She danced and sang ahead of us, sometimes in sing-song Elven, then switching to Barrabbas with the accent of a Diplomat. I'd picked the way least known to my kind but instead of mapping out the paths, I watched my guide, who appeared utterly caught up in her own aimless meanderings, darting here and there to snatch a flower, cradling it to her face before spinning then flinging it out, past the edge of the stone walkway to plummet to the ground, far below.
I had no doubt from the behavior of the so-called gardener, that my identity of general was well-known. They had me in their city, at their mercy, so why continue the charade? Every time she called me Viceroy, I flinched, but each time she came close to tumbling over the edge, I had to clench my hands into fists to keep from reaching out for her hand.
The gardener's glower cut into my back, clearly conveying his near outrage at my presence. I certainly wasn't defenseless, even without a sword at my side, but the feeling that I walked into a certain trap left my skin tight and my heart thumping rapidly.
It was her, the young ambassador I'd known so long before, known and foolishly thought I'd loved. The years hadn't been kind to either one of us. I'd expected to feel satisfied to see her in this state, that her betrayal of me, of us would have led to madness, but I felt nothing but sorrow and a ridiculous responsibility.
She'd needed my protection. I should have kept her safe, whether she'd wanted me to or not. I shouldn't have listened to her words, her eyes, her voice when she'd told me that she'd found an Elven lord who would suit her far more than a Barbarian.
None of that mattered. Time, almost a hundred years had passed while I destroyed her kind, brought them to the end of my sword at the Emperor's bidding. There I stood, in the luminously lit darkness, high above the earth on a stone bridge for the emperor. If my guide fell over the side from her madness, that left one fewer Elves for me to destroy, for the Emperor's army to decimate.
My duty, my responsibility would never be sworn again to an Elven Lady who pranced with unearthly grace in bare feet over the stones.