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Epilogue: The Storyteller's Legacy

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A breeze rippled the pond. It stilled again, creating a reflection of the Storyteller and the children gathered around him.

"Kira Nerys lived to be two hundred and thirty years old. Odo was able to see her once a year...sometimes twice. She and Odo always said they loved each other before parting ways, especially when her age became obvious. Her health stayed strong and she worked aboard Deep Space Nine until her dying day.

"Odo happened to be with her the night she died. She retired to bed complaining of a headache and said she'd visit the Infirmary if it wasn't better in the morning. Something about the way she spoke sounded wrong, yet Odo couldn't put his finger on it. He told her he loved her before they settled between the sheets, and she said she loved him too. When he awoke an hour later to her making the same gurgling noises he heard from Mora Pol, he knew, instinctively, that he was about to witness the end of her life. He didn't call an emergency medical team. No heroic measures could save her, and he didn't want her final living moments to be the pain of cortical stimulators and life support devices.

"Instead, he thanked Kira Nerys for all she gave him. She never regained consciousness, yet Odo told her he loved her over and over anyway. He had no regrets when she took her last, painless breath in his arms. The tears he cried for her were as numerous as the stars. Kejal found him that way when he came to see why Kira Nerys wasn't at her desk. He had to help Odo sit down when her remains were taken away in a body bag. They cried together-- or rather, Odo sobbed and Kejal longed to shed tears himself. Odo made sure Kira Nerys was clean, dressed in her wedding gown and wearing makeup before anyone else saw her. He chose the glossy red lipstick. Red was always beautiful on her lips. He never forgot how perfect her aged face looked the last time he set eyes on it.

"An autopsy revealed a ruptured aneurysm in her brainstem. If she survived it, she would have been in a permanent vegetative state. Not quite alive and not quite dead. Odo knew not calling for help was the right choice. He got to share a precious last moment with his wife, and he wouldn't have traded it for anything. She got to die in his arms, and he knew she wouldn't trade that for anything either.

"Kira Nerys' funeral was one to remember, and yes, Kejal sang at the service. Afterward, Odo had her cremated and absorbed her cremains into himself. He kept her ashes in the same place he carried Kejal during his pregnancy. She became a part of him, and her ashes never left his body, not even when he rejoined the Great Link.

"Over the next century, the Great Link dispersed into the universe, leaving Odo and Kejal alone on the Founders' homeworld. On that day, they made a promise to each other, embraced and went their separate ways to experience life as only Changelings can.

"Kejal returned to Bajor, where he became the first alien Vedek-- although few knew it, because by then he looked completely Bajoran. He also went into medicine, believing that spirituality and science could coexist to heal the sick. He studied Delfeya syndrome until the day he made a breakthrough in genetics. By chemically changing how the affected Bajoran's DNA folded into chromosomes, he was able to render the genes responsible for Delfeya syndrome inert. This was something no geneticist had thought to do before. He named it Mora's Solution and the first Bajoran to receive it was ninety-five year old man named Daran Fyal. Kejal shed his first tears on that bright fall morning, and he thanked the Prophets for giving him wisdom. A mere fifty years later, Delfeya syndrome went from a terminal disease to a treatable annoyance. In a hundred years, it practically disappeared from the Bajoran gene pool.

"With that goal met, he set his sights on another. He sipped deka tea every morning in honor of his father. By the way, he did finally taste it on the four-hundredth anniversary of Mora Pol's death-- and realized he hated it. Heh!

"He visited Mora Pol's grave often. A deka tree did grow in the spot where Odo planted a seed. Without guidance, it split two ways and bent over the graves, completely covering them in its branches. Kejal discovered it dropped its flowers on them throughout spring and rained seed pods in the winter. And he laughed-- perhaps the deka seed pod prank war wasn't lost after all.

"Six centuries after Mora Pol's death, a violent tornado destroyed what used to be his house and uprooted Kejal's beloved deka tree. Kejal was so distraught that he wouldn't visit the site for the next ten years. But, eventually, he did, and he found a surprise. The tornado had scattered his deka tree's seed pods. His tree's death gave its children room to grow. Their seeds fell and germinated until the hills were covered in deka trees. Within a century, Bajor named it the Aya forest. It had ten thousand and forty-five trees. Kejal counted them. He gave each tree a name, and he taught the children who played in that forest how to care for the trees. When they stumbled on the grave arches of Mora Pol and Mora Leruu, Kejal smiled a little sadly and told the children who they were.

