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I asked him, obviously. Eventually. I mean, everybody else did, didn’t they? It’s just a question of time. When you first meet him, the question pops in your head and stays there. There is no dragging it out. After that, the only variable is: how long before you actually ask? Me, it took me two hundred years.

To most people, though, he didn’t answer. After all, he is not a very trusting man. Even with me, he waited a long time before saying a word, and after that I always fell he thought less of me for having asked it. And by then I had known him for a very long time. We’d been busy, you know? We’d been through a lot together, Adolph and I.

At the time we were deep in that great forest to the east of here; the Erik Lehnsherr Woods, I believe it’s called. Even then the Forest was very old and most of the trees were, if not dead, at least silent most of the time. They had been people before, people who had committed atrocities with the best of intentions, and you would not believe how many of them there was. But, as I said, the forest was very old and no longer the horrible place it must once have been. It was just sad, really, and lugubrious.

Dangerous too, though. Still dangerous in those times.

So old Adolph – and don’t look so shocked when I call him that. I have known him for a long time, I told you, and I don’t care how much respect you have for the man; I was his friend!

Anyway, old Adolph was a good man to walk these dangerous woods with: he was after all totally insane. Not drooling, gibberish-spewing and playing with his own filth insane, I mean. Just totally oblivious of his personal safety.

OK, listen: I was never much of a student of history but he was not at all the way others described him to me. For instance, he was very quiet. No fire-breather, Adolph was, that’s for sure. In fact, he rarely spoke and when he did, it was without flourishes, straight and to the point. He had a sense of humour, I think, but he rarely made jokes. Which is for the best, let me tell you, or I would never have endured two centuries in his company. I cannot stand the comedy type, be warned! He was just one of the most… restful people I have ever met.

But, as I said, brave! Brave to the point of recklessness.

So we had been walking these woods for quite a while, months easily and, even practiced recluses as we were, it was starting to draw on us that, maybe, some company would be a good thing. Sometime a tree would moan, rarely, there would be a scream, but you would not call that company. Just something that prevents you from making a fire at night.