In perfection, there is no room for traitors.
As the great walls collapsed, turning to light before they even hit the ground, the music of their destruction filled the air with sounds of great suffering. Yet Lin did not have the courage to turn around.
His fingers bled; even the mountain refused to take him under his wing, and its fangs bit deep and painfully. His arms hurt from pulling, his legs from pushing, and yet he still heaved himself up with the last remnants of his strength that was quickly fading.
Thoughts fluttered through his mind, aimless birds caught in the storm that carried him this far. His bladeless sheath hit his leg as he climbed, the memory of the sword that belonged to it still painful like an open wound.
He could hear it sing.
Behind him, the roar of white fire seemed almost like thunder, the ground shook under his palms.
"There are many forms of bravery, Lin. Some are for knights, and some are for ones such as us. You do know that, Lin?"
Her voice... A memory as painful as the missing weight of the sword he left behind. He moaned when it came back; the silence of the palace, the silence of the bribed guards, the silence of the king observing him, sorrow in those golden eyes. The reflections sliding down the blade as he unsheated it.
I could not do it, he wanted to scream, but his throat was clenched by firm iron fingers of shame. I could not do it...
But someone else did.
The light still rumbled below him; so bright Lin had to close his eyes. It would burn him, he knew, just like it had burned the city below him. Ashes were descending like snowflakes, only warm, and grey.
„Oh, Lin," she said. „What have you done?"
I ran, he wanted to say. I turned around an ran, like a coward I am. They let me go, you know, as the white fire sprang to life, engulfing them in light.
She said nothing, but he could feel her pride.
"I will turn around," he said to her, the thought soft in his mind. "I will turn around and be a hero."
Deep inside the mountain, a coward's scream rose to the heavens.