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The Satyr's Song

A Cassinnian Tale...

Faint rays of sunlight pierced the mist-shrouded dawn, illuminating the faded mountain fortress. The light meandered through the high, open-air windows of the ancient stone bedchamber dancing across the closed eyelids of the satyr, bidding him to wake and greet the new day.

The satyr. He liked to think of himself as such, as the satyr of the mountain, much like a king of the mountain. Of course, the mountain had a name – a name, old and deep, guttural really, like the language from whence it came, not meant for the musical tongue of a satyr. The satyr – he had a name too. Though here, away from his brothers, that did not matter. He could feel the sunlight beckoning him. He could hear the song of the new day as loudly and distinctly as he could feel the cold stone floor beneath him, or the blissfully warm wood-nymphs beside him. So long as he resisted the call of the morning, so long as his eyes remained closed he could imagine that he and his lovers were lying on a soft, mossy meadow bed. He could not resist it though. He could never resist the call of the sun, his old friend, especially not this day.

Slowly, the satyr opened his eyes, letting the still-faint light flood his senses. As his body awakened from its slumber, he could still feel every moment of the night before – the feast, the wine, the music, the dancing, the nymphs. A satisfied sigh escaped him. This was the life, a satyr’s life. He desired nothing more, except the soft mossy meadow.

Many times, the satyr had thought of bringing nature here, to brighten and enliven the harsh gray stonework of the castle he called home, but he could not. Nature was his mistress, his lover, his soul; he could never truly subject her to such an unnatural place where she could not stretch out toward the sky. The nymphs came to him, time and again, but they too could not bear to be apart from their beloved forest for long.

This place was his home, for a time at least. The satyr was here for a reason, a mission given him twenty-three sun cycles before. He had to live in this place. His mere presence could safeguard it from any unnatural darkness that might seek to take it for its own. It was a task given him by those who trusted no other. His task was almost complete though – he could feel it. The world was changing. The ones for whom he safeguarded this place would soon come. He knew not when, but soon – he could feel it. Once they came, he could finally go home, back to his beloved forest, his beloved meadow.

The satyr took a breath, filling his chest with the deep freshness of morning air. Slowly, so as not to wake the sleeping nymphs, he moved his arms, head, and torso disentwining them from his lovers. Sitting up, he stretched his arms out, releasing all the stiffness of sleep. His vision swept the room for a moment; the gray stone was worn smooth from its many years. He would not miss this place. He was wasting time though; he knew this. The sun still beckoned him to come and play his morning songs. He rocked up onto his hooves in a fluid motion, unexpected in one of his stature. With a brief longing look at the sleeping nymphs, he stepped out, leaving the bedchamber, pausing only to pick up his flute from its resting place by the door.

As his hooves made their usual click-clacking rhythm on the stone floor, the satyr put the flute to his lips and began a hypnotic song, reminiscent of an early spring morning. The sweet sounds of music flowed beyond him, through the halls of the castle, bringing a sense of light and life with them. After but a moment, the gray stone did not feel quite as cold and unforgiving as it had. Every morning, for twenty-three sun cycles, he had walked the halls thus, staving off the unnaturalness that tried to claim the fortress. Had he been walking through a grove of trees or meadow, his song would have brought increasingly exuberant life to all of nature around him. Here, however, with few living things present, there was only so much it would do. As he walked the halls, his song warmed the castle with the light of morning.

The satyr’s steps took him throughout the castle, circling ever toward the centermost courtyard. He had followed the same path every morning for so long that it took him a moment to recognize the difference of this morning. The courtyard, open to the sky, always empty except for a cave-like passageway in the center, leading deep into the mountain, was filled with the now vibrant light of morning. This morning, however, the courtyard was not empty.

The satyr stopped partway into the courtyard, surveying the four newcomers – humans mostly, from what he could tell – three men and a woman. Warriors, so they seemed, all but the eldest of them had swords strapped either to their waist or their back. The eldest, one of the men, carried a bow and quiver full of arrows, as well as a staff, but no sword. The other three, had their hands on their sword hilts, ready to draw at a moment’s notice; the girl had two, the hilts sticking up over her shoulders. The eldest of them said something softly to the others. The satyr could not hear him, but, whatever he had said, the others relaxed a bit, lowering their hands.

