The absence of pain can be rewarding as any other feeling.
When the lightning zapped through my body, I was confident I would die. I felt it pulling my life, years of my life, draining me of my own core. Despite this, I found that my essence seemed to simply continue offering up energy. It was like watching someone speed up time, but then slowly wondering how long time could really last. It just kept going, and I just kept pouring myself into the demanding pull of the spell.
Then, it was gone.
The pain ceased. It didn’t fade, or begin to subside. It was just… gone.
I opened my eyes, confident I was dead.
Instead, I was shocked to see that I was standing on a small balcony in Udiria.
Black clouds and green lightning loomed in the northern skies, and I knew the armies of the Yunai were approaching. The spell had worked as intended, and I had been teleported back to the invasion so long ago, when the Yunai had destroyed everything.
I looked down, and I saw a crumpled mess on the floor… Lady Evanor.
I knelt down and picked her up. She felt frail and weak. She still looked the same as she had before passing through the portal, but holding her I knew that it had drained her of her life essence just as it had done to me. She had not been as lucky as me, however, as it had clearly taken more than she could give.
“You… what have you done?” she asked me, grasping my robe and pulling on it.
“I did what needed to be done,” I answered.
“You doomed us both!”
“You doomed us,” I clarified.
“Why would you do this?” she asked, looking truly desperate. “You will die now.”
“My friends will live.”
“You offer yourself for them… willingly?”
“Of course,” I said, feeling sad that she seemed so confused.
“You won’t live to see it. You won’t know if you did any good. The Yunai will continue with their plans, and none of your efforts will matter!”
“Maybe,” I said. “Perhaps they’ll all die tomorrow, or maybe they won’t make it through the night, but the moments I gave them by defeating you… it was worth it.”
Evanor seemed to be having trouble breathing. He felt the energy seeping from her. She would soon die, and the panic of that realization was settling in on her face, twisted with the anger that I didn’t seem to be stricken by the same panic and fear.
“How can you not understand?” she asked angrily. “You are a dead man. It’s over. Do you not get it? Do you want to die?”
I sighed. “No one wants to die, Evanor” I explained. “But if the choice comes to me or my friends, I will choose myself every time. You did that once, you know? When you went back in time to help save me, despite knowing it meant a grizzly fate.”
Evanor started blankly at him and then grimaced once more. “It makes no difference. Your friends will die soon. You’ll die in the past with me. The Yunai will have you.”
“So what was all of this for?” I asked. “What drove you to this?”
“I wanted to live,” she replied, her voice growing hoarse. “I resented you and Iliera, and all of you living your lives while I wallowed in the past. Come, and I will share my mind with you. I suppose you deserve that much.”
She placed her hand in mine and I felt her transfer her thoughts and memories, sending me her reasoning, her decisions, and the consequences that unfolded.
She looked at me, her eyes growing dim, and smiled. “Immortality. Life eternal. It would have been mine, Sionis… it could have been… mine.”
Lady Evanor went still, and I knew she was gone.
I set her down, as gently as I could manage, then turned to look out at the coming storm of death on the horizon. Evanor’s pain and memories were fresh in my mind. I felt agonizing guilt for the anger that had gripped her and mutated her thoughts into the sad person she’d become.
Beyond this magical city, the scores of undead were preparing their assault.
Soon, they would unleash their cruelty here.
By now, the younger me was boarding an airship that would take me to the world above.
I wished there was a way I could stop this destruction, but the Yunai had already constructed powerful magic dampening fields that prevented the Udirian soldiers from mounting a viable counter-attack. It was a full retreat now, and those that remained here would soon face utter defeat. It seemed I would face that fate as well…
Then, I got an idea.
The Yunai spells had their weaknesses, and while they were nearly impossible to find, I had learned a long time ago that a little poking could go a long way. I decided to give it a try. I poured aether energy into the shield, forcing my mind to peer into the dark magic, reading it like a book, and searching for mistakes, errors, slips of the tongue that would leave vulnerabilities in the spell.
I pushed through it, and I found my opening.
I could escape. One teleport, that was it. Once I made my move, the Legion would recognize my energy and seal the crack. I didn’t know how far the Yunai reached by now, and even if my spell worked, how would I survive? I had no money, and I could not claim the Sepher vault without revealing myself to Uncle Maron. In fact, showing my face around the Stonehaven at all could accidentally crack the flow of time, and I had already seen how that could make things far worse than they had been.
I had one more trick up my sleeves.
