Clouds were gathering overhead, and it looked like it was going to rain. In the distance we could see the city, the road ahead of us leading to its gates. This is it, I told myself. The King is there. My son is there. This is where it all ends.
The clouds opened and a beam of light illuminated the city and the surrounding countryside, and for a moment the shapes and colours were all that was there - the grey-tones of the city walls, the brown and gold of the fields of crop, the lush green of the meadows and the darker tones of the orchards and vineyards. A man could make a good living here, I caught myself thinking. The soil's fertile enough and with the city nearby, selling the produce shouldn't be a problem.
I almost laughed out loud. What was I thinking? And yet, with so much beauty surrounding me it was easy to imagine that the war never happened, that I could settle down and get on with my life. But I couldn't. The scars on my body, my lost home and family and the many deaths that weighed upon my soul were evidence of that.
I was roused from my thoughts by Rodan's voice. "Have you ever been here before?"
I looked aside. He was walking beside us, his eyes on the boy.
"What?" The young servant seemed confused.
"You heard me." Rodan's face was calm.
"I don't have to answer that."
Jared stopped, and turned to face him. "Yes, you do."
I stepped out between the two of them. "He helped me when you were unconscious. He asked me to let him come along, and I let him." Suddenly I felt confused. I realised that I had no idea who this boy was or why he had wanted to come with me, and yet I had let him come along without question. Was it because he reminded me of my son?
The boy put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me aside. "Please, get out of the way. This is not your concern."
"He's right," Jared silently told me. "There's more going on here than you realise."
I stepped aside. The boy gave me a brief smile before turning his attention to the others.
"You know who I am," he told them.
"That's the question, isn't it?" Jared said.
"Why do you care?"
"Call me crazy," Jared said, "but I believe that my master is real. I believe he is walking this world, and I believe that his suffering is real. I don't know about you, though, and until I do, I have no intention of leading you to him."
"I can find him on my own."
"Why haven't you, then? Why don't you? Why are you even bothering with us?"
The boy kept silent.
"Hail, Badur," the voice of the worship of Urduk, that had taunted me in the burning palace, said in my head.
"Hail thee, faithful one," the boy replied. "Though our paths are not the same, I honour thee."
For a moment there was silence, though I could still feel their presence.
"I guess that takes care of the formalities," the boy said then.
"I guess it does."
"I was surprised at your willingness to talk to me, though. Urduk and I haven't exactly been friends."
"Much has changed, lately." The voice sounded thoughtful. "I have changed, I suppose, and the end may not be in sight yet. And yet, the change doesn't bother me, for I feel there is much more at stake right now than our petty preconceptions and enmities."
"I believe you're right," the boy said, "but thanks anyway."
With that, they were gone.
"Who's Badur?" I said aloud.
"What?" Rodan looked at me in confusion.
I ignored him and turned to the boy. "You're this Badur, right?"
Jared cleared his throat. "It's a bit more complicated than that."
"You'd better start explaining, then."
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