‘Tell me about fear,’ she said.
He walked away from her and stopped to lift a pebble .
‘Catch this,’ he said, flicking the stone towards her. Her hand snaked out and she caught the pebble deftly. ‘That was easy, was it not?’
‘Yes,’ she admitted.
‘Now if I had Krylla and Miriel here, and two men had knives at their throats and you were told that if you missed the pebble they would die, would it still be easy to catch? Think of those times when you were nervous, and your movements became disjointed. Fear makes fools of us all. So too does anger, rage and excitement. And then we move too fast and there is no control. You follow me?’
‘I think so. when I had to give my first performance before the King in Drenan, I fronze. All I had to do was walk across the stage, but my legs felt as if they were carved from wood.’
‘That is it. Exactly! The onset of fear makes the simplest of actions complex and difficult. No more so than when we fight… and I can fight better than most because I can bring all my concentration to bear on the small things. The pebble remains a pebble, no matter what hangs upon success or failure.’
‘Can you teach me?’
‘I don’t have time.’
‘You are not obeying your own maxim. This is a small thing. Forget the quest and concentrate on me, Waylander – I need to learn.’
‘How to fight?’
‘No – how to conquer fear. Then you can teach me how to fight.’
‘Very well. Start by telling me what is death?’
‘Make it worse.’
‘Maggots and grey rotting flesh.’
‘Good. And where are you?’
‘Do you feel anything?’
‘No… perhaps. If there is a paradise.’
‘Then I feel nothing. I am no longer alive.’
‘This death, can you avoid it?’
‘Of course not.’
‘But you can delay it?’
‘And what will that give you?’
‘The prospect of more happiness.’
‘But at worst?’
‘The prospect of more pain,’ she said. ‘Old age, wrinkles, decay.’
‘Which is worse? Death or decay?’
‘I am young. At the moment I fear both.’
‘To conquer fear, you must realise that there is no escape from what you dread. You must absorb it. Live with it. Taste it. Understand it. Overcome it.’
‘I understand that,’ she said.
‘Good. What do you fear most at this moment?’
‘I fear losing you.’
He moved away from her and lifted a pebble. Clouds partly obscured the moonlight and she strained to see his hand.
‘I am going to throw this to you,’ he said. ‘If you catch it, you stay – if you miss it, you return to Skarta.’
‘No, that’s not fair! The light is poor.’
‘Life is not fair, Danyal. If you do not agree, I shall ride away from the wagons alone.’
‘Then I agree.’
Without another word, he flicked the stone towards her – a bad throw, moving fast and to her left. Her hand flashed out and hte pebble bounced against her palm, but she caught it at the second attempt. Relief swept through her and her eyes were triumphant.
‘Why so pleased?’ he asked.
‘No. Tell me what you did.’
‘I conquered my fear.’
Well, what then? I don’t understand you.’
‘But you must, if you wish to learn.’
Suddenly she smiled. ‘I understand the mystery, Waylander.’
‘Then tell me what you did.’
‘I caught a pebble in the moonlight.’
– Waylander and Danyal, to each other, Waylander