Chapter 1: Prologue
Alerie has suspicious eyes.
Beau noticed that immediately: narrowed brown eyes, defensive posture, the way the half-elf girl was ready to spring—to fight, to flee—at any given moment. Alerie probably thought Beau didn’t know there was a dagger stashed in her boot, but Beau saw the way her left hand kept twitching towards it.
On one hand, Beau approves: those were the kind of reflexes that a Cobalt Soul operative would need.
On the other: Alerie was eleven years old , too young to have those reflexes.
“This is where you’ll be sleeping,” Yasha says, a trifle nervously, opening the door to Alerie’s room. “There’s an en suite bathroom, and there’s your closet. It has towels if you need any, and, um…”
Alerie steps through, cautiously, little brown hand tightening on her knapsack. Brown eyes scan it quickly, and Beau notices the way she’s looking for exits—large window, door that led to the bathroom. Then her eyes fall on the single bed, with the blue sheets embroidered with flowers.
“I don’t have to…share with anyone?”
“Nah, kid,” Beau says. “Well, if you wanted your friends over I guess you would have to, but otherwise, go nuts.”
“I’m allowed visitors?”
“Of course you are,” Yasha says. “Is there anyone from the monastery you’d like to have visit?”
Alerie’s entire body stiffens imperceptibly. “Not…the Soul,” she says. Then she raises her chin defiantly. “I want to see my Sisters, but the monks won’t let me.”
Beau very carefully keeps her face neutral. On the surface, the Sisterhood of the Eclipse was a textile guild from Port Damali that took in female orphans and taught them a trade. Which was true. But they also had a side business running crime, with young girls and women as operatives.
A few months ago, some Sisters tried to sneak into the Nicodranas Cobalt Soul libraries, presumably to steal something. All but one, Alerie, got away, and it was said that she deliberately stayed behind to cover their escape.
The Cobalt Soul monks, seeing Alerie’s talent, decided to put her in training. She excelled, but was angry and standoffish and never stopped planning her escape—
—much like Beauregard Lionett had been, as a child.
And so, the monks had asked Beau to mentor the girl. “Maybe you can connect with her,” they’d said. And Beau had responded by inviting the girl to stay for the winter break.
“Are your, uh, Sisters in the area?” Yasha probes.
Alerie’s mouth firms. “These aren’t the Lunar Sisters,” she says. “They’re the Solar ones. The ones who work in the textile guild. I was with them when I was a kid, but then they put me in Lunar training instead.”
Yasha looks confused, and Beau tells her, “The Lunar operations are the crime ones, babe. The Solar operations are the legit ones.”
Alerie nods. “They aren’t going to steal your shit. They just…want to see me.”
Yasha smiles. “Even if they were going to try and steal our shit, Alerie,” she says, “your friends are welcome in our home.”
Beau smirks. “They couldn’t steal any of our shit anyway.”
Alerie looks around: the costly, well-made dark wood furniture; the carved bowl full of summer flowers (summer flowers! In the middle of winter!) set on the little desk near the window; the gilt-framed painting hanging on the wall; the clearly expensive sheets on the bed.
Her entire expression screams You’re easy marks.
Beau keeps the smirk on her face.
“I guess,” she says. She sits down on the bed and puts her knapsack on the floor. And then her eyes stray to the painting on the wall.
It’s a painting of Beau, Yasha, Nott, Caleb (and Frumpkin), and Jester, and it never fails to give Beau a warm feeling in her ribcage.
“Is that— Queen Jester ?” Alerie breathes.
“Yep,” Beau says, grinning. “Well, she was still a princess then, but yeah, that’s Jessie.”
“And is that— you ?” Alerie stands up, walks closer to the painting, eyes wide in wonder—a little brown finger reaches out, as if to trace the paint on canvas.
“Yeah,” Beau says smugly. “Me and Yasha and Jess, we’re tight.”
Alerie doesn’t respond, eyes still hungrily tracing the lines of the laughing people in the painting.
It’s not a serious portrait, not like the many paintings that are up in the castle—Jester is laughing, hand-in-hand with Caleb. Her full-skirted green dress flares out—Jester always did like poofs and frills—and her opal diadem sparkles brightly in the afternoon light. Nott perches on Caleb’s shoulder, hair plaited full of flowers, her yellow dress standing out against Caleb’s lovely purple coat. Frumpkin is on Caleb’s other shoulder, licking his paw daintily and disdainfully.
