The giant airship plummeted to the ground at an alarming pace. The three remaining survivors stood at the helm, frantically trying to maneuver the burning ship away from the city below and at the same time, plan their escape.
"I can swoop down on The Skyflare and get close enough for you to jump, but there's no way I'll be able to pull up from that!" Cid yelled from the airship still in tact. Kyla panicked, unsure of what to do. She had looked death in the face more times than she wished to count, but this was something foreign to her, aerial combat, airships, and quick descents to the ground.
"If you jump, can you make it?" Purin called gruffly to Kyla and her sister, Illora.
"I… I don't know?!" Kyla looked to The Skyflare and the distance between. It would be nigh impossible to make. The ship continued to fall towards the city of Vennon, threatening the citizens they had strived so hard to protect from this very ship.
"Cid, if I keep at the helm, will the ship miss the city?" There was a pause before he hesitantly answered.
"If you keep at it… yes." Purin turned to Illora, his one eye lacking any of the normal gleam of battle he usually had.
"Take her and get her to safety. Jump to The Skyflare." Kyla spun around, angry.
"No! Purin, as your commander I cannot allow you to do this! You'll die!"
"Go Kyla! Now!" He turned back with a glance that could only mean those three words they could never bring themselves to say to one another. Illora wasted no time in grabbing Kyla and dragging her to the front of the ship. Without a second of hesitation, she pushed Kyla off the edge and followed. They were free falling towards their death. Thoughts raced through Kyla's mind - her daughter, Odette, forever waiting for her mother to return to aid in her battles. Her son, Tristan, who would never know either of his parents. Her battle companion and tactician, father of Tristan, and would-be lover, Purin, that she never actually came right out with it and told him her true feelings. And suddenly… her thoughts were interrupted by Illora wrapping herself around Kyla's body, sprouting a large set of wings, and rocketing upwards toward The Skyflare. Illora landed on the deck softly and Kyla couldn't bare to turn around and watch. She threw herself into Illora's arms and waited for the telltale sounds of the crash. And within a few moments, they came, along with one final explosion. She burst into sobs, and looked up long enough to scream at Cid.
"Faster! Faster, Cid! Dammit, get down there!" He responded, but she didn't hear his words. Nothing else mattered now. Before Cid even made a full stop on the ground, she leapt overboard and bolted towards the burning wreckage. Illora began to fly around, looking for Purin. Shytana, another of Kyla's battle companions, unleashed her two dragons to investigate the ship. Kyla pulled out a bottle of water, whispered a word, and suddenly, a geyser of water unleashed itself on the burning wreckage. She tried, in vain, to put out the fires so that she could get in. Within moments, she realized it was futile, and corked the bottle, instead running around to try and find an outlet.
"Kyla… I can't find him." Illora came, floating nearby her.
"Then look harder, for fuck's sake!" Kyla screamed at her sister, the rage flying from her voice. This was not her norm; she never would have yelled at one close to her like that.
"Wait, Illora!" Shytana's voice called out. "I found him." Kyla rushed to Shytana and the dragons slowly lowered Purin's body to the ground. Kyla adjusted the ruby shades on her eyes and screamed when the reading they gave was grim. She dropped to her knees next to him. He was badly burnt, with shattered glass caking his skin, and a large plank impaling his abdomen. Shytana knelt next to her, laying her hands on the man in an attempt to heal him. She looked up at Kyla and shook her head. She bent forward and placed her head on his chest, sobbing uncontrollably. The eight members of The Skyflare stood around in a semi-circle, allowing Kyla her grieving time. Silence hung in the air, keep for the soft cries of Kyla. Her pink-blonde hair was caked with the blood of Purin, along with glass and splinters, but she held no care. Shytana stepped forward and softly placed her hand on Kyla's shoulder.
"If you would allow me, I will clean him and preserve him until we can get back to give him a proper burial." Kyla looked up, tears streaking her dirt and ash covered face, nodding. She stood and moved away, allowing Shytana to work. When it appeared she was done enough, Illora swooped down and grabbed his body in his arms, flying towards the ship without a word. Shytana looked cross, but Kyla knew that Illora meant the best. They filed back onto the ship, setting their course for Bullap.
