Kestrel thought that maybe she had been wrong, and Risha had been wrong, about forgiveness, that it was neither mud nor stone, but resembled more the drifting white spores. They came loose from the trees when they were ready. Soft to the touch, but made to be let go, so that they could find a place to plant and grow.
Kestrel felt a flicker of instinctive curiosity. Then she reminded herself bitterly that this was what curiosity had brought her: fifty keystones for a singer who refused to sing, a friend who wasn’t her friend, someone who was hers and yet would never be hers. Kestrel looked away from Arin. She swore to herself that she would never look back.
“Kestrel, please don’t cry.” Tentative fingers touched her face. A thumb ran along the wet skin of her cheekbone. She suffered for it, suffered for the misery of knowing that whatever possessed him to do this could be no more than compassion. He valued her that much. But not enough.
“Why can’t you marry him?” he whispered.
She broke her word to herself and looked at him. “Because of you.”
I’m just very aware of what this show means to me and I would never, by my own hand, say it’s time for me to move on. I’m going to miss this show when it’s over. Forever and ever this will be my first role, and that’s so special. As long as the stories are still being told, I will have a hand in telling them.
Kestrel woke. She’d fallen asleep. The floor of the moving wagon creaked beneath her cheek. She hid her face in her hands. She was glad that her dream had ended where it did. She wouldn’t have wanted to see the rest, the part where the girl’s father discovered that she’d given her heart to a lowly thief, and wished her dead, and cast her out.
He told himself a story. Not at first. At first, there wasn’t time for thoughts that came in the shape of words. His head was blessedly empty of stories then. War was coming. It was upon him. Arin had been born in the year of the god of death, and he was finally glad of it. He surrendered himself to his god, who smiled and came close. Stories will get you killed, he murmured in Arin’s ear. Now, you just listen. Listen to me.
“Don’t worry. They’ll find the right words to describe you.”
“Oh that’s easy.”
“It is?” It seemed impossible to name everything she was to him.
Kestrels expression was serious, luminous. He loved to see her like this. “They’ll say that I’m yours,” she told him, “just as you are mine.”
The footsteps stopped. Her shackles rattled as she fumbled to get a finger and thumb up her left sleeve. She pinched the moth she had hidden there and pulled it free. She put her hand through the bars.