Astielle: Chapter Twenty-One

There were seven little heirs to Lynette’s throne now, for the unlikely occasion that she ever gave it up. Vaelon had been visiting them often, since the oldest was born. Karzarul avoided the Imperial Palace entirely. He made excuses for it, as if he had any reason but paranoia. Lynette looking right through him and seeing that he’d been interfering in her empire, in his own little ways.

They’d never been close, she’d only ever barely tolerated him, but she felt like a true stranger since her ascension. He understood swords, and blood, and protecting Vaelon. Simple quests with simple endings. An empress was a thing all wrapped in intricate rituals, paper and pronouncements and temples and armies, the blade of her sword clean. It was alien to him, too human of a thing.

He’d been a person for longer than most humans he met, now. He didn’t like the reminders of the ways he still fell short.

It was Vaelon who talked him into visiting his niblings—he insisted they were uncles. He smuggled Karzarul in as a Slitherskin, under his sleeve. Some of the Palace staff had never even met a monster, and Vaelon was willing to agree that it would kick up more fuss than was ideal.

They were spotted as soon as they entered the private garden. “Uncle Vaelon!” A little boy tackled his legs at high speed.

“Arik!” Vaelon picked him up , immediately setting him back down. “You got big,” Vaelon complained.

“I eat my vegetables,” Arik confirmed.

“Hullo, Uncle Vaelon,” said a teenager standing in the grass. He was holding a wooden sword.

“Did you bring us anything?” asked the teenage girl also holding a wooden sword.

“I brought someone,” Vaelon said. “Say hello before I look like I’ve lost it,” he said to his arm.

Karzarul shifted, light falling behind Vaelon as he changed into his Bruteling form. He’d added a circlet, though he still kept the hood of his cloak over as much of his head as he could get away with. He wore rings in his ears now, but the only hair he’d managed to make work was a thin strip sticking straight up all down the middle of his scalp. Anything else he’d tried looked like a cheap wig.

He peered out around Vaelon’s legs. “Hello.”

“This is your Uncle Karzarul,” Vaelon introduced. “I’ve told you about him.”

“Hi,” Arik said.

“This is Arik,” Vaelon said, “and that’s Edwin, and that’s Ashel, and over there with the book is Hallie.” Edwin and Ashel had a similar jawline, but otherwise none of them looked much alike. “The others are still in the nursery.”

“You’re the Monster King, right?” Edwin asked, shading his eyes. “Aren’t you an adult?”

“I’m being polite,” Karzarul said. “You don’t want me to be any bigger than this.”

“I’ve heard there are monsters big enough to kill whole armies,” Hallie said.

“Battalions,” Karzarul said modestly.

“In the Righteous Siege,” Hallie continued, “monsters as big as Aekherium emptied the streets so that Mother could walk right up to the throne and take it back from the Usurper.”

“Not that big,” Karzarul said.

“Are there littler monsters?” Arik asked nervously.

Karzarul shifted out from behind Vaelon, small and round and oinking. Arik shrieked with delight, and Karzarul started to run in circles around the garden as Arik chased him.

“Don’t let us interrupt,” Vaelon said to the teenagers. “I wanted him to meet you, that’s all.”

“Oh, sure,” Edwin said, watching his brother chase a pig. “That’s not distracting at all.” Ashel smacked him in the ribs with her wooden sword. “Hey!

“Battles are distracting, dingus,” she snorted. “Deal with it.”

“It’s not like we’re going to need this,” Edwin said, parrying the next blow. “Stop being a suck up.”

“Play nice,” Vaelon warned, sitting in the grass and settling his banjo in his lap.

“Yes, Uncle Vaelon,” the teens sighed in unison.

“Hallie, if you never practice you’re never going to get better,” Edwin said.

“I don’t like sparring with you,” she said, refusing to accept the practice sword. “You’re bigger than me.”

“Everyone’s bigger than you,” Edwin said.

“Uncle Karzarul isn’t,” Arik pointed out.

“I don’t use swords,” Karzarul said. He and Arik had been building a house of cards.

“Never?” Ashel asked.

“I can turn into a bear,” Karzarul said.

“That doesn’t mean you’ll never want to swordfight,” Ashel said.

