After leaving Tahlmus’s office, Mystic had decided he wasn’t ready to leave. He spoke with Atargatis at length. She was going to need some time to see where the other teacher was with the class, then work on some planning. Mystic had frowned but he understood. They agreed he would go back home for a few days to tend to his prisoners, then he would come back about mid-week. Atargatis walked Mystic back to the ship where he kissed her goodbye, and she stood on the beach until the ship was out of sight. She tried not to think of the reaction Mystic would have when he got back to the estate and had no prisoners.
Supper that night at the school was interesting. The kids didn’t seem to notice any sort of change, but Atargatis noticed. The Sirens were all very pleased to have Atargatis, Celestial and Fleur back, but she had sensed the tension between the Sirens and Coral, as well as the cool attitude towards Tahlmus. She could also tell that Tahlmus was a little off. It wasn’t until after the kids were in bed that Atargatis learned everything.
Feeling a bit uneasy about it all, she went to Tahlmus’s room later that evening hoping to talk with him. Instead she found Celestial, Fleur and Laguna sitting on his bed talking. They welcomed her in on the conversation, though she mostly listened. They had all agreed that they understood why the Sirens took the stance they had, but they also all had agreed that Tahlmus was not at fault. Celestial and Fleur however, agreed with some of the sentiments the others had towards Coral.
As Atargatis sat there with the others, she wondered what the school’s future would look like. She also began to think that her desire to also be with Mystic could turn out to be in her favor. She loved the Sirens and she loved Tahlmus, but a life with Mystic could be simpler.
“What do you mean they weren’t there? I put them in the cell myself,” Mystic yelled.
“We arrived and the guards told us they had already been taken by someone who looked exactly like me. He had the proper papers too,” James replied doing his best to stand tall. Those who displeased Mystic had a habit of never being heard from again.
“Keep going,” Mystic said through clenched teeth.
“We gave chase to the wagon we had seen on the road. We would have caught it but the black dragon appeared.”
“He couldn’t have been the imposter?”
“No sir, Master Mystic. The black dragon was a different man. He had tried to stop us on the road. Since the bracelets told us he had draconic magic, we had gone right by him.”
“Then the imposter was working for the black dragon. He had to have been. If it was either of the twins they would have set the alarms off. The guards would have known.”
“That’s what we thought too Master Mystic, until the dragon took the girls, and threw the imposter at least a hundred yards,” James replied.
“Then where’s the imposter? Who’s he working for?”
James took a deep breath as he rocked back and forth on his heels. “We don’t know sir. The wagon lost two wheels. We were fixing it when the imposter was somehow taken by someone with draconic magic.”
Mystic’s eyes flared. He didn’t understand how someone with draconic magic could have gotten so close without alerting his men. And if this imposter was working for the twins, why did the black dragon leave him behind? There was so much about the situation that Mystic didn’t like. He especially didn’t like that Tahlmus seemed to have his wives back. Atargatis would have to be his wildcard. He just had to hope that she was more into him than Tahlmus. He then remembered something she had said before he had boarded the ship, and he started scheming.
“Go to Tevinter,” Mystic said. “Learn the area where the school is. Know it better than the back of your hand. I will have to take the twins in their own backyard,” he finished as he silently vowed that Tahlmus would either be in his custody or dead before the end of the week.
Tahlmus had hoped with Atargatis, Celestial and Fleur back, things would be a little closer to normal. After a couple days he sadly admitted to himself that getting back to the way things had been, wasn’t going to be possible. Dark comments were still being made towards Coral, and the more he tried to ease everyone’s minds, the worse it got. There had even been some comments made towards him. Laguna was interacting more, but at a distance. She still wasn’t sure what to do. She loved and needed the Sirens. They were her family, but so was Tahlmus and he was the father of the child she was carrying.