Over the next day, Kyla spoke to no one. She refused any offer for food or drink, and didn't sleep. She tried to reason with her emotions, tried to tell herself that what he did was the right thing, and that he saved an entire town by sacrificing himself. She cursed him for denying her feelings and advances for him. She cursed him for leaving Tristan fatherless, as Dakkon had left Odette. She cursed herself for allowing him to even come aboard the enemy airship; she had told him no, but he insisted. How could she have allowed that?!
When they arrived in Bullap at midday, she gave her crew instructions and left to seek out Telenya, the half-elven barkeep who had taken Tristan in for Kyla and Purin. She found her easily enough, playing with the child outside. She hadn't bothered to change into clean clothes or wash the blood and grime of battle away. She approached Telenya.
"I need to speak with you." Her voice was soft and shaky, a quality unlike her. Telenya nodded and Kyla looked to the child. "Preferably without him here." Telenya looked at Kyla, confused, but took the boy inside and came out several moments later.
"Kyla, what's going on? Did you succeed?" She paused, looking Kyla over. "Wait… where's Purin?" Kyla's eyes welled up, releasing the flow over her cheeks.
"He's…" she choked on her words, finding it hard to say it aloud. "He's gone, Telenya. We lost him." She tried to hold her composure, failing. What looked like tears approached the elf's eyes for a moment and she shook it off.
"He sacrificed himself. The enemy ship was falling straight for Vennon. He stayed and steered it away. At the price of his life." She stomped her boot into the dirt angrily. "I told him not to come over with me. I feel selfish knowing that I would have had him leave the ship in order to save his life." Telenya shook her head slowly.
"You didn't know him very well, apparently. That decision would have killed him. Much like another decision he made two years ago, Kyla." Her words struck Kyla's heart deep, knowing that she spoke of Purin's decision to not let allow them to pursue a relationship. "For what it's worth… I'm sorry." Kyla let the silent tears fall.
"Me too…" These were the only words that she could muster in response.
"Kyla, I'd like your permission to take Tristan away, somewhere safer. You can't do your job if your son is in danger. And… I have taken to the babe." Telenya requested.
"Where will you take him?"
"It's better that you don't know. But when the demons are slain and the empire toppled and war is concluded,"
"Come find me." Kyla finished her sentence.
"I will leave in a few days time, as I assume you will. I will come to you before I do to allow you to say goodbye to Tristan." Kyla nodded.
The funeral was held the next day. Every person in the town attended, and all of Kyla's crew. Except Cid… She didn't have time to worry about him now, though. Kyla had taken Tristan to sit with her throughout the service. He couldn't understand why everyone was so upset and crying, and that hurt Kyla even more. She had hoped that their child would at least grow up with his father, since she had assumed she wouldn't be around much. And now… he won't have either of his parents. She cursed the gods for doing this to the poor child, and prayed that Telenya could give him the life he deserved.
After the services, Telenya took the child, allowing Kyla time to prepare to leave. She made her way out to The Skyflare, and searched the decks for Cid. Failing to locate him, she knocked lightly at the captain's door, receiving no answer. She tried the knob and the door opened quietly. She poked her head inside to find Cid sitting at his desk, his back to her, and a half-empty bottle beside him.
"May I come in?"
"If you wish. It's your ship, Kyla." She slipped inside and shut the door, standing against it. She went to open her mouth to speak, but Cid beat her to it. "I can't figure out what happened… Airships don't just… explode. That ship shouldn't have went down like that. I have went over every theory and calculation and scenario… Nothing is coming out right." She walked forward, standing behind him.
"Is that why you weren't there today?" He laughed, or what she thought was a laugh.
"The old man wouldn't have wanted me there. He didn't like me, and I didn't like him."
"You could have came for me." She slid past him onto the top of the desk, sitting gracefully.
"He wouldn't have even wanted me there for you, Kyla."
"He wanted me to be happy. It would have helped me if you were there." Cid scoffed.
