Far Distant Suns
Even in the dark of night the stars still shine, and what are stars but far distant suns?
The war was over and the Powers defeated, but peace still remained a distant dream. Some did not notice but went about their lives locked up in their own small worlds. Others shrugged and said Deithanara was supposed to be hard and dark. Others continued on, fighting for what they believed in, delighting in present moments of happiness, and hoping for the day when peace would be a reality.
Gideone was crowned the king of Nor. A large portion of Delovachia as well as much gold and other riches of Jocthreal were given to Nor, and the new king began the process of rebuilding his county.
Eagle returned with her father to Scalavori. But she did not stay until she had her child but instead left after only a month. Where she went who can say? But the people of Scalavori claim she returns every year in the middle of winter when the Lumellia are in full bloom, and they say she brings with her a small, blonde-haired child. What his name is they know not, for none, not even Tmalion, have spoken with the elven queen. She stands far off and gazes down from some rocky place upon the flowers and the city she holds so dear, but if anyone tries to approach her, she disappears without a trace.
Nightfall left Orion and had several adventures before he finally married Glorious Dawn.
And, as for the dragon warrior, he traveled for a time across Lairannare, going wherever it was he felt led. He mourned Mystia's death, yet he was at peace, for he knew she was in Lothiel. He still wore the ring the princess had given him on a chain around his neck, but her soul stone no longer glowed, for it was empty. But, that also gave him comfort for he knew that her soul was within him.
For a time, he traveled throughout the land, defending small villages from the forces that preyed upon them. And for a time, he became a seaman and saw more of the Realm of Earth than he ever had before. After that, he and Aeneas joined together and bought their own ships and became merchant sea captains who, in addition to trading, tried to keep the ship routes free of pirates.
His thoughts turned often to Mystia, but he was by no means unhappy. He loved his life. He loved the sea. He loved Joretham. He loved being free.
* * *
Orion stood upon a tall grassy hill and looked down upon his ship in the harbor beneath him. He and his men were returning home after a long and successful voyage when they had been caught in a storm. They had despaired of escaping, but instead of sinking, they had been driven to an island.
It was a small but beautiful island–very lush with tall, stately pines and strong, solid oaks. The leaves had turned many different bright and beautiful colors, for it was early autumn. The temperature, however, had yet to grow cold, and one could comfortably walk outside without a cloak.
Much to Orion's surprise, the island was inhabited–mainly with fishers but also with some farmers. From time to time they had seen ships pass far away upon the horizon, but Orion's ship was the first to land upon their shores in many years. He grinned as he recalled how they had all rushed out to gape at the ship and crowd around the sailors who came ashore. They were not in the least bit wary, and when he had explained the situation they willingly offered all the help they could.
Surprisingly little of the cargo had been lost, but the ship itself was in need of repair. Orion and his men had temporarily fixed the most urgent of the problems, but it would take more than a week for the ship to be seaworthy again. Orion had decided that before they began the repairs they would rest for a day. He knew all his men needed it.
He sat upon the grass and continued to look down upon his ship. A slight breeze blew across him, but he was not cold. He wore a simple, black jerkin over a white shirt. His boots were scuffed, and his black trousers threadbare around the knees, but his clothes were all clean. His auburn hair was shorter than it had been and would have fallen only slightly below his shoulders had it not been pulled tightly behind his head.
The early afternoon sun shone across the island. He looked around at the trees and the ocean, then lay back and turned his clear, spectral eyes to the sky and the clouds above. It had been almost five years since the war had ended. Mystia would have been twenty-two years old. Orion sat up. Or would she have still been twenty-one? He did not know her birthday.
As he sat, puzzling over Mystia's age, a voice suddenly broke into his thoughts. It was the small, almost frightened, voice of a village girl. "She's a fine ship, sir. Does she have a name?"
He started slightly then began to turn around, speaking as he did so. "Yes, 'tis the..." But as his gaze fell upon she who spoke, his words died in his throat. For a moment he could simply stare.
Before him stood Mystia. She wore no veil and was clothed in simple brown peasant garb. Her skin was no longer white but tanned by the sun. But it was her.
"Orion?" she said, a nervous, hopeful look upon her face.
The arm which propped him up suddenly grew too weak to support him. He fell back to the ground.
Mystia gasped and ran to him.
"Orion!" she cried as she knelt down beside him.
