Star Dreamer

Epilogue V: The Paths of Memory

[Westry/Nora]

“Uh … I don’t mean to put a damper on things,” a hesitant voice broke in, somewhere about five feet behind her, at thigh-level, as she scrambled on hands and knees over a moss-covered log, “but I don’t think we’re supposed to go this far. Norie! Norie!” Some huffing sounds as the speaker stepped up his pace to catch up with her. “Tirlina, I don’t think we should let her go this far! I mean, seriously, this isn’t a good ide- OOMPH!”

The sudden, and forceful exhalation of air, accompanied by a definite sound of tumbling, was enough to make her stop and turn, hands on trousered hips, and look back impatiently. A rustling among the leaves on the near side of the log was all that she could see. These woods were always at mid-autumn, with the trees still clad in some colors but with enough starting to bare that the ground was covered; elsewhere, further, along turns that even she knew she was not yet permitted to take … and perhaps never would be permitted to take … every branch was stripped, except for those of the silent and brooding firs, and even they lay in winter and ice.

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Epilogue IV: Fifteen Years of Traveling

Something small with leathery wings struck Jacques hard in the back, skittering for a hold on his motley. With a grunt, he reached around and pulled at it, feeling the claws as long as his finger scraping against his arm.

Clutching the harpy in his hand he beat its head against the cave wall until he heard the sickening <snap>.

From up ahead, he could hear Fiend growling and snapping, as well as the high pitched ululations of the rest of the harpies. He readied a long, yellow handled knife, and moved forward quickly.

“Damn fool,” he muttered. “We’re both too damn old for all this.” He hacked the wings off another harpy as it dived for his face, and winced as two claws scraped their way down his cheek. Blood welled.

A heart-wrenching yelp of pain echoed down the cave, followed by even more furious growling, snapping, and the screaming of winged things.

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Epilogue III: The Nearness of Kin

After the third day, his belief that he would round the corner and see them – the kin promised by the Captain, and their wagons draped in bright colors – faded into a wary watchfulness with just the faintest tinge of doubt. After the fifth day, making his way by begging and the occasional filching of coin from careless purses, he had begun to lapse back into the street-child, trusting few and hoping for little. On the street corner in this strange town, he considered the silver he had snatched from a passing, self-satisfied merchant, and shrugged. Best to spend it for a meal, he thought, and shoved his hands into his pockets as he turned to dodge through the crowds. Somewhere quiet, where he wouldn’t be tempted to scan the faces for someone with his same dusky skin and black eyes.

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Epilogue II: Keir's Tale

[Keir]

Keir was sure where the magical path ended and his destination began. Not because the transition hadn’t been smooth, it had, yet his sensitive feet had detected the threshold easily from the difference in temperature. This was stone, cold stone and it was above and on both sides of him also.

Darker and colder than the rock of the Dun, he knew instantly it was a subterranean passage – not unlike the volcanic crevice where he had spent his hermitage. The thought that Venlesser had deceived them, had projected pleasant images while in reality sending them to the nether regions crossed his mind. His expectations lead him to envision an island, a seacoast at least, as the likely home of his wayward kin – certainly not this.

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Epilogue I: Returning to Morrow's Hold

[Laurelyn]

For the briefest of moments dense mist wrapped itself around the _Brenna Rose_ as the small ship sailed through the cloud boundary, and once on the other side the travelers found themselves beneath a starlit sky – with no hint of a setting sun. And a steady, helpful wind filled their sails to carry back to the harbor of Morrow’s Hold.

The lights in the various houses showed that the eve was still early enough that most of the townsfolk were still awake. But along the dock only the fishing boats bobbed in the quietly lapping water – all tied up for the night while their owners ate dinner, drank, and swapped tales. Laurelyn found the normalacy of docking helped to settle her thoughts before touching land again, but the jobs were quickly done and soon she was standing on the wet dock.

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Chapter XLIX: Soul Choices

[Thomis]

“This is the fire,” the Evandin whispered, feeling it still enveloping him, but unable to direct it. Sword drawn and wary, he stooped to wrap one arm about her upper chest and pull her back, away from edge where yet more tentacles lifted and wavered, as if smelling her blood.

This is the breath and the life, these are the patterns we make for ourselves. Half-slipping in the gore, he continued to move despite the flames that moved through his blood and seared the breath in his lungs, burning with anger and grief and desperation.

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Chapter XLVIII: Under the Eyes of Hope

[Laurelyn]

Laurelyn squeezed Thomis’s fingers once, and stepped forward to hand the Captain the sad, sodden bundle that had been Fiend. She lovingly placed the blanket-wrapped corpse in the Captain’s arms. Venlesser looked down on the blanket and then slowly began to peel the material away. At first a nose snuffled into view, and a muffled whine could be heard as the Captain pulled back the rest of the blanket – to reveal a living, and dry, Fiend.

No eldritch glow shown in the Captain’s eyes as he looked up at the group – only living blue, and he said, “Does this offer proof of my powers, Jester?” He stroked the wiggling puppy and looked at each who stood before him. “You each have your boon.”

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Chapter XLVI: Drowned Innocence

[Maeve]

For a few moments, Maeve sat staring alternately at Eric’s tear-stained face, and then at Captain Venlesser.  Next to her, Rudolpho held his breath as tightly as he held her hand under the edge of the table.  Her face, though still pale, showed an unaccustomed expression – not fear or sadness (what grief to match Eric’s?  Or even, Rudolpho acknowledged begrudgingly, but only to himself, Jacques?).  Maybe resignation.  Maybe determination.

“Ealasaid,” she said, and for a moment, the word caught the boy off guard.  Why was she talking about Fionn’s story now?  Only after Thomis and Jacques and Eric had gone?  But when he glanced over at the highlander, who still had one thumb in Rue’s grasp, he could see that Fionn understood why Maeve dwelled on the Fhaolain woman who had betrayed husband and lover both.  ”Why did she do it?”  As she asked, Maeve kept her gaze on the space somewhere between Eric and the Captain.

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Chapter XLV: In A Glass Darkly

[Laurelyn]

Laurelyn, who couldn’t bring herself to touch the food or drink – she remembered too many tales of those who ate food from the spirit realm, said, “If you don’t mind, Captain, I request to go last.”

His laugh had the heartiness of storm waves beating against the rocks, and he said, “Balladeer, such pride – to think you can win my boon and save your friends if they fail!! Do you think you’re the first to have thought of that? And perhaps you should wonder how many of them now serve aboard The Star Dreamer.”

“I doubt that there will be many ‘firsts’ this night,” Laurelyn said, meeting his gaze, and admitting nothing. “Not if the legends speak true and this ship has been sailing for more centuries than can be counted.”

“The legends speak truly,” Venlesser said – his tone icy, and he turned his gaze back to the others. “We have the last spot spoken for – who then will go first?”

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Chapter XLIV: What Are Dreams Made Of?

[Laurelyn]

The fog seemed illuminated around him – allowing each of the new arrivals to note how he scrutinized them, and keeping hidden the crew of the ship. “Welcome to my ship, The Star Dreamer,” the Captain said with cold pride, “And I Captain Venlesser.”

“And I am Laurelyn Parch, daughter of the Chief of the Hillrover clan,” Laurelyn answered, meeting his chill gaze.

“One who has been seeking me,” the Captain said, “As are the rest of you.”

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