I woke up, not knowing where I was or how I had ended up there. For a moment I was content just lying there, savouring the comfort of the soft bed beneath me, and the smoothness of the fragrant, cool sheets against my skin.
Clean, I thought. I began to remember bathing the night before, first scrubbing, then soaking until all the pent-up tension had drained from my body. I chuckled. It's unbelievable how much dirt you pick up, living on the road. And scabs, and little open wounds that never quite heal and even if they do they keep itching like hell until even after you can see them anymore, and other things that I preferred not to dwell on.
I listened, but except for the wind in the trees, and the little sounds that large, old buildings make, I could hear nothing. It must still be early, I told myself, as I sank back into oblivion.
Quiet. I could see my mind, clear and still as a mountain lake, silent fish sliding through the water. I lingered, formless and without motion, my soul at peace.
I opened my eyes, wondering how long I had slept. Above me I could see a white-plastered ceiling and a yellow copper chandelier, the room reflected in its shiny surface. Slowly the memories of the day before began to return. The King. The men, leaving for home. My son. I froze, shying away from the memory of my frenzied search among the passing faces. No. I couldn't afford to get caught up in that again.
I closed my eyes and lay back, willing my breathing to slow down and my body to relax. Clear as a mountain lake, I told myself. Clear as a mountain lake.
"I'm sorry," I told my son. "You cannot believe how much I miss you, and how much I want you to be still alive. But you're not, and I can't tell you how sorry I am about that. I should have saved you, and I haven't." For a moment I didn't know how to go on.
"I can't go on like this. I can't continue to believe that you're still alive, because if I do, I'll roam the earth until I find you, and I can't do that. I will only do his bidding if I allow myself to do that." I kept still, allowing the words to flow through me and listening as they came out. "There are things that are greater and more important than you and me. Agromas tried to tell me, but I didn't listen. Oh, you don't know who he was, do you? He was my teacher, and I was young and obstinate when he tried to teach me. I never listened. He also told me that I was the one who was supposed to make things better, and I guess I didn't want to hear that, either. I still don't know what to believe, really. But I do believe one thing. I believe that if there's any path ahead of me, this is it. I don't think I have any other options left, I can only go forward and try to do what is required of me, whatever that is. I need to find that path and to follow it to the end." I swallowed. "So, this is it. I love you, and I'll continue to love you until the day I die. But this is where I let you go, and I ask you to let me go as well."
The words had stopped coming, and for a moment I lay there, wondering whether there would be any more.
"Goodbye," I said.
I opened my eyes and sat up, my head clear and every trace of sleep gone. The sun was shining in through the open window, and I could see it was a beautiful day. I've been asleep for too long, I told myself as I swung my legs over the side of the bed and bent down to grope for my boots. I need to wake up and get to work.
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