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Our Journey Winds On, Still

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The Gods have tricked the world,

In absences, in gifts, and all of us

Are housed within their cruelties

.

His brother was easy to fool. Maybe that was why he was so disappointing. It didn't matter where, whether walking among the tall vallenwoods of Solace, or standing outside the gates of a dying city.

Neraka's death was slow and agonizing, the body that were its soldiers now convulsing, for the head of their leaders had been sawed off long before. Darkness retreated from the fresh dawn of spring like a slinking, wounded rat. But for a few still, the sun had not reached for them yet.

"You're not coming with us?" There was that tone, hopeful and pathetic. His stolen armor dented, his body wracked with cut from a myriad of weapons , Caramon stood beside Tika and the blasted kender. Tas was huddled near his leg, overcome by dragonfear, overcome by the very concept of his own mortality that kender usually paid little mind to. These were lessons that Raistlin could continue giving, if he so chose to.

The war was dying down, but only for sleep. The armies slumbered, as still as stone. Raistlin trod through the rock dust of dead draconians, their remains brushing against the hem of his black robe. It did not stain, the material staying pristine in its shade of darkest night. The green dragon he approached made no movement, despite the eyes showing nothing but murderous intent. Neck stretched down, claws embedded in stone, it suffered its new master to trod upon its body. Sharp dragon spines would not graze him, and the noxious fumes of its breath would not dare leave the caverns of the dragon's maw. For this was the result of Raistlin's choice. A choice he would make over and over if given the chance.

Caramon could never quite wrap his head around such a concept.

"I am going home, brother," he told him. He gripped his staff, prodding it down on the sickly green scales of Cyan Bloodbane. The dragon made no sound of protest. "You should do the same."

He settled, needing no harness, not with the magic to keep him safe. The dragon lifted its head, spread apart its wings, casting an even blacker shadow in the night. Lunitari's light coated the ground and, if one heard the wind, there was laughter there, soft and amused at the path taken by all those below

A cry rang out in the stillness. Footsteps rushed across the ground.

"Wait!" Caramon stood before his brother and the dragon. He shook with terror. The dragonfear was merciless. It threatened to turn his very insides to water and spew forth. But desperation can overcome a great many things. "I'll go with you!"

The dragon fixed his flaming gaze on the mortal. No amount of battle experience could save him from its power. Yet he remained standing there, staring at his twin brother, asking him, again and again.

You don't understand, Raistlin mused, yet still you try.

"Would you?" he asked. He looked down, seeing time affect his brother with ravenous hunger. Muscles whittled down to the bone, thick hair fell from his head in bunches. Yet still, the eyes were there, staring, begging. "Would you go with me into darkness?"


The wit

That was our heritage, they lodged in me,

Enough to see all differences

.

As the dusk settled, Raistlin peered into the horizon, and was not disappointed. The familiar thump of a wooden cart, dragged by a mangy horse, greeted his sight. Holding onto the reins were strong, work-worn hands. He could only imagine the ache those hands must have felt after working in the fields all day. But Caramon's smile showed how little care he gave to such things.

"Raist! Did you wait long for me?" He was waving so happily, showing off all his teeth in genuine laughter. He was on the peak of manhood, with none of the awkward growth of youth to plague him. Muscles were faintly defined within the sleeves of his shirt, and he moved with confidence, no hesitation as he pulled on the horse's reins, moving back the hay bale stacks from the seat beside him.

In contrast, Raistlin struggled to hold his books in his arms. He took careful steps, for the white robes he wore were too long, and he had already had his fair share of bruises. "No, it's fine." He climbed on top of the cart, wincing as his elbow hit against the side. It would leave another mark. "I would just like to go home."

"Me too." Caramon clapped a hand on his twin's shoulder, ignoring the fact that said shoulder was more bone then flesh. "It's been boring since you've been gone. I bet a lot happens though at your magic school. Set anybody on fire lately?"

Raistlin rolled his eyes. "None of the sort." He laid his stack of books by his side except one, which he kept on his lap, creaking it open. "Unless you want me run out of town."

