Bonus Chapter

You hear about people who were on the brink of death that had an experience with the 'other side'...relative appeared to tell them it wasn't their time, they floated above their body and watched themselves die, they heard their loved ones pleas while in a coma. These tales have always fascinated me, and it was during this time that I wrote this scene, because it made me wonder...what would Xavier see? 
I hope you enjoy this as much as I did writing it! :)

The first thing Xavier became aware of was the quiet.  

Everything was still.  

His mind.  

His body.  

His soul.  

The calmness that had settled into his bones and taken root into his subconscious was one that he had never felt before.  

It was the kind of calm that alerted him to the fact that something was terribly wrong.  

It was a strange feeling, because he wasn’t aware of his eyes opening; he wasn’t entirely sure that they were closed to begin with. 

Where am I? His thought echoed around him.  

He was in a field but it didn’t look like any field that he has seen before. Everything was white. The grass moved against a breeze that he couldn’t feel, and though everything around him was luminous, he couldn’t see a sun.The grass beneath his feet didn’t make a sound when he took a step forward.

“Xavier.” 

He jerked his head up at the sound, staring in shock at the person who stood before him. 

 

It was as if he was staring at his reflection.  

The man before him was a few inches taller than him, his hair was long and dark. He had a beard much like his own, and his arms were bunched with muscles, his chest was bare and deeply defined, and his shoulders were broad. His eyes were the color of rain-drenched soil, and his skin was riddled with scars. 

 

But his eyes... Xavier didn’t know why, but they felt familiar.  

“Who are you?”  

 “My name is Daeumite,” he paused, humor making his hues glitter. “But you know me by the name of Killix.” 

 

Shock slammed into Xavier and made him immobile.  

“Killix…but if you’re here, then that means that…” He trailed off, grief gripping him.  

Daeumite’s expression became solemn. “It was an honor to serve you, Xavier. But do not grieve for me, for I died doing what I was reborn to do. Leawyn’s life was more important than my own.” 

“Leawyn?” Xavier frowned. “What do you mean?” 

Daeumite laughed. “Did you really think she would stay away? I would have carried her through the end of the earth, but she is a warrior at heart.” 

 

Daeumite studied him, something inexplicable in his gaze. 

 “She came back for you.” 

Suddenly, the scenery around them changed. Like a dream, Xavier watched as his surroundings faded, showing him the war that was raging between his people. He saw Leawyn charging into battle, and the moment that Killix laid down his life to protector her. 

 “Am I dead?” Xavier asked quietly, unable to tear his gaze away from her vision.  

Instead of answering, his scenery changed and a fierce pain pierced his heart at what he saw. Leawyn was screaming, he could hear it. Echoing like a long-forgotten memory. She was clutching his body, her tears like rivers down her face.  

“You are neither dead or alive,” Daeumite told him quietly, coming to stand beside him.  

“What does that mean?”  

Together they watched as the vision changed, showing the moment when his brother came onto the scene, grief etched onto his face. Tyronian held a flailing Leawyn in his arms, having pried her off his prone self.  

He looked away, unable to handle the sight. Everything around him faded until it was just him and Daeumite once again.  

“You were a great warrior, Xavier, as was I. You know me as Killix, but in my past life, I was known as the son of Saverio. It was a the reason I was given to you as your war horse. Before you, Ianna felt that no other had deserved me."  

He was still trying to process the fact that Killix was the son of his forefather.  

“You were never supposed to die tonight, my friend.” 

“Does one truly decide the time they die?” Xavier murmured. “Why are you telling me this? Why am I here? I don’t understand.” 

“You have a choice to make, Xavier,” Daeumite said. “Like my father, Ianna has decided to bestow you a gift.” 

“What kind of gift?” Xavier asked suspiciously. Ianna was the Goddess of their people, but she was known for her trickery. Her ‘gifts’ never came without a price. 

Daeumite whistled, and like mist, a horse suddenly appeared in the distance. The sight was so startling, that Xavier didn’t quite know what to make of it. It didn’t feel real—this whole encounter felt like a story that you would tell children, not something that would be his reality.  

“You have made Ianna proud, and embodied a true champion of our people. To be reborn is the highest integrity for a warrior, and one we strive for. You hold every right to this honor. You will be reborn into a war horse of legend. You will serve another just like how I had served you, should you so choose.”  

Xavier looked at the horse in the distance. It had no appearance, only the shape of a mighty steed. He still wasn’t sure if this was in fact a dream, but the legend of Saverio and Ianna was the core of the Samaritan people, and he knew it well. 

To know that his sacrifice was vindicated was a feeling like no other.  

“You said I had a choice to make. What is it?”  

Daeumite’s expression didn’t change, but Xavier felt the weight of his words when he said,  

“Or you could live. Your body will heal, and you’ll go back to live the rest of your days with your wife. Your hair will gray, your skin will wrinkle and you’ll live to see your children grow. But know this Xavier, should you choose this...” 

 

Daeumite met his eyes, serious and grim.

 

“When your time comes, you will not be reborn again. Your soul would simply fade with the ashes of your body. That is your choice.” 

Xavier swallowed. His fate so plainly laid out for him, he felt the weight of it like it was his skin. He looked out to the pains, seeing the ghost of his soul in his reborn state.  

It was what he had always wanted for himself. It was what every warrior wanted.  

