Epilogue

The cycles of life keep turning, no matter what we try to do to stop them. Eventually, the generations that won freedom for Shayarkan slaves in Feirtala and peace with the demons in Galatea will die, and the next generation will step forward. Years down the road, no one will even remember the name of the Galatean Empress who first incorporated demon genes into the royal bloodline, or the Feirtalan princess who united her homeland and Shayark.

But to those existing in the now, none of that matters.

In a castle in Southern Shayark, an aging king embraces his wife, knowing that he will continue to cherish her until the day they die. A surly prince watches his golden-haired princess lay their youngest child down to bed. And a diffident human deity dances in native dress with his baby girl to the sound of his wife's beating drums.

In a castle in Eastern Shayark, a queen sits by her son's cradle, speaking to him slowly even though she knows he does not understand what she is saying. Her husband stands behind her, his eyes misted with tears at his wife's endeavors to start teaching their son, whose deafness she had already foreseen, how to read lips.

Two floors up, a Feirtalan princess turned ship captain entertains her husband with her own rendition of a bawdy drinking song.

On the island of Xinarca, the doma watch the final stones being laid in their new palace and know that what will be a long and peaceful regime has only just begin. Deeper in the palace, a former assassin turned blacksmith finally stops fighting her attraction to a roguish prince and allows him the honor of sleeping with her again. And a once-bloodthirsty albino shares with her mate the joyous news that he will soon become a father.

Across the windless sea, a churlish daimon and his longtime wife stand just outside of the palace courtyard constructed so many years ago, watching their eldest son finally propose to his longtime lover.

"Did you imagine, when we first met at the Tea House all of those years ago, that it would one day lead to this?" Ariella asked her husband.

Demmi squeezed her shoulder affectionately. "I had no idea," he admitted.

She looked up at him, her eyes sparkling with genuine curiosity. "Still want to go back to your cave, Demmi?"

He grinned. "Not on your life."

The cycles will keep turning, but in that one moment, they were perfectly aligned.

And they all lived happily ever after.