Karzarul couldn’t argue with that. It was only that there wasn’t anyone who could teach him. Vaelon had pointedly never learned how to use the Starsword for anything but cutting open Doors. Lynette had made it clear over fifty years ago that she didn’t want to teach him. Sailors never saw him with legs. Who did that leave?

“I would rather turn into a bear than swordfight,” Hallie said.

“You should still know how,” Ashel said. “What if, someday, you need to have a really epic battle with someone? A tense, dramatic fight in the rain where you cut each other’s clothes off.”

Vaelon stopped playing his banjo. “When did you read Lovers of the Wild Rose?” he asked. Ashel turned pink. “That’s very mature material,” he said, resuming his strumming.

“I’m mature,” Ashel insisted, scratching her nose.

“Here,” Edwin said, handing Karzarul the wooden sword. “As long as you know the basics, that should be good enough for Hallie to practice. She needs to get her confidence up, that’s all.”

Karzarul tried to mimic what he remembered from watching Lynette. It had been a long time, but he’d seen her wield her sword up-close and often. This wasn’t even the first time he’d tried to mimic her, though he’d been alone in the woods then, swishing a stick around while Vaelon was busy.

Hallie wasn’t enthusiastic about any of this. She flicked her practice sword at Karzarul, slow and floppy. He didn’t even have to parry, because she was trying to hit his sword.

“You could at least pretend to try,” Ashel said. “Uncle Karzarul is never going to get better, if that’s all you can do. He’s even got his feet right and you don’t, that’s embarrassing.”

“Mom probably taught him,” Hallie complained.

“I assure you I did not,” Lynette said.

Karzarul froze, lowering the wooden sword immediately. The children all stood at attention. Vaelon kept playing.

Lynette had taken to wearing a cloud-blue dress that went from around her neck down to her hips, leaving her arms and her back both bare. The skirt of it fell in panels to the floor, slits on the sides revealing the musculature of her thighs. Her boots were copper plate armor to her knees, matching the wide torque necklace and the rings that tipped her fingers like claws. Her crown was a copper headband radiating long spikes from her hair, which was as short as it had always been. The Sunshield was on her back, looking like a part of her.

“Hello, Mother,” Edwin said.

“Hello, babies,” Lynette said, tousling his hair. “Listening to Uncle Vaelon?”

“Yes, Mom,” Ashel said.

“You shouldn’t,” Lynette said. “He’s full of shit.” Vaelon laughed. She stepped further into the garden. “I see you’re entertaining foreign heads of state.”

“It’s just Uncle Karzarul,” Arik said.

Lynette knelt down in the garden to be closer to Bruteling height. She was still much bigger than he was. “Hello, Karzarul.”

“Hello, Ly—Your Imperial Majesty.”

“Haven’t seen you in a while.” Decades. “Have you been fighting my children?”

Karzarul looked at the wooden sword. “Hallie needed someone to practice hitting.”

“Hmm.” She looked him over. “I never would have thought I would end up finding this one the least objectionable.” Karzarul rubbed the pads of his feet in the grass. “How fares your kingdom?” she asked with a tilt of her head. He didn’t like how closely she was looking at him.

“It’s only the one mountain,” he said.

“Oh?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “I thought you were King of the Monsters.” She propped her chin on her hand. “Wouldn’t that include all monsters, everywhere?”

He fidgeted with the wooden sword. “Not really,” he said.

“I wonder what the Monster King does, then.”

“I’m the one the monsters point to,” Karzarul said, “when they do something stupid and someone wants to know who to yell at about it.”

Lynette faltered. “That… is how it goes, isn’t it.” Karzarul nodded. “You don’t have any kind of a connection, then?” she asked, tapping her head.

“Not really.” Only when he was nearby. That barely counted.

“Don’t know what they get up to when you’re not there?”

“Did Black Drakonis try to take one of your fortresses again?” he asked.


“Stop pestering him, Nettles,” Vaelon said. He hadn’t stopped playing. “He doesn’t expect you to account for every farmer.”

“He could,” she said, standing. “I keep track.”

“You shouldn’t,” Vaelon said. “That’s bonkers.”

“Agree to disagree.”

“Mom,” Arik asked hopefully, “can Uncle Vaelon do a real spell for us, since you’re here?”

“Not in the Palace,” Lynette apologized. “When you’re older, you can visit him someplace safe, okay?”

“I think it would be fine,” Karzarul said, “if he used a selling song.”

