Her throat was painfully tight and she tilted her head back. Thick clouds hung in the sky, fluffy and white with edges outlined in grey. They were the type of clouds that looked like they’d been painstakingly carved into being, and it was difficult to believe that something that looked so solid, wasn’t.
“You feel it too?”
Alistair was looking at her; his normally caramel skin was ashen with dark smudges under his eyes.
“I didn’t even know the guy, Alistair.” She tried not to stare, but he looked like he wasn’t far from death either.
“I know, but when Elise mourns all of us mourn with her. Empaths have that effect on people,” he said gruffly.
That explained her meaningless sadness.
He sat down next to her on the bench, leaned forwards and rested his elbows on his knees. It occurred to her that she should probably offer him some form of comfort as well so she tentatively placed one hand on his back, between his shoulder blades.
“Do you understand what happened last night?” His head was turned just enough to see her with one eye.
“That somebody died? Yeah, if it’s any consolation he truly is in a better place now.”
“No, why he died…why he chose to give his life to save Elise,” he said gruffly.
She hadn’t even known he’d done that. If she thought about it then she might be able to give him the right answer, but the truth was she didn’t know, so she shook her head.
“Part of being a Guardian is understanding that, when it comes to this, our war against the Skaath, we are less valuable than our Wielders,” he replied.
“People are equal, it’s only our aptitudes that differ.” She’d heard that somewhere and always believed it should be true. It had felt true when she was dead.
“That’s not what I mean.” He sat back and she withdrew her hand, fiddling with a loose thread on the hem of her shirt.
“It’s purely strategic,” he continued, “sacrificing a knight in order to checkmate your opponent with the queen. We’re equal as people but not as weapons.”
Weapons…was that what she’d agreed to? Being a weapon, a tool of destruction? How could love and the magnificence of spirit she’d felt in death be a weapon? It didn’t sound right.
“I’m not a gun, Alistair, not even a bullet. Far be it for me to take the moral high ground, but I was asked to love in the Between. Killing seems like the opposite of that.”
He stared at her until she turned her head to look down at her hands.
“Love may be a long term solution,” he said softly. “But hugging Handmaidens in the thick of a fight is just going to get a dagger in your guts. Did you know that Gandhi wrote a letter to Hitler?”
“A noble gesture, but it didn’t stop the Holocaust. Sometimes people can change because other people care about them, but not everyone wants to change, Vinny, not everyone realises that they’re wrong.”