But… 

He closed his eyes, seeing Leawyn’s angelic face behind his closed lids. He could hear her tinkling laughter, feel her touch on his skin. She had touched him like no one else had ever before. She was the fire that had melted the ice that he believed ran through his veins.  

She changed him. And in a way, she had re-fabricated his very being. His soul.  

Was she worth giving up his legacy? Was she enough for Xavier to deny himself what he longed for ever since his Warrior Choosing? 

I wish I was never given to you.  

You are the most beautiful flower, Leawyn. Don’t let people crush you. Even if it’s me.  

What was years spent with her, compared to his soul living on? 

Why, Xavier? Why me? 

He asked himself these questions, but in his heart he already knew the answer.  

Because you make me feel again. 

“I choose to live,” he told Daeumite, turning to face him.  

“Are you sure? Know what you’re giving up, my friend.” 

“I understand,” he said softly. “I would trade my soul being reincarnated into thirty war horses if it meant that I get to spend just but one more summer with Leawyn.”

 

He met Daeumite’s eyes, the same eyes that he had looked into when he told Killix his deepest secrets.  

“There is no life worth living if Leawyn isn’t in it. I choose her. Always.”  

And for the first time, Daeumite smiled.  

“Very well.” He placed a hand on his shoulder, clasping it tightly. “Goodbye my friend.” 

And just as suddenly as he appeared, he was gone. The world around him faded, and Xavier was falling. 

 

But for once, he wasn’t afraid of hitting the ground.  

 

 

*** 

His body felt too hot; he could feel the sweat coating his skin.  

And pain. So much pain, it was like an inferno in his blood and skin.  

He could hear her crying.  

The soft, pitiful noises going directly to the heart that he believed had been dead until she came into his life.   

He didn’t need to open his eyes to know that she was crying over him.  

He tried to speak, but his throat felt like he swallowed jagged rocks. He tried to swallow against the desert in his mouth. His lips parted, saying her name but it was mute. He tried again.  

“Lee...Lea. Lea...awyn.” He finally managed to croak out, hating how weak he sounded.  

Instantly, the crying stopped and he heard movement.  

“Xavier?” she said, soft and amazed. Her cool hand on his cheek was like a balm to his burning flesh.  

“Oh, Gods. Xavier,” Leawyn said around tears. “You’re awake. I can’t believe it. I... I thought I lost you.” He felt her lean over him, then her lips were on his and her tears splashed onto his cheeks.  

He could feel her shaking.  

He slowly pried his eyes open, having to blink them a few times to bring everything to focus. He was inside a hut, but he could tell it wasn’t his own. There were a few candles lit, creating a soft glow in the otherwise darkened room.

 

Leawyn pulled back enough so that he could meet her eyes that were tear-streaked and shining.  

He wished he could comfort her, but his muscles refused to work.  

“I...” he swallowed audibly, his throat working against the pain. 

 

Leawyn reached beside her, a moment later the lip of a waterskin was pressed against his parched lips. Her hand cupped his chin gently, helping him drink. The fact that she had to take care of him like a child was hard for him to accept, even if he knew it was to no fault of his own.  

 “It’s hard for me to move,” he said after he had his fill.  

“You’re very weak,” she informed him softly. “You’ve been gone for days. I thought...I thought...” 

She couldn’t finish, but she didn’t have to.  

“Where am I?” he whispered. The last thing he remembered was fighting Asten. And Leawyn saving his life.  

“After the battle, too many were hurt. We set camp a mile out. We’re here until the wounded are able to travel.” 

“You came back,” he said in disapproval. “That was stupid.” 

“It was stupid for you to send me away in the first place,” she snapped. “If I hadn’t come back, you would’ve—” her breath hitched, “—you would’ve died.” 

“Then I would have died!” he snapped. “I don’t matter, Leawyn. You do. You could have gotten killed, you stupid girl. That’s not acceptable. Ever.” 

It grew quiet, their anger in the air like a physical touch. But he didn’t regret what he said.  

“You don’t get to make me feel bad. Not about this, and not ever. Until you can tell me that you wouldn’t risk your life for me, then you have no right to belittle my choice. I would do it a thousand times if it meant that you live.  You do matter., Xavier. I don’t ever want to hear you say that again. Do you understand me?” 

“I deserved to die.” 

“Maybe,” she conceded quietly, then pinned him with her gaze. “But you deserved to live more.” 

He exhaled shakily, and to his horror he felt wetness leak out of his eyes. She gracefully let him have his moment of weakness by busying herself with something beside her. He took a deep breath, his throat working against the ball of emotion lodged there. It wasn’t until after Leawyn carefully crawled into bed with him that he remembered his dream.  

It was insanity, but now he didn’t think it was a dream at all.  Ianna had granted him a gift but with cost.  

To survive another day, but live no more once he died. Did he regret his decision?  

He looked down at Leawyn. She was like pure sunshine.  

Luminous.  

Her pureness like a balm to his dark, cold soul. And as she laid plaint and sleepy in his arms...he knew. 

There will never be another for him.  

Only Leawyn.  

He didn’t regret a thing.  

“I promise,” he vowed. “I promise things will be different. I’ll do right by you.” 

He pressed back into the pillows behind him and closed his eyes, letting sleep claim him once again. 

 All the while hoping that the vow he just made wouldn’t be an empty promise.  

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