Fantasia

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Fenris stood apart from them, a little ways off, staring out over the expanse of nothingness. The Bruckin crew had retreated to the treeline, where they sat talking quietly amongst themselves. Tarn and Kirya stood next to each other, squinting into the roiling clouds and fog.

It was all a little defeatist for Tranton Seldon's liking. He walked up to Fenris and stood beside him for a few moments. "You understand that this isn't your fault, don't you?" He leaned out over the rim of the crater, looking down at the scarred, cracked arc as it disappeared down and into the mists. "We all chose to come this way of our own accord. I was heading this way anyway, long before you showed up."

The old man said nothing and kept his eyes fixed ahead, searching for a horizon that would not reveal itself.

"Nobody blames you, Fenris, so don't blame yourself. The Bruckin soldiers? This is what they trained to do. You gave them a proper adventure. Tarn's been cooped up his whole life - anything is better than that. Kirya's had a chance to experience what it's like to live away from a palace on a hill. I got to have some help on a journey I was making regardless."

"I don't blame myself," Fenris said, turning finally to face him. "I blame you, Seldon."

It's a rare occasion that Tranton Seldon is taken aback. This was one of them. "Me?"

"Without your interference, King Guijus would not have been undermined. Without your interference, Kirya would not have felt compelled to go hunting for you. Without your interference, I would still be royal protector and head of the King's Eyes, keeping watch over the kingdom. Without your interference, Captain Arondir would still be alive. Without your interference, we would not be here on the edge of the world. Without you, Tranton Seldon, I would not have trusted to hope."

Tranton grunted, looked at the pebbles and dust scattered by the wind on the unnaturally smooth rock beneath their feet. "This is why I tried to get away from civilisation. I have a tendency to inspire people. There's nothing more dangerous."

"Do not misunderstand me, Seldon," Fenris continued. "I am grateful that you rekindled in me the fire of my youth. You reminded me of who I was supposed to be. You cracked the shell I'd built around me. You forced long overdue change, whether you intended to or not." He took a deep, regretful breath and gestured at the void before them. "And yet it was all for nothing. Better that we had all remained in our stable lie, than grasped at the truth only for it to break the world."

A laugh escaped from Tranton's mouth. "You Lagonians give up easily," he said. "It took me years to get past the Barrier Mountains. That's why they called them the Barrier Mountains. When I woke up in that inn once I got off the glacier, I wasn't sure I'd even remember how to talk. I had only myself, some wolves, and a lot of snow and ice."

"What gave you the conviction to keep going?"

Tranton watched the fog rolling into itself, parting and closing simultaneously, obscuring sight of anything in the distance. There was no colour there, with even the edge of the forest behind them seeming withered, tepid and forlorn.

"I say when I'm done," he said. "I don't leave it up to fate, or the elements. A wolf's not going to eat me. A storm's not going to trap me. I'm not going to run out of food and starve. I won't allow it. I keep going until I get the answer I want. Or until I get away from the one I don't want."

"Most people can't do that."

"Climbing down into the crater doesn't seem like the right move." Tranton pointed along the edge of the crater. "That means you've got two choices: left, or right. Which way are we going?"

Fenris shook his head. "That is not for me to say."

"Left it is, then."

Turning away from the crater, Tranton strode back towards the soldiers. He put his arms around Tarn and Kirya as he walked, leading them with him. "Everyone up," he said, loudly. "We keep going. We'll go around, clockwise, until we get to the other side. Then we keep going. The world is round, people: at some point we'll find something."

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