11. The Alliance

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            I stood to move toward the bathing room after Charlie’s footsteps had faded out of earshot. He’d left the front door open. It creaked gently as it moved with the wind.

            I looked to Tane and gave her an affectionate smile, but was disturbed when it was not returned. I resumed my sitting position in front of her and stroked her hand, inquiring silently what made her expression so wistful.

            She seemed to stare directly through me, and I resisted the instinct to confirm that I was actually there. Tane gripped my hands, telling me that she was trying to find the words to convey her thoughts. I waited in silence.

            I was inexplicably relieved to hear her soft voice begin in our language. “Tell me of the prophecy of the Last Fall,” she requested softly. I frowned, the relief falling away. “I would have myself well prepared for our return to Fismuth.”

            I nodded, reluctant, and attempted to start from what I knew. “As your will,” I said, consenting with a common phrase used in Fismuth. “A Septar prophet had a vision of the end of Fismuth. He claimed the last days would be overcome by war and the skies would weep over the blood of the Prestigious.” Tane was silent; her eyes were closed as she shut out everything but my voice. “As the prophecy is told, there will be a Prestigious One dragged late by the hand of the Septars. A girl, though her Sense was not specified. She will be cast down and will be corrupted, tainted by the humans. On her return to Fismuth, she will mark the beginning of the end of Edent.”

            I swallowed, not wanting to continue. I knew how the news of this prophecy must have sounded to Tane’s susceptible ears. I pushed myself to go on.

            “It is said that she will be protected by humans, workers, and Prestigious alike, rendering her invincible. She will not die until the prophecy has run its full course.”

            I fell silent. Tane’s hands lay lifelessly in mine. I did not want to believe that Tane was the Last of the Fallen. She could no sooner bring destruction to a blade of grass than she could an entire civilization. Her body was tense but her breathing came normally, naturally.

            “And what is its full course?” she asked, her tone tentative.

            I closed my eyes then and lowered my head. “The Septar prophet said he saw Fismuth itself falling from the sky.”

            Tane gave a tiny gasp of what sounded like despair. “It cannot be me,” she whispered. “Palleman and the Septar Council would not have chosen me if they believed me to be the beginning of such tragedy. Gaius, you were cast down after me, so I could not be the Last of the Fallen.” I shook my head and stroked the negative into her hand. Her voice became more panicked. “Why not?”

            “The Last of the Fallen is only a term. It means she will be the last of notable earthbound Prestigious Ones,” I countered, regretting saying it as soon as the words had fallen from my lips. “You will not bring destruction, Tane. You know that.”

            “Who?” she asked, ignoring my words. Her voice was a trembling leaf in the latest days of autumn. I did not understand. “Who was the Septar prophet?”

            I bit my lip only for a moment. “Azurael,” I whispered.

            Tane started at the name. “The traitor!” Disbelief laced her voice.

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