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Wolf-Song, Star-Song: A Skywise Story



How did Skywise come to make his momentous decision to become immortal? The answers to this and other questions are conjectured here.

Sometimes when Skywise closed his eyes, he could still feel the rock walls of Blue Mountain closing in around him. It made him gasp a little, as if the attempt to take a breath might once again betray him. But the sweet air filling his lungs always brought him back to the Now, and his eyes would pop open to see the familiar sights of Holt and den. Or, like tonight, he would see the stars as he sat on his star-watching hill.

The sun had set three times since Blue Mountain had crashed into dust, and all that the Gliders had been was now only food for carrion eaters. Skywise should have felt more regret, but two thoughts kept singing through his mind, drowning the sadness: Aroree, wherever she was, still lived; and Cutter, this time, had not abandoned Skywise in his need. It was Winnowill, not Skywise, whom Tam had left to her fate. This time, for Tam, his brother had come before his duty.

Skywise sighed as he turned his eyes from the stars, rose and began to walk down the hill. He was glad, in a way, that Newstar had not come to watch the stars with him tonight. She was an interesting distraction, but tonight he had simply wanted to sit and think. He thought Aroree must have reached the Palace by now. He felt bad when he thought about what she would find on her return. Her people, her home gone. . . But Skywise thought he could give her some comfort. At least a little.

And perhaps it would help her, to talk about what she had just seen. Skywise missed the Palace. He had chosen his chief-friend and his tribe instead, and he did not regret the choice, but it would be good to talk about the Palace with someone who had just seen it for the first time.

As Skywise passed under the first of the trees below the hill, he stopped. Someone was crashing along the tree-paths towards him, as if whoever it was didn’t care who or what heard him.

Scouter. Skywise had just time to catch the scent before the young elf dropped to earth in front of him, and a fist smashed into Skywise’s jaw.

Skywise staggered backwards into a tree and leaned there, gasping, as Scouter approached again, his eyes red with rage. “Whoa!” Skywise said, lifting both hands. “I think I know what this is about-- but Dewshine and Windkin are safe now. No harm done, right?”

“No harm!” Scouter shouted. He took another swing at Skywise, who ducked out of the way and circled to face him again. It was just as well, Skywise thought, that their wolves were too occupied with the jack-wolf intruders to get involved in this tonight. This wasn’t going to get resolved if it was interrupted again. But Skywise didn’t want to show throat to a tribesman so much younger than he. He’d have to find a way to subdue and then placate him.

Scouter’s voice was grating in his ears. “Dewshine wanted to know why Windkin’s scent was so changed, so we took him to Leetah to find out what Winnowill did to him.” Scouter’s fists were clenched, his breathing labored, but at least he had stopped throwing punches. Skywise took a deep breath.

“What did Leetah say?” he asked.

Scouter’s eyes flashed red again. He stepped closer until he was breathing into Skywise’s face. “His . . . wolf blood . . . is gone,” he growled. “That filthy she-snake took Timmorn’s blood!”

Skywise’s indrawn breath hissed through his teeth. Leetah had hinted before that such a thing was possible, but no one had wanted to pursue it. To do it like this, to a cub with no choice in the matter-- Scouter was right. The thing was unforgivable. And yet . . .

“You! You’re the cause of this!” Scouter snarled. “And by the High Ones, I’ll make you pay!” Scouter lunged. But his own fury made him careless. Skywise darted behind him and caught Scouter’s arm, twisting it up behind his back. Then he hooked his elbow across Scouter’s throat and held him still, saying reasonably, “Well, you’ve already given me a swollen jaw. But I didn’t take Windkin’s wolf blood.”

“You let Aroree into the Holt!” Scouter spat. “And Aroree took Windkin to Winnowill!” He struggled, but Skywise was the stronger.

“You’re right,” Skywise said. “And I’m sorry about what happened to Windkin-- I really am. But think. If Aroree hadn’t taken him, and Dewshine hadn’t followed her, would we have gotten wind of Winnowill’s plan before it was too late?”

“Let me go, Skywise!”

