Chapter 10 - Stone (Part 2)
Arthur’s soul darted forward and collided into him with enough force to knock the air out of his lungs if he had any.
[Papaw!] he exclaimed as his soul drew away from his.
With no lips to speak and no lungs to breathe, speech was telepathic. Emotions were energy sent, received, and shared. They existed in their most simple and basic form—life-forces made of energy.
His soulmate floated over to them and at first, Stone wasn’t sure if it was Aubree or Adelaide, but when she closed her eyes and the wisps around her head touched his, a series of mental images flashed through his mind.
They were memories of him. Of her with him. Of his head bowed, eyes closed, her hand upon his cheek, and his covering hers. Looking down at his large hand in hers as their fingers entwined in the backseat of Dom’s car. Of him pressing his lips to her knuckles. Of his furry wolf head between her hands. Of the pain etched on his face in the sunroom when they had nearly lost Gwen. Of him taking her hands in his and pressing his forehead to hers in the garden. Of his outstretched hand holding hers from the bed next to hers in Vincent’s infirmary.
[Arthur is amazing,] she said. [He showed me his favorite memories of you, Gwen, and Gavin—even Gunner and Alistair. It looks like you all had so much fun.]
Love surrounded them in its strongest and most pure and natural form.
He wanted to touch her, and even though he couldn’t, he felt the deepest connection with her than he’d ever experienced.
There were no physical barriers to hold any of them back. Their souls were connected in this empty space between realms. There was no fear, no need to hold back all that they were and all that they had been.
[I can’t be too long,] Arthur said in Lykostroya. [Time here is slow compared to Earth. I just wanted to tell you that it’s okay. I don’t blame you for what happened and neither did Mamaw. No one blames you.]
Aubree drifted back so Arthur could connect with his father.
Stone wanted to hold him, to hold his son in his arms once more, but couldn’t.
Pain fired up within him, only to be snuffed out by Arthur.
[No, Papaw. You have to let go of what happened. You have to let go of the past.]
[I should have—]
Arthur interrupted him before he could try to pin the blame on himself—like he always did. [Stop. You couldn’t have prevented it from happening and you know it. Let it go. I forgive you, okay? I forgive you.]
Stone opened his mind and allowed his most cherished memories of Arthur flow through. The moment he discovered Adelaide was pregnant. The first time he felt Arthur kick within her. The first time he held his pup in his hands. Watched him sleep. Open his eyes. His first steps. His first howl. His first big game kill. His first shift.
[I was so scared I’d let you down. That I’d never be good enough,] Stone said.
[You showed me I could,] Stone interrupted. [Each day, you showed me something new. You gave my life a new meaning. With each new step you took in your growth, you made me proud. That made me stronger. I wanted to be stronger for you. I wanted to be the example I never had growing up so you never had to experience what I had to.]
[And I lived a wonderful life,] Arthur said. [I have no regrets and neither should you. Let go, Papaw. I’m asking you to let go.]
Stone did and Arthur drifted back.
[I love you, Papaw. Don’t be afraid to love Aubree as much as you loved Mamaw.]
Arthur’s soul twisted together and got smaller and smaller before it vanished.
Aubree coiled into him as if curling into his arms to offer him comfort. He missed the soothing sound of her heartbeat but was content in the metaphysical connection they were currently sharing.
At some point, the Spirit Walker had vanished and it was just Stone and Aubree’s souls alone there in the void between realms.
The warmth within him grew as he reflected on Arthur’s words and presence. He’d missed his son more than he let on and repressed that pain more than he had the pain of losing Adelaide.
With Aubree’s soul intertwined with his, he wondered how Adelaide was going to come and give him a message. Was he wrong about Adelaide trying to reach him? How could she when her soul was already in Aubree?
[Perhaps I am wrong about all this,] he confessed. [How can Adelaide send me a message when her soul is in you? When you share the same soul? You are here with me now, not her.]
[Who else do you think might be trying to contact us?]
As soon as Aubree’s words registered in his mind, two more souls began to materialize before them. The twin pairs of smoke twisted and coiled as they grew and took shape.
When their identities registered in his mind, he could hardly contain the emotions that burst through him.
The souls of his mother and father embraced him, and although he couldn’t feel their arms around him, he could feel their love enveloping him in warmth.
Repeatedly, they apologized for not being there as he grew up, but he pushed their words from his mind and asked them to stop.
His father drew away, while his mother’s soul continued to embrace his. [Amora raised you well, but we wish we could have been there for you. We know it was hard.]
[We missed you too,] his mother added. [It was so hard to watch over you and see you struggle and not be able to help.]
[Forgive us for not being able to be there for you when you needed us most. We ached at your struggle. Cried out for you. Begged the Goddess to have mercy on you. We were taken from you when you were too young. We watched over you, but couldn’t be with you. Couldn’t console you through the pain. Couldn’t guide you down your path,] his father said, closing his glowing white eyes and hanging his head. [So many times we both blamed ourselves for not doing enough. If we could have dug faster—]
[It’s fine, Papaw,] Stone interrupted. [Being a father myself, I know I would have done the same. I forgive you. Thank you. Thank you for giving me life. Thank you for reaching out to me here.]
[We are so proud of you, Sten.]
[Thank you, Papaw.]
[We love you, Steno.]
Stone smiled at the pet name he hadn’t heard in eight hundred years as warmth spread within him. [I love you both and always will.]
[You have been blessed, my son,] his father said as his mother drew away and their souls began to curl up and get smaller. [She is coming to speak with you.]
He wanted to ask who but was hesitant.
His parents once again told him how much they loved him before their souls curled up and disappeared entirely.
It was bittersweet, the way their love flowed over him, filled with regret, yet brimming with pride. To hear his parents’ voices again, to feel their love envelop him—their departure ached him until Aubree touched his soul, easing the pain and bringing forth the love he felt for them.
[Who were they talking about?] she asked. [Who is ‘she?’]
While he wasn’t certain, he had a guess, but he didn’t want to believe it. It wasn’t possible.
Before he could say anything, a bright light flashed, blinding him. Instinctively, he drew Aubree closer to him. The light didn’t diminish, but Stone knew whose presence they were in and if he could kneel, he would have.
Before them hovered the Goddess.