Vibrant. If there were ever a word that so described you perfectly, Ana, it would be vibrant. Your soul is vibrant. Your laugh is vibrant. Everything is more vibrant with you in it.
When I was seven I had no idea how dear you would be to me. When I was ten and you left for school was even harder. The house was so quiet when you left for boarding school. Boring. Silent. Dull.
It lacked your vibrance.
It lacked you.
Six years. It was six years before I saw you again - in the market of all places. We knew you were coming home, but we hadn’t thought it to be that very day. Yet you danced in the streets, kicking up the dust and the mud from the cobblestones and everyone was in awe of you. You were too vibrant for the world and now the world is colorless. Suffocating and lifeless. Where did you go?
The Lord, Noe, says I need to try to move forward without you, but it’s impossible. If only you could see the things I’m learning. I doubt that you would believe the people I’ve met. I cannot forget you though, and I cannot move forward.
Noe was the one who found me with his wife. The very Noe - the God of Order and Justice. He and his wife were interested in me. It must be a mistake. I’m just a stable boy; a stable boy playing pretend just as all the Knights at the King’s Court had said. I’m in so far over my head, Ana, yet I can’t find it in me to care anymore. It only aches knowing you’re gone.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve died - I’ve been staying with the very God of Order and his family. They live so strangely simple.
Well, once you get past the flying, self-sorting books. I think of you when I see them. I think of the day you came running to me with tears in your eyes because you kept making silverware disappear and you were panicked as to where it went and if you were going mad.
They were all under your bed, and you were horrified when we found them. We both worried your memories were going sideways, but you were magical the whole time. You were magical and no one ever knew.
I did. But I didn’t think so in the literal way.
Was this your great disappearing act?
The first thing I did when I couldn’t find you was I looked under your bed to see if you disappeared there like all the spoons that had vanished when you were 7.
Perhaps I’ve gone mad, but I refuse to believe you didn’t exist, Ana.
I still have the ring you gave me.
Please just… give me a sign you’re still there?
I would give anything for it. Just one.
Agonin leaned over and adjusted the stance of Lucas, who struggled to get his footing. Lucas let out a sigh and dropped his arms which dissipated the magic he had focused in his magical pool. “I’m not very good at this, my Lord.”
Agonin smiled slightly and took in a deep breath. “I think you are. Try again - it takes time to learn magic and you’re still very new to this.”
“I’ve made so little progress… maybe I’m not cut out for this.” Lucas’ shoulders slumped and he looked forward. Lucas was only nineteen but he held himself to standards of the masters. Minha had found him, orphaned and homeless, sleeping in the the Temple of Order in Monte Vista almost thirteen years ago. The boy had magic and none of his family wanted to take him in and deal with it.
Minha brought Lucas to Agonin after she had argued with his only known relatives. Lucas had no idea where he had been taken, nor who he was even talking to when he latched onto Agonin’s leg. He’d been with Agonin ever since.
Agonin put a careful hand on his shoulder. “Don’t beat yourself up over a few failed spells, Lucas. You really are doing very well.”
It did not seem to persuade Lucas, who looked at Agonin wearily. “I feel like such a disappointment.”
Agonin walked forward some and faced Lucas carefully. “You’re not; you’re the exact opposite, son. You know, it took me years to learn magic, almost two decades.”
Lucas seemed slightly lifted by this, but he kept his eyes down. “You’re just saying that to be nice.”
Agonin let out a laugh. “I wish I were saying that to be nice. You’re already farther in one year than it took me to learn in three.” Agonin had also been completely devoid of magic prior and had his mind scrambled by the God of Magic and Insanity, but he kept that to himself. All that mattered was that it cheered Lucas up. “Even if it takes you thirty years to learn how to cast a basic spell, you’d never be a disappointment.”
Lucas looked at him with a growing smile. “Thank you, sir.”
Agonin sensed the footsteps before he could hear them as Denise found her way into the room and knocked on the doorway. “My lord, a man by the name of Stein is here from the Lady Irena’s? He says you asked to see him.”
Agonin straightened and nodded. “Send him to my office. I’ll meet him there.”
Denise nodded carefully with a smile before turning and heading back down the hallway from where she came.
Agonin nodded to Lucas. “I meant what I said. Don’t push yourself too hard, you’ll get it in time.”
He only hoped Lucas would take it to heart as he began the walk for his office.
Stein was standing patiently when Agonin arrived, his eyes looking at a bookshelf.
“I was told you wished to see me?” His voice seemed quiet and strangled as he spoke. Agonin briefly wondered if something had happened because of the run-in they had when he had visited the library earlier that week.
“I do. Thank you for taking some time to stop by, I know Irena’s got you on a pretty tight schedule lately.” Agonin tried to keep his voice calm - he would hate for Stein to think he was in trouble for anything. “You’re welcome to have a seat.” He gestured to the chair opposite his desk.
“I’m fine standing, if it’s all the same to you, my lord.” Stein shifted in place for a moment before averting his gaze to the floor. “I should apologize for… for my charge running into you the other day. I promise she will be better watched the next time.”
