Hope Lost and Hope Found I’d like to tell you that this is as dark as the road gets for Keatoph. Yet, I’m afraid I’d be lying to you.
Our hero and his comrades fight the guard of Greanfas, but it is as if Keatoph is not truly present. There is a gloss to his eyes and a lag to his movements. Each chance he has to win the battle is like a mother asking her child to collect more wood for the fire. It is left unanswered and found wanting.
Keatoph feels altogether ready to surrender, except that he cannot let Ophni’s journey end here. He is disappointed in Hesfall, but it is a small feeling compared to how disappointed he is with himself. He feels no certainty regarding the direction he should go. Rather, his heart is filled with bitterness over every past path.
If the other captains of Greanfas, those who are loyal to the old King and know Rohkie, did not arrive , this surely would have been the end.
They grab Keatoph and retreat out of the city. Saged warriors face saged warriors. Numbers on both sides dwindle as they pass through the streets of the last citadel of men to the west.
They reach the Felhind woods. Rohkie ushers the trees to lock branches and roots, serving as a wall against their enemies. By the time night falls, they are halfway to the Keywash river and away from imminent danger.
Stars shine through leaves. Men help bind their brother’s wounds. Camp is made with fire. Beds are made with cloaks. Rohkie goes through the usual motion of summoning food for his comrades.
Keatoph hardly eats. Instead, he sits out in the shadows, away from everyone else. It is strangely comforting to be as you feel at times. Especially, when you feel alone.
Ophni does not let him stay there.
“When are we going?” She queries, setting herself next to him on the grass.
“I’m not going. Ask Rohkie.”
“I’m not going with Rohkie,” she informs him. “I’m going with you.”
Keatoph looks at her. She is beautiful and gentle.
“If you do not hunt down Grifkar, you will be a deserter to your people.”
“Why do you keep saving me?” She swallows.
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean. At the great hall, at the bottom of the Wellik mountains. You risked yourself to save me.”
Keatoph gives no answer.
“The Kingdom of the elves is like the stars,” Ophni tells him. “Beautiful, and lonely.” She looks at him. “You did not leave me.” She grabs his hand. “I will not leave you.”
Our hero looks at his princess. In a moment he sees her clearly. She is more royal than he. He throws his arms around her and weeps bitterly.
For the first time, Keatoph is not alone.