He struggled to sit up. He could feel her hands upon him. He reached out and touched her arm.
He stared at her in disbelief and finally managed to say weakly, "I thought you were dead."
She smiled softly. "I was."
"But how...? I don‘t believe... You can‘t be..."
Even as he spoke, she threw her arms around his neck. "I missed you so much."
His whole body stiffened, but he put his arms around her, and for a long moment the two sat there silently. His heart was pounding in his chest. He could scarcely believe the woman before him was not a ghost, but he could feel her body against his chest and her silky hair against his cheek.
Slowly, he let go of her, fearing that at any moment she would disappear and prove herself to be only a dream.
"What happened?" he asked, his voice unsteady. "How did you survive?"
She straightened and looked at him, a small smile upon her lips. For the first time, Orion noticed a scar upon her right cheek–quite pale against her otherwise tan skin.
Mystia noticed where he looked and, giving a sad smile, held her hand to her cheek and said, "The sign of Balor–given to all who are to be sacrificed." She saw the look that crossed his face and nodded. "Yes, Kozan tried to sacrifice me. I managed to escape and tried to defend myself against him, but I was easily defeated." A sad look crossed her face. "The Dark Sorcerer came to defend me."
"Yes." She looked up at him. "I don‘t think he was quite as evil as he seemed, and I find myself rather sad at his death. Under other circumstances I think he would have been a great man.
"But what’s done is done. He held Kozan off long enough for me to escape to the roof of the temple." A look of confusion crossed her face. "After that I’m not certain what happened. I saw Phyre above the temple, and I began to cry. After that everything’s a blur. I remember somebody tried to rescue me. He wore your armor, but he wasn’t you."
"Aeneas," Orion said.
"My brother. He tried to rescue you."
Her eyes lit up. "You have a brother?"
"Is he all right? He didn't die did he? I need to thank him."
"No, he’s quite alive. In fact, he and I are partners. We own two ships, and he’s the captain of the other."
"Really? Orion, you must tell me everything that's happened to you." She started to stand up. "And I want to see your ship, too."
"But wait!" He reached up and took her arm. "You have to finish telling me your story."
She waved her hand. "Oh, I know not what happened. Kozan came, and Phyre was battling another dragon in the sky. Kozan grabbed me and pulled me into the ocean." She grew thoughtful. "I know not how I survived the fall. I remember striking the water. It felt as if every bone in my body had been broken." She sank back down beside Orion. "I was knocked unconscious, but I must have remained alive because I remember the water swirling around me. I would get pulled beneath the waves, and my whole body would scream for air, but just before I completely ran out of breath I’d be thrown once more to the surface where I could catch a quick breath. But there was once when I was pulled beneath and did not rise. I’d nothing to breathe, pain filled my body, and suddenly, as if I awoke from a dream, I found myself in Lothiel." A far off look filled her eyes, and her whole face lighted with a beautiful smile. She tried to speak, but she could find no words to describe that which she had seen and felt.
She shook her head and continued. "Joretham was there, and he told me my time had not yet come. He told me I’d have to return to Lairannare, and he sent me back to the Realm of Earth where I was rescued from the ocean by one of the fishermen from this island."
She suddenly laughed and rose to her feet. "Now I want to see your ship and hear all that’s happened to you." She reached down and took him by the arm, trying to pull him to his feet.
"Is there nothing more to the story?” he demanded as he rose. “Aren't you going to tell me what Lothiel’s like?” But, she had already started to disappear into the trees.
“Your Highness!" He plunged into the trees after her.
He quickly caught up with her. He had thought it strange that, to get to the ship she had turned around and walked into the forest rather than simply walking down the side of the hill nearest the harbor, but as they continued on he realized she had a considerable limp and probably could not easily descend the other side of the hill, which was steep.
"What happened to your leg, Your Highness?" he asked.
She slowed her pace and a look of pain crossed her face. "Not all scars heal. Kozan gave it to me."
A look of anger crossed Orion's face.
Mystia gave a slight smile. "There's no reason to grow angry at the dead."
"But how did he do that? Is there not a Magic to heal it?"
Mystia shook her head. "There’s no Magic on this island who can heal it. We have a sorcerer here, but he has not the strength. In truth, I don‘t think it will ever be healed.”
