The next morning I am far better prepared to make sense of the world. With Arios near I am at peace. I can sleep undisturbed. “My darling, I bring the tradition of disliking the in laws to whole new level. Spending a whole day with your nasty little father,” he lets out an expressive sigh as he says it, “but at least we are beginning to have something normal about our relationship. Maybe your father won't even turn out to be the corrupt sadist we all thought he was either.” Even if I'm feeling a lot better now than I was last night, I still don't have the energy to object to Arios' light-hearted joking at time like this. He can't take anything seriously.
Eventually and with lots of kissing, I coax Arios to come with me to the dreaded meeting. Which I suppose is also a very odd family reunion. Me, my mother, my father, my brother and my husband. All working together like a family should and hating each other like a family shouldn't.
Now I would at last get answers. The discussion was long and laboured. We were still struggling to trust each other and the explanation we were given was so unlikely.
Basically, Binnin was describing how he pretended he was willing to rule in behalf of those we owed so much to in order to save face and avoid war. At first that was the truth. He was to cowardly to do the right thing. And he began to enjoy having all the power all to himself even though he knew it was wrong.
My mother was so horrified; she left him, taking me with her. That made him run made, for a while he felt as if his enemies were his only allies and served them with a new zeal. My brother bravely remained with him a lot of the time. He came to visit me as often as he could but he felt it was his duty to make our father see sense.
My father did eventually repent. We have Edward to thank for that. Edward is always the peace maker; he brings crazed people back to their senses.
When I was a child, I am beginning to remember how Ed always settled any arguments I had with my mother. We were both so fiery, only he could make us reasonable. Whilst me and mum ignited easily and burnt fiercely, he always remained cool and calm and soothing. When I was little I thought Ed was too soft because he had such a gentle manner, now I appreciate what a natural healer my brother is. Whilst, I admit, I can be a destructive force, he too is strong. The fact he doesn't make a display of his strength doesn't mean it is not there, rather he breaths it into anything he comes near. Mending what is broken, cheering those down-trodden, taking the weak by both hands and causing them to keep running. To keep fighting. That is why he was a leader and not me.
Also that is why, when me and my mother abandoned my father in anger, he remained. To restore him, to settle him. He will never leave anyone who needs him. Even someone as seemingly irredeemable as my father. Lately I am coming to appreciate my brother more and more. You have to get to know him well as he's a quiet sort of man. He hides his talents well.
When eventually he succeeded in making my father see duty, together they decided to create a protest movement. Since they would think they were opposing Lord Binnin, the real leaders would think their secret still safe. That would buy Ed more time to train his people. They would not make their attack until the true cause of their suffering was revealed. Together the rebel forces and Binnin's soldiers would unite. We would take on our enemies together, well prepared, thinking as one. That time has come. Even Binnin, cowardly, selfish, Lord Binnin sees that this oppression must at last be ended.
Ed has shown him we must take responsibility for those who are weaker than us. If we chose to become a figure of power and authority, the people will look up to us for leadership. We must guide them, we can't neglect those who are our own.
Even my patchy memory has been explained. My father, Arios and Edward all knew how that happened. When I brought the subject up I saw them all squirm awkwardly, reliving their guilt. So all of them had a part in it. The three men who ought to love me best take from me my own mind, my own love, half of what I am.
Yet I have forgiven them already. I may still have doubts about my father, even if I am even beginning to soften towards him too, but I trust Edward and Arios completely. They love me and I can never deny that. Arios believed he could get me back, I had to be sacrificed but he knew how to undo it. He brought me back.
When they described the debate they had about what to do with me, I realized it must have hurt them far more than it hurt me. They were all letting go of someone they loved. Arios' pain was clear. For the first time, he looks weak. Surely Arios can never be broken. To give me up, he must have torn out half his heart. How he could have born the pain of being with me again? When I had no recollection of his true identity I looked at him as a stranger. Given the circumstances of our reunion, I'd gone as far as to hate him.
But they had to block my memories of them. I was already dangerous. I had a reputation for acting in a way totally unexpected, they knew they could not control me. Arios wasn't told about Binnin's change of heart. He didn't understand that Ed and Binnin were working together but he trusted Ed.
Besides, they did what they did for my own safety. Only a child, I was not yet ready to get involved yet. They had to admit that if I ever discovered what was going on, if I knew what I was missing out on, I'd do something rash. They wanted me to choose my course and to learn life's secrets before I did my bit. But they only put weak memory blocks into my head so that they could bring my memories back when the time came. And to compensate for leaving me out at the start, they saved the most important role for me.
It wasn't hard to see I had a strong sense of justice, they knew I'd end up joining REFORMATION, if I didn't find out the truth. There Ed could protect me and train me. He would only go along with the plan if he was sure he could watch over me. He loved me more than all else.
