Writer's Notes: at long last, we've reached the end (kind of). The Epilogue chapter is always a long one, as there's so many things going on; had the full story been written, this epilogue that you are about to read would probably have been broken up into two or three smaller chapters (it's nearly 3,000 words, so assuming an average conversion rate of 1:5 between "synopsis chapters" and full "prose chapters", the complete Epilogue would have been about 15,000 words).
It's a bright sunny day on Minas Tirith. The courtyard is packed full with people. Boromir, Steward Of Gondor, is still limping, but doing much better after his injuries from Osgiliath. But that doesn't bother him at all. Instead, he proudly holds in his hands a crown. And then, to great fanfare, he lowers the crown down onto the waiting head of Aragorn, crowning him as King Elassar Of The Reunited Kingdoms Of Gondor And Arnor.
Pretty much everyone who was someone throughout the whole Middle Earth arc is present: Jonathan Teller, Angela Cheong, Kyra Lynn, Steve Lynn, Gandalf, King Théodred, Éowyn, etc.
And yes, even Krash and Lunk too are present. For their part in ending the war and negotiating a peace settlement, they have been granted amnesty and installed as puppet rulers of the now rump state of Mordor (with Gorgoroth destroyed during Mt. Doom's eruption, "Mordor" as a political entity has pretty much collapsed and is now reduced mainly to the various Orc bands and warlords controlling the lands of Nurnen, which are slightly more hospitable).
After the crowning, as different guests come forward to present their regards and gifts to the new king, Krash and Lunk get delayed for a bit, as Lunk got distracted stuffing his face with food from the buffet table and making a mess.
After the coronation, the festivities continue on into the night. Frodo meets Gandalf and asks him what they're going to do now. Gandalf, however, warns Frodo that their adventure isn't over it, and he explains that he has had visions, possibly Eru Iluvatar itself communicating with him. He concludes by saying there is much work still to be done for him. Frodo frowns. He wants to believe that it's all over, wants to believe that he saw VIDI throw the ring into the magma, but deep down, he has a feeling that it's not over.
Now that the UNSV Joseph Conrad has finally arrived with additional reinforcements, some of the Marines who first came on the Belo Horizonte are allowed to take a brief leave of absence and a well-deserved rest. Jan Adamsen is sitting at a new outdoor cafe that's opened at Crimson Equinox, in anticipation of the arrival of the colonist wave. It's a nice little place, and the coffee they serve is pretty decent (the Conrad brought several dozen tons of coffee from Earth to replenish the colonies' dwindling supplies, as well as allow The Company™ to finally start opening "StarBux" coffeeshops at all their colonies!), but what's really on his mind is someone he's supposed to be meeting.
Kyra Lynn enters the cafe, looking a little disheveled and tired from the last few months on L5, but otherwise she still looks as angelic and beautiful in Jan's eyes as he remembers her. She sits down with him and they have a chat, talking about... stuff.
First, they talk about Phil, who died during the first raid on Isengard, and they talk about Jeff Caldwell, who perished during the Battle Of Pelennor Fields. They talk about Abigail Flanagan and the Dark Elves, Tz'arkan The Daemon, Saruman and the slave women rescued from Isengard.
And then, they decide "fuck it" and kiss openly, right there in public.
Over at Beautiful Horizon, Miranda Riversong is grieving over what happened to Abi. On a hillside overlooking the sea, at sunset, she holds a small candlelight funerary service for Abi. The funeral is a simple and silent affair, just Miranda herself, joined by Dino and Max, Jonathan Teller, Angela, Sgt. Rico, and a few other people from the colony. Dino and Max in particular are especially upset - with Abi killed and Chris turned traitor, their little friend group is down from 5 to 3. But they do their best to console Miranda as she breaks down sobbing.
They leave a small memorial to Abi, a little gravestone with her name, decorated with a photograph of Abi as she was in life, as well as flowers and a small Elven brooch that Miranda got while she was at Isengard. The small grave overlooks the sea, and the sun is setting, casting a beautiful orange light over the entire colony, and over the grave of Abigail Flanagan.
At Crimson Equinox, an important meeting is being held. Saito and Müller chair the meeting, although Django is present as well, having insisted on it, even though he's still recovering from his ordeal with the Dark Elves. They discuss pressing matters: the security of the colony, further developmental and military aid to the Empire and other possible native allies (Kislev and the Dwarven Kingdoms in particular), as well as the ongoing research into thaumic energy. It is mentioned that Dr. Savage and Hyneman are over at L4 right now, testing out the new "Thaumic Higher Energy Laser" (THEL) project, one of The Company™'s first major breakthroughs in attempting to fuse science and magic.
