Epilogue: What the Stars Told

There were many tales in the Old Kingdom of Tortall, the land filled with people who enjoyed the passing of words from one to another.

But in particular, there was a story that came from the scorching deserts and nested near the shoreline, breathing the salty, seaweed-tasting winds of the cities, and this story mingled with other stories, and became another story altogether.

The story went like this:

There once was a prince of a noble land, and he was a kind boy.

As with all fairy tales, a great wrong was done to him, and he lost his childhood as easily and irrevocably as a hyacinth than bloomed before its time.

This noble prince did not anguish and wither, however, but instead set off on a long voyage to gain back his rightful throne, walking across treacherous sands, sailing past malicious waves, trekking through pitiless jungles, and finally finding the golden maiden who sang the tales of the world.

He won her heart and hand, and with her, he defeated his cousin and became King, ruling for many happy years.

As all knew, however, stories like these were only fables.

There was another version, older and filled with less heroics, but the Stars whispered it in the dark, when the Moon hid her face, and it filled the dreams of every little boy and girl, so that it would never die.

It went like this:

There once was a prince of a noble land, and he was a kind boy.

Before the great wrong happened, he found the lioness maiden who breathed fire and truth, and for a moment, everything was the best it could be in all possible worlds, and tragedy could have been avoided, if only they were happier and saw with their eyes.

As with all fairy tales, happiness was not the natural state of things.

The lioness maiden was as strong as any man, had more wiles and cunning than most, and he treated her like a girl.

So she was lost to him forever, as sadly and irrevocably as the dreams before dawn.

There was no ending to this tale, except for scattered words of seeing a red-headed woman—who grew from young to old—who swept bandits like they were chess pieces—from the West to East to West again—and fought for the people like no other lady had dared before.

Her crest was a lioness, her battle cry a roar.

And her back and heart were given to a man with a nose too large for his face.

The shade of twilight visions, emerging
Radiant from that dream and those yearnings
Born of all that makes you grieve.

Souls still in the limbo of existence,
One day you'll awake, in Consciousness,
Hovering already as pure thought…
And never again will you be distraught.

Antero de Quental, Redemption