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Paragon Forgotten Chapter 35

Major crimes

The crime’s severity is anything more severe than 5 months incarceration. The preliminary investigation starts at the ranger bastille. If evidence is not found, offender is released. If evidence is found, suspect stays in the bastille until trial. The verdict of the trial will determine ultimate guilt or innocence. If innocent, suspect is released. For cross-realm crime, all nine torcs must be present. Inner realm crime can be handled by the realm’s torc and his court. 

Disinherited: for crimes of kidnapping (so long as the victim is found), extreme bodily harm, any cross-realm offense, aiding an outside realm, x3 habitual criminal.

Death sentence: murder, impersonation of a knightlord or ranger, rape, child crimes, kidnap (if the victim is not found), x9 habitual criminal.


Mother’s scream cut through the hollow silence. “No!”

Cohthel straightened. “What?” Two knightlords grabbed Cohthel from either side and lifted him to his feet. “What did she say?”

“Cohthel Faunt, tell us now how those eggshells ended up in your possession, or we will carry out our verdict.”

“I told you! My father framed me!”

“Do you have proof?”

“Torc Thoraus does!”

Repeating his earlier words did not change their minds. Marched away from his chair, Cohthel twisted his head toward Mother’s shrieking, surrounded by three knightlords and held back by Markie, but knuckling blessed Paragons if it took all four of them to restrain her wild elbow strikes, kicks, and slaps.

The sight of her fighting was so uncharacteristic Cohthel stared, transfixed. His “kindred kindness always” stemmed from her own example of care. Mother never fought. He’d never seen her fight. Which is why Cohthel wasn’t a fighter either. That is unless kindred threatened beloved friends and family…Did him no good now knowing where he got his fire from.

“Shiana Faunt,” hollered an authoritative female voice, “we will not permit you to visit your son behaving like that.”

Mother’s wail filled the chamber, followed Cohthel down a stone passage connecting the courtroom to the lower belly of the castle. She continued shouting until her cries filled the entire expanse of Cohthel’s rage.

“Sentenced to death?”

His knightlord escorts likely thought him dumb for failing to grasp the obvious. “But I didn’t do it!” His mind refusing to accept his current reality, it disconnected from his body, making his feet stumble into both his escorts until they consented to drag him.

His final destination ended at a cell: three concrete walls and one barred door. More primitive than the ranger bastille cells, straw covered this floor with a pot for the toilet instead of a modern hole in the floor.

The knightlords removed his manacles and closed the cell door. Cohthel stood a long time, blinking too much. He shook the locked door. He was the only prisoner in this chamber with ten other cells. The torcs made a mistake. They charged the wrong man. They’d come back soon and correct this gross error.

He sat on his bed. Exhausted. He knew Thoraus played the game for now but would not play for so long that Thoraus allowed an innocent man to die; Thoraus in council right now with the other torcs discussing Cohthel’s innocents.

The chamber door opened. Markie and Mother walked in, Atalixsphere returned to the hospital. Their knightlord escort stood near Cohthel’s cell to make sure they did not pass contraband to the prisoner.

Mother looked barely put together, walking seemingly without using her feet. Her eyes stretched too wide and didn’t blink enough, lips disappearing above her pale chin. Blond hair crimped with sweat and tangles. The Oath Ghost near the cemetery looked healthier.

“Cohthel, this is unjust.” Markie sliced his hand down. Mother stayed a step behind, jittery, struggling to understand how she arrived in the castle dungeon with her only child in a cage. “Torc Elyulara is staying in Malandore tonight and I will demand she speak with me and make her see their verdict is shit.”

“No, Markie,” Cohthel insisted since talking too harshly to Elyulara will disrupt anything Torc Thoraus would discuss with her about what he knows of Rodrue. “I don’t want anyone working on my behalf. I’ll work on my own.” He looked askance at the indifferent knightlord watching their interaction. Cohthel couldn’t be worried right now if the knightlord reported everything he heard to anyone else.

