When Un de Nes awoke, she saw a gleaming female figure seated near her; the figure was aglow with the radiance of the sky, and she lowered her eyes at the sight. She put her hand on Sheltin kar-Nemeph, who awoke also.
For a moment the female seemed to fade and grow transparent, till she was nothing more than a glitter of starlight upon ice; then she reappeared, her image stronger than ever.
"Who has called Naervara back from her path? I was almost gone, seeking a better way."
Unde Nes found her voice. "I called you, Star-Maiden, though I was not aware of what I did."
"You. I have been aware of you, Unde Nes." She faded again, then came back. "You are known to me. But why do I linger, when my time has come, to move on?"
"The Elder Gods pass on, Unde Nes. We have found a different way, mayhap a better place, and though none ever return, we think we know the way."
Sheltin kar-Nemeph, with the light of the Lady reflecting from her wide eyes, said, "Before you go, could you aid us?"
"Long have I worried about this place and these concerns, and I am weary. Will you not let me lay down this world and move on?" Naervara closed her eyes, and when she reopened them, they burnt with green starfire. "What will you have of me, Sheltin kar-Nemeph?"
"We have no food, no shelter, and we are pursued by the agents of the Gergathan. Sooner or later they will find us, and then we will be examined, tortured, and killed. Can you do nothing to help us?"
"My power in this universe wanes. Call me not back from the brink."
"While starlight remains," Unde Nes said, "your power is here, Goddess."
"You are kind, but unknowing. Still, I do not wish to carry regret with me, and you hvae come to this end partly from worship of me." The Goddess closed her eyes and sighed. "I will tell the Hlutr of the Scattered Worlds where you are, and they will send to your aid one of the Karessai Helyarren Teshra, the Galactic Riders. The stars will guide him and he will pluck you from the Kras Tentreb Nlan and take you back to the Scattered Worlds. Come, I will show you where to wait."
The wind was cold, and it seemed to tear the life from Unde Nes. She and Sheltin kar-Nemeph huddled together, and long they listened as Naervara spoke of the glories of the stars she had seen. Unde Nes, listening to the Goddess, felt as though she herself had taken flight and was between the stars in space, not in a physical body but merely a phantom of starlight.
Finally, a tiny craft appeared near them, and came swooping to a powered landing; upon its skin it bore the markings of the Free Peoples of the Scattered Worlds as well as the crest of the Iaranor; and an Iaranori Galactic Rider came out to help them.
"Hurry," the Iaranor told them, "For we are being tracked by great ships that will be here in seconds."
"Go." Unde Nes turned back to Naervara, and the Goddess smiled. "Go, Sheltin kar-Nemeph, and tell them what happened; tell them that we gained a tiny foothold, for a brief moment, on Verkorra. Tell them that we must never rest until the whole world is free once again. Tell them, Sheltin kar-Nemeph. And go with my love."
"What of you?"
Unde Nes held her limbs toward Naervara. "If the Goddess would have me, I would accompany her to the better place."
Naervara nodded. "Go, Sheltin kar-Nemeph, and bear the tale. And tell your fellows that although Naervara departs, her blessings stay with them."
Then the first of the large ships of the Gergathan appeared, flying over the Great Glacier, and the Iaranor Rider's small craft sprang up into space, and was gone. Several of the larger ships flew after it, but Unde Nes knew that they would escape -- for no ship of the Enemy could ever match that of a Galactic Rider bound for the Scattered Worlds.
Then Unde Nes turned back to Naervara, and took her hand. And now it was not her form, but the world around her that seemed to fade into a starlight dream, and before her she perceived a path opening up. Together, Unde Nes and Naervara took a step upon that path.
And so passed Unde Nes out of the Grand Scheme, the first creature of the Scattered Worlds to follow the Elder Gods into the Beyond.
As for Sheltin kar-Nemeph, she carried the tale home to the Scattered Worlds, and it was told in full before the Karessai Helyarren Corageshra. But the Iaranori Rider had seen naught of Naervara, and so the story remained a tale only.
Sheltin kar-Nemeph became an esteemed Galactic Rider, and when her time came she retired to Nephestal, where she sat for long hours before the Cathedral of Worlds, staring in the direction of Rept Kretzlab and wondering.
Here ends the story of Unde Nes.
copyright (c) 2009, Don Sakers
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