The black halls of Iax stretched on out of view, sunflower torches seeming to absorb more light then they cast. Simon pressed himself hard against a column, and waited for the quiet footfalls of the patrol to pass him by.
He breathed shallowly, and tried to ignore the condensation sliding down the inside of his goggles. Their tourmaline lenses magnified the ambient light, allowing him to move easily in the near-abyss of Iax – but the leather strap was itchy, the sweat pouring down his forehead abominable. Simon desperately wanted to rip them off, wipe the lenses and mop his forehead with a free sleeve – but the movement would instantly alert the Tyr-Elves of the passing patrol. Their eyes glowed a clammy blue in the distance. He leaned his head back against the pillar, and felt the sharp edges of the stone.
Then he thought of her.
Really, Simon? Now? You are four miles below the earth, tangling with Shadow elves –show some decorum.
Simon grinned. A magic grin with a broken piece in it.
He turned his head slowly away from the patrol, so they wouldn’t see the shine of his teeth, or the light in his eyes.
These moments found him, in every corner of the world. Not every day. But some.
Turning a corner, or opening a door, or with a fork halfway to his mouth. There she would be.
Not her precisely. Just a feeling, sun-warm on his face. And he would remember the squint in the corner of her eye, and the smell of her hair, and the time she.
The time she.
Cavalier and crass, he’d pulled himself through her window. The moon burned through white curtains.
Simon Garamonde was a well-made young man, and she had laughed at his boasting – laughed at his jibes – laughed at the wine running down his chin, covering her own with a slender hand. The drink burned, and the feast hall dimmed as he promised the night.
This was not the first ivy wall he had climbed, or eager bed he had tumbled into. But this time was different.
She had expected him, pushing the curtains away with a grin. Earnest and unimpressed, she scolded him like the family cat — even as she pulled him closer.
Gold. Like gold pouring over him. Her smile and gold.
In later times, in drunken rhymes, he’d tried to explain to a few comrades. The gold. The moon and the gold. Pouring over him, and burning — but cleaning, the meaning, the cold, the gold, and the moon.
Ah, it broke him. Broke him right in two.
And then it was over.
A brace of nights, a lace of days. And the night she met him at the window, kissed his forehead and laid two fingers on his chest.
Her true lord was fair and wise, her true lord was bright and strong, her true lord was a good man.
And he had returned from the fields of battle – through pain and death, through doubt and fear.
Simon knew this man. He knew her words were true. He made himself nod, and climb back down the ivy wall.
He should have made himself smile for her. It would only have cost him everything.
Her husband walked her out into the sunlight, and she glanced. She smiled for him one last time, and was gone.
Simon made a promise. Simon was a promise.
Years and days and roads and mountains of stone, in the dark shadows of Iax his lips moved and spoke it again.
I will remember.