I woke up the next day in the forest of next to the Earth kingdom. Everything ached and for a moment I might have believed it was all a dream. But then I saw Earth warriors drinking coffee with Fire warriors, and that Starfire was not shaking me awake, or curled up next to Tamwyn, fast asleep. I saw two blankets wrapped around two immobile bodies. In a way, she was next to him, experiencing the deepest, longest sleep, one that will last an eternity.
Blaze handed me coffee, his eyes red and puffy. We both sat in silence for a while, just drinking coffee and looking around at all four tribes sitting together, finally united. Then after a couple more minutes of this, Blaze turned back to me and said, with a blank, sad expression on his face.
"She's gone." He said quietly.
"Yea." I sighed. I was too shocked to cry, or do any thing really. "She is gone."
The walk home was not as fun as previous victory, um, travels. The Earths stayed behind, and the Water's took a different route than we did, and eventually the Air people took off in to the sky. The rest of our clan was silent, grieving over the loss of Tamwyn and Starfire. However, we still won a great victory, and saved the world from impending doom, so when we arrived, the following celebration lasted for a whole day. That may not seem like much, but twenty four hours of non stop screaming and drinking and dancing and celebrating is a lot, trust me. Nobody went to bed, or even went inside their homes to get away from all of the commotion. They all stood out side in the huge mass of people, sharing stories and smiles and good food and happiness.
I was not joining in to the festivities. I sat inside the training center, and polished Starfire's and Tamwyn's swords. Some of the blood would not come off no matter how hard I tried. I put as much force in to it as possible, pressing the small sponge like object as hard as I could in to the blade, and even when it looked shiny and new I still rubbed continuously until I started crying and I dropped the sponge and the sword clattered to the ground, looking perfect, like it had never killed a million innocent men and woman, had never fought in battle, but had just been pulled out of the fire, new and perfect, unknowing of it's hideous fate.
The next two days passed by in a haze. I was aware of people stopping by, people I did not even recognize, offering me words of comfort and consoling pats on the back. I was aware of Blaze making me cup after cup of coffee, as bitter and full of caffeine as possible, probably hoping to wake me up from my sleep walking state. I wanted to tell him it was a hopeless cause, but I did not want to speak, nor did I think I could muster the energy for it.
Finally, four days after Starfire and Tamwyn died, I decided to get up. I stood up off of my cot, leaned all three swords against the wall, and stretched for a good fifteen minutes. Then I ran, bolted right out of there, right past Blaze who had probably been walking there to make me a cup of coffee. He called some thing out to me, but I was already five yards away from him, running faster than I ever had in my life. It felt so good, and so free, that I never wanted to stop. But eventually, I ran out of energy, and out of breath, and out of distance, as I had reached the forest. I wove in between the trees for a while, and then the only thing that stopped me was a huge tree that was lying flat, between two other trees, as it had been shoved over and up rooted. I did not see it at first, and I nearly killed my self tripping over it. I sat up, and looked at it more closely. There were two deep dents in the side of it, shaped like two small fists, with brownish red blood still stained there. I pressed my fists lightly in to the mark and smiled. Starfire was always angry, I remembered. Knocking down trees was like a hobby for her. I feel asleep right there, remembering every thing I could about Starfire and Tamwyn and Spark and Eva before the effort of it drained me completely of every bit of energy I had left the training center with.
I made my way back to the training center slowly, taking up as much time as possible, really focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. People stopped me and congratulated me for unknown reasons, as well as shook my hand and even, in a few cases, hugged me. I did not even react to it - it was like they were not even there. I took a last minute turn on to the street that led to the sword smith's shop. I pushed the door open, ringing the little bell.
The scene was the same as last time, but this time around he was sharpening a sword made of that pure white substance that exists only in the Air kingdom. And, just like last time, he spoke with out even looking up to see who it was he was speaking to.
"You know, young sir, I have been making the finest swords since I could walk and talk, so sooner, no later. I have acquired every single type of stone and metal in the history of this planet, and have learned the ways of magic to make even the softest rocks and metals, and the most brittle stones and metals, invincible and unbreakable, infallible and lethal. Even metals like gold, which normally would make a terrible weapon, I have learned to make in to a formidable weapon. And yet -" he laughed and shook his head. "And yet, I have never, in my life, seen or heard of any type of material like this. And now that I have seen it I know that I will not rest until I get my hands on a bigger supply, or learn how to create it or where it is found. Ah, the mysteries of the world never cease to amaze me." He continued to polish and examine the sword in awe and confusion. I stood there for a couple of minutes, not even knowing why I had gone there in the first place.
"I do not know who to give the sword too." I blurted out suddenly, surprising my self, but it seemed that I did not surprise him at all.
He sighed and put down the sword and his tools.
"Well, I expect you will have to figure that out fairly soon, now wont you?"
