The story so far: Tollon is trying to figure out how to be a good demigod, while he’s still trying to figure out how to be a good human. Now read on . . .
What does it mean to help someone who has suffered horribly, to the point she’s forgotten most of her past? I have stood in the temple, out of the way, for an hour now, watching Paviara at her duties. I look at her hurts. I see how they were done. I see how Lady Gwella manipulated Paviara into hating me. I see how Lady Gwella forced Paviara into loving me again by wrenching her emotions out of any natural development. And I see how Lady Vorana simply forced Paviara to throw herself to the soldiers, because she was kin to Earl Haulloran. That broke Paviara’s mind. She can’t live with what she was made to do, because she doesn’t understand that she was made to do it.
And just telling her that she was manipulated against her will? It would not help. She needs security. She needs love. She needs time.
I can’t give her any of those things. She already has security, working there in the temple. Time comes as it comes. And Chypa, damn her, is right: I can’t love Paviara, because I can so easily see through her.
But I did love her, once. Or at least shared passion with her. I can give her back that.
Mother Alesca has given me written permission to order the priests as I think necessary. I go to the acting high priestess, and have her summon Paviara to a private meeting with me. We sit down together. Paviara senses there is something familiar about me, but doesn’t know what, and asks what I want.
I tell her, “My name is Tollon. Yours is Paviara. And we were once lovers.” And I dig the happy memories out of the depths of her mind, where they have been repressed, and let her see them. Just them. None of the bad ones.
She looks at me. Tears form in her eyes. Her hand, shaking, reaches out to touch my face. She smiles, she cries.
We talk for hours. I tell her the truth, that we aren’t lovers anymore, that it’s not her fault, that she has had many bad experiences since then which she can’t remember. And yet we talk over a lot of good times, as well.
When I leave, I know I’ve done one good thing this day. I’ve been a demigod, and done it right. I helped someone be herself.
Now is the time to go talk to Chypa.
Who listens to what I say with a faint smile on her face. “Still playing the hero, I see.”
I disagree. “Not the hero. I’m not looking for credit or applause. I just wanted to help someone who couldn’t help herself.”
Although Tollon doesn’t realize it, Chypa’s playing the role of the wise court jester.
Chypa won’t let up on her mocking smile. “So now you’re a hidden avenger, a secret hero. Is that it?”
“Is that any different from what you did, that so many legends grew up about you doing this and doing that?” And then I just gesture as to wave her aside. “Forget it. I don’t need your approval, and I don’t need to follow your example.”
“But you will,” Chypa rejoins. “So now what, wander the world for a while, all alone?”
“With your kind permission,” I give a mock bow.
“It’s lonely out there,” she points out.
“But suppose you could find someone compatible? Wouldn’t it be more fun to go wander with someone else?”
Well, yes, but . . . “You want to come with me, Chypa?” Such an idea never crossed my mind. And I thought she told me she was not in love with me. Well, she wasn’t, but that was when I was human. Maybe now that I’m a demigod I’m lovable?
I don’t expect what comes next. Chypa neither laughs nor appeals to me. Instead, she becomes serious. “We’re not compatible, Tollon, not before, not now. I have far more experience in being a demigod. You’d quickly come to resent me. No, what you need is someone of comparable power who’s also trying to figure out where in the world she fits.”
I think. I come up empty. “You have someone in mind?”
“I gather she’s not told you: Mia’s been exiled from Faery. Her fellow fairies were horrified at how easily Vorana was able to brainwash her. They think she’s unworthy to be a fairy, now.” Chypa sighs and gives me a meaningful look. “I imagine she’s debating what to do with her life now. Pity there isn’t someone she loves who’s in much the same boat.”
“Mia’s not in love with me,” I insists. “She’s a fairy. I’m human.”
“Neither one of which are properly true right now,” Chypa points out. “And who is it who spent virtually every moment from when she recovered from Vorana’s treatment taking care of you?”
I’m stunned at the thought. Mia. I know I’ve been carrying a torch for her, but I knew it was never going to happen, never going to work out. And, you know, maybe it still won’t. But we are different now, her and me. We can try. We can help each other. At the very least, I can pay her back for her care of me.
Now that I look at it, this sounds wonderful. This sounds better than anything I could imagine. So, of course, it can’t be true. I say to Chypa, “You’re sure?”
Chypa laughs. “Of course not. You’ll have to go talk to Mia yourself, silly.” And then she leans forward and in a softer voice, says, “Do it soon, Tollon. Do it soon.”
(To be concluded . . .)