The Four Kingdoms
Chapter Twenty-Two: Sunset
Chris was the first to wake this time, rolling onto his back to look up at the indigo sky. A few faint clouds were tinged with the pink, and a few of the brighter stars twinkled in the background. Grunting slightly, he pushed himself up on his elbows and looked west, staring for a few moments at the purple, pink and gold sunset as it glowed on the horizon. He could feel his heart beating in his chest. It was oddly comforting, almost as if he'd missed it.
The paladin shivered at the scout's plaintive sound, and he looked back towards the east...and remembered.
Vin looked up at him from where he knelt next to the thief. The scout had pulled himself over to Ezra's body, his fingers touching the man's ice cold cheek.
The paladin frowned and sat up fully, "Is he dead?"
Vin's lip trembled, "I was meant to make sure nothing happened to him, Chris. I was supposed to cover him. I promised...."
The scout shook his head, "This can't be right!"
Chris closed his eyes, "He knew it was coming, Vin. From the very beginning. The Gods know, he told us often enough. There was nothing you could have done." Chris lowered his head, his hand lifting up to cover his face. Vin continued to shake his head, looking for some sign of life in his friend
Buck groaned then, lifting a hand to his face, and JD coughed. Nathan blinked up at the sky, then turned to look at the others. When his dark brown eyes lit upon Ezra lying face down in the mud next to Vin, his expression fell. Struggling to his feet, his silks in tatters around the solid chain mail underneath, he stumbled across to Ezra and knelt down next to him. A faint glow touched his fingers but immediately faded. The healer looked at his hands.
"I...I'm too weak," he mumbled apologetically, and covered his face with his hands.
"It doesn't matter, Nathan. It's too late anyway," Vin was staring down at the thief with a bleak countenance. He wanted to see Ezra open his eyes again, to smile up at them crookedly, all the while knowing that it would never happen. Lifting the thief's head up on to his lap, Vin lowered his head to press against Ezra's shoulder.
"What happened?" JD asked, blinking rapidly. He grimaced as his broken left arm began to throb. "I feel...horrible. Old, or something."
"We fought an army, son. What did you expect?" Josiah shifted sideways and somehow also managed to sit up. His white robe was in worse shape than Nathan's silks, revealing the linen shirt he wore underneath riddled with dried blood and mud. "And, with our powers gone, we are now truly feeling the pain of it."
"He's not," Vin still watched Ezra, unable to move. Josiah frowned and looked over at the thief.
Anger boiled up in the scout at the inane sounding question, suspecting a casual tone where there wasn't one, and, before he knew what he was doing, Vin threw himself at Josiah, only to be tossed aside. The mage surged to his feet, sharp blue eyes locked on the fallen scout, hands raised as if to fight. Vin's own eyes widened in surprise and embarrassment at his actions, and he backpedaled on his hands.
"I'm...I...I'm sorry. I don't know why I...." Scrambling to his own feet, Vin jogged off about ten steps before sinking down to his knees next to a stone wall.
"He blames himself," Chris said unnecessarily. Josiah looked at him, then back at Ezra. Walking over, he knelt next to the man and placed a hand on Ezra's neck. Then, as if he'd been bitten by a snake, he drew the hand back.
"What?" Chris had finally gotten to his own feet.
"I don't know. Something odd...."
"You felt a pulse?"
"No, no, not a pulse." Josiah moved around and tipped Ezra more on his side. "Help me get this damned sword out of him."
The others had all moved in to watch, all except Vin. Josiah held Ezra's body up as Chris wrenched the ugly blade out. Then, gently, Josiah placed Ezra on his back. He looked up at Chris.
"Vin!" Chris shouted the name like an order, bringing the scout back to the present. Vin looked back, saw them all gathered around Ezra, and frowned. Getting to his feet, he somewhat reluctantly joined the circle around their seventh, and watched.
Behind, the sunset glowed brightly, coating the hills in all manner of colors. On the eastern horizon, the sky was almost black, and white stars twinkled inside the manse. Above their heads, a deep blue, almost purple sky flowed, with pale yellow and cream colored clouds drifting lazily across it. And on the western horizon, the sun was a mass of pure orange fire surrounded by a rainbow of colors, lighting up the mountains, trees, this meadow, and all seven men in a syrupy golden glow.
Still kneeling next to Ezra, Josiah placed his hand on the young man's heart. After a moment, a tiny smile touched his lips.
"Yes, it's all yours. Take it. I don't need it anymore," he whispered.
Smiling more now, he stood up and backed off, looking at Nathan. It seemed to be an instruction of sorts. Though confused, the healer frowned, knelt down, and imitated his oldest friend's actions, placing a hand on Ezra's heart. His eyes widened, and, slowly, he too smiled.
