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In a kingdom on an island by the sea, Alun is the second son to the King. He doesn’t have to care about the cares and duties of the realm; those are burdens for his older brother, Dai.
Both brothers grow up content in the small and modest land, though their people have gone through much change lately. Peace and stability has come along with religion and civilization that trickled across the waters from a great continent. With the new religion gaining strength, the old ways of magic and faerie is fading into the past.
This is a tale within Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Last Light of the Sun. I love reading Alun’s story; he is hurled into a state of questioning and doubting, which reminds me of my own life.
The future felt bright for Alun, until a dark day when raiders, not seen in years, attack a small group of men with whom he and Dai are staying. In the course of the battle, Dai is slain. Alun’s relation to the world abruptly shifts.
Alun holds Dai’s dead body and weeps. Off to the side the leader of the enemy raid escapes from the fray, fleeing into the forest. Alun, filled with rage, chases him with reckless abandon into the moonless woods, hoping to find either vengeance or death.
Instead, he loses sight of the enemy and finds himself trapped in a shallow pool by some unknown magic. He remembers how the old ways spoke of the magical danger within the forest on a moonless night. While immobile, he sees a procession of faeries. They pass him, led by the majestic faerie queen.
And walking next to the queen is a figure Alun recognizes as the spirit of his brother.
It is here Alun’s beliefs are torn. After escaping the pool, he feels his faith in the new religion is misguided.
I think I understand exactly what Alun is going through. I’ve felt all I believed about God collapse into nothingness. I’ve felt the chaos of the moment, the reeling, the need to find truth.
I found answers to my questions, though, and I wondered where Alun’s journey would take him from here. Would he take a path similar to mine?
He does. Despite the death of his brother, the anger of justice denied, and the confusion over things beyond his understanding, Alun doesn’t run from his questions. He is not left ultimately spurning faith, but decides to search for truth at any cost.
I actually think doubt did both Alun and me a favour. It lightened the load of our beliefs. Believing in something just because is more difficult than believing in something after you’ve searched and found the answers you’re looking for. Both Alun and I transitioned from a nothing to a slow reconstruction of what we would believe. We were forced to re-examine what our faith could have meant.
This is not an easy place to be. For me, it was a state of constant searching and abandoning. It’s terrifying to go from a world of certainty to a world of doubt. I liked familiarity. I liked standing on the solid ground of what I know. But I can’t go back to that again and I don’t want to.
I believe God brought to me that sea of uncertainty; he brought me to a place where my world crashed down around me so He could build it back up again.
I enjoyed walking on Alun’s journey with him, reminded of my own, and seeing him eventually realize that despite the storm, he wasn’t drowning. Doubting and asking questions about what we believe is not something to be ashamed or afraid of.
Alun was okay and so was I. The waves were menacing and fearful, but we were alive. Fear turned into an embrace. We found peace within the storm.