About an hour later, I was ready to leave. Rodan guided me into the room and helped me to sit down on the bed. "Wait here," he told me. "I won't be long."

I sat there, listening to the wind in the trees and the sounds coming from the rest of the building. I don't trust these men, I thought. And yet, they are taking me on a journey that I need to make and I can't go back now.

Footsteps passed, light and quick, someone wearing a long skirt. Then the footsteps stopped, and returned.

"Hello there," I said.

For a moment there was no reply, and I wondered whether I was talking to thin air. "Welcome back," she said then. The innkeeper's daughter. I recognised her voice.

"I was wondering where you were," I said. "I hope all is well with you."

"Yes," she said. "Thank you."

We said nothing for a while. There were many things I wanted to ask her, but I didn't know where to start.

"I brought you some food and water for your journey," she said.

I got up and took a faltering step toward her, holding out my hands in front of me to avoid bumping into any furniture.

"What's wrong?" I could hear her move toward me.

"I can't see," I said.

She led me back to the bed and made me sit down. "Here," she said, handing me a parcel and a leather water-bag.

"Thank you."

"Be careful."

"You too."

She laughed. "I'm always careful." Then she was gone.

Not much later we were on our way again, two soldiers riding in front an two behind us. We were on the main road, and the going was smoother than it had been on the mountain path. The sun was warm on my face, and I could feel the wind in my hair. The smell of the horses was very strong but I could smell grass and pine trees and for a while I just rode, grateful to be still alive.

Rhiana, my love, I'm on a journey that I need to make and I cannot go back. Are you there? I can't see you. You were always there, in my dreams and in my visions, but now you seem to have abandoned me. Have you finally found rest? I pray that you have. Sleep well, my love, and sweet dreams. Don't bother waking up to listen, I've got nothing important to say. Sleep, this won't take long.

I'm seeing you wandering through the halls of some palace in this red velvet gown, but that isn't right, is it? You never owned a red velvet gown in your life. Would you have liked to live in a palace? I thought you were happy at our simple home, with my father's best goats grazing outside. And Jorden, of course. How could I forget him? Your life seemed to revolve around him, and so did mine. I never wondered whether you wanted anything else. Did I ever really know you?

And what about me? You made me send Agromas away, and you were right - he was using us to keep his feet warm during the winter, and I wasn't learning from him what I needed to learn. And yet, I am a storyteller. That's part of what I've always been, and ignoring it won't make it go away. I needed to learn what Agromas could have taught me. Now I'm learning it, from people who might be my enemies. This is not a friendly path, and I must follow it until the end.

I'm on a journey that I need to make, but every step takes me further away from you. I don't want that. And yet, the man who loved you, held you, provided for you and fathered your child is disappearing, and soon he'll be gone forever. This reality is as harsh as the afternoon sun on the rocks, that burns and burns until every drop of moisture is gone, plants wither and die, animals starve and all there is left are the sun and the earth and the killing heath. Goodbye my love, everything I ever told you was a lie.

"Stop," someone said. "We need to rest and to eat, and this seems like a good spot."


"Yes. And you're living in the past again."

"What are you doing here?"

"I thought you might need my help. And I didn't have any other plans, anyway."

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