The news of Ed's death had shaken me to the very core. My brother was gone - forever. While I was out on the wildest of adventures, Ed had died. I never had the chance to say good-bye to the loving, protective older sibling that had been at my side since birth.
I could only imagine poor Mother, all on her own - holding to Jacob, digging a grave. It made this whole venture seem so selfish, so useless.
Tears came hot and fast, as did the range of emotion - sadness, anger, guilt. I tried to hold back the great flood I felt rising, swallow back the rage with reason and sensibility. I sniffed, drying the escaped tears away. It was long done. Ed was dead, and this was no place to be breaking down, distracting from the main situation at hand.
And yet, I realized, as my head cooled, that I could not turn back, could not go home despite my intial feelings of guilt. It only strengthed my resolve to remain, to do whatever was deemed necessary or helpful. And Jon, I could not leave him. What if death's fatal grasp reached for him just as I turned my back? I thought of the Queen's words, two sentences which had immeaditly grabbed my attention:
"I require your assistance, Jon. You will need to stay here."
I looked to my father and brother. They want me to go back to Ibera - to go back home, as if nothing had ever occured. The Queen did not mention what would happen to Nellie or I. She required Jon's assistance.
How could I leave him? As much as I wanted to return to normality, as much as I desired this whole thing would be just a strange sort of nightmare, the war, the situation, was real, and would continue even if I went to the security of home. Jon would still be out here, would still be in danger, even if he was under the "protection" of the Queen.
I would only return to my former situation, thirsting for any information from the front lines, hungering to know, to help somehow, meanwhile mourning my brother's death. Though I felt I had been of little help thus far in this grand scheme of war, I felt, at least, I was out there trying. I wasn't at home wondering, worrying of Jon and his welfare.
"Katrina." A hand on my arm brought me from my thoughts, making me turn to look up in Jon's face. Before I could answer, I gently pulled me off away from the gathering of people, my family, to a more private corner.
He let my arm go, and I waited patiently for him to speak. After a moment, he began, "I know you're not going to like this ... but, you should go with all of them."
I nodded slowly, turning away from his eyes. I thought of Father and Luke - they came this far to rescue me, to, no doubt, bring me home. I remembered Ed, my earlier guilt - Mother likely needed my assistance at home. Returning was the sensible thing to do. "I should...," I gazed back into his face. "But ... I don't want to."
Jon sighed, pained. Looking into his face, I was only reminded how much I loved him, how much I simply wanted us to be together, no matter how dangerous the situation may be. "Is there nothing more I can do? Is there nothing I can help with?" I pleaded. "You are still here ... and I want to stay."