Here is the last chapter of Lindy. I will now be setting about some extensive revisions, so if you have any suggestions or criticisms, please do leave me a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, those who are new to the story can find the beginning at Chapter One, and those who would like to have the story thus far in a single file can find it in both .pdf and .rtf formats on the Longer Works page.
In Which Some Final Things are Settled
The walk home from the bridge seemed like a dream to Lindy, because she could not quite bring herself to believe that it was true. She and her mother and Alisdair and Moe went quietly at first, each with their own thoughts. but then they began to tell each other their stories, and soon they were laughing and crying and carrying on like the oldest of friends. They had not gone very far before they were joined by Bayard and the others who had been waiting to do battle with Khurshid’s armies, and so the stories had to be told all over again, and then fastest of the creatures were sent off to The Crofts to spread the news, while those who remained went on at a more leisurely place, shouting and singing and generally making the biggest party that Lindy had ever seen as they made their way along the road.
They arrived at The Crofts while it was still quite early in the morning. The sun had not yet even brushed the horizon, and the cool of night still clung to everything, but they found everyone very much awake. The doors of the house all stood open, and the windows all shone with light. The cottages were all alight as well, and there was a great bonfire burning in the common between them. People were coming and going between the house and the fire, and they were all carrying food and drink to set at tables that had been dragged from the cottages. Others were playing music or singing and dancing, as if they were celebrating every holiday rolled into one.
Lindy was too tired really to join in, but she found a spot with her mother at one of the tables, and she let someone put a plate of sausage and cheese in front of her, and she laid her head down on her hands to let everyone’s joy swirl around her. She closed her eyes and felt her mother’s hand on her shoulder, and smelled the fire burning, and heard some kind of pipe playing a song like a bubbling river, and she fell asleep.
When she awoke it was just morning, the sun rising on a day that was still cool but that promised to grow hot. Everything was very quiet, and Lindy could see people sleeping all around her, sitting at the tables or lying on the grass or resting against the cottages. In fact, there was no one at all awake, as if everyone had fallen asleep all at once in the midst of their celebration, like the castle in sleeping beauty. Even her mother was asleep at the table beside her.
Lindy did not try to wake the sleepers, but she felt wide awake herself, so she got to her feet and began slowly walking the path that had wound its way to the house through long grass when she had first arrived and had since been pressed flat by the passing of countless feet. She had set out in the direction of the house idly, because it was where the path naturally led, so she was halfway there before she remembered that she was no longer welcome at The Crofts. When she looked up at the house, however, the side door stood open, and she could imagine the little coat room through it and the kitchen beyond that, and she felt a longing to be back there again. Surely The Crofts would not forbid her now, she thought, not after everything had come out right at the bridge. Besides, if she could be brave enough to face Khurshid, she could certainly be brave enough to face the house, so she gathered herself and walked to the door and called out softly with her mind.
“Crofts?” she asked, “May I come in?” The house did not answer, but she could feel it at the edges of her mind, full of emotion, happiness and embarrassment, gratitude and uncertainty, joy and fear. “I know how you feel,” Lindy ventured again. “I’m not really sure what to say either, but it would make me very happy if we could just start over again.”
There was a long moment where Lindy wondered whether the house would ever answer her, and then it said, “Come in,” said it very quickly, as if a little ashamed, but Lindy feel a swell of happiness in The Crofts, and she knew that things would be better now.
She stepped across the threshold into the coat room with a heart lighter than any time she could remember, reaching out to brush her hands along the walls as she passed them, thinking back to when she had first come this way, when Clinton and Moe had frightened her half to death by changing into strange creatures before her eyes. She nudged open the door of the kitchen, expecting to see Penates already at work, but even he was asleep at his hearth, and the room stood empty except for two people sitting at the long, rough kitchen table. One of them was Alisdair, sitting back in his chair, his legs crossed, and his hands holding a cup of tea in his lap, as if he was in the middle of a chat with an old friend. The other was a man whom Lindy had never seen before, at least, he was a man when she first saw him, young and handsome with light hair, but almost immediately he became a much older man, white-haired and bent with age, and then a moment later he became a young girl, not much older than Lindy herself, and the moment after that she became a middle-aged man with deep red skin and golden eyes. The figure took on one shape after another, each only for a second or two, so that Lindy thought that it must eventually look like every person who had ever lived, and she wondered whether it had ever looked like her, even just once.
“Welcome, Lindy,” said Alisdair. He stood, and so did the other person, who looked now like a poor woman dressed all in rags. “This is Aigonz. He is the spirit of this world, as The Crofts is the spirit of this house, and as you are the spirit of your body. He is The Weald itself, you might say.” He bowed his head in Aigonz’ direction as he said this, and Lindy bowed her head too, not only because Alisdair had done so, but because she felt somehow that Aigonz was someone to whom bows were rightfully due.
