"Traitor", the guardman murmured as Tyan passed by. Tyan stopped, and turned his head to look at the man. It was a young lad, probably eighteen or nineteen years old, and he was flying Cadomyr colors and the typical guard uniform. The lad pretended to not notice Tyan's gaze, and spat on the hot stone floor. Tyan moved on. He passed the marketplace and went to Molitor, whom he still supplied from time to time. Fulfilling orders for the caravans had always been lucrative, and Tyan had always thought of Molitor as a friend. However, conversations had become more formal and less jovial since Tyan had moved to Galmair, even with those individuals he had formerly known well throughout Rosaline Edward's realm.
"Ten sapphire rings, as ordered. Thank you, Masines", Molitor said and took the fulfileld order down in his books. Once he got paid, Tyan thought to do some small-talk, catch up with the merchant.
"How's the wife and kids?", he asked. Molitor nodded.
"Happy and healthy. Dread the coming of Mas", the merchant answered.
Tyan nodded as well. There was a moment of awkward silence between them.
"Well, I gotta go", Tyan finally said with a light smile on his lips and went to leave. Molitor waved goodbye and turned his attention back to his bookkeeping after. The marchant's reaction was represenatative for most people around Cadomyr, when Tyan conversed with them. Distant. Sometimes even cold. As if putting your name down on the citizen's list of another town suddenly turned you into a new person, an entirely new character.
Maybe it did.
Tyan felt it as well. Sure, there weren't many people of his 'old crew' left in Cadomyr and those who were actually still around had grown distant even before his relocation to Galmair. He respected S'rrt and hoped the lizardman would always share that feeling, but they were hardly 'brothers'. Their relationship had always been rather practical, focused on both their duty in Cadomyr. As for other people, the divide between him and Annabeth was widely known, Sarney had only rose to power during the time of Tyan's absence, Guy had left for Galmair, Salathe had left for gods-know-where -- and then there was Kraex.
Both of them had orbited Salathe back when the refugees were still pouring into Illarion, and had become the founders and leaders of the Crimson Order. Salathe had been Grandmaster, having the last say. Although the three of them had always been equal, naturally Tyan and Kraex had bonded more to one another than any of them had bonded to Salathe. This was true for Tyan at least, as he could not speak for the orc. It was probably for that reason that the two of them were still able to jest and talk normally, something Tyan could no longer do with other Cadomyrians. Tyan had asked Kraex to move as well, of course, but the strict No of the orc had quickly confirmed Tyan's expectations: Kraex was, above all, loyal. And different than Tyan, who would drop loyalties if those he granted them would screw him over, whereas Kraex seemed to possess true loyalty. Serving your superior well when serving was easy was something most people could do.
True loyalty was determined in times of dire trouble.
In a way, Tyan was a traitor and he knew it. He had not shared anything from Cadomyr that had been discussed behind closed doors with his new affiliates from Galmair, true, but then, he had not been inside the inner circle of power in Cadomyr anymore anyways. He was not a traitor to Rosaline's realm, but a traitor to himself. To the oath he had once sworn before the altar of Zhambra. One could claim it had been an oath for the Crimson Order -- and the Crimson Order was no more -- but it would still be a holy vow he had broken. For himself, closure of this flaw had already been provided: Before his long absence, he had thrown the holy sword of Zhambra, one that had been granted to him by one of the god's avatars during an expedition, in front of Her Majesty's feet. Back then, he had aknowledged that he was not worthy of the weapon or what it symbolized, for the official and personal vows he had broken. Zhambra was about loyalty, and strictly speaking, Tyan was not a loyal individual. Not in Cadomyrian terms. He knew this now, but he had tried to hide it.
Even from himself.
Closure was a strange thing. So many people were afraid of closure, of an end. They gripped tightly to what they had, their belongings, position, title, their very way of life, even if those things they hung on to were slowly destroying them. There was a moment in everybody's life when they decided that things were perfect the way they were right now, and they would from then on attempt to freeze that moment in time, they made a vow to themselves and the world that nothing could ever change anymore. In this very moment, people threw their lives away. And they would fight ferociously against change, against their very salvation, from that moment on.
Tyan had never been afraid of change. In fact, he embraced it, longed for it. True, maybe he was a coward, afraid of getting too close, to anyone or anything. The way he saw it, he was brave and cowardly at the same time -- always leaving some door open, but not afraid of stepping through as well.
All the contemplating had lead to one very real confession Tyan had made to himself a while ago. He had never belonged in Cadomyr. He was no knight in shiny armor, no avatar of loyalty and civility. He had tried to be, had tried to freeze that moment in time, but it had always nagged him, had always tugged on his soul. And suddenly, there was true wisdom in one of Cadomyr's principles -- Remember as whom you were born, know your place. It was not merely a decree to determine social status.
It was an avowal to protect oneselfe's soul.
Things in Galmair weren't even much different to those in Cadomyr. No town and no person was protected from potential corruption of power. But still, Tyan felt he could breathe again now that he walked the snowy streets of the Don's realm. He was able to be honest with himself again, and thus, Galmair felt like a place more honest to him than Cadomyr ever had. He did not want to judge Cadomyr or condemn it, for he held no bad feelings for the place in his heart, especially not now since he had gotten some distance to it. He still asked himself whether the power struggle between houses in the desert realm would truly serve Cadomyr's purpose, and the teachings of Zhambra. He knew the orc shared his feelings in that matter. In Galmair, everything was as raw as the mountains that surrounded it -- even its truths. If a deal did not further the Don's wealth, it was not a deal at all. One could like that or not like that, but one could not deny the fact that it was a simple and honest truth.
In Cadomyr, truth had always been somewhat murky.
As he left for the gate, Tyan spotted a chinseled badge that had been flushed into a wall. Wind carrying sand had battered its features, but he could make out that it had been a honorary badge for when the Crimson Order had become the official army of Cadomyr. He thought of that time, when things were easy, when service was easy, when Salathe was still around, when Kraex and Tyan were still practicing day and night, when Cadomyr's tavern was buzzing with life every night and Tyan would sing many a song, when Josephine was alive, when Guy was still a proper knight, when Galmair was the greedy enemy, when Runewick was the weird neighbor and when Cadomyr had been the beacon of light and hope it was set out to be. He thought of a time when life and truth came easy, when everything seemed to work the way it was supposed to. Had it all gone to shit? No. It was simply over. It had all become something else. That was neither good or bad inherently. Don't cry because it's over -- smile because it happened, Tyan thought to himself, and smiled.
Yet the battered badge left a distant feeling of sadness and nostalgia in Tyan's heart. Did he want to turn back time and make it so things would never have changed? Again, no. But he'd give a lot to have it back for just one day.
He left Cadomyr, humming the melody of the Crimson Tide song he had written for the Order back then. And while he did, he remembered a saying he had once read in a book. 'If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.' But life was not a book, a story. Life was change. Time was change. And time never stopped. They were people, all of them. People were not songs, people were not sermons, people were not stories.
People were always just people.