“Not till you listen to me. Cutter was going to cut Winnowill’s web one strand at a time, starting with the humans who worshiped her. But that would have taken awhile, and she was already building the Egg into a false Palace that she would have used to find and kill us all. What if we hadn’t found out until after she was finished?”

“She didn’t know where we were till you gave it away,” Scouter said sullenly. But Skywise felt the tension easing.

“Maybe not, but she would have found us sooner or later, and we might not have been ready for her,” Skywise said. He paused. “Maybe I shouldn’t have let Aroree into the Holt. But Winnowill had hurt Aroree, too. Winnowill’s the enemy, Scouter. Not Aroree, and not me.”

There was a silence. Then Scouter said again, “Let me go, Skywise.”

“Are you going to try to break my jaw again?”

Scouter shook his head, and Skywise released him. Without a word, without looking at Skywise again, Scouter walked away into the trees. Skywise took a deep breath, fingered his bruised jaw, then reached up behind his visor to run a hand through his hair. That seemed to have worked all right.

He glanced up to where the stars glinted between the trees, and sighed. Windkin was immortal now. He would never age and die, like the other Wolfriders. If . . . But no. It was out of the question. He’d better go and see if Leetah could do something about this jaw.

Skywise returned to the Holt, but found that Leetah was busy. While he and Scouter had been occupied, Zhantee had nearly been killed by a bristle-boar, because Strongbow had missed his kill.

Skywise sighed again as he waited. Blue Mountain had fallen, and Winnowill had been carried off and disappeared. But it seemed the things she had started were going to go on for a long time.

* * *

Starjumper was dead. The pain of it had ebbed; it had been a swift river threatening to wash Skywise away, but now was only a dull, throbbing ache in his gut. He spoke consolingly to Dodia-- it had been her jack-wolf, but not her fault-- from what seemed a great distance, though she was standing right in front of him. The death had felt almost like his own.

Skywise’s recent words to Cutter over Starjumper’s body swirled around and around in his mind: “If I have to give my blood and bones back to the land that made me, why can’t I be the one to say when?” He thought again of Windkin’s immortality, and his throat constricted.

All his life there had been this small place deep inside him that was afraid. Afraid of being swept away, like a dead leaf on the wind, from life and warmth and certainty. He covered it so skillfully that probably Tam was the only one who knew it was there. And Tam had once abandoned him to the current . . .

But not this time. Not earlier, in the grip of Door’s rockshaping, and not now, in his grief for his wolf-friend. And so for Cutter’s sake Skywise would stay bound to the land that made him, bound with the ties of a Wolfrider. But one of the things that had made him love being a Wolfrider now lay dead in a meadow under the two moons.

Around him the others were continuing to talk-- about Strongbow’s trouble and Suntop’s-- but Skywise, lost in his thoughts, hardly heard them.

Then light exploded in the night sky above, descending like a star alighting in the center of the forest. With it came a sense of presence, like the weight of uncountable beings all acting as one. Skywise and everyone else stood frozen and speechless until Cutter, called out of astonishment by his duty as chief, bade them wait while he and Skywise went to investigate. Even in that moment Skywise couldn’t help feeling gratified that Cutter felt no need to tell him to come with him. It was an assumption as natural as the action itself.

The light was, of course, coming from the Palace. Inside himself Skywise had known what it would be, though the amazement was no less real. But the last time he had seen the Palace, it had been cracked and crumbling. Now it shone in perfection like a faceted stone, gleamed like moonlight on water. The doors opened, and Treestump, Clearbrook and Rayek appeared.

The next few moments were a blur of excited greetings and explanations. Then a glimpse of glowing eyes and white fur startled Skywise. Cutter and Leetah stood aside respectfully, and there came pacing slowly past them a great she-wolf. The High One.

It was as if she and Skywise were the only two beings in the forest. Timmain stopped in front of him and lifted her face to his, her ears relaxed in friendly greeting. Her tail lifted and waved slowly, once . . . twice.

“Timmain!” he whispered. “Oh, High One!” He looked into her feral eyes and could find no more to say.