Cohthel explained his visit to the torc the day Rodrue returned and the agreement he and the torc made and how those decisions wove into the torc confessing the humans found the Dreamer.

“So you can see the sticky spot he’s in with the other realms,” Cohthel said. “He’s got to talk to the other torcs with enough delicacy that he proves I’m innocent without sentencing the entire Human Realm to a civil war. He’s probably the one who said they would carry my sentence out in the morning because then he’d have time to talk to them.”

They both relaxed. Mother’s wide eyes narrowed back to normal. “I despise his method.”

Markie didn’t look convinced.

“I promise, I’ll be out of here tonight.” That didn’t stop the pinging in his heart, but he believed his statement all the same.

“Oh, Jumpy, I wish I could hug you.” Mother snapped her face toward the knightlord and scowled.

“I’ll be alright, Mother. I promise.”

“I’ll make you a special dinner tomorrow night since you had to suffer through this atrocity. Dessert too.”

They talked more about banal items until their time expired and the knightlord escorted them out. Cohthel lay on his bed and stretched. The jailor brought him lunch: a cold sandwich and tepid water. This confirmed Thoraus wasn’t going to carry out his sentence. Why waste food on a prisoner who would die soon?

He laughed, having forgotten Fate herself said she gave Cohthel invisibility so he would live forever, even if Cohthel still had no knuckling idea how invisibility stopped him from dying since it wasn’t stopping him from aging.

The knightlord said, “I’m to inform you that you have until tomorrow to provide any provable information on where the dragon whelps are, or they will commence with your verdict.”

“Oh, my proof is coming. I’ll have it for you.”

The knightlord narrowed his eyes and lifted the corner of his mustache before leaving the chamber.

Cohthel consented to boredom two hours after lunch. Did push-ups and sit-ups on the straw-covered floor until he soaked with sweat and tired out. He needed to pee but had never used a pot. Thinking about doing so embarrassed him because that meant someone would have to empty it for him. What a gross job. The first Kingdom torcs built the castle eight hundred years ago, long before the dwarves introduced their toilet engineering throughout Malandore. Since Torc Thoraus only housed short-term death-sentenced prisoners in his dungeon, upgrading the toilet served no long-term purpose.

He didn’t realize how much time had passed until the jailor brought in a food tray, a man in his early twenties with a trimmed black goatee.

“Thanks.” Cohthel accepted the tray through the food slot. “What time is it?”

“Eighteenth hour.”

“You sure?”

“Yep. I’m pretty sure.”

“Ah, okay. Have you heard anything about Torc Thoraus coming to talk to me?”

“No. He never talks to prisoners after the trial.”

“Oh, this is a special case and he probably got busy or forgot because he got busy. Would you, um, remind him I’d like to talk to him? Tonight?”

“I will pass the message. That is all I can do.”

“Thank you.”

The jailor left and Cohthel sat down to a delicious dinner of tender steak and garlic gravy, cheesy broccoli, a chunk of goat cheese, and an expensive elven whipped dessert looking so much like a cloud he didn’t know what kept it anchored to his plate. It tasted like frosted cherries and candied oranges. Torc Thoaraus would not waste food this good on someone sentenced to die.

Cohthel still maintained faith, rewarded three hours later when the knightlord jailor delivered a sealed envelope to Cohthel.

“Finally.” Cohthel sat on his bed and cracked the waxed seal, pulling out a neat slip of paper folded in half.

I know what you want, but I cannot give it. I truly am sorry.

He flipped the paper over to the blank underside. He read it again, holding the paper toward the giant R’th crystal anchored to the ceiling to see Thoraus’s hidden message written in secret ink. He looked in the envelope for a second paper explaining everything. Empty, except for something familiar: Thaen’s nagging insistence that Mother was lying to Cohthel about Father.

How Cohthel resisted the idea that Mother lied to him even after the city office could not provide him with a Writ of Death for Father. How he went back to Thaen to report the misunderstanding.

