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Chapter 21

A/N: Warning in this chapter for discussion of past abuse.

Gareth lounged in his sitting chair reading. He chuckled to himself at a charming turn of phrase, flattened down the page, and then looked up to find Roman standing over him, hands on his hips. He nearly dropped his book in surprise.

“Ah! Roman! What—?”

“Are you ready to go?” Roman asked, not waiting for Gareth to recover.

“Go? I…suppose? Am I dressed appropriately?” Gareth asked. A lot had happened yesterday, but he thought he remembered Roman saying something about training.

Roman pursed his lips and considered Gareth’s pressed suit. “Sure, I’d say so.”

Gareth had a chance during Roman’s pause to study him in return. “What the hell happened to you?”

Roman looked the way one might feel after a long night drinking and then getting food poisoning to boot. His hair was all in disarray and he had tired dark bags under his eyes. When he smiled, it lacked its usual magic. A blotchy bruise spread across his face from Leandros’ hit.

“Late night,” Roman said. “Let’s go.”

Roman led Gareth out of the house and to Rinehart Park, heading to a secluded grove off the main path. It felt like days ago that Gareth had been here with Leandros, Eftychia, and Eresh, instead of only yesterday.

“Did you find out who attacked Leandros?” Gareth asked in a whisper on the way.

“Yes,” Roman said, then refused to elaborate.

“What kind of training are we doing, exactly?” Gareth asked him, changing tracks.

Roman flashed a quick grin. “I’m going to teach you how to fight.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Roman held two fists up. “You know, fight. Just a little self-defense!”

“You told me I was dressed appropriately! I can’t fight in this!”

“Gareth, if you’re being attacked, your assailant isn’t going to give you time to run home and change clothes first. If you learn how to fight in a suit, you’ll be ready for anything.”

“Fine, but I’m at least taking off my jacket. Why do I need to fight, anyway?” he asked, neatly folding his coat and setting it out of the way. “Isn’t that the security team’s job?”

Roman went a step further than Gareth, slipping out of his waistcoat and shirt and leaving him in only an undershirt, arms bare to the shoulder.

You’re not going to train in a suit, but you’re going to make me do it?” he asked.

“I can already fight in anything. Besides, no one’s making you keep your shirt on.”

Gareth tugged self-consciously at his waistcoat. “You didn’t answer my question.”

Roman sighed. “I wouldn’t rely on the security team, if I were you, and this mission might be dangerous. Call this a precaution.”

“That’s still not an answer. You won’t be able to slither your way out of this one, Mr. Hallisey. You promised me explanations.”

“I’ve never slithered out of anything in my life!” Roman said. He raised his fists again and dropped into a defensive stance, growing suddenly serious. “Answers after. I promise. Now, show me what you can do. Try and hit me.”

Gareth tried and failed spectacularly. Roman merely stepped aside, then swept a leg under Gareth and knocked him to the ground. “Your form’s not bad, but you compromised too much of your balance with that swing. Get up. Try again,” he said.

Gareth pushed himself to his feet and brushed the grass off his trousers. He swung without any sort of prelude this time, thinking to catch Roman off-guard. But Roman dodged aside as easily as before, this time slapping Gareth’s wrist like a parent scolding their child.

“Better,” Roman said. He nudged Gareth’s feet into a wider stance. “Try again.”

It didn’t take Roman long to realize that Gareth had no fighting talent to speak of. He dropped his aggressive teaching tactics once he did, slowing down, showing Gareth how to block certain attacks and how to get around certain types of blocks. He ran drills, corrected mistakes, had them go again and again and again.

It was over an hour before Gareth finally landed a hit.

Roman laughed when he did, clearly surprised. “Now you’re getting it!” he said. Without preamble, he came at Gareth again, feinting a hit, landing another, and once again sweeping Gareth’s legs out from under him before Gareth could even blink, let alone react. Sounding disappointed, he said, “You let your guard down.”

“You’ve been going easy on me!” Gareth spluttered at the realization.

