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Silent Chain strode to the table. He was dressed in a black that matched the steel gray of his shoulder-length hair, shades too extreme for the pallor of the hall with its vast milky vaults. He wore his human facade far more easily than Argent Star did his own, but he was young yet, and could remember a time when his heart beat more than once a few years, a few decades, a few centuries.

Argent Star did not join Silent Chain at the table; he knew what the other man saw. Sheathed in samite, the Empress of the East slept nearly without breath, hair a thin veil for the stone. Her fragile limbs had sent a tremor through his soul when he'd gathered her from the wet sands of Qezelaar where she'd turned the hurricane. To save a handful of mortal souls, she had done this to herself... and he could not stop her. He had never been able to stop her, in all their long lives.

"Damn it all... help her!"

"I can't."

"You can't?" Silent Chain looked over his shoulder. "I thought you said you couldn't lie!"

"I'm can't," Argent Star said. "Lie," he said as an afterthought, to clarify. "Or help her."

"You're the healer. All the Le'enle look to you for the healing arts." Silent Chain turned from her, hands clenched at his sides. "She needs you."

"I said I would not save her from her indiscretions if she left the Paths again, Roderic. She chose her way... and I cannot help her."

Silent Chain glared at him, and Argent Star met his gaze. Perhaps in time, when the younger man was better versed in his own mantle, he would Know how much Argent Star regretted making that promise, that prophecy--for him, they were the same--but it had been done. He was the North, and Truth, and words became his prison walls.

Silent Chain bent to gather the Empress into his arms, her white hair hissing as it slid off the stone.

"Where are you going?"

"Why don't you ask yourself?" Silent Chain snapped, and strode away. Argent watched them go: the newest Le'enle Emperor, raised by mortals . . . and Analeil Distant Song, Empress of the East, Justice and too-fond lover of mortals, slack in his embrace.

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