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> Homebound, An Epilogue
ethuil
post Dec 4 2017, 01:40 PM
Post #1


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Throughout the city of Port Miere, a tense silence hung. From the moment that the ever-present net tore open, a lissom shadow cascading through it, the trapped citizens watched with trepidation, certain that something fundamental was changing in the city around them. Two hours later, it became bright - bright like Miere had not been in months upon months, even more brilliant than the twisted light of the Enkindled One. The true Sun, the Primal sun, a blazing dawn cresting within the mist of the Mittlenacht. Its effulgent rays streamed through the sky, glittering on the edges of the net that now seemed whole once more.

Those closest to the Citadel heard some of the commotion, a few even spotting the tired but victorious group of mercenaries that stumbled out from the dark building's depths. Another cluster of onlookers, stood in the Docks, watched as a single Reaver appeared in front of the dark ships and raised an ethereal spear aloft - the women and men before her roaring in triumphant victory. And as the tremors shook the city, its gradual return to Primus beginning with the inexorable pull of the Final Dawn, the Reavers seceded from within Port Miere, returning to their ships and remaining there.

In the days that pass thereafter, Port Miere continues its stable shift through the Mittlenacht. No longer forced to hide within the shadows, the Governor's resistance come to the surface and retake control of the city along with the Watch. Cordons are placed around the three remaining anomalies, sealing them off in an attempt to shield the city from their remaining weakness, and the other locations broken and torn within the city are beginning to be repaired at last.

"Soon," the people of Port Miere now say, with determined smiles and stubborn grins. "Soon we will be home."

--

On Primus, where the Xathrean Ocean now meets the land, the Eastern Waystation does not slow its activity. It is decreed by the Lord Inquisitor and his Deputy to be a permanent installation; a lighthouse of a kind, ever watching over the coast, observing the passage of the plane's entropy as it shall soon flow once more into the Grey Tug. Inquisitor Grey is installed as its permanent director, a promotion he takes with characteristic stoicness. Under his watch, the Waystation promises to become not simply a guardpost, but a research centre of some renown - taking many new employees from the shanty towns raised by the refugees of Keys.

Once, and only once, a woman with three green dots on her cheek comes to visit. She is welcomed into the Waystation with an equal mix of open arms and uneasy looks, as she passes into their care a wide, black sheet of stone: Salas's ritual map. It is installed permanently in the Waystation, with plans made to extend it to monitor not only any anomalous threats that may come to threaten Port Miere again, but to further empower the Inquisiton's efforts to monitor the Primal strength of the land.

Then, the map deposited, the woman vanishes. She is not seen again.

--

But a letter does arrive, many days later, delivered by a courier to the Department of Mercenary Affairs and quietly passed along by the new Senator to those whom it concerns.

Well, you did it.

I can't say I doubted it for a moment. Mercenaries are stubborn, after all. Grey tells me Miere is strong enough to weather the collapse of the remaining anomalies - stronger, even, than it was before it deconverged. If that's not a success, I don't know what is. Still. Congratulations. I hope you all go and get very drunk. I managed to wangle a day off for those of you that need it - consider it the last and best use of my former resources. I trust you'll use it on celebrating and not on, you know, going and saving the world again.

Thanks for letting me see it through to the end. I appreciate it. And - He says to tell you that "the thing with the explosion was pretty funny".

Romilda


--

Meanwhile, in an impossible library, a grim-faced ritualist lifts the next page of an ancient tome with wooden tweezers. Dust spills in the air around her, and she wrinkles her nose up, before turning her attention back to the next passage. Around her float a dozen more books, waiting to be read, forming an orderly queue at her behest.

"Alajos," the Princess states sharply, placing her tweezers aside. "Cease loitering and say whatever it is you are here for."

"Have you decided what to do about Delshad?"

Cleophas waves a hand dismissively. "Leave him. Whatever pact he has made, it cannot be undone. The Watcher of the Ages is quite skilled at that sort of thing. It would be purposeless to involve ourselves further."

"As you say, Warden," the Archritualist replies, smoothing down his robes. "What is it that you are working on, anyway?"

He moves towards the books, which suddenly become consumed by darkness run through with veins of silver.

"That is none of your concern, save that you are disturbing it."

"Then I will leave you to it." Alajos turns, pausing after but two steps. "You know, for someone who hates it in here, you haven't left for - what, two months? Three?"

"Get out, Alajos."

