Corrine stared at Wallace, eyes filled with worry. He had turned to stone at her touch and his pupils had dilated to nearly encompass his irises. What was wrong with him? Was the old soldier having a heart attack?
Corrine KNEW this look. She didn’t know how she knew it, nor from where, but she was familiar with the shock that had overtaken the bald man. It was like an old acquaintance who had not been seen for decades, but who’s face was on the edges of memory.
Even now, nearly a minute later, Wallace had barely moved. Just what exactly had happened and more importantly, why did it feel so familiar?
Why did her heart ache so at that look. Why did she feel herself on the verge of tears?
“What just happened?” Corrine asked.
“Nothing,” Wallace replied with the most half-hearted lie that Corrine had ever heard.
“You insult me,” Corrine snapped. Her anger briefly quelled him but just as quickly Wallace regained his composure.
If the stories that Aris had told her of the older man were true, he’d seen more than most would in a lifetime, even more so than many of the most seasoned detectives that served under her husband’s Generalship. It would take more than just the guilt trip of a mother and wife to break the old soldier.
“I’m sorry,” Wallace said. His eyes were pleading for a way out, but she couldn’t let it go. She needed to know what was happening.
Corrine could see the pain in Wallace’s eyes and she almost broke, but she didn’t. She was tired of the ignorance. She was afraid for her loved ones. Corrine felt like an outsider in her own family, and she couldn’t bear it.
She wouldn’t bear it any longer. She had watched from the outside for far too long. That was about to change.
She needed to know the truth.
“You will tell me or you can leave my estate,” there was no waver in Corrine’s voice when she spoke.
“Please understand that I would tell you if I knew what it was I saw, and if I hadn’t already sworn an oath of silence. One that I dare not break.”
Corrine crossed her arms. She hated the idea of making the old soldier break his vow —she could tell he was telling the truth about the promise— but she hated watching as her family slowly slipped from her grasp into the dark world that followed Wallace and Kestrel’s wake. She wasn’t about to back down now. Not when she was so close to getting the truth.
“I don’t know what to say,” Wallace’s voice dropped. “Hells. I swore to him, and I’ve already broken that oath.”
He looked up at her. There was steel in his eyes. She could tell that he had made a decision.
Wallace cleared his throat and went on in his gravely voice. “I can’t tell you everything. Your husband would kill me and I value my life. But I will share what I can. Is that acceptable?”
Corrine wanted more, but knew she would never get it. She would have to be content with this small victory.
Wallace sighed, beckoned for Aris’ wife to take a seat on the bench next to him then proceeded to explain as much as he could.
Wallace sighed when he settled into his bed. He still wasn’t used to the softness of its embrace even after these long months of sleeping in it, but his aging body welcomed the comfort.
He had shared everything he could with Corrine outside of the world of Memory Magic surrounding them. He wasn’t about to let her in on that. Not after what he had seen. The poor woman had faced too much already.
Plus, if his intuition were true, she knew far more of the dark world of Magic than she was aware of. She had faced it firsthand.
He didn’t want her to relive that pain. Not after what he had seen in her memories.
It couldn’t have been him. Could it?
Wallace’s gut told him it was. He knew the truth. He just wasn’t sure he wanted to face the implications of what he had seen.
How could he?
Corrine had been married to Van and her memories of the man had been stolen from her. Aris’ memory of his wife when she had been married to Van had been stolen from him.
Their whole life ever since Van’s execution had been a lie. Everything about them had been orchestrated by that sick monster sitting on the Veaish throne that he had committed genocide to take.
Wallace couldn’t think of anyone else but Van when he had looked into her memories.
She had been married to Van.
How was he supposed to deal with that?
The knowledge shook Wallace to his core. Van had been taken from her. It wasn’t only in his death sentence he had been stolen from her grasp, but his memory had been ripped from her very soul.
What sort of monster would do such a thing?
Wallace wasn’t angry about sharing with Corrine. He had long since moved past that with Aris and Sephira, but his stomach turned with the knowledge he had gained at her touch.
What was he supposed to do with this information? The wife of Aris, the man who was housing him and was studying magic under his tutelage used to be the wife of Van, Aris’ brother. How could he tell Aris that?
Should he tell Aris?
What of Sephira? If Corrine were truly Van’s wife, that meant she was her daughter. She deserved to know that she hadn’t been abandoned by her mother. She never complained about it, but Wallace had seen her memories of betrayal at the abandonment by her mother. Sephira deserved peace.
But was it best for her to know?
Wallace’s head pounded like rockslide.
He wanted to vomit. What was he supposed to do with this information? Was unearthing the truth worth tearing a family apart? What would the knowledge do to Aris? What about Corrine and Sephira?
It was best to keep quiet. It had to be.
I can’t tell him. I can’t destroy Aris’ family like that. Especially after all that he’s done for me. He deserves to know the truth, but he doesn’t deserve the pain. He deserves better than that. Aris deserves any happiness he can find. Wallace thought. I’m not going to steal that happiness from him. I can’t take that from him.
Peace for Aris’ family was worth it. It would be difficult keeping the truth from them, but he would do so to protect them.
He would shield his mind, no-one, not Aris, nor Kestrel would find his secret.
Wallace would protect them.
Even at the cost of truth.