Caleb on the other hand is smiling, a smile as warm and real as the warm red-orange of his ponytail, as Beau and Yasha stand slightly behind all of them. They wear the insignia of the Lavorre family’s personal guards, but their posture is loose and relaxed and happy. This is a portrait of them with friends, not them with their charges.
Behind them, the palace of Nicodranas is lit up with the glow of a thousand floating lanterns.
“How do you know Queen Jester?” Alerie asks, turning awed eyes on Beau and Yasha.
Yasha grins brightly. “I’ve been her bodyguard since she was a little girl.”
Beau shrugs. “Oh, she ran away, found the love of her life, ran into me at a sleazy establishment—you know how princess stories go, don’t you?”
Alerie shakes her head, eyes wide.
Beau grins. Connect with the girl, huh? She points at the bed. “Can I sit?”
Beau sits, and says, “All right, kid. This is the story of how Queen Jester—well, she was still a princess then—of how Princess Jester killed a man.”
Her Royal Highness Jester Lavorre, heir apparent of the Menagerie Coast and the Sapphire of Nicodranas, peeks out of her doorway, violet eyes scanning the palace hallways for any sign of her bodyguard Yasha. When she catches no sign of the imposingly tall dark-haired woman, she ducks back behind her door, and takes a deep breath.
When she steps out, she’s no longer the crown princess, but Fiona Fancypants, one of Princess Jester’s chambermaids.
She walks down the hallway, until she reaches the palace gardens. With a whisper of invoke duplicity! a Princess Jester appears from thin air, and the Princess Jester walks conspicuously into the garden, smiles brightly at some of the guards, and then disappears into Queen Marion’s private garden.
Then Fiona Fancypants turns around and books it to the nobles’ wing of the palace, where court mage and Dwendalian Empire ambassador Trent Ikithon resides.
Ikithon isn’t there, which she had counted on—he was usually busy this time of day, listening to her mother hold court. Quickly, she slips into his private chambers, making a beeline for the whitewood door installed near the side of his bed.
She knows from a childhood spent running around the palace that the door rests against stone wall. And yet—
She takes a deep breath, steeling herself, and opens the door into sunlight.
Then she steps through to a forest glade.
“Cayyyleb, Cayyyleb, let down your hair!” she calls.
Jester—and it’s Jester now, not Fiona Fancypants—stands at the base of a white stone, red-roofed tower, which stretches up high, high, high, almost a hundred feet up. Climbing flowers in a rainbow of colors twine around the base, determinedly making its way up the stonework.
At what seems like the top level of the tower, there is a large bay window, jutting out of the stone. Its shutters are flung wide open.
A few moments, and then a red head pops out from the window.
“Who are you?” a voice calls down, warily. “How do you know my name?”
“Cayyyleb!” Jester laughs, through the pang of pain in her heart. She knows they have to do this, she knows it’s to keep him safe, but…every single time, it hurts. “It’s meeee eee , Jester! Come on, let me up!”
“I don’t know anyone named Jester,” Caleb says warily.
“I do!” a high-pitched voice squeaks, and Caleb’s head withdraws from the window. “Let her up, Caleb, she’s our friend.”
A few beats pass, in which Jester assumes Caleb is arguing. But eventually there is a cascade of red hair falling from the window, and Jester, with the ease of someone long-used to doing this, climbs up hand-over-hand and tumbles through the window.
And ducks the fire bolt aimed at her head.
It shoots out through the window, whistling as it passes, and as Caleb turns to her, blue eyes wide, Jester hits him with a blast of restorative magic.
Caleb’s blue eyes glaze over, and he collapses.
“Oh, Caleb ,” Jester exhales, and hauls him up. He’s dead weight, but Jester is strong.
Caleb’s room is a mess of books and shelves and paper. The circular walls are full of shelves upon shelves of books, with some books being relegated to the floor when the shelves couldn’t fit them all in; the desk is nearly buried under the stacks of paper; and there are three empty inkwells scattered on the floor.
And then of course, there’s Caleb’s hair.
Caleb must have been reading in bed when she called, because a massive pile of red-gold waves is coiled neatly on the floor near the bed. It’s so large it dwarfs Nott, who is standing beside it, green hand raised in a wave.
