The Price of Freedom, Epilogue

The cool breeze swept over Aefion, like a girl’s touch on his skin. He sat on the edge of the smooth, wooden jetty, his legs dangling above the pea-green water. In front of him the sea spread out, fading into the hazy, white distance. The water was chopping lightly and slapping playfully against the jetty to the background ambience of calling sea birds. Turning his gaze skyward, he could see nothing except for a vast, white expanse, like a blank page in a book. It reminded him of himself – the canvas had been prepared but his story was yet to be written. This blank page, this was the beginning.

Movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. High up, barely noticeable, several winged creatures with long tails floated lazily before wheeling and vanishing into the mist. Birds or lizards, he wondered, dreamily.

His attention was snapped back to earth by the sound of hooves clattering on the wooden boards of the jetty. Twisting around, he saw a broad-shouldered figure clad in shining plate armour approaching on a powerful, bay destrier. Behind the knight sat Cassandra, garbed in practical riding breeches and a clean, white blouse.

As the knight dismounted and lifted Cassandra down, Aefion stood.

‘Leon of Ardor?’ He asked, extending his hand in greeting. The knight removed the helmet from his head and shook out his mane of auburn hair.

‘Well met, Aefion,’ Leon replied, grasping the elf’s forearm and nearly crushing it. He wrapped his arm around Cassandra and swept a hand through his hair. ‘Now that Cassandra will have to take the responsibility of Queen, I thought I might offer her my aid.’

’I’m sure she will accept it gladly,’ Aefion replied, giving a mischievous smile.

’It’s good to have Leon back,’ Cassandra laughed. ’He’s been gone, away at Rosehearth in the south for six months.’ Aefion could see that she was clearly smitten. It was good to see her recovering from her ordeal. ‘Such a long posting…only the most heroic of knights could’ve accepted it. There’s so much to talk about!’

‘Well,’ Leon said gruffly, ‘My thanks are in order for rescuing this young brat. If there is anything you would have us do in return…’

’I’ll keep it in mind.’

‘Good luck for the journey back,’ Cassandra said gently. Taking Aefion in a hug, she stepped back and took a deep breath.

‘My good will go with you, friend,’ Leon declared. ‘May Loriell bless you.’

’I’m sure you will make a great queen…and king,’ Aefion said coolly, bowing his head in respect. Leon blushed, despite his outward confidence. ‘Look after yourselves, and your kingdom. The friendship between our realms will flourish.’ Then, shouldering his pack, the elf turned and began the trudge south. Behind him he heard the knight getting back onto his steed and helping Cassandra climb up behind him. As the hoof beats faded off into the distance, he glanced skywards. It looked like rain.

Aefion stood on a grassy ridge overlooking the small city of Vigilance. Its twin towers rose like stone spears, the bright red pennants secured to their tips snapping in the wind. His gaze fell to the drilling soldiers in the central courtyard, looking like shiny, metallic insects. Satisfied that his task here was done, he turned to look out across Lightwood Forest.

The forest sprawled as far as the eye could see, an undulating, tangled mass of green. Here and there distant clumps of treevyllas burst through the canopy like the protruding heads of giant saurians. Lightwood had once been the home of the Rad’El, one of the Ancestor Races, and since their departure had expanded to cover most of Belanyr. It was both ancient and terrible and yet he knew it was the island’s greatest feature. This was the realm of the Elde, the heart of Belanyr, and as far as he was concerned, the most splendid of all Aramir’s ten realms.

It was time to go home.

THE END

The Price of Freedom, Epilogue

Andy Bain

Hobart, Australia

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