the stars and the moon.

Out of the forest emerges a horse the color of stardust. The day is warm, a blue-skied gem of late summer. I exhale deeply and urge the horse to a stop in front of the doors of the large castle. From inside emerges a handsome man whose face conjures up memories of fear and bewilderment. Gregori, brother of the Stefan - husband of Magdalena - stands, his arms extended. With a hearty smile, he offers to take my horse from me, an offer I accept. Rosalyn's husband, the one man she never was able to get into her bed, the one man who always loved her. Rosalyn comes from inside to wrap me in an embrace, her golden hair loose and flowing. I have never seen her so happy, or so beautiful. With a laugh, she drags me inside to greet the girls.

It is always a treat when Auntie Aurora comes for a visit - this is what Rosalyn says to her girls, and they nod back. She saved the moon, Rosalyn explains, and even the ones who have heard the stories a million times now stare at me, awed. Sofia and the other little girls I used to read stories to are now blossoming into young women. Sofie comes and joins us as Rosalyn and I drink tea like the civilzed young ladies we must pretend to be at times. The little ones copy our actions, and Rosalyn winks to me.

They adore her, and she loves each and every one of them as if they were her own. She runs Lunarenstein in much of the same way as Delphine once did. They discuss everything, they still run wild, they still learn to hunt and to fight and to be strong, capable young women. But now they do it in the company of love. Gregori returns eventually from putting my horse, Diana, in the stable and he sits with us. They tell me about the girls' many accomplishments, the girls show me their dancing, their curtsies...they read to me stories, like Jorinda and Jorindel. I ask Gregori how the estate is doing, and he explains that they are prospering. They sell crops in the summer, board horses in the winter and house travelers passing through for a small fee. The girls like when people come by from distant lands to tell their stories. I am glad they are doing well. I never knew how Delphine fed us, kept us clothed, but Rosalyn assures me that they are using the castle and its surrounding lands to their advantage. Gregori, because he owns the largest property in the area, has become a leader in town.

When I leave I hug them both goodbye, walk by myself to the stable, climb on Diana and ride down the road, into town, towards Magdalena and Stefan. This is my bi-monthly trip to see my two sisters. Ileana and Lise left for the New World and we hear a letter from them every so often. Lise is engaged to woodcutter, Ileana recently married a young, idealistic politician. They talk of rebellion and revolutions and the real world...a world I left long ago. My heart aches when I read their letters, but I relish in the knowledge that they are healthy, and, more importantly, happy.

It has been five years since that night when I threw my crown of flowers atop Delphine's head and she became a monster and I trapped her in the tower. Sometimes we hear the howls of anger throughout the forest, sometimes black clouds seem to gather in one area over the trees and nowhere else. I know she rages in there, she and her children. There are more children out in the world, I know that too. All the children of fear wander aimlessly, with no family. I wonder if they will ever come for me, I do not doubt it. Fear does still ravage the land, as does Greed and Jealousy, but their physical embodiments no longer harm us.

As I urge Diana forward, I close my eyes and think of what the Liche Queen told me that night. Fear sees all, just like Death. But fear sees all that may come to pass and it does not understand and it cowers from the future. Delphine saw the future of the Queen of the Moon with her husband and her small, bright daughter. She saw this and she saw peace and she did not understand peace, for when does fear ever understand harmony? So she created a mortal mask to fool Endymion, trapped Selene as her beastly self and tricked Endymion as her mortal one. But here she made a terrible error, because she fell in love with him. She wanted you, she wanted to make you her own, she wanted you to grow up like her. Inviting orphaned girls was an easy way for her to do this, and for her to take care of her own daughter, Niamh, as well. So she turned Lunarenstein into something of a school. But after your mother made your father untouchable, she was angry. She created the story of the wolves as my guardians so you would kill them. And that was where she went wrong, Aurora. For if you had left the wolves alone, she might have truly made you hers. But because you were different, because you could not kill gave you a reason to look for the others. In the end, her doomed love was the cause of her demise...

I feel sympathy for Delphine. I must. After all, I did believe her to be my mother for most of my life.

Magdalena's house rises before me as I exit the town and wander near the mountains. They live in a lovely lodge big enough for their growing family. Magdalena has two children of her own and another on the way. She is like Rosalyn...more beautiful and happier than I have ever seen.

I tie Diana to their small fence when I arrive. Magdalena embraces me as soon as I reach the doorway. She inquires after Rosalyn and Gregori, her brother and sister. I assure her they are doing well. I think with a smile how glad Rosalyn was to see that I had remembered all that had transpired between us. She had cried when I had brought her back to Lunarenstein. It seemed so obvious now that Rosalyn was to run Lunarenstein. She loved that strange old castle, and it loved her in return.

Magdalena's two little ones, both girls - Lucy and Isla - hug me when I arrive and they too call me Auntie Aurora. Stefan has a quiet smile for me and another cup of tea. I sit with her and we talk about Lunarenstein, the gossip in town and Magdalena's baby. If it is a girl, they've decided to name her Farah. If it is a boy, they will name him Dimitri, after Stefan's father. Stefan hopes for a boy, joking that he simply does not understand women enough to have three daughters. He is all talk, though. He is a wonderful father. I look at his workshop. His furniture is beautiful. People come from all over to buy things from him, he tells me. They have enough to build a bigger house, but Magdalena whines that the house they live in is big enough, for now.

