We set off the next morning. We have plenty of time.
We go by horseback, riding like the wind. Not only are we adept sailors, but the three of us—including Larind—were practically born on horses.
So it’s no surprise to us when we reach Andrespa thirteen days later.
The day before my best friend is put to death.
Throughout the journey, Ari has sent several messages to the elves, begging them to wait until we could do something about saving him.
Every reply was the same: We cannot. He dies at noon. No delays.
The elf had been noble, and Liandros had been seen by no less than thirteen elves. There were no loopholes we could expose, nothing we could do.
I had abandoned my best friend to his death, him never knowing how much I had hated to see him leave. How much I cared for him.
I hate my kind.
They have never looked upon inter-species relationships, even friendships, kindly.
They say it’s because they were too afraid of being hurt when the people they care for die, but I know why: Elves are proud. Too proud to be seen with those they consider beneath them, and all other species are considered beneath them.
And they look even less kindly down on benders.
Especially ones that kill elves.
Congratulations, Liandros is now the most hated human in elven culture.
Why did he go there…?
Please, I beg in my mind, let there be another reason! Let me not bear all of the blame!
I lower my head in the room of the inn in Andrespa. The sun is coming up. Liandros’ final dawn.
I walk to the window, lean out, and look to the south, looking towards where my best friend in all the world prepares himself for his final day on Traceria.
A single tear rolls down my cheek.
Ari wakes, and walks towards me, touching my shoulder. “I’m sorry,” Ari says softly, “I’m sorry.”
Another tear joins the first.
Until I am doubled over weeping, grieving, hurting deep in my soul.
Liandros was dying because of me.
Because I had made him leave.
I had practically made him kill the elf.
But, worst of all, I had left him to die.
And, even if I couldn’t have saved him, I had let him die alone.
Without his best friend in the world.
Without the man he loved.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It’s noon now. I’m standing on the Richsert Tower, highest point in the city of Andrespa. We’ve been on the hunt for Akalioa, but they knew I had to take the time to do something.
I had to witness the death of my best friend.
Ari had managed to get them to do something for us: Enchant a mirror so, when we held its twin so it caught the sun, I could see the reflection on the other mirror.
I could witness Liandros die.
But would he think to see the mirror?
Would he look?
Would he watch me as I watch him die?
Would he see my eyes?
Forcing away those thoughts, I look up at the cloudless sky and catch a single ray of sunlight.
And then I see him. He’s walking, tall and proud, up a staircase. He’s unbound—he gave up on fighting long ago. His gold hair is shining, brilliantly, in the sun, and his gray eyes are glinting in the light.
And then he looks at me. Just looks.
His eyes meet mine, and he nods, slowly.
And then he smiles, pausing on the stairs, a single step from gaining the platform, and only a few steps from where an executioner waits, gowned in black, his face hidden by a white shroud. A black-gloved hand slides down the shining edge of his monstrous axe, a stone held in his hand, sharpening the deadly tool.
His hand raises, and he blows me a single kiss, before turning his face away and climbing the final step, his gait slower, weighted down with the weight of my eyes.
He kneels, willingly, before the chopping block. The mirror turns and tilts, so I can see his face.
The last thing I see of Liandros’ scarred, smiling, laughing, crying, loving, trusting, raging, hoping, praying face is a single tear rolling down his cheek.
And then his face lowers.
The axe raises.
I never see it connect.
I never see him die.
Because, at the exact instant the axe touches his neck, the sunlight upon the mirror is broken by a single gray cloud.
When the cloud is blown away, the platform is empty.
Liandros is gone.
A single tear falls from my eye, upon the empty platform, glinting like a single diamond upon the stone of a lonely alleyway.
I hurl the mirror off the tower, watching it fall, the sunlight shining upon it, like it did on a head of golden hair.