“Oh. Right…,” Brine muttered, standing there with his mouth open as he watched his brother backing away. Brine had meant to say more, had meant to tell his brother that it was good talking with him, or that he looked forward to see him again, or that he wished him well in His eyes. But as he searched the place in his mind where he stored good intentions and pithy sayings, his attention was drawn to a tiny blue flame instead.
     The flame wasn’t in his mind, and it wasn’t in the garden either. The flame was in his belly, way down deep at his core. And it was growing larger with every step his brother took, its heat rising in Brine’s mind and setting his good intentions and pithy sayings ablaze.
     The disciple’s hands clenched into fists, the one on the flute nearly shattering the hallow shaft. He’d left all the people he’d loved and come all these leagues home—risking his life in the Desert of the F’kari and the forest of the Shun—and now big brother couldn’t even find it in his busy day of vine-chewing and cat-petting to give him a few moments of conversation?
     And yes, until Brine fulfilled his spiritual purpose, he was going to be here anyway, regardless of how his brother behaved, but it still irked him that Jaysh wouldn’t at least try and make friendly; especially when the yawning gulf between them was his fault—all his fault. Jaysh had done the picking. Jaysh had been the bully. So why, then, wasn’t Jaysh the one making amends?
     In answer to this, Brine thought about what Iman had told him a few nights back, and about the way Jaysh held that cat-thing pressed to his chest, and about the way Jaysh had moved onto the Hill and started sleeping with the dead.
     Because something’s wrong with him, Brine thought, feeling the muscles in his arms as they relaxed. He thought about Iman telling him that Jaysh had lapses in his memory, telling him that Jaysh had forgotten about the two crystal statues that had shared the castle with them as boys.
     With his temper in decay, Brine watched his brother shrink a little further in the distance and tried to remember what good Amians were to do with their anger. Because there was no question that he was angry, even despite his brother’s obvious mental deficiency. Brine was harboring much anger towards his brother, and that was as much a sin against Owndiah as acting upon it.  
     He opened his fists and relaxed his arms, reflecting on his Wogol studies and trying to think on the life of Amontus and what the great prophet would have done. What was it he was always saying about the misdeeds of others? Brine wondered. That you cannot control them, he thought, giving his head a nod. That you can only control yourself.
     Inhaling until the soft place at the base of his throat ached from the strain, he thought, And what could I have done to help ameliorate the animosity between me and my brother? He exhaled until the same soft place began to hurt. I should have never left, he concluded. If I’d really wanted to have a relationship with my brother, then I should have stayed and patched things up. I didn’t have to leave to find God’s purpose. I could have stayed and searched for it here. I could have communed with Owndiah and built a relationship with Jaysh…Couldn’t I?
     He was pretty sure the answer to that question was yes, which would explain why he hurt so much at the moment, the hurt softening his face and relaxing his muscles. Jaysh might have been the aggressor then, but he wasn’t now. He was just broken down and disturbed, and Brine had given up on him.
     What a crock, another voice said.
     Brine flinched and drew the flute closer to his chest. It was the voice from earlier, the one Brine had pushed away as it tried tormenting him with the imagery of the kittens. In a way, it sounded like his own voice—the word choice, the tone—but at the same time it sounded wrong.
     This is not your fault, the new voice said.
     Brine was still staring at the back of his brother’s head, pupils still fixed on him as he fled across the garden, but he was no longer seeing him. He was seeing, instead, the place at his core where the blue flames flickered. Because that’s where the voice is, he thought. That’s why it sounds funny. It’s crackling with fire and roaring like a furnace.
     Instead of disagreeing with him, the fire-voice said, Rugboy, you can twist this if you want, you can lay down on the ground and let him wipe his feet on you, but you aren’t the one to blame here. You aren’t the one who chased him with dead animals and horse apples and it wasn’t you who left him bleeding on the ground in this garden! That was him, Ruggy! Him! He did that! So yes, you left! You packed your things and you headed south, but what were you supposed to do? Stay? Let the monster get another ten ages of picking?
     No, Brine thought, ashamed to hear himself agree. No, I supposed it had to happen.
     You supposed it had to happen? What’s wrong with you, Rugs? Of course it had to happen. The man’s a monster. He’s a little quieter now, a little less aggressive, but he’s still a monster. Or did I miss the part where he atoned for his crimes? Did I, Rugs? Did I miss the part where he searched you out on that first night back and gave you a big teary-eyed hug, sobbing like a baby and begging your forgiveness? Did I miss that?
     Brine stood with his mouth open, not trusting himself to answer. Not trusting himself because those were his words. Those were the things he liked to tell the villagers living in and around the Rock when they came seeking a mediation with a spouse or neighbor, the line of reasoning he used to show that a spouse or neighbor wasn’t truly sorry until they proved their remorse with a change in behavior.
     Cause talk is cheap, ain’t that right, Rugs?
     I…I don’t know about that, Brine answered, finding it very hard to argue with something that knew him inside and out. Jaysh just needs a little space. And I can appreciate that. Back when I left, I needed several leagues of space, a whole desert full of space. But that doesn’t mean he won’t come around, and it doesn’t mean we can’t repair what was damaged. We’ll have to sit down and talk a good deal, and we’ll need to take a few trips into the woods. He likes the woods. And I’ll probably have to take an interest in his other hobbies, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.
     So, it’s time and forgiveness, then?
     Brine thought about this even longer, almost certain he was being set up for the fall, but unable to see how. At long last, he said, Whether you like it or not, it is scribed in the Wogol by the prophet Amontus, and dictated by the one true God, that time and forgiveness are the healers of all wounds.  
     The fire-voice paused, cleared is burning throat with a crackling cough, and said, What time, Ruggy? What time are you talking about?
     If Brine didn’t feel like he were being set up before, he certainly did now. Thinking hard about his answer, he said, I’m talking about time in general. Regular time, I suppose. What nonsense are you talking about?
     Me, the fire-voice said, I’m talking about all the time you don’t have, Rugs. I’m talking about how this is more than Jaysh throwing your favorite books in the fireplace when you were a kid and no one doing anything about it. This is more than Jaysh knocking you cold with a chunk of flagstone and leaving you to bleed to death in the garden.
     If I’m not mistaken, this is about the powerful feeling from your dream and about the spiritual purpose from your God, about the two of you resolving your petty differences so that when the time comes to rebuild temples, you aren’t squaring off in the corner. Or is that what you want to happen? After all these ages of waiting, you want to miss your purpose because Brother Weirdo needs time to warm up to you?
     Brine didn’t even bother to respond. He was too busy watching as, in his mind’s eye, he and his brother suffered through one awkward council meeting after another, Brine raising an issue and his brother getting up in the middle of his sentence and going to the window, Brine discussing the finer points of his argument and his brother staring at the city and stroking his hideous pet.      
     The fire-voice, curt and heartless though it might be, was ultimately correct.