The sun on my face woke me up. For a while I just lay there, my eyes closed, watching the red glow through my eyelids. Had it been like this? Had the sun shone through my eyelids like this when I still had my eyesight? It had, I decided, though in truth I couldn't remember. When had I had reason to pay attention to such things?
I turned over and opened my eyes. The light had been so bright that black spots were dancing in front of my eyes, and the grass beneath me was almost drained of all colour.
A bedroom, I thought. I had been in a bedroom. What was I doing outside?
I sat up and looked around, shielding my eyes with my hand and yet still squinting in the intense midday light.
A man was lying in the grass somewhat to my right, resting on his back, his eyes closed. I rolled over and crawled towards him. Jared. I could see him breathe, a peaceful expression on his scarred face. It was strange to see him again, after spending so much time with him in the dark.
"Let him sleep," Rodan's voice said.
I looked up. He was younger than I had imagined, though his face was tired and lined with worry.
"You look like you could use some sleep yourself," I said.
"I'm fine," he said, looking away. Then he looked at me again, his eyes widened in surprise. "You can see."
He began to laugh, still with amazement in his eyes. "That's wonderful."
"Yeah." I felt myself smile as well.
He crouched at my side and took one of my wrists. "Let's have a look at those." He began to remove one of the bandages, which was soiled and torn now, and I realised I had quite forgotten about the injuries.
The first bandage came off, the exposed skin smooth and undamaged. The wound was gone without a trace.
He started on the bandage on the other wrist, as I looked on in wonder. The other wrist, too, was unharmed.
"You're a true healer," I said.
He sat back and turned away from me, and I wondered what I had said wrong. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you. I'm just grateful, that's all."
I didn't think it was, but I decided to let it rest. For a while, neither of us said anything.
"I was a healer, once."
I supposed my thoughts had been wandering, and I wasn't sure I had heard him correctly. I turned to look at him. He sat on the grass with his arms around his knees, looking away from me.
"That's all gone now. Everything is."
I was reminded of the voice in the vision that I had shared with Jared. Or had I? Had he seen and heard the same things that I had?
"The master is gone and we must mourn," I said. "Does that mean anything to you?"
He turned to look at me. "Jared told you about that, right?" I said nothing. "I wonder why, though it's not exactly a secret, I suppose."
He hugged his knees and looked away from me again. "Jared and I were brothers in the Temple of Urduk once, with me working as a healer, and him as a teacher. I couldn't imagine being anywhere else or doing anything else and yet, here I am."
"The gods have gone and the temples are empty." He looked at me. "I know that's hard to understand, and it took us all a while to see what was going on. Yet, it is unmistakable."
"When did this happen?"
"At the same time that the war in the west began." Suddenly I felt cold. "One by one the priests and priestesses left, and many of them ended up joining the army or the law-men." He gave a short laugh. "I suppose we need to feel we have some higher goal in our lives."
I thought of Lowanda, of how I had carried her in my arms in a vision, and how at the end of our journey a veiled woman had told her, "You cannot come back. For you are my beloved, and you have never been away from me."
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