Celestial and Fleur were also torn. They had a duty to the Sirens, but Tahlmus had saved them. Both had taken to talking to each of the Sirens privately, listening to what they had to say and explaining what they knew. Atargatis tried to help as well. While some tensions were eased, others grew in intensity. How it was all kept from the students, Tahlmus could not figure out, but he was grateful. At least classes were continuing to go well.
Solas was really starting to enjoy school. He had made several friends, and since receiving the pendant with the source power from the headmaster, he could perform all the necessary spells during classes. He couldn’t wait to show his father all that he had learned.
He was also very excited for the upcoming field trip his history class was having. As Tevinter was one of the oldest magical cities there was a lot of history to be learned. Solas hoped to find out more about dragons and their magic, as dragons had been more prevalent in the olden days. He had been conversing with his mother’s picture every night before bed. While his roommate always looked at him funny, Solas believed that if he spoke to his mom’s picture she could hear him, and keep watch over him.
It was after a very in depth conversation on draconic magic, that he’d had the nightmare. “That was what it had to be,” he thought to himself. His mother had been in it. She had been chasing a boy that looked like him, but wasn’t him. They had strayed in front of his father’s magic and were killed. That hadn’t woken him though. The next part had. He had clearly seen his father harm two people; a man and a woman. The woman had been trying to save a child. The man had tried to save both the child and woman. Taking a few deep breaths, he convinced himself it was nothing more than a nightmare. He had no more dreams that night.
Mystic made his way back to Tevinter at midweek, just as he had promised Atargatis. He couldn’t wait to see her, and sent a messenger to the school as soon as he was settled into his room. Atargatis didn’t disappoint. She showed up after classes were over. He was pleased that she fell right into his arms.
“What’s wrong?” he asked as she seemed to grip him tighter.
Sitting down on the bed, he listened as Atargatis described the tension that still lingered between the Sirens and Tahlmus despite her return. She also told him of her anxiety of taking her class into town for a field trip. While her co-teacher and Tahlmus would be along, she was still worried about how it would go.
As Mystic did his best to assure Atargatis that the field trip would go off without a hitch, he determined that during the field trip would be when he’d go after Tahlmus. “Shouldn’t be too hard to get him away from the kids,” Mystic thought to himself. He enjoyed having Atargatis in his arms the rest of the evening.
“Today is the day class,” Methuselah said as Atargatis looked on. “Today we will be going into town, visiting historic sites that have shaped the way we use magic, and our knowledge of it.” Methuselah paused as the kids started to murmur in excitement. “Ah, Headmaster, nice of you to show up,” she said as she noticed Tahlmus slip silently into the room.
Tahlmus smiled sheepishly. “I apologize for my delay. I got caught up in some paperwork.”
“Let’s head out then,” Methuselah said and led the students out the door. Tahlmus watched them all walk by, then fell in a few steps behind the last student, who he noticed just happened to be Solas. Atargatis stepped in beside Tahlmus. She felt it would be easier to help watch the kids from the back, and she wanted to spend some time with Tahlmus. With everything that she had witnessed that week, she had a feeling that Tahlmus would be resigning as headmaster to help ease the built up tensions.
The first part of the field trip went well. The kids stayed together and were very interactive with each new speaker, at each new place they visited. On the way back to the school, Tahlmus couldn’t shake the feeling that they were being watched; that someone was following them.
“What’s wrong?” Atargatis asked as Tahlmus came to a stop and looked around.
“I’m going to go check something out,” he replied looking back towards an alley.
“I’m coming with you,” Atargatis stated.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Tahlmus shrugged as he headed for the alley. Atargatis followed behind. He thought it odd that the streets were empty at this time of day. Something was wrong. A bad feeling had started in the pit of his stomach, but no vision came, so he entered the alley.
“I wondered how long it would take you to figure out I was here,” a voice sounded in the shadows.
“Should have known you’d try something,” Tahlmus replied as Mystic stepped out of the shadows. He had not seen Atargatis who had stayed to the shadows herself. She was unsure if she should reveal her presence.
“You have two choices Tahlmus. You can come with me, and give me your power, or you can die where you stand.”
