A voice as harsh as a winter wind blowing through barren branches, called from above. “Your Grace,” Thom Illwind reported, “the enemy can be seen drawing near!”

“Ah, Thom,” Northstorm replied, “’tis time for battle then?” 

Illwind came into view, his face more fearful than anxious for combat. But for his own part, Northstorm seemed resigned, if not actually amused, by the Cosmos’s wicked sense of humor.

Then the two began to rise toward the window, and their forms began to fade as they trudged above the fog covering the laboratory floor. But Duke Northstorm’s voice could still be heard to say, “It seems as though time has run out for the both of us, my dear Charles. It is too late for me to flee, and so I must fight and perhaps fall. 

“And I think it is too late for you to free your own enraptured heart. You will hold the star-maid until the very end, and thus consign Land, Sky, and yourself to the dubious mercies of her distraught parents, Emperor Sun and Empress Moon. 

“And to think,” Northstorm finally said, with grim humor, “that love should be the dagger through all our hearts. Farewell, young fool, farewell…”

And with that, the wind rushed out the window and the peel tower was still.

— End of Chapter 5 —

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