“Can you tell me a story?”
Aeolos turned towards his daughter, Iantha, tucked quietly in her bed. He nearly reached for the candlelight placed carefully on the nightstand. Instead, he withdrew. “What kind of story would you like me to tell?”
“A story. Any story, Papaw.”
Aeolos scratched his chin, “I suppose I will grab a scroll from the chest.” His eyes searched around the room. There was a shelf standing opposite of his daughter’s bed. Scrolls filled the shelf, placed both carefully and shoved without care. Aeolos proceeded to get up, when he felt a tug on his arm.
“No! Theio Silas read those stories already,” Iantha told her Papaw.
Aeolos smiled. “Theio’s read you all our scrolls in your little room, hasn’t he?”
Iantha’s baby teeth formed a smile. “Maybe,” she giggled. She let go of her Papaw’s arm, and lay back in her bed once more.
“I’m not surprised. Let me open the window, it’s a little too warm in here.” Aeolos voice trailed towards the window. He got up and opened the wooden flaps. It was too dark to see outside, but a breeze gently greeted itself into Iantha’s room. Aeolos sat back onto the stool by his daughter’s bed. He gently pulled linen bed sheets over her and pondered over what tale to tell. “I don’t know if we have anything else in our little home. Then again, I don’t need scrolls to tell you a story.”
“You don’t, Papaw?”
Aeolos shook his head. “Nuh uh. When I was with the army far from our city Adren, they didn’t give us scrolls to read.”
Iantha tilted her head. “Are you thinking about your war time, Papaw?”
“I just might be,” Aeolos smiled, rubbing the bristles on his chin. “We didn’t have scrolls to read to pass the time.”
Iantha groaned as she rolled her eyes to the top of her head. “Is this going to be an army story?”
Her Papaw continued, looking back into memories that didn’t seem so far. “All we could do was train, rest, and make up stories to each other. Sometimes, my dear flower, the stories came to us.”
Iantha rose up. Her brown eyes fixed with curiosity towards her Papaw. “What do you mean?”
“It means, I’m going to tell you a story unlike any of the scrolls Theio’s already read to you. Something real.”
Iantha’s heart rose with joy. She tucked herself back under her bedsheets. She didn’t look away from her Papaw. “What happened?”
“We were marching towards the Northern Front. It was right before our battle against the Thessians. I was ordered to lead a small troop towards the cliffside along the western coast, to see how fortified the city of Thessus was. To reach the cliffside, we had to break away from our camp- and from our camp, we ventured through the forests and hillsides. At the very top, we could see the city with its vast white walls and its large harbor. When the time came for us to return and rejoin our army, we came upon something magnificent.”
Iantha listened intently, intrigued by what her Papaw had to tell. What could it possibly be, she thought. A shooting star? A great bison, roaming in the plains? A cute dog? “What is it?”
Her Papaw leaned a little closer. “A Divine.”
Iantha gasped, and then paused. “A Divine?”
“I thought Theio Silas read every story to you,” Aeolos smirked.
“He did too!” Iantha exclaimed. “I just… I just can’t remember any.”
“Not a worry,” he chuckled. “They are there. Divines are creatures from the heavens. Sent from the gods to walk among us in secret.”
Her eyes went wide. “What did it look like?”
Her Papaw thought for a moment, “This Divine, we saw, took the particular shape of a wolf. It was there in the brush, staring back at us. Its eyes, pure white. From my guess, this one stood a little taller than you and your brother.”
“Are they bigger than this?” She asked, throwing her arms outward.
“Oh, much bigger. Even bigger than this.” Aeolos answered, throwing his arms outward as well. Iantha let out a laugh, holding her little belly together. She then brought her hands together within a few inches apart. “Can it be as big as this?” She asked, in a cutesy tone.
“Maybe, just maybe. I’ll leave that to your imagination.” Aeolos said.
The thought of holding a tiny spirit in her hands excited her. She pulled her blanket closer, lying back down.
“This one though was a different from any other Divine. Even the ones that we could find in our Humming Forest,” Aeolos continued. “Do you know what makes each Divine unique, besides their shape?”
Iantha shook her head.
“Would you like to know?”
“Their color. Each Divine imbues a different shade, signifying which God sent the angelic creature. The ones in our forest are orange, the Goddess Andra’s favorite color.”
“What color was this spirit?” She asked.
“Divine,” Aeolos corrected her. “But more importantly, this one was a color we haven’t seen before.”
Iantha’s eyes widened. “What do you mean?”
