As Kadrian fought to remain conscious against the torrent of power that coursed through his body, he heard Taika’s defiant scream. Lost in that last, fatal surge, the Ancient’s voice faded beyond the threshold of sound. In mere moments, what had been eternal was no more.
Such power, such grandeur was not without its price, however. Tearing through flesh and bone, Oblivion had heeded Kadrian’s whim and now, it returned to that unimaginable place that existed between reality and nothingness. Like a flower exposed to the glory of the noonday sun for far too long, Kadrian crumpled, his life’s blood quickly staining the Inn’s floor.
The sound of water dancing across stone brought Kadrian back into the realm of consciousness. Glancing around, his eyes drank in the gently flowing stream and the lush grass that adorned both shores. A cacophony of bird song filled the air as a gentle breeze stirred the hem of his cloak. Of a deep, amber hue, it hung lightly about his frame concealing neither armor nor weapons, but simple peasant clothing. Kadrian felt strange, his mind awash with a multitude of memories. Swords and Ancients, Quests and Gods, these were but a few of the images that flashed through his thoughts. His hand reached up to the reassuring presence of his sword, but alas, it too was gone. Shaking his head, Kadrian was on the verge of exploration when a soft, melodious voice rose above both bird and brook.
For some reason the honeyed contralto sounded familiar and when seconds later it was join by a pair of wavering sopranos, Kadrian’s spirits soared. “It couldn’t be,” he thought to himself. Scrambling across the damp grass and up the steep bank, Kadrian was rewarded with a sight that he had never thought he would see again. A beautiful, golden-haired woman danced amongst a field of lilies, her dress as white and pristine as the flowers that seemed to reach out and caress her radiant skin. Beside her were twin angels bedecked in similar gowns, their own golden ringlets held back by garlands of the graceful flowers. Laughing, they seemed not to notice Kadrian as he stood transfixed by their mere presence.
“Kaella, Ja’ayla, Ja’al,” Kadrian shouted, his voice quavering as tears began to stream down his face. Snapping out of the sudden lethargy that had come over him, Kadrian raced out into that fragrant field.
The happy trio turned at the sound of his voice, their own visages as stunned as his had first been. Looks of glee stole over their faces as they broke into a dead sprint. Shouts of “Kadrian” and “Daddy” echoed loudly in the sun-drenched meadow as they converged upon one another.
With arms wide open, Kaella and Kadrian met in a fierce embrace. Lips locked in an impassioned kiss as if the last three years could be made up in such a primal gesture. Lost in the euphoria of love, Kadrian barely felt his twin daughters’ insistent clutch on his legs. Breaking the kiss with tangible regret, Kadrian reached down and softly stroked his daughters’ silken hair.
“Are you here to stay this time Daddy,” Ja’al asked.
“Yes Daddy, we’ve missed you so much,” Ja’ayla added.
Staring at this family through tear-filled eyes, Kadrian tried to speak, but found that his overwhelming emotions had robbed him of speech.
“He will stay if he can,” Kaella gently chided the girls. “Now go and play. Your father and I have much to discuss.” The girls reluctantly released their grasp upon their father and with the innocence of youth scampered off to play amidst the delicate lilies.
“Kaella,” Kadrian began but was cut off by the slender finger of his beloved wife pressing lightly against his lips.
“Shh. You have nothing to explain my love. Only you could have done what was needed. Our deaths were the catalyst that pushed you to seek the Sword of the Covenant and end the threat of Dul-Zuir. Now, a new threat has risen. The land of Evera once again stands upon the brink of destruction. All that you fought for, all that you sacrificed will be for naught if this encroaching darkness is not quelled.”
Kadrian shook his head vehemently, “I have done enough Kaella. I was forced to watch you and the girls die at the hands of my best friend. I know Eryk did not wield the blade himself, but as I killed those responsible for your deaths I imagined that each time my blade struck flesh, it was the flesh of that traitorous scum. Let the gods stop this threat.”
Kaella smiled sadly as she looked upon her husband. She wanted nothing more than to hold him close and spend the rest of eternity with him in this spiritual paradise. The world was not worth such a price, however. “Kadrian…...”Kaella sighed. “Have you noticed that the gods no longer answer the prayers of their faithful? Clerical magic is slowly fading. Something has happened that keeps them from touching the world of the living. Even now, on the brink of death, they are having difficulty sustaining this place.”
Almost as if speaking the words brought it to past, the ephemeral reality of the place shimmered. Images of several people looking down upon him and the feeling of cold, hard wood upon his back inundated his consciousness. The sensation did not last long, but it was enough for Kadrian to realize that he was not dead, but hovering at the point where life usually ended.
“Please Kaella; I can’t bare to lose you a second time.”
“I will always be with you husband, in your heart and in your dreams. When the time comes, we shall again be a family.”
Kadrian dropped weakly to his knees as he felt a glimmer of warmth steal through his body. The apparent solidarity of the meadow faded as the gentle heat spread quickly throughout his body. As his eyes were torn between the world of the living and the world of the dead, he watched his wife and daughters wave goodbye. Mouthing the words I love you as the harshness of the waking world came crashing back down around him, tears mingled with the blood that stained his cheeks.
With his head cradled in Theda’s arms, Kadrian buried his face in her stomach. Shaking with barely suppressed sobs, Kadrian lamented the loss of his family for the second time in his life. Aiya’s magic had healed Kadrian’s broken body, but there was no magic to mend that which was truly broken.