In the aftermath of the big adventure, everything rumbled back to normal more rapidly than Brand would have expected. Shortly after returning, Buba brought them all to the Bleu Foundation, much to his brother's chagrin. Quarters were set up and everyone tried their best to get reacquainted with their surroundings--Lisya had the most trouble; everything was so foreign and wondrous to her.
Brand's continuing mission lurked steadily in the back of his mind, but without any untoward signs that things needed dealt with, he had no idea what to do next. So instead of seeking out reality corruption, he put the next phase of his life away. It could wait, he decided. It could wait until he was ready to deal with it.
Weeks melted into months. Hiding the telltale marks of being the Wielder didn't prove too tricky--although awkward would be fitting. Brand took to wearing long sleeves and gloves, thus eliminating any visual sign of his metallic arm. But there was still the sword to deal with. It was much too large to carry around. Concealing it would never work. Brand ended up keeping it in his car and limited himself to never straying too far.
In the January following their triumphant return, Buba and Lisya were married in a private ceremony held within the walls of the Bleu Foundation. Things were perfect for Buba, better than they'd ever been. He finally felt whole, complete and unstoppable.
Lisya's adjustment went as smoothly as could be expected. Some of the customs and the language proved troublesome, but she was a quick learner and found herself flowing into the strange environment. This was not because of her ability to see auras though, for she discovered that ability no longer worked. Ever since she awoke from the dead, her vision worked just the same as anyone else. Whether it was the new world, the loss of her world, the death of Zadara, or dying that stripped her of the gift, she didn't know. And it didn't matter. She was happy with Buba and their new life here.
Not to be undone by his older companion, Brand proposed to Megan about a month after Buba's wedding. They were wed in April, going the quick route at city hall.
Both couples moved on with life, enjoying their newlywed statuses. Brand found he took nothing for granted anymore. All that time in the other reality had given him a strong appreciation for his life here and the world around him.
Sword's attitude finally culminated in an argument with Brand that almost exposed them both to the world at large. At that moment, Brand knew something needed to be done. And it needed to be done quickly. The solution, while seemingly obvious, couldn't have been more ludicrous. With Buba's help, Brand brought Sword to a psychologist that worked for the Blue Foundation--one Buba trusted thoroughly.
The office was decorated in a mute taupe.
Sitting across from Brand, hands folded in his lap, Doctor Josef D. Eckhart said, "Benjamin tells me you hear a talking sword. Tell me about this."
Brand narrowed his eyes slightly. "Yes, I do hear a talking sword. Only because the sword is actually talking." He hated being here. This wasn't about him; it was about Sword. Sword needed a shrink, not him.
"When did this begin?"
"Shortly after Megan died, that's when I got the sword."
Nodding, Eckhart asked, "And Megan was your...?"
"Is my wife. We're married."
"Of course you are. Death doesn't always--"
"No, no. She's not dead anymore."
Brand shook his head in frustration. "Sword, say something so this dude doesn't think I'm insane."
"Sword," murmured Brand. "Don't do this. Say something."
Doctor Eckhart watched with curiosity twinkling in his eyes. Notes were scribbled on his notebook. "What does this sword look like? Did you bring it with you?"
On and on it went for more than a month to the point where Doctor Eckhart was convinced Brand had some serious issues that needed dealing with.
Then everything changed.
Eckhart was walking toward the door to let Brand in when he paused, listening through the door.
"I'm getting sick of this, Sword. If you don't start talking--"
"What are you going to do, Brandypoo? You going to cut your own arm off? Ever think about showing the good doctor your arm? Maybe he wouldn't think you're so nutso."
Eckhart opened the door to silence and ushered Brand in. He glanced around outside, noted the absence of anyone, and then shut the door.
As he sat down, Eckhart asked Brand, "Is there something wrong with your arm? I've noticed you always wear those gloves, even indoors."
Suspicion twisted Brand's features. "You heard Sword, didn't you? You heard him! Tell me you heard him."
"Ah, screw this!" Sword blurted. "Happy. Yadda yadda. Blah blah. I can talk!"
Eckhart bolted upright in his chair, unblinking. There was no doubt in his mind Brand did not say those things, not even if he was the world's greatest ventriloquist.
"It's all my father's fault! He banished me to this dead-end job of being the Wielder's Sword. Please doctor! Help me to understand why I've been forced to live like a parasite attached to the arms of hopelessly idiotic men that all want to rule the world!"
And so began the long--very long--journey of the psyche of Sword. For months, Sword blabbed on. Endlessly long soliloquies about the terrible things it had been forced to live through, about how the world had conspired to make living as sentient sword unbearably painful. Suicide, Sword mentioned, had been considered often. But how, it cried out, how can a mere sword kill itself? Several times, as the months wore on, the doctor himself wondered if he had lost his mind.
The weekly head shrinkage became the norm for Brand and Sword. Life went on.
Two years after their return, Brand decided it was time to clean up this world as he was meant to do. He felt unsettled, driven. At night, his sleep would be interrupted by dreams calling out to him, pushing him toward the next stage of his evolution--when Sword wasn't waking him up, demanding entertainment.
So there it was. Brand, Megan, Buba, Lisya and Sword packed their bags and left Destiny's Hope. While the destination loomed undefined, the goal stood tall and proud. This world would be free someday. Brand would see to it. Wherever these adventures took him, as long as he had his friends, he would overcome all odds.THE END