A moment later he found himself standing with her and gazing at the shining expanse of the Palace. His mind told him he should be in awe of her: the last living Firstcomer, the mother of his race. But his hands in her fur, and all his other senses, said she was a wolf, familiar and welcome as the Holt itself. And to his grieving heart she was like the first taste of dreamberries after a long white-cold.

Gradually Skywise became aware that Cutter and Leetah were arguing with Rayek about going in search of the unknown elves whose cry Suntop kept hearing. The thought of actually flying in the Palace made Skywise’s heart race and his breath catch in his throat. But he knew that to Cutter, the tribe must come first, and the Way must be preserved. Tam couldn’t simply give complete control of all their lives into Rayek’s hands. Especially since losing control of their first quest had ended in near disaster.

And Timmain understood. Skywise could feel her ancient mind, moving in the rhythms of wolf-thought, gently touching his own. She who was immortal knew very well what it was to run along the paths of this world.

Suddenly it no longer seemed impossible to fulfill both the longings within him. Skywise felt as if he were standing with one hand touching the stars, while the other held tightly to the world he knew. He didn’t know, or question, how long the feeling would last. But when Clearbrook and Strongbow walked out of the Palace, the light of release on their faces and the body of One-Eye in their arms, Skywise knew at once what would be fitting and right.

“Follow me,” he said.

And so they all stood in the meadow under the stars and howled for One-Eye and Starjumper together, until the brightness of the moons began to fade from the sky.

* * *

Just before dawn Cutter called for a council-- not, as Rayek clearly wanted, in the Palace, but in the usual place at the foot of the Father Tree. As they walked there from the meadow, Skywise approached Treestump and Clearbrook. “Did you see anything of Aroree in the Frozen Mountains? Or did the Go-Backs see her?”

Clearbrook and Treestump glanced at each other, then Clearbrook laid a hand on Skywise’s arm. “We never had a chance to speak to the Go-Backs. Rayek drove them away from the Palace as soon as we arrived.”

“And we saw nary a trace of Aroree,” Treestump said. “Maybe she was there and gone again before we got there.”

Skywise nodded without speaking. He hoped, wherever she was, Aroree was safe.

The news of what Rayek had done to the Go-Backs seemed to have spread through the whole tribe. As everyone began to gather around the Tree, Skot and Krim stalked up to Rayek as he stood with arms folded at the bottom of the wooden steps Redlance had shaped as the base of the trunk. Skot had drawn his knife, and Krim was fingering the hilt of hers in its sheath.

At Skywise’s side, Timmain whined anxiously. Cutter had not yet arrived.

“Who do you think you are, you frozen dung chip?” Skot demanded. He brandished the knife in Rayek’s face.

“The Palace was everything to our people! What gives you the right?” Krim added fiercely, her voice shaking with passion.

Rayek lifted his chin and looked at them from under his eyebrows. “I see no need to explain myself to you,” he said.

With a cry Skot sprang at him, Krim close behind. Rayek lifted a hand. Power flashed from his fingers and struck the two Go-Backs like bolts from a cross-bow, knocking them in a heap to the ground.

“Enough!” roared Cutter, striding into the group. He pulled Skot and Krim to their feet, then whirled on Rayek. “You’ve done enough damage to the Go-Backs,” he snarled. “Not in my Holt, and not to my tribesmen!”

For a moment the blue eyes and the golden ones blazed into each other. Then Rayek inclined his head slightly. “Very well.”

Cutter relaxed a little. “We’re here to talk, not fight,” he said to Krim and Skot. “Put that weapon away.”

Sullenly, Skot obeyed. Skywise took a deep breath. Hearing about Rayek’s new power hadn’t prepared him for the sight of it. He moved closer to Tam, hoping he could be of some use to his chief if Rayek decided to try that again.

“Now,” Cutter went on, turning to the group, “Rayek wants to take the Palace in search of the elves Suntop’s been hearing. But he needs Suntop to guide him. That means Leetah and I, at least, must go too.”

“And me!” Ember piped up. Cutter smiled at her. “And you, of course, cub.”

