He watched Juliara climb onto the back of her young dragon, scarcely larger than a fledgling, and knew his last hope for returning home was about to fly into the horizon and forever beyond his reach. He’d pressed the token of his fathers into the girl’s hand, in the desperate hope that it might preserve her.

‘Show this to them,’ he instructed her urgently. ‘The chieftain will know you for a friend of the Islanders, and if you’re lucky, they will take you in. The Emperor holds no dominion over the Free Isles, and you should be safe there.’

Juliara had gazed at him with those unnerving eyes, brown against indigo. ‘Sir, you will never be able to return to your family if you give me this.’

Kaghav nodded. ‘That is my decision to make, little one. I am Rekhali, and we know that all songs must end. Mine ends here, with the spells of Illusioning upon my lips. They will not see you so long as I am casting. I will stall them, and you must make haste. Westward and northward, until the ruins of Old Anglios fracture that line between see and sky. Then steer west once more, and you will reach the Isles.’

‘I would not have you give your life for me, Sir,’ she had told him gently, and in that moment he knew he had made the right decision, that all the moments of his life had paved the way to his making this decision. He kissed the child’s scarred brow, and sang a little of her Song to her. A cadence so lovely he scarce believed it could be played by a human heart, and yet it was only a fragment of Juliara’s song. He sensed hers was destined to go on for longer than his, to play some greater part in a war yet to come.

‘My life is mine to give as a please,’ he told her in the lilting tunes of the Old Speech. ‘Go, little one, and take my blessing with you, for whatever it’s worth.’

‘It is worth more than the kingdom of Cerys and the riches of the Empire besides,’ she answered him solemnly in the Speech, ‘and I will remember you to the end of my days, sir.. master…father.’

He found he could not speak after she had uttered that last word, so he nodded instead, and watched her climb onto the dragon’s back and fly away. All the while he kept his promise, Illusioning them into invisibility, hoping the traps he’d laid for his brothers- in- arms would buy them enough time.

When they found him, they met with no resistance. They all knew the penalty for his betrayal, and Kaghav kneeled silently before the Shadows. He did not, however, bow his head in submission before they expunged the life from his body, and extinguished the music of his heart.

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