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There were few good resolutions to their predicament. They still did not understand Kraisa's intentions, nor where she was. Something had evidently activated below ground, which aligned with the information provided by the King but remained another unknown. The prison housed thousands of prisoners, desperate and in need of rescue: Tarn did not react well to cages, whether they were around him or anyone else. Kirya had been right, he knew, as the car lowered them down to the pit's floor. His impulse had been to release all the prisoners at once, which would have only caused many of their deaths, as they tumbled from the walkways in the stampede. That impetuousness is what had led to his actions outside the gates of Bruckin; he was glad that she was there to slow him down.

His life had taught him that people were inherently awful; that some weren't was the truly remarkable thing. Kirya was a constant reminder of that, even if she was the daughter of the chief architects of the chaos that had engulfed the valley. Tarn shook his head, his newfound vocabulary still sticking in his mind as if he were thinking someone else's words.

They emerged from the elevator car onto the rough, uneven floor of the pit, the walls rising high above all around and the skylights high above now smaller than his thumb when he positioned it over them. They were deep within the mesa, which from the outside continued to tower above the valley and the city like a beacon of destiny; a promise that Lagonia was special, while it withered and rotted away within, hidden from public view.

"You could almost be forgiven for thinking it was a deliberate metaphor," Aera said, walking past him and running a finger along his shoulders. She looked over her shoulder at him and winked.

"Now what?" asked Tranton, moving cautiously around in the gloom. There were a scattering of small structures on the base of the pit, presumably used by the guards.

Kirya pointed to another elevator car. "We need to go further down."

Though he'd never been in the pit, he knew where the next car would lead them. Tarn suppressed a shudder, wondering at the sequence of event which had led to him returning to this place voluntarily. Perhaps this had always been his path, looping around to where he began. Ending at the beginning. The journey had been necessary to put him in a position to do what had to be done, with the powers he now wielded.

"It's locked," said one of the accompanying soldiers, rattling at the car door.

Tranton spun the hilt into his hand and activated the blade, which ratcheted out with its usual alarming rapidity. "I can take care of that," he said, waving the soldier aside. A quick swipe of the sword and the lock fell to the dirt, cut neatly in two.

"I wish we all had one of those," the soldier said, grinning as he pulled open the car door.

The descent this time was past rock, the shaft carved tightly against the outside of the car. After the broad diameter of the prison pit it was a sudden and unnerving change of scale. They huddled together, jolting back and forth as they were lowered into the depths, Tarn sensing their growing proximity to refined source fuel. The metal of the car itself seemed to thrum with an additional energy, as if the ground itself was shaking in anticipation of what came next.

Aera stood incorporeally next to Tarn, occupying a space in his mind that was constantly calling out for attention. "I'm surprised you're going back," she said. "You don't owe them anything, you know. Your survival is in my best interests, too. I'm content to share this body, but it's up to you to keep it safe."

He tried to ignore her, resisting the urge to respond. She seemed to know only some of what he was thinking, just as he could only access her memories tangentially, without context and unpredictably.

"When she finds you," she continued, "and she will, you need to be ready. Do not let her get the upper hand. Strike fast and decisively. It's what I should have done all those years ago."

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