“It means this Divine didn’t come from Andra. Nor Anthromos, or Hagra, or even Qyro. None of the six could have sent this.”
This thought puzzled Iantha. She tried to picture the Divine in her head. She pictured the creature with every color she knew. She then tried to imagine a completely different color in her head. She felt lost in her imagination, and thus exhausted. “How could that be?” She asked.
“My troop and I, we hadn’t a clue,” Aeolos said. “This divine’s glow touched every tree it reached. The grass beneath its feet shined onward. A truly unique sight. Never again would we have a moment like this, Iantha. We tried to get closer, it ran off.”
Iantha’s shoulders sank as she listened. “It felt shy.”
“Very shy, especially when we were armed with swords, shields, and spears.” Aeolos remarked, “We continued downwards, back towards our camp. When we reached the bottom, we heard a howl, back towards the hillside.”
Iantha’s eyes lit, and she nearly jumped from her bed. “The Divine!”
“Very much so. Its cry sang with the sunset. To us, the Divine acknowledged our presence. My troop took it as a sign that the Divine bestowed confidence upon us. Courage for the battle to come.”
The story caught her interest, yet Iantha let out a yawn. She urged her Papaw to continue. “You said there are Divines here? In our forest?”
Aeolos nodded. “I am sure there is a Divine roaming right out there. I personally like to think it’s Andra, keeping us safe.”
“Are these Divines… good guys?”
Aeolos sighed. “We never really know. These Divines can sometimes have good intentions, and sometimes contain bad intentions.”
Iantha looked out her window. Were Divines really in the Humming Forest? Were they friendly? Did they like to play? Oh, she wanted to ask these questions! But as she turned to her papaw, she saw that his arms bled red. His torso, gashed and open.
“There are many mysterious things out there, like these Divines. Creatures, far from our own imagination.” Aeolos spoke. His lips burst with blood.
Bloody claw marks appeared over Aeolos’ ruined eyes. He drew his lips back to form a snarl exposing vicious fangs. “We are always close, hiding, ready to strike!”
Iantha shut her eyes to the inhuman, deafening roar…
And so she jumped from her bed. She frantically turned from corner to corner. It couldn’t be nearby. She opened the wooden window in her room — there was only a faint sunrise, nothing else. She opened her ward — and there was only her cloak. She glanced into the hall — not a single noise could be heard. Her father’s room wasn’t open.
It had been another nightmare.
Heavily breathing, Iantha returned to her bed.
It. Had. To. Be. Near.
She was no longer a child. This didn’t mean she needed to calm herself, slow down every breath she took. From the open window a chilling breeze poured into the room. A shiver crept along her spine, keeping her from falling asleep. She wrapped herself in her blanket, but it wasn’t enough to keep her warm.
Iantha closed her eyes. The tears pushed through, and there was nothing she could do to stop them. Thoughts rushed through her mind. She again experienced her dream. A bedtime story. A happy memory from a time long ago. Now it was tainted — and every time it returned, it haunted her. Nothing was safe to her anymore. Looking back only brought her into the present.
She gave up on falling back to sleep, and looked outside. The clouds blocked the sun’s rays from her. It became clear to her that the sun wouldn’t arrive. This was a foggy morning, and she didn’t favor it.
And then she remembered. Today was that day. The ceremonial burial. He will rest in peace on the fields of Anthem.
She didn’t want to go. It never happened. In just a few minutes he will open the door, bring her into his arms, and tell her ‘Good Morning.’ They will walk outside together to watch the clouds break, for the sun to greet them. The bright rays will reach over the horizon and shine upon the rest of the world. She heard so much noise.
Iantha felt too many expressions. The only thing accompanying her room was silence.
Iantha didn’t want to go, but she couldn’t keep them waiting.
It took all her composure for Iantha to leave her room. Her cloak bore a weight she never carried before. It required strength for her to open the door again. Despite her denials, Iantha knew her father wasn’t in his room. Every step felt heavier than the last, and yet she continued. She passed her brother’s old room, and then proceeded towards the common room. The table where the three ate together, learned together, and grew up together, stood alone. It looked as though no one sat there in days.
Iantha turned to the front door and jumped. She saw herself, much younger, reaching from her tip toes over the window sill. She rested her head on her arms, watching the gardens dance with the wind. Her brother, Alexius, tried to reach up to see. He was only a bit shorter than her.
“Is he back yet?” Alexius asked his sister.
