Time went on and Gwynn was soon very close to completing his studies. His competitive notions caused him to surpass E’thor and Telynor, but the two boys were very and honestly happy for him. As he continued and was close to finishing his education, Deng approached Trinity in secret. He had long suspected that she was privately tutoring Griba, and was demonstrably upset about it. Deng explained that Griba was a hag, and hags could never be worthy of the Circle. Trinity surprised Deng with a fierce admonition. How could Deng judge Griba purely on what she was, when he, as a dark elf, was often likewise judged. Griba was kind and good-natured, and had dedicated herself to Riuying and the forest. But Deng was stubborn. To him, the situation was different. The two of them mutually agreed, then, that when Gwynn’s lessons were completed, he would leave the forest and Trinity should leave with him.
This devastated Telynor. On the night before her departure with Gwynn, Telynor sobbed and begged her to stay. Over the past year, Telynor had opened up to Trinity about his feelings and affection for E’thor. He was certain that his betrothal to the wicked girl in Starfall was over and that his family probably assumed he was dead and gone anyway, or they simply would prefer if he never returned. Telynor fell in love with the forest and never wanted to leave it. But more, he fell in love with E’thor, too, and was afraid that the source of his desire did not desire him in return. What should he do? Trinity had always talked with him about this, giving him tidbits of advice on their shared interests. Now that Trinity was leaving, Telynor didn’t know what to do. Trinity hugged Telynor and told him, “Young man, just follow your heart! Tell E’thor how you feel about him. I suspect it will work out in the end.” The next day, Gwynn and Trinity departed from the Neblina Forest and returned to Prince’s Harbor.
Telynor was determined to follow his heart. He decided to skip the lessons from Deng for the day and invited E’thor into the forest for a picnic, intent on confessing his love for his friend. Unfortunately, Arpistis overheard the plans and invited herself on their excursion. Telynor was unhappy with this new development but kept it to himself when he saw E’thor’s excitement for the day’s adventure.
The three of them traveled out into the forest, jumping between paths, crossing brooks, and climbing hills until they came to a desolate and abandoned valley. In the center of the valley was the ruins of an old tower, the last remaining recognizable piece of the fortress of the cult of The Thing That Should Not Be. After thousands of years, the structure was mostly rubble except for the one tower in the center. The animals warned the three that no one had gone into the tower in ages and suggested they stay away. E’thor, though, couldn’t help himself. He wanted adventure, and the others reluctantly followed him in.
The coffer of illness was still there, and it released as a black mist of smoke when opened. The three lurched backwards, coughing and gagging. With their eyes closed, they could not see the smoke move as if on its own out of the tower and into the forest. Arpistis was quick with a magic spell to cure herself. E’thor did the same. Telynor was not as reactive as his friends. He coughed and gagged, seeing stars and finally passing out.
When he came to, it was night and he was alone in the forest with E’thor. Arpistis had run back to Deng for help, and E’thor stayed to care for Telynor. The moment was right, and he tried to speak, but the sickness was already infecting Telynor. He coughed over his words, making it impossible to understand. But E’thor surprised him with a kiss. E’thor had a crush on Telynor since the moment he met him and had been talking to Trinity about this, too. He confessed his own feelings to Telynor, and no amount of sickness could quell the joy in their hearts.