For a split second Tahlmus thought of just going with Mystic. He had no reason to keep his powers. As long as he had them, his wives and the rest of the Sirens would be in danger. “One of us will die Mystic, and it won’t be me,” Tahlmus replied.
Mystic growled and started weaving some magic. Tahlmus prepared to weave his own when he heard another voice. Tahlmus recognized the voice as belonging to Solas. He could sense that the child was close, and noticed that Mystic had his eyes closed, all his focus on his magic. “Tahlmus you’re in danger,” Solas’s voice sounded again mere feet from Tahlmus.
“Solas, no.” Atargatis left the shadows chasing after Solas. Tahlmus realized there was no time for him to weave any magic. He grabbed Solas and spun slightly to keep Solas moving, now in a direction away from the spell that Mystic just cast. Tahlmus tried to do the same thing with Atargatis when the spell hit him.
Mystic stood looking on in horror as he saw what was happening. Solas was stumbling away from Tahlmus, and Atargatis had just gotten in front of him. Mystic wanted to yell, to scream, to take the spell back, but all he could do was watch as Tahlmus grabbed her and started to spin. The spell hit Tahlmus full in the back. It had been so powerful it went through him, also hitting Atargatis. Both fell to the ground.
“Noooo,” Solas cried as he ran over to where Atargatis and Tahlmus lay. Atargatis was struggling to breathe, but Tahlmus’s eyes were lifeless. His body didn’t move at all. Solas could feel his eyes well up with tears as he realized his nightmare had come true.
“Go… get… help…” Atargatis gasped. She could feel the magic working, slowly forcing her airways to close.
Solas looked from Atargatis to his father. The feeling that had caused him to go after Tahlmus had made his nightmare come true. “Had… had I not come here…” he started.
“No… it’s… not… your fault,” Atargatis whispered.
“Solas… I…” Mystic voiced as he moved closer, the paralysis giving way to feeling numb. Solas turned to look at his father. “Solas,” he said again.
“No,” Solas said standing. “Don’t come near me,” he continued to back up towards the main street.
“Son, wait… I can explain.”
“No… You… You killed them… you killed them just like you killed mom,” he said as he realized the first part of his nightmare had shown the truth to how his mom had died.
“No, you’re not my father anymore,” Solas yelled before he turned and ran out of the alley. Tears were blurring his vision but he kept right on running.
As Mystic watched his son run away something in him shifted. A darkness slowly started to grow in him as he knelt next to Atargatis. “I… I’m sorry,” he whispered as he felt her fingers try to close around his. He closed his eyes touching her hand to his forehead. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered again.
“Still so power hungry, even after what happened to me and Anders.”
“Ka… Kaonna,” Mystic stuttered as he looked up at the voice. He watched as a Gold Dragon took on the form of his late wife. “You’re… you’re… but… you died. I buried you.”
“My human body died, not my dragon spirit, which was tied to the curse your great-great grandfather place on my parents.” Mystic opened his mouth as Kaonna approached Atargatis. “The priestess was a smart woman. She made sure the spell was tied to any offspring my parents had, including myself and my elven brothers. The unfortunate consequence was that it was also tied to both Ezio’s and Macha’s offspring in a way that, for the curse to break, the offspring had to die by my elven brother’s hand.”
Mystic watched as Kaonna knelt near Atargatis and weaved some magic. Atargatis found it easier to breathe and as Kaonna’s magic finished, she was able to sit up. “Wait,” Mystic said as Atargatis sat up. “I’m not dead, and neither is Lillianna. How was the curse broken?”
“Lillianna died inside when she finished severing Tahlmus’s hand. A darkness started to consume her. Tahlmus took it away, but it accomplished its purpose. It’s the same darkness that started when our son Solas disowned you.”
“So then what… what does that mean?”
“It means that my father, the black dragon whose power you sought, is now back to his gold dragon form. My mother who died by your magic several years ago has her gold dragon form back as do I.”
