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They said I should not speak of this. "Hold it in your heart" they said. As if I could speak it all. Ardur has the golden tongue, not I: and Ardur is not here.
They take the blindfold from me. My feet are bare on the earth. "Walk the paths" they had said. "Choose which is your own." So I went as they asked: as they told me. I trust these women. They are clan: kin: family. Do I trust them?
A path ahead, through the grass. "Walk the paths." Best be about it, then.
No hesitation. Hesitation shows weakness, shows fear. The children need me strong. So does mother.
The children. I suppose they will look to Rastolaf now, when they need strength. He took them into his stead. A man: mother's man. I suppose I should be glad for her: for them: for myself. But they think they do not need me, now.
A man. A fool, no doubt. Men are. Wandering the world, fighting, taking risks for no reason. Why? Does no-one need them? What is the attraction, anyway? Not being needed, needing only yourself. the ultimate freedom of knowing that in the next second you or your foe will die, laughing as you take the chance... No. That is a child's dream, and I am not a child. I had those dreams once, when I was indeed a child. So very long ago. now. But I am not a child. That dream is not for me. I dare not dream it, dare not face the hope again.
Dare not? Weakness, Brenna? Well. Let us face it, then. Examine the dream, carefully, lest it shatter. Fighting: killing. That can only be bad. Needed, at times, but bad. Glory is all very well, but harvesting a good crop feeds more mouths. That is what the clan needs. Travel: for what purpose? To see what lies beyond these hills, to met new people: no. Purpose, I said. And there is none. There is nothing the clan needs in that. And my needs? No. I do not need this. Ardur, now: Ardur is a man, and weak. So he left us to have all the fun: no. Be fair to your brother, Brenna. He left because he thought he could best help his family as a trader. And he was right. For myself, I am needed at home. Though they say they do not need me, now.
But they are right. The children do not need me. Mother does not need me. I can choose my own path. And there are so many... or none at all. Who needs me, now? That is the path I would choose. I came here to choose. A quest... the way should be a symbol, should tell me how my life will grow. What have I seen, here? I have walked, thinking, and not seeing. Look, now.
There are no paths. I walk on grass: rich, fertile earth. No paths. No paths! How can I choose if there are no paths?
No, Brenna. Think. Paths. What are they? The way to go. A guide. The way others have gone. But I have walked, on this quest, without a path. Do I need a path? No. I need a direction: a goal. I do not need a path. Men need that, to show them where the land can be familiar, trusted. I do not. I can choose my own way, for the Earth is my mother and will never fail me. She is my Mother. My own mother does not need me, but She is my Mother. And.... and I am her child? No. I am not a child. But.... I am her child? Could it be? She allows it? I do not: but if no-one needs me... I can still be a child? Again? If I dare? A child: to learn new things, try new ways. Perhaps I will find a better way to help my family. A child: to do what I want, because I want it. So. What do I want? A good question.
I want... to be wanted. I need to be needed. Huh. A circular argument if ever there was one. Or a spiral, like the ones they draw in the deep caves. So. Who needs me? Not mother, or the children. Look wider. The clan? They're doing very well as they are. The tribe? That's too wide for me. What do I know of tribes and kings?
Perhaps I should find out?
All right. So that's my next goal. How?
That lad Ferenan. Good-looking. He had ideas beyond his clan. And Ardur respected him. I should see more of him, and his friends. My new brother Heortarl is one of them: of course, I have new brothers and sisters, now. Do they need me? Find out!
Think, now. What was that story about them, last winter? They killed a beast, didn't they? And Ardur... what happened to Ardur? Come to think of it, they never said. And he should have been back by now. There's another goal: another one who needs me.
I have decided, then. And again, I have been thinking, not seeing. The way now leads downhill, an easy walk, and close ahead is the darkness under the dolmen arch. So old, those stones, and carved in symbols I never learnt the truth of. Oak, ash, thorn - so many things I do not know. Yet. But some I do.
The way through is the way out. The way in. The way of rebirth.
I step forward, under the dolmen, into the darkness. And my new life.