“I don’t see them anywhere,” Iantha muttered.
“Let me see!” Her brother climbed up to finally look out the window. “I thought Theio Silas said he was going into town to bring him back.”
Iantha recognized this moment. She knew exactly what was happening.
“He isn’t one to go back on his word.” Alexius mentioned.
“I know, I know!” Iantha groaned. They waited. For all these years, they hoped he was coming home.
Iantha held her hand over her lips. It was as if that day was yesterday. She then saw the children’s weary faces spring with life. She turned to the window, and saw nothing. The children rushed through the door, running as fast as they could. Iantha followed, sprinting right after them. When she caught up to the children, she came to a halt. She could not believe her eyes for who was in front of her.
A man quite unfamiliar to her appeared past the front gardens. She heard tales about him from Theio Silas — how he stood alone on the field of battle and held back his foes. How he in the middle of the night caught a silent man and taught him a lesson in sneaking. A man who refused to give up when his enemies came at him like a rising tide. This very man, weary, carried a dented shield and a leather satchel on his back. Contrary to the tales, it was clear he carried a heavy burden, just by viewing his stride. But something happened the moment he looked up and saw the smiling faces of his children. It was if everything on his back became like a feather. He ran a bit further, before stopping to kneel down. He dropped his shield onto the ground and opened his arms out. It was Iantha who ran into him first.
“My children!” He cried, kissing Iantha on the forehead. He brought Alexius into his embrace as well. “My dear, sweet children!”
Theio Silas appeared from the horizon, and the children greeted him as well.
Iantha remembered… It was the day Aeolos came back. From the war. A memory from years ago. To her eyes, not a single day had passed. The appearance of her Papaw felt as unsettling as it did welcoming. On that day, she recognized her Papaw for the first time. A man gone to war for most of her childhood. She saw him first as a stranger, but the moment he came from the gardens, she knew in her heart this was her Papaw. She could tell from the way his tired arms held her. She wondered how often he thought about her — how long he waited to see his children.
Iantha wished that she could run up and hug her Papaw again. Just one more time. She wished it was that warm, sunny day — and all seemed quite right. She longed for his embrace, and slowly approached him…
“We are always close…”
Iantha stepped back. The hideous, terrible voice uttered from her younger self. It wasn’t her voice. It sounded nothing like herself. Iantha watched the younger ‘Iantha’ slowly turn her face, until it directly stared right at her. Her eyes were like violet droplets, and her baby teeth formed a sinister grin. Her face began to transform, and it became evident to Iantha what the child was becoming.
She pushed past Theio Silas and made haste to escape the tainted memory. She ran further down the road. She did not stop. She refused to look back and see if she was being chased. Her focus remained in front, on the road. Her path continued straight for some considerable time. Slowly, the path surrounded itself with trees. Eventually, the oaks broke sight of what lied ahead. The path began to turn and curve the closer nature became. Only when she was covered by considerable shade, did Iantha stop and take a breath.
The Humming Forest. Iantha always felt safe whenever she passed through. She spent so much of her youth here, it was though she never grew up. She became that same little girl with spacious teeth, brown eyes, and wild hair. The forest always greeted her. It vibrantly spurs to life through the chirps of birds, croaks of frogs, and cries of critters. The trees held a chorus which filled the air, whenever the wind passed through their branches. This was the route she needed to take to reach the Fields of Anthem.
While Iantha felt a breeze, she noticed the trees weren’t singing with the wind. Not a bird was perched, not even a chirp. The pond remained still without a croak. Even the small ones, the critters, wouldn’t utter a cry. For the first time, silence ruled the forest. It bothered her.
A noise was made not far from Iantha, and she jumped backwards. There was nothing. Only a branch, breaking away from it’s dried out tree trunk. “It’s only a tree,” she told herself, “A dying one.”
She felt a shiver. A whisper from behind hear. “We are always hiding…”
She turned again. A gust had blown through and picked off the fallen leaves from an overgrown bush.
Iantha needed to calm herself. The silence — the stillness of the Earth — it bothered her. She made haste, continuing down the road. She remembered the way, after all. Ahead was a creek she always passed through on the way to Adren. There used to be a tree her Papaw chopped down, which they used to cross the stream. Years later, the city constructed a small bridge.
Iantha stepped onto the bridge, but couldn’t help but see the overturned tree. She imagined herself climbing over the trunk, crossing to the other side. Her Papaw would sometimes wade through the creek and hold her hand, ensuring that she wouldn’t fall.
