"Mirrors"

By KiraJenLove

DISCLAIMER: I do not own The Dark Crystal or any of its characters. No profit is being made; this story is just for fun.

SUMMARY: Based on the "Legends of the Dark Crystal" Manga by TokyoPop. With the help of a time-travel apparatus created by the UrSkeks long ago, Lahr and Neffi meet Jen and Kira.

It was a few months after the defeat of the Skekses, when the people of Namopo, led by the brave young Mounder-herder Lahr, discovered that Garthim could be killed through a few strategic weak spots in their armor. As the captive people had been fleeing the castle, Lahr had successfully managed to kill all the existing Garthim, to SkekUng's horror. SkekUng was also mystified at the sudden reversal of the Gelflings' usually peaceful nature - they were now using weapons and killing and capturing his Garthim. He was not prepared for this. Now he was going to have to rebuild more, which would take a great deal of resources and time.

Time. That's what Lahr and Neffi had bought for themselves and the surviving people of Namopo. It had been several months since he had invited her to accompany him to the new village they planned to build; they were going to build it with defenses, trails and tunnels in case escape became necessary again. They were not going to be taken by surprise next time. The Garthim themselves were going to be in for a surprise if they ever came around on a slave raid again.

Neffi had gladly accepted his proposal that they become mates, and they had been living happily since then, having had built a little cottage in the new village for themselves. At the moment, both of them were out in the nearby woods working on blazing a trail to a safe haven. As they walked along, Lahr would occasionally mark a tree with his hatchet.

He stopped and glanced over at his new wife, who was walking with him.

"Are you sure you want to walk this far out with me? You probably shouldn't be this far away from the village in your condition."

Neffi gently stroked her swollen belly. "It's all right," she said. "Once that starts, there's usually enough time to get home. I'll just take it easy." As if in answer to her own statement, she paused and sat down on a nearby boulder for a rest. "However," she said, "I could use a little rest. My legs are getting tired."

Lahr gladly obliged his love, coming back and sitting next to her. "Take as long as you want, my love," said Lahr. He gave her a kiss on the cheek, then pulled out a few sandwiches from a bag he'd been carrying. "Hungry?"

"I'm STARVED. Thank you, Lahr," she said, diving into the delicious sandwich. As she munched on her sandwich, she began taking in their surroundings. She thought she saw something in the distance, and her pointed ears perked up.

"What's that?" she queried suddenly. Lahr quickly turned to see what she was looking at. At first he couldn't see it, but then it showed itself again. They both could see what appeared to be a metallic glint in the middle of the woods, about 200 feet away. It seemed out of place in the forest. Lahr quickly looked back at Neffi. "I…don't….know…" he said, puzzled as well. "Why don't we go take a look? Come on!" He reached out for her hand. At first she was reluctant to get up, but her curiosity got the better of her. She quickly choked down the rest of her sandwich and, with Lahr's help, rose to a standing position, then followed him down the path.

As they approached the object glinting in the sun, it began to take on form. Soon they could see it was a glass and metal pyramidal structure with an open doorway, sitting conspicuously in the middle of the forest. Runes covered all sides of it, and, upon examination, had what seemed to be UrSkeks etched upon it.

"What is it, Lahr?" asked Neffi.

"I don't know, Neffi. I've never seen anything like this before in the forest. It seems out of place, doesn't it?"

"Yes, it does," she answered. "It's not a natural structure. It was made by an intelligence. And look at these strange etchings on the side!"

"Those creatures look familiar," said "Lahr. "Where have I seen them before?"

"I've never seen any creature like that before," said Neffi. "And look, it even has a doorway. What's it for?" she tried poking her head inside.

"Don't go in yet, Neffi," said Lahr. "Let me try first." Lahr carefully, gingerly stepped into the doorway. Nothing earth-shattering happened. Then he turned to Neffi. "I think it's OK, Neffi. You can come inside if you want."

Neffi carefully followed her mate through the doorway. It was dark inside, and there wasn't a lot of room. The inside walls were mirror-like, and she and Lahr could see their own reflections. Aside from that, there wasn't much to see.

Lahr was beginning to feel somewhat apprehensive. "Let's go, Neffi," he said. "There's nothing to see here."