They also discuss the possibility of several personnel transfers - now that they will be establishing a colony on L3. It is mentioned that CEO's orders have come in that Dir. Fred Kovacs will be transferred over to L3 to assume co-directorship with Ryan Chang (a new person who came in on the Conrad), and that several other personnel from L4, L5, and L0 are all being considered for transfer to L3. In addition, it is mentioned that there are concerns over Miranda Riversong's ability to maintain her competent performance in the wake of Abi Flanagan's death, so a transfer is also being considered for Miranda.
After the meeting, Django leaves the command center and heads on over to the Biomedical Center to meet the staff there. He insists on meeting Cristina in person. He's taken up to her room, where she's still recovering, choosing to work from her bed. He sits down by her bedside and talk about stuff. They talk about Bran, who has decided to stay here on L0. They talk about Jan and Valten too. They also talk about Aurelia, the Elven woman who was brought to their colony, and the possibility of sending a mission to Ulthuan. And they talk about Abi.
All of this conversation proves to be difficult for both of them, as Django and Cristina are both still very distraught and upset from their experiences aboard the Black Ark. They end the scene embracing one another tightly, though whether it's for comfort in these hard times, or there's something else going on, well, I leave that to you, the reader, to decide.
Emperor Karl Franz is at Salkaten, watching as Imperial troops set about the task of repairing the town as well as helping the slaves and prisoners rescued from the Dark Elves. Many of them are former Imperials, although it is uncertain if any of them still have homes to return to (seeing as many of them were abducted years ago). The Company™ and the UN have offered a lot of medical supplies and food and other supplies, but eventually the freed slaves will have to be settled down somewhere. The Emperor wonders about the new "workers' towns" The Company™ is talking about building, as well as this new thing called "railroads" that The Company™ have shown him, complete with a new "Imperial Locomotive Works" to be built soon enough.
The Emperor stops to speak with Valten and to Brother Ulryk. Poor Valten lost a hand in the battle with Tz'arkan; he has since received a cybernetic hand as a replacement, although he is still getting used to it. Moreover, it's implied (though not explicitly stated) that Valten is upset and coping with the revelation that maybe Karl, not Valten, is Sigmar Reborn after what he witnessed during the battle. Valten spent years in Luthor Huss's retinue, being told that he was destined to be Sigmar Reborn, and even though he was always reluctant about it, still, to have that great honor taken away from him is difficult for him to cope with.
Ulryk, meanwhile, seems to have come around somewhat, after having seen the Emperor take out Tz'arkan. When we first saw Ulryk, he was a fanatically devoted follower of Luthor Huss, but now he seems to have lightened up considerably.
The Emperor is respectful and expresses his appreciation for what Valten and Ulryk accomplished during the battle (even if Valten did get his ass handed to him), but then asks where Huss is. When Ulryk tells him of the latest he heard of Huss's whereabouts, The Emperor thinks to himself that there may be internal trouble for The Empire ahead as the traditionalists inevitably clash with the more pro-modernist factions.
At the TEC's secret headquarters, nestled deep within Olympus Mons on Mars, the TEC council convenes yet again. They discuss the information they obtained from Mr. Fukushitsu and his current status (hint: it is not very good), as well as their plans for the EE System and other similar star systems known to have thaumically active habitable world on them. (And yes, there are other inhabited worlds out there in this universe, just out in different star systems. But that's another story).
The purpose of TEC's introduction in this story was to set them up for a greater role in future storylines moving forward, as well as to hint that TEC may indeed be actively worshiping a being who may or may not be one-and-the-same with the Void Dragon in 40k lore.
Dominic Kobori is lying down on the beach, relaxing. Ellen Kovacs is lying down next to him. The waves are crashing upon the shore, and there's a light breeze blowing. Just then, Ellen's phone buzzes. She checks it and sees a message. She shows it to Dom. Dom doesn't describe what the message says to the reader, only that a new matter has come up that requires their urgent attention. He abruptly gets up, and the entire beach around them flickers and disappears - turns out it was all just one big hologram!
Dom and Ellen leave the hologram room, and quickly get dressed up again. Ellen opens up a panel on the wall to reveal... a weapons rack, loaded with all kinds of cool cyberpunk weapons and gadgets. Dom and Ellen load up on guns and ammo, close the weapons rack again, and then they get into the elevator. Ellen sneaks a quick "good luck" kiss before the elevator doors close, and they're off on their next mission.
Where are they going? Are they going after another saboteur in The Company™? A lead on who Mr. Fukushitsu was working for? Are they heading to another city, or to a different planet, or hell, even another time or universe? Who knows? Point is: it's a new mission, and the adventure continues.
