The second Enoch smiled as well. It was done. It was over. He had completed his quest, both legs of it, and now he could rest. He too pushed open the door at the top of the tall tower, and wondered if his earlier self, the one who had started him on this quest, had been correct.
He stepped through, and found himself in the tavern of Goodhope.
He was back. He was home. He had done what was necessary, and he had grown measurably for it. He took a step forward, and his foot touched his pack. It was open, a little, and in it he could see his miraculous armor. His amazing sword in its hand-made scabbard, leaned against his gear, returned to him by some hand he did not understand, or think he might ever understand.
It didn’t matter how his things had come back to him.
It didn’t matter how tired he was from taking the same journey twice, as he had just done.
None of it mattered.
He looked around the tavern, and it looked to him precisely as it had the last time he had been there. Just the same, except for one thing.
It was the one thing he had hoped against hope he had been right about.
And, there she was. Carrying a tray of drinks to a rowdy group of guards, deftly avoiding their grasping hands, staying untouched, yet managing to look both sweet, and remotely available.
How had he ever missed her? She had been here all along. Had he been so wrapped up in his own world, in his own feelings of entitlement and station that he had been above seeing that the love of his life was here, night after night?
With fear, and careful steps, he approached her.
She had her back to him, talking to a guard officer. He could not help himself. He reached out a hand, to touch her arm lightly.
Elsyn whirled at him, fire in her eyes, her arm cocked back to strike, but when she saw his face, she arrested the blow.
“Enoch,” her remembered voice sweet and yet strong, “it is good to see you.”
He nodded. “It has been a long time, but I am back, and I have thought of nothing but you, or nearly nothing, the whole time. Can you forgive me?”
She blushed prettily, then smiled. “I didn’t think you had ever noticed me.”
“But,” he started… then only breathed deeply of her perfume, and stared at her.
“And what is this about being away for a long while? I’m sure I saw you in here just an hour ago, though where you went, I did not see” She blushed again, “and I was looking for you, as I always do.”
“Can we sit?” he asked her? “Can we talk? I have so much I would like to say to you.”
“No,” she frowned. “We cannot.”
Enoch felt his heart fall.
“But after closing, if you would care to walk with me by moonlight, I would be delighted by your company.”
At that, Enoch grinned. He bowed to the lovely Elsyn, and left the tavern. He had no stomach for drink just then.
Outside, he looked up into the night sky, and saw a large bird flying in lazy circles over him. He winked at it.
Readers: for those of you who struggled through this whole rough draft, I thank you. Yes, there is much to do to make this manuscript ready for Prime Time, and I am committed to that second, and perhaps a third draft before I attempt to publish. Still, those of you who have read this have performed a valuable service.
I would especially like to thank Loreen Lee who has both read and commented continually. Thanks, Loreen!