“Please don’t apologize! I hardly even noticed that she had bumped into me. No harm, no foul.” Agonin leaned against his desk and tilted his head slightly. “I actually wanted to extend an offer to help you.”
Stein’s eyes came up with confusion in them. “Help me? Can I ask what with, my lord?”
Agonin nodded slightly. “I have a fair amount of knowledge on Zachurr… and if I’m being honest, I have personal experience with his form of mental… torment.” It was hard to find the right words for it and Agonin carefully felt for his ring. Torment wouldn’t even begin to describe the feelings he had felt over the years. “To hear that someone has lived through worse than what I have been put through is… sombering to say the least. I feel compelled to help, given my own experiences.”
Stein sat on the information for a moment, carefully weighing things in his head. “I am… both honored and intrigued by your own knowledge, my lord, and on any other subject I would gladly jump into such an opportunity with open arms…”
Agonin tilted his head the other direction and waited. “...but?”
Stein swallowed and took in a breath. “Permission to speak freely, sir?”
Agonin felt his lip twitch slightly and he nodded. “Of course.” It was so easy to forget the position and power he held - so easy to forget that people held their tongue and thought carefully before they spoke around him. It was almost too easy to forget, given everything.
“512S has been struggling from the very beginning. We noticed progress for a while in her but it seems to be flatlining at and… even decreasing. She’s just… not making any recovery whatsoever anymore. In fact, I would argue she’s reverting. We’ve got the best therapist working with her almost daily and there’s been almost no improvement for the past month. At the rate things are going… the Madame is going to pull the plug on my resources and there will be no project for you to help with.” He was looking at Agonin with ease as he spoke. He was truly a follower of Knowledge and the concepts came so easily for him.
“Have you discovered what may be stunting her improvement?” Agonin couldn’t let it be. He had to find a way to help. Zachurr had already taken so much from the world and Agonin felt compelled to take it back. They had always been at odds from the moment Agonin rose - and now, even after his death, Zachurr was still tugging at him. Something in Agonin’s gut told him this would be the end of it. This would be the way he would finally find peace.
Stein let out a very long sigh. “There’s a bunch of science terminology I could throw at you, my lord, but in layman’s terms… she’s simply got no will to live. Nothing interests her. I’ve taken her for walks. I’ve shown her the way the world is now. I’ve shown her items and opened up books and brought her different foods and she’s already decided her own fate. She got mildly interested in some of it… and I thought we had made progress but the next day it’s back to square one.”
It was disheartening to hear, but Agonin understood. He understood it so well. “Is there any way I could speak with her? I’ve been in her shoes before… perhaps I could give it a shot?”
Stein’s face remained level and he shook his head. “With all due respect, sir… the last time she was in close quarters speaking to a god was with the God of Magic and the Madame. She fainted repeatedly. I would not risk that a second time. I think too much magic could overwhelms her. Perhaps another time… but not now. I just don’t see it being wise.”
It almost frustrated him. He didn’t used to be this 'big and scary' - but he needed to understand that it was the price he paid for the power he had: the same power that had destroyed Zachurr bit by bit. He could not have it both ways. “I understand and respect that. I would hate to cause her further distress from my presence. I just feel like I may have something that will help.”
“If you feel it will help, I could give it a shot. What is it, sir?” Stein straightened as he stood.
Agonin took in a slow breath and stood up straighter as well. “Zachurr is… one of the worst monsters who ever lived. I’ve watched him build up so many people just to tear them down. He once told me that his greatest achievement was breaking someone’s mind beyond repair. It infuriated him when I pulled myself to my feet again and again after his trials. It eventually led to his death.” He paused and took in another deep breath. “Recovery is the most insulting thing she could ever do to Zachurr.”
Stein nodded and he pursed his lips. “I don’t think she’ll believe me entirely when I tell her that.” He paused and looked off to the side at the bookshelves around them.
Agonin sat down firmly at his desk and found himself staring at the situation with curiosity. His eyes drifted down to his ring, as it usually did, when a thought struck him. “What if I wrote her a letter… would that help?”
Stein seemed surprised by the suggestion. “My lord… I…”
“It would be no trouble.” Agonin immediately filled in. “I took Zachurr head-on when I rose and… perhaps in a way I feel like his mess is my responsibility. Perhaps I would have found her if I had looked hard enough… or perhaps I could’ve prevented him from ever tormenting her. Even still, with the powers I have, I cannot change those past events. I can only do what I can to help in the future and I will help however I can. If writing a letter will help, then I’ll do it. It’s the very least I feel I can do.”
There were so many ‘what if’s in this world. What if he had never rose? What if Zachurr had died sooner?
What if Soliana actually existed?
It was hard to know if this would actually help him find peace or if it would just be another step to another step that leads only around in circles.
He knew it didn’t matter if he were only going in circles. The point was he was still going.
Zachurr could not take that from him, and he would not let him take that from the girl they found in the cave either. She's lost in her own mind much as Agonin was all those years ago, but he reminded himself something as he stared at his ring.
All lost things can be found - even spoons.
All lost things can be found - even spoons.