"Aw, Raist, I was only joking." Caramon whipped the reins, urging the horse to trod forward, its hooves kicking up dust. As he did so, Raistlin looked back, seeing a few other students standing near the building of his tutelage, their faces shaded by the full leaves that hung overhead on tall trees. He could not see their eyes, but he had no need.

Caramon had seen him turn. "Has anyone been giving you any trouble?" he asked with only a slight edge to his voice.

"No." He looked down at his book, ending the discussion.

Caramon was too thick-headed to notice. "I can help if anyone's making fun of you. Just let me at 'em." He pounded a fist into an open palm, accidentally pulling on the reins, confusing the horse. A sharp whinny and a quick adjustment from Caramon set the cart back on the right track.

Raistlin didn't take his eyes off the pages. "I didn't ask that of you."

"Oh, I… I know, I was just saying if you needed…"

And he knew if he did ask, that Caramon would do so. He would pummel the other boys to the ground for a brief time, then with a smile, help them back on their feet. He would laugh, exchange jokes, making the others smile as well. No more hurt pride, but instead new friendships would take place. And Raistlin would see all this, watching from the sidelines, remained to be an outsider as he always had.

"It wouldn't help, and you know it wouldn't." He raised his head, hunched in his robe. The wind tore through him like the weakest of cotton. "So please, no more of this."

Caramon's lips downturned, the light going out of his eyes. The cart nearly veered off the path again, and he had to wrench his gaze away to look forward instead of at his brother. "I'm sorry. I just… I just want to help."

That was all he ever wanted, of course.

Raistlin sighed, closing his book. Spells flitted from his mind momentarily. He pushed them away, as he pushed away the toad-like face of Master Theobald, of the students who looked on him with jeering eyes. And with fear.

Even in sadness, Caramon looked to him with hope, as hopeful as when they were younger, barely able to walk, barely able to understand the world's cruelty.

He placed a thin hand over Caramon's own, long, slender fingers contrasting the thickness of his brother's hand.

"I just want to be home now with you, brother. That is how you help me."

He was so easy to please. Caramon's smile brightened his face. "I'm glad. Maybe you could tell me what you learned? It probably beats chopping wood all day."

His brother would understand very little of his studies, but his eagerness touched him. Not even his sister, who had started him on this path for magic, gave his lessons much of a second thought.

"If that'll make you happy," he said. After all, they both needed such things, didn't they? To be home, together, with the fireplace at their backs.


Here I sit,

A body frail as bird bones

.

Compassion is not a skill to be learned.

After his brutal test, Raistlin could barely comprehend his surroundings. A soft bed, a bright fireplace, wooden beams crisscrossing his ceiling. Trappings of a home, but not his. Then a warm hand grasping his own.

"They made you do that. I know it."

Raistlin had to shut his eyes. Already the wood above him was rotting, and the hand holding him grew cold.

"What did they do to you?"

Not them. This had been his choice. This had always been his choice. The deal, the hunger, and the murder of his own blood.

Of course they had made Caramon watch.

We hope to teach you compassion, Par-Salian had said. But what compassion could be learned by only seeing constant death? Old fool. That man had seen to him first, and he had been nothing to Raistlin but a walking pile of bones, his flesh melted off completely.

"Raist? Can you hear me?"

He shifted his gaze to the man seated beside him. Full, brown hair that caught the firelight, eyes open in hurt and confusion. It was a familiar gaze that Raistlin was unsure if he was tired of seeing or not. He could not expect anything else from his twin. Regardless, would he want to?

Caramon brought his brother's hand to his forehead, shutting his eyes, unable to block out the tears. Tanned skin contrasted with burnished gold. Another mark that Raistlin must carry to once again divide him from normality. An easy characteristic that even strangers from great distances could use to differentiate the two. These two beings of mind and body, floating in uselessness apart, but when brought together, could indeed perhaps be something.

It was a thought that brought bile to his throat. Already a coughing fit threatened, but he pushed it down.

