The River Sclorian had been a hard trip. From the moment they’d shoved him into the Cage and heaved him into the waterfall, from the moment he’d kicked and fought his way out of the enclosure, to swimming desperately to the shore of the Sclorian, there had been struggle.
Everything hurt. His bones, his heart, his lungs, even his skin felt as if it had been pricked with small needles. The sand beneath him was hot, and he felt weak as he knelt there, trying to catch the breath that had been knocked out of him.
He’d been there, breathing slow and deep for Scribes-know how long, when the soft sound of footsteps approached. Brighton lifted his head weakly, finding himself gazing up into a warm, welcoming face. A man with short, shaggy dirty blonde hair knelt before him, clad in blue robes. Beside him stood a woman, stern face framed by long brown locks. She looked at him like he was beneath her, but the man looked at him with such kindness that Brighton felt himself be taken aback.
“My name is Oralech,” he said. “This is Erisa. Are you hurt?” His voice was so gentle, that Brighton could only smile, as if the Scribes has sent this man to see him.
“No,” Brighton managed to answer. “I’m not hurt.”
Oralech grinned back and offered a hand. “Come with us. We have a wagon nearby. Perhaps we could get better acquainted?”
The hand was taken firmly as Brighton struggled to his feet, smile persisting to stick on his lips. “I would love to.”
The River Sclorian had been a hard trip, although it was marginally easier without a Cage. The Cages tended to sink at the base of the waterfall, taking their Exiles with them. Sometimes, Exiles would break the door of the cage open and escape into the water. Not having to wrestle the Cage door open was something the Archjustice appreciated as he landed in the lake at the base of the waterfall, wind knocked out of him and robes weighing him down. He was exhausted but alive, head aching and vision blurred. It was muscle memory that guided him to the edge of the river and onto the Sandfolds, where he paused to hack up more than his fair share of swallowed Sclorian water.
He’d been there, breathing slow and deep for Scribes-know how long, when the soft sound of footsteps approached. Something in his heart stirred and he lifted his head expectantly, almost expecting to see a pair in blue, with a man and his kind face, beside a woman with her stern look.
Instead there was only the open waste, nothing but the Sandfolds stretching out before him, and the Archjustice bowed his head, body hunched over as the past rolled over him like one of Sclorian’s waves, bringing him under. History had a habit of repeating itself, although not all facts remained the same, and the Archjustice felt this now.
Brighton had fallen, and been saved, and become the Archjustice.
The Archjustice had fallen, and been abandoned, and become no one.