Chapter Nineteen – Winter Fades, Spring Returns

Valkrill’s spear had held a deadly poison. Jandar had done all in his power to heal Raelin, to draw the poison from her beaten body, but it had already gone too far. The most he was able to do was repair her injuries, and buy her a little time. She was expected to die within three months’ time.

Almost every last soldier and beast that had taken part in the Final Battle was dead. The final death count was too large and too gruesome to recount. The survivors, of which there were few, were all severely injured. Over half died within a week, unable to be fully healed.

Utgar and Jandar, determined that their legacy should not be one of annihilation, put their armies to good use repairing the damage that had been wrought on Valhalla. Villages were rebuilt, and families reunited. Those that wished to be returned to their worlds were sent back, and then Utgar and Jandar personally saw that every last wellspring was sealed, until a way could be found to destroy them. No more wars would be fought over them.

Winter turned to spring. The fallen were buried. They were all laid to rest with honor, but none was more highly respected than Drake. After attending his funeral, Raelin returned to Jandar’s rebuilt castle. Her time was almost up. She was ready to die. If by her death she could finally achieve peace, a world without pain, then she considered that something well worth dying for. She was a little late, but soon the war would claim its final victim.

Soon the poison took her legs and wings. Unable to move, Jandar fashioned her a chair that used magic to float just above the ground. Confined to this, knowing that the end was near, Raelin requested that Mallidon take her to one final place, before she left Valhalla forever.

They arrived at their old village just as the apple trees were coming into blossom. It was one of the first that had been rebuilt, with the result that the families Raelin had grown up with had already returned. Children ran through the long grass, laughing as they chased the pink blossoms that floated so gaily through the air. Kyrie flew gently through the skies, drinking in the beauty of the restored world. The sky looked brighter, the grass greener, and the world richer, than Raelin had ever seen it.

Mallidon took her down to the river she had played in as a child. It had been named the White River for the clearness of its waters. Raelin remembered, on the night the village was attacked, how she had looked at the river in the dawn, and seen that it was red, red with blood.

But as she looked at the river now, she saw that it was clear once again, white and shining with the new day. She slipped from her chair onto the bank, and gently dipped her fingers into the water. It seemed warm to her touch, gentle and comforting.

“The war is gone,” she said softly. “Peace runs in the waters once more. Peace and forgiveness.”

As she knelt there, her hand in the water, something happened that she could never have expected. It was gentle, slow, almost a caress. She felt something within her pulling, breaking, drawing away. A faint cloud of blackness exited into the water from her hand, and was swept away.

“What was that?” asked Mallidon.

Raelin smiled. She knew what it was. She could feel that the poison within her had been drawn out, cleansed.

By the River that was Red.

The End

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