Apparently, he's always had several girls madly in love with them but preoccupied worrying about me he hasn't even noticed them. Arios, desperate to lighten the tone I think, was mercilessly making fun of my heart breaker brother. Having only ever seen Ed and Arios arguing over me lately, I had never seen there close, teasing relationship. They are such close friends when I'm not in danger. They must have been through a lot together; there are few people Arios trusts. I think it might only be me and Ed.
But their plan didn't go perfectly because, as always, I did something rash. They had underestimated quite how irresponsible and unpredictable I can be. The plan was to train me thoroughly for my new role. I was meant to stay under Ed’s care. Not knowing his true identity of course or I'd ask too many questions. Funny how much these three big strong men fear a little girl like me. Not one of them can keep me under control. I am irrepressible.
Ed tells me, “I knew you were brave and outspoken. You've always been fearless. But that public exhibition you made of yourself wasn't brave, it was mad. You gave no thought of the consequences of your actions. As always you jumped straight in and got the fire roaring. As it turned out, you did us a favour, getting a third class of people, the common people, fired up. But your father had to make it look as if you were being punished. You put me through so much. Desperately I wanted to rush in and take you back. But if I did that it would show we had some sort of relationship and we couldn't have the rulers knowing I was related to your father or they would know they were being betrayed. So I sent Arios into the government undercover to look after you. I still couldn't explain to him your father’s part in all this. But I told him I had high profile supporters in the government and he was eager to trust me. Even though he knew you'd break his heart.”
“Every time you looked at me Vita, I expected the love to be there all at once. And I got nothing. But you began to remember. You fell in love with me all over again, it was beautiful. It was beautiful watching more and more tenderness fill your eyes. Then that kiss. Vita, you gave me back more than I ever lost. I wasn't supposed to let you start remembering but I couldn't resist. We'd all made a mistake. For years we'd been trying to hold you back. We thought because we were all so much older and wiser, we could control you. But when I saw what you'd become, when I saw your power and your determination, I didn't want to control you. For the first time, I didn't even feel like I needed to protect you. I just wanted to see what you could do. My fears brushed aside, I saw that nothing could break you.”
“Hey, will you stop with all the soppiness. Honestly, are you desperate to remind me of my empty, loveless life?”
“Come on Eddie, if you would just leave my wife for me to worry about, you'd find your own girl soon enough. You'll trust me with anything but her.”
“Boys, boys, stop this banter, we have serious concerns to address, far more important than your hopeless love life or your inability to look after my daughter. Maybe we'll have to exclude you this time and let Vita do her part all alone.” They both shut up, horrified at the idea of me being alone for a second. Loving me really seems to drive people crazy.
“Anyway, Vita, we've already been here a long time. So I'll skip ahead and tell you the part of this we've left for you. I know Ed and Arios don't like it but they underestimate you. We have all seen you are strong. Basically we have always planned on uniting the rebel and government forces. Now, thanks to you, we may find support amongst the normal, everyday people. We need someone to bring them all together. It’ll take a dynamic leader who’s powerful and outspoken. Who knows the right words to say to make them forget their differences and work as one. They must think as one. There is very little trust in our society. Whoever explains the situation to the people will have to persuade them, will have to reason confidently. Vita, we want you to lead us. I beg you in behalf of the government, the people have already shown their support and their respect and soon Ed will ask you in behalf of the protesters. Deep inside he knows it is for the best, it is clear to see you were born to be a leader, but first he must let go of his fear. Your brother has given everything for you; to him you are everything now. And you’re worth everything. There is nothing he’d sacrifice you for.”
I know this is the part I must play. Binnin has failed as a leader, he broke down under pressure. Edward does not do destruction well. His part will come after the battle, he will mend and heal and restore.
But I have fury and anger and I will burn through any obstacle. I will tear this society apart for inspection, indeed, I will rip this mess open and reveal the filth beneath the charade.
“My lord Binnin, I am honoured to be entrusted with this important duty. Your soldiers have chosen me, they are my people. Dear Edward, your people took me in and I learnt to love them. They are also as my own. And the as for common people, I have a responsibility toward them. I opened their hearts and their minds, now I must give them guidance as they follow their course. I shall not fail all these I hold so dear. Father, I shall not fail you, though you failed me.”
Rising up, I felt ready. This is my decision. I am in control. Neither Ed nor Arios nor anyone else can hold me back. My charge has begun. I decide I will give a speech. All will be invited to attend and it will be recorded and played out to every portbox and to every comvision. All will hear my message because I believe in it. I will make the whole world listen to me. And a new emblem I will create. I will bring the end from where I began my journey. The people will hear the sound of freedom in front of freedom's new icon. This is the building which has stood strong as a witness to our crimes and an escape to new beginnings. A building that has had the power to bring both hope and terror. A building that must be remembered.