As they emerged from the structure, they noticed that things looked different. The forest didn't appear as it did before they went inside. It seemed like they were in a totally different area. Lahr began to panic and started searching for his hatchet marks he had left in the trees, but he couldn't find a single one. "Neffi, I think we're lost."

This frightened Neffi at first, but then she forced herself to think logically. "Can't we just start walking east? The village was to the east of us. Surely we would eventually find it."

"But Neffi, I don't think we're even in the same place anymore. What kind of contraption is this? Is it a trick of the Skekses?"

Neffi started looking around. "Lahr, look! There is sunlight from a clearing over there. Maybe we should go over there and get our bearings. Just don't forget to mark the trees back to this place. We may need it later."

So together they started heading toward the clearing, with Lahr notching the occasional tree with his hatchet. As they began to enter the clearing, they found themselves at the top of a ravine, overlooking a large, beautiful valley. A clear, clean river tumbled through the green land, and animals of various kinds were gathered occasionally at the water's edge to quench their thirst.

However, the one sight that caused them to quickly suck in their breath in awe was a huge, white castle occupying the middle of the valley. The castle looked vaguely familiar, except for its white color.

"Neffi!" exclaimed Lahr. "Isn't that the….the castle of the Skekses?"

She squinted her eyes as she studied it. "Yes, Lahr! It sure looks like it! But how can that be? We know that the castle is as black and dirty as oil, and the land around it is barren and dry! How can it be the same castle?"

Again, they studied the landscape, and saw something that had escaped their attention - an entire village was sprawled around the base of the castle! The homes appeared to be clean and in good repair. But who would be so insane as to build a village in the shadow of the Skekses? Lahr looked again, and could find no trace of Garthim or Skekses, but he thought he saw movement down in the village. He could not quite identify the villagers.

"Neffi, why don't we go down and check it out? We'll just study it from a distance, and if it looks dangerous, we can leave."

Neffi seemed unsure at first, but when she noticed the lack of Garthim, she agreed, cautiously.

"How are we going to get down this ravine?" asked Lahr.

Neffi suddenly had a mischievous smile on her face. "This way," she said. She then grabbed Lahr and jumped off the edge of the ravine, opening her wings, as they floated harmlessly to the bottom. She then released him.

"I wish you'd quit doing that," remarked Lahr, "but those things do come in handy sometimes."

Neffi giggled, then they both started moving, hand in hand, toward the village. When they got close enough, they hid behind a bush to observe without being seen.

What he saw made Lahr's eyes go wide. GELFLINGS! Lots and lots of GELFLINGS! Where did they all come from?

"They must be slaves of the Skekses. Poor things. I wish we could help them."

"No, Lahr, they're not slaves. Look at them. Their eyes, their faces - they look normal. Look, they're talking to each other. It's just like our village back home. But why would they want to live so close to the Skekses? And why haven't the Skekses drained their essence yet?"

"I wonder if we could talk to them. Can we trust them? Do you think it's a trap?"

"I don't think a trap would be this cleverly constructed. Also, they wouldn't be carrying on so normally if they were expecting someone to trap. They don't know we're here."

"I'll go and talk to them. You stay here for now until I give you the all-clear."

Neffi nodded and stayed hidden behind the bush. Lahr got up and started walking down the nearest lane into the middle of the village. Dozens of Gelflings were walking about, carrying on with their daily business. He spotted an older Gelfling and decided to take a chance. He walked up to him and got his attention.

"E-Excuse me, sir, but I am from another village, and I seem to be lost. Could you tell me where I am?"

"Another village?" the old man exclaimed. "Where? There are no other villages."

No other villages? Thought Lahr. How is that possible?

"What is your name, young man?"

"My name is Lahr. I am a Mounder-herder from the village of Namopo."

"Namopo, eh? Never heard of it."

"Could…could I ask you a few questions?"

"Certainly," answered the old man.

"Why is your village so close to the castle? Aren't you afraid of the Garthim? What about the Skekses?"

The old man burst out laughing. "HA-HA-HA-HA-HO-HO! Land sakes, young man, Skeksis? Garthim? What planet have you been on?" he continued laughing heartily.

Lahr, embarrassed, wasn't quite sure why the man was acting this way.

The old man continued. "Why, the Skeksis and Garthim have long since been vanquished, ever since the Crystal was healed - hundreds of years ago."

