Letters danced across the page in the lamplight, spilled from his pen.
Whole paragraphs changed before his eyes, the meaning he had written into them lost and reshaped into something foreign, even as he stared at them. It left him at a loss for words, least of all written ones, as he tried to make sense of it.
The shadows moved. At first, he thought it a trick of the light. Rubbing his eyes, he thought to ignore it; but the movement in the corner of his vision swept along at the periphery of his vision, gathering darkness and forming the shape of a man.
Atrus sat up straighter. Many harsh years had taken their toll, but he knew that face.
“Gehn is it? Not father, no, of course not. Not from you.”
The same years had done nothing to dull the edge of contempt in his father’s voice. If anything, they amplified it. This, at least, Atrus accepted with some small measure of pride.
“Insolent boy. Even now. To think, I offered you everything; the Art, the legacy of my people...” Not our people, Atrus noted silently, “your rightful place. All I asked was respect. The respect any father would ask of his child. Instead, you repaid me with betrayal.”
It shouldn’t have cut him, not deeply. But somehow it did. Gehn stared down at him, and Atrus felt... infinitely small.
“Do you have nothing to say for yourself?” Gehn demanded, “Is this the manner of respect you would ask of your own sons, I wonder?”
A chill settled in Atrus’ chest. “How-...?”
“It is of no matter to you, I assure you. Perhaps I will find a use for them in the coming age; I am certain they will be far more amenable to my ways than yours.”
Atrus’ arm knocked against the lamp as he shot to his feet. It shattered, spilling fire across his arm, across the page. The panel collapsed in on itself, turning the inky black-...
-...of spilled ink.
He roused, hastily blotting at the spill that covered a blessedly empty page. The lamp sat at his elbow, and Gehn was...
Gehn was still trapped.
The fear of the dream lingered, cold in his heart.
Gehn was still trapped, he told himself. But if so, Catherine was trapped with him.
Atrus turned the page. Riven still needed writing. Breathing deep, he rubbed his eyes, marked his place, and set to committing words on paper.
The shadows moved in the periphery of his vision – someone linking in. A momentary terror gripped him, followed by a flush of relief as an only fleetingly familiar individual materialized in front of his desk.
He had forgotten that he was no longer alone in this fight.