Seated around the hearth’s burning flame, Gadara watched the embers scatter about the abandoned temple of Zahira. Lesser pieces of the kindled flame, brought little light into the interior space’s dark atmosphere. Around her, the embers withered to dead ash, the gentle dark returning in the absence of the kindled lights. That cycle of illumination and darkness, sun and moon, represented much the same symbolism of the hearth altar itself: the immortal cycle between life and death.
Gadara had found a quiet place during daybreak to keep her vigil about the temple. Hours had passed afterward, the sands waning in the hourglass she kept safe on the altar the only method for keeping the time.
Her elder brother, Mahir of Suann, spoke above the softened roar of the flames. “You’ve been keeping quiet since the early dawn. You’ve nothing to speak about during our final evening here in Suann?”
She didn’t look up, but found her brother’s hazed outline with a mere turn of her head. “I haven’t thought of anything to say all morning. I can’t think of anything to ask about that I don’t already know your answer to… And my mind has been brooding throughout the last couple evenings about our mother. I don’t know how Lucine will fare without her children.”
“Speaking about everything you just mentioned would be a good beginning,” Mahir said. “Gadara, you’ve never quite been comfortable enough being weighed down or restrained by fear of the unknown and uncertain.”
“Quite the assumption, brother,” Gadara chuckled, “to think that I’ve never concerned myself about anything ever before.”
“I said you’ve never concerned yourself enough to be restrained or weighed down by mortal fears… You’ve might never have noticed, but I don’t believe you’ve ever been afraid of anything. Not enough to keep you back from achieving everything you dared to achieve or dream about. Your climbing up the Suanna Bluffs despite many broken bones, your feats of agility and dexterity against many of Suann’s most talented youths… and your invitation from Sanctum Queen Karayan to become an Ashen Blade–“
“Just like yourself, brother?” Gadara interrupted, smiling at him. “Not quite the unique achievement like the previous points you made.”
“That may be the truth for the time being, but everything changes with time. Just like Lucine has always told us.”
“I don’t think half-a-day passes before mother reminds us again…” Gadara’s sentence trailed off from a resurgence of her fear of the uncertain. “It won’t be long before I miss mother and Suann… and maybe you after another several years have passed.”
“Just like you’ve always stated,” Mahir said, “I believe that Zahira will cross our future paths sooner than you may think. Still, the years that will pass between now and then might change us both beyond recognition.”
Gadara looked up for the first time in several hours, meeting her elder brother’s darkened stare. “You believe the sands in the hourglass will change you that much? So much so that maybe not even you will recognize yourself?”
Her elder brother didn’t speak for a moment, contemplating Gadara’s spoken question. “You’ve never been one for being afraid of the uncertain and unknown. You should leave those fears to your elder brother. I’ve enough courage to carry your burden on my shoulders alongside my own… Just be certain to keep your wits about you and continue living. Your elder brother shan’t disappear from either your memories or our current reality, at least not for some time yet…”