The grey faced outworlders and mages paced in silence, boots sliding in slushy snow as they reached the base of the mountain. The vocal commands from Viridian to her team are subtle, like background voices accidentally caught on a recording. Once free of the blackout field, they’d been able to put their helmets back on and use their internal communications network. While the Guardians led, the other members of the party worked together to get the tired, wounded and dead to their destination.
Taking a moment to breathe, the heated air from the travellers quickly turns to steam. The Guardians form a protective ring around the group, waiting, tense, for the next inevitable battle. Thankfully, it won’t be for another day at least and there is a collective feeling of reassurance of this when the entrance begins to appear.
A rounded hole in the side of the mountain becomes more transparent by the second. Holtzmann and Chekov, who have been helping each other along, look on in awe and intrigue. Their minds race with theories for how this impossible looking event was occurring, but they say nothing.
“C’mon, one last push. Can you make it?” Jack quietly asks the tearful young man who is learning on him. The man turns his red, stinging eyes to the body laid on the ground next to him. A slow nod.
“We made it” says Belle. Her words lack the celebratory tone one would expect.
With more shuffling, sombre steps, the group make their way into the dark cavern. As the Guardian’s stomp into the tunnel, the wall fades back into place. As in the escape tunnel, as soon as the darkness comes, bright lights appear to guide their way.
Once the doorway is closed, Jack notices that the tunnel is, in fact, very short.
“Can you hear that?” asks Chekov. With each step forward, they can better hear the voices, they can feel the warming glow from a room up ahead. Scattered words, even laughter and tinny music could be heard.
As Viridian reaches the main room, leading the party, cheers and screams announce their arrival. Applause follows, while other figures rush towards them.
Two women race past Viridian and Serenity to Jack and the young man.
“Halos” weeps one of the women, she has the same reddened, puffy eyes as the young man. As they meet one another’s gaze, he too begins to cry. Jack let her take his weight, passing her his arms.
“Amila? Is it true? Is he…?” says the second woman. Her wild blonde hair stuck to her face in places, her dusty face had distinct streak marks from recent tears. She has one hand on his shoulder, the other clasping his hand at the first woman’s back.
“I’m so sorry Gayani… I’m s—“, Halos’ voice breaks. He faces Gayani, locking eyes before turning to the group of mages who have walked up next to them. People from within the large room have brought blankets and a short, slightly raised table, which they have covered in the soft coverings before placing the still body down. The hood of the dead man falls back revealing his pale face. His light skin had become bluer in the hours of their travel. They have already taken the time to close his eyes.
A collision of gasps, wails and tears come from the huddled three, who move as a single unit to the side of the body of Amila.
Looking on at the exchange, Jack feels a lump grow in his throat, one he doesn’t force back. He’s glad for the mages robes,that they are able to hide the grim wounds to the man’s, Amila’s, body. The dragon had torn through him easily, breaking his into grotesque clumps with flesh and cloth. Jack felt Peggy grip his arm. His knuckles fade from white, regaining blood.
“Viridian wants us to get checked out,” says Peggy.
He doesn’t respond.
“Jack, we need to get checked out. There’s nothing we can do for them.”
She can quickly read the pain and concern in Jack’s eyes. Once Viridian had arrived, she’d rushed to the body and the man, Halos, who was kneeling with their forehead’s touching. Comforting him for a moment, she’d then resumed her leadership role, checking on the wounded Scout and the mages who were clearly rattled.
Jack had calmly sat down next to Halos and Amila’s body, whispering something the young man. He’d stayed with him since that point, helping him to his feet. Insisting he help him walk, after convincing the mage that he couldn’t be the one to carry the body. Without turning to her, Jack begins to cry.
“I lost someone, not so long ago.”
“I’m so sorry, Jack.”
“He died and I lived. I woke up and he was gone. His family didn’t really know what had happened to him, Government regulations and all that. I went to see his family. I don’t know why, I couldn’t explain to them why he’d been killed, that he was saving the world.”
She gripped his arm a little tighter. He takes a deep breath, letting the tears fall.
“But I couldn’t. I’ve seen too many people die. But this. Him. I was too afraid of the look in his mother’s eyes when I told them that he was gone. So I didn’t. I left.”
“You loved him. Grief… affects us all in a number of ways. You can’t expect to make all the right decisions when you’re grieving.”
A small chuckle from Jack.
“I don’t think I’ve ever made the right decision, let alone in grief. Maybe when all this is over.”
They stand side by side, feeling the family mourn, until Peggy sees Belle wave to them from what looks like the medical area of the large room. Guiding Jack, she takes him away from the grieving family and towards the rest of their group.