Joseph sat in a chair to my left sipping the coffee I had made for him. "It is very good," he said. "Thank you, Brother."
Amy sat beside me on the couch. She hadn't said much except to ask if I'd found out anything new. She was becoming increasingly sad and worried.
"So, Joseph," I said, "tell me why you are here."
He looked at me in silence for a minute, and then he glanced at Amy and back to me. "I wonder, Brother," he said, "if we should talk alone. I hope to get your opinion on a serious matter."
"It's okay," I told him. "I want Amy here. She knows a lot already. Yesterday she was with me in Aphter."
Joseph did not try to hide his surprise at this. "But, Simon," he said, "how can she... I mean, what will you do now? Why?"
"Well, I was hoping to talk to you about Amy," I said. "I wanted to see if, in your training, you might have learned anything helpful that I have not learned in mine."
Joseph considered this for a long time, looking at his folded hands, then at Amy, then at me, then back to his hands. "Perhaps," he said finally, "we should talk first about your situation, Brother."
"Okay," I said, eager to talk to him about it.
I told him first about the Whim and its song. Joseph closed his eyes as I told him the words. "Someone sent a Whim to you," he said finally. "Do you know who it was, Brother?" The story seemed to be having a draining effect on him. He listened to every detail intensely. I assumed that this was because of his sensitivity to suffering, as a Healer.
"No," I said. "I don't know who might have sent it." I fought back against the memory of the dream and the accompanying sickness in my stomach.
"Are you okay?" he asked. I looked and saw him watching me closely.
Could he sense my feelings that acutely? I thought about mentioning the dream, but I decided against it. "Yes, fine," I lied.
He watched me for another moment, and then smiled. "So the song," he asked, "do you know what it means?"
"Well," I said, "my first instinct was to go to Aphter and talk to Dad about it. I'm not sure why."
"You speak so casually about entering the Rest," he said, frowning. "This is strange to me."
"Really?" I didn't think anything about it.
"Yes. Tell me, was this your first trip to the Rest?"
"What's the Rest?" asked Amy.
Joseph, remembering that Amy was listening, looked at me and frowned some more.
"Aphter is the Rest, Amy," I said. "It's the Human Rest. It's where Humans can rest for eternity after they die."
"For eternity?" Joseph said, raising an eyebrow. "Is that your teaching?"
"What?" I had no idea what he was talking about. Of course it was forever. "Yes, forever. Of course forever." It was my turn to frown.
"And was this your first visit to the Rest?" he asked again.
"No," I said, "I've been there more times than I can count. Dad and I went there all the time. I have friends there."
Joseph considered this for a long time. "I was not taught this way," he said. "But, they do not train us all in the same way," he added. "For me, I have never been, though I would love to go."
"You've never been?" I was surprised by this. Most of the Knights I had known, however, had been Sword Masters, like my father and me. Maybe Healers were taught differently for a reason.
"No, never. I was taught that you only go if you are invited," he said. "So," he changed the subject, "what does the song mean to you, Brother? What did your father say."
"Dad recognized the last line as being from a Fate song," I said. "The Maker Song."
CRASH! I was so on edge that I jumped to my feet, my hands pulled to my chest, ready to draw.
"Forgive me," Joseph said, rising to his feet, "I am so clumsy." The coffee cup was shattered on the tile floor at his feet. He stood nervously, looking down at the shards on the floor.
"What the hell?" said Sam, dashing into the living room.
"It's okay," I said, coming to my senses. "Just a broken coffee cup."
She looked at the mess on the floor and then glared at me for just an instant.
"I'll clean it up," I said, walking to get a dish towel from the kitchen counter.
"I'm sorry, young lady," said Joseph, turning to look at Samantha. "I can pay for the cup."
"No, no," she said, smiling. "It's no big deal. It was Cami's cup anyway."
"Please," he said, reaching for his wallet, "I insist." He dug out a five dollar bill and held it out toward Sam.
"No, really," she replied. "We have plenty of cups. Don't worry about it." She took a step toward Joseph and knelt to pick up the broken pieces of the cup. He stepped out of her way toward the couch. I knelt with Sam and started blotting at the coffee.
"I will leave it here," Joseph said, putting the money on the table. "I insist."
Sam glanced at the bill and decided not to say anything.
"Sorry," I whispered to her. Still she said nothing.
Joseph took a seat on the couch. "So, little one," he said, smiling at Amy, "tell me about the Rest. Did you like it there?"
"No," she said. "It just made me tired and hungry."
"And this song," he said softly, "what do you think of that?"
"I don't know."
"The daughter sings the song," he said. "That is you, I suppose."
"I don't know." Amy sat up and inched toward the edge of the couch, feeling uncomfortable sitting beside the stranger.
"Do you sing a song?" he asked, leaning down toward her. "Do you know the Maker Song?"
Amy glanced up at the man's huge, smiling face, so close to her own, and then slipped off of the couch and came to stand beside me. "No," she said softly.