Hesitant, Lucius settled beside his wife on the bench among the alders, wondering if the gods who allowed him such a moment of mercy would demand his battered soul in payment.
“I have something I wish you to have, Narcissa, though it’s a gift that’s far more humble than any I’ve given you in the past.”
Reaching into the sleeve of his gray robe, he brought out a small leather pouch.
“Will you indulge me, my love?” Cradling her hand in his, he waited for her to nod and emptied the pouch into the upturned cup of her palm.
Cruel slivers of glass, as black and cold as the Stygian shores, fell against her skin.
“Lucius, what is this gift?” she whispered in dread.
“My heart, Narcissa, when I believed our son would die and that you, in your desolation, would follow him through the Veil, leaving me behind.”
Gently folding her fingers around the shards, Lucius raised her hand to his lips and breathed a spell.
“Cor meum, non fracta.”
With a tiny gasp, Narcissa opened her hand. In her palm, a tiny sun had burst into life, the light of a thousand fires refracting from the facets of a fragile crystal heart.
“And this, my Lucius, what is this?”
Tenderly, he kissed her, relishing the sweet spice of her mouth, before he answered.
“My heart, Cissa, when I stood among the ruins of my obsession, seeing our son alive and you, beloved, still at my side.”