Epilogue: Found

A strange, alien sound disturbed Akkarin's sleep. His dark lashes fluttered as his eyelids protested at their lack of rest; battling with the Black Magician's will as wakefulness slowly crept upon his mind and senses. The sound was barely audible and would not ordinarily have roused the sleeping magician, but the soft snuffling tugged somewhere at his unconscious mind, telling him that he must wake; that someone needed him.

For years Akkarin's sleep had been disturbed; if not by nightmares of his time as a slave, then by urgent messages bringing him news of foreign visitors to the city whose movements seemed to shadow strange ritualistic murders that had periodically plagued Imardin. As the High Lord of the Guild, Akkarin had led a lonely life, aloof from any personal friendships save that of Lorlen and the King; isolated and held prisoner by the painful secret of what he had endured at the hands of Dakova. By the nature of what he had become at that time, a black magician, he was bound to his secret, unable to tell anyone – a slave still. And so, he had been the silent, solitary defender of the kingdom. He had been needed by a people who did not even know it. A selfish need that had thrust him down a path he had not chosen and which offered no welcome rests along the way. The path he had trod had ground him down, wearying him until he had almost lost his true self on the journey. Almost..., but not quite.

Sonea, the girl from the Slums, had managed to spark the kindling that lay at the core of Akkarin's heart, lighting a fire that had warmed him on this most difficult of roads, finally burning down the prison that had held him; his cold demeanor and icy resolve melted. Now, beyond any of his wildest imaginings, the man who lay in his bed, struggling with the last bonds of sleep, was free. Free of the burden of knowledge; free of the responsibility of a people; free of the guilt of his time as a slave. Free – to be himself and to have his own needs. And yet...

And yet, the instinct within his drowsy mind was strong; stronger than any sense he had experienced before. Someone needed him and he must wake. The instinct, newly made but imperishable, could not be ignored. Memory suddenly flooded into Akkarin's head and his eyes snapped open as he remembered the events of the previous day. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, barely alleviated by the sliver of new moon that hung over the silent Guild beyond the shuttered window. The faintest of globe lights sprang into life above the bed and Akkarin turned to look at the figure lying next to him. He reached out a hand to tentatively move the dark strands of hair that obscured Sonea's sleeping features as she lay next to him, curled into his side, her face turned towards him on the pillow. She looked pale and wearied, but an unmistakable serenity shone from her like a lantern's hooded glow. Akkarin's long fingers lingered gently on her cheek and lightly brushed her lips. She murmured something unintelligible, unknowingly reaching an arm across his waist. The Black Magician's mouth pulled into a half-smile and he bent his head and kissed her forehead.

The noise grew louder; the soft snuffling became punctuated with sudden hitches of in drawn breath, and a low whimpering. Akkarin, wide awake now as the adrenalin of the day before renewed itself and coursed around his body, carefully slipped from Sonea's embrace and out of the bed, not wanting to wake her yet. He felt light headed with fatigue and a dawning exhilaration. The globe light hung dimly above his tall, gaunt frame as he gracefully moved around the foot of the bed towards the still faint, but growing, sound. He came to stand by the far side of the bed and he looked down on Sonea as she lay in an exhausted sleep. His lungs suddenly constricted with love and pride as he recalled how stoically she had endured the agonies of the previous day. The last months had not been easy for her, or without moments of concern for them both, but Vinara's fears in the face of the injuries inflicted upon Sonea by the Ichani, had not come to pass, and now, Akkarin was able to turn his attention to the small woven basket that sat on a wooden stand next to the bed.

The Black Magician reached into the basket and, with infinite care, he curled his hands around the writhing bundle that lay there. He lifted it out and settled it in the crook of his arm and, with his free hand, he tenderly stroked the soft down of black hair that covered the tiny head. The newborn infant, quiet and contented with the new-found attention, blinked up at Akkarin, and the magician lifted his arm so that the large dark eyes could focus on his face. The child held Akkarin's glittering gaze unwaveringly, where so many others still struggled to endure it. A tiny hand escaped the blankets and reflexively grasped the magician's finger tightly where it rested on a velvety cheek. Akkarin moved quietly to the nearby window and opened a shutter with one hand. He turned the newborn to face the night that blanketed the Guild beyond.

"This is your world," he whispered softly, and he looked out and pondered his own words. Akkarin had seen the best of the world, and the worst of it, and he knew now with certainty that, to appreciate the one, you had to experience the other; like seeing a caged bird, its freedom and uniqueness bound and suppressed, only to then behold the wonder and beauty of it in flight, soaring in the heavens above. As Akkarin gazed back at the bundle held in his protective embrace, he knew that he had found the greatest gift the world had to offer: to love and be loved; to need and be needed – without fear or restrictions, and breaking the chains of prejudice and hate, as his and Soneas' love had. He steadily met the wide and innocent eyes that regarded him still.

"My son," he whispered into the darkness.

As he took in the small, perfect features of the new life he and Sonea had created, a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, and it grew and widened, unfettered, into one of elated pride. It did not matter that only the moon was there to see it, for it was for himself alone.

A/N:- Well, that's all folks! A bit fluffy I know, but I had to give Akkarin the moment he didn't get in THL. Thanks to anyone who has supported this story, and thanks for reading; as always, please review.