"Do not go where we cannot follow, Coren. Do not hurt her again." The warning was heavy. Heavy the same way a hot lead ball is when dropped in the middle of a frozen lake. Heavy the way blood rests warm and thick upon one’s palms. Heavy the way the crimson seeps and stains fresh snow. It hung between them on a fraying thread while they stood face to face at the beginning of a pathway that they had tread so many times before, with so many before. "I need you to pull me back if I go too far, Vala." He was always so care free. From Kel'drocos to Coren, it was one of the most endearing qualities that had carried over. She resented it in a way so childish, she was almost ashamed of herself. To be able to exist in such a manner, to not be weighed down by obligation, by expectations. To be free of shackles that keep one locked in a self-inflicted box. It was always difficult to put into words how much she both loved and loathed that part of him. It will forever be difficult to put into words how much things had turned out tore at the frayed edges. It wasn't spoken then, the concerns, the knowledge of how things would turn out. It wasn't expressed verbally as Coren turned his back to Valarosta for the last time. One last time -- just one more time, just a little longer, we aren’t ready, none of us are ready for what is to come, please, you are going to break everything. Valarosta wanted to scream that he had gone too far already. She wanted to plead with him, while he was still himself, while he was still within reach. He was straying and, as Coren's footsteps carried him further and further away, she couldn't help but extend her hand in an effort to grasp the back of his coat, his collar, his wrist -- anything. She wanted to tell him he had gone too far. Strayed somewhere they could not follow, down a path marked in the blood of family and friend. He was so close, then. She could have stopped him. She should have stopped him. Just a little longer, Coren, please. She is not ready for this. We are not ready for this. Just one more Trial, just one more mischievous wrinkle of your nose. Just a little longer. Just a little longer. They loved her. There was no denying it. They loved her in ways so similar, yet so different. They loved her enough to pledge their lives to her, to whatever cause she set herself to - but it was there that the similarities ended. They love her. Loved her. It was difficult to articulate the feelings that coiled in the pit of her stomach upon seeing Coren stand in the middle of the burning forest. It was impossible to forget the look on Gwenyth’s face when they realised who it was that stood against her. Valarosta remembered all the times when she stood opposite Kel’drocos, opposite of Coren. The end justified the means. The indignant anger as he scrambled, constantly, for the center light, when he had become the center of so many peoples’ lives. He never knew how to share the limelight. It was always about him, back then, and he would do whatever it took to get what he wanted, no matter the cost. It was a less endearing aspect that carried over from Kel’drocos to Coren. She wished she could have told him how much she hated standing against him. She wished there was something that could have been done to pull him back, to bring him home. She wished there was a little more time. It was always going to end this way, wasn’t it? This was always the way it would end up, no matter their efforts, no matter words spoken or unspoken. No amount of pleading, begging, screaming, would change what had come to pass. Her blank stare settles upon the ground she had seen so many times in her dreams. It’s fitting, she supposes, that the city persists and carries on, ignorant of the things that have happened. With a low exhale of resignation, Valarosta turns her back to the site, readjusts the weight that rests heavy upon her shoulders, and steels herself against the all too familiar ache in her chest. I could not pull you back. A whisper, left to carry itself upon the chilled gust that filters through the dead branches of the trees overhead. An admission of guilt. Of failure. Goodbye.