Raistlin did not avert his gaze. He has already seen his brother die once, flesh charred by a spell's flames. Not even Par-Salian's gift could outmatch that image. "Brother," he called out, and when Caramon looked at him, the light had already died, leaving him as a husk. Though the eyes were empty, they were there still. They did not leave.

"I… I was afraid I'd lose you." Caramon let out a ragged sob. A big man, who was just learning the ways of the sword, who could lift up heavy bales and stone, defining his body to whether a merciless storm – he shook now, as scared and lost as a child. "Raist, I don't care what happened there. That wasn't you. I knew we couldn't trust them. If I had just went in after you-!"

"No," Raistlin cut in, quick as a stab in the dark. He gripped back his brother's hand, fragile in its strength. The fire of his magic burned within his chest. The anger was still there, had always been, but only now did he actually feel some guilt for it. "Don't be a fool. You did not know where my Test within the Tower was taking place. What would you have done? Broken down every door and shout for me? Rattle your sword at novice wizards to have your way? I would rather die than suffer such humiliation in front of my peers."

The hurt in his twin's face was satisfying for only a moment. How often had he seen that, brought on by his sharp words? A cough lodged out of Raistlin's throat, hoarse and coated in phlegm. He felt strong hands grip his shoulder until the attack ceased.

"I'm sorry," Caramon told him. "I just wanted you safe. I couldn't bear thinking that… you'd be gone."

The hold on him was frantic. Like when their mother died, and Raistlin had fallen. His twin had lifted him up from her grave, begging him to stay, to stay, please don't leave.

Is this what the Gods have cursed them with? This need that kept them chained together?

Raistlin gripped his twin's hand back, and sighed. "I just want to go home, Caramon."

And for the first time since he woke up, Caramon smiled. "Me too, Raist. Me too."

"But first," he closed his eyes, a smile coming to his own lips. It was more twisted then his twin's, but Caramon would never notice. "I need you to help me."

"Sure, anything."

"Par-Salian left me a recipe for some tea, for my… ailment." Raistlin cleared his throat of the copper taste. He took in a shuddering breath. "There is a teapot on the shelf in the corner. Could you make it for me?"

Caramon was only too happy to comply. "Of course. I can get that started." He slowly let go of his twin, the discord of before washing away from him as easy as water. How easy for Caramon to shed away his worries. If one didn't catch the slight hesitance in his step, one would think he had completely forgotten what he'd seen.

Raistlin laid his head back on the pillows, hearing the rip of paper that the herbs were encased in, the clang of the teapot as his twin set it over the fireplace. After water had been poured, all that was left was the fire crackling, as familiar to him as winter nights spent on the floor, reading his spells as Caramon would sit beside him, honing a new sword that his sister had sent him from her travels.

Then Caramon dared with, "I want you to know though, Raist, with what happened… that I understand. I know that-"

"Brother."

The silence between them would soon become very familiar.

"Never speak of this between us again."

His brother had always been obedient to a fault.


I pitied as you pitied me, and in that

Rose above the weakest of the litter

.

Compassion is not a trait to be envied for.

On the ship in the Maelstrom, he had pushed such weaknesses aside. The rage of the storm, the masts above snapping like twigs, the frantic shouting of the crew. One must shut out all things when concentrating on the magic. To leave a part of yourself in the world, to be swayed by other, trivial things, was to destroy yourself. Thus, his brother's cries were easy to ignore.

It is in our thoughts every time we look at one another. My jealousy, and your life, extinguished by my own hands.

"Caramon!" Tanis had been shouting, panicking, unable to comprehend the darkness that lied between both brothers, like an abyss one could so easily fall into, with no hope of salvation. "Go to him!"

Raistlin, holding the knife in one hand, and the dragon orb in the other, stared at his twin. "You know what I'm capable of. Even if you can't understand why."

He would not go back on his choices, no matter the pain it caused. Who could understand such a thing?

