Epilogue.) The time came for us to leave. I made my way to the great tree where the torn down shed once stood. It appeared to be nothing more than an ancient but healthy crabapple tree. The villagers had erected a small shrine at the base, but I ignored it. Seed to me was a friend, not a God.
I touched the bark with the palm of my hand.
“Farewell, Seed. For what is a person but the sum of their memories? You have returned myself to me. Thank you.”
There was no answer nor did I expect one. The giant tree had not moved sense the day of the battle.
Yet…I felt something move up my hand and down my arm and into my heart.
A lightening of my burdens, just a little.
* * *
We found the two bags of gems, and since we had extra room on the pack mules, we loaded up what artichokes we could harvest from the neglected fields. To our great surprise, the crop proved to be almost as lucrative to the expedition as the precious stones. While we were gone, the shortage of artichokes had finally been noticed, and they were considered a precious commodity.
Also remembered was the Eleventh Principality. No one looked confused when we mentioned Moregone, and no one seemed aware that they had ever forgotten.
The path to the Tenth Principality was clear and straight, and followed the contours that I remembered.
In the end, I was able to convince all the backers of the caravan to accept smaller percentages than originally agreed. That it was still a very profitable enterprise helped. The merchant, Jonder Maze, who had so loved artichokes that he’d financed half of the expedition, offered me great riches if I would bring back artichokes cuttings to be grown in the Fifth Principality. I respectfully declined, for I had learned my lesson.
As the members of the caravan told their stories, they were disappointed to find that no one believed them. To most of the inhabitants of the principalities, Moregone had never been missing, therefore it never needed to be found. No one believes the story about Shatterspawn the dragon; everyone knows dragons are extinct. At the same time, all talk of an “outside” is—as has always been so--instantly dismissed and forgotten.
Not forgotten were the memories the Beginning Tree granted me.
I had always been known as The Eternal Wanderer. It was at this time that I gained another title: Keeper of Memories.
Now everywhere I wander people ask me questions, and I answer when and where I think it is helpful and decline to speak where it isn’t. Most people accept this mystery, just as they accept the other mysteries of the Thirteen Principalities.
Though I rebuilt my vacation home in Carsan. The Beginning Tree never seems to grow very large, and only occasionally bears fruit. But the orchards surrounding are thriving and the crabapples, which had once been an afterthought in the Thirteen Principalities, were now considered a delicacy.
I wander the lands, the Keeper of Memories, and wonder when the Mirror God will once again emerge to wipe clean the memories of the people of this land.
I intend to be here afterwards to remind them of what they’ve lost.
The poppy fields are gone and forgotten, replaced by artichokes, as it should be.
Every once in a while, a bright red flower pops up among the fields, plucked by the people of Moregone as weeds. They are a reminder to me, if no one else, that outside the Thirteen Principalities is a world outside that would overwhelm us if it could.
It is up to the Keeper of Memories to keep that from happening.