Epilogue

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Epilogue

In which this tale comes to a close and another story begins... 

It took several hours to get everyone up the rock face, down the path, and back to the cottage. Fanndis rode into the village to wake Father Kimbli, telling him they had a favor to ask of him. Valkyrie, now able to hobble around on her healing leg, tended to those who were worse off. Arna, who had been strengthened by the power of the pendant as well, provided encouragement and aid to Valkyrie. Stigg had his shirt off, sneering at the pillow of white linen wrapped around his torso and the salve that smelled like death plastered to his wounds. He wrinkled his nose at the stink and tried to read his book in peace despite the constant distraction.

Soryn, too, had linen strapped to his knife wound. The same foul scented salve nestled within the gash that was quickly healing itself. He sat by Stigg, a new and strong camaraderie between them, and read from another book. Both men begrudged the fact that they could not smoke their pipes, but Valkyrie persisted that smoking was counterproductive when one's body was trying to right itself. Each one had scowled at that. Arna laughed at how alike the men had become since she had been in her coma. For some reason, she found that the older, more mature Soryn was even more attractive and appealing, though she missed his boyish optimism and hope. Perhaps he would gain it back now that Fenris had been dealt with and she was awake.

Fenris sat dazed in the corner with Ulf, Nora, and Derik lying about him on the ground. They had taken it upon themselves to act as watchers in case Fenris chose to do something foolish. The head wound he received from the rocks on the mountain had been bandaged, as well as his shoulder where Ulf had bitten him. Though Valkyrie despised the man in their midst, she could not let him be neglected when it came to care. She was a healer, after all, just as Fanndis was. Fenris did not even struggle at the rope bindings that had been tied a little too tightly. No one made a move to loosen them.

Once Valkyrie had a chance to sit down around the fire, the door to the cottage flew open to reveal Fanndis and Father Kimbli, both shivering at the increasingly cold wind outside.

"I do believe winter may be upon us," Fanndis exclaimed, through chattering teeth.

"Shall we put the kettle on?" Valkyrie offered.

"Please do," Fanndis replied.

Father Kimbli hung his coat and stared at the assorted casualties of the night's battle. He frowned at the wrapped middles of Soryn and Stigg, the crutch Valkyrie used to get around, and the person responsible for it all hunched over in the corner. The frown deepened when he saw no penitence in Fenris' lethargic face. Though he was an old man now, Kimbli straightened himself up and walked over to the corner. The old priest crouched in front of the man who had once been a boy under his care. Memories of Fenris' troubled childhood and violent adolescence jumbled in Kimbli's mind.

"I want you to know something, Fenris," Kimbli began.

"What? You intend to throw me to the wolves?" Fenris' words came from a weak and slurring mouth. He chuckled at his private joke.

"I intend to see you fully repent for the chaos and shame you have wrought in this family and I intend to see you smile again, with kindness and gentleness in your heart; not this evil, vengeful sneer you have now," Kimbli told him.

"We'll see, old man. You tried it once. We know how successful that rehabilitation attempt was," Fenris cackled, trying to focus his gaze on the face before him.

Kimbli straightened up and asked Valkyrie for some of the tea she had just brought in on a tray. The old priest brought the cup to Fenris' lips and let the man drink, though the eldest son of the dead Maslyn did so with bitterness and resentment in his heart. He contemplated spitting it out at the man, but Fenris knew he was beaten and that he was at their mercy. His head felt as though it would crack in half and he was nearly dead from exhaustion. The pendant had drained him of his energy even before his head had been smashed on the mountainside. Fenris was no fool, contrary to what everyone around him believed.

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