“Life be not to observe. It be to participate. Yet thou hast withdrawn from life, from the living. Thou spend far too much time in thy gardens and study. If thou lose touch with the world, no small wonder thou lose thy comfort and balance.”
Benilo flushed. He had been…resting. Not withdrawing. “Shamar…was a terrible place. What was done in that cursed land, what those people endured at the hands of their maniacal queen, Sunniva.” Even mentioning her name seared his heart. “She invaded Kunigonde Keep and kidnapped and brainwashed Maleta’s brother, Jovan. She murdered their parents and left Maleta to die. Ambassador Cianan never would have met his life mate. Sunniva almost destroyed Jovan, and caused the destruction of the native Shamaru people. Especially the women and children. Imprisoned, starved, raped and sold to brothels.” Souls splintered, shattered… He shuddered with remembered horror. “The nightmares have only just faded.”
“Thou took their nightmares upon thyself? All of them? Art thou mad?”
“I had no choice. There were but three of us spirit healers there. Healing their bodies was not the greatest challenge. Human minds are fragile things. We could not do a formal banishing of their memories. Removing their nightmares was the one thing I could think of to stop their suffering and leave their wits intact.”
“And thou hast been poisoned ever since, thou great-hearted fool.” Anika shook her head and rose. “Come with me.”
They walked in silence up the main thoroughfare. A few ambitious merchants had begun setting up their stands. Benilo smelled fresh bread baking in the city ovens. Lights shone bright in a couple of inn stables. A shaggy brown herding dog barked as they passed. Otherwise, most of the city still slept.
Benilo’s mind replayed the vision as he walked. Sobbing in the dark. Crushing despair. A shimmer of light, the flash of a crystal butterfly with amethyst wings. Smoky amethyst eyes in a passion-flushed face, framed by tangled iridescent hair. He frowned. The contrasts made no sense. If this was how visions went, it was a wonder seers predicted anything.