Demetria Raskalnikova arrives at a boot camp where The Company™ is training its new "penal legion". It's located in Kislev, on land that the Tzarina has granted to The Company™ for establishment of a satellite colony. It's also the ideal training grounds for their new mercenary army.
She and the rest of her team stride onto the field and take a good look at the new recruits assembled before them. The recruits are a motley collection of former slaves rescued from the Dark Elves, young men from Kislev and The Empire who are seeking adventure, as well as some of the lowest scum and lowlifes gathered together you can imagine. Astute readers will even recognize one man standing among them as having a physical appearance that matches someone from the Epilogue of Book1.
Demetria grins as she takes charge of doing what they were hired to do: to take these good-for-nothing thieves and whores and whip them into shape, into a proper army!
Arjun Kumar awakens from his slumber. This is a character who first appeared back in Book1 living in the slums of Mumbai, when he and his family won the lottery to be selected for a special opportunity for a new beginning.
Arjun and his family are aboard the UNSV Joseph Conrad, and they have just arrived in the EE System. All around them, other Masrani Corporation staff are waking up from cryosleep, all dressed in bright orange jumpsuits decorated with the Masrani logo.
Arjun and his wife Devi head to the briefing room, where they are told that their new home will be in a sector of Planet EE-L5 called "The Shire". Masrani has purchased the colonization rights to this area of the planet from The Company™, and they intend to establish colonies in this sector. Arjun, Devi, and their children are excited to finally be seeing their new home.
The lands of Mordor. If you thought they looked bad before, they look even worse now! The earthquakes have opened up massive fissures in the ground throughout the plains of Gorgoroth. The volcanic eruption has covered much of Gorgoroth with rivers of lava. The great tower of Barad-Dur lies in smouldering ruin once again.
The reader's attention is drawn towards a seemingly insignificant pile of rubble. Just then, the rubble starts to shake a little, and a hand pops out from under. A human hand. Horrifically scarred and cut and burned and rotting, but very much alive and moving. And then, the hand slowly starts to heal itself; the wounds close up, and soon enough, the hand looks almost normal.
And then, the rest of the body emerges from under the rubble. And we see that the hand belonged to... Christopher Tremblay!
Except it's not quite Christopher Tremblay at the same time. What happened, as far as we know, is as follows: The Ring was not destroyed, but it was taken out of the planet's "thaumosphere". It's still out there, but its connection to this world has been severely weakened, and Sauron along with it. But Sauron still has a few tricks up his sleeve. Let us not forget that Sauron at one point went by the name "Necromancer"; what happened here is that Sauron came upon the dying and broken body of Christopher Tremblay, and has now possessed the body and Chris's soul for his own.
Sauron has suffered another setback similar to the War Of The Last Alliance: he has been severely weakened, but he's not dead. But now that he has possessed Christopher's body, he is determined to look for his Ring, even if it means leaving this very world itself to search for it.
Sauron / Christopher (Sauristopher?) is still in pain, still adjusting himself to suit this new body. His mind is blurry and swimming with random images as he tries to adjust to Chris's mind - these images include some of Chris's memories and knowledge, Sauron's own memories from over the millennia, and other images too that he can't quite recognize. For example, Sauron sees vivid images of dragons and wolves swallowing up the world but can't seem to tell if it's fragments of his own memories back to the First Age mixing up with those of Christopher, or a vision of the future, or something else entirely. At least some of his visions seem similar to those seen by Bran Stark.
Sauron / Christopher closes his eyes again to flush the visions out of his head for now, and this time sees the world more clearly. Yes, this body is weak and pathetic, but it will have to do for now. He knows not where his precious is, only that it is out there beyond this world, that someone has it, and he is determined to get it back.
And of course, who else should have the final say in this book? Somewhere in the Warp, the Lord Of Change is smiling and rubbing his hands together in eager anticipation as he begins plotting whatever will happen in the next book (with the implication that much of the events of this book were the direct result of his machinations). Now that the "magic links" between worlds have been restored thanks to The Company™'s meddling, and are slowly strengthening with each passing day, he turns his attention to other worlds...
Writer's Notes: and that's a wrap! But stay tuned. I'll do one last chapter which is more of a post-mortem analysis on what went wrong and how we're going to move forward from here, as well as address reader's questions, concerns, critiques, ideas, and suggestions. If any readers would like to have their voices expressed, now is the time to do so. Leave your comments and questions in the reviews or else send them to me as a private message, and I will do my best to address everyone's individual points.