Remant trudged up the narrow passage, his one remaining hand trailing against the wall. He was cold, he was tired, he was scared, he was weak. He had no idea what he would find when he reached the stairs, when he climbed them and emerged into sunlight. He only knew that if he remained in the darkness, it would consume him.
So he followed the paths that would take him out of Shadowguard, into the the more ordinary caves that bordered it, and eventually back to the surface. He left the high halls and deeper shadows behind him, along with the site of the final battle and the corpses of his friends. He'd taken Darik's armor-gauntlet to seal over the stump of his left arm, and the last of Elendor's healing potions to reduce the throbbing to something he could ignore.
He should have been blind, and lost several times over; there was no light here. Instead, he could see through the darkness itself. The thought of what that might mean terrified him, so he thought on other things instead: the course he had to follow, the things that might have happened on the surface when he'd driven the nightblade into Huoron's back and dealt a mortal blow to the God of Darkness.
The stairs were ahead, the dim light of the surface far above still visible to his eyes. Would the light burn him? Now that he saw in the dark, would the light of day strike him blind?
It didn't matter. He couldn't remain here; he had to keep going. He touched the metal sheath that covered the stump of his arm, then the dagger that he had slipped into the empty sheath in his boot. Then he set the soft leather of the boot to the first stair, and began to climb.
The ascent seemed endless, until at last it wasn't.
The brightness was uncomfortable, but it didn't burn him. After a time his eyes adjusted, and his flesh, and he came out of the cave and stepped into it.
There were men waiting in bright outside: armored Vanil,with a handful of Aesil and Moril among them. One of the Vanil approached and saluted. "The siege is ended and the beastmen have scattered," he said. "We were ordered to escort the heroes back to the capital."
Remant couldn't help it: he laughed, his voice harsh and strange. "No heroes left," he said after a moment. "Just me."
The man stared at him, and that only made Remant laugh harder; a moment after that he was sobbing. "Help him," said the man, and stepped forward to put an arm under his shoulder. "Barris! Get a carriage up here, or as close you can." One of the other warriors hurried away; Remant didn't see which one.
"You're all that's left?" asked the man, as he helped Remant forward.
Remant sucked in a deep breath, let it out, and did it again until he had himself under control; it was that or stab the man, and he surely didn't deserve that. "Irlin fell while holding off a giant, when we were seeking a way through the Nirgenau peaks. Doverin fell in battle, but I carried him from the field before the Black Knight could steal his blessings. Winstala, Gairlos, and Toverin fell when the shadow-priest Ulis betrayed us, and the rest of us were captured. I escaped, and freed Darik and Elendor, but they both died in the battle against Huoron."
"But you defeated the dark god?" asked the man, as they staggered forward towards the sounds of an approaching carriage. "Huoron is dead?"
Remant shook his head but said, "As dead as a god can be."
"It is good, then," said the armored man, as he helped Remant to the carriage and up the steps.
Remant was too tired to shake his head. Nothing would never be good again. Not for him. Too many things had been destroyed; too many good people had been killed. It should have been him, not any of the companions; he should have been the one to die. Instead, he'd been the one to drive the nightblade into the back of a god, to feel the god's life pour into him, to feel his own flesh swell and burst, unable to contain that much power.
He'd watched the blade drain the last of its creator's divinity, pouring it out into the stone that formed the throne room of Shadowguard. He'd watched the god wither and fall: weakened, divided, transformed. He'd known then, seeing all this in the absence of light, that some of the dark one had gone into him as well.
He didn't bother with the benches, but simply stretched himself out across the floor. "Take me where you like," he said quietly. "It doesn't matter now."
The man swung the door shut, stepping away before he began shouting orders. After a time, the carriage began moving, but Remant didn't care. Aching, frightened, exhausted, he slept.