On a second look, the satyr knew them. Though it had been many sun cycles since he had last seen any of them, twenty-three to be precise, and the humans had only been children at the time. He knew them nonetheless. Lowering his flute, he stepped slowly toward the four. “Hello Mackal,” he said, addressing the oldest, “it has been a long time.”

A smile spread across Mackal’s slightly wizened face. “Yes, it has, old friend.”

An equally warm smile broke across the satyr’s face, stretching from one curved horn to the other. “If you are here, that means the time has come.”

“Indeed it has.”

The satyr thought for a moment, his apprehension at the appearance of Mackal and the young ones mixing with an overwhelming excitement knowing that this would be his last day separated from his true love - nature. “You came through the labyrinth, yes?”

“Yes, we did,” the girl responded, her face showing a strength and determination the satyr had not seen since…

“It’s you then, isn’t it? Though I always knew it would be. The gift was passed to you.”

“Yes,” she replied, more timidly than before.

“Do not be afraid, young Moirana. I can see your father’s strength in you.” The satyr chose his words carefully. “Though you do not remember me, your father was a good friend of mine… Please, come. Have some food and rest. You have had a long journey.”

Without waiting to see if they followed, he knew they would, the satyr turned and led the newcomers into the corridors of the castle. As his hooves stepped out a stronger, more focused rhythm than before, he could hear the others falling in behind him. He knew that took courage on their part. From what he could tell, only Mackal remembered him. This brought a slightly mischievous smile to his face. Most humans did not contain their astonishment and sometimes outright fear at meeting his kind. Although he had to admit, these were not mere humans.

The Satyr’s steps echoed off the stone walls of the cavernous great hall as they entered. Stone, he thought as he had so many times before, everything here is stone. The nymphs, who had awakened from their lustrous sleep, were cloistered by the remnants of the previous night’s feast. Their musical laughter cut short as they saw the newcomers following their lover. The sight of them – their soft, slender bodies cloaked in the morning sunlight and golden hair cascading from their heads to their knees – brought a deep smile to the satyr. This night, instead of this stone castle, they’d sleep in the forest, on a mossy carpet, beneath the starry night sky.

The satyr traversed the space between the entrance and his lovers in but a few quick, light strides. Wrapping his arms around them, he held them in a momentary affectionate embrace. Releasing them, he turned toward the newcomers and, with somewhat of a dramatic flair gesturing to the whole of the great hall – high domed ceilings, long stone tables that appeared to be carved out of the same rock as everything else, in fact it seemed as if the entire cavernous hall had been carved into the mountainside – said, “Welcome, to my humble abode.” He watched them take it all in for a moment, but he could see their journey through the earth had made them as weary of stone as his many sun-cycles waiting for them had him. “Please, sit and eat. You are tired and must regain your strength. You can rest in peace while you are here. So long as I walk these halls, they remain protected.”

The newcomers made their way, albeit somewhat slowly, to the table piled high with fruits and the like. The remnants of the feast were a feast in themselves. The satyr, partly sitting on, partly reclining against the table, picked up a piece of fruit and began to eat it. Moirana was the first of the four to follow his lead, but within moments they all had. He watched them, thoughtfully, as they ate and regained an essence of life they had not known they had lost. After a time, he broke the silence, addressing Moirana, “Why is your sister not with you?”

Moirana quickly, instinctively, glanced at the others with her before responding. “She was taken from us, taken to the shores of Kaludren. We must make haste if we are to save her from such a fate as what lies beyond that place.”

“I assume then,” he mused, “that your path takes you to Gallenna, to your one-time home with the elves.”

Moirana stopped short – a piece of fruit clutched in her hand, practically suspended halfway between the table and her mouth. She looked at Mackal, a silent question piercing her brow – his face an unreadable stone. She carefully set the fruit back on the table, returning her gaze to the satyr. “Thank you for your hospitality,” she began with only a minor hesitation. “Please tell me for I must know, who are you? How did you recognize me, though I have never met you? How do you know so much about my family – myself and my sister? You say you knew my father. How is this possible? I did not even know my father. You act and speak as if you are a friend, and yet I do not even know your name.”

The satyr thought carefully for a moment before responding. “In the hands of someone such as yourself, someone with magic born into them, a person’s name has power, power over the person to whom it belongs… My name is Pannamaarou and I knew your father, yours as well,” his gaze flickered to the two young men resting silently beside Moirana, “I knew them before they chose mortality. They were two of my most trusted friends. I knew them before they cursed themselves to mortal, human lives in order to beget children who would one day have the power innate within themselves to vanquish an unnatural foe that has plagued this world with their dogma and power-hungry lust for the past age, for two and a half thousand cycles of the sun… You may not know me, but, I fear, I know more about you than you yourself.” Pannamaarou’s piercing gaze drifted slowly from one to the next of the four before him, finally resting on the eldest, on Mackal. “You have not told them?”

