Epilogue – Those Left Behind

Sixteenth of Learning 1142 

King Terrence and Queen Treya slept soundly in the royal chambers, secure in the knowledge that their sons, for the time being at least, were safe behind palace walls. They had guards watching the rooms of the Misfits of Karmenon, but Veloran had more or less vouched for them. It was clear they were an expected part of all that was happening, and thus part of Sheba’s plan for the boys. So they slept and dreamt.

King Terrence dreamt of Cora and assured her he was taking care of Dahr to the best of his ability. Even in his dream, her gratitude suffused him with guilt, an ever present weight not only in his dreams but in the waking world as well. There would be no escape for King Terrence,

because Cora was gone and would never return. That was his burden to bear.

Queen Treya dreamt of walking across desert sands when a storm of flowers blew through, transforming everything as it passed. She marveled at the riot of colors from wildflowers that were suddenly everywhere. She drew in a breath and the perfume of the flowers seemed so real that she almost woke in surprise but didn’t. She continued moving through the formerly barren landscape, amazed anew each passing moment, the way you could only be in a dream. It was all so beautiful.

Leata didn’t sleep at first, wondering instead about the eclectic team who stayed in the palace that night and how they fit into everything that was going on. She thought of the princes and Princess Chari. She thought of Kalutu. The pieces of the puzzle kept her up, but soon even she was forced to yield her consciousness. She dreamt of marrying Maynor and even in her dream scoffed at the idea. Maynor and her were fine as a casual pairing, but married? It was too late for the both of them.

Maynor slept without a worry in the world, a thing he had not done for decades, completely unaware that the princes were no longer in the palace, or that Striker was somehow involved in their disappearance. In fact, he didn’t think of Striker at all. Maynor slept soundly through a dreamless night, completely unaware that he had committed treason.

King Leonid and Queen Rhea slept, proud of the daughter they could almost not recognize. In just a couple of weeks Chari had transitioned from a child to a young woman, accepting her responsibility as a member of the royal family of Melar. King Leonid dreamt of women he had loved, who hadn’t loved him, and it didn’t matter to him one whit. When you were the one with the power, the thoughts and desires of others were not your concern. And if they were wise, they would make sure it stayed that way.

Queen Rhea dreamt of her daughter’s wedding. Not the small, private, low key affair she had attended, but what it might have been if she’d had her way. Chari looked beautiful in her wedding gown, Eric looked handsome, and everyone was smiling and happy for them. She cried in her sleep, partly because it was so beautiful and partly because it would never come to pass, and even in sleep she was aware of the fact.

Ressssen didn’t sleep right away. Her mind was filled with ending the undead threat. She was ready to do whatever was necessary to make that happen. It would be not only her legacy, but her team’s legacy as well. They would all share in the glory, and Ressssen would go down in history as one of the greatest adventurers who had ever lived. She would be the pride of her people. She would earn the respect that had been denied her. Respect that should have already been hers. That she had to travel to human lands to get it was of little consequence. One day, she would return home in triumph. When she finally drifted off, she dreamt about Striker, and the two princes walking away from the city into the surrounding darkness. The dream felt so real, and it disturbed her so much that she woke in the middle of the night but, realizing it was a dream, she turned over and went back to sleep, careful not to bang herself on the headboard, which due to her height happened more often than she would care to admit.

Garne fell asleep almost immediately and dreamt of a woman he had loved and lost. She was there again, in front of him, beautiful, radiant, eyes sparkling with life and intelligence. And when their eyes met he saw the forgiveness in them he knew he didn’t deserve, but in spite of that, for the first time since she had died in his arms, he felt at peace.

Unlike Garne, it took Merck Vanderoth a very long time to even close his eyes. Having fulfilled his task, Merck’s mind buzzed with possibilities of what the future might hold. He wondered again about his new god, felt silly that he had been told that he went by the name George, but finally closed his eyes and prayed to him anyway. He prayed for things he’d never before desired–wisdom, courage, the strength to keep moving forward into the unknown future that seemed so scary and yet was also the greatest of reliefs. Because a man addicted to sizzle had no future. Addicts paid for their pain with their lives, even their very souls. George, whoever he really was, had saved him from that horrible fate, and for that Merck Vanderoth owed him everything.

