Ending by H. O. Charles


The Fireblade Array

He had to make it to the gate before he remembered too much more. To have the memories of the man was to be the man.

When the exit loomed up amongst the trees ahead of him, he allowed himself a smile, and tore through the brush and the branches to reach it. Morghiad leapt off Tyshar, his breeches steaming from the heat and his coat burned through, and ran ahead of the horses into the illuminated, watery abyss beyond.

The light of the Crux was little brighter than a summer's day in Calidell when he dropped into it. The leaves swirled about his feet and the horses' hooves behind him, moved by winds that had previously been absent, and the trees were a mix of living and dead branches that sprouted glowing fungus along their darker lengths. Lannda's power lived on here, it seemed, but the fires that Artemi's death had released had not yet made it through. It meant he was not too late.

Valina pawed at the earth below as if eager to be moving, while Tyshar's smouldering coals had translated into shining globules of steel. But there was no time to ponder the animal's colour or curiously placid mood.

"Tem!" Morghiad called. She would never have answered, of course, but he called to her anyway. It was not that far removed from what he had to do next.


He pulled together the memories of his other self, the skewed sense of what was right, the knowledge of what it was to cool the Blazes, the loss of almost all his family, the guilt over the terrible acts he had committed, and in the air before him, the light was drawn inward to a point fierce enough to burn his eyes. Most of the techniques Morghiad the Black had used to control light and dark had consisted of force, of battling the energy and shadow about him for control, just as he battled for sanity. This was no different. He wrestled with it in his mind, meshing night with day and fire with ice in spite of each element's desire to remain separate.

On the horizon, beyond the thicket of trees, the air began to glow and the hair upon his arms stood on end. It meant the energy of the Blazes was about to return to The Crux, and it meant he had to work faster. They rumbled forward like a tidal wave of flame, loosening the ground and crushing the ether before them.

Morghiad shut his eyes against it. Scattered throughout the light were tiny flecks of his wife - so disparate and broken that they would have been little more than dust to anyone else who had the power of second sight to see it.

He reached out and captured each one, gathering them together in a mess of pieces that came with no map to guide their placement. The fury of the Blazes was warming him now, turning the blackness of his eyelids red with their brilliance. But he knew he could work faster - quickly enough for time to slow in the air beyond.

The tiny particles of her were coming together with greater speed now. He could make out the shell of a finger, the filament of a hair, the curve of an ear. Her wisp-flower scent.

Faster and faster his mind worked. Time ground to a near-halt. The Blazes were touching his fingertips with their eager power.

The moment was out. The heat was inside him.



"Medea." Tallyn squeezed her as tightly as he dared, revelling in the sensation of her wielder fire against his kanaala skin. Order was restored. Life was restored. There was blood all over her body, and her dress of shadow appeared to have evaporated along with all the darkness that had carried the ship. Even if The Hunter had been a shame-filled Calidellian, he would not have cared about nakedness or embarrassment in that moment. She was back. The world was back!

Her eyes were pinched and tired when he released her long enough to meet them, but she smiled through her tears, and he could not help but return the expression.

"All will be well now," he said, "Everything."

He had expected her happiness to deepen with those words, but it did not. Of course, he realised, she must know her father had to die for this to be possible. And her mother... Tallyn searched for Artemi in the ether, but could detect nothing of her stream. Damn.

"I'm sorry, Medi," he said, finding his grins no longer fit upon his features. "You know it had to be this way."

She pressed her lips together for a moment, then said something he had not been expecting at all. "I had a child."

"A... what?" He had heard her correctly, had he not? Child. She had definitely said that word. He continued to gawp at her for long enough that her brow became furrowed in annoyance. She lifted her hand and pressed his jaw closed. "How is that poss-" he began once he was permitted to open it again.

"It was not... normal. She wasn't... she..." A single tear formed in the corner of one eye, and Tallyn did not have to ask why Medea had used wasn't. "She was a monster."

Before he could prevent it, his eyes drifted toward the smoking remains of the creature they had just destroyed.

"No, not that," Medea said sharply, catching his gaze.

Tallyn did his best to suppress a sigh of relief, much as the thought of it prompted a slew of guilt in his innards. "You and I will find somewhere quiet tonight, and you will tell me all about her."

She nodded slowly. "I will."

There would be other children in the future, he knew, and when it was time, he would reassure her of that. The peculiar, cold sink of energy still lingered in his chest, and not for the first time, he found himself glad for its continued presence. It would be well, he thought at her. All would be well, he thought to himself.

Just beyond her, a man with Sokirin eyes was gingerly holding out a blanket and mumbling something about propriety. Tallyn took hold of it with the briefest of thanks, and wrapped it about her shoulders. "We will be married," he said to her calmly. "We will be married and Silar blazed Forllan will be the one presiding. That much I predict."