“What about Anders? Is he…?” Mystic’s voice faltered.
“He is with my mother,” Kaonna replied. “He is in human form as he can only become a gold dragon when him and Solas are together, much like my elven brothers.”
Atargatis slowly digested the conversation between Kaonna and Mystic. As she turned their words over in her head, she turned to look at Tahlmus. His body was still lifeless. Reaching out to touch him, she felt he was not as warm as he should be.
“If… if the curse flows through all those involved with the gold dragons… then… then why isn’t Tahlmus waking up? Shouldn’t he have regained his life like you when the darkness started to consume Mystic?”
Kaonna looked over at the lifeless body, shrugging. “I don’t know.”
“I think I know why,” another voice sounded in the alley, “but this is not the time or the place to discuss it.”
“Urytemil?” Atargatis questioned. The man had the same build, same emerald eyes and voice, but the hair was no longer jet black, but a golden red.
“Ardeszeld, you should return to Anders. Solas is with him. I will take things from here.”
“Of course father, thank you.”
Atargatis watched as the woman Mystic had called Kaonna disappeared from sight. “Go back to your hotel room,” Urytemil spoke to Mystic. “Wait for Atargatis. When she returns to you, go home.”
Mystic wanted to argue, but just followed Urytemil’s instructions. He had learned so much in a short time, that he really wasn’t sure what he felt or what needed to happen next.
Once Mystic was out of sight, Urytemil helped Atargatis to her feet, and then picked up Tahlmus’s lifeless body. He told Atargatis to hold onto his shoulder. She complied and he transported them back to the school’s estate. When Atargatis opened her eyes she found she was in Tahlmus’s room. Arguing could be heard, but the voices stopped short as Urytemil moved from Atargatis’s side to place Tahlmus’s body on the bed.
Coral and Celestial stopped yelling at each other when they saw Tahlmus’s body. There was no movement. “No, he’s not…” Coral tried speaking.
“He… he can’t be…” Celestial also tried to speak.
“He… he’s just unconscious…” Fleur started to say. “He has to be.” They all looked to Urytemil who hung his head.
“But… how?” Coral asked turning to Atargatis.
“Tahlmus felt someone watching us. He went to check it out and it was Mystic. He… he would have been alright, but Solas came running up. I ran out to stop him. Mystic didn’t see either of us. Tahlmus tried to save us.”
“Tried?” Coral asked.
Atargatis explained how Solas was fine, but the spell had been so powerful it had hit her too. The only reason she was alive was because Solas had disowned his father, killing him inside, and breaking the curse. She did her best to explain what she had learned from Kaonna, but by that time she had tears streaming down her face as did the others.
“Celestial. Fleur. Go gather the other Sirens and the students. We will have a short memorial service in the dining hall,” Urytemil stated. The women wanted to argue but they didn’t have the energy, so they did as Urytemil requested. Once Celestial and Fleur were gone, he told Atargatis to go find Laguna and bring her back to Tahlmus’s room. He then told Coral to get Kanes and Lillianna. Both women just nodded and went on their way.
About five minutes later Atargatis, Laguna, Coral, Lillianna and Kanes were all in Tahlmus’s room. This time Urytemil relayed the sequence of events that had led to the current situation. He had however left out parts of Ardeszeld’s words about the curse. He thought he knew why Tahlmus had not come back, but he could not give them false hope, in case he was wrong.
“After the memorial service I want you all to meet back here; just you, no one else. Is that understood?” They all nodded as tears they silently shed kept them from being able to verbalize their understanding. “Now go to the dining hall. The others are already there.” Again they all nodded and left Tahlmus’s room.
Urytemil then picked up Tahlmus’s body and transported to the dining hall. As he appeared so did a table covered in a white cloth just long enough to hold Tahlmus. He muttered a few word and a pillow appeared under Tahlmus’s head. He placed Tahlmus’s arms across his chest, his hands together near his neck. Then he acknowledged the Sirens and the students.
