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For Nathan.


“So what happened next, Grandpa?”
The small voice shook Jo from his memories and he smiled at the little girl sitting in his lap, curled under a rose-colored blanket woven by her grandmother. Her pointed ears poked through her brown curls, grey eyes wide in anticipation. “The bad elves burned down the town and your friends were in danger! What happened to great-gramma? And great-grampa?” She leaned forward. “I promise to listen hard and not interrupt.”
Jo stroked her hair and let her readjust her position. “Well, by the time Amy and Bunny got there everything was gone, burned down to the ground. Maureen, rest her soul, fought to save her vineyard and died when her barn collapsed on top of her. Bunny said that Marti’s house went up in blue flames and that Ogre’s exploded in a green fireball.” He chuckled. “She liked to say that wizards and alchemist had a flare for the dramatic. Amy would always punch her arm when she made that joke.”
“Where did they go?”
“Samanna, you know the answer to that.” He hugged her. “And it’s nearly time for bed. Gramma will have my head on a platter.”
“Please?”
He sighed. “Okay. But when I wake up without a head, I hold you responsible.”
She giggled.
“Amy, Bunny, Kiva and Anthony traveled the realm and had adventures. When Kiva and Anthony became too old to travel, Anthony and Amy taught acrobatics to children. Kiva continued to play music until she rode out of town with Anthony one day and never returned.” He paused.
“Amy got a letter that they died in their sleep an inn. I never saw her cry so hard. Bunny took Duck and Dodge, went to gather them for burial in the place where Tilldae once stood.”
“What happened to Marti?” Samanna blurted then covered her mouth. “I’m sorry!”
“No, that’s alright.” Jo smiled. “Marti went back to the city and started a thriving business selling her potions. She would use her door-scrolls to visit us and bring us all sorts of things from her city. I still see her from time to time. Her mind is still sharp despite her age. Traveling is harder on her these days.” His smile got sad. “I keep her scroll on the wall and keep expecting her to walk through with a smile and a surprise.
“Trillium kept Marti on her toes all these years. I heard that the thief had collected a fortune and disappeared. Marti never pursued her because she said that Trillium wasn’t harming a single soul, therefore there was no reason to risk anyone’s life to find her.
“As for Uncle Ogre... well, we have him to thank for our village. He built another inn and called it the Phoenix’s Wing. Your great-gramma and grandpa and me helped him and it did very well. People would come and build their houses, eventually this one inn became the center of a town called Refuge. All are welcome to visit, anyone is welcome to make this their home.”
Samanna nodded, straining to keep her eyes from closing.
“Your mother, who was a blacksmith’s apprentice, met your father, who’s father was a traveling merchant, when their team of horses needed new shoes. The merchant’s family stayed in the Phoenix’s Wing while the job was done and once it was complete they left but your father stayed behind to work at the inn. He would always say that your mother’s smile drew him in and kept him close to her.
“I understand because she has the same smile your grandma has and I’ve not been too far from her for too long.” He chuckled and kissed the now sleeping Samanna on the forehead.
He carried her to her bed, tucked her under the quilt he had made with his own hands and gently closed the door behind him.
Puck stood in the hallway. Her dress was made of fall leaves, Jo could have sworn he saw sprigs of holly in her hair. “That was a beautiful story. I’m glad I came when I did.”
Jo hugged the sprite. “How are you? I haven’t seen you in a long time! How are you?”
She rubbed his arm. “I came with some bad news. Your life span is almost to an end.”
He bit back tears. “All things must die, right? Only the way of nature.”
“But I came because I made a promise. I said I would take you to see my world.” She offered her hand.
“They say sprites are vicious, uncaring creatures who are indifferent to the suffering of others. I say they’ve not met my Puck and her tribe. I tell anyone who will listen about the Border Town sprites who saved me.” He took her hand. “I would love to see the place you call home.”
She took his hand and they stepped into the darkness.
The hallway was empty.
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August 2011

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