Lynette paused. “Oh?”

“Karzarul figured it out,” Vaelon said, playing a scale. “I don’t like having to quit before a song’s over. But some of those songs street vendors use are catchy little things. Work well in a pinch when I need something quick that won’t let me go overboard.”

“I see,” Lynette said carefully. “If you think there’s no harm in trying, then.”

Vaelon looked around the garden for something appropriate to magic at. Then he played a quick riff, and put a little too much black-eyed gusto into two pun-filled sentences about bread. A small round flowerbush emitted wisps of void as it reshaped itself to have porcine features.

Arik clapped gleefully as Vaelon pressed the flat of his hand against the banjo strings. “Not bad,” Vaelon said.

“Clever,” Lynette said. “A little beneath your talent, I would think.”

“I try to avoid having anything beneath my talent,” Vaelon said, and Lynette rolled her eyes.

“Another satisfied customer,” Vaelon said cheerfully. It was Karzarul who’d noticed the little cabin in the valley, the woman trying to gather her escaped quail before they got hurt. They weren’t able to do much for the three birds who’d jumped straight at a donkey’s hooves, but they’d done what they could.

“You don’t charge,” Karzarul reminded him, trotting alongside him down the path as a Howler. He was still discomfited by the quail who’d jumped directly into his mouth and, upon being spit out, died instantly from shock.

“Brownies count as payment,” Vaelon said, licking his fingers.

“You promised you’d pay your tab at the Rusty Spoon next time you went,” Karzarul said.

“There is no promise but oblivion,” Vaelon said loftily.

“I don’t think Karl is going to like that explanation.”

“Karl also doesn’t like it when I try to figure out how many times I can play The Dancer’s Lament before someone notices, I’m not going to let that stop me.”

Karzarul was about to say something else, but a comet of moonlight struck him in the back with enough force that he collapsed. He was an Abysscale named Glimmering, the ocean was frothing and red with blood, he’d already lost an arm when the sword slid through his ribs.

Lynette, using the Sunshield and the barrier it generated like her own personal boat. Armored boots and armored pauldrons and a white silk dress like a dare, but nothing had touched her except saltwater and other people’s blood. There was a wild look in her eyes, but her crown wasn’t even askew.

He was an Abysscale named Karzarul with his hands in the dirt and his tail in the grass and Vaelon was there and he could still taste blood.

He was an Abysscale named Coruscating and Lynette’s sword was cutting through the middle of him, nearly to his spine, all his insides tumbling into the water.

“Hey,” Vaelon asked, kneeling with hands on Karzarul’s shoulders. “What’s happening?”

He was an Abysscale named Resplendent and he’d tried to dive but Lynette had stabbed straight through his tail, dragged him back up before running him through.

Karzarul curled into a ball, wrapped his arms over his head and his tail around his body even though it wouldn’t help.

He was an Abysscale named Luminous and they’d caught him in a net, he was an Abysscale named Dappled in the same net, her sword ran through them both and they watched each other die.

Karzarul was sobbing and heaving and Vaelon didn’t know what to do. He’d grown accustomed to ignoring it, those little balls of moonlight. Borrowed power returning, or something like it. Karzarul was evasive, and Vaelon never wanted to push. Everyone was entitled to some privacy, things they didn’t need to share. Karzarul hadn’t taken much notice of them since the early years, and Vaelon had followed suit. Vaelon tried to rub Karzarul’s back, but he didn’t respond. If he were human, there were spells he could try, magic to stitch things together or cut away what didn’t belong. Karzarul’s injuries had only ever bled silver, never revealed anything inside him but white light in those brief glimpses before he changed forms.

Nothing like this had ever happened before, and that was terrifying to him when they’d lived so long now. Vaelon felt a touch of panic at the thought that this might be related to their blessings, that it might be catching up to him.

That it might take Karzarul away from him.

He didn’t even remember when it had happened, when Karzarul had become the second person he couldn’t bear to live without. There was a time when he could have accepted it, a monster returning to the moonlight from whence he’d come. It would have saddened him, but it wouldn’t have ended him.