The truth punched you in the face, sprawled on a plate, screamed it was all yours to eat, and you still claim you neither feel, see, hear, nor have any desire for it? You’re knuckling stupid.

That may have been true about his resistance to call Mother a liar about father, but that’s not what was happening here.

You’re knuckling stupid.

Fate would not have entrusted the Dream Woman’s sword in his keep if she knew Cohthel would die.

You’re knuckling stupid.

His invisibility, somehow, would keep him alive.

Cohthel had more excuses at the ready, but because he had already faced a similar scenario of fisting his convictions that Mother told the truth about Father, he forced himself to pause. He found little humor in the thought that came next: he now held defensive convictions that Torc Thoraus was lying in his note.

Okay okay. Cohthel shut his eyes and took a deep breath. Because he held convictions that Mother told the truth about Father, Cohthel spent three months learning the truth that she was, after all, lying, when he would have saved himself time by following Thaen’s advice and accusing her all along.

He knew, he knew Thoraus would not betray him like this. Trusted him. So Cohthel would prove Thoraus’ trust by going over every raw fact and counter-fact this time instead of blanket-trusting his instincts.

FACT ONE: they would not waste this food on a prisoner who would die soon.

COUNTER: okay, this is not a fact.

FACT TWO: Fate would not have given him the sword if she knew he would die.

COUNTER: Fate doesn’t see futures. She only sees current events and how they might affect future outcomes. She’s usually right, but can’t see the spontaneous whims of the mortal mind. Also, Shollomoon is Fate’s agent. She could just as easily take the sword from his house and pass it to the next suitable wielder if Cohthel died from being thrown from a horse, falling off a cliff, eaten by a bear.

An uncomfortable nub settled in Cohthel’s chest. He cleared his throat.

FACT THREE: his invisibility will keep him alive.

COUNTER: he did not know how. He knew invisibility muted pain, but that’s as far as he dared test. If tomorrow they delivered the killing blow and his invisibility, somehow, saved him, those carrying out the sentence would figure out he wasn’t dead and would, instead, tie a weight to his ankles and throw him over the cliff, sinking him to the bottom of the ocean where he’d still be alive, but he did not want that. Or bury him alive.

FACT FOUR: Thoraus, still needing more time to play this game, wrote the note as a code to let Cohthel know he still fought for him.

COUNTER: Take the words in Thoraus’ notes as he meant them. The note that said: I have betrayed you. You will die so I don’t have to confess the Dreamer favors the humans.

For the first time since the rangers knocked on Cohthel’s door in the middle of the night seven days ago, fear curled hooks into his heart. He’d never experienced betrayal. Now that he gave it attention, he felt its birth like an uncurling finger, the long nail scratching him from the inside as it straightened. The more he moved, the more it scratched. Scratch scratch scratch.

The shock arrived in a burst of heat prickling his scalp, bubbling nausea in his gut. He dropped to his knees and vomited in the straw.

“Help.” Louder. “Help!”

The jailor threw open the chamber door and rushed to Cohthel. “What’s wrong?”

“You’ve got the wrong man. I shouldn’t be here!”

The jailor’s sable face softened in sympathy. Cohthel wondered what the knightlord experienced when he looked at a man sentenced to die.

“Your feelings are understandable,” the jailor said. “I can get you an extra blanket and water, but that is it.”

Cohthel slammed his body into the bars. “My father framed me! Tell the torc I demand to speak with him! Please! I’m innocent!”

“I am sorry.” The jailor walked out of the chamber, closing the door behind him.


He sobbed. Curled in the straw. Like a little boy. The fight against the injustices of the world raged through his veins, to no avail. He lived on a sentence now. A single question looped over and over in his withering brain:

Was it: why my father? Or… Why, my father?

Swept into delusions of grandeur because of a legend of Evermore and Nevercease: the one who could not die, the other who would never stop. Together they conquered the world. Except Fate said they hadn’t. But Rodrue thought he could, under the Dreamer’s banner.