"As for Odo...he chose to travel, taking Kira Nerys' ashes to every star she dreamed of seeing in person. Over the centuries, he single handedly ended three wars between six different races by encouraging them to talk rather than fight.

"He spent a brief time on Bajor with Kejal. By then, Kejal had built and lived in a small cabin deep within the Aya forest. It was there that Odo ran into a pregnant Bajoran woman who had obvious Talaxian spots. Her name was Entayan Zaraxa and she was Aleexa's great-great granddaughter. Odo saw her from time to time after their first encounter in a market. She had a baby boy, grew old and died. So did her husband. The child grew up, had a family and also died.

"Watching the generations come and go wore on Odo. He realized biological immortality wasn't as wonderful as it seemed. Compared to him, everything was so transient.

"Odo left Bajor and resumed his aimless journey to other worlds. He couldn't settle anywhere for more than a century. The urge for discovery drove him onward.

"He found the female Founder languishing in an abandoned prison on an asteroid near a red supergiant star. Everyone else died or left. Yet there she was, forgotten and dying because the star's radiation had the same effect on her as the morphogenic virus. Unable to shape shift or even move, she'd spent all that time suffering alone. She did not recognize Odo's face.

"In her madness, she told him stories about a shape shifter who left the Great Link shortly after its creation. He was an outlier with a penchant for wandering the stars. She said she loved him so much that when he fell ill with a disease he caught from Solids, she selfishly absorbed his substance to prevent his death. Then she didn't want him to remember her selfish act, so she wiped his memories during the birth, sent him away with the newly-formed Hundred and forged a record about all their memories being wiped. In reality, the Hundred were infant Changelings kept in stasis shortly after the Changeling species evolved. They were meant to be record keepers of the past and future.

"The female Founder hoped being among the stars would restore her lover's lost memories, but it never happened, and while he looked exactly the same the next time she saw him, not even linking with him jogged his memories of his previous life. She tried more than once, but each attempt failed and she never won his love back. He fell in love with someone else instead, a Solid, and her hatred intensified until worlds like Cardassia burned.

"This knowledge horrified Odo, but he couldn't abandon her to die alone. Maybe the centuries she spent suffering and unable to shape shift were punishment enough for her war crimes. Maybe, just this once, she deserved a thread of the mercy she never gave to others.

"Odo shifted himself to look like he used to in his youth. He took her into his arms and told her he'd returned. He said he forgave her selfishness, but not the war or the Dominion. She smiled, saying she didn't regret the war either because it was worth it to have him back, and died with her head resting on his shoulder. Odo scattered her ashes in space as he left the prison behind. He did not grieve for her like he did for Mora Pol or Kira Nerys, but he did hope death finally gave her peace.

"And so, like he had a lifetime ago, he wandered the stars. He thought about the female Founder's words, and he was glad she never got her hands on Kejal during his infancy.

"Millennia came and went. The Milky Way galaxy collided with a neighboring spiral galaxy, and the universe continued to expand and evolve. Odo and Kejal evolved with it until they were able to hold a shape indefinitely. No more annoying regeneration periods. You see, Changelings acquire mass as they take on new shapes, and they had to shunt more and more matter into subspace as the centuries went by. It wasn't long before compacting themselves into humanoid form took greater effort. In their gelatinous state, they became cosmic oceans, easily large enough to shape shift into starships, planets or even nebulae if they so chose.

"Kejal spent three thousand years as a reflection nebula near the wormhole. Odo tried being a starship for several centuries-- by then the descendants of the Ocampa race came up with biomechanical technology that he could easily mimic-- and he enjoyed the 'company' of thousands right up until starships of that class were decommissioned. Heh, that poor captain must have spent the rest of his life wondering why his ship sped away by itself after the ceremony! Heh, heh!

"But as time went on, Kejal and Odo both began to see physical form as a hindrance. They had shape shifted nearly everything they knew of. Nearly. There was one more shape left in them, and they're still in that form today."

