Theodore placed the shattered knife on the desk of Governor Farbend. He took a seat and looked his boss in the eye.
"I used an illegal enchantment to wrongfully capture an innocent creature," he said. "I am a disgrace to my office. I am prepared to accept whatever punishment you deem appropriate."
The plump old man studied the fragments a moment and raised an eyebrow. "What is this? Your way of trying to quit?"
"No," Theodore said. "I accept that this is my assignment. That doesn't change the fact that I abused my authority. I caved under pressure during an investigation and acted out of fear. I am unfit to be trusted with power."
The Governor smirked. "Well then." He got up. "Apart from all that, how has the position treated you?"
Theodore found the question irrelevant. "…It's been… challenging, to say the least. I worry I am causing more problems than I am solving." He gave the filing cabinets a longing gaze. "I miss my old job. Everything is so much more clear cut in the Bureaucracy Dome. But... I am trying to apply myself as you asked. The Whirlwood creatures need a lot of help, and I'm trying to play the part. I'm learning, thanks to a subordinate I recruited. Someone I should trust more than I have."
Mr. Farbend nodded. He looked out the office window watch the bustle in the city below. "Captain Redriver has been singing your praises. Red Cap activity has dropped to almost nothing since you started. I expect you to continue this trend."
"Sir?" Theodore was growing impatient. "I came to talk to you about the massive creature rights violation I committed."
Mr. Farbend waved him away. "My boy, this isn't the first or last time something like this has occurred."
Theodore found this difficult to process. "I am a government agent and I broke the human-ghast peace treaty."
"It's already taken care of," Farbend said. "The witch you apprehended had a prolific rap sheet. It was a simple matter to amend an extra charge. It's no foul if an outlaw was responsible."
Theodore could not believe what he was hearing "But I'm the one who did it! And… and the Tall Man, the ghast I captured…"
Mr. Farbend rested a callused hand on Theodore's shoulder. "The crown has already reached an agreement with the creature in question. It will not be an issue."
Theodore felt paralyzed. He looked at his employer as if he were an imposter. This was the man tasked with keeping order in the Capital. How could he disregard a crime of this magnitude so casually?
"If we fired someone every time something like this happened, the government would never be able to operate," Mr. Farbend said. "Go home, Grayweather. I expect to hear great things about you in the coming weeks. Your father would be proud."
Speechless, Theodore staggered out the door. He presented himself to this office expecting to be exiled, incarcerated, or perhaps even executed. He left feeling far heavier than when he arrived. The trek back to the valley was long, but now felt like an eternity.
When he passed through the city gates into the valley he found Oboe waiting for him. She was sitting on low stone wall on the edge of the trade road.
"How'd it go?" She said. "Are you okay?"
He sat beside her. "He let me go. Didn't even write me up for it. Nothing."
"Oh." She offered an unsure smile. "Then it's fine, right?"
"Fine?" Theodore said. "No! It's not fine! I screwed up! I wanted to make it right, but he wouldn't let me! What am I supposed to do?"
Oboe looked down, something weighing on her.
"...Sometimes you do things wrong, and nothing you can do can change what happened. Sometimes there is no way to fix it. That's how it is. Life doesn't stop when that happens though. All you do is keep going. Try not to make the mistakes again. Learn something if you can. Do the best you can. That's what Thistle tells me. It's hard."
She held his hand. Theodore felt some of the heaviness lift. She was right. The only thing he could control was what he did in the future. He ran a hand over the ring locked to his finger. He took a deep breath and swore to himself that he would never hurt another creature again.
Oboe got to her feet, and pulled Theodore onto his.
"C'mon. Let's go."