46. The Shard

They have ridden for nearly a day.

The fear has stayed with him: fear of the moment, and the terrible wild joy of it, in which the faces of his loved ones slipped away, and their names with them.


He is holding on to them now.

Perhaps that’s what one has to do, when one is far from one’s family for a long time. He must be careful, mindful. Not to forget.

My father is a wainwright. His name is Saddion. My mother’s name is Arrita.
My sister’s name is Stellia.

My uncle is Ezriyon; he is a baker. Aunt Tammora is his wife. They have two sons, my cousins Yakkon and Oraxas. Oraxas is younger.

Stellia is my sister.

I am Tillon. My name is Tillon. Till for short.

It’ll be best to remind himself of all the names and faces, at least once a day. Just to be sure. He must do it again at bedtime; Stellia once told him that when you thought of something just before sleeping, you’d remember it in the morning. So it’s probably best to check in the mornings as well, after waking up.

Except there’s the Shard, also.

When the soldiers halt at a woodland stream to water the horses, he wanders off to sit under a tree, away from the others, and pulls the silver chain out of his tunic. The crystal no longer glitters as brightly as it did when the Guardian first showed it to him, but somewhere deep inside, he thinks he can still see a light. It is faint, so faint that he is not sure it is truly there, and all the more he is unable to stop clutching at it with his gaze.

How far away it seems, like the first star blinking in the evening sky!

When he glimpses this distant gleam, all his sadness and his worries go away as though they were no longer his at all, and he feels so peaceful and untroubled that he wants to laugh and cry with joy at the same time. For a moment nothing is more desirable, more important, than the distant light glittering inside the Shard. If only he could reach it, follow it, leave behind everything and everyone—

No! No, not that!

He gasps, and quickly tucks the Shard back into his shirt.

He doesn’t want this peace!

He must hold on to his sadness, his longing for home. If he lets go of that, what is to keep him from forgetting where he comes from, who his loved ones are—who he is?
He jumps up and walks back to the others, who are already preparing to move on.

But many times as they continue their journey, Till finds himself thinking of the Shard and the comfort it holds.

NEXT: The Good of All


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