“It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.” ― Oscar Wilde
Of course it would end there. Of bloody course.
Actually I expected it to end 20-ish pages earlier, but it makes more sense this way.
Quotes ahead. Spoilers for Vol. 2.
To get what you want, you have to know exactly how much you are willing to give up.
A kingdom, or this.
Laurent said, ‘When this campaign is over, I think — if you are a man and not a worm — you will attempt to gain retribution for what has happened to you. I expect it. On that day, we roll the dice and see how they fall. Until then, you serve me.'
"...You don’t understand the way a mind like that thinks. I do. If I were Jokaste and a king maker, I’d have chosen Kastor over you too.’
‘I suppose you are going to enjoy telling me why,’ said Damen. He felt his hands curl into fists, heard the bitterness in his throat.
‘Because a king maker would always choose the weaker man. The weaker the man, the easier he is to control.’
Damen felt the shock of surprise, and looked at Laurent only to find Laurent gazing back a him without rancour. The moment stretched out. It wasn’t . . . it wasn’t what he had expected Laurent to say.
As he gazed at Laurent, the words moved through him in unexpected ways, and he felt them touch something jagged-edged within him, felt them shift it a first, tiny fraction, something lodged hard and deep, that he had thought immovable.
He said: ‘What makes you think Kastor is the weaker man? You don’t know him.’
‘But I’m coming to know you,’ said Laurent.
‘No. Wait. I... wait.’ Damen stopped, and turned. Laurent’s gaze was edged with indecipherable emotion, and his jaw was set at a new angle. The silence stretched out for such a long time that the words, when they came, were a shock.
‘What Govart said about my brother and I . . . it wasn’t true.’
‘I never thought it was,’ said Damen, uneasily.
‘I mean that whatever... whatever taint exists in my family, Auguste was free of it.’
‘I wanted to tell you that, because you,’ said Laurent, as though he was forcing the words out, ‘You remind me of him. He was the best man I have ever known. You deserve to know that, as you deserve at least a fair... In Arles, I treated you with malice and cruelty. I will not insult you by attempting to atone for deeds with words, but I would not treat you that way again. I was angry. Angry, that isn’t the word.’ It was bitten off; a jagged silence followed. (Ch.14)
‘Don’t go,’ said Laurent, quietly.
‘I’m just clearing my head. I already told my escort I wouldn’t need them until morning,’ said Damen.
And there was another awful silence, as Damen realised what Laurent was asking him.
‘No. I don’t mean—forever—just—’ Laurent broke off.
‘Three days.’ Laurent said it as though producing from the depths the answer to a painstakingly weighed question. ‘I can do this alone. I know I can. It’s only that right now I can’t seem to . . . think, and I can’t . . . trust anyone else to stand up to me when I’m . . . like this. If you could give me three days, I—’ He forcibly cut himself off.
‘I’ll stay,’ said Damen. `You know I’ll stay for as long as you—’
‘Don’t,’ said Laurent. ‘Don’t lie to me. Not you.’
‘I’ll stay,’ said Damen. ‘Three days. After that, I ride south.’
Laurent nodded. After a moment, Damen came back to rest against the table beside Laurent. He watched Laurent find his way back to himself.
Comic drawn by keiki.