"Someone healed the Crystal? Who?"

"Don't you know the prophecy, young man? I thought all Gelfling knew that - 'by Gelfling hand or else by none'! It was our wise queen and her brave husband who healed the Crystal."

"You have a queen?" asked Lahr.

The old man laughed again. "Yes, of course! Queen Kira and King Jen. They live in that castle." He pointed to the beautiful white castle before them. "I would invite you to come and meet them. My name is Martu - Prince Martu. I am their oldest son, and the elder of this village."

Lahr's eyes went wide. He bowed low. "Oh, forgive me, your highness! I didn't know! Yes, we would love to come and speak with your king and queen. I and my lovely wife, Neffi. NEFFI!" he called over his shoulder. "It's alright, you can come out now!"

Soon Neffi emerged from behind a cottage, and the Prince got a good look at her condition.

"Your wife will be giving birth soon, I see," he said. If you should need help with that while you're here, we will gladly see to your needs."

"Thank you, your highness," said Lahr.

"Don't mention it," he replied. "And please, call me Martu. Come with me, I will introduce you to my mother and father."

Lahr and Neffi followed Martu up the external corridor into the castle. It was still somewhat frightening for them because their previous experiences of being in the castle were all bad, and they still half-expected to see a Garthim around the corner.

Soon, they made it up to the throne room, where they saw two beautiful white thrones. The occupant of the throne on the right was an elderly male wearing handsome, regal clothes that reminded Lahr of the kind of clothing the UrRu wore back home. His leather tunic had similar raised patterns in it. The man also had long white hair that reached his shoulders, as two large braids hung at his temples. His bangs were parted in the middle and swept to each side, and he had high cheekbones consistent with very old age. His deep blue eyes showed a somewhat concerned expression as the party entered the throne room.

The Queen herself sat to the right of the King. She was a beautiful creature, despite her obvious age. She wore a magnificent dress that sparkled and shimmered in the light, with an amulet hanging from her neck. She had an elaborate headdress held in place by a chinstrap that crowned her long, silvery flowing hair. She had kindly amber eyes that sparkled behind crows' feet. Lahr could tell that she must have been beautiful in her youth. Lahr knew that she was the true ruler - Gelfling society was always ruled by a queen. And her power and presence was so intimidating, he felt compelled to prostrate himself before her. Neffi, also impressed by Queen Kira's aura, followed suit. Martu introduced them. "Mother, Father…we have a pair of guests today. These are Lahr and Neffi; they come to us from a far village."

The Queen motioned for them to rise. "Please, arise. Come closer," she said. "Don't be afraid."

"If you please, your majesty, my name is Lahr - I am a Mounder-herder from the village of Namopo. And this is my wife, Neffi. We seem to have gotten lost, but then we found your village."

"Namopo? I must admit I've never heard of that one. Do you come from beyond our borders?"

"In a way, yes, your majesty. We came from our forest, where we had been blazing a trail, when we found a strange contraption that was sitting in the middle of the woods. We entered it, and when we came back out, everything was different. That's when we discovered we were lost. Then we came here."

"Would you mind dreamfasting with me?" asked the queen. The king glanced at his queen with an unsure expression.

"Of course, your majesty," answered Lahr, as he offered his hand. Kira took it, and immediately, she began to see his memories - the destruction of his village by Garthim; his meeting Neffi; his discovery that Garthim could be killed; their successful defense of the village of Namopo using nets; their mission to rescue the captured Gelflings; his encounter with SkekSil and his infection with spyeyes - small spider-like creatures that clung to him permanently, his destruction of SkekUng's Garthim; and his doglike companion Whouf eating the spyeyes.

Likewise, Lahr witnessed Kira's own memories - her mother being killed by a Garthim when she was a baby; being raised by the Podlings; meeting Jen in the swamp; the Garthim attack on her village and their subsequent flight from it; their discovery of the Gelfling ruins and the prophecy; their travel to the castle; being partially drained of her essence; helping Jen to heal the crystal by giving her own life, and being resurrected by the reunited UrSkeks. He also saw more beyond that - Jen and Kira's marriage and subsequent children, and the gradual growth of the family that eventually turned into an entire village after many generations.

