EPILOGUE: STARS

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Grave silence echoed on the other side of the closed room

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Grave silence echoed on the other side of the closed room. With extreme difficulty, I raised my right hand and rapped my knuckles on the door. Instantly my hand burnt with cramps and I had to drop it or it dropped itself limp. I held in a wince.

There was no response.

"Nova..." I called.

Nothing.

"Nova, come on. It's damn cold out here and my hands hurt and I am restricted from walking... and I..."

The door opened.

I smiled sheepishly and he moved out of the way, letting me in.

There was a peculiar vibe to the room. The curtains were closed. I saw an untouched plate of days-old food on the table, two empty bottles of wine, more rolling under the bed. The strong sensation of all the four elemental powers whirling around was enough to tell me that he was plummeting in a void.

Eleni had told me all that had happened, how Nova had screamed during the branding, trying to reject it... but the Throne was never wrong. We all knew he was the worthiest, but the timing couldn't have been worse.

I would pull an Orella if that's what he needed.

"You should be resting," Nova said with drunken gruffness in his voice, sitting on the edge of his bed.

"I was bored. Thought I'd come bore you with my boredom." I said, sitting on a chair around a circular table beside the closed window, close to the bed.

"I have company," he said, and pointed to the stacks of book on his nightstand.

"Give me one. Children's story preferably."

Nova rose up with a sigh and walked around the bed. He sorted through the books, and in the dimness, I couldn't see their titles. But one of the bold lettered-ones stood out distinctly... 'The History of Autumn Realm.' Huh.

He came back and extended a book to me, then realizing I couldn't possibly hold it, he sat down on the edge and showed me the title. 'Elemental Fairytales.'

I chuckled, "Really now?"

He shook his head, "Una hasn't read a book since she turned ten. This is all there is."

I made a mental note to have books sent to him from a better library, and maybe a... piano.

I wanted to pull the curtain and look at his face. But I was afraid to find him worse than the way I had found him merely ten days ago, tranced and unblinking after his two years of enslavement. Back then I had revived him with a potion, and now there was nothing one could do magically or alchemically.

"Why the Autumn Realm's history?" I asked, grasping at subjects to talk about.

"I... well, those were his last words." Nova simply said.

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