“Jessie!” she calls out, grinning widely. Her sharp goblin teeth glint in the light. “It’s great to see you!”
“Hiii iii Nott!” Jester greets enthusiastically. “And you too! Wow, Caleb’s getting better at aiming, huh?”
“Sorry,” Nott says. “I mean, there’s not a lot to do here, you know, and I have to drag him away from his books some time—”
“No, no, it’s okay!” Jester says, hefting Caleb in a bridal carry and carrying him over to his bed. “I mean, whatever there is to do , right…”
She sits down on the bed, and Nott clambers up, pulling Caleb’s head into her lap. Nott and Jester sit side-by-side, Nott leaning against Jester. Green fingers close Caleb’s wide, blue eyes, and smooth out the worried brow.
“I mean,” Jester continues, “I understand boredom like, soooo much, Nott, like…”
She trails off, blue fingers running through Caleb’s hair.
Sitting like this, she can see the dark smudges beneath Caleb’s eyes—he hasn’t been sleeping, she can tell. And he was so light in her arms, also…he probably hasn’t been eating.
He’s still so pretty , though. His pale, clear skin—his high cheekbones—the large, adorable nose—the little butt on his chin. Stubble prickles on her fingers as she cups his face, her thumb tracing the closed eyes.
And of course, the hair. Nearly a hundred feet of hair, heavy and warm and so, so soft . The light from the open window plays across it, turning it every shade of red and gold, and Jester aches to paint it, aches to splash every shade of crimson and yellow on her palette until she figures out just how to portray Caleb .
She’s tried. Six days a week she sketches, and paints, and tries to get how the light glints off the waves of Caleb’s hair.
She hasn’t managed it yet.
“I hate that we have to do this,” she murmurs, eyes closed.
“Me too,” she hears Nott say sadly. Jester unburies one hand from Caleb’s hair and tugs Nott in closer. Nott nestles in, and Jester rests her chin against Nott’s green hair.
They sit there, and breathe.
After a moment, Nott says, “But it’s going to be different soon.” Her huge yellow eyes flick to Jester. “He’s decided! He’s going to ask Master Trent when he comes back next!”
“He is ?!” Jester squeals, jerking and tugging Caleb’s hair accidentally. “Oops, sorry Caleb.”
She’s about to say something more, when a voice says dryly, “It’s fine, Jester.”
“Caleb!” she and Nott cry out in tandem.
Arresting blue eyes, fringed with long red lashes, flicker open, and Jester’s breath catches.
God, Caleb is so pretty .
“Guess you’re back with us, huh,” she laughs, dislodging the breath in her throat. “You nearly got me good there Caleb!”
Caleb sits up, grimacing.
“I’m sorry, Jester,” he says. “I did not know who you were just then and I—I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, Caleb,” Jester says. “It really is! Anything to keep you safe from, ugh, Ikithon .” She makes a face. “Hey, hey, what was Nott saying about you finally asking him?”
Nott is nearly vibrating in excitement.
“Next week, the floating lights will appear again,” Caleb says, blue eyes alight with a tentative hope. “And I have progressed so much in my magical studies—surely Master Ikithon will see fit for a, a reward, of some sort. I hope. I have learned so much!” He sweeps out a hand. “All the spells that have been given me, I have learned.”
“That’s so cool , Caleb.”
“It is!” Nott enthuses. “But! You should eat more, Cay-cay.”
“You haven’t been eating?” Jester asks in dismay.
Caleb shrugs it off. “Learning the spells and proving myself to Master Ikithon was more important. If I cannot prove that I am skilled beyond my, ah, natural magic,” he gestures to the pile of hair, “then I cannot ask him to let me and Nott go.”
“You should eat,” Jester frowns. “Actually! I brought muffins!” She rummages in her pink haversack, and presents a tray of muffins. “Caduceus made these! They’re reaaaal good.”
“Caduceus is the chef, right?” Nott asks, yellow eyes wide. Jester feels a pang in her chest. Nott is always so hungry for news of the outside world, so desperate to hear about life outside of this awful tower.
She’s offered, so many times, to take Nott and Caleb away from here. But Caleb is stubborn , and he says that if he can just prove to Ikithon that he is a good sorcerer, then he’ll surely let Caleb go.
And Nott wouldn’t leave Caleb.