“Of course I have,” Roman said, one hand on his hip. The other, he offered out to help Gareth up. “I don’t want to kill you.”

Gareth batted Roman’s hand away. He wished he could sink into the tall stalks of grass and disappear into the soil. He must’ve looked pretty petulant, because Roman rolled his eyes.

“Gareth, you’re just getting started. It took me a lot of time, practice, and training to get as good as I am today. Don’t be hard on yourself.”

Gareth scowled. He found a small pebble in the grass and tossed it in Roman’s direction. “Liar. It was probably effortless, like everything you do.”

Roman was silent a moment, then he flopped onto the grass across from Gareth. “Effortless? In my first fight, I was beat nearly to death and was left bleeding in the street. I was fourteen. I think it was another decade before I actually won a fight.”

“Oh,” Gareth said, horrified.

“Don’t look so glum, Gareth,” Roman said with forced cheer. “I’m sure you’ll beat me someday! We could try—,”

“No more, please. I’m old, Roman. There comes a point where it’s just too late to pick this sort of thing up.”

Roman gave Gareth a strange look but made no attempt to force him up for more. The two of them fell into silence and stayed that way for a while, letting the flush that comes from hours of activity and sunlight fade until they’d recovered enough to enjoy the breeze. Roman ran his fingers through the grass, flattening the blades only to tousle them up again. Gareth watched him, wondering how Roman could go so quickly from discussing being beaten bloody to indulging in such childlike distractions.

“Who trained you to fight?” he asked.

“It was mostly my own trial and error,” Roman said. He sprawled out on the grass and stared up at the two suns occupying the cloudless sky, one arm under his head to prop it up. “Did you know they’re getting closer to each other?”

“Who are?”

“The suns. Sol and Del. We orbit them, but they also orbit each other. With each cycle they get closer; we just can’t tell because they’re so far away.”

“Are you an astronomer, now, too?”

Roman scoffed and shook his head. “I had a friend who was. She explained it to me. Something about magnetic activity, I think. She thinks they’re going to coalesce to form one big star, but they’re just as likely to collide, explode, and kill everyone. Either way, it won’t happen for thousands of years.”

“I doubt Atiuh would let the suns explode.”

“That’s assuming Atiuh exists. Or, if he does, that we matter to him.”

“You think he doesn’t? Where do you think all this comes from, then?” Gareth asked, gesturing around them.

“Me? I personally believe he exists, and that he created ‘all this.’ I just think he’s either dead, gone, or no longer gives a damn.”

Gareth gritted his teeth and looked away, making Roman laugh. “Did I strike a nerve? I’m sorry, Gareth, I shouldn’t have said that, knowing how religious you are. What do you say we avoid the topic, since I’m not going to convince you and you’re definitely not going to convince me.”

“Fine.” Gareth mopped some of the sweat off his brow. He glared up at the suns, knowing his skin would be as red as an osun petal later. With his naturally darker skin, Roman probably wouldn’t burn at all. “Instead, you can tell me why Moira asked you to kill Leandros. Or, while we’re at it, how you convinced her to add you to the team.”

“No, wait, let’s go back to discussing religion,” Roman said, too quickly.

Gareth sighed. “Roman, may I be frank?” he asked. Roman nodded, wary. “I trust you. It’s strange, but I trusted you almost as soon as I met you. After what I heard, I’m wondering if I was a fool to do so.”

Roman cringed and sat up. “I can see why Moira made you a diplomat; your talent for guilting people is unparalleled. Fine, fine. Where to start?”

“From the beginning.”

“The beginning? That’s easy to say, but where did it all begin? How’s this: I was born in a small village in Troas to Christian Hallisey and Catalina Rosario. They gave me the name Amaimon Roman Rosario-Hallisey. I grew up with my mother while Christian traveled selling wares—,” Roman paused here and waited for Gareth to interject. When he didn’t Roman said, “This is where you say, ‘Stop being cheeky. I didn’t ask for your life story. Knock it off and answer my questions’.”

