The Blooming Grove has become a melancholy place to Essek. It’s still filled with light and fragrant flowers, but it is also filled with the memory of funerals. So many funerals. More than one person should attend in their lifetime.
It’s a warm summer day when Essek visits. He teleports right to the front door and seconds later, Clarabelle opens the door. She smiles and throws her arms around the drow. Essek hugs her back. In the time since her brother’s passing, Essek has strived to visit the Grove more, the check up on her and her family.
“I’m sorry it’s been so long,” he tells her as he pulls back. “I meant to stop by in the spring.”
Clarabelle shakes her head, “Time doesn’t mean much to us anymore. Do you want a cup of tea?”
“That sounds wonderful.”
Clarabelle smiles and welcomes him in. The house hasn’t changed much through all the years, there’s a new addition when Clarabelle had kids and the furniture has changed, but nothing else. In a world that’s so ever changing, Essek finds the stasis comforting. Clarabelle sits him down at the table.
“Where are the little ones?” Essek asks as she wanders into the kitchen.
“They’re out with Colton,” she explains. Essek hears the familiar sounds of clinking cups and pouring water. “If they had known you were coming I’m sure they would have loved to see you.” Essek ducks his head a little as she walks back in. “How long are you staying?”
“Just for a few hours,” Essek tells her, accepting the cup of tea she sets in front of him. Cinnamon and vanilla. Essek smiles sadly. “I have some business in Emon.”
Clarabelle sinks into the chair across from him. They both sip their tea quietly for a moment or two. Essek can feel Clarabelle studying him with the same insightful eyes her brother had. Finally she asks, “Essek, is everything alright? You seem odd.”
Essek sighs and looks down into the cup. “The years are wearing on me. More so than I anticipated.” He shakes his head. “I’ve watched cities rise and fall, children grow into rulers and then die, I’ve watched the world change. And it doesn’t feel like I’ve done enough to honor their memories. I can’t help but think they’re watching me and are disappointed by what they see.”
Clarabelle reaches across the table and puts a hand on his arm. She smiles reassuringly. “They don’t think that. Essek, you’ve done wonderful things. You’ve changed civilization as we know it. They are proud of you.”
“You say that with such certainty.”
“Essek,” Clarabelle gives him a nonsense look. “You think Caleb isn’t looking at what you’ve done with your magic, with his ideas and beam with pride.”
Essek looks down, “You’re right.”
“Of course I am.” She smiles. They talk for a few minutes, catching up on the time they’ve been apart. Eventually they finish their tea and Essek wanders through the grove, walking the familiar path to a clearing.
In the center of the clearing there is a grand oak tree, though it’s far younger than Essek. Below the tree, in the shade of its branches there are headstones. So many headstones. And an empty plot right in the middle, between the headstone reading Caleb Widogast and the one reading Yasha Nydoorin. Essek takes a slow breath as he sinks into the space between them, running his fingers over the soft grass and the petals of the flowers blooming in front of each stone.
Essek leans his head on Caleb’s headstone, “I miss you. I know I say that every time, but it’s always true.” He looks around at all of the graves. “I finished the book. It’s set to be published next month. Soon the whole world will know the service you did for them. I’m sorry that it took me this long to do it, it was an incredibly painful thing to write.”
Essek sighs, “I know it’s a morbid thought, and if you were here you’d all berate me for it, but I sometimes imagine being laid to rest here, to be reunited with you.” Essek runs his fingers through the grass. “I think my time is ending soon. My joints ache in the cold, my memory is not as strong as it once was.” Essek shakes his head. “I still have many many years ahead of me, but it’s nearly a fraction of the time I’ve lived so far.”
“In all that time I’ve never forgotten any of you. I don’t think I could.” Essek laughs humorlessly. “I’ve been told to move on, to let go of you all. But I can’t. You all were...are such an important part of my life.”
Essek blinks away his tears. He has watered these graves with his tears more times than he can count. He stays leaned against Caleb’s gravestone for a while as he updates all of them on everything since his last visit. He brings them news of their great-great-great-great-great grandchildren, of the ever changing politics he barely keeps up with anymore, of the research he’s done and the progress he’s made.
Finally, Essek kisses the top of Caleb’s grave. “I should be going. I have an urgent meeting tomorrow.” Painfully, Essek rises to his feet. He takes one last look around, “I’ll be back before the fall.” And he disappears from the clearing.