Chapter Forty-six: A Place to Belong, Pt. 3

“Let me start by saying this. I know I made a mistake. It was a horrible, utterly despicable thing that I did, that I forced others to do, including Janil. I acted out of anger. The more time goes on, the more I realize how big of a mistake I made. I came here of my own will because I wanted to apologize. I can’t undo my actions, but I can move forward and try to make up for those actions.”

I lower to my knees, tears in my eyes. “I beg for forgiveness, queen. I beg forgiveness from all Groyin. I offer myself the only way I know how. I offer myself in service to you and your people.”

It really is all I can do. In the end, my life has come down to two things, the never-ending quest for dominance and the need for submission. I can feel the queen all around me as she probes my mind. She’s anxious, conflicted.

She stares at me for what feels like an eternity. “You cannot change what you have done. I feel the regret in your heart. It is the same regret and fear that Kalarai felt as he asked forgiveness as well. That Groyin forgave your second, Elikel. I forgive you, but actions have consequences.”

My eyes widen as her thoughts course through my mind. I forgive you, but I cannot let your crime go unpunished. I feel in your mind that you know this, and yet you do not fear. This is why I forgive you. You have accepted the consequences of your actions. For that, you have earned my respect in your final moments. You will never hear our song, Elikel, but we will sing a verse to mourn you as we mourned our young. Be at peace, Elikel, and know that we will comfort Janil as he mourns.

“I know, my queen.” One last gesture of submission.

I feel her warmth wash over me. It’s comforting, soothing, even. I… am thankful that Janil has them, especially if this is but a fraction of what he feels.

He wraps his arms around me, and I know that he knows what must happen. “I love you, Eli. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Janil. Everyone has to pay for what they’ve done sometime.” I pull away from him and touch his cheek. My beautiful Janil…

He leans into my hand as he cries. “I love you, Janil.”

He can’t bring himself to do it, Elikel. I hear a Groyin voice in my mind.

I know, but he must. I… want it to be his hand. It’s what I deserve, Kehltanril.

It will be his hand, but it will be my action.

Janil touches my cheek and leans in to kiss my lips one final time.

I feel his body tense up and I know that Kehltanril is in control.

My queen, please take care of my precious Janil.

We are family; we will take care of him. I want you to know, Elikel… he never stopped loving you.

My body begins to feel numb as I feel the queen somehow influencing my body. Goodbye, Elikel.

It’s a strange feeling as the blade runs through me. I barely feel it, but my eyes widen at the curious sensation.

I… wonder if I will see my beloved Kalarai.

——————

EPILOGUE: Letters

——————

“My beautiful Myraea,

I know I’ve only been gone a short while, but I wanted to tell you that I miss you. This mission probably won’t be long. The system they’ve found appears fairly empty and we do not expect much resistance. I suppose a colonization or settlement mission is far more interesting than the patrol I was originally set for, right? At least they know I’m efficient!

I know I probably won’t be able to get these messages to you regularly, but there’s just something about the handwritten letter. I know it’s not practical, but it’s special in its own way. It’s always seemed more personal to me than words on a digital screen. Plus, I remember you seemed to enjoy getting them the last time I was on a long mission.

Kalarai is well. He’s still my beautiful little smart-ass. I’m so glad you and him got some quality time before we left. He’s always really liked you, but we’re always so busy. Monrenth is doing fine, too. I wish I could hold you at night, but I’m always glad to hold him or Kala.

How are my two little boys? Don’t let them raise too much hell while I’m gone. Enroam needs to start his marksmanship training soon. If I’m not back in time, see if Alimari Selhina will work with him. He’s a great shot and a friend of Kala’s. Try not to spoil Moryaen too much before I get back. I don’t want him to think I’m all serious business when I get back. I can’t wait to see them both again. They’re both at the age now, maybe I should consider staying closer to home.

I love you, and I’ll keep you informed.

Elikel”

———

“My beautiful Myraea,

This mission’s taken a surprise turn! The system is inhabited by some bizarre insect race. Ugly damn things, too, but they make for good eating, at least. We encountered them almost immediately, but they were no challenge. If our first few encounters are any indicator, we’ll have them whipped into submission in no time.