So they’re stuck.
“Yeah! Cad yoooooo ceus is the chef and the gardener! He really likes mushrooms. Like he reaallyyyy likes mushrooms,” Jester remembers to say, after a beat. “You know, he was asking Mama if we could have like a little underground cave dug, so he could cultivate cave mushrooms, instead of just the…regular kind, I guess? Oh, here, have a muffin!” She proffers the tray.
Caleb considers, and then takes a blueberry one.
“I think I remember mushrooms,” Nott says thoughtfully. “I think I liked them.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever had any,” Caleb says softly.
Jester bites her lip. “Well then!” she says as cheerfully as she can. “I’ll bring some next time! I’ll ask Caduceus for, like, celebratory mushroom food! Because next week Ikithon will have let you go, right?”
“I hope so,” Caleb says softly. Nott echoes him, “I hope so.”
Jester can’t stay too long—if she’s gone for waaayyy too long then the palace guards, and Yasha, might suspect that she’s actually gone out-out, instead of just tricking everybody into thinking she’s gone out, for her own amusement. So after an afternoon of eating muffins and just hanging out with Caleb and Nott, she ruefully says, “I have to go, you guys.”
“Aww, Jessie,” Nott says, and wraps spindly arms around Jester’s waist. “We’ll see you next week?”
“Count on it,” Jester promises, and hugs Nott reaaaal tight.
Then she turns to Caleb, who’s already sitting on the bed in preparation.
The sunset blazes from the open window, casting everything into orange—the planes of Caleb’s face are golden in this light, and his hair is a river of molten copper. The bulk of it is already pouring from the window, ready for Jester to slide down.
“Maybe we don’t have to do it this time,” she says quietly.
Caleb shakes his head. “At least this one last time,” he says. “If Master Ikithon finds out we have been hiding you, it might, ah, weaken the case I will bring to him.” He smiles slightly. “But maybe this will be the last time.”
His voice has a tinge of awe.
Jester bites her lip. “Someday, you won’t forget me,” she whispers softly.
Caleb whispers, “Someday, I’ll remember.”
His eyes are so, so blue, like the sea from Jester’s window, but not like the sea at all—bright and searing, like a flame too hot to burn orange—
Then he closes his eyes, and Jester directs her magic, and slowly begins erasing the memory of this afternoon from Caleb’s mind.
He slumps onto the cushion, unconscious.
Jester smooths one stray lock of hair from his face, and then turns to Nott.
“Bye, Nott,” she says, as brightly as she can.
“Bye, Jessie,” Nott says, equally brightly, equally falsely.
And then Jester turns towards the window, takes the red-gold hair in hand, and slides down the tower.
When she looks back, body silhouetted in the hidden magic door, all she sees are green hands hauling up the last few feet of hair.
Caleb knows that he and Nott are keeping a secret from Master Ikithon.
Every seven days or so, there’s a suspiciously empty blank of time in his memory—a day where he can’t remember what on earth he did.
Six days a week he is at his desk, or in the practice hall, studying and practicing magic, while Nott either cheers him on or drags him away to eat something. He remembers those days clearly: the way a flaming sphere felt in his hands, burning his skin until he learned to control it; changing himself and Nott into seeming like different people; creating a little dome that no one but himself and Nott could enter.
“Although,” he had observed to Nott bitterly, “what is the use of this spell when we are the only ones in this tower anyway?”
“Caleb,” Nott had said, stricken, and reached out to him. She went into his arms, and he wrapped himself around her, his best friend.
“You are my only friend,” he had murmured into her green hair, “and I have failed you.”
Nott drew back, yellow eyes fierce. He’d never seen her so determined, so angry, as when she said, “You haven’t failed me at all, Caycay. You could never fail me. ”
And then, softer, “And I’m not your only friend.”
Caleb knows he and Nott are keeping a secret from Master Ikithon. He knows because he wrote it down, in his little journal, which he hides behind the spell books he mastered when he was a child, and thus Master Ikithon would never have a reason to look through.
Caleb, his hand reads in narrow, cramped Zemnian letters, there are things you do not remember, and you do not remember them on purpose. Do not think on them overmuch, otherwise Master Ikithon might know that there is something you are hiding, and that would be disastrous for all involved. Nott will corroborate, if you need corroboration, but I hope you will trust in me. In yourself.