Strongbow frowned. **But the tribe needs our chief here.**

“All of you may come!” Rayek’s gesture encompassed the entire gathering. “But first, to show you it is safe, I will take you all to Sorrow’s End. The Sun Villagers can stay there while we go on to aid the strangers.” Rayek’s eyes lingered, as he spoke, on the visitors from the Sun Village. Skywise caught a glimpse of Zhantee’s face. A look of startled, eager excitement was slowly fading into resignation. Or was it disappointment? Skywise wondered if there was more to Zhantee than he had considered.

“Harumph!” Treestump’s voice took Skywise’s mind off Zhantee. “Clearbrook and I saw what Black-Hair did to the Go-Backs. Are we to put ourselves in his hands, now? Suppose he takes it into his head to do the same to us?”

Rayek’s eyes widened. “I would never--” he began.

“But how do we know that?” Nightfall interrupted, her own eyes narrowed as she gazed at Rayek.

**And anyway, are we going to tuck our tails under and just let him take us wherever he wants?** Strongbow sent.

Ekuar, standing just behind Rayek, sighed and closed his eyes. Rayek clenched his fists. “I swear to you--”

“Do you, Rayek?” Cutter asked mildly, but his eyes bored into Rayek’s. “Do you swear the tribe will be safe?”

Rayek bowed his head. “I swear.”

“All right.” Cutter looked around at the tribe. “Suntop can’t go on like this much longer. We need to at least get him to Sorrow’s End, where Savah can help him. But if what he’s hearing really is a group of elves in trouble, how can we close our hearts to them?”

His eyes moved to Skywise’s and lingered there. “Do we go?”

“Yes!” Skywise’s voice was one of many.

Cutter looked at those who hadn’t answered-- Strongbow, Moonshade, Treestump, Skot and Krim. Then, slowly, he said, “All right, Rayek. We’ll all go, but under this condition. Suntop is young. I can’t have you running him from place to place like a tame zwoot. You have the power to fly the Palace. You’ll give me the power to say when. By oath.”

Rayek stared at him. “You cannot be serious! I may only fly the Palace when you allow it? You might as well be in charge of the entire quest!”

Skywise grinned. “Funny how that turns out, isn’t it?”

Rayek pressed his lips together and looked around at the group. “And is this what all of you say?”

“Aye,” growled Treestump. Clearbrook nodded, laying a hand on his arm.

“Take your oath on the Palace itself, Rayek,” she said, “or none of us will go with you.”

“We can take Suntop to Sorrow’s End the usual way,” Moonshade added. Strongbow put his arm around her, nodding too.

Pike chuckled. “What our chief says, we all say, Rayek. Didn’t quite know how big a bite you were taking, did you?”

Cutter had not taken his eyes from Rayek. He did not smile. Suntop gazed up at his father from the circle of his mother’s arms. Then he too looked at Rayek, his face full of hope.

Rayek stared at the Wolfriders’ implacable faces. Some of the Sun Villagers were watching him with sympathy, but there was nothing they could do. He looked at Cutter again and gritted his teeth. Behind him Ekuar laid a hand on Rayek’s shoulder and said something in a low, soothing voice. Rayek turned and lock-sent something that made Ekuar wince. Then, apparently in response to Ekuar’s sent reply, Rayek slowly nodded.

There was a long pause. Ember started to speak, but was silenced by a swift glance from Leetah. Then Rayek turned back to the gathering.

“It seems I have no choice,” he muttered. “Very well.” He cleared his throat. “On the Palace--” Rayek broke off, then squared his shoulders and began again. The words seemed to be forced, one at a time, from his throat. “On the Palace I swear . . . I will fly it only when Cutter gives me word.”

He let out his breath as if after a great effort, then clenched his jaw tight.

A sigh rippled through the gathering. Skot and Krim attempted a cheer and were quelled by a growl from Cutter, who stepped forward and laid a hand lightly on Rayek’s arm. “You’re still Master of the Palace, Rayek,” he said. “But I have to take care of my son, and my tribe.”

Rayek had stiffened at the touch. Now he averted his eyes and turned away. He lifted himself and floated away from the Father Tree back toward the Palace, Ekuar hobbling behind him.

At the edge of clearing Ekuar turned. “Give him a little while to, uh, compose himself,” he said. “Then you can come to us.”

