Wordcount: 677 words
Echoes of a Distant Age
“It’s not a matter of fixing, it’s a matter of finishing.” The unicorn had gone very still, and it took a moment for Wendy to realize the rest of the world had gone still as well; as if all of Velanon has stopped to listen. “In the Eastern Mountains lives a sorcerer with no heart; Evil to his very core he traded it to a passing tinker for a clockwork heart and immortality. Like the Black the story’s hold on him is starting to fail and when it does Velanon will follow.” He stepped forward, nose touching her chest. “You are my power; Mother to a Lost Child, Woman to a Forgotten Childhood. This is your story, just as it’s mine, only we walk between the words.”
“What is this place really?” She reached out to touch the scar where his horn had been. “Is it David’s or Heather’s or something else altogether? That’s the bit I don’t get, how it keeps going without them.”
“Think of it like a garden, once planted it grows on its own. Maybe not the way you intended; some things, wild things, get through the weedings, some exotic things die off for lack of care, and if you leave it along too long it goes wild. The story has a life of its own after a while. ”
“And they’ve got a unicorn gardener.” She stepped away from the wagon, suddenly needed space. Moonstar followed, sedate hoofbeats following her out of the campsite and into the surrounding woods. “There are an awful lot of allegories here for a twelve year old.”
“Heather didn’t plant us all. Neither did David. Velanon is older than you think.”
“How old is that? Three generations? Four? Unless they brought the gate with them from Scotland–” Moonstar stopped suddenly, and she turned to look at him.
“Just the keystone.”
And that, that was not good on a whole new level of not good. Because if this wasn’t Heather’s world…
“All she did was give us names. New names, new faces to overlay the old.”
And for a moment she could feel the weight behind it, the power forced into a unicorn frame, and she was terrified. Then it was gone, leaving behind a hollow almost as vast. Moonstar leaned into her, propping her up as the world swam in front of her eyes.
“It’s not as bad as all that,” the unicorn was warm and solid, an illusion with a heartbeat, “the story’s gone wild before and Velanon’s survived.”
“The Shadow War.”
He nodded, “And then you came, you and David.”
And she remembered, those earliest adventures when he’d led them on perilous quests and million-to-one odds. Tales that had bordered to close to the dark for her comfort, and she’d woven in her own light to counter them. Stories of the Silver Sword, the Harp of Truth, and their ancient royal ally; the massive black dragon Beowulf. Who, she abruptly realized, had familiar green eyes.
“But he never came here,” she stepped backwards, “not through the gate.” Because if he had, if he’d known the war would have ended in a single heartbeat.
“Which is when she found Cat.” She felt the hefty warmth as the feline in question wound around her legs. The tabby yawned at her, clearly disdainful of anything so common happening.
“In a way, yes.” Moonstar lowered his head to exchange sniffs with the cat. “He is The Cat Who Walks Alone, and he’s a different sort of creature altogether.”
“Most cats are.” They stood in silence for a moment, as Wendy tried to find her place in the chaos. Ancient chaos at that. “So why am I here instead of out there telling the story?”
“Because it’s not your story.”
“Then what happens when it’s over?” Because the more she thought about it, the less good answers she came up with. There were too many tales about folk who walked across worlds and never walked back. “Well?”
“You go home again.” He paused, “I think.”