Aigonz stood now as well, taking the form of a dark-skinned man with a broad smile and a carefully pressed suit. He put his hand out to Lindy. “I’m very glad to meet you, Lindy,” he said. “You’ve done a great good here, and I am truly grateful to you.”
“I only did what seemed like the right thing,” Lindy said, feeling a little embarrassed.
“That is the only thing worth doing,” Aigaonz answered,” becoming a small boy in a white robe, “and many are unable to do so much. Each of us, you and Alasdair and I, and even Khurshid, only ever need do what seems right, and no one may do it for us. We either do it or not.” He looked Lindy in the eyes. “This is not only the task of gods and heroes. It is the task that faces us all. We have no other.”
“But I don’t always know what the right thing is,” said Lindy quietly.
“None of us ever do,” said Aigaonz, now a beautiful young woman with chocolate skin and long black hair. Her voice was gentle. “You can only keep watching and listening, and you will know it when it comes.”
“I see,” said Lindy, but she felt a little overwhelmed.
Aigonz smiled, her white teeth flashing. Come,” she said “let me show you what you’ve helped accomplish. Her hand was still outstretched, and Lindy came toward her and took it. There was a sound like a sudden gust of wind, and then the kitchen disappeared, and all three of them were standing in the great room at the top of the house. The places on the great table had all been set with gold and with crystal, and there were tall candles, and boughs of fir, and wreaths of ivy. On every plate there was a crown, and they seemed alive to Lindy, as if they were filled with a joy of their own.
Aigonz had become a pale man with a scar that blinded him in one eye. “Do you see the crowns, Lindy?” he asked. “They are all in their places once again, and soon Keepers will come from all the worlds, one by one, and they will take up the crowns, and The Crofts will be filled with people once again.” As he said this, Lindy’s mind was filled with images of the house bursting with people, coming and going and living together. She saw people laughing around the kitchen tables and hanging laundry outside the cottages and hoeing rows of vegetables in the fields, and there, in the midst of them, she also saw her mother, chopping vegetables in the kitchen, and she saw herself, standing on the bridge, looking out across the river valley.
Lindy was so filled with happiness at that she could hardly speak, but she somehow kept from crying and looked up into Aigonz’ eyes. “So,” she managed, “does this mean that I can stay here? And my Mom too?”
Aigonz nodded, his eyes becoming those of a shy-looking girl in floral-print dress. “Of course,” she said.
“Will we live in my cubby?” Lindy asked.
The little girl laughed, and it sounded like a thousand laughs joined gently together, babies gurgling and children giggling and grandparents chuckling all at once. “Not exactly,” she said. “Come, and I will show you.” She took Lindy’s hand again, and there was the same sound of wind, and they appeared now at the centre of the bridge. The morning sun glistened on the waters, and the trees moved gently, full of their summer leaves, and the sky was a light, morning blue. It was so beautiful that Lindy could hardly believe it was the same place where such terrible things had almost happened the night before.
“You won’t be staying in your cubby,” Aigonz said from beside her, “because this, if you’ll remember, is now your home.” She had become now a very handsome young man, and Lindy quickly let go of his hand, feeling a little embarrassed.
“But we can’t live here, can we?” she asked.
The handsome boy laughed his thousand laughs. “Can’t you?” he said, but his voice was teasing. “Though you didn’t know it, Lindy, you’ve become something that has never been seen in The Weald before. There have been Keepers ever since Khurshid betrayed his home, and they were set to meet Khurshid at the bridge each year, so the veil could be renewed. But you have made the bridge your home, like a second seal on Khurshid’s prison. So I’m going to make you a house here where you have already made your home, and you will keep watch over the bridge.” He laughed again. “Yes, we’ve long had Keepers, but now we have a Watcher as well, and the Watcher needs a house.”
He motioned with his hands, and the whole valley trembled. Stones rose from the ground, shaking free from the earth. Trees toppled along both banks. Everywhere there was the sound of rocks splitting and wood creaking, as the very stuff of the valley transformed itself into masonry and timber. All of it came flowing up the bridge in a rush, like water running up hill, and it joined itself together, stone on stone, timber on timber, until there stood before them a most beautiful house. Its foundations rested on the walls of the bridge, leaving a passage beneath it for people to pass, and it had a stairway leading up to a door in its floor, just like the one that led into Lindy’s attic cubby.
“This will be your home,” Aigonz said, looking now like a grey-haired woman with kind eyes. “Through its windows you can keep watch over the bridge, and through its door you may go to your cubby in The Crofts any time you will it.”
Lindy walked slowly toward the house, her house now, looking back to Alisdair and Aigonz only once. Then she set her hand on the rail, climbed the stairs, pushed open the door, and at last she knew that she was home.