It took them a few hours to truly begin the way home. First Brenn had to bury her body and of course he had to perform a lot of rituals. Mono actually did not like that Brenn chose the lakeside as her grave. She would have liked it if she had been laid to rest where she had reborn – it just was a beautiful thought. On the other hand, she already had had trouble seeing her dead body in broad daylight for only a few minutes. Combined with the realization Aidan would have to see her for a longer period of time as well, she eventually decided it was better this way.
If only she could have told the two young men that there was an afterlife. Wander would not have gone through these lengths to revive her and Brenn would not have taken so long to bury her. She could have known, actually. She had always thought that her pursuit of Wander was because the gods had foreseen she would live again, but now she knew. She followed Brenn all the way through the rituals, while Aidan was sobbing in a corner. Seeing him so fragile was horrible, but Brenn sat down next to him and seeing him acting so kind, eased her. Aidan would be fine with him.
She felt another rush of affection for Brenn when he said those wonderful words during the ritual. Aidan looked from a distance. Mono wondered whether he understood – probably not.
When the duo arrived in the village, the commotion was expected. Brenn had chosen well; he said nothing about Wander, but just told the villagers that Mono had died after all and that this child was an orphan left in the Forbidden Lands. They accepted him, albeit a bit hesitantly, and Mono was glad to see that her parents treated him with a sort of melancholic sadness. She had mostly feared the reaction of Wander's parents and indeed, by the look of their faces, they had recognized him. So had Lord Emon and, of course, he immediately knew what it meant. The fact that he never shared his theories with any of the villagers, made Mono grateful. It made her realize that, like any of them, he was just human. A slave of the gods', like anyone else.
Aidan was welcomed in the village and grew up to become Wander's doppelganger. Wisely Brenn decided to leave the village when the resemblance became too noticeable. That moment came around Aidan's tenth birthday. Brenn left only with Aidan and his horse and Mono did not know where they were going, nor did she want to know. As long as they would never set foot in the Forbidden Lands again, she was okay with it. She watched them ride off together on the plump horse she had ridden so long ago. Aidan had become a lively, strong kid, showing the same streak of stubbornness and lust for adventure as Wander had had. She was sure he would do well and Brenn was there to keep him away from the same fate Wander had suffered. She trusted them together.
She hung around long enough to experience Brenn explanation to Aidan why they had to leave, including the tale of her and Wander (leaving out the theory that Aidan was Wander) and how Aidan's life had started in a faraway land. It was satisfying to see that although Aidan was clearly a bit confused and frightened by this tale of death, remorse, crime and romance, he still did not follow the rules. Him saying to Brenn, "He was a brave man, wasn't he, dad?" was more than she could have wished for.
Then they parted ways. It was not like she had to follow them, like she had done so with Wander. This time she knew it was going to be okay. They would find a village and could grow up together, Aidan living the life Wander was supposed to.
So, when Mono left, she did so with a smile, knowing that one day they would be together again. Although things had not gone exactly like planned, she had not let him down and could be at peace, until the moment was there he would join her.
I want to thank every single person who read this and of course big thanks to the persons that reviewed it, favored it or put it on alert. And again I want to say my thanks to my sister, who took the time to proofread the story.