Caramon sobbed and shook, worse now than he did back then. "I do understand! I understood then! I'm sorry!" He dared a step forward, toward that knife, toward the twin who had called forth fire to burn his own flesh and blood. "Just don't go without me, Raist! You're so weak! You need me-"

Are the Gods this cruel?

"I don't need you no longer." Even if it is with the aid of his staff, he would stand on his own. "We do not need each other."

A blatant lie. Caramon only knew of need and nothing else.

When he laid both hands on the dragon orb, he called forth for home. A home where he could finally be whole and complete. That is what he had desperately wished for in all of his years.

And Caramon? He thought, carried by the magic, the sobs of his twin trailing him through the distance. Do you still wish for this? To be so halved, to be forever crippled? Is this not torment for you?

Should he have asked?


You cannot follow me, cannot observe,

The landscape of cracked mirrors in the soul

The aching hollowness in sleight of hand

.

By the city gates of Neraka, as he sat on the dragon called Cyan Bloodbane, Raistlin looked down at his twin. Bruises and cuts dressed Caramon's arms like medals, promising scars of his fight against The Dark Queen's army. If he went back to Solace, he would be regarded as a hero of the war, one of those who helped forge the fabled Dragonlances, one of those who fought back the darkness for the world to heal from. He had friends who cherished him, a woman who loved him. He had a home to return to, as Raistlin had his.

Yet, even so.

"Let me go with you!" Caramon shouted again. Another sob threatened his voice, brought him on the verge of falling. "Please!"

Raistlin laid his staff across his lap. The glass orb atop it placed carefully into his palm. "Would you follow me into night? Even when you are cradled by the sun?" His voice held wonder. "Answer me truthfully."

Caramon clenched his hands. Those that could wring a draconian's neck now shook like brittle leaves. With gritted teeth, he nodded his head. From behind him, Tika cried hoarsely, and Tas stood in silence, hands held up to his chest, watching in fascination. In the night, Caramon waited, alone.

The Gods are this cruel.

"You would follow me, wouldn't you?" Raistlin asked him, breathless almost. A choice was presented to him on this momentous night, when the armies of war fell. For once, he hesitated. There was no tossed ship, no accusing gaze of Tanis, no contempt from Par-Salian. On this night, his brother, his only family, offered what he had left.

And yet you love me, simple as the rush

And balance of our blindly mingled blood.

Was it right of Raistlin to deny his brother's dearest wish?

"Caramon," he called. His twin flinched, raising his eyes with that same love. The meaning of the unconditional lied there, right before him. "The light can so easily be corrupted. Knowing that, you would still go with me?"

Caramon was quicker in his response this time. He took another step, ignoring Cyan's venomous hiss. "Yes, I… I would."

Raistlin smiled then, and in response, the dragon lowered his wing. He ignored Tika's frantic cries. Both brothers did. The dark mage offered his hand.

"Let's go home then, brother."

.

.

.


Dalamar's apprenticeship in the Tower of Palanthas did not go as planned.

He was an elf of studious nature, gifted with a tongue that had gotten him exiled, and nimble hands to handle the many rare and precious artifacts within his Shalafi's study. Whenever he was given permission, however. Sometimes the Master of the Tower would allow him access for many of the archives. Sometimes not.

At best, he had to learn even more discretion now.

His steps were silent, placed against plush rugs, navigating through the darkness. The light of faint motes, summoned when candles would not do, were not present. He was glad for it. He could navigate through this room easily enough. His fingers brushed against the edge of the large oaken desk, handled academic instruments while barely moving them from their place. Par-Salian had urged him the need for caution, making Dalamar grit his teeth at the memory. Did the old fool think him as senile as he did?

He perused through old parchment, hidden deep in the drawers. A brief flicker of a gaze through the window, and he saw the overarching view of the grand city. It was faint, despite the close proximity. The forest surrounding the Tower affected all factors, muddying up the air to make the city appear to be something out of a waking dream. That was certainly what citizens saw whenever they gazed up at the Tower, once cursed to impotency, now revitalized.

