A knock on the door woke me up.


"Breakfast is ready if you want it."

"Thank you."

There were a jug of water and a washing bowl on a table against a wall. I washed, got dressed and made my way to the inn's main room.

While we had breakfast, I chatted with the girl and her grandfather about the weather, the crops and how much I enjoyed the clear mountain air. Both seemed more talkative than they had been last night. I brought up the history of the place. Apparently the girl's father had bought the inn some twenty years ago, and the grandfather had only moved in recently after the death of his wife. Both claimed to know nothing about the inn's previous history.

I paid my bill, thanked the girl and her grandfather for their hospitality, and went on my way.

Once outside I decided that, as long as I was here, I might as well try and find the spot where I'd stood in my dream, vision, or whatever it was last night, and see if I could learn anything. I started climbing the mountain path, stopping and turning back every once in a while to compare the view of the inn with what I had seen the night before.

Eventually I reached a spot that seemed about right, not far from where I had lunch the day before. In the distance I could hear the sound of the brook making its way down the mountain's side.

The spot seemed almost, but not quite, right. I moved a couple of paces off the path and turned towards the inn again. The trees were larger now and the inn had changed but, yes, this was it.

The day was bright and sunny, the early sunlight filtered through the trees. I looked around, wondering what to do next.

Suddenly, I was cold. I looked down, and I saw that the ground was covered in snow.

When I looked up again I saw a little girl, about five years old, standing on the mountain path. She had on a white dress, and her feet were bare. There was a garland of tiny, pink roses around her golden hair.

"Set me free", said the child. "Set me free."

I wanted to go to her, pick her up from the freezing snow, but couldn't.

I must have stumbled, and it was all I could do to keep my balance. The day was bright again, and even warmer than it had been before. I looked toward the mountain path. There was no one there. I hurried back to the path and followed it down past the inn. I didn't look back.

The main road was well-maintained, and I made good progress. As I made my Stillwater several other mountain paths joined or crossed the road and traffic got heavier, with riders and people on foot passing me in both directions. Nobody seemed to pay any attention to me.

I thought about Agromas. The last time I had seen him was before my wedding and we hadn't exactly parted as friends. I had wanted to end my training as a storyteller and live a normal live. He had told me that there was no such thing as a normal life for one in whom the gift had been awakened. I was beginning to suspect that he had been right after all.

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