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“It wasn’t a rescue mission,” I say into the darkness that surrounds us.

Bound here, back to stone and stone to back, it’s easier. Easier in the blackness of the cave where I don’t have to watch her questing eyes, always tilting after the truth.

“Verdure, you mean.” Her voice echoes in the hollow space.

“Verdure, I mean.” I might as well be another echo. “I wasn’t there to save anyone.” Not anyone on Loess, I mean to say, not you. Someone, maybe, that I’ll never meet again.

It’s part of my story, I know, part of my mythos, my mystique. Sometimes I wonder who she is, this Belyn Morrow that everyone knows but me. I only live in her skin, eat her food. We have too few heroes here. If they need to believe that I was at the University to save those last few students clinging to the clock tower, then who am I to tell them not.

I am, in my way, as guilty as Emmion Verril. If I am reinvented as the war’s hero, he must surely have been the villain. We understood each other in those moments, before the crowd raised me to their shoulders, before he disappeared beneath their feet. The next time I saw him, he was hung from the Chemistry building’s balcony, lit by the fires he started. And then by the cold fire of the Epiphany’s cannons.

“I was there to burn it down.”

NB: if anyone isn’t reading Christine’s fabulous Jade Dragon series, you should go do that. I’m always astonished that she lets me tamper with her world.

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