As the snow falls lightly around the torch-lit streets of Willowdale, the rattle and clink of full-plate armour boots ring through the night. Alejandra is walking at a pace somewhat faster than normal, practically dragging her exhausted husband Ballantino behind her. Though it is colder out than she has ever experienced, her heart is beating quickly and her face is flush with anticipation and fear. Despite his fatigue from a long night of treating the wounded, Ballantino retains his stoic expression as his wife leads him into the empty lot near the Greyblood mortuary, where Erevis awaits them. She stops just out of his earshot and faces her husband. Ballantino looks at her sternly, and she has a nervous smile on her face as she speaks.
“Ballanchi, Erevis says that tonight is the one night that we can see Julio again.”
Ballantino's face changes expressions slowly, first shock, then anger.
“What are you saying? He...”
Alejandra grasps her husband's hands firmly, her voice quivers with excitement.
“It's the local tradition. Samhain is the time when the world of the dead and our world come closest together, and people with the power to speak with the dead can call forth their spirits to talk with their loved ones...”
Ballantino looks away from his wife for a moment, removing his hands from her grasp. He turns back and faces her, his voice dire.
“I know that you want to see our son once more, but this is a dark path you are starting to take.”
“Ballanchi, it won't hurt him, or disturb his sleep for more than a few moments.”
“And what about you? Will it not hurt you to see him, knowing that he is gone?”
Alejandra's expression changes to one of shock and shame. Ballantino continues.
“What of the nights you stood sleepless by the door, waiting for him to come back? The tears, the hateful words, the days the grief was so strong you fell ill. Our children scared to death for their mother...”
Alejandra's face flushes red and she screams.
“Stop it, Ballantino!”
The sound pierces the night, and Erevis turns away. A hot tear runs down Alejandra's face and the cold of the night air stings her face once more. When she speaks again, her voice is low and shaken.
“If you don't want to see him again, that's fine. I will tell him that his father loves him dearly and only stayed away because a great number of badly hurt people still needed his help. Do not think that I will so soon fall into despair at the sight of him. He is gone. I don't just want to relive the past when I see him, Ballantino, I want to know that I can see him while still making my journey forward.”
She looks up at her husband, tear-stained face glistening slightly in the moonlight.
“Ballantino, please don't lose faith in me.”
She starts to turn away but Ballantino puts a hand gently on the side of her face as he continues.
“It's not that I don't want to see him, or that I am losing faith, but more than that, I don't want to see you in any more pain. Never again, for any reason.”
Alejandra looks down as more tears form in her eyes, shocking in their coldness against the night air. Ballantino speaks gently now.
“He is gone, and we cannot change that.”
Alejandra replies, choking back more tears.
“You have a responsibility, as his mother, to not burden his soul or your own.”
Ballantino turns to look at Erevis, who remains courteously turned away. Ballantino takes his wife's hand and looks at her once more, managing a small smile.
“Then, if you understand that, I see no reason to lose faith now. Let us greet our son with open arms.”
Alejandra nods shortly and walks forward, Erevis turns around to greet the two of them warmly, and she extracts a smaller-sized headscarf from her pack. It is a deep red with some yellow embroidery work done on one of the ends, depicting what appears to be a sun being covered slightly by a large rain cloud. She presents it to Erevis.
“This...was his. If it helps you find him at all...”
Erevis shakes his head graciously and motions for her to keep the scarf. He turns and begins quickly casting the ritual, businesslike as always. Alejandra looks to her husband for any further signs of doubt, but sees none, as his eyes are fixed on Erevis' work.
As the rift opens and the ghostly form of Chorus circles around and reaches into the gap between worlds, there is a flash and the spectral lights in front of Erevis disappear. He is now outlined by a faint yellow glow, and he steps aside to reveal the spectral form of a teenaged boy before walking away.
Julio Rogaceu's short hair is neatly groomed, and he is dressed as he was when he left this world; in leather armour with a scimitar at his side. He looks as he did when he left the family home in Avenida at age fifteen, with not a detail out of place. He looks confused by his surroundings, but then his eyes meet Alejandra's.
Alejandra's strength leaves her legs and she collapses to her knees. The memories of her son flow back to her as she looks at him. The fitting for the armour, the complaints about the haircut, the whole days spent training, the stories shared at the dinner table, his proud strides out the front door as he departed for his military training. Though her vision is now obscured by a flood of tears, she raises her shaking arms, opening them weakly before him.
The spectre steps forward slowly at first, but then makes the last few strides eagerly as he opens his arms as well, embracing his mother's shoulders as she closes her arms gently around him, as though afraid of harming his incorporeal form. Ballantino takes a knee beside her, looking into his son's remorseful and yearning face.
Sobbing loudly now, Alejandra embraces her son's ghostly body, and as she sinks slightly into his form, she is suddenly warmed by the feeling of a familiar desert air that cuts through the night sky.