Flashes of my life rushed past my unblinking eye. I saw places I’d been and watched as moments of my life played out. I felt the feelings I’d felt at the time as fresh and painful or joyful as they’d been the first time. I watched, passive, until the end. The feeling of failure filled me. Had I been in time to save my sister? I think the dome had come down, I think Fadreel had passed on, but I wasn’t sure. I felt as if things had not been finalized as one might hope for at the end of one’s days.
The colors of the sunrise washed over me like a gentle spring. The light pinks felt like a gentle touch, the light oranges felt warm and soothing, and the light yellows like joy.
Maybe everyone felt the press of unfinished business at the end.
I moved down the stream of colors to where it pooled and I got in and bathed, scrubbing at all of the crusted spots with green, sparkling sand. I rinsed, dunking my head under, and rose, renewed. Looking around, I found myself in the in-between state I’d been in after the fire in Southallow.
Maybe the unfinished business didn’t matter.
Zat, my fire elemental friend, floated to me and grew to my size. Veins of green shot through its body and sparks shot from its tendrils.
“I’d hoped I’d see you again before the end,” I said, reaching out to caress it.
It purred in response.
I looked around at the emptiness filled with color. “Is this it? Am I to wait here until I am recycled back into the world?”
Zat purred and enveloped me.
I got an impression of vast intelligence, patience, and love from it. I also got the impression that I had a choice to stay or go back.
“If I go back, will you be there?”
It placed a tendril against my heart and I felt peace.
A moment later, or it could have been years, a whirlpool opened up and sucked me in.

Consciousness returned and I sucked in air like a drowning man. I lay on a rolling table, naked and bleeding. Rhaenan hovered over me, her eyes wide in the dim torchlight of the cavern.
“Gestin,” she said and wiped a tear from her eye. She helped me sit up. Vytar nodded at me, his sword held ready.
Yerston – of all people – handed me a skin of water. I made myself sip instead of guzzle.
My mother’s voice said in my ear, “You will always have friends.”
I struggled to sit up. Rhaenan’s soft hands and Yerston’s wrinkled ones helped. He put bandages on me and put a ripped tabard over my head.
I stood, dizzy from loss of energy and blood. Fadreel’s body, or what was left of it, lay at the foot of my cage. It looked as if the elementals had shredded it when they were set free. I shook my head, saddened but not sorry he’d passed.
I started to rush over to my sister’s cage, fell, and ended up being carried over there.
“I have to set her free,” I said, pushing the helping hands away.
“But…” Rhaenan started to say something but Yerston shushed her.
The cage door, although made of plas, had a hinge, so I could open it without having to use my elemental power.
I had failed.
I unhooked my sister’s body and carried it to the table.
“Who was she, my lord?” Yerston asked.
“My sister.”
He looked confused, so I clarified. “My mother’s daughter.”
He made comforting sounds but I ignored him. I touched her pale face and tears slid down my cheeks. Such potential cut off, such innocence smothered.
I gathered my power to infuse her body with life, only to realize I had no power. I tried my elemental sight, and nothing happened. I tried to sense those around me and had to use my physical eyes. I had no more magic.
Stunned, I looked at nothing for a moment.
“My lord,” Vytar said, making me jump. “We should get you upstairs so the people can see that you live.”
I looked around at the lake. No sign of the water elemental or the Dvergr priest remained. The lake, although much lower, did look healthier. Stygand stood up from where he had been resting with Uri. They both looked healthy enough.
“Please bring my sister,” I said to Yerston, who nodded. I followed Vytar up the stairs – for the elementals had all gone and no ancient or new technology that had used them worked. The world had changed again. Would I be thanked for this change or hated?

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