The Final Goodbye
It’s finally finished! I originally wrote a short little blurb that was inspired by this post, but some of y’all wanted more pain and asked for a continuation, so here’s the full fic. Just a heads up, this is the first fic I’ve ever written so yeah. Enjoy *cue the evil laughter*
Thanks to @clockworkofbooks for beta reading and coming up with the title.
Aelin was surrounded by bodies.
The battlefield was pure chaos. They’d been fighting since dawn, all the forces of Maeve, Erawan, and her finally clashing in what was the bloodiest battle she’d ever witnessed. Their lines had collapsed, and it was now a melee, every man or woman or witch for themselves. She was right in the middle of it, and everyone fought on around her, unaware that Adarlan’s assassin and the Queen of Terrasen was right in their midst.
Rowan had been separated from her almost as soon as the battle had begun, and she’d caught glimpses of her Court throughout the day. Every time she did, some corner of her killing-numb brain had registered that they were still alive, and been grateful.
The sun was shone high above them, beginning its descent as the day wore on. Her body was aching and she moved like someone possessed, brain on automatic. Every blow she landed was aimed to kill. She was a whirlwind of flames and death and destruction.
Truly, the Valg prince that had chosen to go after her didnâ€™t have a chance.
She spotted him first, the ebony collar stark against the silver of his armor and his host’s pale, beautiful face.
Blood sprayed as she dispatched her current opponent, but she paid it no heed. Hefting the dagger in her hand, she threw it right at him, the silver of the steel flashing. He caught it right before it hit him right between his eyes.
The Valg’s slow grin at the sight of her was enough to send shivers down Aelin’s spine.
“It’s the fire-breathing queen herself,” he hissed. “You die here and now.”
Aelin smirked. “As if you’d be enough to kill me. I took on three of your brothers and burned them all to a crisp. You really think you’d fare better?”
“I suppose we’ll find out!”
Their clash sent shockwaves of flame and darkness throughout that battlefield. She thought she heard someone calling her name, but all she could think of was the battle before her. Her weapons were coated in her flames, and step by step she drove the Prince back.
He swept his sword in a great arc, an attempt to disembowel her. The fool didn’t realize that he left himself open to her.
She stepped into his guard, and with a dagger of pure flame beheaded him.
His body stayed upright for a moment, then fell to the ground with a crash.
She burned it to a crisp for good measure.
Aelin’s breath was coming out in harsh pants. Black blood coated her, and despite her massive reserves her flames were running out. She allowed herself a moments reprieve to survey the battlefield. The screams of the dying and the clang of metal on metal and the roar of wyverns were deafening.
She didn’t know how long they could last.
Aelin looked around, searching for her next opponent to fight. And then she saw him.
And her world began to crumble to ash around her.
Across the field, he dispatched his opponents with the same cruel efficiency that she’d been taught. As he gutted a soldier wearing Terrasen’s colors -one of the Bane, some part of brain dimly recognized- he saw her, and turned to face her.
The din of the battlefield faded to the background as a strange ringing took over her ears. Time slowed down.
Sam Cortland was grinning at her, a black collar around his neck.
She could hear nothing but the pounding of her own heart. Images flashed through her mind. A dark, damp dungeon, a mutilated body, the smell of a rotting corpse.
Athril’s ring pulsed on her finger.
“Oh, wait,” Sam said, cocking his head to the side in a predatory way that was so decidedly not him. “You go by Aelin now. Who would have known that you were the lost princess of Terrasen. Then again, I suppose Arobynn did. That was why he favored you, wasn’t it?
It couldn’t be him. She’d seen his body years ago, laid next to it, been to his grave. He couldn’t be here.
She didn’t think she was breathing.
A piercing shriek was heard above the noise of the battlefield. Their gazes snapped upwards, just in time to see a bird plummet down and shift in a brilliant flash of light in front of them.
“Get away from her,” Rowan snarled, covered in crimson and brandishing a bloody sword. Somewhere along the way he’d lost his hatchet, and most of the sheaths on his weapons belt was empty.
“If it isn’t the King of Terrasen,” Sam sneered. “Nice to see that you’ve moved on, Aelin. Was that all it took for you to forget me? Some Fae Prince making eyes at you?”
His words hit her like a punch to the gut.
This wasn’t Sam. Sam wouldn’t be saying these cruel things to her.
The collar at his neck gleamed. Somehow the Valg inside of him had accessed his memories and he was using them to hurt her. It was just another one of Erawan’s tricks.
