Characters: Dunstan Kordieh, Lucius Kordieh, Karvos
Karvos stepped onto the balcony of his room, watching the sun rise over the city of Yedor. His sleepless eyes felt like sandpaper in his skull, but his heart felt as if it might leap out of his body and float away on the morning breeze.
He lifted one hand to his face, scenting the faint remnants of his sister’s perfume. “It’s all right, Karvos,” she’d told him. “It’s better that I’m gone, than all those people you would have had to kill. And someday my spirit will come back again.”
And she’d held him, and sung to him — her favorite song, from an old Earth film.
“Somewhere over the rainbow … ”
“Malinda. Malinda … my heart … ”
“Farewell, Karvos. Not goodbye. Never goodbye.”
As the last of the perfume faded away, Karvos suddenly remembered Kordieh. Guilt, and a sudden apprehension, made him turn and run through his room and out to Kordieh’s door.
He paused, listening intently. There was a faint, incoherent sound, too faint to place. Drawing a deep breath, Karvos gently pushed the door open. He could see Kordieh, lying on the bed, back to him. The banished Ranger’s body was shuddering in time to the sound.
Karvos’ heart sank. What have I done, he thought. I’ve destroyed him. I was so certain it would help. Shakily, he drew another deep breath and said, “Kordieh? Can you hear me?”
The sound from the bed got louder as Kordieh rolled over and sat up, rising to a crescendo of joyous laughter. “Yes, I can definitely hear you,” he said, still laughing.
Karvos’ feet seemed rooted to the floor. “Kordieh?”
“Oh Karvos, my friend. Blessed, blessed friend,” Kordieh cried, jumping to his feet and sweeping the astonished young Brakiri up in a bear hug. “I’m free. They set me free.” Laughing again, he let Karvos go and sat back down on the bed.
“You’re … you’re all right then?”
“I’m more than all right. I’m free,” Kordieh repeated with a grin that nearly split his face in two.
Karvos smiled despite himself. He had never seen his friend anything like this. If he’s gone mad again, he couldn’t help thinking, he’s far better off than when he was sane.
“You were right,” Kordieh said, inviting the Brakiri to sit beside him with a broad sweep of one hand. “And I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.”
“Who … who came?”
“My brother,” Kordieh said. “I was reading that Eliot poem you gave me, and he was just … there….”
Save for the fact that the man’s dark hair was longer and wildly unkempt, Dunstan might have been looking up into a mirror. But the experience was hardly new. “First things first,” his brother was saying. “It really is me, and I really am dead. I guess this Day of the Dead is a Brakiri thing, but it’s here, you’re here, and it was the only chance I had.”
Dunstan simply nodded. Don’t question. Just accept.
“I had a lot of time to think, before we … before we went to Vorlon space. And there’s something I needed to tell you. Should have found a way to tell you before.”
“To tell me? What?”
“Ready for a shocker?”
“Not really,” Dunstan admitted, feeling a tightening in his chest.
“I owe you an apology. It’s at least partly my fault you got as crazy as you did.”
“No. No, you can’t say that — ”
“Well, I am.” Lucius Kordieh’s voice was low, but its intensity compelled his brother to silence. “We don’t have all that long, and there’s a helluva lot I’ve got to make sure you understand, okay?”
Dunstan opened his mouth but closed it again without a sound.
“Okay,” Lucius said. “Look, I mean it. I knew for a long time that there was something really … really wrong, with you. Since we were teenagers, for sure. But I couldn’t deal with it. I ran away. And when you followed me, I ran away again.
“There was something really screwed up in your head. I knew it. I’m not pretending I could have fixed it.” His voice was slowly but steadily rising in pitch and volume. “But I could have told somebody. I could have made sure you got the help you needed. Back on Earth, here on Minbar, wherever. If I’d done that, maybe …” He choked on the words, and his eyes were suddenly full of tears.
“Maybe I wouldn’t have killed all those people?” Dunstan asked, still not believing the words he was hearing.
“Right,” Lucius said. “I kept telling myself someone would notice. Someone else would deal with it. But the truth is — I abandoned you. You needed help — you needed me — and I ran out.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Say you believe me. Say you forgive me. I can’t make it up to you, but I wanted to at least say I was sorry.”
Dunstan slowly reached out, wrapping an arm around his brother’s shoulders and drawing him close. Once again, everything he had believed to be true was being turned upside down.