How are you doing? I know it’s only been a few months, but I worry about you. At least I know you and the boys are safe. How are they? Maybe I can bring the two of them some kind of trophy from the war front. If anything, it’ll at least give them something to talk about.

I think about them every day. Hopefully, someday, we won’t have to go through all of this. I know there’s still a lot of ground to cover, but hopefully, they’ll see a universe in peace in their lifetime. I just try to remind myself of that when I’m out here and I start missing them. I’m doing this for them, so maybe they won’t have to when they’re my age.

Monrenth and Kalarai are doing well. Monrenth’s keeping quite busy, of course, and Kalarai’s still content to stay in his nests and do his work. I suppose I’m doing fine, too. I miss you, and I really miss the boys.

Love,

Elikel”

———

“My beautiful Myraea,

We’ve finally gotten leave, though I wish we could come home for it. Remember that expansion a while back and the Focuri? That’s where we’re taking a few days to rest and restock.

The war has taken on an intensity that I didn’t expect. We’ve had a few wounded and a few deaths, but we’ve taken far more of them out. They seem innumerable, but I know they’re not. I hope we will break their spirits. Surely, when they see we are unrelenting, they will surrender.

Kalarai and Monrenth are doing well. Kala’s been out wandering the city since we got here. Monrenth, on the other hand, has been content to stay put. I always find it funny that when we’re not out there in the heat of things, they’re such opposites. Put them in a combat scenario and Kala is content to stay back while Monrenth is all over the field. Put them on leave? Kala’s wandering the cities and Monrenth’s sitting back and taking it easy.

How are my little boys doing? I miss them so much. I miss you, too. Days like this, I wish we could go visit that beach you took us to that time. I’m sure they’d love it, too. It’s hard to believe that it’s been as long as it has been sometimes. I think when this is over, I think it’s time to retire, at least from expeditionary forces. I want to be home with you and the boys.

I miss you and I love you. Hopefully we’ll be home soon.

Elikel”

———

“Myraea,

So, today was an amazing day! I wrote that first letter to you this morning, but I have to write this one now. Our yula has grown, my love. Kalarai has found his second! The young man is Janil, the son of Alim Arahni of the Bekir. I was shocked to find out his mother was a legend, but Arahni is such a well-known figure. I can’t wait for you to meet him. He definitely reminds me of a young Kalarai, though, maybe not nearly as self-confident. He reminds me of Kala in that he’s a very sensitive and submissive sort. His manners are extraordinary. I wish you could’ve been there, my love.

Janil’s going to be special, I think. He’s a bit rough around the edges, but his mind is as sharp as can be. He will make a wonderful second to Kalarai. I can’t help but to wonder if Monrenth is ever going to look. He’s been through a lot in his life, hopefully he can settle down soon, too.

I think with Janil joining us, I’m most certainly going to retire from expeditionary when we’re done here. Monrenth might go stir crazy, but the change of pace will be good for him. Kala will want to start guiding Janil and it’s going to be easier for him to do that if we start trying to plant roots somewhere. Plus, I think Janil will be a good influence on the boys, especially once he’s matured a little more himself.

I know it’s a scary thing to think about, but Janil will be joining us in the battle. Arahni and I both felt that it would do him good. It’ll shape him, and we’ll be able to start breaking some of his bad habits while we’re here. He’s a sensitive sort, like Kala, but this will help take the edge off of that. He’s going to be something special.

I love you, and I can’t wait to get home. Hopefully, I’ll see you soon.

Elikel”

———

“My beloved Myraea,

I don’t even know where to begin, my love. Kala’s gone. I can’t believe Kala’s gone. We were so close to settling down, planting roots like I’d said. Those fucking bugs have taken him from me. I’ll make them pay, my love, I promise. They’ll suffer for what they’ve done.

So much has happened since I last was able to write. We had to scuttle the ship. We took over a manufacturing facility, but we’re not going to be able to hold it. Janil is heartbroken, but he’s sworn himself to me properly now. I love him and I’ve got to protect him now, especially.