She refused to be manipulated by him.
“Is that the best you can do?” she smirked, forcing that easy arrogance back into her voice, the one that had been as easy as breathing. She took a step forward until she was standing right next to Rowan. Her mate’s warmth was a comfort. “Wearing the body of a dead lover that I’ve moved on about? Really, you and your master will have to try better.”
Valg-Sam smirked. “How cold, Aelin. We thought for sure this would be enough to bring you to your knees. You’re even more heartless than we anticipated. Tell me, do your subjects know what kind of person you are? Does your Court?”
Rowan stepped forward with a snarl as a bolt went through her chest.
“Enough talking,” he snarled. “We’re in the middle of a battle. Are we going to fight or not?”
Sam’s smirk developed a wolfish gleam. “Be careful what you wish for, King.” Then he struck.
Rowan shoved Aelin back, parrying Sam’s blow with his sword.
“No!” she yelled. “I’ll be your opponent!”
They both froze.
Sam’s grin deepened. “If that’s what you want.”
Rowan stepped up to her side. “Aelin, you don’t have to do this.”
She looked up at him, his green eyes shining with fury, love, concern.
“Yes, I do,” she whispered.
Her mate, her heart, opened his mouth to say something, probably to argue, but he closed it after a moment. “I’m here,” he said instead.
“I know,” she said, the corner of her mouth tilting up. She turned to Sam. “Let’s do this the old fashioned way, shall we?” she said, motioning with her sword.
Sam grinned. “As you wish.”
Taking a breath, she took a step forward. And like a snake, struck.
Sam parried the blade with that same easy arrogance that’d he’d once possessed.
“You’ll have to do better than that, Aelin,” he sneered.
“I’m just getting started,” she snarled back, and went right for his throat.
It was like being back in the Guild and sparring with him, except this time he had the strength of a demon prince from another realm to help him. Back then she’d always beaten him easily, but now it was taking all of her skill and concentration to not die.
She felt Rowan behind them, watching them like a hawk. His magic pulsed in the air, ready to provide support should she need it, but he maintained his distance as she and Sam circled each other.
He moved first, sweeping his sword in a blow aimed straight at her head. She ducked and danced back out of reach as he lunged for her. She spun to meet his sword.
They were a blur of armor and steel.
All of her tricks, he countered, just as she did the same to him.
The sound of metal up metal was deafening as they clashed and sprang apart and struck at each other all over again.
Then he lunged, leaving the tiniest opening for her to take advantage of.
Stepping into his guard, Aelin disarmed him. He froze. A blow to his head with the hilt of her sword was enough to make him collapse to the ground.
“You bitch,” he wheezed when he’d come back to his senses.
Aelin could barely get the words out. “Is that really the only insult you people can come up with?”
“Well? What are you waiting for?” Sam struggled to get to his knees, but he pushed himself into an upright position. “Finish it.”
She opened her mouth, but she didn’t get a chance to speak.
The only warning she had was another pulse of Athril’s ring on her finger. Darkness exploded from Sam, screams erupting everywhere around them.
Before she or Rowan could make a move, the darkness disappeared as quickly as it came.
In front of her, Sam was on all fours, chest heaving with the force of his breathing.
He looked up at her, and it wasn’t the Valg inside him that was staring at her with desperation.
“Celaena,” he groaned. “You have to kill me.”
Something in his face shifted, but he was back in a second. “Please, I can’t hold him back much longer.”
She finally forced her voice to work. “Sam, I can’t -”
“Please!” he screamed, voice breaking on the word.
She took in the sight of Sam struggling to stay on his knees before her, the Valg Prince inside twisting his features into something unrecognizable as it took over once again.
Aelin raised her flame-coated sword and, tears streaming down her face, plunged it through the heart of her first love.
And then the screaming began.
The flames vanished as they were drawn into Sam’s body, and Aelin stepped back. Rowan reached for her, joining their hands. As soon as they touched, Aelin felt his magic pouring into her, bolstering her diminished reserves.
Sam’s screaming grew more intense as Rowan’s magic increased the power of her flames.
Tears streamed down her face. She knew that this was how he’d screamed when he’d been taken apart piece by piece by Rourke Farran. And so Aelin didn’t look away, even as she felt the wound being torn wide open once more.
Sam’s veins, his skin, was glowing from the light of her flames. His eyes shone golden. And then it all stopped.