The dreamfasting ended. "Ahh!" said Neffi. "Now I understand where all these Gelflings came from, and why there are no Garthim or Skekses here!"

"Yes," replied Kira. "There haven't been any Garthim or Skekses here for hundreds of years."

"Then that must mean…we have traveled hundreds of years into the future, through that contraption! We are in the future, and we come from their past!"

"If that is true," Kira said, "Then it is possible, however unlikely, that you may be, or at least know, our ancestors."

All three of the others were taken aback by that. Such a thought had never crossed their minds. It was Neffi who spoke up this time. "I'm afraid there is no way to know that for sure, your majesty," she said. "Especially if you two don't know who your parents are, and if they haven't even been born yet in our time. Although the further back in time you go, the fewer ancestors there are, which increases the odds."

Lahr, Jen and Kira nodded at that.

"In any case, my friends, you are welcome to stay overnight here in our castle until we can return you to the device in the woods and try to get you back to your own time," smiled Queen Kira, who then turned her attention to Neffi. "I see that you are expecting soon. How wonderful! Congratulations."

"Thank you," answered Neffi. "This is my first child. We're really excited about it."

"I have long since finished having my children, but I remember what it was like being in your shoes." She gently squeezed her husband's hand.

A small animal entered the throne room, walked noiselessly over to the queen and silently jumped up in her lap. It was covered in thick fur and had pointed ears with huge eyes and a long nose. Kira began stroking it gently. It purred.

"What an unusual animal!" remarked Lahr. "I don't think I've ever seen anything like it before."

Kira smiled. "This is my pet, Moki. I have had many pets over the centuries, but none of them ever measured up to my first pet, Fizzgig. We had him when we healed the crystal." A dark cloud seemed to change her countenance. "He is not with us anymore," she said quietly.

The queen allowed Moki to jump down, as she stood up and approached Neffi, placing a hand on her swollen belly. "But life always renews itself. When we healed the crystal, Jen and I were the only Gelflings left. We passed on our life essence to others, as a flame is passed from one candle to the next, and now, just look at them all. Thousands of Gelflings, where before there were none."

"Your majesty," began Lahr, "What you have told me has made me think. You say that the Skekses destroyed all but you and the King. Does that mean…that we and our child will not survive? Why should we…or any of our people…bother having any children, knowing they will ultimately not survive?" This made Lahr and Neffi both very sad, wondering if the new life she carried was a wasted effort.

"You mustn't think like that, Lahr," answered the queen. You must do whatever you can do to keep our race alive for as long as possible. Jen and I had to have come from somewhere. How do you know that you are not our ancestors?"

"She's right, Lahr," agreed Neffi. "We must do whatever we can…" then she winked at Lahr, who understood where she was going with that.

King Jen, who had been silently observing the conversation, spoke up. "As long as Kira and I, and our descendants, exist, there is hope for you and your people, Lahr and Neffi. There is hope for the Gelfling race. Never lose sight of that, or become discouraged, no matter what happens."

"Your majesty," Neffi asked Kira, "could…could we please see the Crystal?" Lahr nodded in agreement.

Kira smiled, and took her husband's hand. "Certainly. Follow us, we'll show you." They all walked down the hallway toward the Crystal Chamber. Lahr and Neffi noticed how the walls and floors were all pure white and clean - nothing like they were when they broke into the castle to free the captive Gelflings. It was beautiful now. As they approached the Crystal Chamber, they could hear its resonance, clean and clear. They entered the room together, and Lahr and Neffi had to raise a hand to shield their eyes from its brightness. The Crystal had never looked so beautiful. Lahr also assumed it must be much more powerful now as well, now that it had been healed and restored to full power.

Lahr and Neffi gazed upon it in awe. "I'm so glad you fulfilled the prophecy and healed the Crystal," said Lahr. "Things are so much better here. Couldn't we just move everyone here from the village of Namopo through that thing in the woods so everyone could be happy and safe?"

Kira became troubled at this thought. "No, I'm sorry, Lahr, but that just wouldn't work. If all the Gelflings from the past came here, there would be no one left there to give birth to us, and this world that you see now would cease to exist. You would leave there before the Great Conjunction, and arrive here hundreds of years after the Conjunction, so there would be no one available to heal the Crystal, and the world would still be run by the Skekses - forever. Then they would just kill the rest of you."

