Title: Come to Dust
Spoilers: For the end of Sabriel, but then again, you wouldn't be here if you hadn't already read at least that far!
Notes/Summary: I've always been a bit saddened by how abrupt the ending to the first book is, and I had wanted to expand on it a bit. So this is set during the last chapter and epilogue, through Touchstone's perspective.
Disclaimer: All of these characters belong to Garth Nix.
Come to Dust
The rings glinted through the dusty gloom, two bright spots at Sabriel's side. Touchstone blinked slowly at them, attempting to get both mind and vision to focus rather than go blank. The pain in his leg was intense and threatening to force his body into shock. It was certainly keeping him immobile for the time being. He blinked again, still using the glowing silver rings as threads to consciousness.
As he tried to gather enough energy to move, he let his eyes wander over the wreckage and away from the bands. There was rubble everywhere, the dust still settling. But the danger was gone. Kerrigor was…a cat? Yes. A black cat. Sabriel had done it. The cat sleeping on the floor was no more a threat than the grey lump of rock beside it. All around him, soldiers and students dozed. But…what of Sabriel? Where had she gone?
Touchstone's mind moved sluggishly, encumbered by the pain throbbing through his body. Gradually, he brought his gaze back to the rings on the floor. There was a dark shadow on the wooden floor beside them…and then, yes. There she was. Her face was tilted toward him, features calm and eyes closed. Touchstone was about to breathe a sigh of relief – she was sleeping just like everyone else! – when he become aware of the sword. Where at first glance he had assumed she had stuck it into the wooden floorboards beside her, he now realized with a deep dread that it had been shoved straight through her stomach to pin her to the floor. He sat up with a lurch.
Shock shot through his body like barbed wire dragged across the skin, suddenly dulling his pain as he bolted to his feet to run to her. His broken leg buckled under his weight, forcing him instead to crawl and pull himself across the floor to her. As he got closer, his hand landed in the shadow beside the rings to find the wood wet, drenched in some kind of liquid. Touchstone jerked his hand back to find the palm covered in blood. Her blood.
"Sabriel," he croaked, finally close enough to reach out to her.
Her pale skin was cold and clammy under his fingertips as he desperately sought her neck and the pulse he prayed would still be there. Fingers pressing hard enough to bruise, he felt – nothing. There was no pulse.
Touchstone felt his stomach drop as the weight of her death hit him. "No!" he yelled, slumping forward over her body. Surely this was a mistake. "No, it… She can't…"
Burning hatred seared through his veins. Hatred for Kerrigor, hatred for himself – hatred for the whole damned situation that had brought them here. Broken leg completely forgotten, he rocked back on his heels and turned wild eyes to the sword piercing her stomach. Her sword, he noticed. She had died on her own sword. Fury tripling, he grabbed the hilt of the Charter-marked weapon and pulled it cleanly out of her body before turning to throw the blade away with all the energy he could find. It clashed among the debris of the ruined wall, the noise loud and jarring in the still air.
The bell clasped between her cold hands was next, but this he moved delicately. He did not know what bell it was, or what it would do if rung – but it did not belong there, in her dead grasp. There were many bells missing from her bandolier, but this one, the one he had moved, was the last she had ever rung. The one that saved them all.
And then the tears began to fall, heavy and wracking sobs that he did not even have the will to hide. He fell across her chest, the enraged energy gone as quickly as it had come.
"I'm so sorry, Sabriel!" he cried out through gasping breaths. "This is my fault, all of it! I-I have failed you horribly!"
The people around him started to stir and rouse, but he paid them no attention. They were safe; his job was done. All he could do was lie there, his face near hers, as his mind attempted to process this perplexing quandary. She was gone. He was alone, alone with his malicious and vindictive thoughts. Thoughts of how he would never see her truly smile or be happy. How he would never hear her voice again, even if it were to simply express her frustrations with him. How he would never feel her kiss again, for just the few they shared would never be enough. How he had taken her survival for granted and had expected her to be here at the end with him. How he had fallen in love with her during their short weeks together, how she had breathed new life into him and returned his will to live. And now she was gone. Gone because of him.
His hot tears mixed with the dirt and blood staining her key-dusted coat, giving off a sharp smell of acrid metal that burned through his nose and deep into his lungs. A smell of fresh loss and inconsolable misery that he would never be able to wash himself of.
"Sabriel! Oh, no!"
The high pitched cry tore Touchstone away from his vicious memories. A girl was standing before him, her eyes wide and her hands covering her mouth in shocked surprise. He recognized her as one of the students – one of Sabriel's friends. Sulyn.
"Is she…oh, is she dead?" Sulyn's voice shook as she spoke, the answer to her question obvious but the young woman not wanting to accept it. Tears leaked down her face as she sank to her knees and joined in Touchstone's grief. After a long, frozen moment, Sulyn reached out and took his hand from where it rested on Sabriel's. "We should heal her wound," she said softly. "She shouldn't leave here looking like this."
It was all Touchstone could do to nod as silent sobs still shook his body. It was a noble gesture, what she suggested. He grasped the girl's hand and squeezed it gently, giving her permission to draw the Charter marks from them both.
She smiled sadly at him before bowing her head and forming the marks for healing and peace. The wound on Sabriel's abdomen closed as best it could, but it could not fully heal around the dying flesh – just as Chater magic could not return one from the dead. Once finished with the marks, the young woman dropped Touchstone's hand and leaned back, dismayed.
"Sabriel saved all our lives at the cost of her own," Sulyn lamented, almost to herself. "She was always such a self-less person, and such a good friend. I will miss her." At a loss of what to say, her eyes found Touchstone's disconsolate face as he started down at Sabriel's nearly healed wound. "I could tell from the moment I saw you both that she cared for you very much. I'm so sorry." She stood and touched his shoulder in a tender show of support before turning away to help the injured.
Sulyn's kind words went straight to his heart as the tears began anew, blurring his vision completely as he placed a hand on Sabriel's cold cheek. This loss…this was too much. What was he supposed to do now, without her? His place in the world did not exist anymore.
"Sabriel…" he moaned brokenly. Touchstone had been reluctant to say her name for so long, but now it was the only word he could think to say. Her name, over and over as though he could bring her back. She was so cold now, and he took her delicate hands into his calloused ones, trying vainly to warm them. "Please, Sabriel. Please come back. Please live."
He felt foolish, almost, but then – did she just move? No, of course she didn't. "Live, Sabriel." Her name was precious, a prayer to heal his aching soul. Unfamiliar bells rang in the distance – ambulance! he heard someone say – but he paid it no mind. Had…had she moved again?
She had! Blessed Charter…she had moved!
Her eyes were open, and Touchstone had never seen a more beautiful sight. She was looking up at him, smiling at him – a pained smile, but one nonetheless. Never had he felt so joyous, and his tears of grief turned to tears of unadulterated happiness. He didn't care how it had happened; the confusion didn't matter in the least. All he knew was that this woman, Sabriel, the Abhorsen, the one he loved…she was here, in front of him.
"Yes," she said, in a voice he never thought he'd hear again. "I am."