He knocked on the door, barely pausing before knocking again, louder. Xander almost didn’t believe what he was seeing. Could it be possible?
It was possible. Xander’s heart nearly leapt from his chest to his mouth as another man, roughly the same age, with curly brown hair and brown eyes, opened the door and beckoned the first man into his home. Xander knew this man well, though as he remembered him, the face had been slightly more wrinkled, the hair tinged with gray, and the body a little more frail. The man who had answered the door was his father.
Hewhay had appeared behind the children, and he placed a hand on Xander’s shoulder, leaning close to his ear and whispering, “Follow them.” It took a few minutes for the shock of what he was seeing to wear off enough for Xander to comply, but he moved forwards cautiously towards his old home, and the others followed. A strange emotion threatened to burst from his chest. Since Sraet had been destroyed, there had been little time to mourn the loss of his parents. Seeing them again made his eyes begin to mist, and fresh pain gurgled up into his throat. He knew that they were safe and sound in Ne De, but seeing them here was different. This had been before the fateful night that had stolen their lives. They had been young, safe, happy. Still, he knew it was only a vision, and that they were all right. This place, these things, were not real.
He reached the house. The door had been left open, and all five of them entered. It was exactly how Xander remembered it. But there was no time to reminisce. The two men were already deep in conversation as Xander and the others entered the sitting room.
“She’s weaker every day, Casmir, and I fear that neither her nor the baby have any other chance.” The first man was speaking, pacing the room nervously. Casmir, Xander’s father, appeared to be trying to persuade him of something.
“Come now, Simon, come now. This is the only home you’ve ever known. We all would gladly do anything in our power to help you and Bria—you know that. Do you really want to leave all that behind?”
Simon stopped pacing and turned to face the other man, and Xander could see the desperation in his eyes. “Casmir, my wife is dying. My baby will die with her. I have heard so many rumors of the advanced medicines and magic of Serised. I believe it’s the only way to save her. I must save her, Casmir. Bria is all I have.”
Simon looked angry, and his next words were more growled than spoken. “She’s dying, Casmir. I don’t have a choice!”
Xander’s father raised his voice to match Simon’s. “There’s always a choice!”
“Tell me, oh faithful one,” snarled Simon with sarcasm, “tell me what Hewhay has done for you lately—for any of us. Look around you! Isn’t there more to life than this? Is this your reward for faith in a dead land and a dead king?”
“So you say! But I’ve had enough of being ruled by apparitions. I will go to a kingdom where I can see, touch, smell the power. Where I can save my wife and my unborn child. I will go to what is real. You may stay in your dream world.”
Both men looked up at the approach of footsteps. Xander’s mother appeared in the kitchen doorway. In her arms, she was rocking a small child, and Xander realized with a start that it was in fact himself. Her eyes were sad, but she nodded to her husband.
“Casmir, they must go. Simon is right. I cannot live with myself if Bria dies when there might have been a chance to save her.” She turned to the other man, tears welling up in her eyes.
Simon’s face softened at her sincerity, and he sighed. “Thank you,” he said simply. He then turned to Casmir and shook his hand firmly.
There was a flash, and though Hewhay did not tell them so, the children could tell that some time had elapsed. Simon and Casmir had just finished loading supplies into the back of a small wagon, and on the front seat, wearing a hood and bundled in blankets, sat an extremely pregnant woman whom Xander assumed to be Bria. The whole town had come out to wish them well, and he recognized Lily’s parents among the villagers, their eldest son, Riley, in tow—and judging by the girth of his mother, Lily well on the way. The men were speaking to Simon as he mounted the seat next to his wife, nodding down at them.
“Whoever is in need of the house is welcome to it,” Simon said, “for I fear that this may be the last you see of us. Perhaps one of your sons, Damien; they are nearly old enough to live on their own.” He spoke to another of the villagers, an older man Xander did not recognize, but he knew the two sons. However, by the time he was old enough to know them, they had become adults with families of their own. The eldest, Felden, had indeed moved into Simon and Bria’s home, and Xander had never known that someone had lived there before him.