If you have a dream, brother, hush, not a sound
Don't awaken the dead as you sleepwalk around
Just stand there and rust.
Die if you must.
But play the game.
- Richard Thompson "Can't Win"
Slow-motion, like everything was happening at a fraction of normal speed. Every detail of that split second is engraved indelibly within my mind. I could do nothing to prevent it, just watch in excruciating frustration as Martin and Connie slipped over the edge. Just watch in agony as all my answers vanished over that rocky ledge into eternal nothingness.
An echoing emptiness fills me as I relate the details of his son's betrayal to the King, as if the analytical, logical part of my mind had separated itself away from the rest and perfunctorily performs what it knows to be its duty. But the rest of me is hollow as I return to my seat, eyes locked with grief-stricken gaze of Random, one of my father's most trusted brothers. That analytical part of me mouths apologies for the death of the Crown-Prince, but I don't think that anyone really realizes my consternation at his death is not for the loss of a human life, but for the precious answers I have so desperately sought for the last two days, the answers to the dilemma that had taken my tranquil happy life and thrown it into a chaotic turmoil of fear, questioning faith, and curiosity.
That is what has hollowed me out, that steady decay of all I had known and believed. And now, it is as if all of the life and energy I have been expending since I stepped through the city gates has slipped through my fingers like sand. There is nothing. I know Merlin's killer, but I know nothing of his motives. Martin is dead, but no justice was done. A clean ending, an open and shut case, some would say, but all I see are the ragged edges of truth ripped away, to reveal nothing more than the empty consolation of a false conclusion.
And I realize, with a start of shame at my self-centeredness, that there is in fact quite more than nothing left to all this. All those ragged edges need to be gathered and woven into the truth. I heard it myself, from Martin's own lips. "She promised I would be safe."
He was not alone in this.
The 'powerful friends' he flaunted, the very ones who betrayed him in the end - they are the true culprits in all this. I have not lost all my answers, just the easiest way to find them.
Dragged from my introspection by that revelation, I look around, and see things in a slightly more optimistic light. The ire that flared at seeing my brother's treasured possession wrapped around Connie's wrist has faded. He has been though to much for me to berate him about an artifact. That can wait until later.
And then my gaze passes the face to which my father had once compared mine. I'm still not sure why I held back at the Abyss, and didn't join my cousins in introducing myself. Maybe it was that sense of someone completely overwhelmed. She didn't need all of that so soon. My greetings would wait until things had calmed. But I could not help sneaking furtive glances at my aunt Dierdre from time to time. I can see why I reminded Dad of her. It seems that certain features run strong through those children and grandchildren of Faiella. Just as with Dad, it was a bit disconcerting to see those storm-green eyes in a face that was not the one I saw in the mirror daily.
I keep suppressing the urge to go over to her and comfort her, to let her know that she's not alone in her feelings of isolation and displacement. And to let her know that she has family who still love her very much. I instead ponder how Dad is going to react to the news that his beloved sister has returned from the grave. Is that going to be an acceptable trade, Dad? The life of your sister instead of that of your son?
And now I plaster on an interested expression as my mysterious Aunt Fiona begins her explanation of the moon-shaped Jewel. At any other time my interest would be far from feigned, but right now all I want to do is close myself in my room and talk to Dad, to let him know that I won't stop until I find out the full truth of why Martin killed Merlin, and bring those truly at fault to justice.
I know you are out there, whoever you are. The promise I gave to Martin stands for you, too. I will follow you until I find you, and the truth, no matter how long or how hard the journey.
You have my word.