Urytemil spoke to them on life, death, and of the afterlife that the elven culture believed in. He then spoke specifically on Tahlmus’s life; his love for the Sirens and his dedication not only to their safety but the safety of the students as well. Urytemil then asked them to come forward to say their final goodbyes; to pay their respects.
The students went first. None had known the headmaster very long, but all had known his commitment to them. None of them however noticed that Solas was no longer among them. The Sirens then went by, several now with conflicting feelings and some starting to realize that they had maybe been a little harsh in their reactions towards Tahlmus.
Finally it was just Kanes, Lillianna, and Tahlmus’s five wives. Lillianna went through with Kanes. He may not have known his brother very long, but they had developed a strong bond. “I don’t know what I’m going to do without you,” he whispered as he clasped Tahlmus’s shoulder. “I’ll keep my promise. I’ll help raise your kids. They will know what a brave man their father was,” he finished squeezing his eyes shut trying to stem the tears. Lillianna held onto his arm. There was so much she wanted to say to him, to thank him for, but no words came to her.
Celestial and Fleur then went through. Each gave Tahlmus one last kiss on the cheek, told him of their love for him, and how they would miss him. Atargatis went next, much in the same fashion, followed by Laguna.
“You always believed in me,” she said. “And you always did things on my terms. I will never forget that. I know I had been distant recently, but I still loved you more than anything. I’m going to miss you,” she finished in a whisper as she leaned in and kissed Tahlmus’s cheek.
Finally it was Coral’s turn. She wiped away the tears before taking Tahlmus’s hand in hers. His hand was so cold, but she did her best to imagine that it was warm as she spoke. “The night I sang my song and took you from that beach changed my life. You opened my world up. You taught me what love was. You understood me better than anyone else. You were always so strong, so confident, even if you acted stupidly sometimes. The school holds nothing for me anymore, with you gone. I’ll have to leave, but…” she leaned in whispering in his ear. “If there’s such things as spirits, then please guide me to a safe place where I can raise our child. He or she needs to learn that their father was a good man, and not the one that most here would paint you as.” She took a deep breath as fresh tears started. “I love you,” she whispered, “and I always will.” Coral finished by kissing his lips one last time. She then went with the others back to Tahlmus’s room as Urytemil had instructed.
“Well, this feels weird,” Tahlmus thought as he opened his eyes and started looking around. It was then he realized he no longer had a body. He instead was looking down at his body and could see Atargatis struggling to breathe. “No,” he heard his voice come out in a whisper. “I tried to save you. I’m sorry I failed,” he said even though he knew she’d never hear him.
“You realized you were a spirit a lot faster than we thought you would.” Tahlmus turned towards the voice. Three wispy figures came towards him. “We don’t have much time to explain,” the voice said, “but I am your mother Thalixen.”
“I’m your half-sister, Ardeszeld, and this is your nephew Anders.”
Tahlmus tried to shake his head, before realizing he didn’t really have one.
“Listen, my son, the curse runs through your veins. You died before Mystic was affected by the consequences of his actions. When the darkness starts to consume him, you will have a choice. You can return to Earth, retain your elven body, or your spirit can go to the after-life.”
“We’ve already made the choice to go back, so once the darkness starts to take over Mystic we will go back to Earth. Mother and I in our golden dragon form, and my son in the human body he’d have had, had he not died.”
“So I have a choice?” Tahlmus asked.
“Yes,” Thalixen replied. “Your spirit will stay here in limbo, watching over everything until you make that choice. I know things were not good for you the past couple weeks, but I would like the chance to know you as a person.”
Before Tahlmus could respond, all three wispy figures disappeared from sight. He looked back down on the scene below him. A gold dragon appeared then turned human. She looked similar to Atargatis but had golden blonde hair. As he focused on what was going on, he could hear everything. He was grateful when his sister saved Atargatis, and then surprised when Urytemil showed up. When Urytemil transported Tahlmus’s body, his spirit transported as well. It seemed as long as his body was still above ground and his spirit in limbo, his spirit was, in some ways, still connected to the body.