Dreek and Borin didn’t actually sleep, but both of them entered a meditative state that restored them, centered them, prepared them for the day to come. Neither dreamt, though occasionally, Dreek would have visions. Tonight, however, he did not.

Borin had never had a dream and didn’t understand them, so he had read a book on dreaming. He didn’t understand it any better than he had before reading the book, but he at least thought he could take a stab at interpreting them. He hoped someone would share a dream with him when they woke up, so he could practice. The very concept of dreaming was strange to him. He wished that one day he would experience one, so he could be like the others. So he could understand what they went through. So he could be closer to the team.

Even Chari had fallen asleep while waiting, the day’s events leaving her exhausted. She lay on the couch, still dressed, unconsciously waiting for the husband who would not return to her that night. An intruder looking at her would never have known the turmoil inside that grew as time passed. She didn’t mark the time consciously, but on some level, she knew he was out there somewhere, and she wasn’t with him. And while she trusted Maynor to a degree, she didn’t completely trust anyone except Eric, Dahr and Kalutu. Where was he and why had he not returned to her? They had a marriage to consummate. At the thought, she stirred only slightly, the only external evidence of restlessness during the long night, as if her sleep was somehow deeper than it naturally would have been. Had she been aware enough to analyze the fact, it might have woken her, but she wasn’t. And so she slept and though she didn’t dream, she thought of her husband alone, or more likely with Dahr, facing some unknown danger that neither of them was prepared to face. She should have insisted on going with them, but she had not and would have to bear the consequences of her inaction.

They all slept, fitfully or deeply, except for the one interested party who did not. He had been born an owl, but now he was a familiar to two princes who were getting further and further away as he stood there. As their familiar he could always tell where they were. But they were with Maynor, and that meant they were safe. Kalutu paced the room, trying to convince himself that everything was all right, determined to follow instructions. For an hour he waited, two, three. And then he began to worry. They were getting awfully far from the palace.

Kalutu walked to the desk and removed a sheaf of papers from the drawer. He placed them down, reverentially. He didn’t understand why, but these pages which he’d penned over so many hours each night while his masters slept, meant more to him than they had any right to. Perhaps the writing process helped clear his mind, a thing he needed desperately some days. He had been an owl, then a were-owl and then had been unceremoniously pulled from his world only to drop out of the sky and land on top of a man who would change, not only his life, but the very shape of the way he thought– Prince Eric.

He liked to think he would have followed his masters even without the compulsion of being a familiar, for he saw in them something he’d never seen in his own world. Words like honor and fairness hadn’t meant much to him in his old life. They had been words you uttered. Excuses men used to act. But in these young men, they were more. They were a reason to live.

He stared at the first page. Somehow, he knew, this would be a story like no other. A tale repeated through the ages, assuming he lived to finish it.

He hadn’t titled it. He never thought it needed a title. They had started as words for him and him alone, but they had grown into something more. Every night while his masters slept, he added to it. A record of his experiences. A way to comprehend the world around him.

Impulsively, he dipped his quill into the ink well on the desk and wrote something across the top of the first page. The perfect title for his musings.

The Book of Lost Wisdom

Then he picked up the pages, careful not to smudge the ink and placed them reverentially back in the drawer from which he had removed them.

Something was wrong. He knew it in his soul… if he had a soul. He wondered who he could ask about that.

Slowly, Kalutu closed the drawer, stood and walked to the door. He had to tell someone that Prince Eric and Prince Dahr were gone. Because deep inside he knew the one truth he’d been trying to avoid all this time. Neither of his masters would be returning this night. He wondered if he’d ever see them again.

The thought struck him like a mortal wound and, for the first time, fear overwhelmed him. The danger for which they had been waiting had finally arrived.


Forward to Book 2 – Chapter 1 – The Secret

Return to Chapter 30 – One Final Lesson



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