"Whoever you are and whatever you are, I certainly hope that you know what you're doing," I muttered as I put the stone in my pocket.
There was a knock on the door. "Come in, it's probably open," I said loudly, feeling strangely awkward talking to the dark like that.
The door opened, and I could hear someone enter. For a while, whoever it was just seemed to stand there.
"I can't see you," I said. "Please tell me who you are and what you want from me."
"Jorden, I'm so sorry about all of this." It was Jadri.
He moved towards me and sat down on the bed.
"I don't know what will happen, but I'm at peace with whatever the future will bring me," I said, and to my surprise I realised it was true. I was still scared, but I was no longer fighting the inevitable. "I just hope that, when the moment comes, I'll do the right thing."
"I don't know how you can be so calm."
"Neither do I, but I'm grateful."
I felt him shift his weight. "I have to go," he said. "They're waiting for me, to take me somewhere safe."
I held out my hand, and he took it. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Jadrek," I said. "I believe you'll make a good King some day."
"Thank you." Once more he sounded very young and vulnerable, and my heart went out to him.
He got up and moved away from me. "Follow your conscience," I said. "These men don't know everything."
He laughed. "That might come as a shock to some of them."
"I know. Don't worry, I'm my own man and I can think for myself."
I heard the door open. "Take care of yourself."
"You too." The door closed, and I wondered whether we would ever meet again. In spite of everything I had a feeling that we would.
I lay back with my hands folded behind my head, as was my custom when I needed to think. The older man had told me that I should reach the Inn before nightfall. I thought back to what Azeara had told me - that the journey from Heartstone to the Inn had taken three days.
Three days, I thought. I had three days to get ready for whatever it was that awaited me at the end of my journey. Three days. It would have to be enough. It would be enough. There was no alternative.
I heard the door open again, very much aware of the stone in my pocket. In my current state taking it from me would be as easy as taking a toy from an infant, I thought. I'd have to think of something.
The smell of food made my stomach grumble. It must have been louder than I thought, because I heard someone laugh.
"Yes. I'm glad you're getting your appetite back." I heard him set down the tray. "I'm afraid it's broth, gruel and some dry bread. I'm not sure what your stomach can tolerate and I'd rather stay on the safe side."
"A meal fit for a King."
"If you say so."
On this page Transitional HTML 4.01 and CSS 1 are used. If you're seeing this text you either have CSS switched off in your browser, or you're using a browser that can't handle CSS. If you're using an older browser version, you might want to consider upgrading.