Found- Part Thirty-Five
Read parts one through thirty-four here.
It’s good to see you, Nox.
He hadn’t meant to wound me, but those words slashed at my soul. It’s good to see you, Nox. Each syllable pounded against my chest. Each word was a threat to the composure I struggled to maintain in his presence. My own words were stuck in my throat. Speaking would be my undoing.
“It’s… good to see… you too,” I choked out, my eyes cast downward. Our eyes couldn’t meet. It was the only chance I had of making it through this.
“The floor thanks you,” he chuckled. “You asked for a few minutes alone, and yet you can’t look at me?”
“You always did See right through me,” I said. A smile spread across my face without permission. A sob escaped me.
“It wasn’t easy, but I did my best—which is how I know why you won’t look at me. And you’re wrong. I’m not angry with you. It is indeed good to see you.”
“Did I do this to you?” My body was rigid with guilt and shame.
“Oh, child. This path was laid out for me long before you. I had resigned myself to oblivion. When Arion died, I had no purpose. I was heartbroken and went into the woods to join him, and then I found you.”
My head snapped up and I stared at him.
“Magic has a way of giving us what we need when we need it. And I needed you.”
“Don’t apologize. Death is a part of life. And I was able to spend the end of mine doing something meaningful. Magic brought the Guide to me. You collapsing in this forest, me finding you on that day… Destiny was at work. And who are we to ignore her?”
Calum motioned for me to sit down. I sank next to him.
“What’s going to happen?” I asked. Calum’s demeanor changed, and gone was the shadow of the young, happy sorcerer. The old, fading man sat before me now.
“Well,” Calum said as he shifted his stiffened body, attempting to seek any comfort, “I’ve already gone. The Magic can only keep me here until sunrise. But once you all go back to Haven’s End, I will allow myself to go.” His voice quivered.
We sat in palpable silence. I felt as though I could reach out and touch it, as though it was another person in the room with us.
“The Curse of the Abjured,” I said to say something. “That’s… what it is.”
“Ah,” Calum lamented. “I should have surmised as much. That is a vile one. You have had an intense life thus far. I’m afraid it won’t be any easier for you. You’ll have to learn to sort out what the Curse makes you feel versus what you actually feel.”
I don’t think there’s a difference.
Calum nodded towards the front door.
“Your friends are waiting for you. You should go. Everyone must flee. Once I’m gone, Haven’s End can be found.”
“Alone? You’ll die alone?” Panic jumped into my throat. “I can’t leave you, I can’t—”
“Nox,” he soothed, taking my hands. “I won’t be alone. Arion is waiting for me. I’m sure he’s angry with me, but either way, I’m happy to see him. I’ve missed him so much. It won’t be long now.”
Violent sobs rattled my body. Not someone else. I can’t lose someone else.
“Please,” I begged through my tears. “Not you too.”
Calum squeezed my hands and smiled.
“You’ve got to be strong now. You are the Guide, and you have your role to play in Magic’s salvation—as I had mine. My role was to save you so that you could save us.”
“How do I… How do you… What will happen to your body?”
“I’ve already gone,” he repeated.
“You’re not really here,” I realized, still shaking with grief.
“That’s right. I will fade away, and all this,” he gestured around at his home, and all the things in it. “will be gone.”
He started to look translucent, the bits of dim light beginning to show through him. He tilted his head back and inhaled the scent of what had been his final home. This was where he and Arion had found freedom and love… and then where Calum found me. The small shack trembled as its inhabitant began to fade away. One by one, items vanished from their shelves. Books and herbs turned to dust; crystals burst into flecks of iridescent glimmer in the waning sunlight. The remnants of his life swirled around us like they were embracing him as one final farewell. I reached out, wanting to grab them. Come back; my heart called out. Calum looked back at me, a watery smile stretched across his face.
“Thank you for coming back. I hoped you would, so I would have another chance to see you. You’ve given this old sorcerer an amazing gift, one he could have only imagined in his wildest dreams.”
“Don’t go,” I prayed. “I… we need you.”
“No, Nox. We need you. I know you aren’t ready now. But you have good people around you. Let them in. Let them save you, so you can save them.”
A stifled cry behind me alerted me that we weren’t alone.
“They’re good for you,” Calum said of Cyrus and Dasha; his voice was far away. “The way you were good for me. You have to go now. There isn’t much time. You must leave Haven’s End before sunrise, or he’ll find you.”
“We’re ready,” Cyrus said from beyond the disappearing home. “Nox, let’s go.”
“No!” I called out, still gripping Calum’s hand somehow. “I can’t leave him! I won’t!”
Calum nodded towards Cyrus and Dasha, and they began to drag me away. My body rejected the feel of their hands on me.
“No!” I fought against them. Ferocious waves of guilt and sadness terrorized me. I was drowning in a vicious storm of tears and screams. “Get off of me! I won’t leave him! Calum!” My arms were stretched towards him, like a child being ripped away from a parent.
He came to me and placed a sheer hand on my shoulder. The fight left me, and I was a blubbering mess.
“Thank you, sir,” Cyrus said. “Thank you for the time you’ve given us.”
“Take care of him.”
“We will,” Dasha replied. And then the weight of his hand was gone. We were alone in an empty clearing. Every sign of his existence had disappeared. The only thing left of him was the pain of his loss. A breeze danced through the vacant site, kicking up leaves around me. And as I stood, I heard it: A whisper in the wind.
“Goodbye, Nox. It was a privilege.”
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