How was one supposed to die? With defiance? With grace? What last words was he supposed to say? Last thought?

He didn’t know. He wasn’t supposed to die.

He stopped crying. Got back to his knees. Rose.

There was nothing more complicated than that. He wasn’t supposed to die. Thaen’s voice flooded his mind: Why don’t you do something on your own for once instead of expecting others to rescue you?

Thaen, brother, I’m going to get out of here and I am going to bring you home. I promise.

Cohthel set both fists on his hips and looked about his space. He first checked the door. Locked. The hinges were engineered outside the door. He grabbed every bar, shaking and pulling. Solid. He tried the mortared stone encasing him on three sides, even the floor and ceiling. Nothing loose. He considered breaking apart his bed and using the wood posts and leverage to pry apart the iron bars, but he held no further faith the cheap wood frame would yield results.

What do I have access to? He took serious inventory of his cell: straw, a ceramic pot filled with his urine, wood bed, straw-stuffed mattress, a single wool blanket, his clothes.


His hope hung on that singular skill. He could go invisible, but he’d still be stuck in the cell. He needed the door to open and then madly dash for freedom, push aside the knightlord, and run from the chamber. Run, run, run.

He sat on the bed, jittery with ridiculous hope. The door would not open again until they escorted him to…How many knightlords would come for him? More than one. Two? He could squirm past two invisible. R’th gifts were so rare, turning invisible before their eyes would cause massive shock and delay in their reactions as he burst between them—

He slowed down, panic dancing with his hope. He accepted Mother had lied to him, Thoraus had betrayed him, now he needed to accept the multiple ways his plan might fail. Could he get past four knightlords after turning invisible? As soon as any of them felt him pushing them aside, they’d grab him. What if one had natural unveiling eyes like Neleci and saw through invisibility?

He refused despair to dash his hopes.

He could fake sickness or injury and they’d open the door to check on his health. No, they wouldn’t. He would die tomorrow. They’d let him suffer.

What else, what else?

He snapped his fingers as he paced back and forth, too energized to sit and think.

What else, what else?

He loved climbing into high places and backflipping. That thought triggered Thaen again.

“You picked art. Theater.” Thaen put all ten fingers in his mouth and made a face like a dreary festival mask, then pulled them out. “You have a natural mask already. No makeup or training required. Just throw you on stage for their next tragedy. Or, since you’re so knuckling good at climbing, cartwheeling, they’d make you the intermission comic relief.”

Like a slingshot, Cohthel’s escape plan knocked him in the head so hard he became lightheaded and held onto the bars so he wouldn’t pass out.

When he saw Thaen again, he would tell him he literally saved his life.


The jailor brought Cohthel’s breakfast tray. As soon as the knightlord walked into the chamber, Cohthel scrambled off his bed and slammed his body into the bars.

“Get away! You’re not safe!” Cohthel’s gaze shot left and right. His red eyes from having not slept and curls he mussed into a chaotic tangle added to the harried image.

The jailor ignored him and stuck his fat key in the tray port slot to give him breakfast.

“No no!” Cohthel jumped at the door and held the tray port slot closed. “Don’t—don’t open that! Don’t open the door either! I won’t survive, but I can at least save you!”

“Kindred, you were so normal yesterday,” the jailor said in exasperation as if he’d seen all the games prisoners play. He looked like he approached the end of his long shift. Tired and uncaring. “I know you don’t want to die—”

“I’m not worried about me. I’m worried about you. What?!” Cohthel spun and faced the back of his cell, then flipped back to face the jailor. “It’s close! Get out of here before you can’t!”

“So you don’t want breakfast?”

“Run! Run! It’s coming! It’s coming! AAAHHH!”

The jailor walked out of the chamber with Cohthel’s breakfast.

Four knightlords entered the chamber two hours later, the clatter of their heavy boots, keys, and manacles jangling against armor. The jailor came in with them, flipping through his ring of oversized cell door keys.

“Decided to act all crazy during breakfast,” the jailor said. “Nothing the four of you can’t handle.”

