I stared in soft surprise as Engle started to weep. He must have lost something that meant more to him than life itself. Gently, so as not to disturb him, I looked into his memories, and found a small girl, unmistakably Engle's daughter. "Engle..." I murmured, stepping closer to him. "I'm sorry."

He lashed out at me, forcing me to step back to avoid his fist. "What do you know about it?!" he screamed. The look in his eyes was truly frightening. "Have you ever lost family?! Lost a daughter?!"

"Family, yes," I said quietly. "A daughter, no. I've not had the fortune to have a daughter."

Something in my voice stopped him. Though the pain still raged behind his eyes, his face had calmed. A sudden weakness invaded my legs, and I sat heavily down on the floor. "There was a girl, who lived in the elven village I once called home. She was the lady-in-waiting to the princess of the elves, despite the fact that, like me, she was a half-breed. When she wasn't with the princess, she was with me. I taught her everything I could about the world-- how to live in it, defend herself in it. She was my sister, though no blood tied us." I paused, overcome by the memories that had come rushing back to me with Engle's pain. "One day, something happened. I don't remember what it was, but I think I fought something that had invaded the village. I lost."

I had to take a deep breath before I could continue. This part brought more pain than anything else. "She came in between me and the invader. I couldn't bear to watch her die...but I had no choice. My own futility was killing the both of us. Then, I found a new strength. I don't think I'll ever remember what happened next. I don't want to. The invader was dead, I was injured, and she..." I gasped for the breath that had escaped me. "She was scarred by the darkness I had called from within me. I had power, yes, but my lack of control over it led to her being hurt far beyond her scar." I fixed my gaze directly into Engle's eyes. "She never spoke another word after that day. I had destroyed her voice."

"You ask if I've lost family. I have told you of what I've lost. Don't speak to me of pain as if I'm numb. I know depths of pain that you have never dreamed of." Slowly, I rose, confronting my own weakness. "I'll never forgive myself for hurting her. Never. Just as I could never forgive myself for allowing women and children to be brutally murdered before my eyes."

I had shocked everyone into silence. Feeling a fierce pleasure at this, I turned away, stared out the window as if it opened into a sea of guilt. "We should leave here soon; I can feel dark things moving nearby. It would be best to leave them behind in the sun. We need to set watches while the rest of us sleep."

My words seemed to spur Engle back into action. "Who takes the first watch, then?"

"I will," Salleem said quietly. His words sounded thoughtful. "I'll wake you when my turn's done."

At that, we all returned to what we had been doing: Thalean and I ripped apart the stairs for the fireplace, Salleem slid down the wall next to Heather with his hand pinching his nose, and Engle leaned against the far wall, trying to work through his grief.

Okokhe came fluttering in through the window. "No guards," he said with a grin.

"Good," Engle mumbled. "We need to rest."

He immediately slid down the wall and apparently went to sleep. Shrugging, I pulled the last of the stairs that I could reach free and let Thalean light the fire. I laid down under the window and allowed a peaceful darkness to wash away the weariness of this day.

The End

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