Now that Leo felt the shadow of the great phantom pressing down upon him, his mind worked with a clarity he had never before enjoyed. His parting from the mortal world did not sadden him, although he would have liked to taste more of its pleasures and wonders: to grow old with Vanora and watch his daughters blossom into womanhood.
Far more he lamented that his decision to refuse both his father’s and Belisent’s offer would also drag Vanora to her doom and condemn his daughters to double orphanhood at such a young age.
At times, tempting thoughts filled his heart with honey: to accept such sacrifice, rob someone else of breath and prolong his stay upon the earth. But then shame came rushing at him and slew all traces of temptation. For treating lives as interchangeable pieces upon a gwyddbwyll seemed horrifying to Leo, and he could not bring himself to reconcile with it.
And so, amidst tearful confessions, he implored Vanora over and over again to forgive him and prayed that their children would one day understand and forgive him, too.
And Vanora, amidst kisses and caresses, kept repeating she had nothing to forgive him for and tried to balm his anguish, telling him, ‘’Some prices are better left unpaid.’’
Her words and constant care and devotion generated within Leo a profound sense of serenity. For three sunsets in a row, husband and wife shut themselves in the depths of their cave and, cushioning his head on her breasts and his hands on her belly, they conversed in hushed tones of the future of their daughters, then of how they would live together and love each other beyond the grave and how their souls would soar as one for all eternity– convinced that no earthly or heavenly power could ever thwart their post-mortem union.
For all intents and purposes, both had withdrawn from life and all terrestrial affairs unwittingly, losing all sense and consciousness of them.
And as the third day the sun rose and branded the sky with its golden-red rim, Leo’s body surrendered into a series of final convulsions and then drooped loose in Vanora’s arms, the light of the world fading from his eyes.
Vanora could not help the sigh that emerged from the very depths of her innards. An unfamiliar, unwelcome languidness stole over her limbs as if to chain her to a place where Leo’s spirit existed no longer and had taken the semblance of a prison; a sudden burst of anticipation caused her to quiver. Her mind knew no sorrow at her imminent passing, only the agony of separation and an undimmed restlessness to depart and journey at his side.
Still clutching him, she whispered to his now deaf ears, ‘’You are my life’s end, for no end exists in chases in Arras or in shadows well-mounted. There’s an end in itself in love and the greatest pleasure to know nothing beyond it. So I love you without reason, for there can be no other way. No whys and ifs. Νο maybes and perhaps. You soul, I can hear it wandering beyond the veil and glamour, crying out to mine. Keep the mantle parted for me, too; I am to swiftly follow.’’
The day retracted and, as the dusk fell, Vanora’s countenance turned into one of triumph, her mouth widening into a blazing smile, peace seeping into her and blotting out every other thought and emotion. And the heavier the darkness, the greater the sense of peace that flowed within her entire being.
And come the blue hour, where night and day juggled in a pendulum, Vanora kissed Leo’s cold lips with those watermelon lips of hers. Her heart tripped. Once. Twice. Thrice. Then ceased its beating altogether.
Vanora was no more.
An excerpt from my mythic fantasy novel currently titled The Fruit of Passion.
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