As he made his way onto the bridge, Trull Sengar saw the Acquitor. She was standing midway across the bridge, motionless as a frightened deer, her gaze fixed on the main road leading through the village. Trull could not see what had snared her attention.
He hesitated. Then her head turned and he met her eyes.
There were no words for what passed between them at that instant. A gaze that began searchingly, then swiftly and ineffably transformed into something else. That locked contact was mutually broken in the next moment, instinctive reactions from them both.
In the awkward wake, nothing was said for a half-dozen heartbeats. Trull found himself struggling against a sense of vast emptiness deep in his chest.
Seren Pedac spoke first. ‘Is there no room left, Trull Sengar?’
And he understood. ‘No, Acquitor. No room left.’
‘I think you would have it otherwise, wouldn’t you?’
The question brushed too close to the wordless recognition they had shared only a few moments earlier, and he saw once again in her eyes a flicker of … something. He mentally recoiled from an honest reply. ‘I serve my emperor.’
The flicker vanished, replaced by a cool regard that slipped effortlessly through his defences, driving like a knife into his chest. ‘Of course. Forgive me. It is too late for questions like that. I must be leaving now, to escort Buruk the Pale back to Trate.’
Each word a twist of that knife, despite their being seemingly innocuous. He did not understand how they – and the look in her eyes – could hurt him so deeply, and he wanted to cry out. Denials. Confessions. Instead he punctuated the break of that empathy with a damning shrug. ‘Journey well, Acquiror.’ Nothing more, and he knew himself for a coward.
He watched her walk away. Thinking on his life’s journey as much as the Acquitor’s, on the stumbles that occurred, with no awareness of their potential for profundity. Balance reacquired, but the path had changed.
So many choices proved irrevocable. Trull wondered if this one would as well.
Midnight Tides | The Malazan Book of The Fallen | Steven Erikson—