With a scream, I awoke, only to find more blackness. How could I possibly still be alive?
“Tali! Tali, it’s me!”
“Varen…?” Oh gods. Not him again! But I still wasn’t sure whether this was a good or a bad thing. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about being killed or left for dead again. But gods! I didn’t want to have to explain anything to him. And he would keep asking until he knew what was going on. I knew him that well at least. But he wouldn’t understand. He was always just too gods damned sensitive.
No, Varen was far worse than death in the wilderness. I would rather deal with death than him now. By all rights, my life should have ended here. I had failed in my duty.
“You should have just let me die…” I moaned. That at least, was true. I had failed. There was no longer a chance for me to reclaim what I had had with the Crownbreakers, now that the Hearteater had set them all against me. Without me in their numbers, the country would fall into chaos, just as Father said it would. The justification for my hideous actions was gone. All those innocents had died for nothing. I had no excuses. I had no reason to live anymore.
“Tali, please,” He was begging now. How I hated to hear that. “Tell me what happened. Why were you imitating the Deathwind? Were you leading them? What is going on?”
“You wouldn’t understand,” I coughed. “Besides, it doesn’t make a difference anymore…” Why couldn’t he have given up?
“Tali,” he pleaded. “I need to know. For three years, I have been searching for you, only to find this. Please…”
“Three years?” I couldn‘t help but laugh, imagining his earnest expression. I had known he had been searching for me, but for that long? Ever since we had last seen each other…
“Three years? You’re an idiot. You should have just given up on me…”
“I could never give up on you,”
Of course he would say that. He didn’t really know everything that I had done up until now. He remained blissful in his ignorance, and chose to see me as the same person he had known all those years ago.
“We’ll see,” I said bitterly.
“You really want to know what happened? I led them. I killed the Deathwind and took his place. I’ve been behind it all. I was your enemy,” That wasn’t what I meant to say! I was going to tell him the real story. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I just could not bring myself to tell him the whole truth. Sure, everything I had said was true, but he already knew those things. Why could I not just turn him away for good? I should hate him right now! I had sacrificed everything for him, knowingly or not. The Crownbreakers, the Plan, a better world…He had ruined everything! I had to hate him!
But I just couldn’t.
“Just end it,” I groaned. I was too conflicted, too frustrated, too confused. I wanted it all to just end. This would be my penance. I felt tears begin to fall from my empty eyes.
I was met with nothing but silence. Though I could not see him, I could feel his eyes boring into me.
“No,” he said. “If what you say is true, then there are crimes that you must answer for. But I will not be the one to condemn you. There are ways that you can right the wrongs you have committed, and I refuse to believe that there is no good left in you,” He sounded so convinced too, I just had to laugh again.
“You really think you can redeem me?” I chuckled incredulously. “You’re an idiot,” He couldn’t really believe that, could he? What was wrong with him? I was beyond saving!
Or was I? I had done many things I wasn’t proud of as the Deathwind. I had made far too many mistakes, ended far too many lives. Forever, I had been blind. Blind to my mistakes, blind to the horrors of my actions, blind to the Crownbreakers’ true feelings, blind to Father's motives, blind to Varen… and now physically blind as well. How fitting. Perhaps this was my penance. Perhaps, this was my chance to finally do what I had wanted to accomplish all along. I could still change the world, just from a different side.
Gods damn him. His optimism was contagious.
I felt myself being lifted to my feet. Gently, Varen slung my arm over his shoulder and held my side. At the very least I would always have his support, whether I wanted it or not. I found myself smiling for what seemed like the first time in ages.
“Alright,” I said, as I felt myself being overtaken by a strange sensation I hadn’t felt in years. Hope.
“Where do we start?”
He had finally found what he been searching for. His quest was now over, but mine was just beginning. Step by step by step, we were finally able to move forward.
But first, both Father and the Emperor had some explaining to do...