Ruemin must decide weather to speak an ancient law, which will take away his people’s ability to go back in time and will consequently cause Ruemin to die at his own brother’s hands. Previously, he has escaped his brother only by going back in time. If he does not speak this law, though, judgment will come from his god, Vullé, and Ruemin’s “life shall be as death to him.”
Ruemin squeezed his eyes shut and willed himself backwards, as his brother prepared to deliver the fatal blow once again. Ruemin’s muscles tensed. He remembered… remembered… remembered.
With a great effort, Ruemin opened his eyes to a familiar scene: his royal court.
He needed help. He needed a way to get out of this time loop, but every time he reached his death, he could not help but go back.
He did not want to die. He did not want to be killed, yet he knew it was useless just going back. In a few years, the experience would only be repeated again.
He had to talk to Gonthin. Ruemin was sure the old priest would know what to do.
“Bring me Gonthin the priest,” he ordered a servant. “I need to speak to him.”
The servant rushed out and called the priest in.
Ruemin was left to his thoughts and questions.
Was life really worth living like this? he wondered. Endlessly planning how not to die until he almost did die, and then just going back and doing it all over again?
Maybe one of these times, Pangen would not deliver the fatal blow.
Maybe one of these times, Ruemin could defeat his embittered brother or somehow change his mind, but even if Ruemin was not killed, he would eventually die of old age… unless he went back.
There was only one direction in life, and that was not forward.
Now, people of all statuses and ages could go back to previous times in their lives as long as they closed their eyes and remembered hard enough, but it had not always been that way.
Long, long ago, there had once been a time when even the priests did not know or care about going back.
They had been wiser then, but those days were gone. Not even the oldest could go back to the time before going back existed.
Priest Gonthin entered the room, interrupting Ruemin’s thoughts.
“I have found the ancient time law,” Gonthin said, after he walked towards the throne and kneeled. “It is the key to your problem.”
“And how will this law help me in my plight?” Ruemin asked.
“Look and see for yourself.”
The priest handed Ruemin a scroll, which read:
Any king or prince who speaks the words of this law shall bring the times and ages back to their previous alignments, and chronology shall be restored.
But he who reads this law and does not speak it shall bring judgment on the people. Though he may not die, his life shall be as death to him. Peace shall not be restored to him until he has spoken these words.
This is written. Vullé has spoken.
“What must I do, oh Gonthin?” Ruemin asked, unsure. “If I speak this law, we will relearn the ways of death, but oh how severe are the judgments of Vullé. If he says he will judge the people on my account, then he will, and already I am tired of going back. I wish for peace.”
“The choice is yours. It’s not for me to decide, but for you.”
Ruemin knew he should speak the words, and he knew that that would please Vullé, his god.
He also knew that if he chose to speak them, he would die. Most likely, Pangen would kill him. Everything would die without the ability to go back, to retrace previous steps. Everything would go wrong.
But Vullé would not want chronology if it would make everything go wrong. Ruemin knew he just needed to trust.
He knew that if it had been Gonthin’s choice, he would have spoken the words, so he chose likewise. He chose to follow what he knew was somehow right, even if it felt wrong.
“Any king or prince who speaks the words of this law shall bring the times and ages back to their previous alignments, and chronology shall be restored,” Ruemin began. “But he who reads this law and does not speak it shall bring judgment on the people.”
Even as he spoke, the kingdom began to fade… a distant memory.
“Though he may not die, his life shall be as death to him. Peace shall not be restored to him…”
A mountain came into view, the mountain where Ruemin had been nearly killed a million times before.
“…Until he has spoken these words. This is written.”
Ruemin stood on the mountaintop, waiting.
“Vullé has spoken.”
Pangen walked towards his brother and revealed a hidden dagger from inside his cloak.
“I read those words but did not speak them!” he shouted. “My life is as death, and so your death will be as life to me!”
Pangen thrust the blade at Ruemin’s heart once again, this time for the last time. Ruemin felt peace. He was drifting not to the past but to a better place. There would be no judgment, and Vullé was pleased.