His name was Henri du Rien, and I have killed him.
I do not know why I have come here, of all places. I was a child when I walked the Pattern, daring to challenge it just to be better than them, to be better than Virgil and Gaius. Brilliant, terrifying Virgil. Cunning, talented Gaius. Ambitious, eager Stephen. And I beat it. By the Unicorn, I beat it, as young as any of my mother's generation. Was it as hard for them as it was for me? I cannot know. But from the center of the Pattern, I opened my mind to my destiny, and went there.
After so many years of practiced, I never imagined war would be... this. Dirty. Filthy. Muddy and cold. I have fired my rifle, surely killing others, but none of it felt real until tonight.We were advancing to the next trench, when the gas came on and the mortars started dropping. I was hiding in a foxhole, when another man dropped in. Through the haze and the masks, it took us a moment to realize they were someone else's comrade. He pulled off my mask, but I am Amber-born, and my knife proved deadlier than the stinging gas that burned in my nose and eyes.
I watched the life gutter and fade out in him like a candle at the end of its wick, until with one red gasp, it slipped away. I do not know how long I have sat here, staring at what is left of him and tried to understand why. In my mind, I remember the words of Dworkin, that if I so desired it, I could ensorcell his body to rise again, or I could simply walk until I found a world where he lived still. By his papers in his pockets, he was a father and a baker. He had a photo of his son, and his wife. There was a letter but I cannot read it. The blood has soaked it through. And I could find a world where he lived still, and I could bring him to this one. But it would not be the man I killed. He might be identical in all ways, but he would not be. And I cannot express why, or even how I would know it.
I am a killer, and I do not know how that makes me feel. This is not guilt. This is not pleasure. I do not know what this feeling is, but I came here. Henri du Rien was real, and now he is dead, and if I never was here, he would be forgotten, nameless and dead. But I know his name. I will always know his name.
And I must never forget it. Never.