Sirith crouched in the ditch between Saul’s farm and the road. His exhausted horse was drinking from the sheep trough; the dry ground all around showed the sheep hadn’t been in this pasture for quite some time, and it was unlikely anyone would be coming down the road at this hour. For the moment, Sirith was safe.
He had not meant to come back here. Word had surely reached Saul of the incident at the Tower by now, and he doubted the farmer’s wife’s kindness would override what all the commoners thought of the old lord of Hillet.
And yet, maybe Sirith just wanted to know the truth. He wanted to come clean, to stop hiding, to truly understand what part he was supposed to play in the world, now that the Nathssysn’s power had been pulled from him so violently…
Once the horse had drank its fill and taken a bit of a graze, Sirith took up the reins again and began leading it to the house. Someone must’ve seen him coming, for as soon as he got within hailing distance, a shadow detached itself from the porch and came down to meet him: it was Farmer Saul himself.
Sirith stopped several wagon-lengths away. So did Saul. The old farmer’s expression was hard to read.
“You can’t come back here,” said Saul finally. “It isn’t safe for you.”
Sirith saw it in his eyes: Saul realized the truth when Sirith only nodded, unsurprised. They were one and the same man.
“To think I put you up–” Saul was growling, shaking his head. “I put you up, paid you, had the missus care for your hurts, and you were the one that got Landou killed. That got all of them killed!”
Sirith didn’t even have the heart to wince, as the farmer’s shout echoed across the fields and sent up a flock of crows from the garden. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly.
He hadn’t expected Saul to have heard him over his rant, but the farmer squinted, letting out a sigh so harsh Sirith was a little surprised he didn’t cough up a lung to go with it. “Aye, I know. And I believe you.”
“You… you do?”
“Aye. Live long enough and you don’t need to be a truthseer to understand men, Chard.”
The use of his cover name didn’t escape him. “And what do you see in me now?” Sirith asked quietly, wondering at the answer himself.
“That’s not for me to tell,” said Saul, and Sirith wondered if maybe the farmer wasn’t so certain himself after all. “Now listen here. I’m going to tell Captain Fordrellon you were here, for I won’t go out of this life a liar. He’s set on killing you, or I don’t know wuyon‘mari. I can’t help you beyond that.”
“Beyond telling me the Captain wants to kill me?” Sirith asked, mystified.
“Beyond letting you go,” Saul clarified with a grunt.
“…why would you do that?”
“Only the gods know. Only the gods know why you came back here of all places. So I reckon only the gods know what to do with you. That’s what I’m doing… Chard. May Carro have mercy on your soul.”
Sirith ducked his head. “Thank you.” It was the only thing he could think of to say, but it didn’t feel adequate.
“Get out of here!” snapped Saul. “I never want to see you again. I mean it!”
“I won’t bother you further,” said Chard softly. He took his horse, turned it, and left. Defeat bowed his shoulders again, and the brief courage that had been Sirith’s he fancied he had left back there, a shade of himself, standing in the dying sunlight that stretched across the lane.
Charred as crops in a burned out field.