David has returned to us for three days after having left for the same. I have been far too busy during this period to sort out my thoughts, let alone to pen an entry.

How David achieved the feat of bringing back Rush Sykes is not something he would explain to me. I have asked Irina, who said that she also did not understand why using Marion's Blessing on David could have led to this. Though, as I stood outside his bedchamber upon hearing the good news, voices could be heard, young Rush apparently upset with a choice David had made. It makes one think that a sacrifice had been made in order to facilitate the return. Even though David would not speak on the matter, I know the truth will come to me in time.

With Rush's return, one gets the feeling that the war is truly over. Peace, so hard-won by each one of us, finally goes beyond a mere concept and settles into our hearts. I know that Emma is smiling as she watches over us.

David has entered talks with other lords regarding Rush Syke's future. Depending on its outcome, I can perhaps consider accepting the invitation Allan made a few weeks ago. I am delighted that he thought of us. The idea of


Torgal put down his pen and stood. "My lord." David looked weary, but the way he held himself suggested to Torgal he was happy. "The meeting is over?"

"Yes, finally. Lord Ghor and Lord Qubine are on their way home."

"It has gone well?"

David nodded. "Everything in our favour."

"Congratulations." The outcome wasn't unexpected, but Torgal was still relieved.

"Thank you." David eyed Torgal's desk. "You are busy?"

"No. It's just a bit of personal writing. What would you like me to do?"

"Would you know Rush's whereabouts?"

"I can have him located." Torgal's eyes swept over David once. "Why don't you take a rest somewhere, and I will send him to you?"

David considered the offer. "It's okay, I will look for him myself."

"If you're prepared to search the length and breadth of the castle. You are aware how he tends to be at the most hard-to-find places."

David chuckled with more genuine amusement than Torgal had heard for a long time. "Oh, I'm well aware of that." He turned on his heels, ready to leave Torgal's study.

"My lord?"


"Should I assume that this year's summer retreat will be relocated to Eulam?"

"Torgal," David mock frowned, "are you teasing me?"

"Of course not," replied Torgal, although his face said otherwise, "I am only thinking about the preparations."

David just frowned at him some more. "I haven't decided on what to do yet, but don't worry about such things. I intend to let Blocter handle it this time. He's perfectly capable of the task."

That was true. It was time to let go a little, Torgal reminded himself.

"Is there anything else?" David arched an eyebrow, dipping his head ever so slightly so that it was as if he was peering at Torgal at an angle.

Sovani ears pulled back in amazement and embarrassment; this child was getting too good at reading him. "Erm..."

"'Erm'?" David's eyes widened, surprised. "Torgal, did you just say 'erm'?"

Torgal cleared his throat and hid his mortification. "An old friend... Allan... has been in contact recently. He said he's discovered a network of tunnels in Lavafender which have not been recorded anywhere before." He paused. It wasn't a usual request he had and he wasn't sure how to say it. "There's... an invitation."

Silence. David inclined his head when he realised Torgal wasn't going to continue. "Invitation? To visit Lavafender?"

"Yes... an adventure of sorts."

After another moment of silence, David guffawed. It took a while for him to reign in his laughter. "I'm sorry," he said, shaking his head, the lasts of his laughter dying on his lips, "go, Torgal. It's recess, you're entitled to your holiday even if you had hardly taken one in the last eighty-one years."


"The rest of the staff can manage things. I will be fine."

"But... the invitation is for both Emmy and me."

"Then all the better. Take her with you." David straightened himself, taking a deep breath. "I'm glad."

"Thank you."

After David left the room, Torgal returned to his writing.

I hope that one day David will be able to come with us.


An old friend. Going on an adventure. Taking Emmy with him. None of these were things David had ever heard from Torgal's lips before. The man was still every bit the sovani general - an idea Athlum might have got used to, but extremely unusual when one stopped and thought about it - but for once he spoke about himself and what he wanted to do. Perhaps he finally considered David mature enough to handle matters without him, or maybe Torgal was finding the balance between being who he was and being part of the society he'd chosen to live in, but either way, when David said he was glad for him, he meant it. From what he knew of the sovanis and of Allan, for Emmy to be invited as well was something exceptional. It was family time the two of them really deserved.

David halted his train of thoughts and chided himself when he realised he was getting envious.

Although he did tell Torgal he would search for Rush himself, David was feeling quite lethargic after the lengthy meetings and so he wandered through the castle's many corridors slowly, his mind drawn back to the day Rush returned to this world.

The first thing Rush wanted to know was where they were. When he found out that he was in David's bedchamber, on the bed, he had laughed and said that was taking things a bit too fast, and he hadn't even removed his shoes yet.

And then he asked what exactly it was David had done that enabled him to return, not accepting "by the sheer force of our wills" as an explanation. David did not answer the question, but Rush figured it out in only a moment.

"It was mine to do as I was pleased with," David had said then.

Still curled on the bed, with David kneeling behind him and bent over him as if to protect him from harm, Rush did his best to meet eyes with David. He was shaking, shocked. David liked this. He liked being able to tell how Rush was feeling. "What gives you the right to make that choice for me?"

"I am a lord. Making decisions is what I do best."

"It's not funny!"

"I'm sorry. It was a selfish decision. If I didn't do that, I wouldn't be able to live with myself."

"Bastard. You call that selfish? How am I gonna live with myself?"

"You live. That's what matters."

It was the first time David saw Rush's eyes redden. In person, not from a visistone. His voice became barely audible. "Goddammit, Dave."

They fell silent then, and David finally moved away when his legs started to go numb; there must be people waiting outside, anxious to see Rush.

