The Kingdom of Snakes

Epilogue: Tears

The night after Priamos' departure, my parents and Goewin stayed in the garden long hours after my brother and I had been sent off to bed. I was, of course, at my usual spot behind the bushes near the fish pool, listening, listening.

My father remained silent all through the conversation, and after a while, I was angry with myself. Had I really expected him to raise his voice again and speak? I wanted to hear him say my name – no fearful bellow warning me, just his voice. I wanted to hear him say anything.

After a while, however, I realized what a foolish wish that was. I stayed, though. I stayed after my mother and aunt had gone to bed and left my father all by himself.

For a while, he sat there and stared into the flame of the lantern as if deep in thought. But suddenly, he lifted his head, looked into my direction and winked at me to come. At first, I thought it was a mistake – he couldn't possibly have seen me. When I didn't obey, he got up with the lantern in his hand and walked over to my hiding place.

"I am sorry," I apologized as he knelt down beside me, the light of the lantern shining into my eyes.

But he only shook his head and put the light down beside his foot. I wanted to look into his face – I wanted to look into his eyes, I was sure that they would tell me what I wanted to know so desperately. Eventually, he will let me see, I thought – he can't hide it, not this night. I knew it.

With his scarred hands – some fingers oddly deformed and strangely patched together – he picked me up and pressed me against his shoulder, never letting me look into his face. One hand remained at the back of my head, dug into my hair.

"What it is, Ras Meder?" I whispered into his ear, not daring to speak any louder.

His shoulder began to shake and the harder he wept, the tighter he held me. I buried my face in his neck and started to cry – letting my own tears flow.