“No, keep going. I want to hear.”

Roman regarded Gareth for a moment, something vulnerable shifting in his expression. He laid back on the grass and threw an arm over his face so his eyes were hidden in the crook of his elbow. The words flowed easier after that, like he needed the barrier to be able to continue. “Catalina was killed when I was young. Before you ask, I don’t know how, why, or by whom, even though I was there when it happened. After that, I was hauled off to travel with my father. We settled in Alfheim, where I started school. I was expelled some years later, and Unity hired me not long after that. This is where you’ll start getting your answers.”

“You underestimate the scope of my questions, I think. I’m sorry about your mother; at least you still had your father.”

“I wouldn’t say ‘at least’,” Roman said. “He was a cruel man, made crueler when he decided I was at fault for my mother’s death. On those days, he looked at me and…he saw Catalina. He saw the life he never got to have with her and he saw her dead all over again. I looked too much like her, he always said. Maybe I do. I don’t even remember what she looked like.”

Gareth didn’t know what to say to that. He’d seen glimpses of Roman’s darker sides and had of course picked up on the telltale signs of a difficult upbringing, but Roman seemed happy, friendly and cheerful and kind. Gareth never could have imagined the sadness he now glimpsed existed within Roman.

Roman peeked out from under his arm and laughed, guessing at Gareth’s thoughts. “What you think people are— what they seem to be— is rarely the truth, Gareth. We all pretend, some of us are just better than others. Myself, I sometimes feel like everything I am is a construction. I have to be, because what’s underneath is a damaged, broken thing no one should want to be near.”

“I don’t believe that’s true.”

Roman waved his hand dismissively.

“What did you mean, you don’t know how your mother was killed?” Gareth asked. Something about the way Roman had said it made it sound like there was more to tell.

“I just don’t remember,” Roman said. “I’ve never been able to, even back then. I’ve tried. I’ve tried so many times, but that whole day is just missing. I remember pieces of it in dreams, but I wake up and there’s nothing.”

Gareth sighed. “I can’t imagine how hard that must be. I’m sorry, Roman.”

Roman eyed Gareth, trying to gauge whether his sympathy was genuine. “It was a long time ago, and things are getting better. Well, they get better and then they get worse—that’s just life— but they always get better again. And for now, I’m doing just fine.”

“Are you?” Gareth asked, considering the bags under Roman’s eyes, the bruise on his cheek, the dimness of his smile. Nothing about this latter had changed, but now that Gareth knew to look, he could see the sadness in it.

The smile faltered. “I am,” Roman said, not sounding as sure.

“Even with everything going on with Leandros and Unity?”

Roman sat up. “I see what you’re doing, Gareth. You’re trying to get your answers. You’ll have them, but I want to explain the situation first. I don’t want you to think less of me when you hear what I did for Unity. I was desperate. You can’t possibly understand the things I went through, but I want to give you an idea.

“After leaving Alfheim, I found myself homeless and friendless. My father didn’t want anything to do with me. I tried living alone in the woods for a time, but—,” Roman cut off with a laugh, shaking his head. “It didn’t go well. Have you ever gone hungry, Gareth? The first week without food is always the worst. You’re in agony, every cell in your body screaming for nourishment. After that, the pain dulls but you can still feel yourself growing weaker every day, getting closer to death. It was a hard winter and this sort of hunger that drove me to Gallontea for the first time. I did odd jobs, but it wasn’t enough. I lived on the streets.

“Living like that, you have to beg or steal to survive. My pride didn’t allow the former, but I also wasn’t a very good thief. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to rest— if a guard finds you, they beat you and tell you to go away. If anyone else finds you…You’d think we’d stick together, all of us who lived like this, but it’s not so. It’s man against man, fighting over food, shelter, space. In the wild, if an animal finds you they’ll only kill you. Desperate, lonely men do much worse.” Roman shook his head as if to clear the thought. “I wasn’t suited to that life, in the end. I got in a fight with some officers, was thrown in jail.”

