Note to the reader: If you haven't read Shadow Hand yet, this story has something of a spoiler in it. Exercise caution.
I'm never sure how to begin writing something, and it's only more difficult when it is something that actually happened. So, well, here:
It was late at night, July 1st. I'd stayed up late, re-reading Dragonwitch. The window was cracked open, and I could hear the peeper frogs peeping away. With a snicker, I read the part where Eanrin did all his 'translations' by the cave. Then, I realized that the peepers had gone silent. And the air seemed to shift and swirl suddenly. Frowning, I looked up from the book...
And I saw him.
A fluffy, golden-orange cat sat near my bed. We only had one cat, and he was black, so some strange marmalade feline would have been strange enough. But this wasn't just any cat: he had no eyes, and his face wore a look of such absolute smugness, as though he was sure the world was blessed with being in the presence of his awesomeness. In a moment, in a blink, I knew who it was -- Eanrin.
I gaped at him, mouth open, eyes gone white. The book dropped from my hands. Then suddenly he stood before me, a scarlet clad knight.
My heart was shocked to a stop, and then slowly started again.
"Well, you must be the one," Sir Eanrin said, with a smile. Dramatically, he stretched out his hand to me and cried in that golden voice of his: "Maiden, the Far World is in dire need of your assistance. Will you come?"
I suppose I must have fainted, because the next thing I knew I lay in the Haven. I blinked up at the leafy sky, and the wind laughed at me as it blew through the trees.
Slowly, I sat up. The bed I lay on was soft and smelled like fresh forest moss. I stared at the trees, the silver pitcher by my bed, everything, with amazement.
While I sat there marveling, the door to the room opened. And, of course, who should step in but the Lady of the Haven, Dame Imraldera.
I could scarcely believe my eyes. Actually, at that point, I think I had been convinced this was some hallucinogenic dream or something. Yet, if this wasn’t real, it seemed strange that Dame Imraldera didn’t look quite like I’d thought she would. She was similar to a young Kate Winslet. Obviously her hair and eyes and skin were darker, but . . .
Anyway, Dame Imraldera smiled and bid me welcome. She asked if I was alright, and I nodded.
“What is your name?” She asked.
“Rebeckah...people call me Beckah.” I said.
“Beckah, I am Dame Imraldera.”
“Yes, I know.” I smiled, feeling a little giddy.
A frown creased her brow. "You...-" she shook her head. "No. Never mind. I’m afraid we don’t have much time.”
She paused a moment, as though uncertain how to begin, and then ...
"The Far World has been poisoned."
I blinked at her. "Um...I'm sorry, what?"
"Immortals everywhere are succumbing to it. Queen Bebo was one of the first. No one has died yet -- thankfully -- but so very many are ill, and some have even fallen unconscious. You must help," Dame Imraldera begged. "Please."
I stared at her. "I'm- I'm sorry, but...help? What can you expect me to do?"
Imraldera suddenly looked very uncertain. "The Prince directed Eanrin to a Path, told him to follow it. He said there would be a young woman, and she would be able to find the cure. And he found you, Beckah. You must know what to do."
This was all confusing to me. If he'd wanted to pull someone from our world to help them, why did he pick me? They could have gotten a doctor, or something -- or Anne Elisabeth Stengl. These were her books; if anyone would know what to do it would be her.
Why me? I wondered.
The door opened then, and I looked up as Eanrin stuck his head in. “Ah, I see the lass has awoken.”
Imraldera introduced me, and Eanrin swept a bow. “Pleasure. Imraldera, old thing, Oeric has brought more patients for you.”
Imraldera looked tired. “I’m coming, Eanrin.” She told him
He whisked back out, and Imraldera sighed. “I wish he wouldn’t sound so cheerful all the time.” She muttered to herself. “Not now.”
Then she stood up and looked at me again. “The sick are being brought here so we can tend to them. You can come with me, if you like. We mortals aren’t in any way affected, of course.”
I nodded. Getting off the bed, I followed her out of the room and down the corridor.
