When I woke I found Pa’Koth looking at me across the embers of my campfire. His eyes could cut strips of skin from my body.
So I had not woke after all. Only my conscience was awake. And it was not pleased. I sat up, resigned.
He stood with a snarl on his features. “So this is what I died for? This is the mewling old man I protected with my very Chad’Rasha. If you were going to die inside I could have just let you die. I would have gone on to be useful for many more years.”
It was his unconditional love of me that hurt the most. I always depended on that love. It was the reason he died. We both knew that one day his love for me would be the cause of his death. The loss was still an open wound in my heart. Truthfully, dear Reader, it is a wound I do not believe will ever heal. I explain this so you understand how deeply his rebuke cut. I would have given my life to have him still alive, even in his Darkened state.
All I said was, “That is unfair, Pa’Koth. I have cared for our people in all things for almost 50 years. I have served my people unfailingly.” Tears stung my eyes, but I pulled them back. They would never change what had happened. I assumed that my conscience did not come to me just to complain about being dead.
Pa’Koth relented. Even in death he could never stay angry at me. He sat beside me. “You know you need to go to that place of Darkness, G’Quan. There is no other. If you do not go there, no one will go there.”
“Why me?” I asked, “Why is it always me.”
“You have always been here, G’Quan.” He pat me fondly, “This is your time. This is your place.”
We sat in companionable silence for a few minutes as I looked to the ruins below. “Will I die?” I asked finally.
“What do you think the answer should be?”
“You should say no!” I responded hotly.
“What is this preoccupation with death?” Pa’Koth scoffed, “Are you really such an old man?”
“I feel the closeness of death. Sava rides the air these days.”
“I will always be here, G’Quan. And so shall you.”
“That gives me very little comfort.”
“I do not know the future. I only know that this task is yours. Something you know as well.”
“Will this end?”
“I am no Seer, G’Quan. I am not your mother. The future will unfold either way. It is you that must make the choice.” He looked me in the eye. “What do you want?”