“I do not know all the details,” Mackal replied, “besides, it is not my story to tell.”

“I suppose you are right,” apprehensively, Pannamaarou unconsciously scratched his head just behind the gracious curve of his right horn, thinking. “It is my story to tell, and yet I am not sure where to begin… Please make yourselves comfortable, this could take some time.”

Pannamaarou. It was a musical name, befitting a master of music and love. It was a name indicative of its bearer’s love of life. It was a name befitting a satyr in his prime.

Pannamaarou, the satyr, a lover of life, reclined lazily in the shade of an old oak tree. With his eyes closed, he took in the music of the forest around him: the birds singing, the wind rustling the leaves of the trees, the rushing of a nearby creek. All the sounds blended together in a symphony, a magnificent symphony of life. He sighed. This moment, this late summer afternoon, this was paradise.

“Are you going to lie there all day?” a soft musical voice called out to him in an amused, slightly patronizing way.

The satyr opened his eyes, though he knew who the voice belonged to before he did. The sight that met his eyes amused him, for some reason he knew not. Before him stood, hovered really, a long-time fairy friend of his. One of the larger fairy folk, she stood four feet tall or would have had she not been flying at that moment. Her quickly fluttering wings were a brilliant array of violet, lavender, and mossy green colors with a splash of crimson here and there. Her hair and body showed the same magnificent colors as her wings. Her hair, which had a consistency somewhere between the feathers of a falcon’s wings and the spindly, sometimes twisted branches of her namesake, shining in the afternoon sun, crowned her in a halo of beautiful lavender and green. Her brilliant, almost iridescently violet eyes held a gentle, yet piercing gaze.

“Hello, Rose,” the satyr returned her slightly patronizing tone.

“Don’t call me Rose, Pan.”

“Don’t call me Pan, Rosemary,” he enjoyed teasing her, it was always as if a fire lit right behind her eyes when he did. A deep rumbling chuckle escaped him. Today was a good day. Today, even a slightly patronizing fairy could not dissuade his joy. Today, nothing could ruin the perfection that was life.

A light, musical laughter escaped her as well. “Get up, Pannamaarou. We must leave soon. Olindal will be angry if you miss his daughter’s name-day… I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want a dragon to be mad at me.”

“Former dragon. Olindal is my dearest friend, I would not miss his daughter’s name-day for the world.” The satyr gave a long sigh as he stretched his arms out over his head and, swinging them back, hopped up onto his hooves in almost a single motion. “However, since you are so concerned, let us make haste. Their home is merely the other side of the glen.”

“I know that Pannamaarou,” Rosemary replied with a slight timidity to her voice. “I don’t know what it is, something just doesn’t feel right tonight.”

“Then we should go. The sooner we leave, the sooner we will arrive,” a momentary apprehension flickered across his mind, but he pushed it away just as quickly. If any misadventure came along, they would face it when it did. That was, quite simply, the way of things. He watched the missing sense of certainty return to Rosemary’s face. They had always faced the occasional storms of life together, along with Olindal and Taffir, Olindal’s brother, and they would continue to do so.

Without saying anything else, Pannamaarou began walking down the hill upon which he had been resting. Tonight would be quite a celebration. Tonight was about Olindal’s daughter. Tonight was about life, new life. He kept on walking. He did not need to look to see if Rosemary was accompanying him; he could hear the faint flutter of her wings. They traversed on in silence – down the forested hill, through the tree line, and into the beautiful glen.

The sun shone beautifully on that late summer afternoon. It filled the glen with a warm light, accentuating all the brilliantly beautiful colors. Reds, greens, yellows, browns, they all dazzled in the light. Pannamaarou smiled – it was such a wonderful feeling, everything around him permeating with life. Life was his passion. Life filled him with passion. He could think of but a few things that could improve upon the perfection of this moment. He walked through the glen feeling every ray of sunlight, every blade of grass. He could hear the birds singing amid the flutter of fairy wings, beyond those of his companion.