They hadn't spoken about it since. In fact, they hadn't spoken very much to each other in the past few days, each with his own life to catch up with. Ministerial recess was far from over, but David had to handle the consequences of Rush's return. Rush's true role in the war was kept a secret between Ghor, Qubine and David, and although the dukes had displayed much trust in David, this was not something he was ready to just count on, nor was he willing to hide Rush away forever.

The talks lasted three days. In the end David was successful, yet he was left with the feeling that the two dukes were going to let him have his way anyway and Ghor only entered the talks as a matter of procedure, and Qubine saw it as a chance to toy with him. In the meanwhile, Rush spent his days in the castle with his family and made himself scarce. Irina was concerned enough to go and explain her brother's behaviour to David, in case he thought Rush was being ungrateful, but David already understood. Family was Rush's priority, the first in Rush's life, and nothing would ever change that. Also, seeing him would only make David feel even more pressured during the discussion.

Now, though, there was nothing he wanted to do more than to see Rush and give him the good news.

But where in the world was Rush?

After asking several people, David headed for his own chambers and spotted Rush just outside the door, clutching a familiar small bag. Seeing David, Rush hid the bag behind him with the subtlety of a charging beastman before pulling a defiant face when David laughed. Swinging the bag of visistones over his shoulder instead, Rush decided not to let David speak first. "You're taking a break?"

David went to his door and opened it. "No, the meeting is over. Would you like to come in, then we can talk about it?" he asked, trying to keep his face neutral, hiding his amusement when Rush's entire body jerked at the news and yet he didn't right away try to ask about the outcome.

Once inside, David shrugged off his jacket and hung it on a chair. Seeing that, Rush put down the bag, perhaps expecting a long talk. The solemn look on Rush's face made David decide against building the suspense any further. He didn't really enjoy toying with anyone's feelings even if it was harmless.

"I have good news for you: Celapaleis and Ghor will not pursue the issue further."

David observed the changes, the way every jointed in Rush's body seemed to unlock at the news. Just the look on Rush's face was worth all the hard work. "That means everything's okay? They aren't going to try to kill me or get me locked up?"

"Well, they are not. However," David eyed the bag by Rush's feet, a wry smile stealing its way to his lips. "I might consider having you arrested for theft."

Rush wasn't too amused. "They're mine!"

"They are, and I'm sorry for taking them," David said. "I would have given them back immediately if you'd just told me to. All of them, except for the one that belongs to me."

There was no response. David picked up the bag, found the visistone that had "D" marked on its side and slid it inside the breast pocket of his shirt. Rush's eyes followed every movement, but the rest of him stayed very still, not betraying his thoughts. And when he did finally speak, it wasn't about the contents of that device.

"What's Ghor and Qubine making you do for them?"

David paused for a second, then understood what Rush meant. "They haven't imposed any terms on me or on Athlum. Your freedom is unconditional."

"I'm going to ask them - "

"Rush." David caught Rush's arm when he realised Rush was going to leave right now. "It's true. Check with them if you feel you can't take my word for it, but there is no need to run from my presence."

Eye set on the door, it took Rush a moment to decide to stay.

"At this point I think we can speak more frankly with each other. Something is making you uncomfortable. What is it?"

Rush turned a little helpless. "You're doing too much for me," he said, suddenly looking like a sad puppy. "You really really don't have to."

"I'm just doing what I want to do."

"But you gave me your - "

"Only the part that Kellendros had already taken away." David smiled. "I haven't really lost anything."

"I... you..." Dark eyes shifted, settling on David's breast pocket as if seeing its contents. "I know what kind of a guy you are. I just... God, Dave, what am I going to do?"

Very slowly, David cocked his head to one side, waiting for Rush to explain what he meant.

"Look, I know what's done is done and I can say thanks to you a million times and I still won't feel that's enough. But I know. You always try to repay people and you felt guilty about something I decided to do and you've lost friends and family and a girl you'd loved, so you wanted to do something for me. And I'm so glad to see you again. Even if you'd left me there I honestly would've been happy. You shouldn't have given me your soul. It's the best gift, it's priceless and I... but..."

As Rush's voice trailed off and his eyes lowered to the floor, David walked closer, into Rush's personal space, but Rush took half a step back at the same time. He didn't agree with most of what Rush said but he was going to let him finish first. "Calm down."

Rush nodded; he was trying. He didn't seem confused, just sad. "Why don't you give me back that visistone?"

Having heard what Rush said earlier, this didn't startle David. "Was it not made for me?"

"You've done far too much for me already. What I did back then was my own choice and you shouldn't have let that and what I said on the visistone make you feel you have to help me or be with me. I don't want you to feel like you have to return my feelings. That's just not right."

The words nearly made David laugh just as much as they nearly made him sigh. Yes, perhaps things did seem that way to Rush. David had never confessed his feelings, never showed any reaction when Rush eluded that he was seeing Nora. Three days ago when Rush returned, David didn't explain why he wouldn't have been able to live with himself if he chose to leave Rush in that space between their world and Veyriel. And then Rush found out that David had seen the visistone that ought to have been destroyed. To anyone's eyes, it must seem like it was guilt, pity, and the desperate need to save someone after so many had been taken away, that drove David to do what he did. And now, somehow, David knew there was nothing he could say that could convince Rush otherwise. It would all just sound like lies.

Lies they had been telling each other all this time when the truth was right in front of them.

When it came to matters of the heart, actions spoke louder than words.

So David gave up on the lies, and on the words that could be misunderstood as lies, stepped forward and let action speak for him.




[That is all. Thanks for reading!]