Robin’s stomach cramped, folded in on itself from emptiness. His mouth was so dry he thought that his tongue might have shriveled. His body demanded food and drink but he had no appetite. Though he could picture the groaning board feasts that he had enjoyed as King of Bell Castle the memories did not rouse any yearning.
He put one increasingly reluctant foot before the other. Like the morning mist, Robin’s enthusiasm for the journey had burned off hours ago. The sunlight hurt. Dust rising from the road irritated his nose. Shortening days told of the approaching autumn although the temperature here was still summer-hot. The air was heavy with moisture and the sky an uneasy gray as though threatening rain yet it was cloudless.
Where was he bound? Nowhere. Robin envied the travelers he passed, all with destinations. Somewhere to go and a reason to go there. People who would miss them when they left, rejoice when they arrived. Robin wondered why he even bothered to take another step. Why not simply stop, right here? Stripped of his title “king” even “husband” and “father” Robin felt hollow, light. With nothing to anchor him to this world it was as though he could easily turn to dust and vanish into the air.
Who would care? Who would miss him, a royal failure? Not his apparently faithless wife. His sons? Where were his sons? He could only assume that the Queen had taken them with her.
He paid little attention to the trees, shrubs, and grasses lining the way. Their odd spindly spiky appearance had long since ceased to startle him. Their color was naturally more anemic yellow or sage than blue-green, very different from the foliage of his home kingdom.
Kingdom. Though he was King no longer the Chalklands would always be his home. Should he go there? And do what? Work the fields, pull a plow alongside those who had once served him? Able-bodied and in the prime of life, Robin did not lack for talents and skills, many of them quite practical, but he had been a king, a husband, a father. What could he be if not that?
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