life for him regardless. Maybe that's what makes all the difference to him. I do not know. Unlike Tamwyn, I am no mind reader.
I looked over at Tamwyn. We were at the forest guarding our tribe's boundaries, and I was preparing to speak to the trees to let us pass through, to let us go home. He looked older than he was, much older, and he was even quieter than usual, if that is even possible. He reached out for me, and held my fingertips lightly. His touch created sparks within me, a type I cannot even explain. Its not natural, this feeling in my stomach every time he touches me or smiles at me. This is what silly lovebirds feel, or young girls who have a crush on a boy. Not an experienced woman like me, one who is married and settled down. Damn love. It is a weakness, my only weakness, and no matter how much Tamwyn denies it, he will be the cause of my downfall. I know it in my heart, mind and soul to be the truth.
I was thinking of two human books I had read in my time in that god forsaken middle school in that god forsaken town. One of them was the Harry Potter series, a ridiculous set of books about wizards and witches and centaurs and fairies and all sorts of imaginary things. I was also thinking of the Percy Jackson series, another absurd set of books about a young boy in modern day New York who finds that he is the son of an ancient Greek God, which we all know that all gods are the invention of stupid humans who are lacking better technology and the sight to see that the elements are living creatures all around them, and that Gods do not control simple emotions that exist in complicated living beings. Regardless, I was thinking of these because the two main characters had one big thing in common: their fatal flaw. Both could not stand to watch those they love be hurt, or tortured, or killed so both put their own safety, and therefore the world's safety, at risk. Basically, their fatal flaw is love.
I often relate this to myself. I mean, I only love one person, but that one person is at the front of every battle, involved in every war, and it would be so easy for him to be hurt, or worse. Not to mention, my affections are known far and wide. Almost every detail about me is known far and wide, in fact, except for the part that shows that I do have some compassion in my heart. No one would believe that if they heard it anyway. I know they all whisper about me, wondering why in God's name would a good man like that ever talk to, let alone marry, a ruthless killing machine in a woman's body, like me. They cannot understand, and I know that for the past five hundred years I have been at the peak of gossip for some reason or other. They are all foolish, thinking I am oblivious to the obvious insults and rumors circulating about me. I gripped Tamwyn's hand tighter. They can never separate us. No matter how hard they try, not even death can separate us, for if he dies, I will too. At least inside.
Once we entered, many walked towards us, looking hopeful, only to fall back, at the glares and obvious signs of defeat upon our faces. Luke ran towards us, and joined our march, which was growing smaller and smaller and warriors dispatched to speak to their family and friends, or to simply go home. Soon it was just Flame, Tamwyn, Luke, and I walking towards the training center, Luke refraining from speaking or questioning just yet. Flame still looked quite ill, and I knew Luke had noticed because he was holding his forearm gently but firmly, to make sure he did not topple over or blow away in the breeze, which both appeared quite likely, given his pale pallor and his bloodshot, sunken eyes with deep purple bags under them. He looked broken, and lost. It hurt to see him like this. I looked away. Always look forward, toward the future, I told myself. Always look ahead, toward new days with new sunshine and new problems to tackle. Just keep looking ahead.
It is a tactic that doesn't always work quite as well as I hope it will, but I keep moving forward anyway.
We reached the training center. Luke led Flame to his cot, where he lay looking at the ceiling blankly, unseeing, lost in thoughts of death and war and hate and loss. Luke walked back to us. Tamwyn had conjured up a purple fire that was burning unsupported on the floor. Luke handed me some already made coffee. Of course, it was hot. He just needed to look at it for it to be so, just had to barely glance at it, which was all he did. He handed Tamwyn a cup too.
"Well?" he whispered, and I knew exactly what he meant by his uneducated, one word question. He would do well in the future to elaborate, however, on his statements and questions.
"They were there, at first, and we bested them in battle easily." I whispered back, barely audible, but I knew he was hanging on to my every word. "But when they retreated, we entered the city, to find it had been abandoned weeks ago. They had already evacuated, they were completely ready for us. We entered the palace to find no king, and-" I had to stop. I mustered up the last drop of energy I had in my body and said "and Eva's body was nailed to a cross there. But not a living soul existed in the entire city. They were gone Luke. Completely and totally gone."
His face contorted with fury, and he kicked the wall so hard it cracked, but thankfully not enough to break. Flame didn't even twitch, he was that far gone. Luke stormed out of the training center without saying a word, though I could hear him screaming and shouting nonsense down the road. I got up to go after him when Tamwyn stopped me.
"He needs to work it off. Different people will react differently, and he was expecting us to come home with wonderful news of peace and love and friendship and all that jazz just like last time. He's angry with the Earth tribe, and disappointed. Let him blow off some steam."
"Alright, I can wait. As long as he doesn't hurt anyone in the process."
Tamwyn chuckled, and pulled me into his warm, strong, waiting arms, the arms that were always beckoning to fold myself within them, as I did now, willingly. I fell asleep like that, sitting on the floor wrapped up in Tamwyn's arms, dreaming of a better world then the one I find myself in now.
"I don't understand."
Flames voice woke me up from one of my rarer, more peaceful and actually restful sleeps. I shook my head groggily and sat up.
"What don't you understand, Flame?" I asked him, for the first time not having a clue as to what he was going to say. He looked ill still, but his expression was focused, which was a relief to see, although I still didn't know what he was on a bout, even as my mind woke up more. Tamwyn's grip on me tightened ever so slightly, a sure sign that he understood and had anticipated Flame's question.
"I don't understand," began Flame slowly, "Why the Earth tribe seems to be the most intent upon destroying the earth and basically destroying themselves in the process. It does not make any sense to me, no matter how much I think about it!"
I nodded, processing this, which was an unexpected inquiry, but it made sense to ask. "That," I replied, "is an excellent question." It was all I could think for a response. But Tamwyn spoke up.
"They are not evil as we believe, not are they trying to destroy what they have spent their lives creating. They are simply misguided, through and through, and that is all there is to it."
Flame remained quiet, thinking. After a considerable stretch of silence, in which I was fighting the urge to fall back into Tamwyn's arms, I realized that Flame had, in fact, fallen asleep. So Tamwyn and I promptly proceeded to do the same, quite willingly, I might add.