He vanishes. Cleophas sighs, and returns to reading the ancient text written decades after she was born.

--

Within a shrine to those dead and lost, but never forgotten, the faithful of Milo and Milora lay a cold body out upon a table. In death, the Exalted Darkness is not imposing. He is just a man - a young one at that, with soft features no longer twisted by wrath or revenge. The last touches of the Shadow of the First Evil are gone from his body, and even his spirit, where it hangs above - inexorably tangled with two others.

"She's right," laments the woman who clutches a pendant in her palm. "It's not going to be easy to separate them."

But they try anyway, spending every precious moment - clutched out from servitude - trying to unravel Louhi from Ilmatar and Ilmatar from Mielikki and Mielikki from Louhi. Late nights, early mornings, and snatches of unauthorised lunchtimes are poured into it. But the souls barely budge; every moment that it seems progress has been made, there is another failure. Another time they have to pull back, for fear of damaging what remains.

And after two weeks, the spirit hanging above Louhi's body fades. They sigh, and Liara returns the body to its safe enclosure.

--

"I just wanted to tell you," she says two days later, sat around a small table in a cluttered and messy kitchen. "Let you know it was all over with. You shouldn't need to worry about anything coming for her now, though I think Theo wants to keep the guard on you, anyway."

The man across from her smiles, before lurching down to the floor. "Thea! Stop it. You'll knock something over again. Come here, silly girl."

"Sef," pronounces the toddler, pointing at the soldier opposite her and her father. "Hep."

Something shifts in Liara's memory. A letter - the untidy scrawl unfolds before her eyes as if she were reading it over again - and a single word. Redemption. The child opposite her stares at her, as if reading her thoughts, and begins to glow with a pure, white light. "No," Liara mumbles to herself, grimacing. "I am not doing that."

Thea wails, and stretches out her hands across the table. "Hel!"

The light that explodes from her blinds them. When she stumbles to her feet, spear out, Liara blinks and manages to see outlines - Olmedun, opposite her, has grasped his daughter in his arms and seems to be holding her against the buffeting wash of her own power. Something on Liara's chest goes hot, then cold, then vibrates - fading as the light does too, leaving the two of them staring dumbfounded at the brilliant grin on the toddler's face.

"Sef!" Thea pronounces, tugging on her father's clothing as if nothing happened.

"I am so sorry," stammers Olmedun, shifting Thea around and shaking his head. "It - happens sometimes, she does things like this. They've become more often, but the priests are helping us understand it."

"And people like me coming in isn't helping. She should be in a normal place with normal people, not mercenaries. Look, I'm - I'm sorry. I'll go, maybe it'll calm her down."

Olmedun protests, but doesn't stop her. Liara all but runs down the street when the door shuts behind her, one hand clutched around her pendant.

--

"She did something. I don't know what. Damnit, I should never have gone there!"

Dusk frowns. "Well," he says, "have you looked at him?"

Murmuring a prayer, Liara releases the body kept safe within the pendant - and stares in astonishment. The light of the miracle ripples before them and leaves in its wake not a slender, male form - but a female one, with sandy hair and beautiful features. Stepping backwards and leaving a space, Liara tries again - a second body, tall and broad and strong, with dark hair and a thick beard. Only on the third time does the original body appear, lying out beside his siblings as if the three of them were young again.

Liara's cursing bounces off the stone walls of the shrine.

"They're separate," Dusk marvels, kneeling beside each of them and opening a channel of contact. No spirits linger within the bodies, nor above them, but each is whole and complete and apart from one another. Their voices sound in the room with a chorus of surprise. "She must have freed them."

--

That afternoon, a small honour guard of mercenaries convey three bodies up to the boarding plank of the largest Reaver ship. No longer twisted with anomalous manifestations, it still cuts an imposing figure within the docks of Port Miere, sails poised to be raised the moment that escape is possible. The Reavers on duty say nothing as they allow the group entrance, parting to open the way through onto the glossy, dark wood deck.

"Brother," sighs the spear of the Reaver Lord as she runs forward to touch the forehead of Mielikki's corpse, then Ilmatar's. "Sister. You shall endure."

And as one, the Reavers behind her sound a chorus of reply.

"You are eternal in the eyes of the Lord."


--------------------
- Rebecca
PS: My inbox is full on purpose. Please email stantz[at]gmail[dot]com if you need to get hold of me.
PPS: I just published my debut novel (:O) - check it out here if you like historical fantasy! - https://goo.gl/9YFgyL
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