"Do you think he will pull through?", Simon heard Richie's voice from far away.
"Of course he will! You heard what Lhasmo said. He will be all right, he just needs a little rest", Anjoux tried to calm Richie. Simon felt his forehead being dabbed by a cool cloth.
"Just a little rest? He's been sleeping like the dead for two days now and hasn't made a sound. And look how pale he is!", Richie whined and refused to leave his friend's side, not even for a minute.
"Well, how should he look? He was under water for what seemed like forever!", replied the little elf, busy straightening up Simon's bed.
"Do you have any idea what happened to him down there?", Richie asked, making himself comfortable at Simon's feet. Anjoux, who was pouring water into a wooden bowl, paused briefly to think. She put the water aside and sat next to Richie. She observed Simon thoughtfully as he was sleeping.
"I can only vaguely imagine what could have happened", she began. "It is said that the Well of Hope is the origin of Morana. Thanks to the dragons, Morana is a peaceful and rich country today. One of them has always been predestined to ascend the dragon throne, just as Asragur once did. He was the king of us all. He protected us and provided peace and prosperity, for which he also paid a high price. Every ruler who ascends the dragon throne must renounce his own happiness for the good of all. Asragur was destined to surrender his hopes and dreams to the water in the Well, so it could spread throughout Morana by way of runlets, brooks, rivers and lakes. It was the only way he could share all of his hopes with the beings in Morana.
I believe Simon surrendered many of his dreams to the water in the Well. Maybe he even sacrificed his greatest dream in order to save us? You've seen with your own eyes how strongly the Well was bubbling again. Even the basin is overflowing now after the shortest of time.
Simon saved Morana, while sacrificing his own happiness. We will be eternally grateful to him for that. I'm afraid but I can't tell you exactly what happened, though. Perhaps Simon can tell us more at some time. Or it might remain a secret", Anjoux sighed and looked at Simon again.
"But how can he live without dreams and wishes? How can that be?", Richie wanted to know as tears filled his eyes. Anjoux put her arm around his shoulders to comfort him. "Simon will find new dreams. They will come by themselves, wait and see. Don't worry, it will be all right. As soon as his eyes are open, he will be famished and also need something to drink. That will be the first step", she assured him and Richie smiled gratefully.
"I would really have nothing against a bit of refreshment", they suddenly heard Simon's voice. He sat up from under the blanket of rabbit fur and looked at his friends expectantly. "I can't believe it! You're awake! Thank goodness! I'm so happy! I was beginning to fear that I would have to return home without you!", Richie was relieved and gave his friend a bear hug. Simon broke free from Richies clasp with some difficultly and looked around in amazement.
"Can somebody please tell me what happened? The last thing I remember is how Rodan dissolved in the water before my eyes. But after that I have a total blackout. What about the others? And how did we get back to Leyhda?", Simon asked, not believing how he had forgotten so much.
"Oh, I can tell you exactly what happened. I won't forget it for as long as I live", Richie began at once. "So, after Rodan dissolved, everything happened quickly. Dakko and I could move again and Anjoux dressed our wounds with no-puke herb.
But then the most amazing thing happened which you will find hard to believe. All at once, the water started to bubble and shot up into the air. A giant dragon, made completely of water, held you in his claws and laid you down on the edge of the basin. Then the gigantic creature whooshed back into the basin with a loud noise.
A moment later, Lhasmo, Teldan and Nanik were standing next to us, worn out from fighting but in good health.
Nanik and Dakko flew back to Leyhda with Grewels and his brothers. No one asked me, of course!", Richie griped. "I had the choice of either walking back for a month or taking the risk of forever vanishing in nowhere land. And since Lhasmo took off with you in tow, I had to think back to Leyhda, for better or worse, with Anjoux. One thing I can tell you: That was definitely the first and last time!", Richie ended his brief report.
Simon and Anjoux could hardly suppress their laughter. "What's there to laugh about?", Richie protested. "No idea how you two can stand it. Even now I still feel like I was divided in two and put back together the wrong way. It really sucks!", Richie explained and dropped backwards onto Simon's sickbed.
