Much later, Korin lay in his new bed, the night’s heat pressing down on him like a wool blanket, smothering. He’d stripped down to almost nothing and pushed back the sheets that had seemed so inadequate when he’d first collapsed under them. Exhausted from weeks of travel, of seasickness, of nightmares, sleep should have come easy. But this heat…this heat. Sticky and thick and wet, it was like nothing he’d ever experienced.
The sun had gone down hours ago, and Korin had thrown the shutters of his one, wide window open, but even the soft breeze circulating through his room wasn’t enough to alleviate the sense of being in an oven.
The heat wasn’t the only thing keeping him awake. Now that he’d stopped running, the memories—the guilt—that had stayed buried while he’d dealt with the more immediate questions of survival, those feelings were trying to smother him. Alone in the dark, listening to the strange night-noises of this new city, Korin could no longer keep them away.
Teriad. Lia. Jonathan. All dead, while Korin had managed to survive. Victims of a war they’d never wanted to fight.
Other faces. Strangers. Friends. People Teriad and Korin and Lia had tried to help. Other victims. The pain they’d suffered. Their cries as Korin had done what he could to save them. Their silences when he’d failed.
Teriad had believed in a better world. A place where, if you offered your hand to help a man it would be taken. A world where kindness won out over hatred. A world where one man’s goodness could make a difference.
The war had taken that world from Teriad. From all of them.
The war was over now. The heroes had won the day. The villains were vanquished and buried with their blighted magics and conquerors’ dreams. May they rot forever in their own cursed ground.
Teriad was gone, but Korin was alive. He’d escaped bloodied Ulek, made it to Triome, where the Wizard-Knight scourge had been driven out a hundred years ago. Korin could start his life fresh, return to the world Teriad had believed in. A world where he could help people like Marta. Trade healing for the modest lifestyle that was all he required. Offer his skills where they were needed, where they could do the most good.
Those thoughts should have been comforting. They should have been enough to relax Korin, to let him hope.
Teriad wouldn’t have come to Triome. If Teriad had been here, he would have shaken his head, had expressed his disappointment. No matter how many times Korin insisted Triome was the best place, the safest place. A big city where he could get lost in the crowd. A new start.
Teriad had been a good man, and had tried to teach Korin and Lia to be the same. “I can be that man here,” Korin whispered into the sweltering air. “I can be everything you wanted.”
If there were other temptations here, sinister temptations, Korin didn’t have to give in. He was stronger than that. Better than that. He could be the wizard Teriad had taught him to be.
With that resolve firmly in mind, Korin was finally able to sleep.