But he ignored such sights, turning back to his task, taking careful time to study notes for any discerning details. Like his brethren, he preferred to savor the pleasures of life presented to him. The whispered gift from Nuitari that promised him power and nothing else, the pearls of wisdom his Shalafi would grant him in their scarce lessons, and even the robes against his frame, sewed from darkest velvet that caressed the skin and that, when the wind blew, hulked over him like a raven's wing.

Yet his messages to the Master of the Conclave were always curt, always hasty.

He makes preparations late into the midnight hours. Even so, my findings are proving to be difficult to acquire. Another set of eyes is always watching now – and I do not mean the other dark servants of this Tower.

You will recompense me for my increased efforts.

Par-Salian had responded with as just a short message.

Speak with the twin, and learn.

Dalamar knew that he might as well confess to his Shalafi and pray for a quick death.

A heavy pair of footsteps ascended the stairs.

Dalamar shut away the desk drawers, righted up books, leaving their marks in place. His feet crossed over the plush rug once more, making no indent on the surface, leaving dust and lint all in place. He quickly shut the study door, and turned to find a man already arriving at the top. He did not wear the dark robes, his frame too bulky, and his hands too thick to handle the necessary spell components with the needed grace. He instead wore the usual trappings that went underneath armor, such as loose chainmail and a linen under-shirt, with trousers that looked slightly ragged from his usual morning training rituals. If Dalamar looked carefully, he could see the fresh calluses on the palms, foreign to his own and, he knew, the Shalafi's.

"Greetings, Majere," Dalamar said, inclining his head politely. "A fine morning this is."

Caramon looked at the elf as if he had sprouted suddenly from the darkness, but not in surprise. He looked at him as a new asset of the Tower, one that did not belong in its night-filled tapestry. The irony was palpable.

"I came to retrieve a spellbook." He gestured toward the study door.

Dalamar swiftly moved out of the way. "Another experimenting session, I presume?"

Caramon said nothing and simply walked through. No flash of lightning stung his hand when he turned the knob, no skeletal hands of the Dead Ones grasped at his feet from the shadows. The magic relented for this similar blood.

Dalamar could barely restrain the jealousy that burned his throat. He knew the twin disdained these tests more than anything. Yet the Master of the Tower brought him down frequently, despite his lack of knowledge in the arts. It used to be he who would assist his Shalafi, but such an occasion was now extremely rare.

The twin carried a hefty spellbook in his arms, its binding made of thick leather, its cover inlaid with archaic script that was the color of dismal silver. When he left the study, he shut the door, again his hands free from any burns or scars.

Dalamar bowed again. "Give my regards to the Shalafi."

As Caramon walked past, he then stopped and turned. "He told me to give the same to you." He headed back towards the stairs, his voice growing more quiet. "And to clean up his desk when you are through."

Dalamar held his breath, standing alone in the darkness. The twin had long gone by then.


The Chamber of Seeing, apart from the blue flame pulsing from the scrying pool, only permitted mage light; soft, spherical creations that floated on invisible strings. Their illumination reflected that of the Staff of Magius, which stayed propped up against the Master's chair. He did not reach out to it, did not need to. It would stay by its owner's side until his death, another gift from Par-Salian that had actually proven to be of use.

The door to the Chamber opened cautiously. Raistlin did not lift his head, his eyes intent on his parchment, jotting down diagrams and their features. He ignored how the parchment curled at its sides, yellowing with rapidly sped-up time. His vision was akin to one who was used to the darkness after a sudden blindness. One only needed the mental capacity to make such seeming detriments into an advantage. Another of Par-Salian's greatest failures.

Caramon was silent until he sat in the chair before Raistlin's table, situated at the far end of the room. He placed the book on top, away from his brother's work.

"You have the correct one this time?" he questioned.

"It should be."

Raistlin finally raised his eyes. He glanced at the book cover, then to the man. "Good. You are learning."

