The Heart of Sorrow’s Keep
By Brenna Hanson
Date: August 22, 2018
Ch. 1010

“You’re going then?” Marcus asked from the door to my room. It was the first time I had heard him sound humble as his name implied.
“The birds will only sing for a few more weeks this year. Since I don’t believe Stonewood Castle will survive another winter, I must assume that the prophecy calls for my father to fall before they fly,” I answered folding a spare shift to add to my pack.
“Natalia,” he said.
I closed my eyes and huffed out a heavy breath. “So, I have earned my name just in time to leave?”
“Don’t judge this old man too harshly,” he said quietly. “Everyone wants to be a key player in extraordinary times until those times arrive. Then they find out that their role requires them to lose everyone they love.”
“I can’t argue that,” I said. “Still, your role doesn’t drag you from your home, as well. Nor does it require you to give your heart to the savages who killed your family. And give it freely, no less.”
He shuffled uncomfortably and I turned to meet his eye.
“How am I to do that?” I asked. “How am I to forgive and deliver myself like a present to my enemy? How can anyone demand that of me?”
“You will because it is the only way,” he said. “You will because you hold a great strength within you.”
“I feel weaker than a new chick left out in the snow,” I said and stuffed the clothes I would need into my bag along with the treasure of my mother’s hairbrush.
“Don’t underestimate yourself, granddaughter,” he said. “You’ve had the strength to make this place your home even when its door had no wish to open to you. You had the strength to grow far beyond the silly girl you were when you came here. And, you had the strength to let a grouchy old mage into your heart in spite of his prickly ways and standoffishness.”
“And what makes you think you are in my heart old man?” I asked.
“It’s in the trimming you gave my beard last spring. It’s in the berries you pick so I can add them to my porridge even though you don’t favor their seeds,” he said. “It’s in the careful ways you make my life better when you could easier cause me grief.
You have become the heart of Sorrow’s Keep that I once thought would never beat again.”
I brushed a tear away with the heel of my hand. “I do love you, Grandfather, in spite of your fondness for driving me mad.”
For the first time, Marcus the Humble, my grandfather, folded his arms around me in a tender hug.
“Tell me I’m strong enough for what my future demands,” I said into his shoulder.
“Oh, my Natalia,” he said. “You are strong enough and more.”

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