PART FIVE: QUESTIONS OF LIFE
Sor's reaction to his wife's death was not what any of the others expected. There were no tears or vows of vengeance. After hearing Reg's tale in its entirety, he simply crossed to where the queen's body lay, stared at her for a moment, then kissed her on lips already growing cold.
"Somehow, I knew it was never her. I knew it, but I wanted it to be true so I let myself be blinded."
"In the end, Your Majesty, she risked her life for you and the city," said Reg.
"And died for nothing. Killed by an escaped prisoner, of all things. Dead, just like everyone else I'm close to. Joi. My mother. Gea. Now this one. None given a chance to live a full life." Sor's words were melancholy, but he sounded more resigned than grief-stricken.
Eya, meanwhile, was kneeling by Lora's bedside, holding the lifeless hand of her friend and weeping silently. She looked up when the king laid a hand on her shoulder.
"This is what it means to be an Apath," he said. "To lose those who are close to you and to know that, even with all your power, there is nothing you could do to save them. At times like this, I would give up everything just to hear a lost voice one more time."
"How do you endure it?"
"I'm not the one to ask that question of. For the longest time, I retreated inside myself. Joi - Mora - saved me from that, and no matter what else she may have done, I will always owe her a debt of gratitude. Through her, I rediscovered a self that I had kept locked away for three decades."
"She was my sister, but I don't feel anything for her."
"A sister in name only," said Reg. "Not someone we knew. Not like Lora."
"We don't have time for grief," said Sor. "If the situation was different, it might be a luxury we could afford, but the dwarves' attack isn't going to stop because we face a tragedy - or tragedies. Joi and Lora's deaths won't be the last."
"At least now we know what they're planning," said Reg.
"It doesn't make much difference," said Sor. "We had guessed most of it already. Confirmation of our fears at this high price wasn't worth it. Now we have to deal with the situation at hand." Turning to Eya, he said, "If you're willing, we'll do it your way. That is, assuming Mat will help. I won't force anyone into this. Not you. Not him."
Eya nodded. "Whatever happens, you can count on me."
"I never doubted that."
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