He knows his own handwriting, and he knows he only writes the most important things in Zemnian, which Caleb knows Master Ikithon never bothered to learn.
So he trusts in himself, trusts that the mystery of his missing days will solve itself, and returns to practicing his spells.
Today, the morning before Master Ikithon is due to return and five days since his last memory blank, he is idly drawing illusions in the air, and changing the wooden window frame into copper into silver into gold, just because he can. Then Nott stirs to wakefulness.
She and Caleb sleep in the same bed, because Master Ikithon doesn’t care. Nominally, Nott has servants’ quarters near the kitchen. But in practice, the goblin with the green hair and the human with the hundred feet of red-gold hair sleep and rise together.
“Caleb,” she says softly, “Caleb, I had the dream again. About who I was before.”
Caleb sharpens to attention.
“Did you find out who you were?” he asks.
Nott curls into herself, a little green head poking out of the blankets. “I don’t know who I was, but—I wasn’t a goblin. I was a halfling again, Caleb, and—I had brown hair,” she says softly, and Caleb’s hands are already moving, layering the illusion. The mouthful of sharp teeth disappears, turning into flatter, more humanoid teeth—“I had brown hair, and brown eyes, and brown skin, and I wasn’t skinny, not like this, I was a halfling , not a goblin , and—” Magic flickers in the air, shifting Nott into the person she says she was. “And in the dream, Caleb, I saw the floating lights. I saw the floating lights again, like I always see them—they were lanterns. I was releasing glowing lanterns into the air with—somebody I loved. I was wishing for someone to come back.”
“They’re lanterns?” Caleb asks, eyes wide. “The floating lights are lanterns?”
“Yes,” Nott confirms, “and they’re for…someone. They’re wishing for someone to come back.”
Lights pop-pop-pop into existence above Nott’s head. Quietly, Caleb gives her a hand mirror, and Nott stares at herself, touching her face.
It’s an illusion. Nott’s fingers go through the magical layer of brown skin, and she touches a face of a goblin, not a face of a halfling. But she touches herself in wonder all the same.
“Is this you, Nott?” Caleb asks softly.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure. I don’t remember,” Nott says. “But…this body…looks right. You know I never felt right in my skin, right Caleb? You know I—”
“I do,” Caleb says, and sits down on the bed beside Nott, his hair slithering across the floor to follow him. He catches Nott’s hands in his own. “Nott, I’m sorry, I—this is my fault. I know it’s my fault.”
“It’s not, Caleb!” Nott contradicts immediately, leaping up. “It’s not!”
“It is,” Caleb says. “I asked—I asked Master Ikithon for a friend. I asked him, and then he brought you.”
It was many years ago—Nott would laugh, and say “Many hairs ago.” Caleb was a little boy, alone in the tower, and he remembers—
“Master, do you have to go?” he asks, as Master Ikithon tidies up his satchel and prepares to leave the tower.
The man turns. A tall man, but even then his hair was already gray-white and his skin was liver-spotted. “I have duties to the Empire, Caleb,” he says sternly.
“I know, but…” Little Caleb remembers tugging at his hair, twisting it between his fingers. “I get lonely here,” he says, looking down.
“Do you?” Master Ikithon says, tone warming. He kneels, and tips Caleb’s face up. “Would you like a companion, Caleb?”
“A companion ?” the little boy asks. “You mean—someone that’s not you?”
“Yes, unless there is something wrong with that?”
“No, but…” Caleb scuffs at the floor with his foot. “I was hoping you would stay, Master. Longer.”
“Don’t look down, Caleb, it’s unseemly,” Master Ikithon chides. “Look people in the eye when you speak to them.” Caleb obediently looks at Master Ikithon’s narrow dark eyes. “I cannot stay, Caleb. I have duties to the Empire, as you well know. Even this little bit of time I had to carve out of my busy schedule.”
“I know, Master,” Caleb says. “I am grateful.”
“But you are lonely, so. If you can master the fire bolt spell by the time I return, we shall see about getting you some companionship.”
“Thank you, Master,” Caleb says.
“You’re welcome. Now bid me goodbye and I shall take my leave.”
Obediently, Caleb raises Master Ikithon’s hand to his lips and kisses it. The man nods, satisfied.
Then magic shimmers around him and he flies out the window.
