(Page 64) Her heart aches— every muscle screams in protest. She falls to her knees, unable to keep herself standing any longer. Wind whispers and rushes through the tall grass around her, deep purple flowers glowing in the light of the full moon; far away from the last City. She cranes her neck up to stare at it through tear filled, fire-colored eyes. [i]Where are you? [/i]Fierce pain and longing stab through her chest. The feeling takes her breath away. She has never felt pain like this— it choked her, smothered her, suffocated her. Almost able to see the prison before her, her vision blurs; She wishes desperately for Variks’s accented voice through her comms. [i]Why did you leave?[/i] She longs for the comfort the eliksni brought, the sense of belonging and home. She struggles for air. With tears streaming down her pale face, she remembers why she feels this way. This ache in her soul, this light-shattering pain, want, need. The emptiness she had felt until she met him. Variks was intelligent, clever, thoughtful. He had kept her safe on missions before, and she would trust him to do it again. She deeply admired his loyalty, the impossible choices he’d had to make. His curious nature; fascination with beautiful things, brought her a feeling of satisfaction and interest nothing else could pique. She acknowledges her desire to protect him, to keep him safe. She felt his shame as if it were her own. The strain in his voice when he spoke of his people dug deep into her heart. Her lungs burn like acid in her hatred for Skolas, for what he’d done to him. Little satisfied her more than her knife carving into his flesh. His strength inspired her, moved her. How brave he was to face the consequences of his actions. She acknowledges the price he paid; his story that no one’s could compare to, not the brawniest titan or most clever warlock or most daring hunter. She’s never known someone with such hope, such desire. She longs to suffer through any trial alongside the eliksni. After all this time, blinking salty tears from her eyes, she admits to herself now she will never belong in the City. Her heart calls her far out beyond the earth and stars, to wherever Variks has gone. And if he was dead— ... Shadow would chase Variks’s dream for every life she could spare. Every breath devoted to the people she felt a kinship to, a bond to, a fascination with and a growing sense of desperation for. She inhales the sharp night air tainted with the heavy scent of flowers around her. Her body convulses in shudders. She remembers his last words to her. [i]“I [b]will[/b] see you again.”[/i] [i]It’s been so long... I miss you. I love you. I need you. [/i] She stares up at the moon, reflecting into her eyes, with the promise in her heart— right alongside the tearing feeling of her soul being ripped in two.