“And who knows,” she continued, sounding as if she wanted to convince herself. “You might realize you do know a cure. My Prince would not have brought Eanrin to you, Beckah, if there wasn’t anything you could do.”
Imraldera went a little ways down the corridor, then stepped between two birch trees and into a room. Several beds had been crowded into it, and an immortal lay in each. I scanned the faces, wondering if any of the characters -- people -- I knew would be there. But none of them looked like anyone I’d read about.
“More from Arpiar?” Imraldera asked. I glanced at her. She’d knelt beside one of the beds and was feeling a young girl’s forehead.
“And there’s yet more there. I’ll return to bring them.” A man said, and then I realized he must be Oeric.
“If they keep coming, we won’t have any room.” Imraldera said, standing and pouring water into a cup. She held it to the girl’s lips, who drank weakly.
As I watched, all the euphoria I’d been experiencing drained from me. It wasn't worth the risk, I decided, to think this was a dream. Even if it was one, it wasn't worth the risk. No one had died yet, Imraldera had said. But if a cure wasn’t found, someone might.
I couldn't bear just standing there surrounded by all the ill, so I stepped back between the birch trees and out into the hall.
“God,” I whispered. “What do you want me to do?”
And then, I heard the wood thrush.
Shivers went up through me. (What words are there to describe listening to the Master sing? He was singing to me.) I could hear the words in the silver trilling, and I don‘t think I‘ll ever forget them:
Beyond the Final Water falling,
The Songs of Spheres recalling,
When you do not understand,
Won’t you follow me?
“I will,” I whispered.
* * * *
While Imraldera tended to the patients, I pressed her for information. If I was going to find a cure, I’d need to know as much as I could.
“You said it was poisoned, but by what?” I asked her. “And when did it start?”
“I don’t know when it started, I don’t know if anybody does. All at once, everyone was being affected. But we know what caused it. We discovered that right away.”
She paused a moment to brush hair back from her face. “All the water in the Far World comes from Goldstone River.” She told me. “At its base, someone -- we’re not certain who -- but someone put iron in it.”
Imraldera bit her lip and closed her eyes. “That’s deadly to Faerie folk. And that water went everywhere … we’re fortunate that it didn't kill them all right off.”
Feeling like it was probably a stupid question, I asked her if something had been done to take care of the iron in Goldstone River.
“Childe Lionheart and Sir Imoo were sent as soon as we knew.”
I thought about what Imraldera had told me, and tried to remember if I’d ever read anywhere what the Faeries did when they came in contact with iron. It would burn them, I knew, but what did they do to treat it?
I asked Imraldera if it would be all right for me to take a look through her library, in case there was something there. She told me to go right ahead. “And, if you see Eanrin…tell him I need his help in singing over the patients?”
I told her I would.
It was after I went out into the corridor and tried to find my way to the library that I realized something: reading descriptions of how to get to a place and actually knowing the directions are two very different things. In short, I got a little lost.
I probably would have wandered around for hours. But, thankfully, I ran into our dear poet-cat.
"I see you've quite recovered from your swoon." He smiled at me, leaning against a door frame.
"I'm sorry about that, fainting." I said a little sheepishly.
He smirked. "Oh, it was no surprise. Indeed, it happens quite often when maidens catch a glimpse of me. And 'twas no trouble, really. You were rather heavy, but I'm quite strong."
I blinked at him. Then a laugh erupted out of me.
Eanrin looked surprised, and he arched his brows at me.
"I'm sorry -- you're just such a cat." I explained, biting back chuckles.
"Yes, well. I'm more than just a cat.” He said, standing straighter. "I am the great and illustrious Sir Eanrin, Knight of Farthestshore, Bard of Rudiobus, and poet renowned across the Near World and the Far. Perhaps you have heard of me?"
“Oh, yes," I said, still smiling. "You're the man who wastes whatever talent he might have writing silly verses dedicated to a chit you don't even care for."
Okay, in hindsight I'll admit that that was not very nice of me; but it felt good to say it.
