I hurried to the pot of stew hanging over the fire and gave it a good stir as Tarik was due to arrive any minute. I’d tried the venison again using Zerina’s recipe, though this time I’d added more salt and a cup of red Highland wine.
As if summoned, Tarik shouted from the hallway. “I’m here, you old coot, just like I promised.”
I opened the door for my friend, glad our weekly dinners had resumed. I’d missed them during Tarik’s sulking. Sure, I could chat up my landlady about the weather, or amuse children on the front steps with my “fanciful faerie tales”, as the neighborhood folk called them, but only Tarik knew the old world.
“Keep it down,” I said. “You’ll wake the neighbors.”
The wizard went over to the window. “Wake them? Take a look outside, Jerilyn. The sun is still shining. It won’t be dark for an hour.”
I looked outside and saw the sun low in the sky. One sun, not three. I’d never see the three Suns of Sangrar again. The Long Night had swallowed Edda, Imma and Olla, along with everything I had once known. “They have a newborn.”
Tarik waved his hand and the room shimmered.
“What did you just do?”
“Nothing really, just giving us a bit of privacy and some quiet. I can’t stand the sound of a baby crying.”
“I’m glad to see you’re cultivating your softer side.” I suppose I could understand and forgive him this. He’d lived outside society most of his long life, first in the Grove with only his mother and two fathers to keep him company and then in the wilds of Tyrnavalle. In this age, he’d become slightly more social and joined Weyland the White’s spellbinder school, though he did so more to legitimize his magecraft than any strong sense of community. “It’s quite sad, actually. The couple next door had twins, but the little boy didn’t make it. His spirit now rests in what the people of this age call Heaven, but it is a different Heaven than the one we knew.”
The wizard gazed longingly into the sky. The sky, not Esel. Like the Three Suns, Esel was no more. “They say it is the home of their one true god. Our Heaven is no more. I shall never take the Path of the Reborn to the Outmost Heavens and you will never take the Long Walk to Bangal’s Halls. Maybe that’s a good thing. The Rainbow Lord might have sent you to the spirit world.”
It was my turn to snort. “Me? I led a decent life. Bangal would have hurried me along the Short Walk.”
“You think? When you became chronicler, you took yourself outside the conflict. You might have helped, but you chose to observe and record. The Rainbow Lord might have forgiven that, or not.”
I mulled over his words in silence. I could not have stemmed the tide. When the Tale of Ages came to a close, I was a simple scholar and once I accepted the mantle of chronicler, I answered to a higher authority. I had no reason to apologize.
Tarik’s questing stare still searched upward.
“What are you looking for?” I asked at last.
“Nothing. Nothing at all.”
He was a poor liar, at least to me who knew him so well. “Do you still miss them, even after all this time?”
He sighed. “Not really, but I always thought I’d see them again. Had I known … there are things I would have said.”
“It was a long time ago, Tarik. It’s best not think of it.” I shared his grief. I, too, had family waiting for me when the Long Night came, loved ones I’d never see again.
He kept his gaze star bound. “We’re here, aren’t we, Jerilyn? What if they’re still out there too, somewhere?”
I choked back my tears. There were times when I wished that Tarik hadn’t restored all my memories. “We both know better. When the Long Night came, our Heavens ceased to be and our loved ones, Mankind and Elder Race alike, perished, along with the gods and all the hidden realms of the Girdle. Worse, they never were. This world replaced ours and all that went before was erased. In the annals of the Greater Realm, our Sangrar never was. Only you and I, and the dusty pages of my tomes, keep it alive.”
Tarik turned from the window, very melancholy. “What do you think will happen to us when we die? There are no Walks for you to take, no Halls to visit, and I have no Path of the Reborn.”
I’d often wondered the same thing … and whether or not I’d ever learn the answer. “Do you think we can die?”
“Don’t get cocky, historian. Everyone meets their end; we’ve just avoided ours longer than most.”