“Eli, think about it.” The man's smooth voice carried almost effortlessly across the scarred remains of the arena. “Control over your own life. Remember how it was? When you could hide your shell where nobody could see it, where nobody could find it. You wouldn't have to worry about it getting into trouble, would you—it stays where you left it, right where you want it. It doesn't have those notions of kindness, empathy, dignity. It doesn't get itself into danger and need you to get it out.”
Eli was silent, watching the man with emotionless black eyes. Young watched nervously from her cell.
“And she... What is she to you but a prison? Don't do this, don't do that, peace, compassion, mercy. How much easier would your life be if you simply took what you wanted again, without that weak human stopping you?” He held out the pristine shell towards Eli. “Take it, Eli. It is your freedom, your right as one of your kind. I offer you new life!”
He stood for a moment longer without speaking. The entire arena seemed to fall silent, waiting for the enormous creature to make his decision.
Eli reached out one three fingered hand towards the sphere. The robed man grinned, and held the sphere high.“This is your right, Eli. Be your own once more.”
Then all at once white energy sparked from nowhere and everywhere, shooting out from Eli's hand to shatter the sphere completely. The confident grin suddenly fell to an expression of shock, and the hooded man took a step back, only to find his feet bound in place by the same power that had shattered the sphere. The shock turned to fear as Eli approached, rising up to his full height.
“I would be a fool.” The massive hand wrapped around the strange man's neck, lifting him helplessly off the ground. “Do not question that you will die today. Make it easier by telling me where you have hidden her.”
“Everything I've built my life on is changing. There's nothing to hold on to anymore; I can't... I can't deal with this!”
“It's terrifying, isn't it?” he asked quietly, without any of his usual exuberance. He sat next to her, calmly folding his thin hands in his lap. “Like the whole world is falling through your fingers.”
“I can't deal with this,” she repeated, a little more quietly as she felt the tears begin to come. “I can't believe... Can't believe he would really do that. Any of that—I mean, I've known him since forever, and...”
“Shh.” He put a hand to her shoulder, snapping her out of the panic she was descending into. “I know.”
“How could you know?”
He smiled thinly. “Some things are better left unsaid.” He sighed. “But you can't let it break you. It only feels like the world is falling apart—you have to know it isn't.”
“What isn't?” She whirled on him, tears in her eyes. “My brother is dead, my fiancee killed him, my home is gone and everything I've ever believed in was a lie!”
“Not everything.” He cut her off, taking her hand gently in his own. “The basics are still there. There is still enough truth in the world to hold it together, you know.”
“Like what?” She asked, sniffling.
“Well, to start with...” he pulled her hand up to match his own. “You have five fingers on each hand, and so do I. So did Eric, and he loved you.” He moved his hand away, and pulled a dove from nowhere. “Gravity is strong, and always goes the same way, but even doves can beat it. Feathers,” here he placed the dove in her outstretched palm, “are softer than bones, but you still need both to fly.” He looked her in the eye. “There are still truths to the world, you see, even when everything else turns out to be a lie. Remember these and it will be a bit easier.”
“Just a bit?”
“Yes.” He nodded quietly. “It will still be hard, and it will still hurt for a long time—probably forever. But you have to remember that there is still ground beneath you and a sky above you; you are not falling, and you are not helpless, and someday, eventually, you will be alright again.”
Joey pulled Finnian forcibly to his feet. “I refuse to let you kill yourself like this!”
“Why should you care?” Finnian looked away again. “I betrayed you. I betrayed your whole world. I'm s'kiav, untrustable! Worthless!”
“I care because you are my friend, Finnian! It does not matter what you have said is truth and what is lie now. Your actions are more proven than your words.” The illican knelt so they were finally on eye level with each other. “If this is unacceptable, then I shall be nicadahne instead of friend, and care for you as I care for all. But that is a lie to myself and to you. You are my friend. I will not allow you to die.”
They were silent for a moment longer, Finnian still refusing to meet Joey's gaze.
“There is a word the outsiders use. If you do not understand why I wish to care for you, perhaps you will understand Forgive.” Joey spoke very quietly, never letting up on his grip. “Because I have not understood it before now. It is a giving up of hurts to free us both. So I forgive you, Finnian. Do you understand this?”
“I don't deserve it.”
“You don't need to.”