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22.0 Methuselah

# 2283 11 - 15 mins. 8

One month later

The trek back to Birdsbane wasn't easy. So many were injured—so many people had died. It felt wrong to leave the bodies behind to be consumed by the flames, but we didn't have much of a choice. We barely had the time to get the injured out of harm's way before the lava reached us. There was no time for the dead.

Once the doom drake had been consumed by the flames, and the rains had stopped, we all took a deep breath, gathered any who were still alive, and walked back to Birdsbane. There, we took a much needed break, letting people recover. Tigala, with Nadira's help, started learning to heal with transformation magic. I focused mainly on feeding everyone with my nature magic and had some extra help from Grollok's mobile beacon.

The newcomers, those who joined the fight after using the portal on the other side of the island, were a bit afraid at first of eating Treek-grown food. I couldn't blame them. It had been programmed into everyone for so long. But they all saw me fight. They knew I had almost sacrificed my life for theirs, so the uncertainty didn't last very long.

Everyone did their part to help. Dwarves built temporary infirmaries and stretchers. Beastfolk did what they could with healing and shaping splints and tools. Saurians made sure everyone had plenty of fresh water for drinking and cleaning wounds. Elves kept the weather clear to lighten our moods. Avians helped in diagnosing injuries and looking into possible reactions from the rest of the world once the news got out of our victory. Humans helped cauterize wounds and cook. As for the Gnomes, they moved people from place to place without disturbance. They also kept our spirits high with illusions and tall tales.

Honestly, it was a magical time. There was so much hurt—so much pain and destruction. So many had lost people that they deeply cared for. But at the same time, there was a giant sense of relief that strung it all together. We all knew that the sacrifices made were to make the world a better place. We had gotten past the hardest part, and now it was just up to us to make the most of those sacrifices. We needed to continue what we started to honor the people who died fighting Malcolm and the doom drake.

We stayed at Birdsbane for a few days while people recovered, but after those few days, some of the Avians were advising that we do something to represent our combined effort against the doom drake. The rest of the world was waiting to hear what had happened. Some may have already found their way back to the mainlands and started telling the tale of the doom drake's fall, but we needed to be ready for people to come and see it for themselves. More than that, we needed to be ready to tell the world how we defeated the doom drake. We did it through cooperation, and that cooperation needed to continue. It was no longer an option to continue as we had been. Our hatred had created this mess, to begin with. We couldn't allow that to happen again. It was time for change, and as the Avians said, we needed people to tell our story and exemplify it.

So, Tigala, Lolan, and I, along with many others, traveled to the shore to build a new colony. We picked a spot that hadn't been touched yet. The old colony had been mostly burnt down from the dragon attack, and Birdsbane was too far from the shore to make it a good port on Daegal, so we picked a spot with a river that fed the waterfall we had swam at not too long ago.

We all used our magic together to rebuild. I focused on building living structures with willows and other trees. The branches weaved together and continued to live and grow and change. For things that needed a little more structure or cover from the elements, the Dwarves were able to use their earth magic. Beastfolk aided in construction by shaping other materials that the Dwarves and I couldn't work on. And the colony itself came together rather quickly. The walls to protect us from the monsters on Daegal went up in a couple of days, and from there it was all buildings. We built houses, a market, and the Saurians helped us find good places for wells.

It was a strange feeling, looking around at the town we had built, but it was a good feeling. It was something I never thought I'd see. Unlike the original colony on Daegal, in our new colony, I was accepted, without question. People knew me, they even seemed to enjoy my company. They were happy to eat any fruits and vegetables I provided for them. And when people did finally come to our colony from the mainlands, I had no doubt that the locals would make sure that no one was being treated poorly because of their skin, their ancestors, or whatever else people might blame them for.

As the buildings went up, we grew more and more comfortable in our new home. Those injured in the fights with the Doom drake, the dragon, and Malcolm, slowly recovered and made the trek from Birdsbane to the new colony. The Gnomes also worked on creating a teleportation gateway in the town, and once it was ready, we could connect to Losterious and any other gateways throughout the world. It gave us a chance to become a new nation in a sense. We were small compared to the others, but we were strong. We knew who we were and what we wanted. We wanted peace. We wanted to be able to enjoy each other's company, regardless of what they looked like. And we wanted to spread that ability to others.

Of course, I didn't expect the rest of the world to be fully on board with our new way of living. But there were enough of us that we could be an example. And having defeated the doom drake, people would be afraid to challenge us. So we would use our position in the world to help others.

Once we had the colony established and running smoothly, we decided to send out groups to the various towns and cities that had been destroyed. It didn't matter what race each city belonged to, or how they felt about us. We just wanted to help those in need and rebuild. Some would stare at us. Some would be hateful. But we won't stop.

🌱

The fire glowed in front of me, crackling and popping at the air pockets in the dry wood. It was mesmerizing to watch while I thought. And I had a lot to think about. The past few months felt like years. We had been through so much. We had come so far.

"Where should we start?" asked Rodrigo.

"There's a lot to choose from," said Klaus. "The doom drake destroyed many large cities, a few towns, and even a handful of villages."

"Is there anyone that needs it most?" asked Lolan. "Anyone who was hit harder than everyone else?"

"I don't believe so," said Klaus. "Obviously, the cities sustained more damage because there was more to be damaged. But every race lost multiple cities."

"We should go to a Human city first," I said, coming back from my trance. The others watched me, waiting for my explanation. "We need them to know that we don't blame the Humans for what happened here. The actions of one can no longer be paid for by many. Malcolm is gone. I watched the volcano swallow him. So I think it would be a good gesture to help the Humans first. We'll show them that we mean what we preach."

