All is pain, my heart, my head, my soul. I am cold, always. Each breath burns me and yet I dare not stop.
I did my part, just as he said. I spied, and I reported. I did what I was asked. I trusted him, like I trusted them all, and he, like they, betrayed me.
Tantibus has come, Tantibus is here. From across worlds and centuries and he promised that we, that I, will go with him, but he lies. Only he can go on, he and the Other; the rest of us join him until he is finished with us, and then we are done.
And in between all is pain. Is he in pain? Or the Other? Have they hurt and suffered for thousands of years?
Come, he said to me. We will be knights in his army, and we will stand beside him, forever.
I believed him, and now I have lost everything. I died, and now I will die again, no closer to eternity than I ever was, but farther away from life than I could ever have imagined.
If Tantibus is here, then is the Other as well? The Other is weak, but he has survived, and he continues to seek, and even though he mocks him I know that Tantibus fears him.
My heart hurts. I go past the haunted empty shell of my house, my family gone. I don’t love them anymore because I can’t love anymore, but a part of me misses them. Regret is too broad a word. There is as much resent as regret. They trusted him, and I trusted him, and he brought me in. “We will serve him together, and we will defeat the Other, and serve Tantibus.” Forever.
But not quite. There are missing pieces, he says later. Until the power is whole then we are in danger. And each day after I died I grew weaker. Tantibus must keep the power for himself, until all the pieces are together again. Then we will all drink from it.
But not me. I was incautious because I was desperate, and I was caught because I wanted them to catch me, and now I am crashing down, letting myself drift and fall, because I am finished, because I betrayed my life, and death this time will be complete.
I land on the shore and they surround me. I don’t bother changing back. I welcome this. They surround me, their inky black eyes staring at me. None rush forward to my defense. One steps up and I await the verdict. I cover my head and hope it will be fast, and try to take whatever comfort I can in knowing that it is over.
The verdict is passed, and the first one—I know him, he was my friend—draws my blood, and then another does the same, and as they tear me apart the pain is excruciating but I bear it because I know this will be the last for me.