I needed to find a place I could hide… somewhere out of the way, obscured…
Patnah. Thick magical mists protected the realm of Patnah. It was impossible to find, unless you knew what you were looking for, or in this case… what you were not looking for. The ocean was filled with sea creatures, and life surrounded Azirin… except in this one place… a place of total silence.
I hesitated, curious if I might have found another dark secret, but I decided I would have to take my chances. I finished breaching the Yunai shield, and I created one last portal that would take me to my destination. I waited, hesitantly, until the portal stabilized and I saw the rolling green hills of Patnah on the other side. With my exit secured, I scooped up Evanor’s body and stepped through.
There is no need to get excited. My time in Patnah has not been spent with secret adventures or long-winded tales of fame or fortune. My goal when I stepped through that portal was to remain as hidden as I possibly could.
At first, the goal was difficult. As an outsider, most of the Patnesh didn’t interact with me at all, but they all cast weary or suspicious looks and talked among themselves of my mysterious nature. I began to worry that I would starve out in the wilderness before long, though I was still thankful I had escaped from the Yunai attack.
Soon after, I was befriended by an older Patnesh farmer. He saw value in me as a helping hand around his land, and I willingly helped with everything. I ran his errands, planted his crops, harvested them later, and repeated the steps time and time again. He was in his final years of life, and I helped ease those days for him. In exchange, when Farmer Lin passed away, he left me his farm.
I have worked my hardest to keep this place operating smoothly ever since. This farm has protected me, so I now protect it. Of course, at first, things were difficult. I would travel to the market to do my chores, and I was not the favorite of many vendors. There were some who felt I had tricked the elderly farmer into offering me his farm, but others that knew Lin well agreed it was what he wanted. If he had not shown me kindness I would not have ever had a foothold here, but I did get that foothold, and I capitalized on it.
After a few seasons of tireless work, I was accepted as a member of society here.
The good times lasted for years. Then, about ten years after my arrival, my people showed up, having discovered the lands when the magical mists were disrupted by the time spell that shook the entire World Ship. Eventually, things settled down again and life went on.
I continued to farm, to live my life, at least for another four years.
The timeline had finally caught up.
No more than a few days after I realized I had passed my original point in time, as I walked into the town to do some shopping, I bumped into a beautiful steed plated in purple and silver. As I looked up at the rider, I realized fate had at least one more twist for me.
“Sionis?” I heard her voice before I saw her face.
I couldn’t believe it. She sat atop the horse, looking just like I remembered. She must have thought the same thing, because she smiled widely. “You haven’t aged a day.”
I smiled. “I work out.”
She slid from her steed and wrapped me in a tight hug. It was surreal to see her, to be here in this moment. For me, my life as I knew it had changed so long ago, and now Iliera was reminding me of it all.
“Come with me,” I said, gesturing toward my farm. “I want to hear everything.”
As Iliera ate her third helping of noodles, she filled me in on everything I had missed. I realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t that much. After defeating the Yunai, the forces in the prison had accidentally released a different entity from the Yunai realm. Thankfully, they had quelled that threat too. She also told me of the Zinji’s continued unrest, the end of the war against them, and dire warnings that all the Yunai activity had stirred up chaos in the frozen realm.
All in all, from her point of view, only a month had passed since I vanished through the portal. I told her my tale, of how I had been transported, how I sought out Patnah, and how I had remained hidden ever since. She detected what was coming next before I managed to say it.
“You’re going to remain here,” she surmised.
“You’re a powerful ally,” she said. “We could use you against all the other secrets out there.”
“It’s been fourteen years since I’ve seen real combat,” I reminded her. “I use fire spells to heat my tea and cook a good stew. I am neither prepared or eager to face a new foe, at least not now. Perhaps… in time.”
“In time indeed,” she said. “Your life energy is as strong as it was when we last parted. How is that possible, if the time spell killed Evanor? Why did it not kill you as well?”
I nodded. “One last secret to share.”
“I’m all ears.”
“Not today,” I said, smiling slyly at her. “When you visit again, perhaps.”
She gave me a smirk. “I see.”
“I hope you will return, in time?” I asked.
“I doubt this is the last time our paths will cross,” Iliera admitted. “Very well then. You stay here, dear Sionis, and grow your crops. My call is out there, where the Yunai still lurk in the shadows.”
“I know,” I told her. “Someday, though, we’ll stand together once more.”
She nodded slowly. “One day.”
As she rode off that evening, I watched her go and smiled warmly.
This was the end… at least for now.