Hey, a warning for the second arc. These guys do not have a healthy relationship. Violent nonhealthy. If that triggers you, don’t go there. Be satisfied with the end of arc one. OK? OK.

 

 

She opened her eyes, staring at a painted white ceiling, feeling the cool surety of Sight blossom in her head.

Caron smiled.

:-#-:

She was alive. This didn’t surprise her, somehow. Caron opened her eyes and found herself standing on a floor of soft, pale light. She reached for Sight, to know where she was –

Nothing.

Her Sight wasn’t there.

Panic rose inside her. She pushed it down.

“I can’t use magic,” Farren drawled behind her. “If that’s any comfort, my dear.”

She curled her hands and held her tongue.

“The poets would love this. Both of us, trapped in a godsforsaken empty place.” Booted footsteps sounded, muffled but coming closer. “You want to hit me?”

She wanted to destroy him, kiss him, hurt him like he’d hurt her. But Caron didn’t say a word. Things kept inside couldn’t be twisted against you.

“How boring,” Farren said. “The silent treatment? You aren’t ten.”

His hand on her shoulder. She pulled away from him, turning, stepping back. Once. Not twice. Not a thousand times, as much as she wanted to, because this wasn’t the monster of the man, this was her husband, the kind smile, curious expression, welcoming arms. She wanted –

Then his smile became a smirk, and the monster showed through.

“Nothing is forever,” she said.

“The node is.” He paced around her slowly. She made sure she was facing him, always, shifting her feet. He said, “As far as I can tell, we were fortunate to be included when it reformed. Self destruct, Caro? You’re inventive. Just my luck to marry a suicidal heroine.” He stopped. “Caron Anhy.”

“Farren Peters,” she said.

“I never loved you,” he said, waving a hand dismissively but watching her face like a hawk. “You were sweet. A good lay.”

“I will always love you,” she said. Honesty was the only thing she had left.

He reached out. She stepped back. He stopped.

“But I will never trust you again,” she said.

:-#-:

The mage’s boy was talking.

“… and so, ma’am, we immediately researched into extracting your consciousness,” he said. “We constructed the circle of…”

Caron paid him no attention. She looked out the window, breathing warm, fresh air, tasting the places the wind came from. It smelt of flowers and grass, but once it had swept over a spice market. On the ground below it people had fought, sparks showering down and scorching the earth.

“Miss Anhy?”

“Yes,” she said.

“My grandfather spoke of you once. His friends called him Bend. He said the stories lied, that you were a woman. Hurting. Even if you could see the future.” The boy paused. “I didn’t believe him before.”

She spared him a glance and a tired smile.

:-#-:

“I think you’ll find no one will remember anything but the names,” Farren said. “Even a year ago, I could have walked in a city and gone unrecognised. Until I started killing.”

He stood, pacing. She sat, hugging her legs to her chest.

“They can’t exactly hand out portraits,” she said, tone mild.

“That, my dear, and you look so very ordinary.” Farren spun around, staring down at her. “Pretty,” he allowed. “A certain charm when you smiled. But ordinary. Your hands are callused.”

“Only you wanted to be perfect,” she replied.

He crouched down in front of her. “Smile, Caro dear.”

She held his gaze. “Earth shatteringly perfect.”

“That I am.” He laid a hand against her neck, resting the other on the ground. “Stop looking at me, Caro.”

“Why?” she said.

“This isn’t my wife,” he hissed. “Old eyes, strange eyes, seen too much -”

“Like anything you did?” she said, raising her eyebrows.

He snarled, pushing away with such force she rocked back. He stood and whirled around. Back to her, he said, “I should have taken your eyes from you before I left.”

She smiled at him. “You wouldn’t have had a chance.”

:-#-:

The node seemed smaller now, but it shone out brighter. Caron held it in her hands, feeling the curves no human shaped, millions of tiny faceted sides invisible to the eyes. This had been her prison for nearly fifty years.

Silvin would be in his fifties. Hanson and Rob were almost certainly dead.

