There are things which one does when nervous, things which
discharge the anticipatory energies so that you don't have to kill
yourself. Some pace, others flit from one activity to another, barely
even starting one set of motions before abandoning it for another, better
suited to their needs. I work on spells. Darby watched me work out a
defense against Ahab. It takes a lot to bore that child. Eventually, the
time came for which I'd been waiting, and my foster son and I made our way
to the top of Kolvir. I made him put on pants and a coat, remembering the
humiliation of being too casual above the water line. For my part, I
buttoned my shirt, although I wore the halter beneath it. Women's flesh
is particularly forbidden. I recalled stories of Ariana's attempts at
sunbathing on the roof of the old castle. It occurred to me that she
might be remarkably less repressed than were my other cousins. Then the
image returned of her sword arcing toward me.
Not only had Random relinquished the Jewel to Merlin for the
morning, but I was actually permitted sole custody for a private
conversation. Merlin was, perhaps, still feeling obliged for the Daraways
raid. I hoped that it wouldn't last long; gratitude is a confining
emotion from another.
I stood alone, cupping the Jewel of Judgment in my small hands. I
became uncomfortably aware of my appearance. Would she recognize me? Had
I the right, all things considered? Best to be done with it quickly.
There was full silence, the sense of a questing.
"Bartholomew? Is that you?"
I believe that I wept at the echo of her voice within my head. We
spoke for a long time, measured by clocks in hours. At first, I spoke
with hesitance, penitently, but it came out that any wrong which I had
committed had occurred so long ago for her that it no longer mattered.
She had spent a considerable duration in the single company of Arthur.
She was pleased to hear that Darby was yet so young, and I obliged her
with an account of the two weeks he'd spent without her. I told of my
guilt and my failure, detailing the ill- thought raid on Dara's home. She
listened patiently, then consoled me by correcting my views on the events.
She had grown so much. I felt as though I were little older than was her
son. To her, I was. It tore at me, and I had to speak my heart, despite
the chasm which Arthur had placed between us.
"Lyss," I whispered. "I love you."
"I know you do," was all she could say in return. It destroyed me,
although she projected it fondly. She did not reject me, did not wish
too, but she had not reciprocated. A reserve of pride, inherited from my
mother, straightened my back, raised my head. I would survive. The
exuberance of my father had been stripped from me, though. Our talk
became professional, clinical. Austere.
As if to make up for what she could not give me, she told me
things: things of Arthur's mind, things of Martin's fate. I thanked her,
and surrendered the Jewel to Merlin, so that they could console Darby.
I sat in a sitting room, nearby. I do not know how much time
elapsed. Nominally, I worked on my spell. What I saw hanging before me
was duty. It was all that I had left. I had regained Rebma, acquired a
son, and lost my capacity to enjoy it.
In this frame of mind, I greeted Darby, who was so much my
opposite now that I sent him to Llewella. I didn't want him to follow me.
Not where I was going.
Numbly, I followed duty to Shard, only to find him beyond my
reach. He needed a conspiracy of watch guards to achieve this. I had
done it with only myself.
Next, I sought Random, who admitted Bartholomew and wound up with
me instead. Not fully knowing who I was, he allowed that I might have a
chance with what I planned. He requested that I call for assistance if
needed. I dodged by suggesting that I might consider it enough to pick up
a good sense of Arthur for the Trump sorts to use.
For Llewella, I went home. It hurt for her to do it, but she
agreed to accept that I was going to do this. I tried to lessen the
worry; she could be my contact, should I need assistance or an out. This
didn't satisfy her, but that was no longer the point, really.
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