[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]
She was gone when I opened my eyes again. I didn’t know how long I’d slept, just that the ache had started to recede at least a little and that I was alone in my cottage. The lamp Anne had held was sitting on my bedside table, the wick turned down so low that the flame was barely visible, the glow almost non-existent. I sat up carefully before I reached for it, turning up the flame just slightly, enough that the room was still more dark than light, with shadows dancing along with the lamp’s flame. I took one slow breath, then another before I risked sliding out of bed. For a second, I worried my knees would buckle, but they held and I was able to straighten, leaning slightly against the edge of the bed.
I stood there for a few seconds, listening to the sounds outside, hearing only the faint sound of the wind and a dog barking in the distance—normal sounds for sometime after midnight in the Valley. I exhaled quietly and slowly padded across the floor, heading to the small stove and my kettle. Some tea would undoubtedly help me, and I was half certain that there was probably some bread in the basket someone had left on my table, as if knowing I wouldn’t venture out again anytime soon—and I wouldn’t, not unless someone made me.
I lit the stove and set the kettle on to heat. I closed my eyes for a few seconds as I measured tea into a tiny ceramic pot that had been my mother’s in the Time Before.
I wished I knew more of the things that they’d seen but never spoken about. I wished I knew more about what they’d seen and spoken about.
I wished they were still here with me and that I wasn’t facing this alone.
The once and future king will ride again.
I blinked back tears and shook my head slightly. He wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready.
The universe didn’t care.