Not knowing what else to say, Gareth only repeated, “I’m so sorry.”

“Stop saying that like you understand. You can’t possibly understand,” Roman snapped. He sighed and added, softer, “Ah, now I’m the one who should apologize. This is hard to talk about. It was in that prison that Unity found me. They offered me a job with security, a salary, and answers to questions I’d long sought. Of course I took it.”

“What was the job?”

Roman sat back on his hands and blew out a slow breath. “That’s a harder question than you realize. Are you sure you want to know, Gareth? Even if the simple act of knowing might put you in danger?”

Gareth swallowed. “I want to know.”

“Unity has been manipulating the course of the world for longer than you could imagine. If you knew half the things they’ve done…”

“Roman,” Gareth interrupted, “Please, just tell me.”

“Give me a minute. I’m trying to figure out how to approach this,” Roman said, running a hand through his hair, leaving his curls messy. “Have you ever thought about where Unity’s power comes from?”

Gareth hadn’t, but he paused to do so now. “Its laws, or the representatives making them.”

“But why do we listen to the representatives? Why do we obey their laws? Some people do it because it’s easy, or because they believe in the work Unity does,or because they have no power of their own to question it, but what about the others? What happens when that’s not enough? When the damage Unity does surpasses the good, why do we still give them power? What’s stopping us from collectively saying ‘damn them’ and doing whatever we want?”

“Fear of punishment, I suppose,” Gareth said. “Fines, prison—,”

“Torture, execution, or worse,” Roman finished. The suns caught on some sharp emotion in his dark eyes, giving him a mad look. The whites of them seemed to flash in the light.

“Well, yes— wait, what?”

“Unity has been ruling for two thousand years, Gareth, getting greedier and greedier with each passing day. In all that time, there’s not been a single revolution, battle, uprising. Well, aside from Egil’s secession , but that’s an exception. Aside from him — no, including him — anyone who speaks out against Unity ends up mysteriously dead, missing, or they just go silent. Why?”

“I don’t know,” Gareth admitted.

“What do you know about the Enforcers?”

“The what?”

“That’s what I thought.” Roman sighed. “You know those dogs that are bred just to be mean? To attack anyone their owner tells them to? You don’t blame the dog for that, right?”

“Of course not. You blame the owner.”

Roman nodded. “That’s what the Enforcers are. They’re Unity’s attack dogs.”

“Okay,” Gareth said, slowly. Then he shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

“They’re Unity’s soldiers. Or slaves, if you prefer. Unity takes them in as children and molds them, turns them into the perfect killers and spies. They’re taught about poisons, weapons, assassinations. They learn how to steal into cities, break into strongholds, go anywhere, do anything. They’re trained in diplomacy, too— they can befriend, seduce, blackmail, fool anyone into doing anything— whatever Unity needs.”

Roman watched Gareth’s reaction carefully as he spoke, but at this point, he closed his eyes and furrowed his brow, fighting off some dark memory. “Unity tortures them, wears them down, strips away their identities. They take away everything that they are until all that’s left are feral tools, loyal to Unity and no one else. They’re shadows and brute force. There’s no escaping them.”

“It sounds like a fiction,” Gareth said.

“I wish I had the luxury of agreeing.”

“Roman, you— were you one of them?”

“I was.”

“But you hate Unity. You don’t work for them now. If all you’re saying is true, how’d you get away?”

Roman’s answering grin was feral. “I took one too many beatings and turned on my owner. I fled and hid long enough for them to forget about me.”

Gareth looked away, tried to think. He believed it. Even a month ago he might not have, but with the things he’d seen and heard, he believed it. And he realized it made sense – it filled gaps in his research. Suddenly, the pieces fit together. “Egil was one of them, wasn’t he?”

Roman blinked. “Why would you think that?”