As beautiful as the life-magic of it was, permeating everything within it, after but a few short moments, Pannamaarou and Rosemary passed through the glen and into the forest beyond. The forest had its own magic, no less filled with life. He could feel it – every tree, every patch of moss. It was all so blissfully and passionately alive.

Not far into the forest, they came to a beautiful, peacefully gurgling brook. Rosemary fluttered over it. Pannamaarou crossed it in but three strides, stepping from stone to stone. As they crossed the brook, they could feel a change in the magic flowing through the air, the trees, the earth. Before, the magic was constantly renewing through the eternal ebb and flow of life, here it was old and deep as the roots of the earth itself. The satyr smiled to himself. Dragons once lived here and in a sense they still did, though not with the same power as before. So few would have set foot in a place like this, but these dragons, former dragons, were some of his dearest friends.

Up ahead of the two travelers were a few small cottages, surrounded by trees, bathed in the healthy afternoon glow. Unconsciously, Pannamaarou’s pace quickened. He was anxious to see his friends, excited to see the youngest of the dragon-born children, excited to celebrate this new life.

“Hello!” the satyr called out in a deep musical voice. “Hello, my friends.”

A man stepped out of one of the houses – human at first glance, but his eyes betrayed that. He was so evidently a man of strength, with straight, raven-black hair from his head to his middle-back and skin pale with a faint coppery sheen. His eyes, the color of fire, shone brilliantly in the afternoon light. At the sight of the satyr, a smile lit up his face. “Hello, Pannamaarou, my old friend. May the light of life shine upon you and your kin.”

“And on you and yours, Taffirnorrarrmarrir,” the satyr replied with a slight bow of respectful greeting, his friend’s name rolling off his tongue as water rushes over rocks.

“Please come in, my friends.” Taffir gestured for the satyr and fairy to follow as he stepped back through the doorway. Pannamaarou followed Taffir, with Rosemary close behind.

As he stepped over the threshold the satyr was greeted by the overwhelmingly pleasant scent of a table laden with fruits and freshly baked bread. Such a small, beautiful, and welcoming home, he thought as he had so many times before. He knew very little of human habitation, he had no real desire to know more, but he could not imagine it being any better than this place.

On two wooden chairs by the feast-laden table sat a young boy of barely two sun-cycles and a grown man with features similar and eyes identical to those of Taffir. The boy, Mageren, the youngest son of Taffir and his wife, Aniyra, stared at Pannamaarou and Rosemary with wide brown eyes and a smile stretched across his face. The man, a smile in his eyes as well, held in his arms a sleeping baby girl, two moons old that day.

“May the Sun and Moon shine down upon you with grace and peace, my friend, Olindalfashermorrir,” respect, gratitude, love, and admiration filled the satyr’s voice.

Olindal’s smile deepened. “Thank you, Pannamaarou, and you as well, Rosemary. Please make yourselves comfortable. Sania and Lanvaren went running into the woods with Basil, their mothers just went to find them.”

The satyr found a nice spot, leaning against the wall not far from the door. “How is Enarra faring?”

“She is well. Our daughter’s birth took its toll on her, but her strength returns each day.” Olindal took a breath as if to continue on, but instead grew silent.

“What is it, my friend? What troubles you?”

Olindal looked down at the infant in his arms, then back at the satyr. “She’s the one. She was born with the gift. When she wakes, you can see it in her eyes…” his voice shook for a moment. “The winds of this world are changing. I can feel it, Taffir can feel it… Enarra and I would like you to be her second-father.”

“Why me?” concern had etched itself into Pannamaarou’s countenance and voice. His friend had always been steadfast in everything, yet today he seemed uncertain.

“Neither Taffir nor myself have the power to protect these children, we gave up that power when we chose mortality, and someday the fate of the future will rest on them, especially this one,” Olindal’s gaze returned to the child in his arms. “I need to know that no matter what if something were to happen to Enarra and myself… I need to know someone I trust will be there to protect her, to care for her, and to find those who can teach her to use her gifts. Will you promise me that, Pannamaarou? Will you look out for her, and for the others?”

Pannamaarou could not imagine a world without Olindal and Taffir, he did not want to, but neither could he refuse their request. “Yes, if something happens to you, I will care for her as my own… What is her name?”

Before another word could be spoken, the door burst open and Basil, one of Rosemary’s fairy kin, rushed in – a massive flutter of browns, yellows, and greens. With tears rushing from her bright yellow eyes, she spoke so quickly her words were barely intelligible, “the children… hiding… I couldn’t help… gone…”

“Basil, be still, what happened?” Taffir’s voice was filled with a sense of fear Pannamaarou would have never thought possible.