Cohthel lept from his bed. “NO! NO! It’s here! Get away or it will get you too! Run!”

The four knightlords didn’t spend enough time with prisoners to become desensitized to their thematics and imaginations. They all chuckled.

“What’s coming?” asked one with amusement.

“The void! The void! Don’t you understand! Blessed Paragons, get out of here before it gets you!”

The jailor stuck his key in the door.

Cohthel grabbed the bars. “Don’t open the door!” Cohthel’s feet jerked back along the floor. He landed on his chest and screamed. He flipped onto his butt and stared under his bed, where his feet pointed.

Kicking and thrashing and churning the straw, an unseen force dragged his body toward the bed.

His screams reached a fever pitch. Still, he rolled onto his stomach and reached out to the five bewildered knightlords. “RUUUNNN!” The unseen force sucked him under the bed. He ceased making a sound.

“Thematics,” the jailor explained. He turned the key. The door lock made a heavy thunk. Hinges squealed as the door swung open. The jailor stepped in. “Come out, Cohthel. I’ve seen all the games before. You’re not doing anything new. You’re best off acting with grace. Your family watching would want you to walk out dignified. Don’t embarrass them.”


“Cohthel, if you don’t come out, we’ll go in to get you.”


Aware Cohthel might reach out from under the bed and grab the jailor’s ankles, the jailor approached but leaned far out when he lifted the wool blanket blocking the entire view from under the bed. The jailor crouched down, further and further. He reached to his hip and grabbed the leather pouch, removing a small glowing R’th stone. He rolled it under the bed into the deep shadows.

The jailor sprung up faster than a falkon taking flight. He rammed into the four knightlords as he burst out of the cell, not stopping until he hid behind the chamber door. “He’s gone!”

“Gone? I think you’re the one playing thematics, Nolene.” The knightlord stepped into the cell and peered under the bed. He too rose and backed away. “I…I can’t see him. Can you?”

The last two witnesses entered the cell together, but with the R’th rock blasting away all shadows, they didn’t stay long. They fought getting through the chamber door first. They slammed the door behind them.

Cohthel, invisible, scrambled from under the bed and ran through the open cell door and into another empty cell furthest from the chamber door and sat on its bed, staring at the chamber door, his pulse thumping harder than dwarven hammers. He sent out gratitude to Mother for raising him with the understanding he should never use his invisibility in front of anyone.

Did she sit in the castle courtyard now, looking for answers when Cohthel didn’t go home last night?

He couldn’t hear anything beyond the chamber door, but he suspected the castle would be, if not already, roaring over a disappearing prisoner. Or would they be more worried about his imaginary “void” which sucked kindred unbiasedly into its maw? He’d congratulate himself later. He wasn’t out of danger yet.

The chamber door opened and Torc Thoraus entered in a swirl of robes, accompanied by the jailor. Villainous hate soured Cohthel’s tongue.

“Don’t go any further,” the jailor said. “We know nothing about the void.”

Thoraus tossed his hands with exasperation, staring at Cohthel’s cell from across the room. “Dragged under the bed and disappeared, you say?”

“All of us swear to it.”

A long silence. “Has this door remained closed?”

“Yes, torc.”

“Hasn’t opened even one time?”

“No. I’ve been sitting outside ever since, guarding it. Nothing has come out and you are the first I’ve permitted to enter.”

“Well, I would like to reclaim the use of my dungeons and make sure the void won’t suck anyone else in.” Thoraus walked toward the cell. The jailor looked torn, whether he should accompany the torc or force him to stay back.

Thoraus entered the cell, the R’th rock still glowing beneath the bed. He knelt and reached under. Color drained from the jailor’s face. Thoraus grabbed the R’th rock and pulled it out. He knelt a moment longer, musing. Then stood and walked back, returning the R’th rock to the jailor.

“Whatever the void was, it’s moved on now. I declare this dungeon safe again.”

“What if it comes back?”

“You said Cohthel tried telling you at breakfast something was coming.”