"She's right," said Jen. "Do you see how that would complicate things?"

Lahr's face suddenly fell as he realized they were right. "Yes, your majesty. You're right. I didn't think about that."

The Queen continued. "The best thing for you to do is return to your world, and allow fate to run its course. All will turn out all right in the end, no matter what happens there."

She put an arm around Neffi's shoulders. "For now, we would like to invite you to dinner in our Great Hall. Our Podling friends have prepared a wonderful meal. Please come and eat with us."

"That sounds great, I'm starving," replied Neffi.

"Me too," said Lahr.

The King and Queen led Lahr and Neffi into their banquet hall, where little Podlings were merrily running about bringing all kinds of delicious food to the long, curved table. Lahr noticed that they weren't slaves, either - instead of desiccated faces with bulging, white, staring eyes and stringy white hair, they seemed perfectly healthy, happy and lucid.

"Please, be seated," offered Queen Kira. Lahr and Neffi graciously took a seat, and waited for the Queen to be seated. Her place was in the center of the table, with the King sitting to her left. Once everyone was seated, the Queen asked for a blessing on the food, acknowledging the bounty of the land that produced such a banquet.

Not wanting to offend, Lahr and Neffi watched the actions of the Queen and King and the others, and followed suit as they served themselves and ate. They were not used to eating in such luxury.

Kira seemed to notice their reservations. "Please, eat as you are accustomed. Jen and I were once just like you. Make yourselves comfortable."

Neffi and Lahr felt relieved, and dug into the food hungrily.

After the meal, they both sat back and patted their bellies in satisfaction. Neffi didn't eat a huge amount because she just didn't have much room in her stomach anymore. "That was delicious, your Highness. Thank you very much."

"You're quite welcome, Neffi. It's not often that we have visitors here in the castle. I am happy to entertain you."

"Lahr," remarked Neffi, "do you think we should start heading back to the woods?"

"I would not recommend it," said Jen. "It is growing late and getting dark. You may get lost again."

"My husband is right," the Queen said. "It is too dangerous to be walking around in the forest at night. I would suggest staying the night here, and, in the morning, we will personally escort you to the time-travel pod in the forest."

"She's probably right, Neffi, we should stay the night here and get some rest, and get going first thing in the morning."

Neffi thought about it. "I guess you're right, Lahr. We'll go in the morning."

The Queen arose from the table, followed by her husband. "Please follow me - I will show you to your quarters."

Queen Kira led them upstairs to a hallway that contained several bedrooms. She brought them to the first one on the right, and opened the door.

The room contained what appeared to be a comfortable bed, big enough for the two of them, a desk, a small table with a candlestick on it, a bookshelf, and a chamber pot. One of the walls contained a fireplace with a small supply of wood next to it, and tapestries covered the walls to keep heat in. However, because this was the warmest time of the year, the fireplace would not be needed.

"Thank you, your Highness," said Lahr. "This will be fine."

The Queen smiled at him. "If you need anything at all, just call out in the hallway. Someone will hear you, and help will come." Then she and Jen left, closing the door behind them.

Neffi instantly was attracted to the tapestries, being a weaver of tapestries herself. "Lahr, look at these! Aren't they beautiful?"

"Yes, they are. Look at all the pictures on this one! Is it telling a story?"

Neffi studied it carefully. "Yes, I think it is….here it shows the Skekses…they appear to be killing our race with the Garthim…" tears began to well in her eyes - "…but here it shows two baby Gelflings….one is pictured here with an UrRu…that must be King Jen…and the other is pictured with Podlings. That must be the Queen. Then it moves on to show them coming together, and down here is the Crystal, surrounded by Skekses and UrRu…it shows the King on top of the Crystal…that looks like the shard in his hand…then it shows the pure Crystal, surrounded by those same creatures we saw on the time travel device!"

"Yes, you're right, Neffi! I do recognize those creatures from the walls of that thing!"

"'The two made one'…now it all makes sense, Lahr! That's part of the prophecy! The Skekses and UrRu came together when the Crystal was healed, to form this one creature!"

"So it must have been those creatures who built the time-travel device," said Lahr.

Suddenly, Neffi bent over as if in pain. "Aaaaaarrrrgh!" she yelped.

