Morgan has made a point to study Shegug’s face every day for at least a week now, but the uneasiness never leaves her. She and the mop-haired priest have been through hell together: over a dozen campaigns, including the evacuation of Worldgate; not to mention their childhood years in the slums. She has seen every facet of her old friend’s personality, every expression of his face. The creature that sits before her in its resinous throne, pale blue light seeping between its fingers from the polished and glassy orbs on which its arms rest, slack-jawed and with just the faintest and simplest of grins as its unseeing eyes gaze ever at the plate of frosted glass with its endlessly rolling landscape… She does not recognize this creature.
“You seem uneasy, Templar.”
Morgan shifts her gaze to the left without turning her head: Blind Thomas, the wormspeaker.
“Merely eager to have this over with, Thomas,” Morgan replies.
Thomas makes a noncommittal noise in his throat. “Soon. Tomorrow morning, if the winds are fair.” Morgan lapses back into silence; after a time, Thomas continues, “You worry for your friend.”
“Just tired,” Morgan grunts.
“No shame in it, child.”
Morgan fixes Thomas with a cold gaze. “It is a great honor to be chosen as an orb pilot.”
Thomas laughs, a short and bitter bark. “Yes, indeed. Glory be to the light and all who serve it. But it is a terrible burden too. Few pilots complete the ordeal unscathed. Many retire from service after. They become recluses, or drunks, or worse. Some…” Thomas glances sidelong at Morgan, “… some simply fall lifeless from the throne.”
“Your words smack of heresy, wormspeaker. See to your writhing tongue.”
Thomas holds up his hands, as if in defense. “Fear not, Templar, there’s no sliver of darkness in my heart.”
“Then speak plainly as to your purpose.” Morgan’s hand hovers near the hilt of her sword.
Thomas frowns. “There are dark days before us, Morgan Moonchild. We shall soon be, as the garrison men like to say, ‘in the shit.’ I need your head firmly planted on your shoulders when we crest the mountains tomorrow.”
Morgan turns away, looking again at Shegug.
“Whatever fate befalls your friend,” Thomas continues, “it is one he chose, willingly and ecstatically. Tomorrow is not the day for tears. Tomorrow is for blood. Tears may come another day.”
Morgan remains silent, though the muscles of her jaw twitch. Thomas observes her for a time, then slowly turns and shuffles away.