As Ekuar disappeared, Cutter turned to the group. “Gather anything you might want on the journey,” he said. “We could be gone for a long time.”

For a moment everyone stood looking at each other. Then Treestump said gruffly, “Well, you heard our chief. Let’s get moving!”

Ember gave a shout and hugged Suntop impulsively. Together the twins swarmed up the Father Tree. Skywise sidled over to Leetah as everyone else began to move away. **That went well,** he sent with a grin.

Leetah smiled. **Poor Rayek. But I do not see what else Tam could have done.**

“We’re going, that’s what matters,” Skywise said aloud. “We’re going to fly in the Palace!”

Never in his furthest-flung dreams could Skywise have imagined what it was like to fly in the ancient dwelling of the High Ones. The living warmth around him, the murmur of half-heard voices, the ambient light, all swirled and mingled together into a single purpose at Rayek’s command. Skywise’s first moment on the back of Aroree’s great bird was nothing compared to the leap with which the Palace took the air. Then they were suspended between ground and sky, and the sun rose over the edge of the world like a roaring fire.

The feeling came over Skywise that this was what he had wanted all his life without knowing he wanted it; that this was what he was born to do. Timmain, next to him, touched her muzzle to his hand, and he put his hands in the ruff of fur around her neck and squeezed. But he did not look away from what he saw.

There was a flash like eight tongues of skyfire turning eight eights of different colors, and then the Palace was hanging over Sorrow’s End. Skywise had just time to make out the tiny roofs and fields below. Then, as smoothly as a water bird drops onto a lake, the Palace touched the sand, and they had arrived.

* * *

As the doors opened, Rayek stepped forward first. Behind him Cutter stopped all the others with a gesture, letting Rayek go out alone.

Skywise heard the excited cries of the Sun Villagers, and understood. Cutter was giving back to Rayek a little of what he’d taken from him without meaning to, eight and three turns ago. Feeling Tam’s deep satisfaction, Skywise smiled with him. Then Shenshen came running to Leetah, and the greetings began.

Skywise thought a little ruefully of his words to his lovemates when he’d left them so long ago, “Of course I’ll come back! The time will pass before you know it-- you’ll see!” He hadn’t come back, and he wasn’t here now to stay. But of the three maidens, only Ruffel greeted him with her old affection. Maleen hugged him briefly and then ran off with a group of others to flock around Rayek, while Vurdah came only to show him that she now had a lifemate. And she clearly wanted no one else but him.

Oh, well. Skywise hoped Vurdah would become a mother at last, as she’d always wanted.

He thought to himself, with Ruffel on one arm and Newstar on the other, how little difference the wolf blood really made between the two of them. Perhaps it truly was the choices made that were the most important . . .

As usual, the Sun Villagers were more than ready for a celebration. As the festivities began, Skywise caught sight of Picknose and his family, who had been chased out of the Palace by the angry wolves, sheltering under an overhanging rock. Skywise walked over to them.

“Comfortable, Picky?” he asked.

“Grumph.” Picknose’s sullen face scowled out at him.

Skywise bent down and peered under the shelter. “Treestump said you lost your crown in a game of toss-stone. However did you come to wager that?”

“Mind your own business, elf,” Picknose growled.

“Go away!” Trinket added, sticking out her tongue at him.

Skywise laughed. “All right. There are other ways of finding out what I want to know.” He returned to the gathering, Picknose shouting after him to keep his nose out of places it wasn’t wanted.

But curiosity was its own justification. Skywise found Ekuar and sat down beside him. Rayek, not far away, was still occupied with answering endless questions from eager listeners.

“So,” Skywise said to Ekuar, “I hear you got captured by the trolls. What happened?”

Ekuar blinked at him. “What happened? Why, Brownskin rescued me, of course.”

Skywise grinned. “I mean before that. When they took you to Picknose.”

“Ah, young Picknose,” said Ekuar. He leaned confidingly towards Skywise. “I never could understand why Brownskin wanted me to be so careful of him. I could see it even in the war, when we fought on the same side. Some of the things you, he and your young chief said to each other-- it was a kind of familiarity, you know. I would almost have said you had eaten and drunk together.”

