To the Edge

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Review Chain

This is part of the same world as "In the Light", so I recommend reading that first although you don't have to.

There’s one important detail everyone always seems to forget about Narnia. At the end of the story, the heroes go home. Back to their mundane world where they’re school children, not Kings or Queens. They become nobodies with the memories of being somebodies. 

When I was little, I loved the idea of escaping to some fantasy land where magic rules and evil doers are overthrown by the power of friendship or something equally cringy. The books made it so simple: a chosen one, a villain, and a destiny.

I’m still not sure how I fucked it all up.

Seph used to tease me about wanting to live in one of my fantasy worlds as if she didn’t engineer a whole fairy village in the backyard complete with a capitol building and hospital. Gods forbid the fairies didn’t have access to direct governance or healthcare. More and more often, I’ve been wishing those days could return when the biggest drama was our parents getting married and becoming stepsiblings.

I thought that if we made it to the end of the story, if I fulfilled this stupid prophecy and defeated the villain, we could go home. I thought I was Peter, but I wonder if I’ve been Edmund all along. We weren’t supposed to be on opposite sides. I wasn’t supposed to sacrifice my sister to get home.

“Hale.” Kostas looks up when I enter the stall. “Aren’t you supposed to be filming something today?” He’s sitting with Indy’s head in his lap, her iridescent wings tucked neatly against her body. Most would consider a pearl dragon to be a mere status symbol, but Kostas spends more time training with her than any other rider.  

“We finished early. Am I not allowed to stop by and say hi?” I laugh, needing something to diffuse the awkwardness. If anyone were to guess I wasn’t as committed to the Cause as I used to be, it would be Kostas. He only smiles and nudges Indy’s head to the side so that I can sit next to him even though she throws her head back over both our laps with a huff.

This feels familiar, sneaking away to places others won’t find us, escaping the demands for a little while. I wish I could imbed this moment in history and let it be my legacy rather than a pointless civil war. Kostas entwines his fingers with mine, callouses rubbing against each other.

“You’re always welcome here, love.” Kostas smiles, but he studies my face, analyzing my expression the way he analyzes clouds for impending storms. “Tell what’s wrong.”

How can I admit that I’m homesick for a world I left years ago? It’s forever been the single sore point between us. Going back would mean regaining my family, but Kostas belongs in this world. Even I sometimes wonder if my childhood wasn’t just some fever dream, if I could’ve ever existed in a world free of magic and prophecy.

“I’m tired of being propaganda fodder.” It’s a marginally easier truth to admit.

Kostas nods. “So am I.” He turns his head to watch Indy use her curling horns to scratch her back. “Do you remember when we first got our dragons?”

“How could I forget being flung off into the lake?”

Kostas snorts an almost laugh. “Not Jaspar’s fault he banked and you weren’t strapped in properly.” The smile fades as he glances at me, all dark eyes and long eyelashes. “That’s not what I’m talking about.”

I tap my fingers against his if only to give me something else to focus on. “I doubt it’s about naming your pearl dragon Indigo.” At the sound of her name, Indy stares at me with her pale-yellow eyes until I rub her snout. “Yes, you, attention seeker.”

He doesn’t rise to the bait this time unfortunately. “No, not Indy.” There’s silence, but I know better than to break it after years with Seph. Sometimes, people just need some space to collect their thoughts.

 “We made a pact.” I don’t remember what he’s referencing, so he continues. “After we each selected our dragon, we promised to have each other’s backs, come what may.”

“We stay friends no matter what happens.” Rahel said, her intensity like wildfire.

“But what if we grow apart? That happens with childhood friends.” Seph said, ever the cynic.

“Then, we don’t let that happen.” Rahel stared us all down until we agreed.

 

Looks like Seph was right once again, not that it was much of a surprise. “Why are you thinking about that?”

“You know Rahel and I grew up together,” he begins, “almost as close as you and Persephone. We talked recently.”

That’s news. Kostas isn’t reckless; we became close because we both preferred books over people as children. Besides, it meant going against his mother, as small an infraction as it is, and she imprisoned her own childhood friend for being Rahel’s mother and Seph’s foster mother.

“How are neither of you dead?” I grip Kostas hand tighter needing something to prove that he’s fine. “Not that I’m complaining. Gods, if anyone saw you…”

Kostas squeezes my hand. “I took precautions, and it wasn’t for long. Rahel says hello, by the way.”

I try for a laugh, but it comes out more like a sigh. “Doubt that considering last time I saw her she verbally tore me to pieces—which I deserved.”

There are plenty of people around me who would deny it, would rather vilify my sister than admit I’m not their perfect idol. He doesn’t. “True, but that doesn’t make it too late.”

Kostas glances over at Indy again who grumbles and nudges his leg. Something’s going on, more than Kostas communicating with Rahel, his oldest friend and a high-profile fugitive. Could he be having doubts too?

If I’m going to confide in anyone, it should be him.

“Kostas, I don’t want to keep fighting.” He tenses, body rigid next to me but still watching Indy as if she’s going to suddenly jump up and torch her stall. “I don’t think I ever wanted to fight in the first place.”

This time, he’s silent long enough that I wonder if I made a mistake. It’s one thing for him to talk to Rahel once—by the gods, Seph kept trying to talk to me for years—but that doesn’t mean he’s cowardly backing out of the Cause. We aren’t the same.

I don’t expect him to wrap his arms around me and kiss my cheek. His familiar scent of smoke and fresh grass reminds me of nights sneaking away from the city on dragonback for a few hours of tantalizing freedom. I shouldn’t consider those stolen hours with the four of us at first, and then just Kostas and me, my favorite memories. But when was I last given a choice?

“Then we leave,” Kostas says as if it’s that simple.


Submitted: January 23, 2021

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