Simon was now wide-awake, albeit still a bit queasy in the stomach. But he reasoned that it was due to the fact that he hadn't eaten in days. He slipped out from under his cosy blanket and climbed to the bottom part of the cave, where they had spent a night at the beginning of their journey. Richie and Anjoux were puzzled and stretched their necks to look down from the sleeping alcove. Simon stood hesitantly in the middle of the large living room and searched around for something.
"Is there anything we can help you with?", Anjoux and Richie asked together. "Hmm", Simon hummed. "Is there anything around here to eat? I'm dying of hunger! By the way, where are our things, anyhow?", he inquired and glanced up to them.
Anjoux leaped down in one step and sat next to Simon, who had made himself comfortable on one of the chairs around the old wooden table. Richie looked sceptical as he considered doing the same as Anjoux. "Show off!", he sulked to himself and decided the ladder would be safer.
"You boys need to change clothes and freshen up", Anjoux suggested and pulled Simon out of his thoughts, who was just sitting there staring at nothing.
"You'll find your things in the small chest next to the entrance. Meanwhile I will go get something to eat. We don't have a whole lot of time. The Council of Elders will be expecting you soon at the gathering place", she explained and lowered her head sadly.
"That means we have to return home, doesn't it?", Simon asked, who could hardly believe how fast things were moving along.
"Yes, you will be leaving Morana yet today", Anjoux sniffed quietly. The little girl's eyes filled with tears when she looked at Simon and Richie. "Get dressed, I'll be back", she said and vanished.
Anjoux had just left the cave and Richie could no longer contain his joy. He hopped around singing and dancing through the cave. "We're going home! We're finally going home! Oh man, this is great! I can hardly believe that we are leaving! Simon, we are going home at last!", he shouted and beamed at Simon. But Simon sat still at the table and didn't say a thing.
"Hey, buddy! What's wrong? Aren't you happy? We survived an incredible adventure! And nobody died, at least none of the good guys", Richie added and sat down with Simon at the table.
"Oh sure, I'm really happy to be going home!", Simon began. "But I won't enjoy saying goodbye. After all, we've found some pretty good friends here", he reminded Richie.
Richie hadn't thought about that. "You're right. It won't be easy to find friends like that again. We'll never see them again, will we?" Crestfallen, Simon shook his head. "I suppose not", he said. A dark shadow was cast on their joy of returning home.
Simon got himself going and walked over to the chest to fetch his things. "We will never forget our time here. Neither will we forget our friends. If I'm honest, though, I will be happy to simply be looking for seashells and stones on the beach. I just want to take snapshots of ships, without the constant fear of Rodan or one of those accursed wolves trying to take my life. Besides, what I wish the most right now is to pay a visit to Mr. Twiggle's Ice Cream Parlour and to devour a big cone of rhubarb-marzipan ice cream", Simon delighted and tossed Richie's clothes to him.
"So we are really going home?", Richie wanted more assurance.
„Yep, faster than you can say no-puke herb!", Simon laughed.
In no time they had changed into their own clothes.
When Anjoux returned to the cave, Simon and Richie couldn't believe their eyes when they saw what all she took out of her basket.
Anjoux served them plenty to eat for their farewell. The delicacies before them included asparagus soup with cress, grilled lizards, wild boar ham and fresh bread. And of course, for desert, grass apple compote with wild honey. In addition, Anjoux set a large jug of fresh milk and a pot of sweet-smelling herbal tea on the table.
"Enjoy your meal", she invited Simon and Richie one last time to eat and they dug in with delight. Partly in laughter, partly in thoughtfulness, the three recalled their long journey.
Simon was stuffed. He couldn't take another bite. Richie too, after polishing off his grass apple desert. He leaned back in his chair with hands clasped on his belly in utter satisfaction.
"What a pity that we have to go so soon. I will definitely miss the food!", he sighed and rubbed his stuffed belly.
"Happy you enjoyed it!", Anjoux was pleased. "Now you have your strength for the next leg of your journey. We should be going now. They're all waiting on you", the little elf sighed. Together they departed, to appear before the Council of Elders and to say farewell to their friends.