"Neffi! Are you alright?"

Oh please not now, thought Neffi. She felt a gush, and looked down to see a pool of fluid on the floor between her legs. "Lahr," she said, "I think I might be starting labor."

Lahr's eyes went wide. "N-Now?"

Lahr guided her over to the bed and had her lie down on it, trying to make her as comfortable as possible. "I'll go get the Queen. I'll be right back," he said, and hurried out of the room.

"YOUR MAJESTY! YOUR MAJESTY!" he called out in the hallway. The sound carried well throughout the hallways, as the acoustics were fantastic. Soon, the Queen and King came hurrying to his voice from their own chambers down the hall. Lahr was a bit embarrassed, as it appeared he had gotten them out of bed, or else they were preparing for bed. The King was shirtless, and the Queen was wearing no crown and a long, flowing white gown, which appeared to be her night apparel.

"What is it, Lahr?" she asked.

"It's Neffi, your Majesty," huffed Lahr. "She is going into labor. Her water broke. There is no going back now."

Kira turned to Jen and said, "Let me go in first and have a look at her, my love, and I will come back out." Jen nodded in agreement.

Kira entered the room and approached Neffi lying on the bed. "Are you comfortable?" she asked.

"Aside from the labor pains, yes, your majesty," said Neffi.

"This may take a while," said the Queen. "Sometimes it goes slowly, and sometimes quickly. I will bring in the Podling midwife. I trust her; she can help you deliver this child." Neffi and Lahr nodded their agreement. Kira left to fetch the midwife.

Once the water broke, it only took an hour of pushing until the baby's head was crowning. Neffi was squealing with pain, panting quickly in between pushings. The midwife was at the ready, easing the child's head out. A few more pushes and she eased a shoulder out, then the rest of the baby slid out easily. She cut the umbilical with her teeth, then took the baby over to the table to wash it off and wrap it in a warm, soft blanket, as Neffi was able to relax and catch her breath.

"It's a girl," announced the Queen with a smile.

The Podling woman handed the little bundle to Lahr, who carefully took it and brought it over to Neffi.

"Awwwww, look at her, Lahr! She's so beautiful!" Neffi smiled through tears of joy.

Lahr was stunned silent as he watched his newborn daughter with amazement. He stroked her little cheek with a finger, which made her turn her head in that direction. She had two pointed little ears, dark hair and eight perfect little fingers. Her eyes were shut tight, but she was making movements with her mouth and fingers.

"She is really beautiful, Neffi," whispered Lahr.

"What are we going to name her?"

"In honor of our Queen, who helped heal the Crystal and who has so graciously taken us in and helped us with this birth - I will name her 'Kira'."

"Thank you," replied Kira. "I am honored." She then took her smiling husband's hand, and left the room so Lahr and Neffi could have this private time together as a new family.

Early the next morning, after an early rise and a hearty breakfast, and after Neffi had nursed little Kira (for the 3rd time through the night), The young couple prepared to leave.

"Hold on," interrupted the King. We have decided to send a royal escort to see you safely back to the forest. We also will be going with you." Queen Kira had changed into some clothing better suited for a long walk in the woods. She approached her husband from behind and joined him, reaching out for his hand.

"Thank you, your Highness! Although so many people may not be necessary," remarked Lahr.

"Think nothing of it," replied the Queen. "It is the least we can do."

Lahr and Neffi took turns carrying the baby against their shoulders as they joined their little group on the way out the castle entrance. As they paraded through the village below, the Gelflings there became curious, and many joined the crowd. By the time they left the village, there were about 30 Gelflings accompanying them.

"Now, which way did you come from?" Jen inquired.

"Over there," said Neffi. At the bottom of that ravine. We were at the top of it, and I grabbed Lahr and we floated down."

"That sounds familiar," remarked Jen, looking sidelong at Kira, who smiled knowingly back at him.

They studied the ravine. "Well, it's obvious that we can't fly back up the same way. We'll have to find a way around," said Kira.

Jen studied the topography with his eyes. "There! There is a trail that we can use to reach the high ground."

The large group worked their way over toward the trail for the hike up the edge of the ravine. After about a half-hour of hiking, they found themselves on the level ground at the top of the ravine. "This is about where we were before we jumped down," said Neffi. "Lahr, look around for the hatchet marks you left in the trees when we came out here."

