[Later on this day
The girls in the salle mutter to themselves: What happened to Fakir? Why is he wearing those bandages? Maybe he got in a fight! Who did he fight with?
Mr. Cat ignores them, and turns his baleful gaze on Fakir. "That," says Mr. Cat, "was the most pathetic excuse for a leap I have seen from you in years. Go home."
"But--" Fakir tries to protest.
"You are not going to learn anything if you persist in attempting difficult routines with those injuries. Go home. Practice the basic steps there, as often as you can. I expect you back in a week."
Fakir ignores the girls watching him as he walks out to the dressing room.
In the smithy, Karon is paring black soot off scraps of wood. He doesn't look up when Fakir comes in. "Sit on a stool," Karon says. "Before you fall over."
Fakir sits, less to be obedient and more because the walk through Kinkan Town was more draining than he'd prefer to admit. "Let me help," Fakir says.
Karon does look up this time, surveying his adopted son with the eye of a craftsman examining a damaged object. (It is, in fact, the same look he gave to the piece of wood in his hands.)
"All right," Karon answers, after a moment. "Put on these work gloves, first, to keep your hands from getting cut up any further, and start untangling this knot of wires. Here are the pliers."
Fakir works in silence, feeling the quiet of the smithy enter his mind. This is peace,
he thinks. This is happily ever after.
Fakir can't breathe in the cold water(but it wasn't like that
). A raven's beak pecks at his chest, tracing the purple edges of his birthmark in blood. The raven isn't even wet. Puppets
, someone says
, follow only the pull of their strings.
"So who," Fakir says (how am I talking, anyway?
) as he chokes on green water, "is pulling mine?"
All at once Fakir is awake, in his childhood bedroom, sometime after midnight. He pulls on a blue bathrobe and pair of suede slippers and pads down the staircase to the smithy.
The pieces of Edel are on the larger worktable: a wooden staff now whittled into the form of a lower leg, a curved frame that will become a torso, a row of straightened wires, seven gears with the soot cleaned off of them, some unrecognizable black shapes. Fakir sits on a stool beside them.
"Why did you do it?" Fakir says. He can see her blank smile in his mind. "You didn't have to step in. I was ready to die. It's the Knight's job, you know."
Edel doesn't answer, of course.
"I appreciate that you're not giving me cryptic and unhelpful comments," Fakir says. "But I want to know. Did somebody pull your strings, or did you pull your own, in the end?"
"I know the story by heart. The Knight stands between the Raven and the Prince. The Knight fails, and the Prince shatters his own heart. I was resigned. I told Princess Tutu to take care of Mytho. I broke the Prince's sword, so Mytho couldn't lose it all again. After that, my job was over. But you -- you gave me a light, to lead me home. You burned, so I could live."
Fakir closes his eyes, remembering the fire.
"I'm alive, and the battle's over. Am I still the Knight? I wish you could tell me, Edel, what did you give me my life back for?"
The pile on the table says nothing.
In the silence, Fakir goes back up to bed.
(Karon, in his bedroom adjoining the smithy, does not sleep for the rest of the night.)