Bron, Durix, Celestia, Raziel, and Leris descended the great path known as Kobold's Steps, heading for the city below, their ears still ringing with what the caterbird had said. Bron felt numb. The words which the caterbird told him echoed around his head. "Your bravery, your visions, your ideas…these are what truly make you the Immortals."
That this mighty, ancient creature held him in the same regards that it held the legendary heroes of the past meant more to Bron than anything else. It was impossible. How could his deeds be comparable to those of Quint, Twig, and Rook?
The answer was waiting for him at the bottom of Kobold's Steps.
The five of them were greeted with the sight of thousands and thousands of people of every clan and tribe imaginable. Trolls, trogs, elves, goblins, waifs, fourthlings, slaughterers, fettleleggers, gnomes…even a few shrykes. All of them were screaming themselves hoarse and waving hats and scarves in the air. Many of them were sobbing. Hands seized Bron, Durix, Celestia, Leris, and Raziel, and they were being passed overhead by the jubilant crowd.
"You did it!"
"The Phraxguardians are no more!"
"The Empire is gone!"
"The glisters are free!"
"The Edge is saved!"
The roars of the crowd made the ground itself tremble. Everybody was fighting to get to the center…to see their saviors, to touch them, to make their own screams and yells heard.
After many hours, the throng calmed down enough to start discussing more serious matters.
"When the Edgesaver was destroyed, the leaders of Omniphrax perished," said a tufted goblin near the center of the circle. "We need guidance…someone who can lead us to a bright future. We hope the five of you will assume that role."
Nobody said a word. Bron's chest was pounding. Could they really be up to the task? Could they oversee the construction of a new Edge?
The five of them looked at each other. They all felt the same as Bron…yet they knew that there was nobody else who would be capable of accepting the responsibility. As one, they nodded.
"To the Council of Liberty!" bellowed a voice. The thousands of onlookers took up the call, stamping their feet and roaring. "To the Council of Liberty!"
When at last the crowd grew silent again, two small, frail figures made their way to the center of the crowd. One of them stared up at the five Councilors, her barbells quivering.
"Can you ever forgive us?" thought Kilfitresse. "I made a terrible lapse of judgment in refusing to help you leave our settlement. I condemned you to a death you did not deserve."
"You more than made up for it in the battle." said Bron, Durix and Celestia nodding in agreement.
The second figure turned and gestured in the direction they had come. "We have rounded up the surviving Phraxguardians, Councilors," reported Verticule."What are we to do with them?"
The entire crowd was able to here Verticule's thoughts. They parted to reveal a scorched platform on which a weapons tower had clearly stood. Gathered on the platform, apparently held immobile by the minds of the circle of waifs surrounding them, were a few hundred white-robed individuals, some of them smeared with dirt and blood.
Roars of derision and fury rose from the crowd. "Kill them! Destroy them! Rip out their gizzards!"
But Bron held up his hand, and the crowd swiftly fell silent. For a second he was struck dumb by the power that one movement had conveyed…that the mob was hanging on his every word.
"We can't kill them," he said. "What kind of message are we going to be sending about the future? The way we deal with them should serve as a symbol of how things are going to be different."
There were a few mutters of discontent. Bron ignored them.
"We will give each and every one of them a trial. They will have a fair chance to defend their actions. Most of them will probably be imprisoned. But if any of them were forced into service, if they had any reserves and resisted the orders they were given…well, I think they should be granted a fresh start. We'll do the same thing for the pawns of the Empire in Hive and Great Glade, too. It will be a model for justice repeated throughout the whole Edge."
The crowd cheered again. The Phraxguardians, still standing rigid and poker-stiff, did not respond.
"And another thing…this whole Council of Liberty business will end as soon as the Edge has been rebuilt," continued Bron. "We will not take a shred more power than is necessary. You saw what happened when the Edge had a Glorious Leader. We will restore the old governments of Great Glade and Hive and all the other settlements. Then we will return to Omniphrax, and preside over nothing beyond the Mire. That is the only way the Edgeworld can truly be free…if every settlement, every group, and every individual has a voice."
Riverrise was shaken by the largest roar of applause and cheering yet.
"We will now travel to the settlements in the east, and begin to liberate them too," said Bron. "But not aboard glisterships. We will journey on foot through Waif Trail and Thorn Gate. Glister technology shall never be used again, for the slavery of glisters will be no more. But we cannot manage the journey alone…we will need protection from the dangers of the forest, not to mention the last vestiges of the Phraxguardians who are still controlling the other settlements. Who shall come with us?"
The crowd bellowed. Every single individual raised their hand.
"Right…" said Bron. "Then we shall depart at once!"
Bron Rackis's vision of freedom quickly became realized throughout the Edgeworld. In every last Deepwoods settlement, the old governments were restored, and the process of undoing the damage of the Fourth Age of Flight was set in motion.
The five councilors, accompanied by the crowd of survivors from the battle at Riverrise, traveled through the Nightwoods and the Thorn Forests, eventually arriving at Thorn Harbor. From here, the waifs flew out all across the Edge aboard their sumpwood skycraft and spread the word that the Empire was no more. Upon hearing the news, the downtrodden and oppressed in every settlement took up arms against the remaining Phraxguardians throughout the Deepwoods and reclaimed their homes.
Not long after that, Twilight's Edge was dismantled, and Omniphrax rejoined with the rest of the world. Its academics established institutions all over the Deepwoods, and an intellectual renaissance began as the outside world reclaimed all the knowledge the Phraxguardians attempted to destroy. The Engineers of Great Glade worked together with Omniphrax to establish what became known as the Fifth Age of Flight…a complex marriage of the technologies of the first three ages which circumvented all the problems caused by each of the individual technologies. Fifth-Age sky ships soon filled the skies, connecting the settlements for the free exchange of goods and ideas.
The restoration of the environment took hundreds of years, but eventually the Deepwoods were as mighty as ever they had been. New trees grew in the Phraxfields, and the Garden of Life blossomed once more. The forests even grew back in Great Glade and Hive, spurred by a movement for more environmentally-friendly factories and foundries.
For a time, however, it seemed as though the competitive industrialization of the Third Age of Flight might return. Phraxcrystals were still an essential part of industry, and those who dealt in them were still tremendously powerful. But one day, centuries later, everything changed.
Scientists at the Great Glade Academy discovered that it was possible to generate electricity from the power of the wind in High Sky. In no time, sky ships were designed that could sail on the High Sky currents, storing electricity in cells, and then distributing these cells to power machines. Phraxcrystal technology was never abandoned, but in time other viable alternatives were developed, so that the energy sector became more competitive.
Seeking to still remain profitable, the stormphrax industry made a revolutionary discovery. By creating miniscule tubes of stormphrax and coating them with lightwood, it was possible to create miniature circuits that could deliver controllable impulses. Soon, this technology was developed into the creation of transistors, and then phraxchips, enabling an era of computerization and robotics. Some of these phraxcomputers were launched into Open Sky, where they used electricity generated by wind currents to remain fixed at one point in space. The phraxcomputers then beamed signals all over the Edgeworld and created a worldwide exchange of information known as the Phraxnet. Eventually, a lasting peace was forged throughout the Edge, supported by a passion for technology and a countering respect for nature.
No one can guess what the future of the Edgeworld may bring. Certainly it will bring some innovation, some improvement, and some new challenges. But as it was proven time and time again, the inhabitants of the Edge are strong. They are resilient. They will rise to meet whatever challenges they are faced with.