Skywise raised his eyebrows. “Really?”

“Why, yes. And then later, Two-Edge told me some stories. . .” Ekuar gazed off into space. “But I had a point. What was it? Oh, yes. Young Picknose is no Guttlekraw, or even a Greymung. And when they brought me to his throne-- well, he wasn’t quite sure what to do with me.”

“What happened?” Skywise asked again.

Ekuar chuckled. “Well, of course he told me I was his slave, and that I’d better start finding gold deposits and such for him. I answered that Brownskin would be along soon to rescue me, and I’d just as soon wait for him, if the young king didn’t mind.”

Skywise laughed. “I’ll bet he did mind!”

“Oh my, yes,” Ekuar said. “He jumped down from the throne and strode up and down shouting threats and shaking his fists in my face. And all the time that little troll child was peeking out from behind the throne and watching us.” He smiled to himself.

“Go on,” Skywise said.

“Go on? Oh-- yes. Then some of the guards-- they’d been Guttlekraw’s once-- said Picknose should stop talking about it and let them do some of the things he was blustering about doing to me. Well, anyone could see he didn’t really want to-- after all, he’d been a slave himself for a little while. And by that time I’d made the little girl-child some toys out of rock from the cave floor.”

“Ohhh.” Skywise suppressed a laugh. “Now I’m starting to see. I suppose she went right for the toys?”

“Yes, indeed. And she said, ‘Trinket likes funny old elf! Papa better not do bad things to him!’”

The laugh wouldn’t stay in. Skywise threw back his head and rocked with it. Ekuar was chuckling gleefully. “The poor young troll king didn’t know what to do. The more he stormed at her and pleaded with her, the more stubborn she became. Then she threw her arms around me and wouldn’t let go. Picknose shouted at me to help him get her away from me, but I didn’t see why I should. In the end a whole crowd of trolls had gathered around. Then one of the guards said Picknose wasn’t fit to be king if he couldn’t deal with one skinny, crippled elf.”

Skywise nodded. The whole thing had a certain inevitability about it.

Ekuar went on, “Of course Picknose cursed them-- if I remember right, he called them a pack of traitorous mud-rats and said he’d be roasted before he gave up his crown. Some of them threatened that they’d come and take it, then. That’s when he got the idea to play toss-stones for it. It was his only chance to keep it, poor fellow.”

“Do you think they’d have let him keep it?” Skywise asked curiously.

Ekuar sighed. “They agreed to let him play for it. But by then I was standing with little Trinket next to the old one-- Maggoty, they call her. And she muttered something that made me understand why.” He looked at Skywise seriously. “It seems Picknose holds to troll honor in not cheating at toss-stones. I’m afraid the others had no such qualms.”

“And so he lost his crown,” Skywise said thoughtfully. “I knew there had to be more to it than that story he was giving out.”

“Oh, he’ll never admit it was because of me,” Ekuar said cheerfully. “It was just a bit of bad luck. But after he lost, things started to get uncomfortable. It seemed to me I owed him something. So I helped him shelter in Two-Edge’s old vault and kept the others from getting in.” He blinked a little. “Now that I think about it, that probably made them angrier than ever. They thought Picknose was keeping me for himself, no doubt.”

Skywise nodded again. Ekuar took a breath. “The rest, you know. Brownskin came back from his journey, used sending to guide us all to the surface, and we all ended up in the Palace. And then your home, and now here. I never thought I’d get to see so much of the world!”

Skywise clapped him on the shoulder. “And I never thought I’d hear such a howler of a tale. Thanks, Ekuar.”

Ekuar gazed at him. “If you’re going to tell it to the young chief, be sure Picknose is out of hearing, first. It would embarrass the poor fellow so.”

“Sure, Ekuar. I owe you that much, at least, for the story.”

Skywise rose and moved away from the festivities, wandering towards the other side of the Palace, where things were quiet. Ekuar’s story had made him laugh, but now his heart was troubled. The confidence he had felt that his two heart’s longings could be brought together, had vanished like dew under the sun. After a moment he realized why.