Just that little praise was enough to set the features in his brother's face to softness. It always tensed whenever he came down here. The Live Ones that occupied the Chamber were not pleasant to look at, fleshy abominations whose voices hovered between the newborn and the dying, some rotting away in glass cases, while others roamed across the floors. Few kept themselves in the shadowy corners, while others ringed near the circular pool that stood in the center of the room. Once, Caramon had brushed a hand against one that had clung to its stone rim, and could not stop heaving for nearly an hour. Raistlin, strangely, did not reprimand his twin, instead patting his back until the panic passed.

They did not come here often, this place that served as a reminder of the limits to Raistlin's power. Trying to create life, he had only succeeded in these torturous things that flopped about the scrying water, mouths open, bodies wringing across the floor like dying larvae. Though Caramon no longer paled, he could not stand to look at them for long. Raistlin couldn't either, though for entirely different reasons. By the blue flame that burned in its center, the scrying pool laid still. The floor was also just as still, the wriggling flesh not as audible as before. The Live Ones were docile for now.

There were preparations to be made, and so the Chamber of Seeing could not be avoided.

Raistlin put away his pen, then placed his elbows on the work table, hands folded before him. The table was stained darkly, but spoke true to its owner's organizing nature. Vials of strange liquids, instruments for measuring, and compartments for all sorts of ingredients were arranged quite neatly, all in easy reach. Despite their amount, there was enough room for Raistlin to work, to script down his notes for future use.

"Do you know how much time has passed, brother?"

Caramon started at the unexpected question. His brow furrowed in recollection. "A year, maybe more."

"Yes, a year you have stayed with me." Raistlin lowered his head slightly. Mage light reflected off the silver trimmings, the same silver that detailed the spellbook on his table. "The offer still stands."

For a brief moment, Caramon's eyes flashed in anger. "I said I wouldn't leave you." Despite the gurgling of the Live Ones, he didn't flinch, keeping a firm stare.

He brought his twin down here for a reason. Caramon needed to know, to fully understand the depths of Raistlin's ambitions. No matter what cruelty he employed on the Live Ones, or what spells of power he cast upon the skies, bringing deeper shadows to the forest that surrounded his tower. This is my choice, he had said with such actions, demonstrating to his brother the sacrifices he had made, and will make for the magic. What of yours?

His brother wanted to stand by him. Even when he complained to his twin, Raist, is all this necessary? Do you really need this?, he never left his side.

"Get your sword," Raistlin suddenly commanded.

Despite his surprise, Caramon did so immediately, retrieving it from the wall he had placed it against before he left. Raistlin had advised him to carry his weapon everywhere. Though the Dead Ones were compelled to obey the Master of the Tower, that did not mean they might see his twin as an intruder, especially with his lack of the magic arts. Yet they never dared, their movements showing recognition, a recognition that Raistlin was trying to discover. It had gotten to a point where Caramon would sometimes leave it with his twin instead. A matter of arrogance? Or maybe trust? He was sure even his twin didn't know the reason.

The scabbard was inlaid with gold paint, but did not shine. Nothing in this place of dark experiments was permitted to glisten. He pulled the weapon free from its scabbard. Placing the hilt in one hand and the blade in the other, he held it out to his brother.

Raistlin poured out what looked like fine, nearly invisible dust from one of his spell pouches into his hand. He whispered as he did so, the language both like crawling spiders and trickling, refreshing water. He watched as his twin shivered. Caramon could still not get used to the sensation apparently.

Raistlin squeezed his fists, knuckles jutting sharply from the golden skin. When he opened his palm, the dust was gone. He then placed two fingers on the edge of the blade and slid it down its length. A soft hum emitted as he did so, like running fingers over the rim of a wine glass. Caramon thought he saw a light shine from his sword. Or was that just an even blacker darkness?

The Master leaned back in his chair. His hands disappeared within the voluminous sleeves of his robes.

"What did you give it?" Caramon asked. He held his sword warily, like a sleeping snake.

"My blessing." Raistlin smiled, amused. "To carry me with you, always."

Caramon looked up.

"Is that not what you want?"

Again, those features softened. Again, there was that smile, as guileless as when they were children. How easy he was to please. Not even the Tower's unsavory inhabitants could dim the force of that smile.

