Pale Horse Riders: Chapter 8
Lazlo was very happy his quest had been a success, but Gabrielle’s last offhand mention of the mortal world... his world, not hers... had brought back his heartbreak with the force of a heavy blow. As he quietly walked beside the woman he loved, he was thinking that there were a thousand things he wanted to say and do, but he couldn’t bring himself to speak or act on any of them. He’d be leaving Gabrielle in just a short time, and he couldn’t bear the thought of getting even closer to her, only to have her taken from him in a cruel twist of fate.
She’s it for me. She’s the only one I’ve ever truly loved, and there will never be anyone else for me again. She’s it... How can I leave her? I can’t...I just can’t... Recklessly, Lazlo found himself wondering if the Lady would still be here when he returned as a true soul. One brought by the Reaper.
That might be better...
He looked sideways at Gabrielle and sighed deeply. Why was Fate so cruel?
They kept moving with purpose, back the way they had come; neither of them knowing what to say or how to broach the subject of their imminent separation. Finally, after what seemed like days of silent crossing, Gabrielle spoke. “Lazlo, I’m very happy for you, and for your brothers,” she said carefully. “I know you must be thrilled to be able to do this for your family, even though it means that we... I mean, that I...” She looked away from him, embarrassed.
Lazlo immediately stopped walking and pulled her around to face him, holding her hands in his. “Gabrielle, I don’t want to leave you.” he said simply. “I love you.” He took a deep breath and nearly broke. “Isn’t there any way we can be together? Any way at all?”
Gabrielle shook her head. “No, my love. None.”
Lazlo wrapped his arms around her and sobbed into her raven black hair. Why, why, why!
He knew he should be running as fast as he could back to the river to reclaim his body to deliver his wonderful news. He knew his brothers likely were beside themselves with worry and fear, awaiting his return, and he knew he should want to reassure them as quickly as possible. He knew he ought to be thinking about getting his brother’s wife back for the children, and getting back to the mortal world in the quickest way possible...
Yet he also knew that every step he took in that direction would take him farther and farther away from the woman he loved, and whatever joy he felt was tempered by a deep sorrow. With a heavy heart, his arm still held tightly around Gabrielle, Lazlo turned the two of them together, and they began to slowly retrace their steps; back to the banks of the Styx.
Lazlo could see his brothers, still kneeling beside his own crumpled body on the ground; still sobbing. He was extremely glad and relieved to see they were both still okay, at least physically. He had been very worried about that. What if their supplies had run out? What if some otherworldly creature had somehow harmed them? Yet, there they were, still in the same place, and doing the same thing as they were when he left.
In a way that disturbed Lazlo; he had been gone for so long... he hated to think that his brothers were still so upset. Yet he consoled himself with the knowledge that soon he would be bringing them the best news possible; his dealings with the Reaper had been successful, and Charity was going to be returned to them.
He had Death’s own promise on that, and he knew he should be thrilled. He was, of course... being able to deliver such happy news to his brothers and all the children was a source of extreme joy for Lazlo, yet it was still very much overshadowed by his own private grief.
He was both wildly anticipating and heavily dreading his next move, and Goddess help him, he didn’t know which emotion was the stronger.
“Well, Lazlo,” Gabrielle murmured quietly at his shoulder, still holding tightly to his hand. “Your body awaits.” She indicated Lazlo’s lifeless form sprawled on the banks of the Styx, with his sobbing brothers still alongside.
“What do I....” Lazlo began, then he lost his voice and needed to clear his throat. “What do I need to do?” he said again, his voice quiet and sad.
“Your soul will know its own body,” Gabrielle said wisely. “...and will cleave to it, once reintroduced. Just lie down within your physical form and allow your flesh time to absorb your living essence.”
“Just... lie down?” Lazlo repeated, looking at his body. He took a step forward, then stopped, turned, and quickly crushed Gabrielle in his arms. “I can’t do this...” he sobbed brokenly. “I can’t leave you...”
“You must,” Gabrielle said, sadly but firmly. “It has been ordered by Thanatos himself. You are not of this world, Lazlo Curious. You must return to your own and complete your quest.” Gently, she took his hands and guided him to his body. “Come. Don’t make your family suffer thus, any longer...”
That did it. Lazlo couldn’t bear to witness his brothers’ pain, and so, he kissed Gabrielle as though trying to imprint the memory of her lips on his.
Then he did as the Lady instructed, first sitting, then lying back within his own flesh.
To Be Continued...