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thoughts of not returning

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"He--your general--fell on the sword?" you ask breathlessly. You would ask if it was the same sword he now carries, except that you already know that it is.

"Aye." His tone has risen and fallen evenly, through the whole sad tale, as if he were only listing barrack assignments. You know what it is to hold pain behind your teeth, tense like a pulled string, but you do not know what it takes to feel nothing at all.

His voice does not change, now, when he adds, "He knew that there are worse things than dying by your own sword."

"Like what?" You are king. His king. But hearing this story, you scarcely have the courage to be.

"Living," he answers, and he looks at you.


So--he has wearied of kings, and of a life only spent in serving them. You can command him, as you did at Heaven's Gate. You can damn him to a death of living.

You would not, you understand, be the first.


You will let him go, and you will fade and fall without him.

(You may be written in the heavens, but you need him to conquer earth.)


Alone in a chamber that echoes with the absence of her, as it does every night, you weep.

It is hard, to be both king and man. Some days, you believe yourself to be neither.

He has set new pains behind your teeth, yet he has lifted old burdens from your shoulders.

He saved your queen, and that ought to have saved you.

You are written in the heavens: is that why you asked for more?

Were you fated to rule?

Was he fated to fall on his sword?

(Worse things.)

He said there were worse things.

Alone in a room that echoes with your own future, you believe him.