The Reason

Today was not a holiday, nor a day for any particular celebration for the Last Free City. It was merely another Tuesday, the serenity pierced by the sound of construction but that had become a normal part of the ambience around the Traveler. The citizens had come to accept the noise and traffic of Ghosts along with certified engineers as just another everyday occurrence. What was so out of place was the Warlock that stood underneath the injured orb, the Human merely staring straight up with his hands behind his back.

The visitation of Guardians was welcomed, who could blame them for wanting to see the very creature that helped bring them back to life through the grace of a Ghost? There was always an unspoken bond between the Traveler and Guardians, some stronger than others, but each one had their own way of showing their appreciation and dedication to their duty.

“We’re pushing back, Traveler,” the Warlock said aloud, not minding if the care crew heard him, “The line of Darkness has started to recede back and though it’s long from being over we can see progress. We may be sparse but we’re resilient, we won’t fail you.”

“Well said, Guardian,” an Awoken had snuck up on him, along with a handful of elementary students she had in tow who openly marveled at the Warlock, “See kids? They’re just like you and me, no need to be shy.”

The Warlock turned to the group giving a rather low bow for a second, a grin quickly growing across his face. “My apologies, Miss, had I known I would be interrupting a field trip I would have stepped aside.”

“Oh don’t be silly! You’re the highlight of our day,” the teacher waved for the kids to keep going though she didn’t step past him, “We’re just making our monthly visit to drop off the flowers we grow in the school’s greenhouse. It’s just a little token of our gratitude.”

Most of the students stared as they went by, some tripping over themselves as they all tried to get a good look at the Warlock and his gear. A few tugged on the end of his robes but he made no effort to shoo them off. The care crew had cordoned off the area, the protocol ingrained so the students didn’t wander off into places they shouldn’t be alone. Having visitors was never a bother considering the Traveler hardly required the crew to do much other than make sure resourced were available in close proximity to further the healing process.

“Flowers for the Traveler, that’s actually an endearing gesture,” the Warlock watched the students carry handfuls of snipped blooms to special offering dais that was directly under the Traveler’s center, “Does every school do this?”

“No, just us. There’s very few resources to grow what we offer and I don’t dare take the students near the walls to pick more. We may be safe with you all at the Tower, but I would rather not take the risk,” the teacher flanked around him to pick up a particularly small child, a little Human boy with permanent crutches. He was the only one without a flower in hand. Holding him to her hip she tossed a smile to the Warlock, “It was wonderful to meet you, Guardian, I hope by the grace of the Traveler you see us through this war.”

The boy had an expression of both sadness and envy, having locked his eyes on the Warlock rather than anything else. All of the other students were going about their Tuesday trip ritual, arranging the flowers and enjoying the merriment.

“Miss,” the Warlock came beside her, holding out her arms, “May I see him for a second?”

“Uh, sure,” the teacher was apprehensive but handed the child over, making sure he wasn’t harmed in the process.

“Have you ever flown?” the Warlock asked, setting the boy on his shoulder.

“No?” he answered, a bit confused since it was readily apparent that he couldn’t walk well much less fly.

“Would you like to?”

“Yes!”

“May I take him for a few minutes, Miss?” the Guardian asked, not wanting to merely run off with a child.

“As long as he doesn’t miss the next class,” she grinned, knowing the Warlock had nothing but the best intentions in mind.

Before the boy knew it he was at the Tower, looking out over the Last Free City and the Traveler, perched on the shoulders of the Warlock. The Guardian had borrowed a flight harness from the shipwright, strapping the kid down tight so neither of them would have to worry about accidentally letting go.

“Ready?” the Warlock asked, standing at the railing.

“Ready!” more than one voice answered.

He found the rest of the boy’s class behind him, bound tight to the shoulders of other Warlocks, Hunters, and Titans who had volunteered to give the kids an experience they’d never forget. The teacher was off to the side with the Speaker, silently shrugging at the Warlock with a grin. It seemed like the idea spread like wildfire before he knew it.

The Guardians stepped up to the edge, their kid locked down to their armor to avoid any catastrophic mishaps. In unison they climbed the railing, any air traffic having cleared out immediately including wandering Ghosts. Wordlessly the Guardians jumped into open air, initiating their glide and float abilities to delay their descent.

Shrieks and laughter painted the atmosphere as the children flailed, arms spread out as the winds rushed past them. To them this was as close to flying they would ever know, feeling a weightless freedom that was like no other sensation. There was not a care in the world, not a fear of anything, simply enjoying the fact it was merely them and their beloved Guardians dancing about the air currents like foliage seedlings.

The line of them started to fall into disarray, curling and spiraling about each other like butterflies in a blossoming field, nothing but the city below them and the sky above. Just when it seemed the excitement descended into enjoyment a new development in the flight came forth.

Hunters blinked into existence in the whirling cloud, releasing armfuls of flower petals to drift among them. From below it looks like an explosion of color, the combined laughter of children and Guardians a rolling thunder. As they all knew today had no real cause for celebration, but they had all survived another day and the Traveler still blessed them despite being so crippled. If that was not a cause for a sporadic show of gratefulness and to throw off the stress of being on the brink of extinction for a minute or two then what was? For all that witnessed such an event the entire universe was forgotten, simply drinking in moment before it would inevitably end.

The landings were soft on a surface street, petals having snagged into crevices of armor and buried into hair, but no one seemed to care. Released from the harnesses the students hugged their carriers before heading off with their teacher. It was something they would never forget, not the children nor the Guardians.

“And that’s what makes all of this worth it,” the Warlock stated, voice cracking a bit.

“What does?” his Ghost asked out of curiosity.

The Warlock was choked up by the crippled boy being lifted up by his teacher, giving a weak wave as tears streamed down his smiling face. It was the first time, and mostly the last, that the boy would ever come to know the feeling of being absolutely free. War was a treacherous road and this one had already spanned a few centuries would continue on for more.

“I do not fight for honor, glory, or even the Traveler. I fight for the children, to free them of the nightmares that plague their future.”

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