“I reason that if the void is coming, those vulnerable have this innate ability to sense its arrival, wouldn’t you say?”

“That’s reasonable.”

“So if you think it’s coming back, come to me straight away.”

“Yes, torc.”

Thoraus turned back into the room and sniffed a few times, wrinkling his nose. “Do you normally keep this door closed?”

“It’s protocol.”

“There are no prisoners here now. It could use some fresh air. Leave this door open today.”

“Yes, torc.”

“You may return to your duties. Thank you.”

The jailor disappeared from the doorway.

Thoraus lingered, looking back into the chamber with the ten cells. “You have my blessing, Cohthel.”

Cohthel sucked in a breath, panic cracking down his spine. Thoraus knows! How did he know? He knew because Neleci told him. The day after Neleci kissed Cohthel, Cohthel had turned invisible in front of her and ran, forgetting she could still see him. Of course, she’d share this rare news with her own family.

Thoraus left the door open for Cohthel — a gesture of help filling Cohthel with unquenchable rage. His gesture proved he knew Cohthel’s innocence yet assigned him to slaughter anyway.

This does not forgive you, Thoraus. You’ve already shown me how little I matter to you. Cohthel waited until noise and movement settled down outside the open door. He swept through the castle like a fading memory.


He listened to Mother wailing long before he reached the little bridge crossing the stream in front of his house. Her shattering heart broke his own. As desperately as he wanted to burst through the front door and reassure her of his health, he needed to not leave anything for free falkon rumors to speculate over the oddity of his house door opening and closing by an invisible hand.

He already had to open his window, but that was less obviously noticed and harder to prove. His boots touched the polished floor and the enormity of his minute-by-minute arriving future sucked all air from his lungs. Had the four walls always been so large and empty? If he breathed too loud it would echo off a ceiling too high for him to reach, off a floor reminding him of his limits.

He left the window and whisked into the living room.

Mother looked like a broken doll on the rug, one shoe on, one off, dress hiked to her thighs. Markie held her clamped in his arms, inhibiting movement. He rocked her back and forth, back and forth as she screamed into his chest.

Cohthel tore off his invisibility. “Mother!”

Markie’s head snapped up. Mother wrenched her neck around, eyes swollen like cherries. She screamed out something inarticulate. Markie released his death-grip on her, and as if both her knees had broken, she wobbled toward her son.

He reached out and grabbed her, sucking her into an embrace with both arms clenching her trembling body. He pressed the side of his face against hers and held her while she sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

“I’m okay, Mother,” he repeated every other breath. “I’m okay.”

Finally convinced Cohthel did not disintegrate into ash, Mother backed away. Snot glistened on her upper lip. Markie gave her a handkerchief.

She blew her nose and wiped her eyes. “We…we showed u-up…at the castle at…s-seven b-b-because—”

Markie put a strong arm around her shoulders. “I’ll tell it, love. Take some deep breaths. Everything’s okay now.” He looked at Cohthel with a hard stare that declared them equals. “You didn’t come home and we both got worried. We went to the castle at seven to talk to the torc, but he refused to see us.

Knightlords took us to the courtyard and the eighth hour came and went and no one came out. Torc Thoraus finally did and said you committed suicide last night.”

Bad timing: Mother wimpled at the word “suicide” the same instant Cohthel laughed. Mother glared at him. Cohthel repaired his laugh with a frown and bowed his head. “This is what happened…”

He finished and Mother reached for another hug. Cohthel returned the embrace with a fervency he had never known. “I can’t stay here.”

Mother pulled away, a crease deepening in her forehead.

“You know I can’t. Thoraus announced I committed suicide. Every falkon in the Kingdom will spread that rumor. What quality of life will I keep staying invisible all the time? And what if an elf saw me? I wouldn’t stay invisible long.”

“But…” Mother looked from Cohthel to Markie. “What else are you supposed to do? Where else would you go? There’s still school.”

Cohthel looked at Markie. Markie stared back. No words, not even a blink.

