Element of the Abstract: Epilogue
Morning was dreary. Bright and warm, sure, but the weather could not penetrate the gloom. Lunora was known for its fog, and Lunorans were known for their foggy disposition. Adelaide and Osryn were slow to rise and even slower to want to start moving. It was only with Urta’s meek reassurances and guidance that the depressive father and daughter even managed to get moving in the first place. It was hard to want to go back to a place they’d always shared with Sebastian without him. It was hard to want to do anything at all.
The journey back was uneventful. No monsters. No fighting. Just three sad, numb people and the cycles of the moon and sun. In as much time as it had taken them to get to Solelio, they made it back to Lunora. It was sunset again by the time they arrived, and they were surprised to find Daniela, Hector, and Greer Macron sitting on their front steps when they approached.
It looked like Daniela was crying, Hector’s arm around her shoulder. Osryn was happy to see Flea in Greer’s arms. As they all emerged from the forest, Daniela looked up and jumped to her feet.
“Oh my sun and stars, Osryn! You’re alive, oh goodness! You’re alive!”
Before Osryn could get a word in edgewise, Daniela barreled into him, swooping him into the biggest hug. Adelaide and Urta hung back slightly, but Adelaide caught Greer’s eye, noticing that they were glancing around for someone who simply wasn’t there. She approached them.
“Hi Greer,” Adelaide said, wanting to say more, but her words stuck in her throat. Instead, she turned her attention to Flea and gestured that she wanted to hold her. She took her cat into her arms and held her close.
“Hi Adelaide.” Greer said. Adelaide hadn’t seen them in a while, even before their journey. Frankly, Adelaide hardly knew anything about Greer. They had always been closer with Sebastian, and his absence felt like alcohol in a wound.
“Where in blazes have you been?” Daniela cut directly to the chase, her despair having quickly turned to anger. She pulled away from Osryn and looked around, scowling at Urta and addressing the elephants in the room. “Who’s that man? Where’s Sebastian?”
Osryn pursed his lips. “Daniela, you might want to sit down.”
She didn’t, but Hector put his arm around her. Greer pretended they weren’t about to cry. Osryn explained everything. They were the few people in this world he could trust with the truth of the children, and he told them everything that happened. Throughout, Daniela and Hector remained stoic-faced, but tears were running down Greer’s face by the end and they clenched their fists.
“Y- You just left him there with her?” Greer accused the Selds, eyes teary but fierce with betrayal. “How could you? I’ll never see him again because of you people!”
“Why should you care?” Adelaide snapped, only able to hold back tears due to how many she’d shed on their journey. Her sudden emotion startled Flea, who jumped out of her arms and ran back to the house. “You think I wanted this? I tried to save him! Besides, who is he to you? He’s my brother.”
Greer wiped away their tears and looked Adelaide dead in the eyes. “He’s my boyfriend.”
Adelaide and Osryn exchanged flabbergasted looks. Urta, who had been lurking in the background this entire time, remained awkwardly silent.
“I… I didn’t know…” Adelaide muttered, looking at the ground.
Daniela’s mouth opened slightly. Hector raised his eyebrows and he pulled Greer into a hug. “Kid… why didn’t you tell anyone?”
“I don’t know. I guess we were nervous? But I mean… That’s not important…” Greer’s voice was low and monotone. They looked towards the sunset and sighed. “He’s gone anyway. Probably forever.”
“Greer, I assure you, we did everything we could to try and keep him here.”
“Ha, you’re one to talk!” Greer rolled their eyes. “You’re the reason he even left in the first place. All he ever wanted was for you to care, and you didn’t, did you? You didn’t.”
Daniela cuffed Greer on the back. “Hey! Don’t be so rude. It’s cruel.”
Osryn frowned― Greer had an edge to them that Osryn had never really noticed beneath their bright, colorful exterior. Had his son really been seeing them romantically behind his back? He had genuinely assumed they only hung out all the time as friends. Osryn didn’t mind at all of course that the two were a couple, but it wounded his heart to think Sebastian didn’t trust him enough to tell him. To find out like this felt like a spear through the heart.
“We had to do it…” Adelaide spoke up for her father. “He was acting crazy. There’s no way we could have gotten through to him…”
“You know… it’s not too late.” Osryn said. “We can save him.”
“And how exactly do you propose we do that?” Daniela asked, crossing her arms. “If your story’s true, you’re no match for an army that large.”
“Maybe not alone, and maybe not with what we have now… but it’s possible, Daniela.” Osryn scratched his beard, which had grown in a little around his goatee over the time they’d been gone. “Adelaide is getting more and more skilled with her magic every day. I can fight. And Daniela, I know you’re talented with a rifle.”
“But, I haven’t hunted in years…” Daniela scratched her neck. “Besides… I’ve never shot somebody before…”
“I wouldn’t worry about that, ma’am,” Urta interjected. “Many of the other Urtas are hardly people at all… Sure, there are some of them with the ability to communicate in human tongues, like myself, but a vast majority of them hardly have a personality anymore… It's tragic, honestly, but the more of them she manages to clone, the more warped and deformed they become. It’s like she’s trying to strip them of whatever autonomy they have left...”
“Aren’t you one of them?” Hector asked, narrowing his eyes and scratching at his neck. “Why should we trust you at all?”
