(Whew! Topaz here. I'm finally finished! Yay! That took less time than expected, but a lot more work, ironic as it seems. If I get good (or enough!) reviews, maybe I'll make a sequel from the caravanners' point of view. Who knows...anything could happen! -Topaz Fox)

There is a bird singing from somewhere outside. I open my eyes a little, becoming aware of the neat wooden paneling that makes up the ceiling of my room. For some reason, I can't stop smiling. It is almost like I am pleasantly drunk, though I'm positive I haven't touched alcohol in the past few months. Why am I so unbelievably happy?

Last night's events drift back to me like cherry blossoms. I remember now; my wildest, most impossible dreams had become reality. I turn on my side and look at my bedside table. Yes, there is Ter Van's little rose seal, glinting in the morning light like some ancient fantasy. It was real, then: last night really did happen. None of it was a dream.

I manage to throw my sheets aside and walk over to the skinny rectangular window near my bed. The sun outside is just completing its rise, calming itself from a passionate red to a contented gold. Luckily, I still have plenty of time before Tipa's caravan leaves.

First, I choose an outfit from my closet. All of my clothes are more or less alike, so this morning ritual is far from challenging. Next, I go downstairs and find I am alone in the house. This is hardly odd. My whole family, even young Fyrella, often goes underground into the laboratory to study or calculate or something. Oh well. That's their loss.

I feel wonderfully detached from everything as I fry some star carrots for my breakfast. It's like I am not even a Yuke anymore. Ter Van had helped me to see that I wasn't a complete alien to the rest of the world. Of course, I am different from everyone, but aren't we all different from one another? That is what makes the world an interesting place, is it not?

I push away a pile of scrolls and alchemy equipment to clear a spot for my plate on the table. As I sit down to eat a leisurely breakfast, I examine my two strange hands. I had always thought them to be disgusting. Last night, though, Ter Van had touched them. Felt them. Complimented them, even. I flex my wide fingers and see them differently than I have before. They may not be strong Clavat hands, delicate Selkie hands, or tiny Lilty hands, but they are Yuke hands. They are my hands. Ter Van has helped me see through my own appearance, perhaps.

For someone to touch your skin is lovely, but for someone to touch your soul is even better.

At last, I decide to leave to see off the caravan, even though it is a bit early. I put on my brightest bronze helmet, close the door behind me, and head toward the village gate.

It seems like all of Tipa is here to send the caravan away with luck and good wishes. I step through the crowd as lightly and calmly as possible, until the caravan is in plain view. All four caravan members are dashing about busily, tossing supplies in back, harnessing the stout papaopamus, and generally preparing for the journey. In this blur of activity, the only one I see clearly is my dear Ter Van. I watch him toss his long hair over one shoulder, out of the way, and laugh at something my brother has said. It takes but a moment for me to devise a small scheme to ensure Ter Van will never forget me.

Ter Van is putting a basket of bannock bread into the caravan as I approach. He turns around as if he can sense my presence, and he smiles amiably. "Rallie! Hey. What's up?"

I nod at him and respond, "I just wanted to wish you luck on your journey. And…" I slip a silver amulet from my neck and up over my head. The amulet is etched with my tribe's ornate symbol. "I want you to have this." I hand the amulet, my luck charm, over to Ter Van.

"This will brink you good fortune on your quest. Come home safely, you hear? I don't know what I will do with myself if you don't." He somehow knows that I am smiling from underneath my helmet, and he smiles back, putting the amulet around his neck. His eyes are sparkling in the breathtaking way that they were last night. He places a hand on my shoulder, which happens to be high above his head. "I'll come back," he murmurs. "Thank you, Ralthia."

Roland appears and says a few words before the caravan leaves. At last, the moment of departure has come, and Elga hops into the driver's seat. Caliphen sits in the rear of the caravan, so that he may watch for danger from behind.

With a sharpcrack of Elga's reins, they are off.

We, the people of Tipa, all wave goodbye. Anne and Ter Van stride confidently beside the rattling caravan. They turn around every now and again to raise a hand in farewell. Soon they all have transformed into shapeless specks on the wide horizon.

I can't wait until they come home again, bringing joy and myrrh with them. Until then, I have my own life—a good life—that I will continue to live.

-Fin-