This story isn’t about Tera, the Queen of the Realm. It can’t be—not today, perhaps not for a little while. This story is about her Eternal and a time when he was …
The rains had come to the Realm. Starting with a light drizzle here and there that none paid much attention to, a bit of a shower that caressed the skin and offered a bit of relief from the warm weather.
Over time the rains turned. They were more pronounced, the drizzle turning to a light sprinkle, a bit of a shower. Umbrellas came out; those of the Realm continued on, for what could one do about the weather?
Then the day came when the rains came in sheets of water, a torrential downpour the likes of which hadn’t been seen for so long that few remembered what the significance of that time was. But one soul of the Realm did know and there was nothing she could do save to watch, worry, and wait. She stood in the midst of the rains, clutching her red umbrella. The rain pooled around her boots, cascaded over her long red jacket. But she paid no attention to this, for it didn’t matter. What did matter was what she could just see from where she stood: a lone figure sitting by himself on the highest peak in the Realm.
It was, she knew, her Eternal. This was something she couldn’t help with, though she dearly wanted to, something that she suffered through herself, alone, so long ago. She wanted to be with him, to talk, to hold, to just be there for him. But in the midst of all that had come, in the moments when the words were spoken, he had made a choice. A kiss, a hug, a soft promise spoken, and then he had turned towards the mountains of the Realm and started to walk towards them. She had remained there, waiting, watching, her eyes following him from afar. Through the worsening weather, the downpours of tears, she did not move. She would wait. The promise was there and she was not going to falter from that.
A cloud passed between them both, obscuring him, and in that moment she felt a familiar hand touching her shoulder. As the tears came freely now, she closed her eyes …
The news that had come was something Keith had never expected to face. It simply wasn’t possible, after all. She was strong, vibrant, loving. To hear words you never expected to hear about someone that had created not just one, but three miracles in her life was terrifying, painful. The ache had begun with the first call and had only become worse with every passing day. The tears had started moments after the words had been spoken. They weren’t said in a way that offered hope, some kind of comfort. They were blunt, direct, almost unfeeling, and that, was what simmered within him more than anything else.
He wanted to ask … “Why?” He wanted to know the reasons this all happened. He had searched for a solution, a way to fix things, to make them better. In every case, in every turn, with every single thing he tried to make right … it wasn’t enough. Far from doing better, he felt the he had made things worse, not given the comfort he wanted to. Over and over again, the guilt built up inside of him, layer by layer, until it was almost all that he felt inside.
The rains came on the day when the path had taken another turn: she had slipped a little further, the hurt and pain in watching her voice fade, her body weaken had begun to overflow. With each and every turn, each and every moment of pain, all the long hours of just sitting with her, watching her, and thinking about everything, the rains had turned worse and worse.
The torrents of rain had come when she had cried to him: “Keith … Help me.”
… and he couldn’t.
He had cried before, tears that he had not hidden. How could one not cry now? The hurt was more than he had ever felt before. But the guilt, no matter how undeserved, came in his thinking of himself in that moment and not her. It built up until the day came when he needed to be alone for a while. Not that he was turning away from his Eternal, for that would never happen. No, the reason was that he didn’t want Tera to see him in that moment, to see what would come next.
He hugged her, made a promise and then walked off into the rains. As he travelled through the Realm, he barely noticed the places he walked by. They weren’t in his thoughts as he started to walk. He was trying to figure out what he wanted to ask.
The rains had soon soaked him through, but he ignored the feeling of cold, the damp shivers that passed through him. They didn’t matter right now; he had something in mind that he needed to do, and all that came between him and that goal didn’t matter. Asking did.
The paths through the forests, the steppes of the mountain ranges, were all dotted with newly-formed streams of water, the rains bringing them to life. His footfalls disturbed the streams but for a moment, then they continued on their path to the Lake so far away.
The climb through the mountains themselves wasn’t easy, but he was determined. Tera had told him many times of her perch upon the mountain where she sometimes overlooked the Realm and pondered things. He came to the point in his journey where she would turn and make her way to her spot, and he paused there to consider. But his eyes looked further upwards, the clouds allowing a small, fleeting glimpse of the summit still towering above him. This place was Tera’s. The path was there waiting for him, and so he would continue onwards, hoping for a chance to ask.
He knew that, far below, a single pair of so-green eyes was watching him. The concern of his Eternal, her worry, her need to be with him was pulling at him even as her love and strength were helping him climb. He could not ask her to be with him in this moment, nor the moment to come. Knowing she would know, he looked towards her, gave a smile to assure her, and then continued onward and upward.
As he passed through the final layer of dark storm clouds that barred the summit from view, he noticed that the sky changed, the darkness turned aside as the light came to seep into the clouds. They turned from dark grey and black to white. The winds calmed, the rained faded away, white mists diffused the light as he paused just below the summit, now shrouded in white.
He paused there, trying to come to terms with what he needed to ask, to say, to express, then made the last push to the summit. It wasn’t, he found, quite as lonely a place as he expected it might be. Blue skies were above him, the white clouds beneath and surrounding him.
The guilt that had been brewing within him pushed him to scream into the void, to confront the one that would be listening, hearing every single word. The tears came, more than ever, and, far below, the rain was joined by thunder and lightning.
But, after a while, after so much storm, he remembered something she had said. Instead of ranting, yelling and being who he was not, he clutched his hands together. His voice was the one she had heard all of his life, the one that gave to her, helped, thought nothing of the time, the cost, the needs. All that mattered in this moment was her.
He began: “Goddess, I need to ask.”
A light wind sprung up, his words being caught within it and carried off. The words were meant for Goddess alone and no one else. He poured out his heart, his love, his fears and all that was within him. Even the guilt was allowed it’s place, but it was not allowed to be the thing that mattered most.
What mattered the most was that she knew.
A cloud drifted over the summit, encasing him within it and in that moment he felt a familiar hand touching his shoulder. As the tears came, he closed his eyes …
He knew that touch, the warmth of his mother, the love they shared. He didn’t question how she could be here in this moment when she was elsewhere. For a fleeting moment, the guilt pushed at him, chiding him for not being with her in that moment, losing the time they had. But the One who was with him took the guilt, as she had the anger, the pain, and everything he brought to her.
“You feel like my mom.”
“I’m everyone’s mother, you know. And she’ll always be with you.”
When he opened his eyes he was alone, having asked. The answers weren’t all that he expected, wanted, hoped for. But they were asked.
The clouds weren’t quite so grey, so dark as he descended. The sheets of rain lessened slowly over time as the Realm came into view. They faded away a little bit more as he spied his most special her standing, out in the rain, holding her red umbrella.
She had waited, he had returned, that was part of the promise … today and always.
The rain was a light drizzle as she looked at her Eternal: “Are you okay?”
His answer was a small shrug: “We’ll be okay.”
The umbrella was large enough for two, and the question of sharing didn’t need asking.