He squeezed her again as she fought to lift the corners of her mouth from sadness, and together they departed the wreckage of Morghiad's nightmare ship to make their way toward the ruins of Gialdin.

"I can rebuild it," she said softly. "If I have you."

"I will never let you leave my side again," Tallyn said.

And he was true to his word. For Medea of House Jade'an and Tallyn Hunter ruled at New Gialdin for seven centuries following that day, and in that time they were never seen apart. It was said that their reign was the brightest era in all of the Darkworld's history, and not even Marteus Ironheart, who went on to rule Wilrea, could have claimed his time was more golden than theirs.



When Artemi awoke from her apparent end, it was still light. Too light and bright, just like a beginning. Burn it!

"I'm supposed to be dead!" she shouted at the shining skies. "Do you hear me, you bastard fates?! I was supposed to DIE!" She balled up her fists and kicked at the floor. Only, instead of dislodging some leaves or finding only the air to boot, her toes met with something soft that grunted.

She looked to it, and found a shadow-eyed Morghiad. It was a black-haired version and a Darkworlder, very much like the first one she had known in Cadra. "You!"

He groaned softly, then squinted at her in the brightness. "It worked?" he asked.

"If you mean, did your blazed, meddling powers bring me back from the fires when I was supposed to die nobly whilst restoring all the energy and power to the land? Then yes. It seems it did work. But do you know what?" She stood back as he made efforts to rise from the floor, then prodded his chest with a finger once he had straightened. His clothes were black and bloodied, but still they smelled of new leather and fresh soap. "You cannot stop me. I will try again, and again, and I will put this world right! It is my duty. I will!"

Morghiad only grinned. It was a sweet smile, just like the ones he had given her in the early years of their marriage. Innocent and love-filled. It soon became a chuckle.

"Nothing is funny about this!"

"Artemi," he said, removing her hand from his chest and clasping it in his fist. "You have already saved the world. The Blazes are returned, fire is here in the Crux, Morghiad the Black is gone... more or less. Acher is dead, and our daughter lives. Order is restored."


A gorinne pool materialised in the floor beside them, and Artemi peered into it. It was dark within, for glimpsing into the Darkworld from the Crux would always be a shadowed event, but he was right. Medea's face was there, wet with rain, or possibly tears, and Tallyn Hunter was beside her.

She rapidly sought out each of her friends: Silar, Romarr, Rahake, Dorlunh, Selieni, Khasha, Marteus - all alive, but Mirel... she was gone. And Vestuna too, and Orwin and Beetan... and far too many others.

"They will return... if you want them to," Morghiad said softly into her ear, clasping her shoulders. His breath was hot upon her neck. "We have that power now."

Artemi spun, allowing the pool to drain into the earth below. It was then that she noticed the fungi growing upon the bark of the trees, and the toadstools pushing up through the forest litter. Morghiad followed her gaze. "That was Lannda's power. The other me... deposited it here."

The other him? It meant he possessed all the memories of Morghiad, but did he truly believe they were separate?

As if reading her mind, he grunted, and said, "I was afraid I would become him at first, but it is more complex than that. He had Acher for a father, and then the Daisain. He suffered, and he broke, and he broke others along with him, but now that is done with. I understand him, and I understand you. And he was right about one thing amidst all that mess, Artemi: our sons. They should have another chance."

She shook her head. "It is unfair. What about all the others who have died? Koviere? His death was futile and cruel. Or Orwin? Or my father, Ne'alin." As she spoke, the ghosts of every man and woman she had lost across her lives began to walk from the mists. There were hundreds of them, perhaps even thousands - victims of little more than fate, victims of Mirel and victims of her own husband. Their faces lacked expression or warmth, and how they lived in every nightmare she had ever suffered!

But Morghiad allowed them only the briefest of glances, then held her face in both his hands, his smile still steady. "Then we shall bring each of them back too. We will have eternity to do it. To make each death right."

Few deaths could ever be right, she thought of telling him, but decided against it. "We can never go back," she said.

He shrugged. "It's not that bad here. Those blasted Law-keepers are gone, and that means we are in charge now. We can make this place the way it should always have been." Just as he spoke, the light moved toward a point, which became a disc - a sun. The trees began to sprout leaves that were green, and bird song sprang up from deep inside the forest. There was a breeze with scents upon it - flowers and mould and earth and beasts. The sound of paws hitting the dry leaves rose in the distance, and when Artemi turned to seek out the source of them, she saw Danner.

He nuzzled the palm of her hand once he was close, and for the first time in decades, or possibly centuries, Artemi felt the obligations of her lives begin to lift. "I think I could get used to this," she said with the smallest of smiles. "I truly think I could."





The Fireblade Array