Yosef wrapped his hand around the hilt of the ancient rapier and pulled it from the sacred grounds. As the foil wrenched free, a white light jolted through him. The memories of the last three years were taken from him when his mind fractured in response to the cataclysmic events of the last month. Now, they bubbled up and submerged him. From every side, around him, above him, and below him, he Remembered. He fell through his fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth years, sinking down through an icy lake of his past. It radiated cold truths into him and took his breath with stark and sudden reality. The three years of joy, anguish, anger, and fear nearly drowned him.
The cold iron rapier, point still stabbing the earth, was the only thing holding him upright. He gasped for breath and staggered backward, sword in hand. He was whole again, but it felt as if his heart, mind and flesh were new and raw.
Then he heard screaming and a disharmonious laughter from behind him. He turned, still dazed, to see a black drow elf carrying the lady paladin who was trying to help him. Her shiny armor drenched in blood. Pulling himself to the present, he went after the dark elf.
The black murderer was moving fast but his lifeless load weighed on him. Yosef moved to catch up but Boval passed him as if he was walking. Talieh brought up the rear with Roland.
Outside the temple, they fell in around him and made short work of his escape. As he attempted to break from the party, Boval did some sort of quick strike to his neck and he collapsed, unconscious. Yosef was not sure of the wisdom of leaving him alive but he could barely speak from the trauma of his returning memories. They walked slowly back to the monastery, looking everywhere for enemies in the strangely deserted street, one dead body and one living carried between them.
As they walked, Yosef was silent. It was beyond shame to look back over the last few days and freshly feel what it was like to be trapped in his 13 year old self. Talieh, Bavol and Roland treated him as gently as they could after his inability to conquer his own fragile mind. The thoughts, the conversations, the foolishness. It was wise of them to keep his marriage to Talieh from him. If for nothing else, to keep him from embarrassing himself even further in front of her. It ached that he gave that up with all the other memories. Somehow, he thought, that should have kept him in the present. The fact that it didn’t felt like a betrayal to his love.
The heat of shame kindled an anger in him. Anger at his own weakness. Why did his mind fail him? He had spent his youth building his body and the skills of a Gyinatay warrior while he merely played at readying his mind to lead the caravan. He dreamed about following in his father’s footsteps, but that’s all it was, he saw; fantasy. Absorbing the three year’s memories, all at once, as he did, gave him a perspective he’d never seen before. His memories of memorizing maps, learning to repair a wagon wheel, guiding the Gyinatay through their many travels – anything having to do with leading the caravan had a heaviness. The memories of the sword, sparring in the yard, hunting for wild game, and – he hated to admit to himself – the battles he fought in recent months, all shone with a light and joy to his mind’s eye.
The Beryls make each of our lives for a purpose, or so the elders say. He realized, with a shock, his was not to lead his people.
As the memories resettled, like a shroud over the past, he felt a profound sadness. If he was not to lead The People then what was he here for? This new melancholia warred with his anger as they made there way back to safety of the monk’s compound.
One thing was for certain, he was done playing the fool. He would make Talieh proud of him. He wished he could blame his behavior on the forgotten time but, if he was honest with himself, he was all to happy to play incautious and impetuous Yosef long before his memories were taken. Talieh needed a warrior, a husband, and, most importantly, a man who could protect her and her destiny, whatever that would be. It was time to give those to her. Time to gift those to the only person who made him want to fight for a future.