"Thanks… Raist."

Raistlin nodded. He then spoke in an even lower whisper.

"Though my power is great, just know that one day, I may need your protection again, brother."

Caramon's eyes widened slightly. He sheathed his sword. "Does it have to do with…" He couldn't say.

He used to be so trusting of people, even throughout their campaigns, both acting as mercenaries for whatever army that would throw steel pieces their way. But the war had made changes in him, and the Tower of Palanthas only showed him the hidden dangers of being so naïve. There was only one person for him to trust now.

"Your suspicions of him are correct," Raistlin replied. "Dalamar thinks himself clever, but he will not be difficult to deal with. No, there are other dangers. Once my preparations are in order, I may have need of you to be my shield."

"Is that why you still have me train?" Then Caramon's expression grew hopeful. "Are we going to be leaving this place soon and travel like we used to?"

Raistlin smirked. "In a sense. But it will take time."

Caramon's expression faltered slightly, but his hope stayed true. "It sounds great, just wandering around Krynn again."

It's been so long since you've felt the full expanse of the sun, Raistlin mused. But after our time here in the dark, would you truly want it?

Another test was needed. From his left hand, a letter materialized. It sported Caramon's name in a hasty script. Raistlin could easily imagine wash-worn hands scrawling the name with tremors, the burn that must have occurred when the wax seal was imprinted. Yes, she had always been rather clumsy in anything besides handling trays full of food and ale. "This came in for you."

Caramon recognized the writing as well. "Oh."

"Would you like to read it?"

Raistlin had already peered through its contents. The words were enough to move a hardened, cruel heart to at least some form of sentimentality. The ink had splotched where tears must have fell. If Raistlin had any compassion left, he might have felt regretful for this lonely barmaid.

Caramon stared at the letter for one more moment, then turned away. His eyes went to the sheathed sword now strapped to his waist. "No."

"Certain?"

His brother nodded. "I know what she'll ask me. But this is my home now."

With a soft breath, the letter burst into flames. It disappeared, leaving no trace. Caramon showed no reaction to the spell. No remorse.

How the light can so easily be corrupted.

Raistlin pulled the spellbook to him, tracing the letters on its cover. "It seems I have sent you on an errand for nothing. Already, I grow weary."

Caramon stood up quickly. "Here, let me help you upstairs. I know a teleportation spell would be too much for you now."

Normally, Raistlin would be irked at such a statement. He was Master, and he could pull the ethers of magic from their immortal planes as easily as ripping apples from their branches. Back when he had worn the red robes, he had done such a thing, disdaining the strong arm to protect his weak, fragile body.

In the year that Caramon dwelled with him in the Tower of Palanthas, he had been nothing but kind and patient. It suited his purposes much more.

"Thank you, brother," he said. Clinging to his staff, he rose to his feet, then allowed the arm to cradle him around the shoulders. The soft rustle of robes, the slow footsteps, and the steady breath of his twin were the only sounds in the chamber. The noises of the Live Ones had gone silent.

"I'll get started on your tea, if that's alright."

Feeling the familiar burn in the back of his throat, he nodded. The movements were familiar, but not as before. Once he had felt like a doll, hanging onto the strength of his twin, his bones as brittle and hollow as a bird's. But the fire of his soul was not, forged and tempered within pain.

His twin had gone through his own fire, and had only come out damaged. And needing.

Do you still see it when you look at me? Your face melted in the flames that my hands brought forth?

Caramon stayed near on their trek from the Chamber, keeping firm hands on his shoulders to steady his steps on the stairs. They were strong and assured, more than Raistlin could recall. Can the light really thrive here, where only darkness is seen? Until the road before him became unspeakable?

His brother turned to him, still smiling with pure sincerity. "It'll be like old times, right?"

The Gods really are this cruel. But not to me.

And if that was so, he would make use of this cruelty, in any way he could. It was truly a blessing.

.

In return

The Gods teach us compassion, teach us mercy

That compensation. Sometimes

.

they succeed