Eanrin’s smirk dropped. I think if he’d been a cat, he would have growled at me.
Just then the door at the end of the hall opened, and two men with golden hair rushed in. They each carried a person in their arms.
“Oi, you, cat!” One of the men cried. “Quickly, where can I put her?”
Eanrin turned around. “Glomar? Is that…do I smell that luminous star, my muse, the one and only-”
“Yes, it’s Gleamdren!” Glomar growled. “None of your going on. She’s sick. And she wouldn’t let us bring her here neither, but she’s gone and fainted. Where's a room for her?”
Either I’d gotten used to all this, or the gravity of the situation had finished impressing itself on me. Because when all that happened, I didn’t have to resist the urge to squeal at getting to meet Gleamdren and Glomar -- and I am very proud of that.
Eanrin led them to a room, and I followed behind. Gleamdren and the other woman (I think they said her name was Muriel) were laid on beds, and Imraldera came in to check on them.
Eanrin made a big fuss, sighing over ‘his Lady Gleamdrene’, and the weary look on Imraldera’s face grew heavier. Captain Glomar knelt quietly at the foot of Gleamdren's bed, looking horribly anxious and concerned.
Eventually, Gleamdren awoke.
“Brightest light!" Eanrin cried in a pitiful voice, dropping to kneel at her bedside. "Oh, that you should be struck by this cursed disease. How are you, my One?” He pressed one hand over his heart, and had the other reaching as though he did not quite dare to touch her.
Gleamdren, her face flushed with fever, narrowed her eyes at him. Then she crossed her arms and turned her head away.
Watching them honestly made me feel like gagging. Really, it was beyond disgraceful. I might have started scolding Eanrin if I stayed there any longer, so I asked Imraldera if she could be so good as to show me the library.
She nodded, eyes carefully averted from the cat-man.
“Have you any ideas yet?” She asked me as she led the way.
“No…I’m sorry. I really am.”
Imraldera gave me a sad smile. “It’s all right, Beckah.…”
But it wasn't. I felt like crawling under a rock.
The Haven Library is at least as impressive as we've all imagined. I can't even think of how to describe it. Wonderful. Spectacular. Sublime. So many books -- chronicles, legends, prophecies -- I could have looked up anything. (How did Eanrin lose his eyes, exactly?) And all those mosaics on the floor...I had to bite my lip and force myself to concentrate.
For shame, Beckah. I scolded myself. Any minute now, you could get word that Bebo died because you’re all giddy and wasting time.
And then, standing there in the doorway of the library, I realized something. I'm thickheaded, I suppose -- because it took me so long to think that maybe the cure could never be found here in this universe. That was why someone had been brought from our world. Duh. (Although in my defense, no one else had thought of that either.)
"Imraldera..." I began. I turned to where she stood, a little further in the library, to my left. And before I could say anymore, she crumpled to the floor.
* * * *
I ran over to her. "Imraldera?" I asked, gently shaking her. But she didn't wake up. She was breathing, and her pulse seemed fine.
I wasn't certain what to do, so went out to the corridor and howled for Sir Eanrin. After a moment, he appeared. I told him what had happened, that Imraldera had just suddenly collapsed. His face went white, and he rushed to her.
"I- I think it's just exhaustion." I told him. "Has she even actually been getting sleep?"
“Lumé love me, I don’t know.” Eanrin gathered Imraldera in his arms. “She’s been devoting so much of herself to caring for everyone brought here. ...You fool girl.” He murmured.
I hurried after Eanrin as he carried her down several corridors. It seemed forever before he finally stepped through two pine trees and into what must have been her room.
A bed stood against one wall. Hurrying to it, I pushed back the sheets (which seemed to be made of apple blossoms), and then helped Eanrin settle Imraldera down.
As I reached to pull the sheets over her, my hand brushed against Eanrin's. It felt like I'd touched a hot pan.
“You’re burning up!” I exclaimed. “Eanrin. You’re sick, aren’t you?”
He didn’t pay any attention to me, because just then Dame Imraldera began to stir. With a groan, she opened her eyes. Eanrin moved to the corner of the bed, away from her.