Picknose, finding himself caught between old ways and new, had found he could not return to the old. He couldn’t bring himself to treat Ekuar as he had been treated in the past. And it had cost him everything-- his home, his position, and almost his life.

Watching and listening to Ekuar just now, it had seemed to Skywise that the endless turns of the seasons-- those already gone and those yet to come-- meant nothing to the ancient rockshaper. The Now of wolf thought was good, but it fell short of this. A great longing rose within him to be immortal: to travel through limitless time never thinking of its end. But if he chose that path, what was it going to cost? Would everything he loved be swept away like a bit of old leather left to drift on the current?

Skywise suddenly decided he didn’t want to think about it. He shoved the feelings away and turned back toward the music and laughter that filled the air on the other side of the Palace. As he did so, Newstar and Ruffel caught sight of him and came running. “What are you doing out here, stargazer?” cried Ruffel, catching hold of his hand. “The stars aren’t out in the daylight!”

Skywise laughed and allowed himself to be pulled back into the celebration.

* * *

The Palace of the High Ones was ready to leave Sorrow’s End, waiting only for the final farewells of those who still lingered outside. Skywise’s last goodbyes had been brief and light. Now he waited inside, watching with some amusement as Rayek, standing tense and tight-lipped by the Scroll of Colors, tried without success to hide his impatience. Beside him Ekuar sat and stared up at the high ceilings, humming to himself.

Skot and Krim stood nearby with Pike, teasing him about all his sister’s cubs, in response to which he only looked proud. Picknose and his family were also somewhere near, in one of the Palace’s many rooms. Though he’d come aboard unwillingly, Picky was clearly ready to cut his losses and begin a new life somewhere in the land they were going to. Though he’d lost everything else, he still had Oddbit, Trinket and Old Maggoty, and even a troll could concede that family came first.

The doors opened, and Zhantee and Shenshen came in. Shenshen nodded to Skywise and the others, and went to stand near Rayek and Ekuar. Zhantee glanced at Timmain, standing with her head and tail high by Skywise’s side. Then he gave them both a shy smile and sat down by himself in an unobtrusive spot near the wall. Whatever it was that Skywise had wondered if he’d seen in Zhantee, apparently Timmain had seen it clearly. And there must be something in Leetah’s sister, too, to make her want to leave Sorrow’s End for the complete unknown.

The others were coming in now, Treestump dabbing at his eyes, Moonshade and Strongbow silent and thoughtful. Clearbrook clutched in her hand what must have been a lock of either Scouter’s or Windkin’s hair. She leaned against Treestump, who put his arm around her. Skywise grinned. Those two seemed ready to make a new life together, too.

Nightfall and Redlance came in, both glowing with the joy of the gift Leetah had given them. Finally, in came Leetah, Cutter and the twins. Rayek sighed with relief and took Suntop aside, talking to him in a low voice.

Skywise realized he still had not made a decision about whether to ask Leetah to take away his mortality. But not deciding was, in a way, deciding. He looked at Cutter, who was watching Rayek and Suntop. Alert but quiet, Tam looked ready for whatever lay ahead. It occurred to Skywise that he might never get around to making the decision, as long as he had his soul-brother.

Tam helped his son climb onto a platform and lie down, and Skywise drew near to watch as Rayek and Suntop called to the Palace. And then once again they were in flight.

Skywise gazed eagerly outward as the Palace left Sorrow’s End, not knowing that he would never return.



Excellent and thought provoking. I liked how you filled in the gaps and even explained the whole thing regarding Picknose and how he lost his crown.

This story really does give a sense of why Skywise was so quick to ask for immortality when it seemed all he had known was lost.



Very well written and true to the characters.

I can actually say ur story made me have a little respect for cutter :D


Excellent, as always. :D

I especially like Ekuar's story of Picknose's lost crown. And your story justifies so well Skywise's behaviour after the time jump. Very well thought and very well written.

Thank you very much for your talent.


Thank you all-- glad you liked it! Darkhan, you've given me a great compliment! If I have managed to communicate even a little why I like both Cutter and Rayek so much, I have achieved something! Now if can only follow Rayek's lead and aim higher still . . . Grin


Oh we more than liked it!