Caleb practiced the fire bolt spell, more out of lack of things to do than a desire for companionship that wasn’t Master Ikithon. When Master Ikithon returned the next week, he found his spell work satisfactory, and thus worthy of a reward.
“I knew you would live up to expectations, Caleb,” Master Ikithon says, “and so, I prepared accordingly.” He waves a hand, and a tear in the air opens up—Caleb gasps in shock—and Master Ikithon disappears into it. When he reemerges, it is with a little goblin girl.
“She will be your new friend,” Master Ikithon says. His thin lips curl. “As well as your servant. She will cook and clean and—oh, any number of little tasks around the tower, so you may focus on spell work. Your fire bolt was fine, but I am setting you more difficult spells now and you should not be distracted.”
The little goblin girl sways on her feet, but there is cognizance in her eyes.
“This is Caleb, my apprentice. You are to assist him in any way he deems fit,” Master Ikithon says to her. “Do you understand, girl?”
“I—yes, sir,” she murmurs.
“Good. Now I will take my leave.”
And Master Ikithon flies away into the night again, leaving two children looking at each other.
“I’ve—I’ve never seen a goblin before,” Caleb says, breaking the silence. “Or anyone except Master Ikithon.”
“I’m not,” the goblin girl says.
“You’re Nott?” he asks. “That’s an odd name.”
“No, I mean—I’m not a goblin,” she says. “This isn’t my true form.”
“All…right then,” Caleb says, doubtfully. “Then what is your name? And your true form?”
The goblin girl opens her mouth. Then closes it. Then opens it again. Finally she admits, “I don’t know. I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember ?” Caleb asks. “You have amnesia?”
“Guess so,” she says. “I only remember…Master Ikithon. He told me that I was to come serve his apprentice at his tower. That I was supposed to be his friend.”
Then she looks at the piles and piles of hair around the circular tower bedroom, all leading back to Caleb’s head. “You’ve got a lot of hair.”
Caleb tugs at it. “I know. It’s heavy.”
“It’s pretty,” the goblin girl says. “Can I touch it?”
“…I don’t know,” Caleb hedges. “It’s magic. Master Ikithon said…”
“Your hair’s magic ?!”
“Well, yes,” Caleb says. “Master Ikithon said…when I was a baby, I was really magical, so people came and killed my parents so they could get me. Master Ikithon was friends with my parents, so he took me away and hid me so that I could be safe. And now he’s teaching me magic, so I can be safe once I grow up.”
“But what does the hair have to do with it?”
“The hair holds the magic,” Caleb says. “If I cut the hair, the magic goes away.” He brushes some of his hair behind his ear, to show a lock of hair that reaches just above his chin. “Someone already tried, when I was a baby. So I have to keep the hair growing and growing.”
“But why can’t you just cut the hair? So you don’t have magic anymore and you can be safe?”
“Well…” Caleb says. “If I do that…then I won’t have magic, and Master Ikithon won’t have a reason to keep me.”
He wants to look down, wants to not look this goblin girl in the eye anymore. But that’s unseemly. That’s not proper for someone with magic. Someone worthy of Master Ikithon’s respect.
“Oh,” the goblin girl says. “Well.” She pauses. “But me touching it won’t make the magic go away, right?”
“…No, I don’t think so…?”
“Well, can I touch it then?”
Caleb feels a little smile tugging at his lips. “Well…okay then.”
Nott touches Caleb’s face, bringing him back from his reminiscence. “It’s not your fault,” she repeats. “It’s not your fault. We don’t know who I was before. Maybe he just picked me up from somewhere. Maybe he just decided I would be a good friend to you.”
“Nott, the times I don’t remember—” He chokes. “Someone must be changing my memory, every seven-day. Are we—have you tried it? Remembering?”
Nott bites her lip. “We tried,” she says. “It didn’t work. We think—I think—that maybe I have to get to the floating lights to trigger a memory. Or I have to…change back. Into who I was before. Into the halfling.”
“The floating lights are in a week, if they follow the yearly pattern,” Caleb says softly. “I have mastered every spell Master Ikithon set me. I will ask him tomorrow, Nott, like we planned. We will see those floating lights.”
Nott is looking up at him, yellow eyes full of hope. Caleb’s heart tugs within his chest, my friend, my friend, my best friend.
“I promise,” he says. “I promise.”