Chapter Eleven: Part One

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The last thing Forneus had expected upon his return was to find Gwen sitting in the corridor outside of her quarters, quaking with silent sobs. When he knelt beside her, gently laying a hand on her shoulder, she gave a start, her eyes wide and glossy.

"Forneus, you're back." She got to her feet, hastily wiping the tears from her eyes. "You weren't supposed to see me...you know...like this."

He could have pointed out that this was hardly the first time he'd seen her cry, but decided against it. Instead, he cupped her cheek, gently tilting her chin so that she was looking at him.

"There is nothing for you to be ashamed of," he said, smoothing a thumb beneath her eye when another tear rolled down. "Now, why don't we step inside where it's more comfortable, and you can tell me all about your argument with Phenex."

Gwen blinked at him, mouth gaping. "How did you—?"

"—know you had an argument?" he finished the question for her. A sad smile touched his lips, and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders, guiding her toward her room. "Well, aside from the fact that the two of you haven't gotten along since day one? Let's just say it was an educated guess on my part."

Stepping into the comfort of Gwen's room, he waited for her to get settled before presenting her with the fresh cup of tea he'd conjured behind his back. Gwen blinked owlishly at him, the barest hint of curiosity lighting her eyes before she accepted it with a grateful nod.

Once he'd made certain that she was comfortable and had provided her with everything she needed, he sat down beside her; keeping just enough space between them so that she wouldn't feel overwhelmed by his proximity, but sitting just close enough that, should she need to, she could seek comfort from him.

Gwen cleared her throat. "I...I honestly don't know where to start," she said, cringing when the teacup rattled against the saucer in her lap. "Everything was fine at first. Or so I thought..." She trailed off, a curtain of hair falling across her face as she lowered her gaze.

Forneus listened intently when Gwen continued, her voice much quieter than before. He nodded when she explained how Apollo had confirmed that he was responsible for her powers, just as he knew the Greek god would, and how even he wasn't entirely sure how those powers would manifest.

As Gwen regaled him with what had happened from the moment she'd entered Apollo's quarters to the moment she'd left, he noted with no small amount of relief that, at least for the time being, she still remained unaware of her true nature. Still, in the wake of his relief came guilt. He didn't know how much longer he expected to keep it hidden from her, and despite the tiny voice in the back of his mind insisting he tell her the truth and get it over with, he couldn't bring himself to utter the words.

Little thought was given to this as Gwen went on, however, Forneus's guilt receding to the back of his mind the longer she spoke. When she came to the part where Apollo declared both Phenex and Forneus were to start training her the following day, he suspected he knew what had set Phenex off. By the time she reached their yelling match, Forneus was positive.

Silence fell between them once Gwen had finished speaking. Though she didn't look at him, Forneus could see the tears glistening on her cheeks like trails of stardust.

"I know I shouldn't have said those things to him," Gwen said, staring morosely at Forneus. "I was just so...so...angry, and I just...I don't know. I don't even know what I did to make him mad at me in the first place."

Ah, Phenex. Forneus suppressed a sigh. Why must you make things so difficult, old friend? Where are you now?

No sooner had he wondered this when it came to him. Phenex had very few haunts in the mortal world, but there had always been one place in particular that he had returned to whenever he was upset—and Forneus was willing to bet every last one of his ethereal arts that was precisely where he was right now.

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