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“I came to thank you, Jakrom,” said his visitor. “You aided me long ago, when all hope was lost, and I have not forgotten your kindness.”
“Forgive me, sir,” said Jakrom, “but I do not recall. When and where did I help you?”
“At the Edge of the World, as you made your final climb to gaze upon the Great Nothing.”
Jakrom gasped as a name leapt into his mind. “Perin! I had forgotten. You healed, I see.”
Perin smiled. “Indeed. The leg still pains me on rainy days, especially now as I grow older, but thanks to you I do yet walk the world. It is said, ‘Blessed is he who remembers a kindness received, and more blessed still is he who forgets the kindness given.’ You have been greatly blessed, I see.”
“I have,” said Jakrom, squeezing his wife’s hand.
“Do you still have the Fragment? I see chips of it on your rings—a clever token and one that marks you.”
Jakrom laughed. “I could never bring myself to sell it. Let me bring it forth.”
Perin shook his head. “Knowing you still have it is enough. I did not come to see it, but to answer the question you never asked of me.”
“Why were you on the mountainside?”
“Yes. That question.”
Jakrom smiled. “And what is the answer?”
“I must first ask you a question. You know the legend of our world’s creation?”
“Of course,” said Trenah. “Thurun Made it for folk who insisted that their own world had an Edge. But in the middle of the Great Nothing, he Made a city of refuge for other Makers. A fine tale to tell children at bedtime.”
“The tale is true.”
Jakrom’s eyebrows climbed into his thinning hair. “And you call that city home?”
Trenah gasped. “You say you are a Maker yourself?”
“I do call it home, but I am no Maker,” said Perin. “As with sorcerers, not all children born to Makers have the ability. Those of us who do not are sent into the world of Day, to travel and observe. We are the eyes and ears of our city. Long ago, Makers were persecuted and hunted. In those times, they swore that no kindness shown them would go unrewarded.”
“But we have wealth to outlive us,” said Jakrom. “We need no reward. Your thanks is enough.”
“What I offer,” said Perin, “no wealth under the sun can buy. You have a welcome and a home in the City of Refuge. There you would lack for nothing, including a long and vigorous life. And more children, if you wished. In fact, such would be encouraged.” He paused a moment. “It—”
“Wait,” said Trenah. “How does one cross the Great Nothing?”
“I am here, and it is harder to come to Light than to Darkness. But when Makers will a thing done? It is usually done. For those who know the way, crossing the Great Nothing is less arduous than the journey from here to the Edge of the World.”
Jakrom and Trenah looked at each other for a long time. “We must think about this,” said Trenah. “Until we decide, please remain with us as our guest.”
Larbam was old now, and preferred to sit on his upstairs balcony where the sun could warm his bones. Yet his merchant’s mind was as sharp as ever. On the day Jakrom came calling, Larbam’s granddaughter Carinah brought them tea and cakes. After they had eaten and drank, Larbam said, “You are moving on.”
“How did you know?” Jakrom was surprised, for he and Trenah had only made the decision that morning. Perin knew, but he had not departed the house.
“That day so long ago, when you departed for the Edge of the World, your eyes were already on that journey.” Larbam chuckled, and sipped his tea. “This day, you have that same look about you. What wonders will you see this time?”
“I will tell you, for it was you who set my feet on this path. But only if you will not spread the tale further.”
“Of course, of course. I myself will soon take my own journey, the one from which there is no return.” Larbam sighed. “Your secrets I will take with me.”
“Nor do I expect us to return here.” Jakrom told Larbam of his visitor and the invitation they had accepted. “We have agreed to tell everyone else that we will spend our lives seeing all there is of our world. But you, my friend? I thought you should know the truth.”
“I have oft regretted that I was not your father, Jakrom. But I am always grateful that you have been my friend, instead.” Larbam looked into his teacup, then at Jakrom. “I believe we shall not see each other again. Therefore, let me embrace you as a father embraces his beloved son when he goes to make his way in the world.” And Larbam embraced his friend. “Go and do, Jakrom,” he whispered. “Speak my name in the City, that shines by its own light, under the eternal Stars.”
Thus did Jakrom and Trenah depart from the world of Day. It may be that they were Made young again, and bore sons named Larbam and Perin, and daughters named Arah and Rakah. It may be that they live there yet.
Sarna gave Galbron a wide-eyed look. “To be Made eternally young, like the Unfallen… what a thought!” she breathed.
“Many have sought the way to Thurun,” said Ethtar, “but none have yet found it. Or if they did, they never returned. Perhaps that is for the best.”
“So our wisest say,” said Galbron. “Makers in these days would be nearly like gods, doing whatever they pleased. But even Makers, we believe, would come to see life as a burden and lay it aside. Thus is the balance maintained.” He gave his friend’s daughter a warm smile. “Perhaps Jakrom and Trenah did the same. The important thing is, they seized the adventure before them. As do you and your father!”
“Indeed!” Sarna laughed.