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He feels hollow all over again, like he did the first time he woke up in Legann, nearly thirteen years ago now.

No, he thinks, that is the wrong metaphor. He feels scoured clean. The self peering out from behind his eyes feels almost scraped raw, scraped thin, new-minted in a way one's self just shouldn't feel, not when one is thirty-three years old.

His paranoia, finely honed over long years of worrying from the cold Mithran cloisters, is gone. That angers him more than just about anything; he has spent most of his life dancing on that paranoiac edge, and to have it just gone, swept away like a bit of dust on the floor, is beyond disturbing.

This is why, this is why he doesn't like it when mages start mucking about with people's minds. Healers and sorcerers can spin all the pretty reasons they like, but if there's one thing that should be inviolate, it is one's mind.

Even from gods.

He even misses the newer delusions, the overwhelming sense of unreality that has pervaded his senses for the past three years and more. On the one hand, it is a relief to have it gone, to be sane and stable and of whole mind even if it means he can never, will never, be able to hold a Gift again.

On the other hand, he hates it, because he has not been sane in years, and it has been a long, slow slip into delusion, and after a decade and some, even madness becomes a comforting normal. And he had always had that vague hope, that as long as there was something raw and bleeding inside him that his Gift could come back, somehow, if he only found the right way to heal, and having that sealed off is like having all of his hopes sandblasted away.

He feels more unsteady now, with that hope crushed, than he ever felt in the grip of madness. That hope was his only thread of sanity for the longest time, and even though he no longer needs such a tenuous anchor to keep himself stable, it feels like he has lost his balance.

This is what an identity crisis feels like.

This is why he hates mages messing with people's minds, and why he still has one tiny bit of genuine pride: that even when he had his magic, he never tinkered inside someone's skull. And this is why he cannot look at Daine anymore: because she is the one who bade the gods to fix him, as if he were a broken toy, and doesn't understand why he was more comfortable broken.