Gareth told Roman about the first real account of Egil he’d read, the words “What monster have we created?” written in a Unity Representative’s shaky hands. “Everyone who met him said he seemed like he was trying to make up for something. It explains why he’d turn on Unity, too. And Unity, they keep records on everyone important— their records are lacking where Egil is concerned. If the Enforcers are such a big secret, that makes sense.”

“Roman,” Gareth continued, “Forgive me for pushing, but…Leandros told me to ask you about Egil. He said you knew him.”

Roman’s lips twitched as if he was enjoying some private joke. “Did he?”

Gareth nodded.

“Egil was the first Enforcer,” Roman said, finally, not meeting Gareth’s gaze. “He trained all the others, before he got away, too. I knew him.”

Gareth let out a shaky breath.

“Gareth, you need to listen to me. We’re getting to the important part,” Roman said. “Egil and I may have gotten out, but the Enforcers are stronger than ever. You know a few of them by now.”

Gareth stared at him. “I what?”

“The security team,” Roman said. “I haven’t met any of them yet, so I’m not sure how many are Enforcers and how many are really security, but based on what you and Leandros said yesterday, I’d bet that orinian is one of them.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Gareth scoffed. “She’s far too sweet to be an assassin.”

“Did you listen to a thing I just said? She’s trained to be that way. Gareth, what did you think of me when we first met? You just told me you trusted me. You trusted me enough to let you drag you wounded to a hospital. You let me near your family, your wife and daughter. You asked me to stay in your house, and I could kill you a dozen different ways, right now, right here, without even exerting myself.”

Gareth swallowed.

“I’m not going to,” Roman scoffed, “If that wasn’t obvious.”

“But Eftychia— she’s a bit loose in the head, I think.”

“That makes it all the more likely. She has to cope with the things Unity’s done to her somehow. I was the same way when I got away from them. Ask Leandros. He met me not long after.”

Gareth stayed silent.

“The Enforcers are Unity’s prized secret, their greatest weapon. It’s a serious mission that takes even two of them away from the Island, so the question is, why are there so many on the team? I don’t believe that it’s to protect the diplomats. Unity wouldn’t waste even one Enforcer for that; they’d just hire actual security.”

Still trying to process it all, Gareth said, “When you were talking with Moira the other night, you said that Unity wants control of the team.”

“Very good, Gareth! They clearly don’t care about the Nochdvors, given what they tried to do with Leandros. But they want control of this mission, so they’ve assigned multiple Enforcers to it. The question again is why? Perhaps they’re after something other than the safe return of our dear King Nochdvor.”

“The magic,” Gareth guessed.

“You do hear a lot, you nosy thing! How much do you know about all that?”

Gareth shook his head. “I’ve just heard the rumors. Moira dismissed them as foolish, but I’m not sure I believe anything she’s told me anymore.”

“Smart choice. From what I’ve heard, when the King was kidnapped, Rheamarie and Leandros Nochdvor witnessed an orinian use magic. Unity’s been telling anyone who’ll listen that the Nochdvors were in shock, that they confused some new kind of weapon for magic. But whatever they saw, it destroyed Illyon’s throne room and all its politicians in an instant, leaving nothing but charred brick and bodies. Whatever they saw, Unity wants it. That’s exactly the sort of thing that Unity would mobilize the Enforcers to investigate.”

“Do you think it really is magic?”

“I have no idea,” Roman said. “But I’ve been through a great deal with Leandros and I’ve never known him to forsake his rationality. I’ll have to ask him for more information on what he saw when he decides to speak to me again. But there’s something strange going on, and Unity can’t be allowed to wield the kind of power used in Illyon.”

“Is that why you wanted to get on the team so badly?”

Roman hummed. “Nosy and clever. That’s a dangerous combination, Gareth. Yes, it is. Magic or weapon, I have to get to the heart of it first.”

“Who’s nosy now?” Gareth asked. “What do we do?”