“What happened?” Imraldera asked.
“You fainted,” I told her. “You shouldn’t push yourself so hard, you know.”
“I … I should be tending to the ill,” she said softly, as if she hadn’t heard me.
She started to rise, but Eanrin placed a hand on her shoulder and stopped her. “Easy now, my dear. You won’t be any use to them if you’re collapsing from exhaustion all the time, will you?”
Dame Imraldera reached up to move his hand off her, and then she frowned. She had felt how hot he was. “Eanrin…you feel hot. And you’re flushed…”
“A little overheated, old girl -- nothing more.”
“He’s sick, Imraldera. He should be resting.”
I think Eanrin glared at me then; I can‘t remember.
Imraldera got a scared, worried look on her face. “Eanrin-”
“I’m quite perfectly fine.”
“No, she's right. How long were you going to hide this?”
So Imraldera told Eanrin that he needed to take to his bed, and he objected with a charming smile. The argument went on for a little while longer. Imraldera had gotten up, and when Eanrin stood up too, I could see that he was looking weak. She told him he looked like he was about to keel over, and that he should just lie down on her bed while she and I looked in on the sick and continued in our search to find a cure. Eanrin kept objecting and smiling. Finally, Imraldera pointed at him, and said (in a very commanding voice), “Eanrin. Lie down. Now.”
He just stood there for a moment, then he sat on the edge of the bed looking a little indignant. And I had that line from Moonblood running through my head, how “Only two people in all the worlds could command Bard Eanrin …”
Well, Imraldera ordered him not to get up, and then she turned to me and asked if I’d found anything yet.
I blinked, having gotten a little used to being a background character.
“Well…I think I might know where to find something.”
A bit of the worry drained from her face, revealing the hope underneath. “Yes? Where?”
I explained how I thought that there might be something in my world -- universe, whatever -- that would help.
“So, all I need is for someone to show me a Path to get me back there.”
“Never fear!” cried our dear poet, standing and wobbling a little. His face was blotching, a mix of deathly white and feverish red. “I shall-”
“Eanrin, sit right back down.” Imraldera said sternly.
He obeyed, grumbling to himself.
Imraldera took my arm and led me out of her room. “I can show you a Path that belongs to the Prince, Beckah. Walk down it, holding to your purpose, and it will lead you where you must go.”
We went down many passageways until she brought me to the door leading out of the Haven. Just outside, there were two holly bushes. Imraldera pointed me towards them, said that the Path led right through them, and set me on it.
I was getting a scared. If all went well, I’d be back home soon. But that was ‘if all went well’. And once I got to my world, how was I supposed to get back? And there might not even be a cure in our world. What would I do then?
I was working myself into a tizzy, and Imraldera must have seen it.
“Do not worry,” she told me with a reassuring smile. “The Prince will be with you; trust in him. But be careful. Don't stray from this Path. If you wonder Pathless in the Wood—”
“I know. It will take me and turn me about. I could end up in Guta’s pit, or something. And the Wood will eventually drag me down to the center, to the Dark Water.”
Imraldera blinked. “Yes … yes, that's right. Take care, Beckah.”
She embraced me, and we said good-bye. Then I took step, onto the Path, and started through the Wood Between.
* * * *
Walking a Faerie Path is just like the books say. My peripheral vision blurred, strides with every step, so on. Despite its blurriness, I could see others in the Wood on either side of me. At least, I think I could. I swear that I saw Torkom (still as goblinish as ever), pushing his cart along. But maybe that was just my mind playing tricks on me.
I don’t know how long I was on the Path, then suddenly I became aware of an almost blinding light ahead of me. The Path led me to it. I stepped in the light, squinting my eyes, and then…and then I was standing in my bedroom.
That was almost stranger than anything else.
My knees wobbled, and I sunk onto my bed for a minute then jumped back up. I didn’t have much time, and even less of an idea of where to start.
After thinking for a bit, I dashed out of my room and to my dad’s office. He kept a large oak bookcase full of different reference books, including an impressive encyclopedia set.
