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The Wicked Quay

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Mayhap the boatman’s reason was simply this – Beatrice had long been ill, no matter how hard everyone tried to pretend that the pain in her side was normal for a woman her age. Beatrice had long been ill, and Axl, tired though he was from all the hardships their journey had brought them… was yet healthy. He was old, yes, older than his wife by a few years, even. Tired, weighed down by remembrance of the horrors of his youth and wary of the horrors that would soon once again befall this land – but he was not ill, and so the boatman could not ferry him over to the island at this point in time.

Mayhap the ancient biddy with the rusted knife and the hare had had the right of it and the boatman’s reassurances were worthless. Mayhap the man had never had the intention of ferrying wife and husband toward the same place despite his pretty words. Mayhap there were no exceptions.

Or mayhap there were exceptions, but once the mist’s rescinding had exposed the hidden hurt in Axl’s heart, in Beatrice’s heart, they were powerless to overcome it. Could be that despite her sincere promise to hold on to her love, a small part of Beatrice could not forgive Axl for the pain he had wrought her. Could be that Axl still had not fully forgiven her, for all that it had been he who had at long last prompted their haphazard journey to their son’s... grave. Could be that their infractions against each other had been too great in the boatman’s eyes despite their mutual love and forgiveness.

Mayhap the discordance the boatman perceived had nothing to do with that sorry affair at all but was caused by Beatrice’s never having learned of Axl’s role in Arthur’s court… Never mind that Axl, having forgotten all about his past by way of Querig’s breath, never could have hoped to apprise her of it.

But mayhap – mayhap this cruel separation insisted on by the boatman was merely a test. Mayhap all those widows' husbands’ time to go to the islands had merely come before theirs… and ancient biddies were now only wandering the land this side of the water because of a simple lack of faith. Perchance a lucky few of them needn’t roam the last of their lives with despair and resentment in their hearts. Perchance they could have long since been or might still be reunited with their men. Perchance Beatrice would very soon have occasion to speak to – reconcile with – their son.

Mayhap the boatman would return to where Axl was waiting – mayhap he would come to where Axl would later be. Mayhap when Axl’s time had come – on this very day or years from now – they would meet again. Axl would climb into the boat, and if Axl believed - provided Axl believed, and wished to be taken to the island where Beatrice was waiting… provided she was waiting for him still…

Mayhap the boatman would keep his promise and reunite them.