EpilogueThey are listening to me. I have some experience with telling stories to groups, at this point, and I don’t get very far before I observe the telltale signs of the audience settling down to pay attention.
Of course, it could just be that they don’t get much entertainment out here in the wilderness. And, for people like these, who obviously grew up within civ, with every possible multi-media option vying for their attention, the boredom out here can be tough. So maybe I have an unfair advantage, I chuckle to myself. Well, I’ll take any help that I can get.
It’s at the point where Home Defense burns the village, and the girl sets herself and the child on fire, that my voice wavers, and I have to stop, inhaling rapidly. I realize that I am soaked in sweat now, but whether it is from the story itself… or from all the effort I am making… or all the fear that has come before this moment, I am not sure. I am only certain of two things: I cannot continue any longer tonight on that one bowl of thin soup, and the dissidents want me to continue.
The woman who had, earlier, handed the soup to me, now puts her hand on my arm again.
“I think you have a lot more to tell us, kid,” she says in a loud voice, essentially speaking to the group. And she is certainly correct, as the goddess knows. “But why don’t we all get some sleep,” she suggests. “‘Cause, right now, none of us has anywhere we need to be.”
I lay down beside the dying fire, grateful to put my head level with my feet, and try not to think about all the other campfires in my past. But the first tiny beginnings of favorable reception have done something to my psyche. They have made me instantly hopeful again, and more confident. And I realize, as I lie there, watching unfamiliar shadows move around me, that I have been irrational.
In my growing misery and fear, I was unfair in my thoughts: to both Sariel and Ileana. But I was aware of that, even while I was busy telling myself that they didn’t care where I was. They both love me, in their own ways, as much as I love them. And they are both certainly wondering where I am.
I have not yet turned on the link-phone. I have been so terrified and homesick that any message from anyone at Lodestar would probably make me break down in tears and give up. I needed to stay completely on my own, in order to continue. But now, after this sojourn, I think I will turn the phone on and catch up with them, and allay the worries they must be having about me.
I think back over what I have told these dissidents so far -- it isn’t much. And what I will tell them tomorrow will not be much, either. But it might give them some hope. People out here have amazing amounts of courage, and they have the will to live, so much more than I do. But they need to know that there are others out there, like themselves. I don’t think these dissidents have a way to connect to samiz at all. They might have run from civ, taking nothing -- or been deported, perhaps.
Civ. I think of my family: the extraordinary person that my sister is and will be. I think of my mom, and the ever-deepening mystery that she has become. And, of course, I recall the magical object that she gave me before I embarked on this whole journey: the compass.
I think about the guys from my old game. How amazed they would be to know that I created parts of the new campaign that they are playing. I admit I did base a few things specifically on some of the quirky ways that we ran our particular game. They might, at least, wonder at that.
I think, too, about Gryff: will I meet him out here? Or will I run into refugees from shelter? Or maybe Dallow? And then, unbidden, Mal comes into my mind. But she, of all people, is lost to me.
It is two more days before I finish my story. The villagers begin to pepper me with questions, making the whole thing take so much longer. But I am more than happy to discuss with them. And, finally, when I do finish, the last, crucial question is asked: “Can you take us there, to Lodestar?”
I hesitate for a moment. On the pretense of guiding them, I could return home, if only for a little while. It sounds so good, so very reasonable. Then I shake my head. “I'll give you good directions,” I promise. But I have to keep going. I have to keep telling the story.
End Book I
Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.
- attributed to Buddha
(The possibility that the above quote might be an interpretation that is so flawed that it is actually the opposite of what the original passage meant, only makes the quote itself more substantial, I think.)
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