"That is what the oath entails," Anajinn said. "It's about the dedication to the search. About the commitment to saving the faith, even if you are not the one who will save it."

Reiter listened in closely, hunched over, back sore. The crusader's words were muffled but audible from the library, even with the door closed. When the inn had been rebuilt nearly twenty years ago, he'd had to settle for thinner walls. He'd sold half the land to pay for it. Sacrifices were made. Still, the inn would never be restored to its former glory.

"I think I understand," Lilsa said. She had been overjoyed to meet Anajinn again for the first time since she was a little girl. For days, she had sat and talked with the crusader for hours on end. "It's not hope; it's purpose. That's why you pass down the original crusader's name. You're trying to live up to their sacrifice."

"That's one of the reasons," Anajinn said.

Reiter felt a pain in his stomach. He quietly sat down on the stairs, joints creaking. He didn't want them to know he was eavesdropping on them. His hands, long since gnarled with age, reflexively opened and closed. His heart pounded and sweat dripped from his brow.

"Is this something you're truly ready to commit to, Lilsa? My master once told me, if you choose this life, you can embrace it; you can curse it; but you must never regret it. Our kind rarely lives long, and the years we're lucky enough to experience are filled with hardships."

"Yes," Lilsa said firmly. Reiter squeezed his eyes shut, suppressing a groan. "I want to go with you on your search, to..." She paused. "Where would we go first?"

"Truth be told, I've changed my plans in recent days," Anajinn said. "I've heard that a star has fallen over New Tristram. Nightmares walk the land. I suspect I won't be the first crusader to arrive, but perhaps we'll manage to make ourselves useful."

Lilsa clapped her hands with excitement. The door to the library burst open, and Reiter quickly stood up and pretended to shuffle down the stairs, as though he were simply heading back to the common room. He tried to keep his dread from his expression. A thousand words fluttered through his thoughts, forming admonitions, warnings, refusals, ultimatums. Anything that would make Lilsa change her mind, make her see reason.

None of which, he knew, he would ever have the courage to say.

"Father," Lilsa said. "I have something important to tell you."

"I suppose you do," he said.

The End of Her Journey


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