"So, what do we do now?" Gojen asked.
The four men stood with Kougaa on a high plateau overlooking the valley. Below, Kougaa's kinsmen were busy removing the bodies of the dead, and repairs had started on the settlements.
"The other stolen Jewels need to be returned," Hakkien said, and he looked over at Kougaa. "Perhaps, Sandorin, Kougaa should accompany you."
Kougaa shook his head. "Right now my place is here, with my people, helping them to reclaim this valley. A number of my treacherous clansmen have fled, but we will find them and they will be imprisoned with the others," he said. "There is no one left for them to follow, now that Gyokuu is dead."
"I will return the Jewels to their rightful guardians," Sandorin said, "and I will call for a convocation of the Four, to discuss allowing the Demons to return to their homeland, with Kougaa as their king. I will present Kougaa to them at that time." He turned to Kougaa. "Perhaps, one day, I will be able to return the Jewel of Darkness to you."
"Perhaps," Kougaa said, "when we have shown the others that we deserve to have it come back to us. I think your plan is best, Sandorin, and it will allow me time to help my people here. I will provide you with one of our dragons, if you wish, so that your journey will be a swift one."
"I'm not sure I want a swift journey," Sandorin said. "We Elves have lived apart from the others for many, many years, and, as my aunt told me before I left, we paid a terrible price for our indifference to what went on outside of our own homeland. I want to see the other kingdoms, and see how their people live." He would send a message to Kanzin, telling her of his success and his intentions. A few months, a few years meant nothing to them, and Sandorin could wait to see his name engraved with the other kings who had wielded his sword. He would have Hakkien re-set the Jewel of Light in his torc, and he would become the Jewels' true guardians.
"You'll need a guide for that trip," Gojen said. He looked mostly himself again, except that his ears had retained their long, tapered shape. "My rates are reasonable, and, except for dealing with wizards who are deliberately confusing, I manage to find places pretty well."
"Will you join us, Hakkien?" Sandorin asked. He enjoyed the mage's company, and his sly sense of humor.
"I think I shall, for awhile, anyway,"Hakkien said. "I have been a little too Elf-like myself, out there on my little island, and I should get out in the world a bit and see things that aren't in books." Hakuu cheeped in agreement from his perch on Hakkien's shoulder.
Sandorin took the Jeweled staff from Gojen, and he held it out to Gokur. "Gokur Shiningbrow, you are the firstborn son of Petrar Shiningbrow, which makes you the rightful guardian of this staff and its Jewel," he said. "It also makes you the Giant king." Part of him didn't want to offer the staff to Gokur, for if Gokur became king it would change how much time they would be able to spend together. But accepting the staff—and the Jewel it carried—was Gokur's decision, not Sandorin's.
Gokur looked at him with wide eyes as he took the staff of the Giant King. He gazed at its gleaming red metal, and the Jewel of Existence that sparkled at its tip. For a long while, he said nothing.
"Gokur?" Sandorin wondered at his silence.
"I…" Gokur touched the large, faceted Jewel, "I can sense the Jewel, and I can tell it accepts me, but I'm not sure I should be king." He met Sandorin's gaze. "I've been apart from my people for hundreds of years. I think my brother Nakur will be a better king than I would, and I know he feels the same way I do about renewing our friendship with the Elves." He handed the staff back to Sandorin. "I want to see the other kingdoms too, with you. And besides," he said, his golden eyes shining, "my life is yours for a thousand years, remember?
Sandorin did remember, and he vowed to make every one of those years last as long as he could.