Epilogue

Two men, one young and one old, walked together through the autumn trees at the southern edge of the Zareen Forest. A small green lizard rode the shoulder of the young one, and a tiny sparrow flitted about the head of the old. The two looked nothing alike--where the old man had brown eyes, the young one had gray. Where the young man was lean and toned like a finely tuned instrument, the old was slightly stiff and rather plump. But something about their sallow complexions hinted subtly at a close relation between them.

The young man paused suddenly at the base of a fallen tree that had long ago decayed to almost nothing. He knelt and ran a hand through the soft, loose, loamy earth. The old man watched him, his short, feathery black hair blowing gently in the soft breeze.

"He's here," the young man muttered. "This is the spot."

"He wasn't your brother," the old man replied softly.

"I know. But he was the closest thing I had." He rose suddenly and turned away, following the nearly overgrown path into the crumbling ruins of a small village. Mounds of bones and dirty, tattered rags marked the places where people had died, years ago, and their bodies never tended to. Animals had ravaged most of the carcasses, and time and the elements the rest.

"Which one was yours?" asked the old man.

The young man shook his head. "I don't remember." He moved about the open glade, surveying the wreckage all around him. Mostly cleared patches marked the places where buildings had once been. Near the center of town, a single wall still stood erect, overgrown with foliage though it was. The young man ran an open palm over the smooth stone. "I should like to think it was this one, but I don't remember."

"My magic is beginning to come back," the old man informed his young companion. He flicked the fingers of one hand, and a nearby stone rose into the air, wobbled for a moment, then fell back to earth in a cloud of dust. "We could rebuild it, if you want."

The young man ran his mournful gaze over the ruins once more, turning away from his companion to take it all in. When he turned back, his eyes glittered silver, but it was not a sad color. It was the color of clear spring rain, of the first light before true dawn. The color of life. "No, father. I rather like it this way."

"So do I."