"Of course," he nodded. Grinning, he stood up, shook his head in amazement, and looked at Buck.
One by one, they each knelt down, they're actions the same each time, until the only one left was Vin. The scout looked at the expectant faces around him, swallowed harshly, and knelt down next to Ezra. Slowly, with understandable trepidation, he placed his hand over the man's heart.
And felt the power of the Center Rock swirling inside. It asked him for his element back. It was such an odd sensation, that Vin hesitated. It will make whole what has always been broken, the Rock assured him, and color what was clear. Had Vin answered out loud, he would have stuttered. Instead, he just nodded. Yes.
He saw a green nimbus appear around his hand, aware that he was the only one of them who could see it. The power rippled across the surface of Ezra's still chest with excitement, as if it was finally going home. He saw it swirl into Ezra's heart, joining the mix of colors already there, and the scout felt curiously lighter.
As he lifted his hand away, Ezra groaned.
Vin's mouth fell open as he saw the color returning to the thief's face, looked down for the wound on his stomach, and then he started to laugh. Josiah and Buck instantly joined in, and soon they were all cheering and laughing.
Green eyes fluttered open, and a hand raised itself to feel along the healed abdomen. Looking up, his eyes still a bit glazed over, Ezra found six men raising hell around him. Vin leaned over and grabbed Ezra's arm, pulling the thief to his feet in a mighty heave. Though he didn't understand what was so amazing, Ezra found himself being hugged and shaken and generally surrounded by chaos.
"What is going on?" he finally managed to stammer out, his voice a bit scratchy. "I thought I was...."
"You were right, son," Josiah interrupted, clapping the still bemused Ezra on the shoulder. "We did win."
They were only halfway back to town when they found the town had come to them. Dozens of townsfolk were walking steadily up the Pass road, some leading wagons, and Colonel Matheson, Wells, Inez and Mary walked in front. Wells ran forward and grabbed JD in a fierce hug, not even noticing that he wore his arm in a sling, and kissed him heavily on the lips.
"I knew," she said, grinning at him. "I knew the minute it was over that you won. There was this amazing flash of light, and then, like a cloud was lifted from my sight, I saw you all, bright as day. I told everyone, and we've come to meet you."
"Bright as day?" Josiah asked, as the rest of the townsfolk surrounded them, all cheering and trying to shake hands with the heroes.
"Yes, and free. Your auras, all your auras, are orange and yellow – just like everyone else's. It was a beautiful sight to see." She laughed and hugged JD again. The kid was blushing darkly as she continued to rain kisses on his cheeks every couple of seconds.
Chris held Mary and Billy tight, his head buried in her shoulder.
Everyone seemed to want to shake Vin's and Nathan's hands, until they both thought their fingers would fall off.
Eloise kissed Buck so deeply, some wondered how either one of them could breathe.
Josiah tried to take the praise solemnly, but having Colonel Matheson telling him he had a medal he wanted to give them, Mrs. Potter saying she would throw a party in their honor, and Harry Conklin promising that the miners would build a mausoleum to his sister's memory, had the mage completely overwhelmed.
And Ezra held tight to Inez, pulling the silver circlet off his head and placing it on hers before kissing her softly on the lips.
"I can't believe we did it," JD laughed. "I can't believe it's really over!"
Josiah caught his eye, and his grin softened somewhat. Chris had raised his head finally to look back at them all, but some of the joy had left his eyes as well. Seeing this, Mary frowned slightly.
"What? What's the matter?"
Chris looked back down at her and smiled.
"Just thinking," he replied quietly.
"About how we are going to rebuild the Kingdoms. About what to do about the fey. About...."
Mary smiled, "Don't," she said putting a hand to Chris's lips. "Tomorrow. We have lots of tomorrows now. Tonight, we'll have the biggest celebration the Pass has ever seen."
And, in the background, the sun set softly over the Four Kingdoms.
I may also tack on a short epilogue, a few paragraphs if you like, to tell about what happens the next day. If you would like me to, that is.
And, if anyone's curious, I don't want this to be the only story in this world. I plan to write MUCH SHORTER episode length pieces to add to what I've done. After all, what will happen to the Kingdoms now, with only two "royals" left – a young boy and a thief who doesn't want to rule? And will the fey fade away again? Or will they fight? With so few wizards left in the Kingdoms, that could be a problem. And we never did see Brishnia or Danaeria, or the famous Northern Reaches where the high elves and the dwarves live, and someone suggested it might be fun to know what happened to Eloise and Wells (Casey) on their travels between Eagle Pass and Four Corners....Well, you get the idea. I also don't care whether I write them or someone else does. If someone feels like they might have an idea for a story in this little (big) AU, go ahead. :)