“It’s going to be okay,” Vaelon said, assured of no such thing. He stood and drew the Starsword, and focused not on a specific place, but an idea. Somewhere Karzarul might be safe, somewhere with water enough that he wouldn’t be an Abysscale writhing in the dirt. He focused on infinity, on how small the world was that sat in it, how little difference there was in the grand scheme of things between one place and another on the same speck of rock. He listened to the stars sing, tilted the sword until it found the right wavelength. Then he sliced through the air, and sheathed it again.

There was still the problem of Karzarul, curled up on the ground. He could lift him with magic, but he didn’t know if magic alone could carry him through. He tried to channel through his banjo without playing it, started to sing and stopped. He couldn’t bring himself to sing a hymn to beauty, so he sang one for pain instead. Void wrapped around his body, around his arms, enough to let him pick Karzarul up off the ground.

Those comets of moonlight were slowing, but they hadn’t stopped.

Vaelon carried Karzarul through the hole he’d cut in the world, and his breath caught when he realized they were back at Mirror Lake. There was no reflection in the water.

“Hey, Beautiful,” Vaelon said, trying to descend to the water’s edge. Magic eased his steps, but without a song to give his intent shape it expanded further than necessary, great trailing tendrils of darkness. “We’re home.” He knelt at the water’s edge, lowering Karzarul into it. “I really hope this helps,” Vaelon said, well aware there was no reason why it should. Only that this was home, this was where Karzarul had listened to him sing and decided it would be better to be a person than a thing.

Vaelon might have corrected him, if he’d known, but far too late for that now.

Karzarul let himself sink, and Vaelon watched with no small amount of trepidation the round white shape under the water. Moonlight struck a few more times, but finally seemed to stop. Vaelon reigned his magic in despite its desire to stretch out and worm its way into everything.

“Mother Void,” he said, “please ask Your daughter what the fuck She thinks She’s doing. Mother Void, please let him be okay. Let this be nothing, give me time to make it right.”

Vaelon had never forgotten it, what the Fairy King had said about immortality. He’d clung to it, a hopeful thought when his own life felt too big for him. Yet he’d never applied the idea to Karzarul. Karzarul was moonlight, Karzarul could be anything; aging and dying weren’t meant to apply. He was supposed to have all the time in the world, it was supposed to be Vaelon who had limits.

It was a long time before Karzarul came back up out of the water.

“What happened?” Vaelon asked. His feet were dangling in the water, sitting as far along the edge as he could without falling in. “Are you okay?”

“Sorry,” Karzarul said. He had been able to change and reform, and hoped that meant he looked better. “It’s… monster stuff.”

What could he say? How could he explain, when he’d gone so long without explaining? If he’d explained before, things might have been different. If Lynette had known, she surely wouldn’t have done it. Though it was hard to imagine her as merciful, after dying again and again and again at her hands. He could still feel the echoes of it, shaking under his skin. He had to tell himself that she wouldn’t have done it if she’d known. Wouldn’t have let him see her face, at least, and what a mercy that would have been. And what would it accomplish now, to tell Vaelon? He didn’t want Vaelon upset with Lynette, when he knew what they were to each other. He didn’t want Vaelon to not be upset, either.

He couldn’t think of anything Vaelon could say, or do, that could make any of it better.

“Talk to me,” Vaelon said. “That was awful, I need to know if that’s going to happen again. I want to know what it means.”

Karzarul tried to think of a way to explain, a way that wouldn’t make him want to scream. He moved closer, pressed his forehead against Vaelon’s knee. “Please don’t make me explain,” he said finally. “Can we think of it like a bodily function?” he asked. “A thing that happens, that I… I don’t like it and I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Hey,” Vaelon said, reaching down to touch Karzarul’s face and tilt it towards him. “You scared me,” Vaelon said. “What would I do if I lost you?”

Karzarul pressed his hand over Vaelon’s, claws and scales and heavy fingers. “It wasn’t like that,” Karzarul said. “It can’t kill me, not ever. I’ll follow you forever, if you’ll let me. If I’m not—if you don’t mind. A monster.”

Vaelon looked at him for a long time. Then he bent forward, cupped Karzarul’s face in his hands, and pressed a soft kiss to his mouth. Karzarul froze, eyes wide, staring at Vaelon.

“You…” He swallowed. “I didn’t think you did that.”

“Sometimes,” Vaelon said, stroking Karzarul’s hair. “For the right people. You looked like you needed it.”

