by Ian N. Cohen

Featuring characters created by Neil Gaiman

Alex coughed harshly as he wrapped another blanket around himself, trying to shield himself against the cold. It was pointless to do so, he knew. The cold he felt came from within.

His green eyes, still as vibrant as they had been when he was a boy, flickered around the room, a sorrowful longing in them. Nall had gone to the White Dragon Cave to take his place as Tetrarch of the Dragon Tribe, the first of a new generation of Dragons. Dyne had moved to Meribia with his wife and children long ago. And Luna... Luna had been gone nearly seven months.

Tears stung Alex's eyes as he thought of Luna. For over sixty years, they had never been apart, not including her abduction by Ghaleon. He missed her so much, missed everything about her--the way she'd play with her hair, her soothing, angelic voice, her sapphire blue eyes. He saw her every night in his dreams, as beautiful and vibrant as she had been in her youth.

He suddenly heard soft footfalls approaching, and he felt his heart racing. Was he dreaming again, or was it...?

Alex's green eyes widened in disbelief. "Luna?"

"Nope," the girl said, as she approached. She couldn't have been more than sixteen, and she was extraordinarily pale, although quite attractive. Her black hair cascaded loosely down to her shoulders. Her eyes were dark, with a small spiral tattoo under her right eye. She wore black pants and shirt with a black leather jacket. A silver pendant hung around her neck, a symbol Alex had never seen before, but one which he seemed to instinctively know.

She walked over to the wall where Alex's ocarina hung, a memento from younger and happier days. She tried playing a few notes, but they came out terribly, and she winced at the sound. "Gah... how do you play something like that?"

Alex laughed, despite himself. "It's not easy. But with a little practice and the right encouragement, you get the hang of it."

A sudden spasm shook him, and he collapsed back onto his bed, coughing violently. Once he regained his breath, he looked curiously at the girl. "So are you... you know...?"


"Then it's time."


Alex' heart started to race. "What happens now?"

The girl chuckled. "Do you people just pretend to be clueless? You know the answer already. And to answer your other questions--no, it doesn't hurt. Yes, I look like this to everybody. No, I'm not going to tell you what's waiting for you on the other side. And no, I'm not psychic. I've just heard those questions so many times before, they've almost become routine."

Alex shifted uncomfortably. "This was never how I imagined it," he said softly. "I always figured I'd die in battle, saving the world, the way so many others have."

The girl shrugged. "Heroes die in all sorts of ways. Some of them in the classic blaze of glory, some of them quietly in their beds after decades of fighting and heroic derring-do. But sooner or later, I come to the best of heroes, and to their worst enemies, and they all follow me to my realm. What do you think happens after happily ever after?"

Alex shrugged. "Never really thought about it much."

"Yeah, you guys never do."

"Does that offend you?"

"I dunno," the girl said thoughtfully. "People spend way too much time worrying about me and when I'm gonna drop by. I don't see the point, really. Sooner or later, I come to everyone, and everyone comes to me. It's just the way it is."

Alex looked around the empty house one last time. "I just wish I wasn't going to be alone when it happened," he said, somewhat bitterly.

"You're not alone, Alex," the girl said with a smile. "That's why I'm here."

"I'll bet you say that to all the guys you meet," Alex said, smiling weakly.

"I do, actually," the girl said with a chuckle. "By the way, I thought you oughtta know--my brother's a huge fan of yours. After all the nightmares and darkness he sees inside people's heads, he finds it inspiring to know that there are people out there who dream of helping others, and who dream of true love--not the sappy kind, but the real deal. It doesn't happen often. So people like you give him hope."

"There's about to be one less of 'people like me,'" Alex said with a weak smile.

"There will be others," she replied. "There always are."

She rose off the bed, and extended her arm. "Anyway, sorry to cut this short, but you've got a deadline to meet--no pun intended. And I've dragged this out long enough. It's time."

"Wait... one last thing," Alex whispered, gripping her arm desperately. "Will Luna be there? Will she be waiting for me?"

"You'll see," the girl said with a sad, soothing smile. "Now take my hand."

Back to the Library of Vane.

Back to the Shrine to Ghaleon.