"Are you all right?" Kui asked, the next morning. He and Estelle both sat in the garden now, listening as other people bustled to and fro. Estelle fondled that same iris, her thoughts jumping left and right from track to track.
"I...don't know," she managed to tell him. "There's been a lot of talk about my past. It's making me feel things."
"Feel things." Kui snorted. "Oh no! Feelings!"
"Stop it." There was no fire in Estelle's voice. "Jason basically offered to let you and me become members here."
"Why would we want to?" Kui asked. Estelle mused.
"He said they might be able to help me," she said. "Help me figure out the whys of my story."
"Your story you still aren't inclined to share with me," Kui said. "Estelle, I like you a lot, but I can't lie and say I'm chipper about your actively keeping me in the dark. We're friends."
"I know, and you're absolutely right," she said, one hundred percent earnestly. "But I just...I don't know. I don't know that you'd understand, and I don't know that it would help anything."
"You won't know unless you take the leap," Kui pointed out.
"That's pretty much what Jason told me."
Now Kui regarded her very intently. "You're actually, seriously considering it."
"I am." Estelle lowered her hand and left the iris alone. "What else do we have to do with our lives, Kui? I don't exactly want to spend the fifty more years I've got on this earth as an 'honored guest', doing nothing but sitting in the garden. And if I can find some peace..."
"Peace isn't what you're after," Kui accused. He reached out and caught Estelle's arm. "Peace is the last thing you're after."
"No, it's not," she protested. "I'm very interested in peace-"
"You want war, Estelle."
"What?" She blinked. "Kui, what on earth gives you that-"
"You said the crew of your ship mutinied and possibly killed your aunt and uncle, and you escaped with your cousin. Now, I don't mean to be callous, but I don't recall seeing your cousin anywhere, nor have you ever given me even a hint that there's a grave somewhere on the island you visit when you hunt." Kui's brown eyes bored into Estelle's. "You want revenge. On the people who definitely did kill him."
"...all right, so maybe I do," Estelle admitted, for more or less the first time, even to herself. "What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing at all," Kui said, and his tone was much lighter. "It's perfectly natural. So long as you're not lying to yourself and claiming it hasn't crossed your mind."
"Noted." Estelle gently pushed his hand off her arm. "I am interested in peace, though. Revenge will help with that."
"No, it won't," Kui said, and Estelle frowned at how knowing he sounded. "It's really the other way around: inner peace will help you achieve your revenge. So long as you exact your vengeance the right way, for the right reasons...I see nothing wrong with that. But remember that the peace has to come first, otherwise you're just lashing out blindly in rage."
Estelle was silent for a moment. "I'll keep that in mind." She looked Kui over. "What are you going to do?"
"I do what you do." How quickly her friend said that warmed Estelle's heart. "If you make the decision to stay and become a warrior monk, then I'll stay with you and be your warrior monk. I owe you a debt."
"I owe you a debt." Kui's tone was iron-plated. "Where you go, I go. Who you fight, I fight. What you do...I do." He shook his head as Estelle tried to butt in. "It's not like I really have a home to go back to."
"What do you-"
"Tell me yours, I'll tell you mine." He grinned a little at that.
"Fair enough." Estelle made an agreeable gesture. "Later, then."
"I knew you'd say that." Kui leaned back on their little stone bench. "I'm not crazy about the idea of joining this little personality cult, tell the truth. Talking about Messiahs and Guiding Lights...it's a little too serious for me."
"I know. I get it." Estelle glanced up at the blue skies overhead. "You don't think we should-"
"Didn't say that. Said I wasn't crazy about it." Kui seemed to consider. "Sleep on it. Think it all over. Figure out what you want. And when you do figure that out - I do what you do." He shrugged. "Maybe I can learn magic. Wouldn't that be fun?"
Estelle woke up to the rocking of her boat in the predawn light. She jumped an instant later, and rolled up to a sitting position, clutching for the first thing she could find, which turned out to be the side of the boat.
"Good morning, Estelle."
"Callan?" She turned and glanced at her cousin, sitting at the stern. "Oh, gods. I thought it was a dream..."
"No such luck." He grunted, and Estelle paused. She glanced him over, and her mouth became very dry as she saw red staining his chest.
"So, those two idiots firing at us...didn't miss," Callan finally admitted.
"Why didn't you say something!" Estelle flung herself to her feet, causing the boat to rock precariously. She swallowed and made her way to Callan's side. "Let me see what I can-"
"Nothing." Callan pushed her hand away. "I've dealt with wounds like this before, on hunting trips with Father. Estelle, we'd need either herbs and time we don't possess or magic to do much of anything about it."
"Rest." Estelle's mind worked feverishly. "If you rest, then we can-"
"-then we can probably keep me alive for a day or two." She did not like how calm he sounded. "Infection, blood loss, dehydration, starvation...all are bad ways to go, and I'll be dealing with all of them."
"Then what are you suggesting-"
"Well, Estelle," Callan said, his voice still so calm she wondered if he'd missed them being cast away, "either I succumb slowly to my wounds, or I get off the ride."
Estelle didn't understand...and then, all too well, she did. She gasped as she saw Callan's pistol in his lap.
"No. No, no, we can...I can..."
"There's nothing you can do, Estelle," he said. "Whatever food you can catch, whatever fresh water you can muster, you'd split it with me...and that's the last thing you need right now. I won't live to see land even on a full diet."
"Callan, you said we're not going to die," Estelle pressed. She reached out and took his hands. "You said-"
"I was wrong." Callan squeezed her hands. "I'm not going to make it. But you are."
Estelle burst into tears. "Callan, I can't do this alone. I can't...I need your help..."
"Hey, that's not true," he said, very emphatically. "I left my journal here. I've gone fishing, hunting...it'll help you out. I baited a couple of lines and laid them out. You should catch a small fish or two pretty quickly. Don't eat them. Use them to catch bigger ones."
"This is the only way, Estelle," he said, very gently.
She stared into his eyes. Wordlessly, she shook her head, and she buried her head in his chest. "No. No, no, no."
"You're going to survive," Callan told her. "Promise me that, Estelle. Promise me you won't die."
"You don't have to-"
"Promise!" He pushed her away and stared into her eyes at point-blank range. "Promise me, Estelle."
She wavered. Tears ran down her cheeks like rain. "I...I promise."
"I'm not going to die," Estelle whispered, very solemnly. "I'm going to survive. I'm not going to die."
"Good." Callan smiled - and how could he be this calm? - before standing up and letting go of her. He held his pistol. "You're destined for something great, Estelle. I know it."
"No, please, don’t-"
He raised the pistol to his head and Estelle cried out.
Estelle jerked convulsively, swallowing a scream. She twitched her gaze left and right, and all she saw was her and Kui's little bedroom.
Thunder, she classified a moment later. Just thunder.
She threw off her blankets and hurried to the door, taking just enough care that Kui didn't wake. As soon as she was out of the room, she raced down the hall at random, searching, searching-
"Estelle?" Jason coughed a moment later as Estelle ran into him around a corner and almost literally bounced off of him. He looked terribly surprised. "You're up again-"
"Help me," she whispered, very earnestly. So earnestly Jason paused midsentence, mouth hanging open. "Help me find peace...help me do that, so I can become what I need to be." Her jaw worked. "Help me become the nightmare I need to be, so I can have my revenge."
She almost thought he was going to just help her back to bed. Here she was, rushing through the halls at night, talking of help and revenge and nightmares...but no. Jason just tilted his head to the side...and smiled.
"Welcome to the Order of the Guiding Light, Estelle," he said.