WIND WARRIOR

Epilogue

"Welcome back to the Mage Force, Private."

General Bythell stood before Aeron in aunt Catrina's office, some weeks after the final battle for Golau. Everyone was still shaken from the ghostly titan's revelation, but so far, Aodhagan had kept his promise.

Aeron lifted his chin. "Thank you, sir." It felt good to wear the blue and black uniform again.

"Headmistress Pryce has told me all about you," Bythell continued, motioning to her. "Hell of a thing you did, kid. Defying your superior officer to stand up for the protesters, joining the rebellion, infiltrating city hall with werewolves hot on your heels... not many could pull that off."

"Well... I had help, sir," Aeron said hastily. "I owe a lot to Private Reece."

"Oh yes, her," Bythell said, nodding. "Quite the up and comer, she is. I think you both will do a fine job protecting the people from any and all dangers. Just... don't defy your superiors to do it, all right?"

"Understood, sir."

Obeying the Genera'ls order would be easy. No longer did the Mage Force stamp down rebellions or arrest suspected dissenters. They only fought to protect remote towns and cities from Talwydd's monsters, because even with the losses in the civil war, plenty of werewolves and Dearg-du were left out there. And they were hungry.

"Now, Private Pryce, your aunt tells me that your parents were arrested and executed for treason against the Ascendancy," Bythell said with a gentler tone. "I assure you that their loss won't be in vain."

Catrina smiled as Aeron saluted. "Understood, sir. Thank you."

Bythell turned to Catrina. "Do you have anything to add, headmistress?"

Catrina stood up. "I just want my nephew to know that he'll never stop learining." She fixed Aeron with a knowing look. "Right, Aeron?"

Aeron swallowed. "R-right."

"And that the Mage Force forbids fraternization of all kinds."

"Yeah..."

Catrina smiled again. "And that after you retire, I really hope you and miss Reece are happy together."

Aeron went red. "Yes, headmistress."

"Come on, Private," Bythell said, clapping Aeron on the shoulder. He pointed to the door. "You're dismissed. You've got work to do."

Aeron rubbed his mis-matched hands together. "Yes, sir."

*o*o*o*o*

"Miss Stewart. Please, come in."

Siana Stewart smiled as a guard escorted her politely into Aodhagan's meeting room in city hall. A chandeleir overhead provided lighting, and over thirty men and women sat around the table, waiting for their final guest. Siana took her seat between two black-suited men and folded her hands in her lap.

"You're Gregor's daughter, aren't you?" one of the men said to her. "I'm sorry about what happened to the estate."

"Thank you." Fortunately, Siana would never have to see another scene like that again. Having quit the Mage Force, she could spend her time creating something instead of harming others. Her parents would have been proud.

Funny how she went full circle.

"My name's Bevan Flanagan," the man said. "I grew up here in Golau with my brother Don. He died in the war. But I'll make sure that this is a safe place for non-mage kids to grow up."

"Pleased to meet you, Bevan." Siana smiled.

The room's doors creaked open and Aodhagan stepped in. He clapped his hands together. "Good evening," he boomed. "And I must thank you all again for including me. Less generous souls would have me banished to the wilds for my part in the Ascendancy."

Some people chuckled at that, but Siana didn't find it funny.

"We have a lot of work to do," Aodhagan said, taking his seat and setting a heavy suitcase on the table. He unclasped it and started handing out the papers inside. "Now, here's some proposals on the new Republic that my old advisors have thought up. I'd like to see what you all make of them..."

*o*o*o*o*

Far from Awrych, Dul Hraig, and other Republic cities to the north, snow was gently falling in a pine forest that stood in the Sneachta Mountains' shadow. It was late afternoon, and rabbits, foxes, and squirrels skittered through the snowy underbrush. Birds sang in the trees.

The underbrush exploded in a spray of snow when a gray-furred werewolf burst into the open, his breath puffing white in the cold air. He tilted his head back and howled.

From the forest's depths emerged more werewolves, one at a time. The foxes and squirrels scattered before them and vanished into their hiding holes.

The werewolf snorted his approval at seeing so many of his fellows arrive. Conall had been an excellent werewolf, especially for a mere kid. But he had died at Golau, and morale among the werewolves was low. The new Talwydd Republic was stronger than ever.

Something had to be done. The natural order had to be rebuilt, starting with a new pack.

The fiends of Talwydd weren't defeated yet.

END.