“I tried to find him,” Farren said, after a long time. “My son.”

“Our son.”

He glanced at her, sideways. “My son, Caro.”

“His name is Silvin,” she said.

“Silvin. Silvin.” He tested the word in his mouth. “It’s not a bad name.”

“It was my great grandfather’s,” she said. She watched him, seeing all. Farren sat sprawled out, twisting a scrap of his tunic between his fingers.

He snorted. “Marked and hidden. Your son indeed.”

“Ours,” she said, and stared at her bare feet. “I sent him where no one would find him.”

“Because you know how to keep him safe.” Farren laughed. “You walked into a room with me. You weren’t leaving alive.”

“You forget,” she said. “I knew what would happen when I loved you.” Her voice was icier than she expected it to be. She missed her Sight. The loss of it left an aching hole inside her.

Or maybe that was all the things she’d tried not to think about.

“So you can hurt,” Farren breathed.

:-#-:

Helin and Caron sat in silence until he said, “I expected you to want him dead.”

“I do,” she said. “And I don’t.”

“Let me make the choice for you,” Helin pleaded. “Striking when he’s trapped and weak is the only way to -”

Caron said, “Mage Helios was a good man. He never struck a fallen enemy.”

“I have overcome such weakness.” He arched his hands together. “I will not let a snake go free.”

She frowned at him. “Do you consider the crimes of the father to be those of the son, too? And the next seven generations? Would you see the world burn because you cannot stand a lesser evil to live?”

“The world is a better place without a man like Farren Peters,” Helin snapped.

For the first time since her son’s bird, Caron disagreed. “It’s irrelevant,” she said. “The node is needed.”

And in that moment, she faced hard-eyed Mage Helios, magic crackling around him. His hands flexed. His body tensed. She sat back in her chair and waited.

Better to let him be fooled than know the truth. Some plans couldn’t be known, for fear of letting unseen enemies know she plotted.

He sagged, an old man in young skin. “Let me bind it,” he said. “Perhaps he can be trapped tighter still.”

:-#-:

“I missed the slow mornings,” Caro said. “The long evenings.” A kiss, a laugh, warm skin –

She pushed those thoughts away.

Farren huffed. “I didn’t.”

She nodded.

“It’s not like I can miss you here,” he said, trailing a hand down her arm. “Silence can drive a man mad.”

“Forty three years of it,” she said. “Yes.”

He started, nails digging into her skin. “How do you know?”

She rolled her eyes. He scowled. “Anhy,” he hissed. “You can See again.”

“The bindings are loosening, so yes.” She cast him a flat, emotionless look. “You’ll be able leave soon.”

How soon?”

He was drawing blood. She didn’t feel it. “Too many variables,” she said. “Soon.”

“I can finally escape you.” He let go, spiralling red patterns on her skin. “Or destroy you. Either would do.”

“Perhaps,” she said.

He smiled, slow and dark. Unwanted emotion pounded in her chest. “It’s almost a pity,” he said. “I was starting to get used to having you around.” He kissed her cheek.

:-#-:

She let Helin try his best, if only to see his workshop in person. It had a single central table, and the stone walls were etched with layer upon layer of symbols. She ran her hands over them.

They’d waited a long time for freedom. Helin himself had weakened the bindings, with his testing of the node. She couldn’t bare to tell him that. He hadn’t had a chance to begin with. The node was meant for magic, not humans. It couldn’t hold them for long.

She closed her eyes. The future was there, in the darkness. She said, “I’m sorry.”

“Miss Anhy?” Helin said.

The world shattered into shards of light. She could see it through her eyelids. A humming filled the room. The Mage spoke words that vibrated with power, in a language she didn’t know and wouldn’t care to.

A gasp. A thud.

The humming stopped. Footsteps crossed the room, light and easy and familiar. She turned to face Farren, stepping over Helin’s unconscious body, and met him paces from the wall.

She opened her eyes.

Farren smiled at her. “Keep to your word,” he said, and held the node out to her.

:-#-:

“What do you see of my future, Caro?”

Farren frowned down at her, but the question was light enough.

“You mean, will you be a great and terrible figure again,” she said.

He laughed “Yes.”

She shrugged. She laid her head back against the floor, folding her arms across her body. “No.”

“Says the dead woman.”

Irritation spiked. She closed her eyes, breathing in the knowing. “There’s no place for a man of petty wrongs,” she said. “You’ll be destroyed.”

“I could kill you now. It’d be an interesting study to see if you can die here. I’ve often wondered, Caro.” He brushed his fingers over her belly. “Would you really have cut your own throat? I’ve done it to others. You’d have choked.”

“You will be completely and utterly destroyed,” she said. “Your blood will feed rites beyond imagining. Your bones will be chewed by beasts. The node will be no weapons against the creatures in the light.”

He snorted, pulling away. “I don’t need warnings, Caro.”

“Except for one path,” she said.

He was silent, staring at her.

“One path were there is glory and power. If you can control yourself. If you listen to me.”

“I know this deal, Caro. A future where you live, at my side. My sweet stupid fool.” He pressed a hand against her throat. “Bargaining for your life? Once I thought you never knew fear.”

Not fear, she thought. Just a chance. A future that could be better for his actions, despite how she loved him, hated him. A way for him to be great. A way for him to be gone forever.

“With me, you gain,” she said. “Without me, you fail.”

One more word and she damned herself.

He leaned down. “Is that your deal, my dear?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Well.” He smiled at her, with something that might have been pride. He kissed her forehead. “I accept,” he murmured. “It’d be rather dull without you.”

:-#-:

The apprentice had the intelligence to hide before Farren swept through the house, taking trinkets. “I know this man,” he said, examining a rune-carved stone in the kitchen. “He can’t stomach living in true wilderness. There’s a village nearby. We’ll steal a horse and cart.”

Caron stood still and silent.

“Don’t fuss at me, I told you I wouldn’t kill him.” Farren dropped the stone, turning back to her. He reached out. She stepped back. Dark anger clouded his face.

“I’m walking,” she said quietly.

“You want to walk everywhere?” he demanded. “Slow, boring, cumbersome -”

She set her jaw.

“As you say,” he snapped. He went back to looking through small things. She breathed out, tremors of fear running through her. She ran one hand up her other arm, covering small, fresh scars.

She’d see him dead before she let him run loose in the world again.

 

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