Ime lowers his arm and watches the flames eating away at the great jordra. He’d been sure to send a highly dense shot of fire into the giant beast’s brain and heart so it wouldn’t suffer as its body burned.
It doesn’t take long for the jordra’s corpse to burn, though to those flying above it feels like many hours pass. But when the flames finally die out there’s only black earth left behind. The jordra has been completely destroyed, eaten by the flames, leaving nothing behind, not even bones.
With a wave of his hand the last of the fire goes out and Ime gazes up at the hundreds of hoks flying above him. But his eyes immediately land on one and even from such a distance he sees Meah smiling. She waves a small wave she isn’t even sure he sees.
Ime’s silver eyes lighten and a large smile fills his face. He raises his hand in a responding wave and tears form in Meah’s eyes.
Without a word spoken, Jaxon brings their hok down to the ground, followed by Daniil and Kylii. Deven signals to the others to remain in the air for a moment to allow the group to have a private reunion.
As they lower, Meah takes in Ime’s form as he grows closer. His figure is leaner, more muscular. He even appears slightly taller, but it could be the distance throwing off her perception. Though his clothes do hang looser on him around the waist and tighter around the chest. His hair is longer and mussed and a shadow on his face represents the hair growing on his chin. He looks older, less like the young man she’d met at the Arena and closer to the man who would lead an army to war.
On the ground, Jaxon leaps from the hok and helps Meah off. She tears from his arms and runs to Ime. She jumps into his arms and squeezes him tightly, her legs wrapping around his stomach. The tears flow down her cheeks and she breathes in his smell.
“I missed you,” Ime whispers in her ear.
Meah’s magic explores Ime and she can feel his fire. It fills a hole in Ime she never knew he had. His warmth is stronger and it fills her with a similar heat.
A shudder runs through Ime and he carefully lowers Meah to the ground. “Whoa, that’s different.” He strokes Meah’s forehead with his nose, closing his eyes as a peaceful smile forms on his lips. “I felt you.”
“Just like you to show up and save the day,” Kylii says, slapping Ime on the back. The sly gleam in his eyes lets Ime and Meah know he purposefully interrupted their tender moment and wasn’t sorry about it.
“Look at that! Nothing left behind. That fire of yours is something,” Daniil says joining his brother.
“Thank the gods you didn’t slack off on your training or else me and Daniil would’ve actually had to work.”
“Like you would’ve done anything. You would’ve shown off spitting fireballs every which way while I actually did all the work.”
“How dare you. I would’ve slowed it down and let you have the honor of the final blow.”
Ime pulls the brothers into a hug, silencing them. “Gods, how I missed your bickering. Doesn’t feel like home without it.”
Breaking free of Ime’s embrace, the brothers flush, but soon their eyes move to Kiphy. He’s stayed silent to allow Ime a chance at an uninterrupted reunion. Now he steps forward and scans the faces of Daniil and Kylii. A tense silence passes before Kiphy grabs the brothers and pulls them close, squeezing them tightly.
“I thought you both would die in that Arena,” Kiphy’s muffled voice says. His strong arms tighten more as he fights back a sob.
Daniil and Kylii eye each other before wrapping their arms around their father. “You taught us how to fight.”
“You taught us how to survive.”
“Bai nolo stoled surpiven,” they say these words together.
Hearing the brother’s secret language, Kiphy shuts his eyes tight and, with a hiccup, says, “My sons. My boys.” The three stand in silence for a moment longer.
Ime notices Jaxon is still standing by his hok. Walking to him, Ime smiles. “You seem to be the only one not in a welcoming mood, Jaxon.”
Turning his blue eyes on Ime, Jaxon crosses his arms. “When I asked Kiphy to restore your magic, I didn’t understand how powerful it was. Blood King Klaeon’s fear was well-founded.”
“My old fire wasn’t this powerful.”
Surprise fills Jaxon’s face.
“My old fire wasn’t my true fire. It was a piece of my fire, an opening into where my true fire lay,” Ime explains. “Given time, I would’ve reached my true fire on my own, but when Klaeon took my fire from me he blocked me from doing so naturally.”
“This means your fire still has potential to grow more powerful.”
“Kiphy believes so and he believes Klaeon did as well, which is why he tried to stop me before I could threaten him. Then he hoped I would die in the Arena before I ever had the chance to find a way to retrieve what I’d lost.” Ime places a hand on Jaxon’s shoulder. “Thank you. Without you I wouldn’t have thought it possible to get my fire back.”
Jaxon smiles. “Behind every great man is another man who kicked him onto the path of greatness.”
Deven lands close to the two. “I’ve sent the mages back to Kellahn. We should follow. Altan will want a full report of what happened and I think he would like to meet you, Ime.”
“I’m eager to meet him, as well,” Ime says.
They rearrange hok riders quickly. Kiphy climbs on with Kylii. Jaxon rides with Deven to allow Meah and Ime to ride together, after a quick explanation on flying a hok. Soon the group is in the air, flying speedily back towards Kellahn.
As soon as they land Ime, Meah, Kiphy, Daniil, Kylii, Jaxon, and Deven head for the Great Hall to meet with Altan. He’s busy repairing the pots that crashed to the ground, guards assisting him. Other guards are busy bringing in large pieces of stone and setting them to the side.
“I’m guessing from the peace and quiet, the jordra was taken care of?” Altan asks without looking at the entering group.
“It was,” Ime answers.
Altan’s head turns quickly at the new voice and his eyes land on Ime. For a moment, he’s taken aback at Ime’s appearance. He’d been expecting someone who appeared much younger, less experienced.
“You must be Ime,” Altan says, walking to the center of the room to meet the group.
Ime steps ahead of the group. “I am. I apologize for not meeting you before I left, but we didn’t have any time to waste.”
“The same can be said now.”
“What do you mean?”
Altan walks to one of the guards cleaning and holds his hand out. The guard quickly hands him a parchment and Altan faces the group with a smile. “A messenger arrived moments ago. Well, actually several messengers arrived. It would seem our allies are on their way and most will be arriving in two days.”
Meah steps forward to stand next to Ime and takes his hand in hers. “We’ve been busy while you were away,” she says.
Altan looks from Meah to Ime and back to Meah. “Perhaps, before we get into the details, you would like a chance to relax?”
“No. I’ve been relaxing too long. We have a war to fight and I can’t keep putting it off. Klaeon’s rule is over and I will be the one to kill him.”
Kiphy smiles at Ime’s words.
“And what will happen after you kill him? Will you take his place?” Altan asks.
“There will be no one king. This world doesn’t need a single ruler.”
Altan smiles. “Then my army is yours to command, Ime Gurek.”