Jeriah laid quietly for a long moment before he realized he was not dead. Why? He opened his eyes and saw he was still in Prudentius’ chambers and his brow furrowed in confusion.
He felt hands grabbing his shoulders and pulling him up and he looked over to see Jakob’s face. He looked worried, he had tears in his eyes, but then he pulled Jeriah in for a tight hug. Jeriah was confused but he hugged Jakob as well, but as he looked over Jakob’s shoulder he saw a figure lying prone before Prudentius. He couldn’t make out who it was because his companions were surrounding him, but suddenly...he remembered.
He’d heard a voice cry out and hands shove him hard to the side just as Prudentius was about to strike him down. Who…?
“It’s not your fault,” Jakob kept saying over and over again.
Jeriah pushed Jakob away and then got to his feet and pushed past Emersyn and Zhai. Verity was kneeling on the ground and holding Kiyah to her chest. He was completely limp in Verity’s arms, but his face looked totally peaceful. He was like a sleeping angel.
“No…” Jeriah breathed. He felt like the breath had just been knocked out of his lungs. He looked up and saw Zhai and Emersyn both crying. Tears rolling silently down their cheeks, and their lips were quivering. Zhai wiped tears away from his eyes with his sleeves, but Emersyn didn’t bother. He finally looked back at Verity, who was crying over Kiyah’s body, and Jeriah felt his knees just buckle and he fell down next to him.
“Kiyah! Why!?” he cried as he reached out and held Kiyah’s hand. Tears burst into his eyes as the realization set in. Kiyah was gone for good. This wasn’t fair! Jeriah had been the thief, not him! Kiyah should have been able to live peacefully!
Verity looked up with her tearful eyes. “He just...he just ran out...I don’t...we couldn’t stop him…we were trapped by magic, but he wasn’t,” she sniffled. “This isn’t fair...but losing you wouldn’t have been fair, either. I... I don’t know…” She lowered her head sadly.
“He wanted you to be able to live and enjoy your time with Jakob. I’m sure of it,” Zhai said after clearing his throat. “He must have decided it would be better to do this than to lose you.”
“It’s not better!” Jeriah cried. “You were all innocent in this! It was my foolish ambition that brought us all here!”
Prudentius' voice cut through their thoughts, “He was not the one that was intended for this punishment, but it seems that he chose to take Fate into his own hands. Release his body, for it will burn up very soon.”
“His self sacrifice will not be forgotten by the witnesses here,” Renatus said. “It’s your duty to keep his memory alive.”
Verity slowly laid Kiyah down on the cold ground and stepped back. Emersyn grabbed Jeriah’s arm and pulled him back as well. Then a flame suddenly burst out of Kiyah’s chest, right where his heart would be. The flame burned quickly and consumed his entire body in mere moments and in a flash he was entirely gone. Not even ashes were left.
Guardians came into this world mysteriously, and left it without a trace anywhere known in the Mortal and Immortal Realms.
They all bowed their heads out of respect for his great sacrifice. Kiyah was the youngest among them, and yet the bravest. His love for others was strong enough to give him this motivation to save Jeriah so he could live whatever was left of his life alongside his twin.
They were all free now, but why did it have to be such a hefty cost? Jeriah couldn’t focus on anything except for the hole in his heart and the sadness that overwhelmed him and the others. It felt like everything faded out except for that sadness.