"I think that is wise," said Palem.

Tigala and others nodded as well, showing their approval.

"Then we'll go to Brighton. They were one of the first to be attacked by the doom drake, and it is a rather large city with plenty in need."

I looked over to Amara who had also been quiet. "Are there any gateways close to the city?"

She looked up. She had also been lost in thought while staring at the fire. "Yes, we'll be able to get you close enough."

"Thanks," I said.

"Speaking of which, the Avians are seeing things with their magic," said Klaus. "They believe there is at least one ambassador on the way to our shores within the next few days. They're coming to hear news of the doom drake, but they will undoubtedly want to hear about our colony as well. We are going to have to represent our colony to the world. And not just the colony, or the people of it, but we need to represent our way of life. Unity, cooperation."

"I'm happy to help with that," said Rodrigo. "I know my track record isn't perfect, but I have experience with nobles."

"I'm here to help as well," said Geralt, cocking his head upward as he spoke.

"I don't have experience with that," said Marv. He was sitting with Abigail by the fire and Crag was nestled up against his leg. "But I would like to help as well. We owe our lives to cooperation." He looked down at Abigail and she leaned on his shoulder.

"Good. That's a start," said Klaus. "I believe we'll need people from each of the races as representatives. We need them to know that we are united and this is not just some idea that is going to fade away if we want to be taken seriously." He looked at me, Lolan, and Tigala. "We think you three would be good people to be involved with those kinds of talks too."

I looked at the others, and then back to Klaus. "We're happy to help."

Klaus nodded. "Well, that's all I have for tonight. I'll let you all rest, you deserve it."

"Thanks, Klaus," I said.

The crane-like Avian stood and disappeared in the dark of the colony.

It was a beautiful night. It was just cold enough for the fire to make it more comfortable. The stars shined bright above us and I couldn't help but think of Zef. The twinkle was like the one in his eyes when he smiled.

"You okay?" asked Tigala.

"Yeah," I said. "I'm just thinking about Zef. He would have been so proud to see us now."

"You're right. He would have been proud," said Tigala, echoing my words as she looked back at the fire.

"Do you remember the waterfall?" I asked.

Lolan and Tigala nodded.

"I wish we had more time there," I said.

"You mean before the water tried to drown us, right?" asked Lolan with a smirk.

"Yeah, before that." I smiled back. "The time we spent here, it always felt like we were against the clock—always running from one situation to the next—always trying to keep ourselves, or others, alive. But that day, just swimming in the river, that was the first day I've ever spent where I felt safe with people I care about."

"It was a nice day," said Lolan.

"We can go back sometime," said Tigala. "Pay our respects. Maybe he'll still be there in some way or another. We've got time now. The doom drake is dead."

"I'd like that," I thought. I looked at the two of them. They were two people I never thought I would have any kind of relationship with. Lolan was a half-Elf half-Human and over the course of the last few months, I grew to trust him, and rely on him to back me up when I had a crazy idea. We had saved each other's lives several times and shared things that I only thought I could experience with another Treek.

And Tigala. The first day I met her, she attacked me. She wanted me dead just for being a Treek. Now she was the most fearsomely loyal friend I had ever known. No matter what, she would be there to back me up. She would give her life to protect us, and she had proven it multiple times over. She was scared like me. She was alone. But together, we found a friendship that I didn't think was possible.

"How do you think it's going to go, talking to these other nations?" I asked.

"Piece of cake," said Lolan.

"Oh yeah?" I asked, smiling.

He shrugged. "No, but I'm sure we'll figure it out."

"Yeah," said Tigala. "We've handled worse situations than this."

I nodded. Through it all, Zef was the one that guided us. I just needed to remember what he had taught us. I had no clue where things would go, but they were right. With them by my side, I knew we'd figure it out.

I looked up at the night sky as I thought about the future. I didn't even know where it could lead. Everything was so different now than when I scrounged for clues of my parents' whereabouts in Brighton. None of this was what I had planned on, but it was good. The fighting was over. The war had ended. Now it was just up to us to show everyone else the way.

I saw something flutter past the moon and was reminded of another friend I had said goodbye to so long ago. Something landed on a tree just above me. I looked up and heard a familiar chirp, and a smile grew on my face.

A note from houston

That's it! The end of Sprig! I've learned so much writing this story, and am so grateful for all of you who have read some or all of it. It's been a wild journey, and it has definitely had its ups and downs, but I wouldn't take any of it back for the world. Special thanks to all of you who have offered feedback, encouragement, comments, and told your friends about the story. You all helped make this story what it is.

As I've said in a previous note, the rest of Sprig will be coming to ebook and paperback/hardcover soon. If you haven't already seen Book 1, you can find links to pick up a copy in my shop. I am going to try and release Book 2 by Christmas this year, but we'll see if I can manage it. Then Book 3 will come sometime in early 2023. If you liked the story, buy a copy for yourself or a friend! And if you want to be notified when future books are released, make sure you are subscribed to Promotions and News here on HoustonHare.com.

I also have more stories in the works. It will be some time before I start releasing one, but subscribing is a good way to make sure you don't miss it. And don't worry, I have learned from some of my mistakes with Sprig's release schedule, and have plans to make things more consistent with those future stories.

Once again, thank you all for your support and excitement for Sprig. At the very least, I hope it's a story you remember for a long time to come.

Adventure awaits,

Houston Hare

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