It’s amazing the difference a new day makes. A new month, a new day, new beginnings all around. I feel as if I could leap from the observatory and fly to skim the ground below.
After I finished my last record, I dismissed the see-in-dark pouvra and lay there in my pile of furs worth more, probably, than the Darssan and every mage in it, at least according to the twisted mathematics of the God-Empress’s mind. I let my eyes go unfocused and my thoughts wander to more pleasant things, like how far Audryn and Terrael’s conversation had gotten, and had they moved on to more physical activities yet—I still don’t know the answer to that, because I haven’t even had breakfast yet, but I feel too invigorated to sleep any longer.
At some point I realized I’d dozed off, and decided I should probably return to my bed. A pile of furs is nice to sleep on in theory, but in practice it shifts too much to be comfortable, and there are very few furs it’s actually nice to rub your face against.
I went through the wall into the spiraling passage running around the tower, and decided to use Aselfos’s route to leave it. I was feeling reckless, and there was still a part of me that felt hurt and humiliated and wanted to feel powerful again, and I’ve found that dangling off the face of a high wall with gravity trying to wrap its fingers around me gives me a feeling of power that’s like nothing else in the world.
I was halfway up the wall before it occurred to me that Cederic might still be in the observatory, even though it was full night, probably just after midnight. I clung there for a minute, wavering between continuing and going back, and decided I wasn’t going to be deterred by the possibility that he might have more cruel words to hurl at me. But the observatory was empty.
I sat on a window ledge and looked out at Colosse in the darkness and thought about what it might look like when the disaster comes, whether Vorantor would be able to save anyone. My thoughts were still bleak at that point, but I wasn’t feeling nearly so much in despair as I had an hour earlier.
The wide passage was clear, with moonlight making the diamond pattern on the floor faint and blue-gray, and I amused myself by tiptoeing through the lighter patches until I reached my room, where I stopped, because there was light coming from under my door, and I hadn’t left anything burning, flame or th’an.
I used the see-through pouvra and discovered that Cederic was standing by my window, directly in the pouvra’s line of sight. It irritated me that he knew exactly where to stand, as if he knew I’d use that pouvra, as if he were approaching me with his empty hands spread wide to show he wasn’t a threat.
I thought about returning to the fur room for the night, but I was fairly certain that would only delay whatever it was Cederic had in mind. So I went in and closed the door behind me. “What are you doing here?” I said.
“Wondering if there is any point to asking your forgiveness,” he said. The drapes were drawn, but he was standing at the window as if he could still see outside, with his hands clasped loosely behind his back.
“You think you deserve forgiveness?” I said. Once I was speaking to him, I no longer felt grief and embarrassment, I felt anger. I’d reached out to him in love and he’d struck at me. If he hadn’t meant what he’d said, he had certainly known the exact words that would hurt me most, and how could he have done that if he truly was my friend?
“I think we need forgiveness most when we do not deserve it,” he said. “I said things I deeply regret and I am—I cannot express how sorry I am.”
He didn’t sound sorry. He sounded dispassionate, the way he always sounded, and it made me want to strike him in some way, physically, verbally, anything that would break through that composure and make him feel pain the way I had.
“Sorry because you hate making mistakes?” I said. “Or sorry that you haven’t had a chance to correct this one?” He bowed his head, but said nothing. “I don’t know why you care about my forgiveness,” I went on, “since nothing I say means anything to—”
“Sesskia, no,” he said, turning around. He looked anguished, he who never showed anything of his emotions on his face, and it startled me so much I lost track of what I intended to say.
“You mean everything to me,” he said, “and I beg you to forgive my hasty words, because I cannot forgive myself for saying them.”
There was so much pain in his voice that I forgot I was angry with him. I forgot the pain he’d inflicted on me. I just crossed the room to put my arms around him and hold him, resting my head on his shoulder, and felt him embrace me, first tentatively, then with a fierce grip as if he intended never to let me go.
His whole body was trembling with the effort to control whatever emotion threatened to overwhelm him, and out of nowhere I said, “I won’t let you fall,” and this time I knew the right thing to say. I held him as he shuddered, knowing he would never let himself cry. I don’t know why he can’t, or won’t, or what happened to make him the kind of man he is, but I wept for him, my heart aching with sorrow even as it was filled to bursting with joy because he loved me, because he trusted me enough to let me see him in his weakness and despair.
I held him, and waited for the storm to pass, and every shred of bitterness I’d felt toward him vanished. It was impossible for me to hate him when he needed so badly for me to love him instead.
to be continued…