The fairy did her best, taking a deep breath, “Knights bearing the mark of Kaludren… the children, hiding. If they make a sound they’ll be found… I didn’t know what to do.”

A feeling of disbelief and anger washed over the satyr, this place was supposed to be safe.

Somehow, Olindal’s voice still held strength within it. “Basil, how many of them are there?”

“Hundreds, I don’t know, but it felt like hundreds.”

Olindal looked at Taffir as if exchanging some unspoken word. Taffir nodded his head in agreement to whatever the unspoken word was, walked over to the young boy, knelt before him and embraced him as a father does his son, saying goodbye. The young boy, Mageren, began to cry, as did the infant in Olindal’s arms. They did not know what was happening, but they could sense the apprehension and pain that was present. Taffir released the boy and, looking into his tear-drenched eyes, said, “You will be alright my son, you will be safe.”

Olindal drew his infant daughter closer for a moment, kissing her forehead. “Rosemary, will you hold her, please?”

Rosemary quickly fluttered over to Olindal’s side, taking the child into her arms.

Olindal turned his pain-filled gaze back to the satyr, “Pannamaarou, my friend, your songs give life, but they can also take it away.”

“No!” the pain, anger, and borderline betrayal he felt coursing through his veins was something the satyr had never felt before.

“You promised.”

“Damn you, you knew this was coming didn’t you? When you asked me to care for her, you knew.”

A pained sense of reservation filled Olindal’s voice, “I did not know what, and I did not know when, but I could feel something coming. Yes.”

Heavy, salty tears began forming in Pannamaarou’s eyes. “If I play the death song, you and Taffir and Aniyra and Enarra will all die.”

“I know that. So will the Knights, who will kill us all themselves if they’re not stopped… but not the children. You, the children, and all the fairy folk are immune to the song.” Olindal’s voice began to crack with grief. “You promised me, Pan, you promised.”

Pannamaarou ran his fingers along the flute he always kept hanging from the living, grassy belt around his waist. Mere moments felt like an eternity. “I will never forgive myself for this.”

“I will never forgive you if you do not… Please, Pan, protect the children.”

Olindal’s pleading sincerity pierced Pannamaarou’s heart like a fiery-hot blade. He could hear them outside, the blasted fiends of Kaludren. He knew they could not fight their way out, there were too many. He looked at the weeping infant in Rosemary’s arms. This was the only way, he knew that, but he also knew part of his own soul would die with his friends. “Whoever ordered this attack, will pay, not just with their life, but with their very soul.” Reluctantly, he raised the flute to his lips and began the first melancholy notes of the death song.

Pannamaarou closed his eyes and played on. The music’s cold notes permeated everything within the cottage, spreading out around it. Walls could not hold such a song at bay. This cold, forlorn, melancholy music pulled every ounce of life, that beautiful, vibrant life, out of all the vulnerable ones it touched. The song spread and spread, encompassing the countryside for miles around.

As the final note drifted from his flute onto the wind, Pannamaarou opened his eyes. Tears streaming down his face, he looked at the children there, Mageren and the infant in Rosemary’s arms. At some point during the song their tears, their weeping had stopped. The all-encompassing feeling of fear and apprehension was gone, replaced by an empty nothingness. He let his eyes wander to the lifeless bodies of his friends. They were still, quiet, peaceful, their eyes closed as if merely asleep. They could have been kings amongst men, had they so chosen. They had earned no less in life, they deserved no less in death. He would make sure they had it, but it would have to wait.

“Basil,” somehow his voice carried a strength he did not feel, “I will need you to lead us to where Sania and Lanvaren are hiding. Can you do that?”

Basil managed a weak nod in reply.

“Good,” he continued, “Rosemary, between you, Basil, and whatever of your sisters are nearby, can you raise a fog if need be, to cloak our path?”

“Yes,” the fairy’s reply was barely above a whisper, but determined nonetheless. “Where are we going?”

