The King in Exile

Today he walks along the shores of the Sea of Years, gathering driftwood; he is helping Radhivanee Dawndrinker build a ship. He has learned why the ships of the Zuqùndoth are grey.

But no sand clings to his feet; no salt sparkles in his hair. His trailing sleeves are stained with red clay, it is wedged up under his fingernails and darkens the soles of his sandals, because he is the exilic king of Tarag Thán and the land is a part of him.

In this way are the great families of the Tháni known; they cannot be separated from the places that gave them birth. The Emerald Emperor who now sits on the throne of the holy city is said to have appeared in the throne room, a young warrior unknown to all men, and overthrown the king before him, turned the amethyst of the royal chair to deep leafy green with a touch. He has never left there. The exulant priesthood of Láyammúra'mu cannot escape the flowers of their temples; they sprout up at their feet and lead them back home.

The exiled king has been building things as long as he remembers, which is a long time, though in that time he cannot remember if once he had a name. "Foreigner," shouts Radhivanee, "where is your haul? Where is the lumber? I see you have brought a pretty bundle of branches to grace our vases in this place with no flowers." Everyone calls him Foreigner now; he has the bearing of a man separated from his home. Every so often, I call out to him too, and I catch him smiling.

Smiling, because he has done what no other of his countrymen has dared: He has chosen his place in the world.


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