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by Margo Fallis

          As the sun rose, the sky changed to a brilliant pink. White puffy clouds turned crimson; birds chirped in the tree tops. The night before everyone had fallen asleep in the same tent, comforting each other until the wee hours of the morning.

     When Bubb, Fingal and the other villagers came back after gathering firewood, nuts and berries, they spotted the sleeping heroes. “They’re back!” Fingal’s short, stubby legs ran to them. “Are they all dead? None of them are moving.”

     Corin opened his eyes at the sound of the annoying dwarf. He nudged the rest of them. They stretched and then told the anxious villager what had happened. Cheers of joy and peace rushed into the morning sky.

     “Is the wolf really dead, Corin? Did you kill it? How did you kill it? Did it try to eat you? Did it bite you? Were its eyes red when it was dead?”

     The others laughed at Fingal. Somehow his normally annoying questions didn’t bother any of them.

     The women made a hearty breakfast which was devoured greedily. A meeting was held in Padd’s tent. Bubb, being the leader of the villagers, invited Kile and Princess Serba to live with them as they had once lived in Pinea before. They accepted the gracious invitation.

Padd let out a loud croak, rejoicing at the news.

As the celebrations continued into the early afternoon, Braden went for a walk with Bramber. “I think it’s time for us to go home,” she said.

“I agree. We’ve done all that was asked of us. I’m sure Cafania, Gorbal and Corin will agree.” Braden took her hand in his. “It’s been quite an adventure.”

“If this is what you call adventure, then I don’t want any more of it.” Bramber turned to look back at the village. “I’ll race you back.” Without waiting she darted off through the trees, laughing.

“Hey, no fair.”

              *  *  *

After discussing the plan with the others in the small group, they made the decision to leave. The Stone of Destiny was returned to Cafania, which she slipped into her backpack. They spent the next hour gathering what they needed and then went to say goodbye to the villagers.

“I think I speak for everyone in the village when I say thank you for all your help. Thank you for saving our lives and restoring our village to one of peace and safety.” Padd sat in front of his tent, sweating and wiping his forehead with a dirty piece of cloth.

The villagers cheered in agreement. Princess Serba and Kile came out of their tent and approached the five. “Kile and I thank you for a new chance at life and for saving us. I am deeply saddened by the loss of my son, Kolin, but it was meant to be.”

“What will become of you both now?” Cafania searched the eyes of the young boy.

“Kile and I are going to stay here and rebuild Pinea to its former glory. It used to be our home and it will be again.”

“But you’re a princess,” Gorbal said.

“And I always swill be, but Bubb is doing just fine leading our village. It is obvious through his actions that he cares for each and every one of them. Kile and I will not change anything.” Princess Serba put her arm around Kile and pulled him close.

Corin, Bramber and Braden spent the next few minutes saying farewell to all. Corin put the last supply into his pack when Fingal ran up to him. “What is it, dwarf?”

“I want to stay here in Pinea. I don’t want to have any more adventures. I want to live with Bubb and the others and maybe visit Damien and see Sami again. We should have the people of Damien come and live here,” Fingal said as an afterthought. For the first time in his life, Fingal stared straight into Corin’s eyes without flinching or looking away.

“You’re serious, aren’t you! You really like it here?”

Fingal nodded his head. “I do like it here. Everyone is nice to me. I’ll be happy here and I can watch out for Princess Serba and Kile and help Padd and Bubb.”

Corin reached for Fingal’s short, stubby hand and shook it. “I’m proud of you, Fingal. If you want to stay and you think you’ll be happy, then I say stay.”

Fingal hugged Corin’s leg. “Thank you, Corin.” He cried and ran away.

“He didn’t even ramble. He must be serious.” Corin laughed and watched the dwarf run into Padd’s tent. “I’ll miss that dwarf.” He took a deep breath, tied up his pack and walked toward the others. “Ready?

“Ready,” Braden said.

Corin glanced at Cafania and Gorbal. “We’re down to four of us now; five counting Bramber. Fingal wants to stay here.”

The others arched their brows in surprise, but remained silent. With a wave they left the village and headed towards Zolfin. They had only gone a mile or two when a whirlwind enveloped them and dropped them on the cold stone floor of the Temple of Zolfin. When the debris stopped spinning around them, they saw the Lord of the Heavens standing next to his table. His dark blue hooded robe draped across a chair. Next to him stood the Lord of Nature, the Lord of the Earth, the Lord of Love and the Lord of the Seas.

“We are pleased with your actions.  You have accomplished all that we have asked of you. You rid this land of Kolin, the evil wolf, restored Princess Serba and her son, Kile, to life and learned how to use the Stone of Destiny and the Book of Spells. We are very pleased.” The Lord of the Heavens nodded; his long, gray beard touching the floor. The other Lords nodded too. “We are pleased to see Bramber made it through unscathed.” She bowed to him.

Cafania searched in her pack for the Stone. She held it out, handing it to the Lord of the Heavens. “Here it is. I give it back to you, with thanks.”

He took it from her and placed it in his pocket.

Gorbal touched the Book of Spells through his pants pocket. “I’m keeping this, right?”

The Lord of the Heavens nodded in agreement. “I thank you again. You may keep the Healing Stone to use at your leisure. I also remember our part of the bargain, to transport you home. Are you all ready to go?  Lord of Nature, you can begin. You are to send Gorbal home.”

“Wait,” Gorbal interrupted. “I can’t go yet.” He shook Corin’s hand. “Thank you for all you have done to help me improve my life.” Corin nodded. “Braden, thank you too, and though I don’t know you, thanks for being there.” Gorbal smiled at Bramber. “What about Cafania? I came with her. I want to go back with her.”

The Lord of the Heavens looked at Cafania. “Well?”

“I do want to go with Gorbal, but first, there’s something I must do.”  Cafania kissed Braden on the cheek and then whispered into Bramber’s ear, “Take good care of him.”

Gorbal and Cafania stood next to each other and took hands. “Thanks, Corin,” Cafania winked. “We’re ready now.”

The Lord of Nature and the Lord of Love whisked around their wands. Sparks of green, pink and aqua blue glittered and popped. In a puff of smoke the gnome and woman disappeared.

“Braden, Bramber, you are next.” The Lord of Heavens nodded to the Lord of the Seas.

Braden shook Corin’s hand. “You know, Corin, now that Fingal is gone, you can come with us. We can always use an extra hand. Besides that, Bramber has an older sister, Corinna, who’s almost as pretty as her.”

Laughter burst from Braden and Bramber’s mouths. Corin felt a tear pooling in his eye. “I just might take you up on that offer. If she looks anything like Bramber, well…”

“Enough,” Braden said. “Your point taken.”

“Together then?” The Lord of the Heavens grinned.

The Lord of the Seas and the Lord of the Earth waved their wands. Purple, orange and bright red sparkles flew across the room. Before they disappeared in a puff of smoke, Braden shouted, “Onward, to a new adventure!” And the three of them vanished.

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