“I am not sure, but the children cannot stay here.” The satyr walked over to the young Mageren, kneeling down with his back to the boy. The child knew what to do; many a time he had held on for dear life as the satyr ran through the glen, carrying the child on his back. Mageren scooted himself off the chair, onto the satyr’s back, wrapping his legs around him, his arms around his strong neck. Pannamaarou slowly, carefully stood up, the young boy clinging onto him. Gracefully, he walked over to Rosemary and took the wide-eyed infant into his arms, nestling her safely and securely against his chest, by his beating heart. At that moment, he could see it, everything Olindal had said. He could see the spark bright in her forest-green eyes – a gift as ancient and sacred as time itself.

With a bit of effort, the satyr broke his gaze away from the baby’s hypnotic stare. Looking from one fairy to the next, he broke the momentary silence. “Please, Basil, lead the way.”

The fairy led the small party – herself, Rosemary, and Pannamaarou with the two children – out into the soon-to-be-fading light of evening. All around them, everywhere the song had touched, the previously vibrant life was washed away. The bodies of the would-be attackers lay strewn across the grass where they had fallen. The satyr paid them little attention though; he could not let his mind wander, he had to focus on the task at hand.

Basil led them into the surrounding forest, toward the brook they had come across just a short time before. Oh, how quickly things could change. They followed the path of the brook a short way up into the hills, a denser part of the forest. Basil stopped in front of a great, old oak tree and, raising her eyes, scanned the branches above. There, about five branches up, sat the children huddled together, precisely where she had left them. Her beautiful green wings beating against the air, she flew up to the children. After but a moment, Rosemary followed her. The children, both four sun-cycles in age, wrapped their arms around the two faeries. The young girl, Sania, clung to Rosemary, and Lanvaren, Mageren’s older brother, clung to Basil. The two faeries quickly carried the young ones down to the ground, setting them on their feet.

“Uncle Pan,” the young Lanvaren said as he let go of Basil and, reaching out, grasped the young Sania’s hand, “I think the trees went to sleep.”

“Yes, son, they did,” Pannamaarou could not help but smile at the young boy’s innocence. “They will awaken again though, in time.”

Lanvaren stood there, silently thinking for a moment, “Did Mum and Da go to sleep too? The song made the trees go to sleep. Basil said she’d bring Mum and Da, but they’re not here.”

“Yes, my child, they have gone to sleep.” The satyr tried to keep the pain he felt out of his voice, for the sake of the children. “I promised them I would look after you and keep you safe, and so, we must go on a journey, an adventure if you will.”

Lanvaren and Sania’s eyes lit up at the word adventure. “Will it be like the time you took us up to the old dragon’s cave in the mountains?” they asked excitedly, almost in unison.

“It will be a little like that,” the satyr chuckled, “but instead of old dragon’s caves, we’re going to go see the elves.”

“When do we get to leave?” asked Lanvaren, right on top of Sania’s, “Should we go tell Mum and Da?”

“Your parents already know we’re leaving, and we must leave right away.”

“Is it far?” Lanvaren asked, looking this way and that into the forest around them.

“It is, but it is a beautiful journey.”

“Pannamaarou,” Rosemary called out anxiously.

“Yes, what is wrong?” he looked at the fairy; the concern in her voice was mirrored in her eyes.

“The sun is about to set. She must be named before the sun sets this day.”

Pannamaarou looked down at the baby in his arms, the spark of her gift shining out through her brilliantly green eyes. The power flowing through her veins was as ancient as time itself; she deserved a name no less distinguished. “Her name is Moirana.”

Pannamaarou’s voice cracked, tears streaming from his eyes. So much time had passed, and yet the pain would never truly go away. No matter how long he went without thinking of the events of that night, the pain and emptiness of it would still consume him whenever he did. He looked up at the young woman sitting before him; he was aware of the others, but she held his attention. “You still have that same spark in your eyes, the same fire… You have so much of your father…”

“Pannamaarou,” her quavering voice betrayed her outwardly calm countenance.

“Yes, dear one. What is it?”

“Whether you think you deserve it or not… I forgive you, for my father’s death, for not keeping your vow to him, for not raising us up yourself… And, I thank you for saving our lives, both then and now, and for loving my family so much that, even now, it brings you to tears. I wish I had known these things long ago, but what is done is done. All we have is what is before us.” By the end, the tears she had fought so hard escaped her.

Pannamaarou reached out his hand and gently wiped away the tears from Moirana’s face. A weight he had not realized he carried began to dissipate. “Eat and rest, my child, you need to regain your strength. It would be wise for us to leave these walls by mid-day… Tonight we will sleep in the ever-so-beautiful, living forest, beneath the stars.”

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