In that moment, the only thing he knew for certain was the pain in his brother’s face. That, at least, he could do something about.
“It’s all right,” he murmured into Lucius’ ear. “I do believe you. I forgive you.” He rocked his brother back and forth gently, like a little child, repeating the quiet reassurances.
Lucius managed to compose himself, and finally sat back. “There’s something else I need to tell you. Sort of a message, from the people … ” he hesitated, searching for words, “the ones who died in the first explosion, you know?”
“The ones I killed.”
Lucius looked away, biting his lip before finally saying, “Yeah. See, I apologized to them too. But they don’t hate us, either one of us. They’re past all that.”
Lucius nodded. “Where we are — me and all of them, I mean — you don’t really care about things like that. I’m kind of weird, that I was still so upset about how I’d treated you. Maybe that’s why I could come back,” he mused, then shrugged. “Anyway. They wanted me to tell you that there’s no hard feelings. They said they forgive you. It sounds incredibly hokey but I don’t know how else to put it.”
“But … they all died because of what I did.”
“Maybe. But maybe not. Ready for another shocker?”
“No,” Dunstan said firmly.
“Those aliens, the ones with the time machine, they killed us with some kind of energy draining weapon. We had just long enough to figure out what it was doing to us.”
“I saw it,” Dunstan murmured, trying to banish from his mind the image of the White Star 24 floating dead in space. In his memory, it was painfully clear, the still point in the only vaguely recalled maelstrom of madness that surrounded it.
Lucius was so intent on his explanation he didn’t seem to notice his brother’s dismay. “When you … blew up the Phoenix, they thought you were already dead, so they didn’t use those weapons on you.”
“I don’t understand,” Dunstan said, although he was afraid that he did. I can’t let myself think like that. Ever.
“Don’t you? If they’d used those drainers, the Phoenix would be dead. The whole ship. Everybody. You could say that the people who did die, bought the lives of everyone else. You –”
“No!” Dunstan was on his feet. “I killed those people. I might have been insane — and some of the Rangers think that’s enough to spare me the responsibility — but I don’t. I can’t! Even if you could prove it somehow, and I don’t see how anyone ever could, not now, it doesn’t change the fact that I blew up half the Phoenix, I killed my shipmates.”
“Don’t you want to let yourself off the hook?” Lucius seemed genuinely startled by his brother’s reaction.
“But they forgive you for what you did. The ones who died.”
“I heard,” Dunstan said, sitting down. He was quiet for a long time, thinking about the message his brother had brought. It was the one thing he had wanted to know more than anything. The one thing he had never imagined he would be able to know.
“And believe me, I’m grateful for it. More grateful than anyone can ever understand. It means I don’t have to punish myself any more. I don’t have to be afraid any more. But — ” he shook his hands in the air for emphasis — “it doesn’t mean I can let myself off the hook.”
“You amaze me,” Lucius finally said after several moments of silence. “But then, I guess I never really knew you, did I?”
“I never really knew you,” Dunstan replied. “I thought you and I were one being, but I never really knew you.”
“How crazy is that?” Lucius smiled.
“Do you think … can we change that, a little?”
“We’ve got the rest of the night,” Lucius said.
“There’s one thing I still don’t understand,” Karvos said when Kordieh had finished. “Why are you so incredibly happy? You talk about being free, but you still insist on being responsible for those people who died. How can you be free?”
“Because they forgave me,” Kordieh said. “Like I told him, that means I don’t have to be afraid any more. Listen,” he said, patting Karvos’ shoulder. “Until now, I did the work the Rangers gave me thinking that maybe if I did it well enough, worked hard enough, that the people I killed wouldn’t hate me any more. But since they were dead, I would never know if I’d done enough. I couldn’t ever do enough.
“But now that I know they don’t hate me, I can work to make things right. To make up for what happened by making things better for the people who are still here. It’s like having a second chance.”
Karvos thought of Malinda, how she had forgiven him, and insisted that he forgive himself. And he suddenly realized just how much he and Kordieh had in common. “You are free to look to the future, instead of being chained to the past,” he said, breaking into a radiant smile. “I think we both are.”
Kordieh heard the sudden comprehension in his friend’s voice, and laughed as he guessed where it must have come from.
"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." – Mahatma Gandhi
Copyright (c) 2001 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.