Chapter 244
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That wonderful August day, Theanore’s birthday, gave her feelings of warmth even now, 10998 years later. All her friends who had life-extending rings were still alive and well. Sure, the world was facing an overpopulation problem, but Theanore did her part in feeding the ever-growing population.

Besides, the elves had looked to the stars just a year ago and now there were plans to colonize far off planets. The world was such a strange place now, that she barely recognized it.

There were flying vehicles everywhere. Teleports dotted the landscape, and they were as common as one can be. Tall, sky reaching buildings, housed the population of this world.

Her grotto had been named a historic landmark, for all her contributions to society over the years. She still remembered helping Luca, who still had a monopoly in everything that had to do with metal, but made mostly flying cars these days, promote the seed drills and the tractors.

Even grandpa Thinker and grandma Thinker were still alive. Elmar made certain that he supplied the world with life-extending rings that lasted for eternity. Much to the grumbling of his father. There was even a cult dedicated to the blond man. It was called the Undying three, and Elmar shared a pantheon with his parents.

People still died, she supposed. Some wounds couldn’t be healed fast enough even with a life-extending ring attempting to keep one alive, but those were the ones who knew the risks.

Theanore, still looking twenty, rubbed a finger over her wedding band and smiled. She and Marinus were going on an adventure, finally. Her apple tree, once an adorable sapling, had collapsed a month prior.

She had been lucky to denounce her status as a dungeon core just as the last leaf of her tree, the same that had given her apples for so many millennia, had fallen.

There was one regret Theanore had that darkened her face, for she couldn’t help but think of Mary even now. Her precious firstborn, the mix between Marinus and she, had gone and become a murder dungeon in the Badlands when she become twenty. Only a couple of months after Theanore’s own birthday.

And then Gor the Troll had attacked her just as she had dispatched with her first bout of adventurers. It had been a massacre. By the time Theanore marshalled the ants into attacking, Mary’s head had been sent to her in tar. That had been the first time that Theanore had felt hatred and regret. For, if she hadn’t spared the Troll, if she had raised Mary better, then this wouldn’t have happened.

The Badlands were now salted and noting, not even corpses, walked on them. So horrible had been her retribution. She had nearly lost her peaceful status because of that. Emperor Casimir had pitied her for the loss of her child and had advocated for her.

Theanore had never held a grudge against the emperor, even when he behaved unfairly. She had been a child for the most of the time he had been alive. The man had refused a life-extending ring.

Theanore now, after a long life of happiness and hardships, saw the wisdom of that. In the rule of a country, there must always be change. Cassius, who married Eliza Orlock, had to ascend the throne. The people needed a fresh gulp of air.

Theanore had been one of the last ones to see the emperor before he died. He had sworn her into being a loyal subject to his son and asked her forgiveness for mistaking her childish play as an attack against his family. One she had come up when she had not even been a year old.

Theanore was not a bitter person, not even after Mary’s death, so she had gladly done as asked to put the old man at ease. What she had wanted at the time was a calm life and many children to fill the void that her firstborn had left behind. Preferably, no dungeon cores.

The nymph never planted a tree again, fearful she would get another nymph. Her half-merfolk children, born with much pain and loved all the more for it, were the only ones she was willing to have.

And Marinus had agreed with her. Mary had not been supposed to become a dungeon core. She had stolen an enchanted trinket and ran off to the Badlands. Esmer had gone home to the forest of plenty, by then, and so Theanore had simply thought that her daughter had gone off on an adventure or to her grandmother.

Pain clenched her heart in a vice. No, she would not think about Mary. The peach nymph had been an adult and had been surrounded by good examples all her life. She had wanted to hurt others. Had done so. And yet, Theanore’s heart still bleed for that lost spark in her life.

For all her children were a roaring fire for her, but Mary, who had lived only for twenty years, was just a spark. Theanore, much to her shame, couldn’t even say how the woman had looked. She had a painting from her first birthday with her hugging Mary.

They had looked more like sisters than a mother and daughter there. If Theanore could muster the courage to go and take out the framed painting and hang it back over the fireplace, an electric thing that didn’t produce any smoke, then she would see her daughter again. When she had been still small and innocent.

“Thea, did you pack everything?” Theanore turned towards Marinus and Archibald, the only two people that still lived with her. All of her children had their houses or their patches of the sea. Only her husband and her brother, by choice, remained to stave off the loneliness.

“Yes, I heard Elm will be travelling with us for a time. With Diana and Dereck. Were you aware that Fiona got her pantheon too? Goddess of Metal Fiona, Elm must be proud,” Marinus nodded. He had grown into quite the gossip and had even been Cassius’s spy master when the emperor had been alive.

“Put on your boots and let us go, sister. The weather is just right for an adventure!” Archibald’s enthusiasm rubbed off on Theanore, and she hopped off her chair and pulled up her skirts to show she already had boots on. The same Aurora had gifted her and Marinus when they had been foolish children traipsing in the snow.

“To new beginnings,” began Theanore as she made the first steps towards the world she knew of only from stories.

“And may we never forget the old times,” continued Archibald, linking an arm around hers and leading her out.

“Both the good and the bad,” Marinus and Theanore shared a look, then a smile. There were bitter moments in their life, but there were happy ones too. And they all deserved remembering.

The End.