One of these days, I’m going to write a scathing letter to the Britannica people. Dear Sir or Madam, your books told me diddly-squat....
Groaning with frustration, I shoved a volume back on the shelf and turned to the internet.
I decided that best thing would be to look up what to do when people -- humans, mortals -- have iron poisoning. This is what I learned:
“When iron builds up in a person’s blood, it can cause fever, vomiting, delirium, comas, and even death.”
All of the Faeries who were ill had at least some of those symptoms, so I read on
“Great advancements in treating of iron poisoning had taken place with it the last fifty years or so. The patients should be given Deferoxamine Hydrochloride, via a subcutaneous injection.”
Great! I thought, staring at the computer screen. And what, pray tell, is that?
After a little more searching, I found out a subcutaneous injection is when you take the needle, and you inject it in between layers of skin, not in a vein or anything. Deferoxamine Hydrochloride is actually available almost anywhere, Wal-Mart, Rite, CVS, etc.
Wal-Mart would likely be the only one open this late. It was still 11 o'clock, July 1st, even though I'd been gone for who knew how long. I felt such a thrill of thankfulness I hadn't returned, oh say six months later.
I gathered my money and crept form my room. A flashlight was sought and found, and I grabbed the keys to our car and snuck outside.
And tripped over our dog, who was laying in front of the door. He let out a yelp and a howl so loud I had to cover my ears. He could have woken the dead -- but, somehow, he thankfully didn't wake my family. I didn't want to have to take the time to explain everything to them.
I drove to Wal-Mart, my heart just shy of bursting from tension the whole time. I bought the Deferoxamine and non-metal cannulaes, and got some really weird looks. I kept smiling and trying my hardest not to look like a crazy person, because I was a little afraid they might think I was some chemical terrorist and then they'd call the police on me. Thank goodness, they did not. Carefully, I tucked the vials and things into a messenger bag I had brought with me. Then I left the store, wondering what exactly I would do now.
"I need a Path, a gate," I whispered, standing by my car and looking up at the night sky. "What should I do? Do I have to go back to my room? Please, help."
I looked around me anxiously. It was dark, with only the light from Wal-Mart and the signs of the other stores, and the lights in the parking lot. Occasionally a car drove by. I glanced about, fidgeting with my messenger bag. And then my eyes caught on two trash cans standing against the wall by the door.
The wall. There was a Path leading through the wall.
I could see it, kind of, there between those two garbage cans. It was...I don't know how to describe it. I stepped up to it, hesitated, then took another step and found myself walking through the wall.
* * * *
The doors of the Haven were made of a dark wood, and intricately carved. They were large, and looked as though they belonged at the entrance of some grand and beautiful medieval cathedral. Excitement pulsed through me as I followed the path up to them and pushed the doors open.
I called out, "Imraldera? Dame Imraldera? It's Beckah!"
Invisible attendants swarmed around me. "You're back! You're back!" They cried. "Do you have something? Do you?"
"Yes, I do." I laughed as they pushed me along the corridors until I was deposited outside Dame Imraldera's room. I pushed the door open and stepped in.
Eanrin still lay on the bed, now asleep, and his face flushed even more than it had been before. Imraldera sat on the floor with her head resting on the bed, also asleep. It looked as though she had fallen asleep while singing over him.
I woke her up and told her that I had a cure.
"Light's Above be praised," she breathed, sitting up quickly and pushing some stray wisps of hair from her face.
After explaining to her what needed done, I pulled the covers off of Eanrin. He shivered a little more and murmured something feverishly, but didn't wake up.
"We can try it out on Sir Eanrin first," I suggested. Since we're here. So, the best place to give the injection is here." I placed my hand on my stomach.
Imraldera helped me strip Eanrin of his doublet and his outer shirt until he wore only the thin white under one. He slept on. As I pushed up his undershirt, I realized I was blushing. And then, the simple knowledge that I blushed only made me blush all the more. My face felt like it had been placed in a blazing fire.
