Neil stepped to the edge of the ravine, his heart thrumming loudly in his ears but not loud enough to block the screams that came from deep below. His breath caught in his chest as he saw Faleth suspended between the two walls, purple energy tethering him and writhing around him. His arms were splayed out, but his fists were clenched balls as his head looked skyward and his mouth opened. Another scream came from the half-elf that was something between ecstasy and torture.
Tears welled in Neil’s eyes as he fell to his knees, gripping the grass as though it would stop him from falling to join his friend.
“Faleth,” Neil muttered, shaking his head. “What have you done to yourself?”
Faleth’s eyes opened, bringing with them a purple glow.
“Neil! My friend! Help me!” Faleth cried as his body twisted and convulsed. “It’s too much.”
“I-I can’t,” Neil said, a tear rolling down his cheek becoming icy in the autumn wind. “I can’t help you now.”
“N-Neil.” Faleth stuttered as another cord of energy appeared from the wall and lashed around him. His eyes grew wide and pleading as his voice caught in his throat for a few seconds. “It hurts, Neil. Help me, please.”
“There’s nothing I can do,” Neil replied. “There’s nothing anyone can do to help you.”
“Then kill me. End it. I don’t care; I just-“
Neil looked on as Faleth’s breath caught once again, and he struggled to form words. He wanted to run. He wanted to never witness anything like this again.
“KILL ME!” Faleth screamed, finally finding his breath.
Neil rocked back as a hand gently touched his shoulder.
“We should go,” Tevarin said, drawing his attention up to her tear-streaked face.
“H-He wants to die,” Neil said, shaking his head. “Can’t you do that much for him?”
“I can’t,” Tevarin replied. “I wish I could. The mages were clear that killing him would unleash the power he sought on the world, causing unknown levels of destruction.”
“Come on, Neil. We need to leave.”
“TEVARIN!” Faleth cried from his prison. “YOU WERE MY FRIEND. PLEASE END THIS MISERY!”
Neil felt Tevarin shudder as she squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. They were cold once more when her eyes opened, and she reached down and lifted him back to his feet before leading him away from the ravine.
Faleth’s screams grew quieter as they walked back to where they had left the horses, but in the silence between them, the cries of anguish could have been right beside them. Neil felt Tevarin’s grip tighten on his hand as the sounds faded into the general noise of the leaves in the trees.
“So, what are you going to do now?” Tevarin asked, her eyes looking back in the direction of Faleth. “Are you going to continue?”
“I have to,” Neil replied. “If Nyx was right about Faleth, he could be right about the others. Are you coming with me?”
“This is enough for me to witness. I’m heading back to Jamestown and back to Cade. I think he should know what became of Faleth.”
Neil nodded as a cool breeze made him shiver. He pulled his cloak in tighter around him as though it would block out more than just the wind.
Tevarin mounted Nightbane and pulled up the reins as she looked down at him.
“Don’t spend too much time here,” she said, “If I know you, you’ll do something stupid if you hang around. Faleth is in the prison of his own making, and one that he deserves after what he attempted.”
Neil nodded and mounted Jingle beside her.
“I’m sorry for everything,” Neil said, “I’m sorry we couldn’t protect him.”
“After the explosion, we thought he was dead,” Tevarin replied. “I’ve grieved for my friend enough, and seeing the monster in that pit hasn’t changed that. Faleth died those many months ago.”
Neil turned Jingle to face east.
“I wish you safe travels and good weather,” Tevarin said as she brought Nightbane up beside him. She suddenly leaned over and kissed his cheek. “I hope for your sake that Nyx is wrong about the others.”
“Me too,” Neil said, trying to sound hopeful before Tevarin brought Nightbane around and rode off to the west.
Neil sat there atop Jingle for several minutes, watching Tevarin until she vanished around the bend in the road. He sighed deeply and looked back in the direction of Faleth.
Gathering up the reins of his horse, he kicked her into motion, hoping that the image of Faleth would fade from his memory with time.