Whatever begins, must end.

[A/n] Epilogue time! Here we go...

At first, despair constricted around her heart, and the darkness suffocated her. She wandered the world of gears in a lost daze, his blank gaze haunting her as if he were a ghost. He had defeated the old story-spinner and rescued her from being a duck, and she would be forever in his debt. In her one attempt to repay him, her words had failed her. She had brought her writer back to life, just as she remembered him, but she had stripped him of his soul.

...she, upon reading what he'd written, had decided she could not live without him.

Finally, she was forced to accept that he was a figment she had created, his soul nothing more than supports created by her words. Her true beloved was long dead, and could never be revived.

She could scarcely live with herself. She had to do something, anything, to lift herself out of this misery.

And so she would learn how to traverse through stories. She would follow in the footsteps of the story-spinner and discover worlds layered upon her own, manipulating the gears of time and space to suit her. For the writer's words had granted her near-immortality, and she could not bring herself to waste his last gift.

She remembered how bitterly she had opposed being another's puppet, the terrible feeling of being forced to obey another's will. So she did not create stories, not yet. For now, she was content to explore the worlds beyond the one she knew, filled with marvelous and beautiful wonders she could hardly have dreamed of.

In her adventures, she favored the form of a young girl, skipping happily along the grassy paths or winding shores. But if she ever came into contact with characters - people, with their own thoughts and ideas like herself - a few might detect the hidden wisdom and sadness in her young blue eyes.

At first, she did not know if she should bring him with her. Her heart had broken, for all the riches at her fingertips, and she could not look upon him without profound grief stabbing through her. But gradually, she came to decide that she might create stories to combat all the melancholy, horror, and despair that she encountered - stories with happy endings, tales with beauty and grace resonating through them.

And so she spun stories. He became a pauper in the streets with solemn green eyes, a righteous lawyer defending his client, a spaceship commander fighting to save his crew.

Bit by bit, she continued. One step at a time. She created new stories, stories filled with hope.

And one day, weary after a long day of story-spinning, she turned around to return to her home, the world of stories. Unspoken memories and wishes guided her steps, and she found her path wandering. For she, as the storyteller, could step into whichever world she wished, and she had yet to visit the final story.

She scarcely knew where she was going, but an unbidden force urged her on. She walked into the gear, and after the darkness she found herself in a land of lush beauty. Her footsteps were light on the grass, which stretched out in an endless green plain. The sky beckoned, bright and beautiful blue, and she smiled, for somehow she already knew what she was to find there.

He was sitting beneath a great oak tree, a notebook and quill in his hand. He looked up, as if expecting her, and their gazes locked.

"You came," he said.

"Yes," she promised. "Yes. I'm here."