11. The Oasis

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I had begun to lose myself in the movements of my own arms and legs. The pure pumping force of my sprints matched the steady rhythm of my heart. I kept everything pent up inside of me, as was customary in Fismuth. To release was to show weakness, and Palleman's second could not show weakness. The only way I would be able to let go of anything was to physically exert myself until the world fell away. And so I ran faster.

How had I been so blind? The pointless war was not so pointless after all, it seemed. I should have known that Palleman would have never been so reckless for the sake of violence. The Old Words spoke of something pivotal hidden in Abannon. I'd never even heard of it until that night. I never wanted to hear of it again.

The training yards weren't big enough for me to run in earnest. The walls didn't blur like I needed them to. I could still see Saera's face, spattered with her own blood in every odd shadow. I could still feel the legendary Old Words under my shaking fingertips. Everything was still too clear, too real. I leapt over the short gate that led to the free land between Edent and Siguth. A sudden sense of freedom flooded my veins, pumping hard. It felt beautiful.

I sprinted across the free land until my thighs burned, and my calves liquefied, and my lungs collapsed. I made it to the outskirts of Siguth. Not many of the workers were in their homes as I would have expected. Instead, they were milling about, in and around the huts. They seemed like gorgeous, humble creatures as they hung pretty woven plants atop their homes and draped fabrics in happy banners from hut to hut. It was all very festive. I had been informed that the Malust was returning, but had time truly gone by so fast?

Not many Prestigious Ones ventured to Siguth past Work Light besides the routine patrols by Flares and Feelers. The workers took notice. They sent murmurs back and forth to each other; I could practically see the gossip entering huts and exiting through windows. I could hear what they were saying. Out loud and otherwise. They knew who I was. Most of them were curious about my lack of a half-sense, my banished other. Some were angry; they blamed me for Saera's disappearance. At the very thought of the poor creature, I turned from Siguth. I could not stand to be near where she had lived. She had been so loyal.

I took off at a jog, light at first, and then with increasing vigor. The familiar sensations of exertion made themselves present. The padding of my feet with the occasional sting of a rogue rock or a slight trip over my own limbs was supposed to be my escape. I tried to get swallowed up in them, to live inside my breathing and to keep no other thought but to run. But there was no evading the things that I'd seen. I'd sought out the knowledge Kelsie had urged me to. In fact, I'd done more than that. I'd found it.

It made me sick to know I shared the same air as murderers.

And the true pressing issue: Tane was innocent. I, the one who should have been her most staunch supporter, had damned her to near certain death by the hands (or talons) of the Feeders of Abannon. It was all my fault. My feet carried me back to Edent: I only arrived close enough to see the moons glistening off of the Septar's Tower.

I could not stop myself. I looked up at Kelsie's chamber, watching the balcony as I caught my breath. My hands rested on my hips, my feet rooted shoulder-width apart. I silently prayed that she would come to the balcony. That she would venture out and see me there, waiting for more instructions. Or maybe this time I was searching for answers.

The ledge with the beautiful outlook remained empty. The room inside stayed dark and desolate.

Something like magma flowed steadily through me, making me burn from the inside. I looked to my right, located the Dardon Wall, and attempted to see through it. Perhaps this was not entirely my fault. 

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