His hiding hole was somewhere in the basement, and had a barred window near its ceiling. Below it was a pile of wooden boxes with some worn blankets on top of them, and when we crawled up we could see most of the courtyard. When I saw the three stricken men found myself choking, with grief, remorse and anger struggling to get out. The young servant gave me a quick look, but he said nothing. I wiped my mouth on the sleeve of my tunic.
"Try to get some rest," he said.
He shrugged and settled down, his head resting against the bars.
"I'll watch them," he said. "I always do."
I looked at him and believed him. As I made myself comfortable I wondered what his story was. Some family member taken away by the King, would have been my guess. Father? Brother? Both?
"You're asleep," my son told me.
This won't do, I thought. I need to stay awake. I looked at my son. His nose and upper lip were swollen, but apart from that he looked like he had the night before.
"I need to go," I said.
"Stay. For the time being your friends are fine, and we need to talk."
I looked around. We seemed to be surrounded by fog, and I had no idea where we were.
"What is this place?"
"I don't know, but I think that we're safe here."
"Did he send you?"
"No. Not this time." He ran his hand through his hair, looking away from me.
"Did he make you come here yesterday?"
He hesitated. "Yes," he eventually said. "I'm sorry."
Again I wondered what he had become. I wanted to ask him whether it had been his voice I had heard on the day that I nearly died, and yet I didn't have the courage. I needed to believe that it had been him, that he had known the danger I was in, and that he had wanted me to live through it.
"Do you know anything about…"
"Mother? No. I'm sorry."
I rubbed my eyes. "I don't know what to do," I said.
"Maybe you should go now," he said. "I'm sorry. I want to help you, but I don't know how."
He had disobeyed the King, I reminded myself, by telling me not to give up the troth. I must remember that.
The mist parted, and a mountain path appeared in front of me. He saw me looking past him, and turned around.
"What is it?" I asked him.
He turned to look at me, and then looked at the path again. "I don't know," he said.
"Is this his doing?"
"No," he said, looking up the path again, "I don't think so. Are you sure it isn't you?"
"Isn't this what you do? When you're telling your stories, I mean?"
I was still looking for an answer to that when I thought of something. How did he know? My storytelling days had ended before he was born, and at the time of the fire he had been too young to know, let alone understand what I did.
I'm falling, I thought, as my head slipped and hit the ledge under the window. I swore under my breath, and the boy gave me a quick glance before focussing his eyes on the courtyard again.
"I'm fine," I muttered, as I rubbed my head. He didn't seem to notice. I looked out. None of the men had moved, and the courtyard was deserted.
I woke up, lying uncomfortably on the courtyard's uneven pavement. A hand touched my shoulder, and I looked up. Rodan was crouching by my side, looking at me.
"Are you listening?" His face was intent.
"Yes." I wanted to talk to him, to tell him how sorry I was about everything, but I realised it didn't matter.
"He is mortally ill, and cannot die," he said.
"He is mortally ill, and cannot die," he repeated.
With that, he got up and began to walk away.
"Wait," I called after him, but my voice didn't carry.
Someone was shaking me by the shoulder and I opened my eyes, my vision blurry. "You need to come with me," the boy said. "They're waking up."
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