Once… he remembered a twinge of remorse… for those that died by his hand. Or was it uncertainty? There was a time that the look of terror and pain on their faces gave him pause. Call it what you want, but it was no longer there. Guilt, remorse, regret, even pity… all that he might have once felt during those last moments… it was gone, replaced by nothing. They meant even less to him now, barely an afterthought in the grand scheme, and far too many; too many to count and too many to bother with considerations of atonement.
Besides… to whom would he atone?
In retrospect, now, there was little to regret. Those he’d known, those he’d killed, those he’d disappointed. They were all gone now, with nothing left lingering in the air but his memories of them. Offering simply the assurance that it would all continue, making it painfully obvious that his eternal questions would never fully be answered. Never would they be offered. He would never know. That his endless searching, his persistence and unquenchable curiosity only left more still to be learned.
And this quieted Khaal Wraath.
He shivered in the bitter cold of the night air. The new winter wind swept through the streets of the city and tossed the last leaves from the trees and sent them spiralling in circles around Khaal Wraath‘s feet. The crimsons and blazing oranges that fascinated his gaze had now turned to their dull greys and browns; their life carried away with the warm seasons from this accursed city.
A longing filled him to see them in their glorious brilliance, clustered in the thousands, filling the now barren trees’ branches again; a sight he had mostly taken for granted,… until this night. He found himself, gazing, strangely, at the most mundane of things; the last leaves in the trees, the grasses left blowing in the night air. The lightning bugs that busied themselves about the shoreline now all caught his attention as if for the first time. When once all that occupied his mind was the pursuit of his loved studies, Khaal Wraath now found himself wandering the streets he’d know for years… aimlessly.
What do I do with myself now? How do I act as though nothing has happened? With my question answered, I still have a thousand more, and no one to give them to me… No one in the world…
His life had been laid out in front of him. All the questions, all the mystery, snatched away in an instant. But was it all true? A nightmare, for sure, but was it really his waking nightmare? The speculation, the bias, the suspicion and jealousy all paled now and seemed trivial compared to the weight of the knowledge he carried with him. Khaal Wraath felt old and tired. No one now could hear his plea. No one now could share this knowledge.
I am truly alone.
Quietly, coldly, he wrapped his cloak collar around himself more tightly, as though to ward away the night itself. Its seething blackness, its endless canvas had always welcomed him, as though it were his time to enjoy all that he could not during his work. And tonight, the first night of the rest of his life, he was to understand for the first time the meaning of its welcoming embrace…