Eventually I take my leave again and push the horse through the village once more. I spy on old haunts, the milliner, the tavern, the grocer...all places that house particular memories of my past. It is amazing to think that if I had wondered at what my future would be like then...I never would have imagined this.

I pass by Lunarenstein once more and think of the night I first met Dog - Adrian. I remember looking up at the sky and pretending the Lunarenstein didn't exist, that my duties didn't exist, that my responsibilities didn't exist...that I was different. It amazes me to think how different. I look up at the sky now, maybe for nostalgia's sake, and catch a glimpse of a round moon. I must pay my mother a visit soon. I have the singular ability of being able to close my eyes and be there whenever I wish. I remember the night I first met Father, the same night I broke Delphine's enchantment. He tried to become a wolf, but couldn't. He was no longer chained to the earth, and they decided to go to the Moon together. I told them I would stay here. I had made my choice long ago, back when I had no idea what that even meant. I was Aurora of the Forest, I explained then. Mother had kissed my head and had told me I was welcome anytime. Father had embraced me. He was exactly as I'd always pictured him.

Since then I'd become an older sister to a girl who looked like a smaller, more cherubian version of my self. They called her Artemis - Missy, as she liked to be called. They lived together in a glittering palace on the moon where people were made of stardust. I loved visiting my family, but did not ever stay too long. I became restless.

However, I was always restless. I would never truly be part of either world. I would always be the daughter of the Moon Queen, and that meant that the Earth would never feel completely like home to me. But I could never really leave this place without feeling anxious to get back. And I was no longer part of the mortal world. I never had been, but thinking about it did bring some sadness to my chest.

I sigh back a laugh. This is no time for sadness. Diana trots deeper into the forest on a familiar path that she's made over and over again through the years until at last the sprawling stone castle comes into view.


From a side entryway comes a little body hurtling itself towards Diana and I. This time I let my laugh release and slide off my horse, enveloping the small boy in my arms. This dark haired, blue eyed boy is Wulf. Wulf, Prince of Wolves. My child. I lean up as I hold Wulf against me. Adrian comes loping out after the little boy. Our little boy. I lift an eyebrow at him. He knows Wulf isn't supposed to go running off on his own. Adrian just shrugs, sheepish. Wulf is four years old now. He is so serious, like his father, but a dreamer, like me. Adrian comes to me, kisses my forehead, asks me how my sisters are. I tell them they are well. Wulf wants to know if Lucy likes the present he made for her, a little woodflute. I tell him that she loves it.

We make our way back into our castle and nod to our people. I can never truly be one of them, but because I saved their Moon Queen and because the creatures of the forest seem to love me, they have accepted me as their Queen. As we wander to the stairs that brings us to our own private wing, we pass Lourdes and her husband, the new General of the Wolves, a handsome man named Rafe. She smiles at us, but I still see some pain in her eyes. Her love for Adrian has taken some time to get over. But she owes me her life. I do not know if we will ever truly be friends, but at least we are not trying to kill each other.

That night, at dinner, our people hail the King and Queen of Wolves and All the Land. It has been two years since Adrian became King and I, his Queen. Adrian does still miss his father. That much is obvious enough.

After dinner, the wolves make their way outside. They are going to go meet with the leaders of a couple forest villages. I watch them from the balcony of our room, while Wulf sleeps in his own - soon he will join the ranks of his brothers. Adrian stands behind me, getting ready to lead his people to negotiate with the leaders. He kisses my mouth, then my neck, and then he bends down on his knees and kisses my stomach. I laugh as he whispers the words of the stars to our next child. Then he kisses me once more, smooths my hair down, tells me he loves me and is off.

I watch as he joins his people. They all bow or curtsy to me before they become wolves. And then, they are off. Leaving myself and all the children, too young to keep up, in the castle.

I will never truly be one of them. And everytime I watch them go, the wolf in me screams for an escape. Still, she is too dormant to ever come out, and that is something I will never, ever be used to. Just like my restlessness, or my anxiety...I am not of any one place. I am Aurora of the Forest, maybe, sometimes. I am Aurora of the Moon even less. I am Aurora of the Wolves usually...I used to be Aurora of Lunarenstein.

I like what Adrian calls me, though. Aurora of my Heart.

They have disappeared already, and I turn my gaze to the sky. The stars and the moon wink back at me and I smile. There is a bittersweet feeling in me, but I do not let it hurt me anymore than it usually does. I will always be searching for something, never sure what it is I'm looking for even though I have already found everything I need. A home, a family, love, friends, a life I would trade for nothing...I do have it all. And as I stand there, casting my gaze on both sides of my strange, beautiful world, I know that everything I have is enough. Enough to make me happy. It is not a fairytale, but it is enough to make me happy.

And I am happy.
♠ ♠ ♠
Well, there it is. The end.
Hope you enjoyed this one. I certainly did.