“I no longer associate with Celine and the others. I have never stood for what they stand for, and only now have I been given the opportunity to do something different with my life. I want to help you… and I’m not the only one.” Urta turned to Osryn. “I have connections, you know. Other older Urtas who also dislike the way Celine operates and are not just her mindless slaves. I can get information.”
“It all seems so risky…” Daniela muttered, sighing and rubbing her forehead. “But we can’t just leave him there.”
“We will not be leaving him there,” Osryn raised his voice. “Listen, I know I haven’t been the best father in the world. I know now that I haven’t shown Sebastian enough love and understanding over the years… and I have paid the price. But, I wasn’t there for him then, and that’s how we ended up in this stars-forsaken situation, after all. I would sooner string myself up from an old pine to die than fail him again.”
Adelaide was dabbing at tears as they welled up just slightly. “Dad… are you sure?”
“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life. I need my son back. I only wish I had learned sooner… but that is life’s cruel game, after all.” He looked at Daniela with a familiar melancholy fondness. “You only understand the truth when it’s too late.”
Daniela smiled and blinked slowly. “I… I’ll help you. You’re right, after all. Sitting here being upset and angry isn’t doing anyone any good.”
“Rage and anger steered my brother wrong…” Adelaide reminded everyone. “We must not give in to such things.”
“You all have power and skills…” Greer said, looking at their nails, which were painted bright pink and orange. “What do I have? Am I just supposed to sit idly by while you all save my boyfriend?”
Osryn directed a serious gaze towards Greer, who stiffened. Then Osryn smiled, clearly joking, and they relaxed, even managing a half-hearted laugh.
“Well, kid, I’m missing a student. There’s no time like the present to learn a thing or two about how to hold your own in combat. Your sister as well, if she’s interested.”
“Where is Anna, by the way?” Adelaide inquired.
“Honestly, I think she’s been a little bit depressed.” Hector admitted, putting his hands in his pockets. “We all have been, but she’s already so much of an introvert, and Adelaide… she’s fond of you. I don’t think she wanted to come all the way out here just to see an empty house again. Little did she know…”
“Well, we’ll have to come visit then, just as soon as we get cleaned up.” Osryn raised an eyebrow at Daniela. “Would you be opposed to some dinner guests?”
Daniela punched him in the shoulder. “Are you kidding? We’ve been waiting all week to have dinner with you guys again. Come over as soon as you’re ready. We’ll head home and put the stove on.”
“Perfect.” Osryn nodded, then looked again at Greer and Adelaide. “Then, once we determine if Anna’s onboard, we can discuss your training.”
Greer’s eyes brightened for the first time since the Selds had returned, and they managed a weak smile. “Thanks Uncle Osryn. I’m sorry I yelled at you. I just… I felt like that’s what Sebastian would have done.”
Osryn chuckled. “You’re right. That’s exactly what he would have done… Well, it’s no matter… if anything it made me feel like he was here. And that… you’re good for him.”
Greer softened, and the kind, bright-hearted individual Osryn knew them as returned. “You really think that?”
“Of course.” Osryn nodded, then gestured towards his house, which was cold and dark. “Come on, Adelaide. Let’s freshen up.”
Flea, sitting at the door staring at them with one big pleading eye, meowed that she wanted some dinner herself.
“We must feed Flea!” Adelaide gasped, making a mad dash for the door and scooping up the cat again, who mewed in protest. “Oh darling, how I’ve missed you!”
The Macrons made their way back downtown to get dinner started and Osryn began walking towards the door. He stopped when he realized Urta still stood nervously in the yard. He turned around and beckoned him inside. “You didn’t think we were just going to leave you out of this all, did you? You’re family now, Urta. Whether you like it or not.”
Urta smiled, shook his head, and ran a hand through his hair, letting it out of its tight top-bun. “If you say so, Osryn. If you say so.”
Osryn smiled back. “Oh, I do.”
The friends and family, new and old, crowded around Daniela’s small dining table that night. Though Sebastian was missing, they all clung to the idea that it was possible to save him, and that no matter how many dinners they had to have without him, there would soon come a day where he would join them again. It was easier to think that than to think that he was out of reach. Osryn believed it, though. He might not know his son as well as he would like to, but he believed that the boy had a good heart deep down, that he would see through evil’s allure eventually. Osryn would fight for him, and it was clear that everyone gathered around this table would fight for him too.
Osryn knew now that the meaning he’d been searching for had been right in front of him all along. His legacy, his future, his chance to do something good― it was in raising his children. He had spent so much time staring into scrolls and books that he’d been blind to the beauty of life that was all around him. The misty forest at dawn. The sound of his son and daughter laughing. The face of his best friend, even the face of her husband. Their children. Even Urta. The abstract ran through all these things, and he knew now that the way to truly understand it was not through writings, not through the wisdom of those who wasted away in studies before him. To understand the abstract is to embrace it fully, and to embrace it fully, Osryn had to live in the moment.
It was possible that Osryn Seld would die tomorrow, or that his son would waste away at the hand of a power-hungry killer queen. It was possible that somewhere down the line, no one would ever remember him, his family, or anything he’d ever published. Only now did Osryn realize that none of that mattered. When he was dust, he was dust. It was as simple as that. So, as long as he still lived and breathed, Osryn would try to find meaning and joy out of whatever was in front of him, and he would stop at nothing until Sebastian could be in front of him again.
Of the people gathered around the Macrons' table that night, each one of them would do whatever it takes.
Insectera Book Two: Matters of the Heart, coming... eventually.
© 2022 Rychard Collins