As his wives struggled with the realization that he was dead, Tahlmus himself realized he had his own decision to make. It was true the past couple of weeks had been rough, and his being dead seemed to solve a lot of the problems. He was about ready to decide that he should just go to the after-life when he heard Laguna’s and Coral’s words.
“No,” he thought as he watched Coral and the others leave. “I need to go back. Things won’t be as they were, but I still have responsibilities to them; to Kanes, and I want to get to know my mother. I have to go back.” He paused as the last of his doubts faded. “I have to go back,” he said again. As he finished the sentence, things went black.
There was a sharp intake of breath and then Tahlmus’s eyes popped open. He saw Urytemil standing over him, not the black dragon Urytemil, but the gold dragon Urytemil. He sat up quickly his hands feeling every part of his body.
“Thank the creators you came back,” Urytemil said.
“It wasn’t a dream then,” Tahlmus whispered. “They all think I’m dead.”
Urytemil nodded. “And if you want to keep it that way you need to transport to your room now.”
Tahlmus nodded doing as Urytemil instructed. “Coral. Laguna. Atargatis. Lilianna. Kanes,” he said once he was in his room. They all looked at him like he was a ghost.
“You… you are dead,” Kanes stated.
“Yes… well no… Listen the curse ran through my veins. Lillianna’s research was right. So since I died before the darkness took over Mystic, I got a choice like the others on if I wanted to return.”
“Why did you wait so long?” Atargatis asked.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to. I thought my being dead would fix everything. Then I realized I didn’t want to be dead. I still have so much I want to do, but as long as the others believe I’m dead, then we can leave. We can go somewhere else and start fresh.” Laguna and Atargatis both shied away.
“I want to stay with Mystic,” Atargatis said. Tahlmus nodded. He had expected that. Atargatis was good for Mystic, and Mystic would be good for her.
“I… I can’t leave the Sirens,” Laguna stated. “They are still my family.”
Tahlmus wrapped her in a hug. “That’s fine darling. I understand, but whenever you want to see me, just touch that ring and think of me. I will feel it and I’ll come.” Laguna kissed him passionately.
“You should leave now,” Urytemil’s voice sounded in the room. “Before the others come looking for comfort in your things.”
Tahlmus nodded. “I will take Atargatis to Mystic, but I’ll need Lilliana with me.”
Urytemil nodded. “I’ll take Coral and Kanes to the others. You know the spell to use.” Tahlmus nodded and they went their separate ways.
Mystic was happy to see Atargatis, but the darkness had all but consumed him. Without any explanation Tahlmus gave Atargatis a sealable glass jar. He then supported Lillianna’s magic as she performed the spell to move all the darkness into Tahlmus’s removable hand. Once the spell was done and the hand was safely in the jar, Atargatis went to Mystic. As Tahlmus went to weave the spell to leave with Lillianna he heard Mystic promising Atargatis to no longer seek out draconic power. He just wanted to make a life with her.
Tahlmus was smiling as he appeared in an unfamiliar forest. From the climate he could tell they were very far from Tevinter. Urytemil was quickly by his side taking the jar and promising to have his hand back to him soon. Coral was in his arms soon after that and Lillianna had gone off to find Kanes.
“This place is amazing,” Coral stated, “and your mother is great.”
Tahlmus smiled. “Here, Mr. Tahlmus,” Solas had appeared near his side. “You can have your pendant back. I have my brother now and we are learning to work together like you and Kanes.” Tahlmus accepted the pendant and watched Solas run back off towards the others. Tahlmus wrapped his arm around Coral and walked after Solas. He and Kanes would no longer have to look over their shoulders. They were safe and Tahlmus finally got to know his real family. The unfamiliar forest felt more like home than any other place he had been. He was glad he had decided to come back. Starting over wasn’t going to be so bad.