EPILOGUE

Vanora paused what she was doing to close her eyes and take a deep, long breath of the evening air. When she looked down again, Faun was peering up at her, an impish grin in place.

"You like this town, don't you," he observed wryly.

Vanora thought about it for a moment as she looked past the little pier they were standing next to and out across the endless expanse of shimmering water that was in front of them. Off to the right was Darkmoor Swamp, straight ahead was the route to the castle, and to the left the water stretched out beyond the horizon, reaching seas and oceans and lands she had yet to see but hoped to someday. As she watched the bright red orb that was the sun drift lower in the sky, as though it were a great ball being dipped into the lake, she wondered if Faun wasn't right.

As much she loved the swamp, she suspected that she loved Morning Mist Valley just a little bit more. Maybe even enough to move here, one day.

She mentioned this out loud, and Faun gave a laugh as he bent to scoop up a stone from the pile at his feet. "I'm amazed you've managed to stay under the same roof as Zanthia all this time," he commented. He drew his chubby hand back and threw the flat stone; it skipped across the water twice before disappearing beneath the gentle waves.

Vanora smiled to herself as she picked a stone up from the soft sand and tossed it into the air thoughtfully. She knew that if she decided to stay in the swamp with the alchemist for the rest of her life, neither of them would mind, but she still wanted to find her own place someday soon. She was used to living alone, but moving to Morning Mist would be a whole different experience. She would still have a house to herself, but her neighbors would be mere feet away instead of miles.

With a sigh of contentment, she tossed her stone and watched it bounce across the waves. She counted four times before it sank into the center of the red reflection of the setting sun. "Show off," muttered Faun.

Vanora chuckled for a moment, then glanced up at the docks as voices caught her attention. Faun looked, too, ears twitching. A group of men were heading to one of the recently docked ships, and Vanora recognized them as the usual unloading crew.

"Isn't he that wizard-guy?" asked Faun, pointing to the blue-clad blonde near the rear of the group.

Vanora nodded wordlessly. Behelak didn't notice either of them as he followed his companions to the end of the pier, laughing easily as he joked with the other men. Vanora felt her cheeks start to warm as she openly admired how the sun lit his face and hair with red-gold light, but she didn't really care anymore.

"Say, he doesn't know that you decided to stay, does he?"

Shaking her head, Vanora turned and started climbing up the sandy bank to the pier. "He sure doesn't. I think I'll go surprise him."

As she ran barefoot down the pier, Faun noted to himself that, with her hair pushed back with one of Zanthia's headbands and wearing the dress she just bought, Vanora looked very much in place.