The old woman shuffled toward the attendant, her pilgrim’s passport in her palsied hand.
“Welcome to the Shrine of Saint Jake,” the attendant said in a bored voice, and flipped open her passport so that he could stamp it with the Mark of the Shrine. He stamped hundreds of these every day, week in and week out, and as great an honor as it was to attend the Shrine, it was hard to keep one’s devotion at peak pitch all the time.
The first page was full, so he flipped to the next page. Then the next. A small crease appeared between his brows, and he flipped to the last page. There was only one space left in the lower right corner. He flipped back to the beginning and examined the pages more carefully.
He’d never seen some of these stamps. His eyes grew wide as he slowly realized she had done the full Pilgrim’s Route, following Saint Jake’s route from the Door to Nowhere, to the Blue Lady’s Garden, to the Bank of the Damned, to the Shrine here on the shores overlooking the submerged ruins of the Great Apple, where Saint Jake had finally faced and defeated all twelve Dragonlords in the Arena of Fate that lay beneath the waters in the heart of the ruined city. His eyes, full of wonder, rose to meet the old woman’s.
“You must be very devout,” he said.
“I knew him.”
The attendant nearly dropped the passport.
“You… you knew him?” He looked at her more closely. Yes, she was old enough — it was possible, however unlikely.
“Yes. We met walking the old highway. I was a young girl in the company of my brothers, and we all walked together for a day. I heard the Tale of Eris from his own lips as we walked. He had just decided to seek out the Blue Lady, and I wanted to join him on his quest, but he told me he had to go alone. That he had amends to make before he met her.”
The attendant slowly turned the passport back to the first page, and his hand trembled. Her name was there on the first page.
“You are Miranda.” His voice was a whisper.
The old woman smiled.
The tale of the star-crossed but undying love of Jake and Miranda was known to every child. Overcome, the attendant sank to his knees.
“There, there, young man, there’s no need for that. I haven’t that many hours left in this world, and I’d hate to have them run out while I’m waiting for you to put the last stamp in my book. Be mellow.”
“Be mellow,” the attendant murmured, and then rose to his feet and carefully, reverently placed the Mark of the Shrine in the exact center of the last space in the book.
“May I assist you to the Shrine, my lady?” he asked.
“Yes, I’d rather like that.”
He took her arm and slowly led her to the Shrine, and the final resting place of Saint Jake.