The statue was monumental, seated. A king, on his throne. And, indisputably, a human being. There was no sign of the traits the legends had spoken of–no pointed ears, no spindly limbs, no inhuman eyes. The symbol that the Empire had turned up again and again in its excavations of old elven sites was carved into the stone as well, a broach about the cloak of the king, so there was no mistaking that this monumental effigy was one of them.

“It’s a man,” Scimoc whispered. “Just a man.”

Agneja laughed, ruefully. “It’s easier to kill someone when they’re not like you,” she said, as her laughter dissolved into a racking cough.

“Yes, I suppose it is,” Scimoc replied, weakly. “I suppose every empire must fall, every life must end. There’s no escaping from it.”

“What will you do now?” said Agneja, hoarse. “Go tell your emperor that the thing you pinned all your hopes on was just a phantom?”

“I may at that,” Scimoc said. He sat down heavily, leaned against the cold stone of the wall, and exhaled deeply. His breath spun away into vapor. “I just need a rest first, for a little while. You won’t begrudge me that, will you? An old man who has come a long way only to find bitter disappointment?”

Agneja nodded. “Take as long as you like,” she said, settling against the frigid blocks herself. “I’m not going anywhere without you.”

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