Well, this time it was Vanished that distracted me, but since I don't want to outpace the project's slower writers, I'm back to working on finishing Blood and Bone.
â€œTwo days.â€ The Second's voice was barely past a whisper, and the tiny whisp of light that she cradled in one hand bobbed twice in understanding before flitting away down the corridor. Watching it go suspiciously, Kieran frowned.
â€œWhat's that thing?â€
â€œA messenger of the Underworld. I have sent it to the Monarchs, so that they may know when we will reach Autochthon.â€ The Second turned to look at Kieran, her mask expressionless as always. â€œYou did say that you could finish the repair procedures in a matter of hours.â€
â€œIt'll be a few hours to get the Seal open, or never.â€ Kieran smiled wryly. â€œThis is, of course, assuming he can continue the process himself after he wakes up. We don't know he'll wake right away...â€
â€œHe will.â€ Draniel's voice broked no argument, and the group fell silent. For several moments, they walked in single file down the tunnel, before Tenrek finally broke the hush.
â€œI preferred it when we were travelling with Aegis.â€ He muttered the statement under his breath.
Draniel glanced back at the Zenith, raising an eyebrow as he walked. â€œYou would prefer that we had left the people of Hath to die?â€
â€œNo, that's not what I meant.â€ Tenrek frowned at his Infernal companion.
â€œThen you would have preferred that I saved them in the name of Adorjan.â€
â€œDefinitely not.â€ Tenrek glowered at Draniel, then sighed. â€œI should have stayed to help. What if they don't listen to her?â€
â€œThen they would not listen to you.â€ Shrugging, Draniel looked back ahead, tracing his path. Tenrek gritted his teeth.
â€œEverything's just so cut-and-dry with you, isn't it? Can't I miss a friend without it being a deep hidden agenda? Can't I just be worried about her well-being?â€
â€œClearly, you can.â€ Draniel did not look back. â€œCan you do it silently?â€
Tenrek's teeth ground. â€œYou're pretty calm for someone who's betraying his mistress with every step he takes.â€
Draniel stopped walking.
Tenrek stopped as well. â€œHit a nerve?â€
The others paused, looking at each other nervously. Fokuf spoke up cautiously. â€œI think we should all just...â€
â€œI think that you should not speak of things that you do not understand.â€ Draniel's furious eyes bored into Tenrek's, but the turtleman stood his ground without blinking. â€œEvery breath that I take, every motion, is in accordance with my Grandmother's goals.â€
â€œAnd she knows that you've changed the plan, does she?â€ Draniel hesitated, and Tenrek smiled. â€œNo, she doesn't. Because the Seal is still in place, and she can't communicate through the Underworld. So what makes you so certain that she's going to go along with your little treason?â€
â€œI warned you once, Solar. I will not warn you again.â€
â€œThen attack me, and finish betraying her. Betray the oath you swore, and we'll see who walks away from that fight.â€ Tenrek's smile fell away, and his hands clenched into fists. â€œYou think that Adorjan cares about the greater good of Creation? I've seen the damage that your Yozi patrons are causing precisely because they don't. As soon as that gate opens, she'll forsake you.â€
For a moment, Draniel's hands fell to his razor claws, and the Solars tensed. Then, deliberately, he moved them away, turned, and began to stride down the tunnel. â€œYou speak so easily of betrayal, Solar. It is a thing of Creation, not of the Yozi, the legacy of the Maker that we travel through right now. Betrayal is Autochthon's nature, and the nature of his weapons.â€
â€œAnd aren't you one of those weapons?â€ Tenrek's voice was soft.
â€œNot anymore. I am the will of my Grandmother, and I understand her path. I am absolved of the sins of my incarnation.â€
â€œAbsolution is a dangerous path.â€ Tenrek and Draniel turned in surprise as the Second slipped soundlessly past them, taking the lead down the tunnel. â€œIt leads you to imagine your sins forgotten, and you fall into them anew. But it was always the way of your Yozi. Absolution or death, those are the only options that they can see.â€
â€œAnd you see a third path?â€ Distracted from his original debate, Draniel followed the Second curiously. Her reply was quiet.
â€œThat's basically the same thing.â€ Bringing up the rear, Kieran frowned at the ghost. â€œYou forgive someone, and that's it.â€
â€œNot at all. To forgive, you must accept that a sin occurred, and that there was no excuse for it. Having done so, you accept the sinner as they are. You understand that they will try to avoid sinning again, but the original sin remains in your companion. It is a part of them.â€
Kieran paused, his words lost, and suddenly found a smile. â€œLike the Monarchs forgave you.â€
â€œAs you forgave Cathak Lodaris for hunting you.â€ The Second glanced back to the others. â€œAs Fokuf forgave Mnemon, to make her Empress. As Alina forgave Nganto for her allegiance to the Lintha. As Tenrek forgave the Dragon-Blooded for the death of Danei.â€ The others glanced at each other as she spoke. â€œAs you have never forgiven, Draniel.â€
â€œForgiveness is weakness.â€ Draniel's mouth twisted in memory.
â€œForgiveness forges allies from enemies. It creates friendships from hatreds. Forgiveness is the strength of Creation that the Yozi consistantly refuse to see.â€ The Second's voice was warm. â€œForgiveness is acceptance.â€
â€œI thought that love was acceptance.â€ Fokuf smiled.
The Second returned his gaze with laughter in her eyes. â€œWhat makes you think there is a difference between those two statements?â€ She turned her attention back to the tunnel. â€œCome. We have far to travel.â€
Silent and thoughtful, six souls walked after her.