"Counter productive, he was. He wanted you to be happy, but wouldn't give you the one thing you wanted." She reached past him angrily for his bottle, taking a big swig of the liquid. "He did this on purpose. He did this so I would feel bad for wanting you now." She could feel the tears coming, and tried to push them away.
"He did it to save that town. I would have been selfish to ask anything else."
"Why did you let him go with you?"
"He insisted to go. He pointed out a valid point; he knew how to navigate around the airship. Without him, we wouldn't have got to the control room, and The Skyflare would have suffered."
"You can't have your crew making your decisions. That's how… bad things happen." She slammed the bottle down and looked at him, her eyes sparkling with tears.
"It would have been selfish and immature for me to ask him to not do what he did, Cidian! And that's not how a leader should act. My decision would have doomed that entire town to death and destruction."
"I know, Kyla. And this time… we were lucky that he made the right call. But you can't let that happen again. Something worse could happen next time." He sighed, and stood up, unbelting his gun straps and tossing them onto the desk. "Help yourself to what's left in the bottle." He stated as he stumbled to his bed and fell into it haphazardly. She sat on the desk for some time, nursing what was left in the bottle, and eventually finishing it. She repositioned Cid in his bed, took off his boots, and tucked him in, leaving him in silence.
She walked to her home - Purin's home - their home, and let herself in. It felt empty. She went to his room and began pawing through his personal effects, in hopes to find something that would ease her pain. She found a photo of his previous wife, his logs from when he served in the military, and all of the medals and badges he earned there. She read through the logs, not comprehending most of it, but as a last attempt to have him near, and a small box. The box was luxurious and well-crafted, likely worth a fair amount. Engraved across the top was one word - Tristan. She opened the box slowly to reveal a necklace. It was a long, black cord and dangling from it was a shard of stone, maybe glass, in the brightest shade of green that Kyla had ever seen. She placed the necklace back in the box, and set it aside. Several hours later, when she thought she had finished, she opened the nightstand, and noticed a crease in the bottom. It was a false bottom! She hurriedly pried it open to reveal a masterfully crafted dagger; the hilt featured filigreed engravings and the blade was ever so slightly curved. She set it aside with the box and kept looking. She found a pouch with five platinum pieces inside. She gasped as they fell into her hand, feeling almost guilty for taking them. "He would want me to use them for the ship." She told herself to ease her conscious. The last item within was a small black book. She flipped it open to find journal entries, dating from 4 years previous until a day before they left for Vennon. She closed the drawer and breathed deeply. She set the book down and went downstairs, retrieving a bottle of his favourite liquor, and went back to his room, curling up on the bed with the journal.
She started at the beginning, reading through the entries with ease. Most of them detailed what he did that day, interactions with the townspeople, and inner thoughts. And then she stumbled across an entry that was familiar. It was from the day after they had met, they day after they had fought for Bullap against the Alorians, the day after they slept together for the first time. She continued reading, her consumption of the alcohol more steady now. His entries began to be more and more about her than anything else. He detailed her pregnancy, the training of the town militia, and most importantly, his ever-growing feelings for her. After Tristan was born, he wrote an entry about his love for Kyla, comparing it to how he felt for his previous wife. "…I loved her like a sister in contrast to how I love this woman, Kyla…" She felt the salt began to work its way into her wounds. During her seven month absence in Jah'motir, the style of his handwriting changed. It was stressed and tensed, as were the words he wrote. He worried for her life, thought that she may have perished in the ancient city. She read of his inner conflicts about their love; he wanted nothing more than to accept her pleas and take her as his own, but his pride wouldn't allow it. A man of his age shouldn't hold down a woman twenty years his minor. He spoke of his distaste for Cid and his advances on Kyla, on how he thought that Kyla should just give in to Cid and make things easier. By the last entry, Kyla had finished the entire bottle of booze, was covered in her own tears and snot, and had come to one sole realization - Purin had been truly, madly, deeply, and unconditionally in love with her, and refused to act on these most intense feelings. She laid in bed for a long while, sobbing furiously into his pillows, until her body was too exhausted to keep going and she fell asleep, the journal tucked between her arms.