Anyway, Imraldera watched closely as I showed her how to fill a needle with Deferoxamine. Somewhat chary, I injected Eanrin and put a bandage on him. Only then did Imraldera take her eyes off the needle, and we both looked anxiously up at his face.
But he didn't wake up suddenly and miraculously healed. We waited, but he didn't. The Deferoxamine would take a little time. So, since we could obviously not just sit there waiting, Imraldera and I went to tend others. Starting with Queen Bebo.
The Flowing Gold was breath-taking, spilling out around her, trailing off the bed. Pure, flowing, golden sunlight. And the next bed over from her was a burly man with a black beard who must have been King Iubdan. Both were unconscious.
Imraldera carefully gave Queen Bebo her subcutaneous injection, and I gave King Iubdan his. Then Imraldera and I spilt the supplies between us. I went off through the Haven, injecting a goblin here, a Rudioban there, a dwarf here, and so on. Quite a few immortals were rather snobbish.
There was this one man, who had robin feathers growing with his auburn hair, was fully conscious and wouldn't let me inject him because I was mortal. I didn't know what to do, then poof: Sir Oeric appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
"You are going to let the girl cure you." He said, his voice deep and commanding.
The man crossed his arms; and even though he was lying down and I standing, he still managed to look down his nose at me. "No." He declared.
"Very well," Oeric said. And then he all but sat on him.
Feather-boy spewed curses at the both of us; he was very creative with his dragon anatomy. I ignored him, but he howled so loudly as I slid the needle into him that I almost went deaf. Sheesh. Maybe I should just let the iron kill you, crybaby. How'd you like that?
By the time I'd covered my half of the Haven, hours must have passed, and I was absolutely exhausted. I wandered through the corridors and found myself at the library. I went in and flopped down in a chair. A short while later, Dame Imraldera came in.
"Ah, I thought I might find you here. You'd seemed in such awe of the library before."
"Of course. It's magnificent."
Imraldera smiled, and I could see the pride she took in the place. "Oeric told me you had some trouble."
I shrugged. "A little," I said, and then told her about Feather-boy. Dame Imraldera shook her head and rolled her eyes. She sat down at her desk with a sigh, and began writing on a manuscript that had been lying there. I was so curious, I had to ask.
"Are you recording the escapades during 'The Great Poisoning of Faerie, and Their Rescue Through the Strange Mortal Maid Beckah.'?"
Imraldera looked up at me for a second and then laughed. "What a title! And yes, I am. So much more has happened for me to add. And then I'll go check and see if Eanrin has woken yet."
She let me read a little of the beginning of it. It was rather surprising. Imraldera's writing is so very like Anne Elisabeth's. I kept thinking I should be holding one of the actual books. That got me thinking again how strange all this was; then realizing that no, it wasn't, really. For other books it might have been. But Tales of Goldstone Wood has worlds and Times colliding quite frequently.
"I wonder," I began, having just thought of something. "I wonder how Ragniprava and ChuMana are doing. I mean, they're all alone -- except for their collections --, so if they got sick no one would be there to help them. No one would even know."
"They can journey here if they're feeling ill," said a cheery voice from behind us. "I, for one, will not be venturing into their demesnes to inquire after their health."
My head snapped around, I saw Eanrin standing in the door way. He was fully dressed in all his scarlet elegance, and running a comb through his hair.
"Eanrin!" I cried, and I had to keep myself from running up to him and throwing my arms around him. "Oh, thank goodness you've recovered so soon!" I said, a smile splitting my face. "Dame Imraldera and I were both so worried."
"Indeed?" He didn't have eyes, but I got the sense he was glancing Imraldera's way.
She'd stopped writing, but hadn't gotten up or even looked at Eanrin. There was a strange, unreadable expression on her face, and her hands were clasped together around her pen.
I looked back over to where Eanrin had been standing. His smile suddenly became all the brighter. "Then, you shall be pleased to know I have begun to compose a new ballad!"
Dame Imraldera muttered, "Not another one."
I glanced at her, then back at our poet.