Karzarul pulled himself a little further out of the water, so he could wrap his arms around Vaelon and rest his head against the spot where Vaelon’s stomach started to curve outward. Karzarul’s pulse was racing, a tightness in his throat. “You would do that for me?”

“I would do a lot of things for you,” Vaelon said, and Karzarul shivered. “I don’t dislike it, you know,” he added. “Not all of it. If you want something, you can ask me. I never told you that, I thought someday you’d stop being patient and ask on your own, but you never asked. I want to make sure you know that you can. Okay? You have to tell me what you want.”

Karzarul was feeling a lot of things that wanted to come out through his eyes. He nuzzled at Vaelon’s sternum. “I want you,” he said, his voice rough. “Whatever you’ll give me, whatever will let me stay with you forever.”

“That’s a long time,” Vaelon said. “Not aging doesn’t mean that I’m immortal,” he reminded him.

“We’re eternal,” Karzarul said. “I want eternity.”

Vaelon rubbed his fingers along the back of Karzarul’s neck. “I can’t promise you that,” he said gently. “Eternity is big. I like being small. I’ll always give you as much as I can. I won’t give you more. You can’t hurt me by asking.”

Karzarul took deep breaths, wanted to bury his face in the smell of Vaelon’s clothes. “I never want anything to hurt you,” Karzarul said.

“I know,” Vaelon said. “If anyone ever hurt you and lived, I’d make them regret it.”

It was a relief to hear it said, to believe it. To know for certain that it was a kindness Karzarul was doing, keeping Lynette’s secret. He could carry the weight of it if he knew the alternative was giving it to Vaelon.

Karzarul let Vaelon go, sliding slowly back into the water. His chin rested on Vaelon’s knee. “If I wanted…”

“Yes?” Vaelon coaxed.

“Can I hold you?” Karzarul asked.

“We can do that,” Vaelon said. Karzarul pulled himself up out of the water beside Vaelon, his tail trailing down behind him, dripping onto stone. He turned so that they were sitting side-by-side, Karzarul shifting until he found a comfortable resting position. Vaelon set his banjo and the Starsword aside, lying alongside each other. “Where do you want me?” Vaelon asked, and Karzarul started to glow, claws scratching stone as his fingers curled.

“Uh.” Karzarul swallowed. He shifted again, the way a snake shifted to bury itself in desert sand, curling his tail into a loop in front of him. “You could sit here?” he suggested, strained.

“I feel like that isn’t the first thing you thought of,” Vaelon said, climbing over Karzarul’s tail to settle into the middle of it. They adjusted around each other until they were a little bit sideways, Vaelon’s legs draped underneath Karzarul’s right arm and Karzarul’s tail supporting his lower back. Vaelon wrapped his arms around Karzarul’s shoulders. “Like this?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Karzarul said with a shudder. He buried his face in the crook of Vaelon’s shoulder, hands pressed into his back. “I—I love you, you know.”

“I know,” Vaelon said, stroking Karzarul’s hair. “I love you, too.” It felt stupid that he hadn’t said it before. Ingrained in him to be cautious with his words, not say anything that might be misconstrued as a promise he couldn’t keep.

“The way you loved me before?” Karzarul asked. “Before I was a person?”

“No,” Vaelon said, kissing his temple. “I love the person that you are. I love the person who always does his best, and always surprises me. Beautiful Karzarul.”

Karzarul let out a shaky breath, shifting to hold Vaelon one-handed. “You think I’m beautiful?”

“Always,” Vaelon said. “You’re an artist and a work of art. You’re a miracle.”

“I ruin everything,” Karzarul said, muffled by Vaelon’s shoulder.

“You make something new,” Vaelon said, stroking Karzarul’s hair more firmly. “I love the things you do. You’ve made me better.” Karzarul shook his head. “You have. You’re the one who always wants to help. I didn’t used to, not until I saw how much it bothered you. Not helping. You’ve made this time mean something. I wouldn’t have been able to stand it, living this long. Not without you.” Vaelon urged Karzarul to lift his head. Karzarul blinked furiously, trying to chase away the silver pooling on his lower lashes. “Let me do something to make you happy,” Vaelon said, “the way you make me happy.”

“You are,” Karzarul said. “You’re here.”

“Is that really all you want?” Vaelon pressed.

Karzarul got that sheepish glow about him again. “I’m. Uh. You’re here, but you’re also. I’m also. Um.”