She didn’t feel like Seeing to be sure.

“Miss Anhy,” the boy said, back rigid and voice coolly polite. A marked difference to before they entered this room, a maze of a library. “This is Master Helin.”

She looked up, closing her hands reflexively. Hers. She laughed. “I see.”

Master Helin smiled. “It’s an honour to meet you, my lady.”

“And mine to meet you, Mage Helios.” She couldn’t help it. Some people carried so much with them that she was drawn into their past, images flickering behind her eyelids in a confusing array of colour. Helin Helios, the sun mage that fought nearly two hundred years ago. His betrayal at the hands of a King. Standing in defence, ruby-tipped staff in hand –

“At dinner,” she said. “With her. You laughed and laughed. What was the joke?”

The mage-boy started. “What…?”

Helin shook his head. “I’ve never remembered it myself.”

“You are the legend,” she said.

His smile widened. “And I am nothing compared to you, my lady. I…” he shrugged. “I never quite succeeded. You did.”

You did more than you know, she wanted to say, but some secrets weren’t to be told. “After ignoring my own gift,” she said.

“Youth hides many sins, miss Anhy.” He gestured around. “Would you like to see my house?”

She nodded.

And now, of course, he would begin to trust her.

:-#-:

It seemed like Farren had nothing to do but talk.

For the most part, Caron listened. The rest of the time she watched him move. It was almost like living in their little house in Canteville again. A piece of happiness.

“What are you thinking about, Caro?”

She opened her eyes. Farren was kneeling down in front of her. She shrugged.

“Did you fuck him, Caro? Your pet knight?” Farren smirked. “Your loyal dog.”

“No,” she said.

“I had any woman I wanted.”

“I know.”

“Did you watch? Did you hear them call my name, Caro?”

“No,” she repeated quietly.

He snarled, sitting back. “Hate me! Shout, hit me, feat me, beg, kiss my feet. Do something! Something other than sit there and looked at me with your damned -”

She leaned forward and kissed him, soft and chaste.

“Please,” he said. “Like I’d want you now.”

“It’s something,” she said.

“You’re a fool child, Caro.”

She shook her head. “I’m really not.”

“A fool,” he said bitterly.

:-#-:

“You’ll have questions,” Helin said, opening his study door. He gestured at the two chairs that took up most of the room. “I don’t know how many answers I have. Please, sit.”

She chose the one that let her look out the window.

“Would you like a drink?” Helin said, picking up a full glass from the side table.

“No,” she said.

“Very well, then.” He settled opposite her, cradling the glass in both hands. “What would you speak of?”

She held up the node.

“Yes,” Helin sighed. “I knew the guardians, and some commands. It responds to none of them.”

“Better remade than lost,” she said.

“I think no one knew it could reforge itself. If they did, they may well have thrown it in the sea.” He leaned his head back. “That it can incorporate a person -”

She said, “People.”

He stared at her. He took a single sip and set the glass on the floor. “Multiple persons,” he said.

“Farren was holding it to my skin,” she said. “We were drawn in together.” If she’d invent someone to keep her occupied in there, it would have been the man and not the monster.

Helin frowned. “So the node must be destroyed once and for all.”

Caron shook her head.

“Farren Peters is the bad seed of a good lineage.” Helin shifted forwards. “Let him be and no doubt he’d find his way free. Free him? I fear for my good home, if not my life, and my apprentice’s. It must be death, miss Anhy.” He held his hands out. “Please. Give it to me.”

Caron Anhy looked at him, and through, her mind dancing through the future’s many paths. Do this, cause that, save a village here, a traveller there –

“Do you really think he is the greater evil?” she said, quiet. “You’ve met Silvin Anhy.”

“A good man,” Helin said. “Your cousin.”

“My son,” she said. “He told you of the Anhy curse?”

Helin hesitated. “I know something of it?”

“When we see the better path, we take it. For better or worse. No matter the cost. The node must not be destroyed. No. You may not have it.”

back home forward