If he'd heard Imraldera, he ignored her. He went on, telling us that it was the tale of all that had just happened, for it would need to be captured and kept. There Imraldera reminded him that she was her job, recording and chronicling tales and events. To which Eanrin replied, smiling, "Ah, but my poem shall be so much better."
What I could see of Imraldera's face tightened, but she didn't respond.
"Would you let us hear it?" I asked, before Sir Eanrin could say anything more obnoxious. Because, even though it would be awful, I really did want to hear the ballad. Imraldera, not feeling the same way, turned in her chair and gave me A Look.
This is something like how it went:
"Ne'er was such a sorrow seen
In all the Far World.
Who would have
Guessed rescue would come
Through a mortal girl?
But a time-bound lass
Indeed 'twas, guided by
The hands of Lumil Eliasul. Now,
Hear of what came to pass."
There was more than that, but that's about all I can remember. (O, alas! how you miss out on Eanrin's genius.) After Eanrin had finished, he smiled grandly and waited for our praise. I decided it would be best not to say anything.
But Imraldera made some sarcastic comment that I can't recall, and it sent Eanrin (in cat form) slinking disdainfully from the room. I watched him go, and...well, fellow Goldstone Wood Imps, when one's had enough, one's had enough.
"Why did you do that?"
Dame Imraldera looked at me, blinking. "Do what?"
"That. You just ...and...Errh! I know he's about as much a poet as a rock, but you just-" I stopped, trying to gather what I was saying.
"You were distraught while that iron was poisoning him, I could see that you were. I mean, you love him."
Imraldera paled, and she tried to interrupt me, but I spoke over her because she needed a talking to. Eanrin too, but he wasn't here right now and she was. "Everyone knows you love him -- well, not Felix, but never mind that. Everyone else knows. So why are you two like this? I used to think it was just him, refusing to admit his love for all these thousand-odd years. But now ... is it because you rejected him? Did you realize your love later, and then he lost his eyes and now he feels inferior so he denies that he loves you, and you got miffed about that? Because he does love you, Imraldera -- and you love him, so why are you-"
"Beckah," Dame Imraldera finally managed to speak over me. Her eyes narrowed and she stood up. "I think you should leave now, Beckah." One of her hands was clenched at her side, the other she pointed at the door.
I'd made her hate me. I'd put my foot in my mouth, and made Dame Imraldera despise me. That made me feel miserable, but as I left the library I felt glad of having my say.
When I was out in the hallway, I suddenly knew that it was time for me to go. It was an overwhelming feeling of, Well, my job here is done.
I didn't want to go. If I had to leave, it was going to be kicking and screaming.
"No, please," I murmured. "Can't I just stay a little longer? Please?"
A peace flowed over me, and I knew that I couldn't.
"All right," I whispered. I began walking to the Haven door.
"Can't I even go say good-bye-"
No, I couldn't.
I opened the doors...then hesitated. "Faerie attendants?" I called out.
After a moment, they came.
"Can you find Eanrin?" I asked. "Tell him that Beckah had to leave, and that I said 'Cheery-bye'," (that made me grin) "and that Imraldera needs to speak with him in the library. Urgently. Immediately."
I figured that was worth a shot; maybe something would come about. I waved to the invisibles, and stepped out of the Haven. I guess a Path was provided for me (I couldn't see it -- darn), and I traveled through the Wood until there was that bright light.
A step through it, and I stood once again outside Wal-Mart, where the sun had just risen and turned the sky a golden-peach.
* * * *
And that's the end. I thought I should let others who read the series know about this, as a caveat, a precaution. You should be made aware that reading this series may open you to the risk of having a character pop in on you. And if you go with them, who knows what might happen?
I've spent the last two weeks writing down everything that I can remember about what happened -- about my adventure. I carried a notebook around with me, and wrote whenever I could. This made my family both suspicious and curious. My brother snuck a look, and now tells everyone (in a dismissive voice) I'm writing 'fan-fiction'.
Right. Keep telling yourself that, brother dear.
The End (or...maybe not....)
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