As I sat there, the reality of the situation began to sink in. This time, I would leave with nothing. Taking the storyteller's cloak would arouse suspicion, and so would taking any other of my meagre possessions. I had found some safety in Stillwater and in Jarvik's prison, and I would be leaving it behind in order to deliver myself into the hands of the King, a man I suspected of being a tool for the evil that walked this world. The few people that I had grown to trust had either left, or I wouldn't be seeing them again after today.

I had been naked and vulnerable before, feeling that my degradation could go no further. Now another protective layer was being stripped away, leaving my exposed flesh raw and trembling.

Suddenly I felt sick and I tried to get up, but my legs weren't strong enough to support me and I fell back into the chair again. "I'm sorry," I said, "but I don't feel well."

Rodan helped me up and half-carried me out, taking me into the corridor and then into another room where he helped me to kneel down with a bucket in front of me. I retched, but nothing came up. I tried to sit up, but my body was racked by dry heaves and I started to shiver.

"Take your time," Rodan told me. "Breathe."

Slowly I calmed down, locking away my fear and anger in a safe and hidden place deep down inside me.

"May I have some water, please?"

"Sure." I could hear him walk off and pour liquid into a cup. He came back, and I used the water to rinse the foul taste from my mouth.

"Feeling better?" he asked, taking the cup from me.

"Yes. Thanks."

He helped me up, and slowly we made our way down the corridor to the other room where he helped me to lie down on the bed.

"We'd better start packing for the journey," he said. "Is there anything you want to take?"

I supposed the clean uniform that I was wearing belonged to Merran, but I had no idea what else he had brought when he came here. "A spare uniform would be nice," I said. "I don't think I'll have much use for anything else."

"Right." He knew what I meant - I would be the King's prisoner, and anything that I brought with me would probably be taken from me.

As I heard him moving around, I assumed looking for Merran's clothes, I was surprised to find myself dozing off in spite of my anxiety.

The sound of the door opening woke me up and I tried to sit up, cursing my useless eyes that gave me no clues about what was happening.

"Leave us," the older man said, and I could hear someone walk out and close the door.

"I'm sorry I startled you," he continued.

"That's alright," I said, settling back against the pillows.

"We're alone, and everything that we say must stay between us."

"It will," I said.

"Do you know who I am?"

Apparently he had never met Merran, but Merran might still have known who he was. What would Merran know about him? "I'm sorry," I said. "I am not well, and my memory has been giving me trouble."

"I see."

We were quiet for a while, and again I tried to see beneath the surface.

A torrent of distorted images. A square, white tower. A coat of arms with red, blue and gold, the design impossible to make out. Some animal, a horse or a stag. A man dressed in green whose face I couldn't see. A richly dressed lady, her image seeming to come from an illustration rather than from real life. Slow down, I told myself, this is going too fast and I have no idea what any of it means.

The stream of images continued at full force and I distanced myself from it, no longer trying to take in each individual image. Suddenly it came to me. A traditional man, a man who thinks in symbols, a mind steeped in the myth and lore of his country. Ambitious and arrogant, yes, but there's something else. He feels that there's a purpose to his life, something outside of himself that is bigger and more important than he is, and it scares him because he doesn't understand it. I didn't know how I got all this from what I'd seen, but somehow it felt right.

"Very good," Agromas told me. "Now, pay attention."

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