The celebrations fill the canyon, but the main event occurs at the Great Hall. The entire city and the allied armies gather for Ime and Meah’s wedding. Meah manages to find a dress made from the same silk as her bracelet. The material is a beautiful white with gemstones sewn throughout to give the illusion of magic swirling through the cloth. Her hair is pulled back into an intricate braid with loose strands framing her face.
Ime wears a grey silk shirt, matching his eyes, and a brocade vest with his symbol sewn onto the left breast. His eyes glow with excitement and his smile is a permanent fixture on his face.
The ceremony is quick and the following celebration sets off the hundreds of other celebrations throughout the canyon. Daniil and Kylii demand an entire recount of everything that happened after they died.
Stories are shared, excitement is palpable in the air, and food and drinks are handed out liberally. Ime and Meah manage to find time to themselves to simply sit and watch everyone dance or celebrate in their own ways.
“It’s over,” Meah says, leaning her head on Ime’s shoulder. “We’re free to do what we want.”
Kissing the top of her head, Ime sighs and squeezes her hand. “And what do you want to do?”
Watching Daniil and Kylii hugging Mava, Rava, Bern, Tristan, and Skara, Meah lifts her head and stares into Ime’s eyes. “I want to see your village.”
Ime’s breath catches in his throat. “Why? It hasn’t been my village for many years. I don’t know if I can face them after what I’ve done in the Arena.”
“I think finally putting an end to Klaeon’s rule cancels that out,” Meah says, smiling. “They must’ve heard about it by now. Let’s go.”
A sly smile forms on Meah’s lips. “Not tonight, but soon. I have plans for you tonight, husband.”
Ime and Meah are dragged back out into the celebration and dance. As the crowd gathers around them, Meah’s eyes lazily scan the crowd to see who’s dancing with whom. Her eyes stop on a cloaked man standing at the edge of the celebration in shadow. His face is covered, but she recognizes the blue eyes even without the glow of magic filling them.
She tries to fight her way towards him, but a shadow passes over the figure and he’s gone. Thinking back on the wedding ceremony, Meah tries to remember if she saw any unusual shadows in the Great Hall. A proud and relieved feeling fills her.
“We want to dance with the blushing bride!” Kylii yells, grabbing Meah by the hand. Daniil takes her other hand and both brothers spin her around the dance floor before Ime can protest.
Ime finds a seat next to Kiphy and relaxes. “I saw Jaxon made it for the wedding.”
Laughing, Kiphy eyes Ime. “If he missed it, I knew Meah would never forgive him. Though it did take some convincing that I wouldn’t turn him in.”
“I think Meah knew he was there. Have you really forgiven him?”
“Have you?” Kiphy gives Ime an inquisitive look. The playfulness fades, as Ime remains quiet. “Klaeon did burn Jaxon’s village to the ground. No survivors. Jaxon made me take him there to be sure. Klaeon’s men didn’t even bury the charred corpses.”
“Is that why you didn’t see your sons until we returned?” Ime asks.
“I couldn’t leave him there to bury the dead alone. But he wouldn’t let me help. Thought it was a fitting punishment for abandoning them without any way to defend themselves.”
“He wanted to move them to Kellahn, safe from Klaeon.” Ime stares at Meah. “If he’d succeeded, Klaeon wouldn’t have had a hold on him. I think he wouldn’t have betrayed us.”
“Possibly, but then you wouldn’t have gained the white flame. Jaxon understood the need for sacrifice. It killed him inside to do what he did, I think. But he knew it needed to be done.” Kiphy cleared his throat. “Becoming a Shadow Watcher…I still can’t fathom why he did that.”
“He said it was so he could protect his village. He passed messages, knew Klaeon’s plans.”
“I’m not talking about the Shadow Watchers that allied themselves to the Blood King.”
Ime stares at Kiphy confused, but Meah dances towards them. “Enough talking. More dancing.” She grabs Kiphy’s hands and pulls the old man onto the dance floor.
Taking Kiphy’s spot is Deven. He leans close to Ime. “Lyrrel would like to know when you want to examine the body?”
“Two days. After the celebrations have calmed.”
“Lyrrel isn’t sure what he and the Seers will find, but he’s confident it will at least be a good starting point.” Deven hands Ime a drink. “Are you sure you want to do this? It sounds like it could take many years to find the answers you’re looking for.”
Ime takes a large gulp of the drink, wincing as the alcohol burns his throat. “If that’s what it takes to find them, then that’s what it takes. This is something that must be done.”