I’ve been called many names, by many different people, and it never bothered me. For some reason, it does today. There were times when I attributed their anger to disdain or fear. Fear of the state I had achieved. Fear that I was doing right, where they were wrong. Fear that I was more man than they would ever be.
But that was pure vanity.
No, today it bothers me because I wonder if they’re right. This dream I chase after, this vision, why should I believe that it will ever come to any good? This notion of peace, what difference can it make with so few to practice it? Do I waste my time and energies following the doctrines of slaves? Does this make me a slave even though I am not?
I shouldn’t think this way. What I do is for the common good, I must remember this. Just today I saved a creature’s life. I fear that many more lost theirs in the struggle, but one life saved is… one life. I don’t think though that he realizes the gift he’s been given. Some are too blind to realize just what death means. The finality of it. That once you’ve squandered it, brawling, thieving, and have nothing to show, you will be remembered for nothing. Perhaps this is what I fear. That however hard I may try, I too will be forgotten.
Take Lang Wen for instance. He has never seen me. He may know of me, have heard of my deeds, but will he remember for long an imaginary face? And how long will it take for even deeds to fade from mind?
Is that to be my destiny? Nameless? Unknown?
There was a young man with us in the caravan for a short while. They allowed him to follow, for he appeared to be a craftsman of some skill. This proved not to be the case, for one night he was caught stealing, and would have been killed on the spot had I not intervened. It was an awful position for me, for I had to argue his life for his freedom. The merchant agreed to keep him as a servant.
I wept that night.
Once, the boy had an opportunity to ask me why I had fought for his life. He laughed when I gave him my answer. Perhaps I should have tried harder to convince him, for his master was a cruel one, and one night while trying to escape the boy was caught and killed. They buried him there, in the wilderness, all alone. I wonder if his family knew of him, or if he had family at all.
Why didn’t he heed my words? Why don’t any? They look at me as though I am weak. Why? I have no aversion to strong drink. I obviously have no aversion to women. So just because I choose not to take life, why does this alienate me so? Why is that so important to be seen as strong?
Every day is a struggle for me lately. With every morning comes the wondering of whether or not it will be the day I fall from my precarious balance. Whether it will be the day I slip.
Lang Wen must never know if this, I charge you. Let not my weaknesses sway him. It is harder for him, for he must learn his way in the real world, among all people. He needs strength, not uncertainty.
I ended my fast today. It was sooner than intended, but we arrived at my home city. My companion, Flinch, of whom I have told you, offered me wine and would not be refused. I think I was so happy to finally be here that I didn’t really want to decline. I wonder too if I was unable to refuse him for the strange connection I feel to him. Perhaps it isn’t him at all, but something in his life, whether it be destination, family, or destiny. It draws me. I feel it may even have some connection to my dreams, and I dreamt the other night of my sister, Lien. She called to me again to save her, and again I failed. I think maybe I follow Flinch in hopes that perhaps he can end it.
I may be making more of this than there really is. The sight can be as much a curse as a gift. And at this time, it does nothing but confuse me. I fear my family will be of no comfort either, for I have seen none of them, and no one here seems to know of any Mandalan within the city. But, I haven’t had much time to give to searching yet, so perhaps tomorrow will yield more fruit than today.
So as not to leave you on a hanging note, I shall tell you of this place. All the tales are true, there are no more slaves, so it appears that I will not have to stay for long after all. There is so much happening here, I can scarce believe it the pit I was taken from so long ago. There was a wedding tonight, at which I even performed. Flinch has managed to convince the troupe that I am an acrobat of some repute. I have to laugh whenever he says it. The crowd enjoyed the performance though, and that did well to lift some weight off of my shoulders.
The rest of the night has been nothing but merriment, so I will waste neither more paper, nor your time in its re-telling. I send you my love, Marlaenna, and I ask that you tell our son that I am well. I had hoped to be there to see him turn his seventh year, but it seems it was not meant to be.