On his way out into the city, Valun encountered Robert’s family hurrying after the runner who had been sent for them. They stopped in front of him and inquired after their knight’s health, guessing that the king had just left him. Valun told them quietly that they would have to interrupt the man’s rest to fulfill their mission, but that he was in good health. After a second acknowledgement from the party, Valun left them and continued out into the city.
He had not been out long before he was joined by David, who had evidently been looking for him, having only just heard that his lord had returned.
“I have brought the men home, my lord. Some went out beyond the walls, for they found that their homes were destroyed and wished to seek their families.”
“That is as it should be. How goes the work that is done?”
“The work proceeds apace. Many of the workers are of Naibern, but it seems they have no reason to return. They have only been helpful.”
They had continued walking as they spoke. Suddenly Valun stopped and grasped David’s shoulder. “I can not have this again. See that they do not build it all back. I can not have so many of my people in danger Tell them that. And then make your way to the palace and ask that my father come.”
“As you wish, my lord. Am I to go now?”
“Do so, and remind them of the messengers’ words, but tell them they must come to the temple.” The king concluded, looking up in the direction of that building. “It is a mercy that they did not destroy that.” Returning to himself, he waved David away. “One hour! Every man, even the Naiberns!”
Leaving his servant, Valun turned away down the street that led toward the temple. As he walked through the deserted streets, he could hear the sound of the rebuilding work which still went on in some other section of the city. He knew by the sound that his people were happy, and it cheered him.
After some time, he arrived at the steps of the temple. No one had yet come to hear his message; the time had not come yet. As he mounted the steps, he caught the eye of the priest, who sat alone on a wooden chair just to the left of the door.
The old, white-robed man spoke in soft tones, as if he were an ordinary man addressing neighbors from his front door. “Good day, sir king. Did you succeed in your quest?”
Bowing his head toward the older man, Valun answered “That I did, sir. My father is alive and now resides in the castle. My brother also returned and remains with us.”
“What would you have here?”
“I would come to give thanks, and to address my people from here, where they may all see me.”
“Do you know that it is not given to your father to take the crown from you? Do not attempt to allow him this.”
“He knows this. He has proclaimed me king so that I may know it too. But I feel that it must be made known for all time to the people. I brought my people to war because they loved my father. You yourself were nearby and heard the cry that they wanted my father to return. I have returned here so that he may tell them that this is not to be. If I may go?”
“Enter, and make your peace with the One, so that you may take up the mantle which has been passed to you.”
“Thank you.” Whereupon Valun entered the building and sat for some time, in deep thought. When he emerged, about thirty minutes later, he saw that his father had already come, attended by David, and that many men had already gathered in the space below the steps. “It is not yet time.” he said to the priest “Let the horn be sounded.”
It seemed that someone unseen had heard the words of the king. Almost instantly, a deep booming note sounded from the higher reaches of the steeple, resembling the call of a herd of elephants together. Before this note had fallen silent, more men had come hurrying down the streets which led to the meeting place. Valun, looking over the throng from the top of the steps, felt sure that all the people had arrived. Without preamble, he began his speech.
“You people who are of Corridane, and you who are not yet fully their brothers. I have come forth at last from my journey so that I may give you all that you ask for. Here, on the steps of the temple I asked you what you wanted from me, and you cried for my father, Valun, conditor du pacem, for he it was who erased the threat of war in his time, and so made your lives happy and prosperous. For my own peace and yours, I came through steel, wind, and rain to bring him back to you. But now, so this question might be settled for all time, my father wishes to speak to you.”
Accepting his cue, the old king, who was supported on one side by David and on the other by a stout shaft of oak which the attendant had found among the quarterstaffs in the palace. His strength had not yet returned in full, so that he hobbled forward slowly, seeming to drag his feet. His voice, however, had grown stronger since his release, so that he was able to address the people.
“My sons! For you were my sons to me, else I could not have been such a king to you, if it is true that you demanded my return so, even sacrificing your own lives to ensure it, you have my deepest thanks. But it is also true that my time is ending. My time as your king has already concluded. There was no thought in my mind of taking the crown back from my true son, Valun mac dilis.” At these words, a disappointed sigh escaped from the crowd. The old king took several deep breathes before beginning again. “I know that you had great happiness in my time. I know that you wished it to return. I tell you that it can never be.” Another audible gasp. At this, the old man became louder than ever. “Did you think truly that it would be so? Do you not understand that I am fading? I feel that I will go soon toward the One. Therefore, I can not be your king! I name Valun mac dilis king of the Corridanes, and long may he hold your loyalty for himself alone, and not for the memory of me! That time has come and gone! Are you all weak, that you refuse to accept the loss of that time of happiness? All men die, all times of peace will end! Trust in the One and trust that Valun mac dilis will do all in his power to be the king you need! You do not need me! You need to take up your hoes and your hammers once more and build your country back! On your heads is the duty to make your home a place of peace and happiness! One man can not do this! It will take you all! But by the One, you will return to the time I led you to and left you in! Forward, Corridane!”
It seemed that the entire crowd joined in the shout. But Valun, standing close by his father, saw that a man was pushing his way forward through the throng. Suddenly horrified, he cried “Valkyries to me!” and began running down the steps. But he was too late. There was a flash of metal in the sunlight, and then time stopped.