"But - but I just do not know who!" I stammered, suddenly feeling shy, nervous, and vulnerable. "I mean, with out Starfire, my first choice would have been Tamwyn, but now he is gone too, and I am just so confused and I do not know what to do!"
He laughed lightly. "Tamwyn would have never accepted that sword from you, even if Starfire had not had it first. Even though the language does not truly exist, except in a work of human fiction, his name means dark fire. Unfortunately, it turned out to be true in more than one way. He was not always the respected man he was. He did not always think before he acted, was not always thoughtful and deep and smart and kind. He made mistakes, and big ones, mind you, mistakes that could have ruined his entire future. But you see, it is explained in the story that dark fire does not necessarily have to mean fire that is bad. It means that there must be darkness before light, that you must find the perfect balance of darkness and light, of evil and good. It took learning, it took mistakes, but eventually, I think Tamwyn found that with in him self, and used that to change the world for the better. I think that is why he preferred the platinum and onyx sword - a little bit of darkness, a little bit of light, nothing too flashy, just like Tamwyn was."
I gaped at the old sword smith. "How do you know so much about Tamwyn's past, and where his name came from?"
He gave me a sad, small smile, and I imagine that if it was possible for him to do so, his eyes would have been full to the brim with tears, for he looked so sad and empty at that very moment.
"I am Tamwyn's father."
I was about to enter the training center, like literally hand on door knob, but right before I turned it, Blaze quite literally knocked me to the ground with a shout of "OH NO YOU DO NOT!" and holy crap, did it hurt like hell. I shoved him off of me, about to scream at him, but he had knocked the wind right out of me, and I had to catch my breath before saying any thing.
"What the hell was that for?" I panted, trying to sound angry but succeeding in just sounding ridiculously thirsty.
"You are not going back in there for another day! You have to get up and out and see who is here and live and be social and every thing! You can not keep avoiding the rest of the world, so get off your lazy, depressed ass and let us go!"
I groaned loudly, but let him pull me up off my feet. I dusted my self off and sighed in defeat. "Alright, where are we headed Blaze?"
He looked at me in shock. "What, you are not even going to fight back?" He laughed. "Win! That was a lot easier than I anticipated! Whoop!"
I cracked up, and he looked really pleased that he had made me smile, which, in his defense, really was quite an accomplishment. He started to walk away, and after a moment, I decided to follow him where ever he was taking me instead of turning straight around and heading back in to the training center. I caught up to him quickly and we fell in to step together easily, reminding me that he was all I had left at this point.
"Since you holed your self up for two days, you would not know that people from ever element tribe have been coming and going from here with ease. Some times they stay for long, and some times they do not. The Earth tribe and the Water tribe are working on moving their entire cities near here, so that we can all be closer together and miscommunication can not be a source of any problems. And it will just save a load of time. And I have made friends with a couple of them. Come meet them." Blaze flagged down three people from across the street we were on.
First two guys came over, and Blaze introduced them to me as Andy, who was from the Air tribe and River, from the Water tribe, even though I already knew River from past experiences. I smiled and shook hands with both of them. Andy struck up a conversation about how the world is running out of platinum to make in to swords, and every now and then I nodded and said some thing like "wow that sucks" or "hmm" and when they laughed, I made sure to laugh too. I did not really want to be a part of the conversation, because I just was not ready to be normal and functional again. Faking it was working for me, so I continued with it for some time. A tall girl with dark eyes and white blonde hair walked past us. She smiled at Blaze and stopped to say hi to him. Blaze turned to me.
"Oh, Flame, this is my friend Brynne, from the Earth tribe."
She said hello and I said hello, and we shook hands, but I didn't really take much notice of her. However, Andy clearly did. He gave her a small shy smile and what I am assuming he thought was an attractive hair flip, though I think it looked like he was having a seizure of some sort. She gave him the evil eye and walked away in a huff. Blaze clapped Andy on the back while River laughed at him.
"So much for unity and peace and what ever!" Andy said loudly, so that Brynne, who was still sauntering away, could hear him loud and clear.
We all laughed, and for the first time in what felt like a long time, I felt better, and forgot all about Star and Tamwyn, and all those innocent people that died. I forgot all about those millions of ghost s following me. I kept laughing with the rest of them and said to Andy jokingly "Ah well, you can't have it all man, you can't have it all."
He shrugged, and then unknowingly decided to kill my happy mood by saying "So when is the funeral of Starfire the Invincible and, um, Tamwyn?"
Blaze got a glimpse of the look on my face, and decided to answer for him self. "You can just call her Starfire, Andy, she hated that title any way. And their funeral in going to be in two days."
Andy saw the looks on our faces and hurridly tried to change the subject.
"So, um, how about them dragons, huh?"
I went back to the training center and polished mine, Tamwyn's, and Starfire's swords for the rest of the day. Blaze made extra bitter coffee.