He stands on the tower’s stones and first looks South, deep into the green-grassed hills of the Middle March and the places from which he came…first Hastwith and later Tarsis, the City of a Thousand Tents. More than a thousand walking steps, over old battlefields and through Nerathi ruins, beneath stars he could once name but now mean nothing to him.
He has seen more alien, distant places.
He now looks North, over dark trees, into the Autumn cloaked heart of the Vale. But even his demon-touched eyes cannot look far enough…into Gant. To where Lord Hesrith Andelyn, called Half-Eye, plays at warlord and warrior. To where he stitches together banners and culls through the old maps; where he seeks the Troll knowledge of taming the Great Wyrms and draws together an army for a war he has not yet declared and an enemy he has not yet met.
To Valthrun’s crooked tower, where all of this began for him.
He turns the Ring on his finger; it feels heavy on skin that he is not sure is his own. Valthrun’s ring, one of the Acarot. Five more yet to go (no six, he reminds himself…if her ravings are correct). Rabago, Paldemar, Rinlan, Wester, and Xas. She made him remember their names and burned their faces into his eyes. Not the names of the rings, of course, they’re not important, but these men who’ve most recently carried them.
And hidden them…from her. This Seven’s Ring, and yet they wielded only six.
A cooler wind blows over the tower’s crumbled parapets, ruffling the wings on his back; the wings she cut free from the skin she reshaped with white hands. He opens them here, in safety, away from prying eyes, and even he laughs at the idea...given his mistress, and what he has seen of her. But for one brief moment he is free to think his own thoughts, of his own life long since gone, astride this edifice of the Towers Walk…one edge of the dotted line of basalt and stone marking the southern borders of the Vale.
He does not understand the things she makes him dream. Of the Half-Eye and the Seven’s Ring and Fellbane and images of a smooth lake full of bloody water. He is both himself and something else. What he was and what she has made; stitched together and as ragged and dirty as the wings on his back.
He leaps from the tower and glides down to the leaf-strewn ground below. His wings fold away, and in a moment he is but another traveler in the Vale. His cloak pulled up tight, and his blade at his hip.
He will eventually walk past the caverns beneath the Seven-Pillared Hall where he died, and then on North, into gathering twilight and a coming storm...