She was silent for a moment. "The wound was made by the knife used to kill the sacrifices to Balor. There surely must be very strong magic within such a tool as that."
"It seems hardly fair," Orion said softly.
"Fair enough, considering that, out of all the dreadful things which could have happened to me that’s all which did."
They emerged from the trees and onto the green grass beyond.
"When said like that, I suppose not," Orion said, "but you should never have been captured by Kozan in the first place."
Mystia grew silent as they continued walking toward the beach. The wind caressed her face, making her hair dance softly beneath it.
"I once shared your thoughts," she said quietly. "I was terrified of Kozan and what he could do. I prayed to Joretham, yet it seemed he did nothing. I wanted so desperately to be free and to have everything return to how it had been. But," she turned her dark eyes to him, "if I had not been captured by Kozan, I’d never have died, and the part of my soul within the soul stone would never have been freed to be given to you."
"I suppose," Orion said, not entirely convinced.
Mystia laughed. "Look not so surprised, for oft does Joretham work thus. And, if nothing else, if I’m happy should you not be happy as well?"
He smiled thoughtfully. “Perhaps you’re right.”
Hand in hand, they walked to his ship. He showed her all over it, and for the rest of the afternoon they walked back and forth along the beach and talked of nothing and everything. The wind blew across their faces, and the waves fell quietly upon the sand. The warm, autumn sun shone across the island, making the leaves of the trees seem even more beautiful.
Mystia held onto his arm, looking up at him or turning her gaze to the trees or out across the ocean. There seemed to be such a light within her eyes, and, as the hours wore on and Orion listened to her and looked upon her, there slowly grew a sinking feeling within him. He deserved not a woman like her. How could he have ever thought of marrying her?
He turned his gaze from her. The sun had sunk behind the island. A few rays of light still lit the western sky, but, for the most part, the sky had turned purple with the night. The lapping of the waves–now also dark–upon the beach filled his ears. He could feel Mystia so very close to him, her arm still wrapped around his, but he did not turn his gaze to her.
"Orion?" he heard her say. "Are you listening?"
He looked back down at her. "Yes."
Then, turning his gaze once more to the sky, he said, "'Tis late. I should walk you to your home, Your Highness."
"Orion..." Mystia began then stopped.
There was a sad tinge to her voice. “I’m not a princess here.”
He looked at her, somewhat confused.
"Why do you still call me 'Your Highness'?" she asked.
He stepped away from her. "What else should I call you?"
"You once asked to call me 'Mystia'."
He remained silent. She looked up at him, her black eyes so filled with hope and pleading and love that he could not stand to look upon her. He turned away suddenly and gazed out across the ocean.
"Orion, what is it?" she asked, worried, as she took a step toward him.
"Look not upon me like that," he pleaded, "for I deserve no such looks."
"Orion..." she began, but he cut her off.
"You’re noble and good," he said, as he turned and walked a few steps away. "But what am I? An unchaste, cruel, murdering..." He could not go on.
He turned his eyes to the sand. "You deserve a far better man than I."
For a moment there was silence, then Mystia spoke.
"Orion," she said, her voice filled with pleading, "I know that was how you once were, but I also know 'tis no longer what you are. When you were Norenroth's son, when you had his soul, 'twas only normal you would act as you did; it was your nature. But now, you’ve been given a new soul, and you are no longer Norenroth's son."
Orion said nothing, but he began to slowly turn to her.
"Orion, I was sent back to Lairannare for a reason. What it is I know not, but perhaps it was to be with you." She turned her gaze to the ocean. "Look around. Phyre may be dead, but darkness still remains. Even on this small, solitary island we can feel it. It frightens me. I know not what the future holds, but I know I do not want to face it alone."
Orion was silent for a moment. When he did speak, his voice was soft. "You’re certain then you don’t hate me or despise me for what I did and was?"
Mystia smiled and cocked her head to one side. "You speak of impossibilities."
"You forgive me?"
"If Joretham has, how can I not?"
"And it would not pain you to be my wife?"
Her voice trembled as she said, "It would please me more than anything else in the whole of Deithanara."
He took her in his arms.
“Mystia,” he whispered.
She put her arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder. He held her close and rested his cheek against her head for a long, long moment.
He kissed her hair, and as she looked up he pressed his lips to hers. As he did so, all of the pain which both of them had suffered seemed to melt away, and they were lost in each other's arms.