It was the day of the Autum Moon festival, and the sun was setting on the Aelfen palace at Aitlantias. A bard nervously fumbled with his sharisan. Though the nobles had taken him for any other bard, thanks to the two thin braids that hung over his left temple, they hadn't been able to read the bead-code at their end. The green and blue beads marked him a Sardaylen; just out of his apprentice hood. He honestly didn't think he had enough skill to play at the festival, and wouldn't have even been here except for the fact that his old Master – a ka'Missyre, Kyrodan Riverswift – had all but deposited him here.

The populace were going from stall to stall, admiring craftsmanship and buying some much-needed items, watching plays and listening to ballads, commissioning boots, weapons and jewelry from their respective makers, and waiting for the traditional song-tale to begin. Every year a song was sung for the Autumn festival, and he didn't think himself ready to do so. Maybe when he made Lesalin, but not until then.

A murmur began at the nearby gate, and the Sardaylen looked over too see who they were welcoming so fervently, almost worshipfully. When he got a clearer view, he could have wept for joy at the sight of the scarlet tunic, the phoenix-like wings, the red and gold beads ending the fairy's braids. With a bard's grace – and secret relief – he ceded the platform to the Starsinger, though the fairy's fluid movements made him feel as clumsy as an ilk'Lesalin.

The Starsinger waved to the Aelfen, and they waved back, cheering for him to begin. The royalty who sat on the dais smiled at him, the blond Empress amused and her blue-haired consort as eager as his people.

"Empress Fayanna, Consort chinduren Ryshane, chinduren Kieran, chindara Shana, chinduren Lukasten, Lady Marshal Lira Brokensword," he greeted them with a bow.

"Is that really the Starsinger Pyrshalyn Phoenixwing?" a young girl asked curiously. The rest of the populace laughed happily, kindly delighted in the girl's naiveté.

"Yes, dear, I am Pyrshalyn," Pyrshalyn replied to the girl, who was right next to the dais. He hopped off to look at her. She had distinctly Aelfen lines to her face, with a strong, sharp chin, slightly tilted eyes and pointed ears. Her hair was plain brown, and her eyes green. Then he stood up to speak with her mother. "How old is she?"

"Ten." He smiled at her mother, then bent to look the girl in the eye.

"What's your name, little one?"

"I'm Tindra, mista."

"How would you like to sing like me?" he asked her softly. She smiled a totally delighted smile.

"You mean sing so that people can see the pretty pictures? Yes!" There were no objections from the mother; to be a Starsinger was a highly reputable profession.

"Well then, up on the stage with you!" the Starsinger concluded, picking her up and putting her on the dais. He vaulted back up, and started stringing his sharisan. It was a brief and as informal as his own choosing had been. He remembered how when he was younger, another fairy Starsinger had boasted about his teacher's dramatic choosing.

Pyr – comfortable around his peers – had raised his eyebrow sardonically and replied, "My family knew what it meant when a Starsinger showed up and took their kid away; Geran didn't have to spell it out for them."

The crowd was quiet for a moment, proud to see one of their own chosen to be a Starsinger, and by one as famous as Pyrshalyn. Then they burst back out. "Sing us a song-tale, Firefeather!"

He laughed softly. "Is that all you ever want from me? Well, there is a new one, it should be an aria when it's done –"

"Sing it!" Tindra was nodding her agreement, so he tuned it to the proper key. Shana shot him a suspicious look as he did so, probably tipped off by the phrasing he had used, but he ignored it. It was hard enough to do this song right, because every time he even thought about it he started laughing. He didn't need Shana to start as well.

The music started softly, so that the crowd had to strain to hear it. Then it grew louder, and sadder. That was when the Starsinger's clear voice rang out in the words of his new song.