"You marked the trail?" inquired Jen. "Good thinking, Lahr!"

"Thank you, your Highness. It was Neffi's suggestion that I do that."

They searched the nearby trees, until one of the Gelflings who were with them shouted, "Here! Over here! I found one of the marks!"

They all hurried over and saw the hatchet mark clearly cut into the side of one of the trees. Not far away was another tree with a hatchet mark. "We've found the trail! Good work!"

They all began to follow the marks, until soon Kira exclaimed, "I see something! Something sparkling out there amongst the trees!" They all looked, and saw the same thing. As they walked closer, the time-travel apparatus became more and more obvious. They finally arrived at their destination - a pyramidal shape sitting on the ground with a narrow doorway in it, covered with reliefs on the outside.

"Jen, look! Those are the same creatures we saw on the Wall of Destiny in the ancient Gelfling ruins long ago! They are the ones we saw after the Crystal was healed!"

"Yes, I recognize them," said Jen.

"This is where we came out," said Lahr.

"Then it is time for you to go back in. Time to go back to your own time and your own people," said the Queen.

Lahr and Neffi both bowed low before the King and Queen. "We cannot tell you how much it has meant to meet you two, knowing that one day, the prophecy will be fulfilled and the Crystal will be healed. We have greatly appreciated your hospitality and your help with the birth of our daughter."

"You are most welcome. All we ask is that you and your people never give up hope; keep doing your best to fight the Skekses and the Garthim, and remember that no matter how bad it seems, there IS hope for our future."

"Thank you, your Highness," said Lahr. "I guess it's time to go now. Goodbye!"

"Goodbye, Lahr and Neffi. Farewell, and take good care of little Kira." She smiled down at her little namesake, and stroked a finger gently down her cheek. "Goodbye, little one."

Lahr and Neffi then turned and entered the time portal. They could no longer be seen after that. Kira briefly glanced inside for any trace of them, but they could not be found. Then she stepped back, and turned to the guards who had accompanied them.

"Destroy it."

"Kira?" asked a puzzled Jen.

"Jen, this is a doorway from the past that the Skekses can use to come here. It must be destroyed to prevent that. No one must return here."

Jen began to understand, then nodded, then he joined the guards in bashing and tearing down the portal. They used stones, sticks, and their weapons. The mirror-like walls were made of glass, and shattered easily. Soon, nothing was left except bent metal and broken shards of glass littering the base. At the behest of the Queen, the whole group turned and headed back toward the village.

Lahr and Neffi exited the time portal, re-entering a very familiar world. They were once again in the forest that they had left. Lahr found the marks on the trees that they had left, which they followed back to the main path that they had left earlier in order to investigate the portal.

"Lahr," sighed Neffi, "Enough trailblazing for one day. I just want to go HOME."

"I agree, Neffi - let's go home. They're probably worried sick about us."

Little Smeeshun was playing at the outskirts of the village, when he saw movement down the new trail. At first, he almost sounded the alarm, until he got a better view of the "intruders". Lahr and Neffi exited the forest, carrying a little bundle with them.

"LAHR! NEFFI!" He shouted. All the other Gelflings, including Adeth, Belleg, Dirmer and the others came running out to see what the commotion was.

They repeated Smeeshun's shouts of joy, and they all came running to greet them. As they approached, they noticed that Neffi wasn't quite as round as she used to be, and she was carrying a precious bundle in her arms.

"Oooh, Neffi, you had your baby!" exclaimed Adeth, an elderly woman.

Neffi lowered the bundle so everyone could see. "It's a girl. Her name is Kira."

"Wherever did you get a name like that? Sounds like a Podling name."

"It's a long story," replied Lahr. "that we would be happy to share through dreamfasting."

"Well, then," said Belleg, "let's all retire to the community hut. I'm sure we're all anxious to hear what you two have been up to. You've been gone for two days. We even sent out a search party."

"Well, we've had an exciting two days, but we're glad to be back home, with our little girl now."

"She really is a beauty," remarked Belleg, the town's elder.

"Thank you," said Lahr and Neffi.

As they entered the doorway of the large central cottage, they each slipped an arm around each other. This was going to take a lot of dreamfasting….

THE END

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