The home's blackened skeleton had disappeared.

A little less than a year after it burned, the ashes and the scarred earth were gone—scattered by the constant sea breeze or claimed by the encroaching grasslands. The tall, swaying grasses returned to where carefully-tended rose gardens and finely-furnished chambers once stood, oblivious to the forbidding gate that still guarded the empty property.

The hills were brown, still in the cold grip of winter, but spring was approaching. Her parents' graves were no longer dark wounds across the landscape; a bed of tender, green grass had already sprouted to heal the timeless landscape.

Tory stared across the hills, haunted by the sudden memory of the people who were lost here.

"Are you certain?" Ian asked hesitantly, placing a hand on her shoulder.

In her memories, she had almost forgotten him, and the warmth of his touch was comforting. Because on another day—not far from these dark and somber monuments—she had found a broken and bleeding stranger. And she had believed, then, that she was no longer alone. Together, they healed, and now, she knew nothing could keep them apart.

"Yes, I want to rebuild it here."

The home in the city was enough for her and Ian, but this manor, this place symbolized her family's power. And it held special significance for her. The new manor would be a renewal and a defiant answer to the destruction the rebels inflicted. They had no claim to her memories or Porra.

"It will be magnificent," he said.

He stepped behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, tucking her against him.

They were already drawing the plans, seeking builders and craftsman among the growing class of artisans and merchants returning to Porra. The pirates were no longer welcome, and the Salt Market had disappeared, creating new opportunity for legitimate trade. The new tariff policies—Ian's idea—were attracting new traders from far-off places and new customers from the surrounding countryside. Porra was prospering again.

Ian had not waited to assert his authority. Ellie and Myers had eventually accepted him, and if the people of Porra were hesitant to accept him, they did not have the opportunity to protest before the first of the new policies were in effect. He was innovative, intelligent, and charismatic—in short, he was amazing. Watching him, she loved him more for it.

Standing in this place as her home burned behind her, she would never have imagined this sort of happiness to be possible again. And yet, it was. And she looked forward to the next day and the next with the man she loved by her side.

She turned around in his embrace and stretched to kiss him. As she pulled back, she looked into his eyes, and she could see her happiness reflected in his eyes.

"Yes, yes it will."