“Wait and see what happens,” Roman said with a shrug. “There’s nothing I can do here, with Unity so close and Orean so far. I’ll decide more when we get there. You are to do exactly what you’re supposed to do. The Enforcers aren’t going to harm any of you, and while this diplomatic mission may have been created as a front, it’s still a good idea. If we don’t get Nochdvor back, if you’re unsuccessful, I don’t have a lot of faith in Rheamarie’s temper. She can hold it back better, but when she snaps, she’s worse than her cousin.”

“You know the princess, too?”

Roman looked away, studying his hands. “And her father. We were close, in a way.”


“I went back to the Alfheim Academy after getting away from Unity. I figured I’d finished enough of the program that I might as well. Leandros was in the same class as me, then. I was still damaged and angry over what Unity did to me, and Leandros saw that I was hurting. We became friends, he…helped me heal. We eventually got so close that his family had no choice but to warm up to me as well.”

“But your reunion yesterday…what happened between you?”

Roman stared off into the park for a long time, then eventually said, “We drifted apart.”

Gareth was learning how to read Roman, by now. He had a certain way of hesitating that meant there was more to a story, and he was doing it now. Gareth waited to see if he’d continue, but instead he shrugged and refocused on Gareth.

“You know, Gareth, I believe it’s your turn.” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve just told you my entire story, and it seems unfair that I still don’t have yours,” Roman said with a small smile. “And that’s my way of saying I’m done talking about myself.”

“I don’t have a story. You were right when you said I couldn’t understand the things you went through,” Gareth said. “We grew up in Adriat, my siblings and me. My father was a Unity Representative, so we were never lacking. But he wasn’t around much, and when he was, he didn’t care to spend time with us.”

Roman took a deep breath. “That’s not what I meant about not understanding. Pain is pain— yours being different than mine doesn’t make it less real. An absent father can be worse than a cruel one, and I can’t understand what that was like for you, either. But keep going. That was hardly a full story.”

“Fine, fine. Growing up, I spent most of my time with Moira and Aldous. Moira helped teach and take care of us, at least until my father died of consumption and she took his place in Unity. I married my childhood sweetheart, bought my own home near Adriat, and had Ofelia.”

“You and Isobel were childhood sweethearts?” Roman asked with a smile.

“Yes, her father was the rector at my father’s church. The parish was on Ranulf property, so she lived close. I never made my admiration a secret. When we reached marrying age, I called on her so frequently that I might as well have lived at the parsonage. Her father’s influence is why I’m so unlike my siblings, I think. He was kind and gentle and taught me to think about more than myself.’ Gareth realized he was rambling. “Like I said, it’s all a bit boring.”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Gareth hummed, grateful for Roman’s assurances. He glanced at the young man and noticed for the first time a long scar on his shoulder. Looking closer, he saw that it wasn’t the only one — scores of pale lines crisscrossed a pattern into his arms and shoulders, bringing new life to the Enforcer story.

“Did you get all of those when you worked for Unity?” Gareth asked.

Roman looked down at his arms. “Some of them.”

“And the others?”

Roman sat up and shifted onto his knees. He held his arms up so Gareth could see. “See these?” He pointed to the barely-noticeable circles of pink skin on his hands and forearms. “Chemical burns. Back in my day, schools weren’t as concerned with student safety as they are now.”

“I’m sure it had nothing to do with recklessness on your part,” Gareth said, wondering how long ago ‘Roman’s day’ was. It couldn’t have been long.

Roman laughed. “I wasn’t reckless. Curious, maybe.” He looked over his arms again. “I don’t remember how I got most of these, to be honest.” He lifted his undershirt and pointed at a long, jagged pink scar running along his side. “This one, though, is from the first time I tried to hunt on my own. I had to stitch this up with the supplies I managed to steal from the nearest village, so it never healed right. It actually got badly infected— still not sure how it didn’t kill me. Come to think of it, that might be where my dislike of stitches came from. This one—,” He pointed to a scar above his navel, “—Is from the time I got stabbed.”

“You what?”

“You heard me.”

Gareth pointed at the strange, round scar just above Roman’s heart. He’d noticed it a few times peeking out from above Roman’s shirt. It was the size of an orange, at least, getting darker as it approached the center. “What about that one?”