Vaelon’s eyes lowered for the first time to the movement of Karzarul’s left shoulder. “Oh! You’re—shit. Can you reach? I didn’t even notice.”

“Sorry,” Karzarul said. “I wanted—I wanted something to feel good again and you said—”

“No, you’re okay,” Vaelon assured him. “You don’t have to justify yourself.” Vaelon started to move, but Karzarul touched his forehead with his before he could.

“Don’t look,” Karzarul asked. “It’s a lot, even people who like it think it’s a lot.”

Vaelon didn’t need much convincing on that front. “Do you want me to help?”

“You’re here,” Karzarul said again. “That’s what I want.” Vaelon leaned back and ran a fingertip underneath Karzarul’s eye, catching a silver teardrop. “Ignore that, I don’t know why that’s happening,” Karzarul said. “That doesn’t usually happen.”

Vaelon smiled. “I meant it,” he said. “Ask for what you want. Let me decide if I can’t.”

“I know,” Karzarul said. “I can’t do more. Not yet. It’s… too soon.”

“Seventy years is soon, for you?”

“It’s a long time,” Karzarul said. “It’s my whole life, that I thought—that I—if I turned into a dog, you’d pet me.”

Vaelon touched his cheek. “Oh, honey.”

“I wasn’t trying to trick you,” Karzarul added. “I like it when you touch me. When we travel and, and you sit with your back against mine so you can play. Or when I’m on your arm in public, and… is that creepy? Now that I’m saying it out loud it seems creepy.”

“It’s not creepy,” Vaelon said.

“I want to be close to you,” Karzarul said. “That’s all.”

“I like that,” Vaelon said, leaning forward to rest against Karzarul’s chest. “I like being with you.”

Karzarul held him tighter with the arm around his back. “Say it again?”

“I like you,” Vaelon said. “I like being loved by you. I like this.”

Karzarul pressed a sudden, hard kiss to Vaelon’s lips, his whole body tense. Vaelon didn’t resist. Then Karzarul relaxed, pressing his forehead to Vaelon’s.

“That was good?” Vaelon asked. Karzarul nodded. “Are you happy?”

“I’m happy,” Karzarul said, holding Vaelon with both arms and burying his face in his shoulder again. “Even without this. You make me happy to be a person. To be alive.”

“It’s the least I can do,” Vaelon said, patting his hair, “considering I’m the asshole who gave you the idea.”

“It was a good idea,” Karzarul said. “I used to dream of you, before I was anything.”

Vaelon hummed. “I never used to have dreams,” he said, contemplative. “Never saw the point, I guess. Not until She showed me.”

They never talked about it, what they’d seen or what they’d wished for. It felt too personal, too private, for all that they’d been together at the time. They could guess around the edges, see the consequences, but to ask outright felt like asking to see their beating heart. Wasn’t it enough to know that it was there?

“Mother Void showed me every star,” Vaelon sighed. “Every one of them a dream, every one of them dead. More stars in infinity than drops of water in the ocean, and all of them dwarfed by nothing. Insignificant and bright. I didn’t even notice them, in all the vastness of Her. It was only later that I realized what She’d given me, some small share of the burden She carries.”

“I can’t tell if that’s good or bad,” Karzarul admitted. He had that problem almost every time Vaelon preached the gospel of the Void.

“It’s good,” Vaelon sighed. “Just heavy. That’s all.”

“I can carry you,” Karzarul said, raising his head. He shifted forms, raised Vaelon higher into his arms as he became a Tauril.

“I know,” Vaelon said, leaning into Karzarul’s chest. “It helps.” He ran his fingers over the embroidery in Karzarul’s tunic. “You don’t have to keep using this”

“A shirt?”

“This pattern,” Vaelon said. “I didn’t do a good job of it.”

“I like it,” Karzarul said. “You made it for me.”

“I should have planned it out better,” Vaelon said. “In my head it looked less like a weird bug.”

“You love weird bugs,” Karzarul reminded him.

“I do love weird bugs,” Vaelon agreed.

“You made the phases of the moon look like a cool bug,” Karzarul said. “That makes it perfect.”

“You’re starting to sound like me,” Vaelon warned.

“Good,” Karzarul said, bending down to press his forehead against Vaelon’s. “Sing for me?”

Vaelon smiled faintly, and sang a hymn for dropped stitches.