Don’t tell the boys, at least not yet. I’d rather do it when I get home. Maybe I can find a way to ease it to them. Janil being there will help, I’m sure. They’ll at least get to have him in their life.

Hold my boys extra tight for me, okay? I miss you. I love you.

Elikel”

———

“Myraea,

We got out of that hellhole, thank Tanril. I was shocked to find out that Arahni herself took over a ship when she found out that we were seeking an evac. So much has happened, and I don’t even know how to start. Janil was captured by the bugs. I don’t know what all has actually happened, but one of our men says that he’s turned on us. I don’t know, Myraea, I don’t know. I don’t understand what’s going on in his head, but I can’t believe he’d really do that. I know how it looks, too. It’s going to look bad on all of us and our sons certainly don’t deserve that.

Maybe bringing him here was a mistake. No, it was a mistake, but it’s too late for that. I’ve lost Kala and now I’ve lost Janil. I’ll clear this up, me and Monrenth will. I miss you, but I’m not coming home until I make all of this right. You deserve that. Tell my boys that I love them and I miss them.

Elikel”

———

“Myraea,

I’m writing this because I know how much Elikel’s letters meant to you. There’s been a lot of misinformation that’s gone through everywhere. From what I’ve heard, you can ask ten people and get ten different stories. I just want to tell you my side of things.

First, my name, our names and our yula, have been cleared and restored. Alim Arahni, my mother, was so concerned about her reputation that she tried to brand me as a traitor. I was captured by the Groyin, but I sought to end the war in my own way, and yes, that included joining them. However, I never acted against my yula or any of the Camfurdians. Thanks to the Aevocar, the war is over. The Groyin are rebuilding with the aid of the Aevocar.

Elikel, during the course of the war, committed a crime that I’ll not bear to repeat. He made a mistake in his rage after my yaruel’s death. Kalarai’s death sent him over the edge in his quest for revenge. He sought out an alliance with my mother assuming that she was the best option to find me. In the end, Arahni sought to kill me, but Elikel saved my life.

When the dust settled, Elikel gave himself to my people, the Groyin, to be judged for the atrocity he committed during the war. He accepted his punishment with honor. I don’t know how history will remember him, but I know how I will.

I’ll remember your husband, my yarl, as a loving man. He was someone willing to go to the greatest lengths to protect his family because he loved us all so dearly. I loved him, and Kalarai loved him too. He died accepting the consequences of his actions, but he died knowing he was loved. I will always love him.

I regret that I’ll probably never meet you. I don’t know that you’d even want to, but I always heard so much about you, Enroam, and Moryaen. I’d looked forward to sharing my life with them as well as you, but it was not meant to be. If you ever wish to, send a message along with the Aevocar. It will reach me eventually, and I would still love to meet you and the boys.

I know how hard all of this has been for me, but I can’t even imagine how hard this must be for you. You’ve heard all of this from second and third-hand accounts, and that’s not fair. I wanted you to know my side of things and to make your own judgment based upon that. I wish you the best and I hope your sons grow up knowing that their father, in the end, was an honorable man. He made mistakes, but he owned them. I will always be grateful for the time I had with him, because without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

—Janil”

————

Myraea looks up from the letter crying. The woman looks around the bedroom, tears burning her eyes, but she realizes she’s not the only one crying. She rushes to the crib to check on her.

The baby’s crying. The little girl didn’t start until her mother did, and she can’t help but to wonder if the baby felt her pain. She always knew Elikel had been an empath, but he always suppressed it. Their two sons, Enroam and Moryaen both were on the empathic side, but not like this.

Myraea reaches down and touches the crying baby’s cheek. “It’s okay, sweetheart. It’s okay. Come here.” Gently, she picks up the child, cradling the baby girl tight against her chest. She kisses the baby’s forehead as the child continues to cry. “Mommy’s here, sweetheart. It’s going to be okay.” Carefully adjusting her grip, she wipes her own face dry with her free hand.

“You’re your father’s daughter, that’s for sure. Kalarai was just as sensitive as you, little girl.” She kisses the baby’s head again. “I love you, Elirai. My sweet little girl.”

She clings tight to the little girl.

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