“Sam!” She shrieked, diving for him as the collar around his neck cracked and fell off, and he collapsed to the ground. She gathered him into her arms.
His eyes fluttered open.
“Celaena?”he whispered weakly.
Celaena. The Valg Prince was gone, and Sam was back.
“I’m sorry,” she sobbed. “Gods, I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Sam groaned. “It wasn’t your fault. You had no way of knowing what would happen.”
“How…how is this possible?” she whispered, taking in his face. Though his brown eyes were filled with pain, they were still his brown eyes, the ones that she’d grown up with, the ones that she’d come to love.
“I don’t know. All I remember…is waking up in a dungeon and then getting that stone collar put around my neck.”
Aelin swore softly.
“There are so many things that I want to tell you,” she whispered. “Arobynn…he was the reason you…” She couldn’t bring herself to say the word. “Lysandra was the one who killed him.”
Sam blinked. “He’s dead? And at Lysandra’s hands?”
She nodded. “It’s been months. The Guild is Tern and Mullin’s now.”
“Those bastards can have it,” he coughed, no small amount of cold satisfaction on his face.
“Sam…I’m sorry,”she repeated. “This…everything, it was all my fault. Arobynn wasn’t the only one who was responsible for your death. It was my fault too, for daring to defy him.”
“Celaena, it was my decision too. I knew…on some level that Arobynn….wouldn’t have let us live in peace, and yet…whatever time we had…I’m grateful for it.”
“I never got to tell you,” she whispered, “that I loved you. Some part of me always did, and always will.”
His eyes were shining with tears. His looked over her shoulder, gaze falling on Rowan.
“Does he make you happy?”
Aelin glanced back at her mate where he was guarding them, making sure that no one would interfere.
“Yes,” she said, unable to keep the smile small off her face even as a pang of guilt went through her.
Sam smiled, and her heart shattered a bit more.
He sighed in what sounded like relief. “I’m glad…that you found someone who makes you happy, even if it’s not me. You…deserve it.”
A violent cough wracked his body. Blood coated his lips, and he groaned in pain. “You should leave me,”he said. “I’m not…worth staying with any longer.” She heard his unspoken words.
I’m not worth staying with because I won’t last much longer.
“No,” she moaned. “Please, you have to hang on. You can’t leave me again. We can heal you. Rowan -”
Sam stopped her with a hand on her cheek. “You know I can’t stay. I don’t belong here, not anymore.”
“I don’t want you to go,”she whispered, almost like a child.
“I know.” He coughed again, more violently this time. He took a shuddering breath. “There’s something you should know.
“What is it?”
“Your parents are proud of you.”
Silence washed over her mind.
”What?”she whispered. “You…”
“They were all there with me. When we realized that Erawan was trying to bring me back, they wanted me to pass on a message.”He took a breath. “They’re proud of the person, the queen…that you’ve become, and they wish more than anything they could tell you that in person. Marion…wants to thank you for finding Elide. She wants you to tell her that she’s proud of her. Orlon says there’s no one more worthy of being the next Queen of Terrasen. And Nehemiah…”
Aelin sucked in her breath.
“Nehemiah loves you. She’s sorry for sacrificing herself, and she hopes you can forgive her. More than anything, she’s proud to be your friend, and she’s happy that you’ve found good people to surround yourself with. She’s grateful that you protected Eyllwe as if it were your own kingdom. And she’s glad to see that you lived up to the name she gave you.”
Aelin was sobbing now.
“And I…despite the circumstances, I’m happy for the chance to see you again
Sam gasped, coughing again. His mouth was completely crimson. His breathing accelerated.
“Celaena, I’m scared,” he whispered. He was losing consciousness, fast. “What if I don’t go back there?”
“Shhh.”She held him a little tighter. “It’ll be okay.”
“Will…“ his eyes fluttered as he struggled to keep them open, “will you stay with me?”
“To whatever end,” she whispered back, voice strong despite the tears streaming down her face.
“The battle raged on around them, but Aelin held Sam as his breathing steadily grew more and more faint. He let out one more exhale, and then his chest stilled.
She gently laid him down on the grass, closing his eyes, and slowly rose to her feet.
“Fireheart…” Rowan took a step towards her.
The flame inside of her guttered, then exploded.
Every one of Erawan’s minions within a 100-meter radius was burned to ash.
On her forehead shone the mark of Brannon as she looked at her mate, the killing calm overtaking the turmoil of her mind.
“It’s time for Erawan to die.”