“So here it is,” said the traveller to his companion, “Right over there is where I was born.”
He pointed to the ruins, which beneath the overgrown braken just about marked out the shape of where a building might of once stood.
“Of course it’s mostly ruins now, reclaimed by the land, like everything in the end, I suppose,” the traveller set himself down on a piece of rock that might have once been part of a greater structure, “Say, do you hear that ringing, I wonder what it’s for? Anyway never mind that. So where I’m sitting now used to be the edge of the courtyard, where my siblings and I would play. Much more innocent times. I was happy here once upon a time, I think. You know, by the way, that it’s an odd design. The courtyard would have gotten far more sun facing south. I wonder why they built it like that. The architect was long dead before I was even born, so I don’t suppose we can ask them. Anyway we didn’t come here to discuss architecture.”
He twirled one of his knives between his fingers, watching the bright afternoon sun dance across the blade.
“I must apologise, I’ve been rather rude not to ask. Did you mind if we rested here a while? It’s been a long journey and I must confess not always easy going.”
His companion nodded in assent.
“And that is where… Well, you don’t want to know about that. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about love. I remember the first girl I made love to. She was a fisherman’s daughter and her hair always smelled of the sea. I’d see her at her father’s stall down on the docks. After the Upheaval I went back there but the stall wasn’t there anymore… Never did find out what happened to her. You wonder how someone could disappear like that. Not a trace left except my memory of her and even that has faded over the years.”
He absent mindedly pulled a flower and brought it to his nose, breathing in the sweet scent.
“Anyway that is what got me to thinking. About what we leave behind. If no one bothers to restore them these buildings will be gone in another ten or twenty years. I keep thinking about all those I’ve ever loved- my family, my friends- they’re gone now. Oh there it is again, that bell. Well anyway, what they have left behind? I remember them each and every day and I hold them in my heart but what happens when I’m gone too? Will their legacies be reclaimed by the wilderness, just like these buildings? The decisions they made that defined them, all lost to the ages, just like our long dead architect?”
He held out the flower to his travelling companion and she took it in her hands as she set herself down beside him.
“Do you know how much it hurts to be left behind?” he said turning to look at her bright blue eyes, “Well look who I’m talking to. Life is full of pain and sadness, isn’t it?”
There were tears glistening in his eyes.
“You want to know if any of it matters?” said his companion after a while.
“I’ve done terrible things. I’ve hurt people who probably didn’t deserve it but I’d like to think I’ve done some good too. I just want to believe it made a difference.”
“Of course you made a difference. Acryn and its people will live on because of you.”
“There’ll always be something else, though won't there? Some other threat.”
“I believe that there will be someone who will stop it but it’s not your fight anymore. You’ve fought for long enough. Don’t you deserve some rest?”
“I couldn’t save them, you know. Instead I ran away, leaving them to die. Not just to die but to be utterly destroyed. Now all I have left is those memories too.”
“You can’t save everyone but you can leave something behind for those that still live. Something that endures even when your memory is gone. Your friends too, what they left behind is something precious.”
“What is that?”
Somewhere in the distance someone was crying. He wondered what they might be so sad about.
“I remember what that bell is for now. The temples ring it when someone important has died. I wonder who… Ah, yes, that’s right. I’m so tired, old friend.”
Alyssa held out her hand.
“Come on, Vincent, it’s time for you to go.”