"What is left now for me, love thee, hate thee,
My old pain, my light, if there is no life?
In the dead of night when the cost is high,
And I cannot leave… So forgive, forgive, forgive
Hellawes, "The Prince".
The night is half gone. But it's still long until the east will be clad in the radiance of dawn. Breeze is stirring the tree branches in the park, swaying the curtains of a half-open window, making drowsy royal guards shiver. Small eyes of the stars are looking down on the tired earth but what they tell each other there, in that unimaginable height – who knows.
She is walking down the empty corridors and galleries, without a hurry, a thoughtful smile on her face. Light of occasional torches makes her short dark hair look streaked with nielloed copper, her shadow dance on the tapestries. Long corridors, locked doors…
There is no royal sentry in this part of the palace. The guards' armor is decorated with a stylized hawk. Every man in the country knows this symbol, the sign of the heroes, the best, the most valiant. The heroes who took Doldrey, saved the country, they follow her with their eyes and wonder why Caska, the second-in-command of the famous Band of the Hawk seems to not notice them. She's not wearing her usual armor. The long sword at her belt is the sole reminder of her formidable warrior skills and the hundreds of battles she's been through.
"If you want to protect yourself, take the sword!"
To protect herself is easy, but how to protect him?
Midnight. On its well-smeared hinges, the door opens without a sound.
I can't defend you, can't protect. I must have come too late…
A room on the third floor of the Windham Palace. A bed with a canopy, a night-light glowing near. There sleeps a man.
It's only glory you love and she is jealous. I never tried to stand between you and her. She got you, as you wanted – and destroyed you. You don't notice it, my hawk. You fly too high and look only at the sun, you see neither me down there on gray earth, nor your wings changing their former snow-white color. Griffith, oh Griffith, why couldn't I stop you!
The man is smiling in his sleep, and it's hard to believe this innocent smile graces the face not of a seventeen-years old boy, but of White Hawk Griffith himself, the greatest hero of Midland.
…Who could lay cities waste in the name of his dream, his glory. Who's not a warrior anymore but a murderer. A traitor. Griffith, oh Griffith, what have you done to yourself? What have we done to you!
The sleeping man has nothing to fear. His sleep is protected not by the royal guards who can be bribed or intimidated but by the most loyal of all, soldiers of the Band of the Hawk. Those who will never leave or betray him – Judeau, Pippin, Rickert… Caska.
Strands of white hair tossed about the pillow, the blanket slipping down a little, showing well-built shoulder muscles and the thin line of an old scar.
Caska approaches the bed. Her soft leather boots muffle the sound of her steps. But Caska's steps would not have wakened Griffith anyway.
My Hawk, how did it come so that we lost you? It was possible to stop you, it really was… But we only followed. Look, Griffith, you've got almost everything you wanted. You sought for fame and kingdom – here is Midland, ready to fall into your hand, like an overripe fruit. But you've lost yourself. What happens to you when you realize it? What?!
She is silently watching his chiseled features, so loved, so familiar. The dim candle doesn't give enough light and only a half of Griffith's face can be seen, the rest is covered in shadow. The smile's still gracing his lips.
You fly so high, Hawk. None of us, your followers, ever dreamed of even looking into that shining height. But we preserved ourselves while you rushed into the sky, and this effort has burned you. Will you be terrified when you look into the silver mirror? Or is there no place in your heart to realize this loss?
Griffith, oh Griffith, how I love you!
Caska takes out a long double-edged dagger and with a swift movement plunges it between the sleeping man's ribs. Crackle of a broken bone, a short rattle… bottomless deep of blue eyes open wide in amazement and slowly losing the glow of life.
The young woman pulls the dagger out of the wound and takes a step away. Her movement causes a gust of wind, the candle blazes for a moment and shadow leaves Griffith's face. After that the room sinks into darkness.
- Fly, hawk… - Caska's whisper is barely audible. The movement of her armed hand slicing her own throat is quick and steady.