Children of the Last God
(Book IV of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 2001 BY

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"We shall yet miss thee, beloved daughter," Jendara's mother said.

"Aye, thy scent and sound shalt e'er be sorely missed, and the joy of our new home in the green valley e'er tempered by the sadness of thine absence," her father agreed.

Jendara sighed, wiping her eyes as she looked at her parents. Normally, her home was dark, and there would be nothing to see. Today, however, Kahgah sat outside, waiting with Smith and the others, as her parent's little home was too small for him to enter. So, the flickering light of Smith's little lantern was present, and was enough for her to see by.

Jendara gazed at her mother, gently running her paws over her face, imprinting the sight and feel and smell of her mother into her memory forever - her mother, of course, did the same. It was, in truth, a sad face. Her mother's eyes had faded from the ever-present darkness years before Jendara was ever born, and her glazed eyes drifted vacantly in different directions. Her mother did not know what Jendara looked like - yet, to a mouse of the Great Cavern, that meant little. Sound, touch and smell was their world - sight was something that a few mice had, and was not considered very important. Yet, now the future of the Mice of the great Cavern lay in light, not in darkness.

Yes, it was true. Soon, the Great Cavern would be empty, save for those few expeditions to gather what fungus, spider-silk, or other materials the mice may need in their new home, now called the Valley of the Ancients. Of course, there were no ancients there - only a machine of the ancients. Still, it was a friendly enough thing, cool and smooth to the touch, and spoke pleasantly, so the name seemed appropriate. There were greens in endless abundance, there - and the Watcher had said that the weather in the little valley was, for the most part, very mild. The winters would be harsh, but the caves could be used then, until the day came when the mice had learned to build the houses Smith had carefully described. It would probably be many generations before the mice had learned all the lessons Smith and Merle had carefully explained, and learned to govern their new home so it would not fail them, as it had failed the canids.

And yet, Jendara would not be among the mice of the Great Cavern who went to live in the Valley of the Ancients - her fate, and those of twenty-four other mice, lay elsewhere. Fourteen females and ten males, each the best of the Competition, would leave the Great Cavern with Jendara to join the mice of Smith's Village on the Surface Lands. There, they would learn the ways of the mus, as the mice of Smith's Village had done, and join with them, helping to once again increase their numbers in the world.

Jendara silently ran her paws over her father's face, fixing the sight, scent, feel and smell of him into her mind, while he did likewise. Unlike his mate, his duties as a candlemaker had allowed him more light in his life, and he could actually see somewhat clearly out to as far as his paws could reach. Now, he leaned in closely, drinking in Jendara's face with his pale pink eyes one last time, his fingertips feeling every inch of her head. Jendara gently lapped away the tear that slipped from his eye, as he did hers.

"I must needs go, now," Jendara said quietly, stepping back.

"Thou dost love the Defender, Kahgah," her father said, simply.

"Yes, father."

"Thou wouldst die, my daughter. Thou wouldst pop like a puff-ball and die should thou become his mate, and couple with him in season. Is this love worth that? The death of thyself, and of our line?"

Jendara hung her head. "No, father, it is not. I love him, yes. He is strong, gentle, and his caress heavenly. I love him in sooth - but not to my death."

"And even if thou didst somehow manage to avoid that fate, it still would yet mean the death of our line - and this is not the time for that. Our people are yet few, daughter. Our numbers must needs grow."

Jendara nodded. "Yes, father. I understand."

"Then do put him from thy mind, daughter. Learn ye the ways that Smith and his people shall yet teach thee. Meet his people, and do make friends with them. Learn all that thou canst, my daughter. Remember - our people are yet few. We must needs grow again. Give the males of Smith's Village a chance to know thee, and thou them. Open thy heart, and do yet allow our line a chance to survive. Thy whole life lies ahead of thee, and the fate of our line, and perhaps even our race, lies in thy loins. Think of more than merely thine own needs, my daughter. Think of the needs of our people, and our survival."

"I shall, father."

"Then fare thee well, my daughter - take thy mother and father's love and everlasting blessings with thee, and may all the gods and spirits that watch over our people guard thee, guide thee and protect thee all the days of thy life."

"Thank you, Father," Jendara replied, tears rolling down her muzzle, then turned and walked out of the only home she had ever known in her life.


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