She heard laughter, and turned to the creek.
She was playing with her brother and his friends. The children dueled one another, wielding wooden sticks they picked up in the forest. When the battle transitioned from a stalemate, they would chase one another — often running through groves or splashing through the creek.
Iantha brandished her twig through the air. She painted imaginary spectacles in the air with the flick of her wrist. When she finished her masterpiece, she danced through it. She explored the scene drawn from her creativity. And in her imagination, she became lost. She wasn’t afraid, for if anyone came close, her brother Alexius was there to protect her.
All Iantha could do was smile. She watched the children playing as she crossed the bridge to the other side. How she wished to be like a child again!
It was then that a shadow loomed over the children. They continued to spar with one another, paying no attention. “No…” Iantha whispered. She crossed over the bridge, and ran to the children. A glowing pair of violet eyes emerged from the shadow, and long claws burst from the ground.
“We are ready to strike!”
Through the shadows, she crashed into a tree. She spun her head in every direction. The children, the sticks, the painting — they were gone. Iantha knelt onto the ground and wept.
“Leave me be…” she begged. Another gust blew through and she sprang up. She darted in a direction. Off the road. It didn’t matter where she was going. Anywhere. Away from her home. The forest. The memories. The nightmares. She climbed over rocks, jumped over ridges. She wanted to escape it all.
But she couldn’t. The shadow latched its claws on her shoulders. Its torment guided her further into the dark. She no longer recognized the trees. How they towered in stature. It’s frail, pointed branches. Dead. The twisted barked faces glared back at her. She became further than lost. Alone.
And in this dark morning… there came sunlight. A rare break through the treetops. Dust and insects waved through the passing. There was life. How can this be, Iantha thought? She stood into the sunlight, which covered her in its warmth. Iantha breathed slower… then slower… and then… slower. She finally escaped her fury. It was as if a heavy burden was lifted. The Humming Forest felt different to her. Transformed into something comforting.
The sunlight soon faded. Iantha looked in front of her, and found a cliff side. She came to a stop, realizing she was exiting the forest. The ridge overlooked the ocean, waves crashing below. Iantha could see much of the coast. Eastward, to a port outside Adren. To the south, the cliffs continued in its jagged formation. It was still a cloudy day, but at least she had a view.
Iantha stood along the edge. Her sandals could teeter along the slope, if she wanted to. Glide all the way to the bottom, catching herself into either the rocks or the waves far below. She held her breath… and stood back.
To Iantha’s right, Aeolos appeared. He carried his little flower in his arms. She held tightly, gazing far into the vast sea.
“Are you going anywhere Papaw?”
“Where?” He laughed.
“Are you going anywhere to fight again?”
Aeolos looked at his daughter. Her brown eyes, intently awaiting his answer. “Not anymore. I’m staying right here, my sweet flower.”
She smiled, and hugged him tightly.
It was the day after he returned. Iantha remembered that. She looked around. There were no whispers, nor gusts of wind. Shadows didn’t creep at her feet. Instead there came a glow. An orange hue, arriving from the forest. It stood beside Iantha in the shape of a great deer. Iantha recognized the spectacle. A Divine. It beckoned Iantha, pointing back into the forest.
“Follow me,” It spoke. It’s voice soothed the young woman. Whatever chills that overcame her before soon dissipated.
It was time, whether she could accept it or not. She followed the Divine as it stepped back into the forest. She turned once more and saw her Papaw looking over the horizon. She smiled.
As she followed the Divine, the forest became familiar to Iantha once again. The trees sprang to life, swaying their branches with the passing wind. She could hear the songs of the morning birds from the high canopies. When she crossed over the bridge, she found frogs croaking in the creek. She continued to follow the trail under fresh oaks and sycamores, and she swore she could hear the cries of the woodland critters again. She smiled. The forest became hers once again.
As she continued to follow the Divine, the trees began to spread apart from one another. From the Humming Forest, she emerged into the fields of Anthem. The Divine took a step forward onto the plains. “This is where I must leave you, for the forest is my home. Look for the pillars and make your way there. That is where they are waiting,” It said.
Iantha nodded, “Thank you.”
And before Iantha’s eyes, the Divine dissipated into thin air. Its orange hues were gone, but it’s warmth was still present. Iantha took a step onto the fields and continued her journey.
The city outskirts of Adren were within her view, but too far for her. To the east, Iantha could see stone pillars standing on a small hill. She ran, knowing that’s where she needed to be. The wind did not bother her anymore. By the time she reached closer to the erected pillars, she found a crowd gathered around the site. A large number of people. Though she knew herself to be late, there appeared to be no fires lit among the pillars.
