I must confess I was far happier to reunite with Dionus than I was when Starlark returned. I didn’t think to notice it until last night, but I realized that I had hardly felt a thing when Starlark came back. I thought I was happy to see him. I thought I had truly missed him, but the reaction of my heart to Dionus’ reappearance proved by contrast that I had not missed him half as much as I had imagined.
Does he realize this? Is that the source of his angst? The rejection of an idol is a horrible feeling, and that is precisely what I have always been to Starlark. I never intended to close him out of my heart, to cool my friendship towards him. If it has in fact cooled, I would argue that it is largely due to his own actions.
My life is plagued by the children of the powerful. You should see this by now, though I hope you do not consider yourself a plague. Lystra was the daughter of the King’s Sword, and her privilege showed through her every action. She was lovely, to be sure, and as perfect as any woman can ever hope to be. But the perfection was a lie, a façade that was worn to prevent the work that needed to proceed within.
She was my lover for a time. My love for Lystra was real. I can’t deny that. Then I came to understand how false her heart had been to me. There was a great potential in Lystra, there always was, but she refused to undergo what changes were necessary to bring that potential to reality. She was the perfect shell, and she refused to let any true substance inhabit her.
In many ways Starlark is her opposite. His father, as you well know, is the King’s Scepter. Their life, removed from the capital as it was, demanded less in the way of appearances. But where the attentions of Lystra’s father drove her to polish an impossible exterior at the expense of her character, it was the lack of attention Starlark’s father paid him that fostered his own self-destruction. Starlark worked over-hard at everything that could help him stand out. He strove to be worthy of the attention he never received.
When that attention never came, nor the love he associated with it, he rejected everything he had ever held dear. He fled his old life and turned his new one into constant rebellion against it. If he could not be a rose in his father’s garden, he would become a thorn in his father’s side.
For the longest time that served my purposes well enough. I liked Starlark, for he was always passionate and eager to help, clever in his own way. He was always willing to join me when our paths crossed, and has served me well on numerous hunts in the forests of the West. But that hatred for his father, that loathing of his own family, it has seeped into every part of him now. He has become nothing but a spiteful wretch.
How could I be expected to find joy in his return?
The burdens of power do not good fathers make. How unfortunate that I should have to kill the one child, and now risk my life to keep the other alive.
We march again at first light, and hope the Makonga makes no appearance in the meantime. We should make the jungle tomorrow, and from there we will continue north in search of Salisir’s corpse. In the meantime I hope that we do not join him in his fate.