Cohthel looked back at Mother. “I’m going to become a Bladehand.”

The shock registered in her eyes.

“Rodrue is a Bladehand,” Cohthel said. “Only a Bladehand can fight another Bladehand. But I will not fight Rodrue. I’m going to find him, cut him off from the Dreamer’s influence, and bring him back into the Kingdom.” Forgiveness is possible because Urouhi gave it first to me.

“He’s lost, Cohthel,” Markie said. “I know he’s your blood father and you still care about him, but some kindred are not worth saving.”

“Would you believe Thoraus’ note last night told me I wasn’t worth saving?”

Markie opened his mouth. Snapped it closed.

“When I attacked Urouhi…” Cohthel swallowed, admitting his sin in front of Mother, “you told me, Markie, that I needed to use my fire for fuel, not for fury. Rodrue betrayed me. That’s no secret. But instead of torching my fury into a blaze, I’m going to redirect its fuel into the motivation to, instead, tear one more kindred away from the Dreamer’s poisonous influence. Everyone is worth saving. The worst of us are worth saving.

“Wouldn’t we be more productive if we celebrated change than to punish it?” Cohthel quoted. Markie lowered his eyelids, recognizing his own words. “If we encouraged those changing for the better, we would see the day when hostilities stopped. I’m going to find Rodrue.” And Thaen. Neleci. “I’m going to forgive him. And I’m going to bring him home.” Cohthel fought the tears, but they broke anyway. How he complained his whole life that he didn’t have a father, and now he planned to leave the only father he wanted.

Markie pulled Cohthel into a father’s embrace. Tight. “I’m proud of you, son.”


Sobs beat their way out of Cohthel, shaking him as they thundered through his veins. Cohthel no longer felt sixteen. He didn't feel like a number at all. He was a conscious mind the Paragons formed to achieve victories and mistakes, to build and to break. Life did not follow petty rules like beginnings and endings. It existed as a continuum for whoever dared enough to grab hold and ride the furies. Age, gender, race didn’t matter. It was there for anyone to take. Cohthel would take his turn.

Oh, he was terrified, but even trees still grew within the belly of a rock.

Without sky or sun or earth,

all things needed to survive,

The seed flourished and grew,

nourished by grit and will and drive.


He couldn’t leave without saying something to Atalixsphere. Aside from giving her witness, she injected a “speculated” opinion on Cohthel’s character, an act he appreciated, even if the torcs used her words against him when pitted against the evidence of his attack on Urouhi.

The single most damning act he’d ever committed in his life.

Atalixsphere had also sworn exclusive service to Cohthel, and he would not snub her.

His third reason? The aching void in his chest where friends still nestled but drifted far from him. Mianda: recruited to Forever Ice to become a Kingdom spy. Thaen and Neleci…He would not dwell.

After explaining to the pegasi what had happened and where he was going, she sat up in bed. “I’m coming with you.”


“I’m going with you, even if you won’t carry me. I’ll hobble if I have to. For all you’ve done for me, I’m going to return my exclusive service to you, and nothing short of death will stop me. You carried me, now I will carry you.”

“I’m a fugitive because I escaped my sentence. If you come with me, you’ll be a fugitive too.”

“Did we spend all that time together and you still don’t know how much I can’t stand other kindred?”

Her long ears flicked as if a hive of bees buzzed there. “I can at least tolerate you.”

He nearly didn’t fight the tears. “I could use a friend when I graduate from the Bladehand Towers.”

“We are not friends.”

Cohthel understood Atalixsphere well enough to know this was the way she stated facts, so he wouldn’t confuse her service as a friendship. He still grinned. “Okay. ‘Knot Friends’.” He didn’t need her knowing his secret twist. This would keep him sticking with her like every good knot should under tension.

Everyone needed a friend. Everyone needed to learn kindness and share kindness because only then would this new contention between the realms cease.

They ghosted out of the Human Realm, Atalixsphere invisible on his back.

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