"A girl walked down a hard-paved road,
Her white hair flew unbound behind her.
She walked to a fate she did not desire,
Knowing only loneliness awaited her.
But she went the same, with the whistling wind
Blowing at her bare arms and her loose hair,
And though she pretended to feel otherwise
She liked the wind and knew the weather there…"

The crowd stared, completely and totally entranced at this, the story of their latest heroine: the Air's'guardian Aria Windsong.


The epilogue was a little short, I know. About half the length of the average chapter. But was it ok?

Alaira: ^_^ Thak you! I'm so sad its over… but Fate and Fire is coming! Thank you as well!
cold eclipsed shadow: *raised eyeborw* This is the first I've heard form you… Well, thanks for the review, and I think you're not the only one who was waiting for that!
S'okay! I knew you'd get here eventually! Aw, I feel loved. ^_^ Thank you! I love Switchfoot! Does the cd have 'meant to live' on it? I love that song… Was anybody not waiting for them to kiss? It just seemed appropriate… *grins* And that's about as much fluff as I can write. Overmuch fluff can be deadly… And yes, m'dear, Aria and Shadow will be in the sequel. Yup, a Shadow is a Guardian!
Lily Pierce: *grins* You reviewed just before I updated. Thank you! And I guessed that you probably wouldn't be the one to complain about fluff. ^_~ I guess you're the only one who would remember the female Shadow… I don't think anyone else read Watersong. I couldn't resist putting her in. Yeah, I'm kinda sorry for Chris too. He's an ok person, really, just has a few unsavoury relatives. That's life for you, I guess. Or writing.

I just wanted to point something out that I thought some of you might not get. In the Aelfen language, the word for a profession like mage or bard can also mean a mage or bard of average strength or training. When you refer to an apprentice, you add ilk' before the word. Thus, ilk'Lesalin means apprentice bard.

A few relevant facts. (gasp!)

1. Fate's Winds was originally only supposed to be a short prologue to Fate and Fire. It was also going to be from Stormwing's point of view.

2. In the first story that I wrote about the Fate's Winds time period, Shadow Cal'asan was
a) Female
b) Un-angsty and
c) Not a part of Cal'asan. In fact, he (she) was rather like Aria in that sense.
How things change, eh?

3. Gossips didn't meet in the washroom; they talked wherever. And they were bad gossips, like from Kali's quote earlier on: 'Aria! Aria! Mark just breathed again!'

4. An aria – when Pyr mentioned it – is a kind of song-saga, usually for a god or hero. I didn't know that when I named Aria, but hey! S'cool!

5. Carrot juice is murder (Hey, did you actually expect me to go without one last random fact?)

Next chapter will be a teaser to Fate and Fire, which is the continued adventures of the 21st century iawyth (group, in case some of you didn't catch on to that meaning) of Guardians. If anybody has a name for the group of them (actually, if Fate and Fire goes the way its planned, there might be one, but until then…) please give me a suggestion. And of course, a few more will show up by the time it is over.

You guys are the greatest. You know who you are – all you guys who (not so) patiently waited for me to finish my trip/exams/period of writer's block/party and go to update. Whenever you reviewed, I sat back at my computer and hit my head against the moniter until I could get you another chapter. And you got me over 100 reviews. So, while I am thankful for all of my reviewers, this story is for:

Alariec: Probably the only guy whose read this all the way through, for reasons I don't understand. For all you action/adventure/horror fans, go read The Third Day and Crimson Africa. Amazing, and I didn't even like that genre when I started reading it!
Lily Pierce:Almost always there with a review, probably the biggest reason that I didn't give up the first time I got writers block. For fantasy fans, read her The Mirror Chronicles. They're great!
Callie (DancerSweetheart): I don't think there was a single review that you wrote that didn't make me grin. Thanks for your support!
Alaira (Alaira Pendragon): My first reviewer! If for no other reason than this, she'll always be special to me. She and Callie write Fate's Chosen.

Until I post Fate and Fire, then,

Ilia'san kairda sayn ty'ferril,
Shadow Gryphon