“She’s been out there all day. Let the tide come in around her and everything,” Glug whispered. “Hasn’t said a word.”
“I’ll go talk to her,” said Sparks. “This isn’t healthy. She’s been through a lot, but this isn’t healthy.”
Barrow was seated cross-legged on the sand, the sea-breeze whipping her hair about. Her eyes were closed, and she was breathing very slowly.
“H-hey,” said Sparks. “Are you okay? I mean, I know you’re probably far from okay, but…do you think you can hold it together?”
Barrow said nothing.
“Damn, that came out wrong. Listen-”
“They have a story,” Barrow said abruptly, quietly. “Where I grew up. The story speaks of a king who united his land–our land–without shedding any blood. He relied on persuasion and the threat of force, rather than force itself, to unify the realm. Once it was his, he turned inward. A strong army at the frontier, but inside it…roads. Schools. Libraries. Everything a people needed to build themselves up.”
“I see,” said Sparks. “What happened next?”
“The king’s son was hungry for conquest, for power. He engineered his father’s death, and then unleashed his armies upon his neighbors. From the position of strength he had inherited, the son was able to carve out a large empire for himself.”
“If this is a true story, why have I never heard of it?” said Sparks. “Empires tend to leave a mark.”
“This one did not,” said Barrow. “For the new king’s reach exceeded his grasp. He ruled his new empire for less than five years before it was torn apart by rebellions of the conquered and invasions by alarmed neighbors who feared being devoured next.”
“I see,” Sparks said. “Why do you bring it up?”
“The first king is forgotten by history, and the second king is remembered as a great hero, and the people still look toward his ephemeral conquests as some sort of ideal.” said Barrow.
“And that tells you something about Wall’s death?” asked Sparks, gently.
“Wall was the first king. He was right in word and deed, and yet no one will remember.”