Sheila placed her sleeping, five-year old son in his bed. It had been a long day with all the preparations she had to take care of. She and her son Kallin were both excited for her husband, and his father, Rolan to return home.
Kallin spent a large portion of the day coloring a banner Sheila made. The banner read 'Welcome Home Daddy'. Kallin had drawn colorful stick figures of their family of three, all with large smiles on their faces.
Sheila had begun preparing her husbands favorite dinner for tomorrow's meal. The roast was slowly cooking in the crock-pot and the seasoned smell permeated throughout the whole house. She knew that as soon as her husband smelled it, he would relax and share with her the account of what had been his longest and final adventure.
This was supposed to be his last mission. Rolan should never have to leave home again after this. Not only would he be done, but the threat which lingered over the lives of billions of people would hopefully be no more. He would finally be able to settle down with his family. They could live a normal life, and he would be able to find a normal career. Sheila could stay home and raise their son, Kallin. Hopefully, they could also have a second child, like she so badly wanted.
The front door opened to the sound of heavily pouring rain. Loud thunder shook the entire neighborhood as it stormed. Even in the dark of night, the pounding rain could be seen clearly as it was illuminated by the neighborhood streetlamps.
Sheila excitedly ran to the living room to greet her husband. She first saw her brother-in-law, Albert come in the door. Happily, she threw her arms around his soaking wet body.
"It's good to see you back Albert," she said cheerfully. "Where's Rolan?"
Jansen walked in behind Albert, followed by Darkun, Wyrnlow, Norwell and two of their other companions. Each of them stood just inside the home, soaking wet.
"Why are all of you so wet? Why did you wait outside for so long? Let me get you something to dry off with," Sheila told them.
"Wait," Darkun told her. "We won't stay long."
"Why not?" Sheila asked, the excitement in her voice dying.
Sheila looked over the group, and noticed an unusual solemnity about them all. It seemed that every one of them refused to breathe, creating an unwelcome tension in the house. Sheila almost stopped breathing as she noticed her husband was not with the group.
"Where's Rolan and Zhal?" She asked slowly and quietly.
Albert shuddered as he visibly tried to fight back tears. Never has Sheila seen him appearing so sad.
"Rolan," Sheila said. "He's fine, right?"
"I'm sorry Sheila," Darkun told her, placing a loose hand on her shoulder. The lack of strength in Darkun's normally strong grip told Sheila more then she wanted to know.
"No. He always comes back. He's too strong! He'll come back!" Sheila shouted desperately.
"Sheila," Albert said, tears running down his face. In his agony, he barely managed to mutter the words, "He's gone."
"No!" Sheila shouted. "Rolan!"
Sheila fell to her knees. Albert and Darkun knelt down next to her.
"Rolan," She cried, tears flowing freely down her face. "Rolan."
Darkun and Jansen both wept loudly with Sheila. Everyone wept. Even the proud Wyrnlow cried freely at the loss of their dearest friend. Rolan, the one whom everyone looked to as a friend and counselor was dead.
From the stairs behind Sheila, a small voice called out.
"Momma," Kallin called. "Where's Daddy?"
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