Tammath did not immediately answer. He pressed his fists into his knees and stared intently at the cobbled stones. It seemed that King Taq’ii’s question was impossible to answer. Who could answer for any heart other than their own? And yet…
“I…do not know how those who loved me best would move on from my loss, but I do trust them. I truly believe that they would have found their way, just as I did.”
King Taq’ii nodded. “You are correct. They would indeed find their way. I just need to be sure that you appreciate the pain they will have to pass through before doing so.”
“Yes, it is good for me to consider that.”
“And now that you do consider it, do you still stand by your initial request? To rewrite that morning and bring them back all those years ago, but leave you as having been on this journey to Alquoran ever since?”
Tammath took a deep breath. “Yes. That is still my request.”
“Then, son Tammath, I accept this proposal. I, King Taq’ii, chosen steward of the Creator match my will to your own.”
Tammath stared in wonder, watching to see how the god-King would work his magic. But much to his surprise, King Taq’ii did not raise hands or speak words, he merely sat in his seat, smiling at Tammath.
“So… will you effect this change immediately? Or after I have gone”
“Oh no, Tammath, it has already been done.”
“But of course. It was done fifty years ago, just as soon as you set out on your journey. I performed the miracle then, just as you have requested today, and they have been alive all this while.”
“But all this time I have spent on the way–“
“Was not in vain. I would not have performed the miracle if not for the knowledge that you would come and request it of me with this integrity of heart. Because you asked me now, I performed the miracle back then.”
“Oh…” Tammath blinked a few times and tried to make sense of it. “So then…all these years they really have been alive?”
“And with every step I took, they walked and breathed and lived and loved?”
“Yes, they did.”
“Well, that’s good then,” but in spite of his words Tammath’s heart felt very heavy. The weight of his loss, of all the joys of life given up, of all the possible paths never walked came crashing upon him in full force. He bowed his head and sobbed deeply.
“What is in your heart, my son?”
“I do not regret anything,” Tammath spoke through the streams of tears, “but I am so very alone!”
King Taq’ii said not a word, but for the first time rose from his seat. He stepped down from his raised dais and reached his hand out to touch Tammath’s shoulder. Just before contact, the envelope of golden light extended from the god-King’s person and purified and immortalized Tammath’s shoulder, allowing the two to touch without the divine steward being corrupted by mortality. The holy leader’s hand was heavy and strong, a far cry from the tender fingers of Corvay, but like her he remained steadfastly and silently by Tammath’s side, simply abiding through the waves of grief until they had all washed away.
“Thank you, Lord,” Tammath finally wiped the remnants of the tears from his eyes.
“No son, thank you for letting me be with you. It has been an honor to know your heart.”
“I suppose…I suppose the time has come for me to take my leave, hasn’t it? Time to find something else to do with my life, though what I do not know.”
“Mmm,” King Taq’ii smiled knowingly as he stepped onto the dais and returned to his chair. “I do not think that you should leave my presence just yet, Tammath. I say you would do very well to wait with me a moment longer.”
“You would,” and with no further explanation King Taq’ii turned his eyes towards the end of the room, watching the entrance of the temple. Tammath followed his example, settling his eyes on the golden rectangle of light that was the only view to the outside world.
How long he watched, he could not say. He had long since given up measuring the passage of time. But it was not a very long while before the rectangle of light was interrupted by four figures who entered that sacred place.
And though the figures were so far away that Tammath could not make out any more than their silhouettes, somehow he immediately understood who they must be.
“My family?!” he gasped to King Taq’ii.
“The very same,” came the reply. “They have come here to do as you have done. To beseech me for a miracle.”
“A miracle to bring me back? Is that their request? Because they thought I had perished that night?”
“Exactly so. You traded your life to ask that I give their lives back to them, and immediately after they discovered your loss they decided to do the very same thing for you.”
Now the four journeyers were near enough that Tammath could start to make out their faces. Tammath’s father and mother were very old now, more than eighty years in age, yet it seemed a life of gentle travel had been agreeable to them, and their faces still shone with strength. Tammath’s brother stood beside them, now a mature man and virtually unrecognizable from the youth Tammath remembered. He had a full beard and was bald, and had stories twinkling behind his eyes. Next to him stood Corvay. Unlike Tammath’s brother, she looked exactly the same as Tammath had known her, only more mature, more gentle, and more beautiful for it.
Each of the four were staring at Tammath with expressions ranging from confusion to disbelief to barely-suppressed hope.
“Are you–?” Tammath’s mother began to speak.
“Yes, mother, it’s me! It’s your boy, Tammath!”
All four of them cried out at once and rushed forward. Soon they were all enveloped in a tight embrace.
“The god-King brought you back to us before we could even ask!” Tammath’s mother exclaimed as they drew apart to look at one another again. “He knew our hearts and raised you from the dead before we even entered the temple!”
“No, I never died!” Tammath laughed. “It was you. But I brought you back to life with my plea!”
“We never died!” Tammath’s brother said in surprise. “Whatever do you mean, big brother?”
“I mean you–you–well, I suppose it wouldn’t make sense to you. It doesn’t even all make sense to me. But I believe I saved you!”
“Have we not saved each other?” came the soft voice of Corvay.
Tammath turned his face to hers and they looked deeply into one another’s eyes. Silently she reached out and folded his hand within her own.
“Yes,” Tammath agreed. “Yes we have. For I am here, and you are here, and so we are saved together. One tragedy or another may have parted us, but we all paid a heavy price, and for it we have met again in Alquoran. All is as it should be now.”
Tammath turned his head to the throne to give his thanks to King Taq’ii, but upon the raised throne there was no person, not even the chair remained. Tammath spoke his thanks even so, and then the family, wrapped tightly in one other’s arms, walked out of the temple together.