Right on target with the characters! Thoughtful and full of insight!

This really does explain a lot about how and why a number of characters acted as they did in Book 8- Skywise, Rayek and Picknose. I liked it considerably!



wow, that was incredible! I love it!


kr, you are a genious!


Aw, you guys. . . :oops:

But if you liked that so well, I could post one or two from the old forum. Let me know. There's also "Mirror Images" on this forum, if you haven't read it.


I read that one laaate last night and I thought it was very good. You do have a way of getting so in tune with the characters that I forget I'm not reading a Pini work. (pretty soon, I'm going to start arguing points and using your stories as my proof! Then people will start jumping all over me...See what trouble you get me into! Grin )


Well, Scarlett, everything in the two stories on this forum are conjectures on what probably happened, using all the clues I can unearth from the original series. There are other stories where I go off on my own and add my own plot details, but these are based almost exclusively on clues from the canon.


You are a writer after my own heart! Story inside story, both beautiful and true to the characters...


Gee, thanks, Leanan. . . :oops: :D


BTW, about Vurdah, Maleen & Ruffel - I know the girls, but which one is which?


Ruffel's the one with the light, curly hair who Skywise is, um, dallying with at the moment humans first come to Sorrow's End. Maleen is the one with the long, dark ponytail. Vurdah is the one who wears the hairpiece, who really wanted Skywise to be her lifemate and give her a child, in "The Heart's Way."

Hope that helps. :)


thanks! It's been so long since I read Heart's way I had forgotten. Maleen is one of my favourite elves, she's so sexy.


Awesome story!!! I liked every bit and part of it!
Especially how you spun your story around the canon events and explained everything. It makes sooo much more sense now. :)


I agree! I could relate to it that much easier because of the flow and the relating! :D Awesome, as always :)


:thumbsup: I'm a Skywise fan, so this made my day, Wordgazer! Thank you!


Love your writing :D I agree with everyone above. :P


Thanks, Blackash. I always love it when someone reads an old story of mine. :D


Just bumping this awesome story! Loved the confrontation between Scouter and Skywise. I love the elves when they are at their feral-est. For some reason Skywise is the hardest for me to get a feel for, but this was a neat peek into his character.

Off to see what other gems I can dig up...


I LOVE THIS STORY!!!!! I love all the stories with Skywise in it!Wink Love the confrontation between Scouter and Skywise!! I can see that happen!Surprised

Your are an amizing Writer!!!Yay


How.Can.You.Be.So.Fast? OMG!!



How.Can.You.Be.So.Fast? OMG!!

May I ask who's fast Embala?Wink


You ... by reading!



You ... by reading!

Roflmao It's a gift from above!!Wink

And I have readed it many times Wink But i'm quik in reading stories Wink


Thanks for bumping my story, Jeb! And thanks to both of you for the lovely comments!


It sure is an awesome story... Happy


WOW what a fantastic tale! more please.



This wounderful story must not be forgotten..




This wounderful story must not be forgotten..

You're right, never!!


Thank you for the link to your story, Wordgazer - and for the chance to reread this little gem.

You've gathered all these puzzle parts, open and concealed hints, and visualized why Skywise was drawn towards this decision - and why he postponed it until this very moment. And you've woven it in a wonderful, lively story with action and fun and heartwarming scenes.


Wait, did I truly never comment on this? I can't fathom it! Beautiful and well-crafted, just as we've come to expect from you, Wordgazer!


Thanks, you guys! :-*

I was thinking about this story in relation to the head-canon topic as well. I have always felt that the reason Picknose lost his kingdom at the beginning of Cry From Beyond had to have been more of a reason than just losing it in a game of toss-stones. Why would Picknose have agreed to play toss-stones for his crown? I have always felt that it had to have really been about Ekuar, especially given that Ekuar was with Picky & family, helping them escape afterwards. This story sets that scenario out as a tale-within-the tale.


I think you're right, Wordgazer. No one is going to stake a kingdom for just your friendly neighborhood game of chance.


I agree. This was such a clever story.