The moment she passed the outer pillars, all of the faces directed towards Iantha. She felt stiffened from the stares alone, unsure whether to continue towards the front or remain where she stood. Who were these people? She thought. Who are these strangers adorned in black, and how did they know my Papaw?
A cold gust gently pushed her, urging her to walk forward. Iantha took a step, the people near her stepped back. Another step, and the people stepped back. A narrow path was made toward the center — where the pyre was built.
She sighed in relief and continued to pass through. The closer she reached toward the center, the more familiar the faces around her became. There were people that were obvious to her — the baker, Macedon. He always sold Aeolos the first loaf of freshly baked bread in the morning, and often gave Iantha and Alexius treats on the side.
Iantha then noticed three hooded women nod to her. She remembered them — priestesses from the Adren temple. While Aeolos went to the high temple to worship, she and Alexius were left to the care of these priestesses. They ran off from the three many times, and were often chased around the outer gardens of the temple. Iantha always found joy in the hearts of the priestesses, even when they playfully chased her. Yet in this rare moment, not even the priestesses had a hint of a smile.
She recognized some of her Papaw’s distant friends — fellow veterans from the war. From the infrequent visits to Aeolos’ villa, Iantha thought her Papaw’s friends expressed themselves — but they sometimes had the most interesting stories to tell. Of course they were here. It made sense to Iantha, why wouldn’t they attend their friend’s funeral?
Iantha passed by the veterans, and found herself within reach of the very center. Something felt off… the number of people surrounding her weren’t folk she recognized. They didn’t look like friends to her Papaw, nor anyone who visited their home. Iantha felt it was stranger that they stood together in the midst of the crowd. Men and women alike, each adorning a golden sigil along the left shoulder of their robes. A sigil of a winged Delta. It then dawned upon Iantha — The Circle. They surrounded the very center, their attention not astray from the young woman making her way to the pyre.
In the midst of all of the Circle stood a soldier still in uniform. He gazed oft into the crowd, as if searching for someone. Iantha felt relieved, and approached her brother. When Alexius turned and saw Iantha, he couldn’t help but bring her into his arms.
“Iantha! I thought you weren’t going to arrive,”
She shook her head. She quickly turned to the very back, looking among the sea of black. “All of these people… I didn’t realize so many would arrive.”
“For the funeral?” Alexius asked.
“For our Papaw.” Iantha drew the hood from her cloak, and hid herself in the chest of her brother. She was doing all that she could to hold back the tears.
There was another opening from the crowd. A gathering of priests in white, all holding a bier among their shoulders. There lay the covered body — the last thing she desired to see.
Everything was in place. At the very center lied a mighty stone etched with marks and the symbol of Uroh, the gatekeeper of the Abyss. Upon the slab, was a small pyre. Small symbolic garnishments and flower petals decorated along the pyre’s carved groves. Surrounding the slab were six wooden torches, each one placed on a corner of the stone.
Iantha recalled the incident. The manner he was found. How his body lay cold on his wooden bed. This… tragedy. It seemed surreal for her, and in the slightest it arrived without warning. Her whole world had caved in. Her innocence… gone. So she learned — death comes swiftly. She never knew its quickness, and she hoped she never had to.
And then, the crowd quieted down. With Iantha’s arrival, there remained no reason to wait any further.
The priests marched through with the bier. Iantha couldn’t bear to look, as the body lowered from its towering position onto the flat slab. Each priest stood in a separate position, staring at the covered body for a final time. They then turned, each walking outward towards a torch.
An old man approached the slab. He bore a white robe, embroidered with golden linings and the Sigil of the Circle. It was difficult to picture out the design on his robe, as his long, greying beard reached far to the middle of his chest. He approached the slab and inspected the body. He knelt his head, and whispered something under his breath. Iantha recognized him as Fellow Markus, a friend of her father. He turned to the crowd, and with a heavy heart, gave this eulogy:
“No one is ever ready to call to rest someone they both admired and respected. Let alone, a man whom bestowed these qualities on us, so that we may practice these traits ourselves. Today, we honor a hero named Aeolos. A man neither of conviction nor wrong. He grew up in the Northern Ward of our city Adren. Aeolos as a boy thrived with life and much energy. He would later pledge his life to the Adrenian army, rising to the rank of Kapetan. In his time as a soldier, he learned and understood our armies most noble rites: Loyalty, Courage, and Honor. Loyalty, by answering the call to stand with our city during what we call now the Northern Conflict. He displayed courage against the Thessians, in our attempt to invade the city Thessus.
