Voll raised his eyes. "Yes?"
Cutter flinched, the pain and sorrow in the Glider Lord's voice piercing his heart. "We… we are leaving soon."
"I see. I supposed you would."
The Wolf-Chief bowed his head. "I wanted you to know, none of my people blame you. For anything."
Voll's silence drew his eyes up again. The Glider Lord looked down at him, the dryness of his eyes doing nothing to disguise the pain. "That is a kind lie my brother. Thank you."
They turned their heads towards the voice that had cut off the Wolf-Chief's denial. A small group of Gliders stood at the entrance of the Throne Room, Hoykar at their head. They stood silently, all with the same look of tired determination and fear in their eyes.
Voll's face creased with tired confusion. "Yes? What… what is it? Is something wrong?"
Slowly, Hoykar stepped apart from the others. "That is… one way to put it my lord." He sighed in discomfiture, "I… we… well that is… a-all of us we…" sorrow flickered in the Glider's blue eyes, visible only for a moment before he turned his head, unable to meet Voll's eyes.
"Hoykar?" the Lord of Blue Mountain's tired face was gentle, eyes seeking to calm the worried Chosen before him.
The young Glider took a deep breath as he looked back to Voll, determination and sorrow firmly etched in his delicate features. "We've been talking my Lord and…" his hand formed into shaking fists, "Blue Mountain… it isn't our home anymore. And we…" he looked up at Voll, blue eyes desperate and earnest, "My Lord if you but wish us to stay…"
The rushed words hung in the air, like the breath of dying elf in winter's unforgiving chill.
Voll stared at the Chosen in utter shock. No. No he couldn't… they couldn't truly wish… NO! He couldn't have this! It was too much, too soon!
Hoykar stared up at him, and in his eyes, Voll saw his brother.
How long since he had thought of his little brother, or of his blood connection to the young Chosen? How many years ago since a young Glider Prince had stood in that same spot, pleading with him to expand from the Mountain?
He didn't want to. He couldn't.
But he had to.
Tears in his eyes, Voll nodded, not trusting his voice.
Voll watched as the last elves walked into the Palace.
'To the desert', Cutter had said. 'To their kinsmen at Sorrow's End, were they might learn to live again.'
Voll felt dead.
His people moved about the Mountain, awake from the sleep that had held them at Winnowill's command, and the death that had held them at his. Reevol had spoken of training new hunters. Eresir and Talno had spoken of raising more great-hawks, expanding the Chosen. Oroleed and Yeyeen had been silent, but their eyes had spoken once again of longing for Recognition.
Eventually, he would move on as well. He would guide and nurture his people, leading them as a true Lord.
He would survive, but he would never again live.
His heart was gone.
In the darkness beneath Blue Mountain, a shadow coiled, writhing.
In the silence beneath Blue Mountain, pain surged, seethed, bleeding into hatred.
In the emptiness beneath Blue Mountain, the shadows began to spread.
'I'm. Still. Here.'