Roman tugged up his shirt, smile falling. “That one’s a long story.”

“Ah,” Gareth said awkwardly, and a silence fell between them. It was getting late, he noticed. He still had work to do and his things to pack. He didn’t realize he’d sighed out loud until he noticed Roman studying him with a frown.

“You’re not old, you know,” Roman said. It was the last thing Gareth had expected to hear.

“Beg your pardon?”

“You called yourself old earlier.”

“So? We were joking. I was joking with you.”

“That’s not the first time I’ve heard you say something similar, though. I’m starting to think it’s more than a joke to you. Every time you say something bad about yourself, you really believe it. By repeating the lie you’re changing the way others see you, too. Gareth, you’re not old, not boring, not useless. None of it’s true. You’re clever and sharp and kind. I don’t spill my secrets easily. I didn’t even tell Dinara most of what I just told you, but I trust you. And I think you could be something amazing if you stopped holding yourself back. Please believe that I mean this.”

Gareth opened his mouth to respond, then shut it, unsure of what to say. Looking at Roman now, Gareth could see Roman’s heart, torn and stitched back together by kindness and hope. His mask had cracked, the facade dissolved. Gareth could see his pain. It was timeless.

It wasn’t a child’s terror in the face of murdered mothers and cruel fathers, a fresh wound still bleeding. It wasn’t a young man’s burns hidden behind a false smile, thinly repressed horrors tugging at the memory, every movement jostling and sending a wave of pain coursing through the body. It wasn’t a grown man’s resentment as he copes with the chronic aches of an injury never fully healed. It wasn’t the accompanying oppressive depression.

It wasn’t even an old man’s understanding, the calm that comes from finally surrendering to the hurt of so many years ago and knowing that it would soon be over. Roman’s pain was all of these at once, at war within a man who was both young and old, naive and wise. Hurting, repressing, resenting, accepting. Young, old, and somewhere in between.

Gareth saw all of it in Roman’s eyes.

“Roman, how old are you?” he blurted. “Aren’t you sapien? The way Moira talked about you…the way you talk about yourself sometimes, it makes me wonder.”

Roman smiled, and Gareth saw the mask slip back on. “That’s a rude question, Gareth, and I don’t think I feel particularly inclined to answer.”

Gareth let it drop, but he knew he hit some mark. The fact that Roman knew so much, knew Egil, who’d been dead for centuries…but wait. Belatedly, Gareth remembered something Moira said the other day: in all of Unity’s history, only one Enforcer ever left Unity’s services. Not two, one.

And Leandros, he’d made it sound like Roman was an authority on Egil. What if…

Gareth’s heartbeat raced in his chest.

“Stop staring at me like I just killed your dog, Gareth. What are you thinking?” Roman asked. “No, don’t tell me – it probably involves more questions I don’t want to answer. Aren’t you curious about yesterday? Leandros was right; it wasn’t Unity that attacked.”

Gareth blinked, trying to hide the fact that everything he knew just turned on its head. Suspecting Roman would only continue to put up walls if he asked more questions, he instead said, “So someone else does want him dead.”

Roman nodded. “Leandros won’t be safe until we’re out of Gallontea. Even then, Unity might end up siccing one of the Enforcers on him anyway, if they realize I won’t do it.”

“You’re worried.”

“Of course I am.”

“I know someone who could help,” Gareth said. “Wyndie has a friend in the city, a rosanin with an ability that might be of use to Leandros. Come, let’s go talk to Wyndie.”

A/N: Oh, Roman…

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  1. Tristan Tristan

    I love these two so much. I’m so happy they got time to talk

  2. I was so sure that this was when Gareth, noted scholar of the history and myths of Egil, was going to put it together!

    • He’s so close!!! He just needs a liiitle more time to puzzle it all out!

  3. jas jas

    oh Roman is RIGHT oh my god?!! and his comment to Gareth at the end?? that was so sweet and heavy at the same time… oh Roman…

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