“Our forces were eventually driven back, and we found ourselves in an outcome we never hoped to see. We faced great odds against our enemies’ greater numbers. Where soldiers felt despair and disgrace, Aeolos instead displayed honor. When his superiors fell, Aeolos took their place and rallied his brothers. Under his command, Aeolos marched against the Thessians into one final battle. It was on these very fields of Anthem, right outside our city, where this magnificent fight took place. He challenged the famed Thessian General Orikel into combat. In the twilight hours between Dawn and Dusk, their swords clashed. Aeolos did not back down. He stood his ground and overcame the mighty Orikel. With a swing of his sword, his head was no more. Leader-less, the Thessians had no choice but to retreat. An Adrenian, in this situation, might show fury and cut down our fleeing foes. Aeolos instead showed mercy, and allowed his enemies to return home.
“And in the passing of the war, Aeolos planted his sword into the ground. We Adrenians proclaimed him as a hero and invited him into the legendary halls of the Circle. There, he displayed his great qualities to the common folk. The merchants, the beggars, the craftsmen. The drinkers, the poets, the athletes. All who make what is our city.
“I myself am honored to have worked alongside this man. A man loyal to his fellow companions and to his family. We of the Circle felt affected by his ethics, and remain in gratitude of his service.
“Aeolos, like many, leaves behind his legacy. A legacy nurtured through his beloved wife Ayva, whom he continued to search for after the war. Aeolos’ legacy continues through his children: his brave son, Alexius, and his fair daughter, Iantha. May these two follow in their father’s footsteps, and carry out the legacy of his name.
“Let the Goddess Andra watch over his offspring over their many days. May she guide us in hand as we say goodbye to Aeolos, as he ascends to the heavens.”
Iantha felt the tears return as she listened to Fellow Markus’ kind words. When he had finished, her sobs remained as whimpers. She watched as he revealed the body underneath. She saw her father’s face. The terrible wounds scarred around his body. His arms were still red, but his chest remained covered, to keep back the horrors. She knew what was underneath her father’s tunic. The claw marks. The gashes left behind by something terrible.
Looking at her Papaw’s body, all Iantha could think of was the monster. The horrid creature from her nightmares, hiding in the dark. The one which ambushed her father with its long black claws, and bit through with its vicious snout and fangs. The culprit omitted from Fellow Markus’ passing eulogy.
After a moment of silence, the priests gathered the torches. Fellow Markus brought out a lamp. He carefully poured the ceremonial oil over his deceased companion. He closed his eyes, said a prayer, and departed from the slab. One by one, the six priests walked to the slab. From each corner, they lowered their torch. They then stepped back as the slab caught aflame, and the burning commenced.
Iantha closed her eyes. A gust pressed through as the sparks reached upwards. Despite the overwhelming heat, her tears traced away into the wind. Her eyes became red, and she covered herself into her brother’s arms. The crowd slowly trickled away from the pyre as it burned from flames to ashes.
Alexius began to whisper a song. A particular tune his Papaw sang to him — a song he was teased with while learning how to wield a sword. The only song still resonating in his mind — the one he remembered most from his Papaw.
As Alexius sang into the smoldering air, Iantha broke free and slowly approached the fire. Nothing stood between her and the embers. No one else joined her. She knelt down, ignoring the swaying sparks and sprinkle of ash. Now, she properly mourned for her father. The only thing Iantha felt she could do in this lonely moment. She thought of the memories she grasped so desperately. The ones that could take her to yesterday. The ones that took her away.
Despite being between her brother and the roaring pyre, Iantha never felt more alone in her whole life.
She ran into her Papaw’s open arms. Aeolos knelt down and gave she and Alexius many kisses.
“My dear, sweet children,” he said. He gave them a hug, which could last a lifetime.
Iantha looked up, eager in delight. “Is it over, Papaw?”
There remained a pause as Aeolos gathered his thoughts. Iantha’s brown eyes intently awaited for an answer. He smiled. “I’m staying right here, my sweet flower. Now, shall we go inside?”
Iantha and Alexius each reached for a hand. With all their strength, they ran for the door. Aeolos followed behind, keeping up with his children. Iantha couldn’t help but giggle, for her Papaw was home.
And he wasn’t going to leave her.