1

He’d lost count of how long it had been since he was brought here. Lost track of how long he’d been fighting for his freedom. The days and weeks and months all seemed to blur together. He couldn’t even judge how much time had passed by how many Festivals of the Flesh had happened because one just rolled into the next, and the next, and the next after that.

Not for lack of trying, he looked over at the far wall of his room where thousands of tiny slash marks scarred the dark grey paint like an old mother’s laugh lines. The count there wasn’t accurate or it was but he was told it wasn’t. It had been awhile since he had last tried to mark the passage of time here in this opulent prison they’d dragged him to. Been awhile since he’d been caught and punished for the action. But he couldn’t, he wouldn’t, stop trying to escape. Failure wasn’t an option. In this above all the other things he had planned, he could not fail.

His fingers lifted to dance along the cold metal collar that hung loosely around his neck, wishing he could feel the magick that had gone into making it. Wishing not for the first time that he could feel the magick he knew was there thrumming along the walls and ceiling and floor of this room creating a containment spell nearly as strong as the one in his collar. It’d have to be or they wouldn’t have put me here. But he couldn’t feel anything like he used to. And he was beginning to believe them that he never would again. That this was his fate now, to be Imènian blind in the World named for those of Dhaoinic blood who possess not a single ounce of magick in their blood.

He wished desperately that he could see again so he could dismantle the magick that held him prisoner, so that he could escape. So that he could right the wrongs his imprisonment had no doubt brought upon the Worlds at large. But there was nothing but silence, absolute and furious. Nothing but the yawning chasm of emptiness where his Bond with Azriel had been, where Relyt’s qahllyn had whispered sweetly, where the heartbeats of his Others had been. None of them were dead, he knew that much. So long as he still breathed, so would they. But he didn’t know for certain.

And it was that uncertainty that kept him going back to the drawing board each waking moment he had to spare. It was that fearful hope that when he’d succumbed that they hadn’t followed him down.

Turning away from the scarring wall he unfolded himself from the chaise lounge and moved to the desk that was tucked into a corner of the room opposite the large ornately carved bed. All but collapsing into the chair, he stared at his notes, written in the oldest forms of Tengú, back before the gods had taken the knowledge from all Their Children save the Greywalkers who helped Them keep the Worlds Balanced. His captors didn’t take these papers from him because they didn’t realize what they signified, didn’t know that the writing wasn’t gibberish but rather a language no other living Dhaoine could read. He may not have access to his magick, for now, but the collar around his neck hadn’t taken away all of his knowledge. Hadn’t taken away his abilities to recognize patterns and how to take those patterns and use magickal theory to shake them up. To take the strategies he’d spent centuries creating, perfecting, and put them into practice. He’d find the key to unlock this collar and his powers eventually. It was only a matter of time.

Because what was magickally created could also be magickally destroyed. And if magickal theory had taught him nothing else, it was that even Imènians could unravel the strongest of spells.

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