"What shape was that?" asked Kejoda. His question earned him a nudge and giggle from Morolan.

"The shape they promised to take when they first parted ways." The Storyteller turned towards the curious child. "They found a star forming in a nebula. When it was mature enough to shine on its own, Odo and Kejal discovered it didn't have enough dust left over to create planets. They spun themselves into a planet and a moon to bask in its light. Kira Nerys' ashes became part of Odo's atmosphere. Odo collected matter during his journeys across space, and he used that to build the world he became. Kejal carried with him the seeds of every plant he encountered during his travels. His surface is a forest, just like he dreamed of being. Those who venture up there say the trees sing when it rains.

"Kejal revolves around Odo, and together they revolve around Pol, the sun that centers their existence. Everything you see is a testament to their memory of him, the people they love and their journey." The Storyteller sighed contentedly. "And that, my young friends, is how the world was made."

He released the hands he held. Silence fell like a thunderclap.

The smallest girl tugged his sleeve.

"So that's it? That's how it ends?"

"No." The Storyteller answered. "The end of the story won't happen for another five billion years."

Knowing smiles appeared on the older children's faces. The younger ones exchanged perplexed looks. That became the beauty of telling the story year after year-- each child understood a little more the next time they heard it. By adulthood, they memorized it, internalized it and passed it on to descendants who couldn't hear it from the Storyteller's mouth. Many told the story to other worlds, spreading it like wildfire throughout the galaxy.

The Storyteller looked up at the grayish-green moon. It dominated a sixth of the sky. Moonrise meant sunrise was a mere quarter hour away. People often said the moon played a joke on the sun, and the sun chased the moon across the heavens to pay it back.

Amused, the Storyteller gazed at the gathering. He loved seeing how each young one grew and changed over the years. After awhile, their offspring would join the circle. A never-ending cycle of life upon life.

"It's time for you to run along now," he said simply. "I will see you next year."

Each child got to their feet and left without question, leaving him alone by the pond.

Sunrise flooded everything with its brilliance. The Storyteller watched it until the sun cleared the horizon. Then he got up and walked into the grassy meadow.

And the world kept turning...

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The Storyteller ventured out to the Memory Pond and told the mysterious story another five billion times without fail. By then, he leaned on a staff and needed help to sit down. Then a year came that he seemed young and sprightly again, as if he'd been reborn...or replaced. This Storyteller also grew old. And so did his descendant. It happened every thousand years like clockwork. He always wore thick brown robes and a hood that concealed his face in shadow. The older children speculated about how many men had taken on the role as they grew up, but they lost track after the first two thousand years and their grandchildren stopped counting.

Through the millennia, the Odoans' features evolved. Their head ridges were joined by ear ridges, and their awareness of the universe around them grew with their minds. Many children in the newest generation showed signs of developing telekinesis.

Then again, so did the Storyteller. His abilities grew to match those of the children who heard his words.

When the sun became brighter and hotter, the planet and its moon mysteriously adjusted their orbits into its new habitable zone. Then, as the star's hydrogen ran out and it swelled into a red giant, the moon and planet moved even further out, giving the inhabitants ample time to plan an escape. When the Odoans detected carbon forming in the sun's core, they prepared the final evacuation.

Plants and animals were rescued off the moon. People left by the thousands. The biosphere starships resembled bubbles boiling off into the blackness. One by one, the Odoan ships drifted south, where a new home awaited them in a system a mere hundred and seven light years away.

On the final day, the Storyteller appeared at sunset to tell the story one last time.

One of the girls gasped at seeing the robed man sit down. "Oh, he's so tall and skinny! We should feed him."

The children huddled close to the Storyteller instead of sitting in a circle around the pond. There were only ten, and he embraced them all as he told them the tale of their world. After he finished, he stood up and bid the young ones farewell.

They were the last children to leave the cradle they called home.

A dark-skinned boy lingered by the Memory Pond, which never disappeared despite billions of years of erosion everywhere else. He wore something silver on his right ear.

"Child." The Storyteller spoke, "What is your name, and where did you get that?"

The boy fidgeted with the chain on his jewelry. "Polmora, sir. My mother's name is Neryskira. My father was Odomora, but he died in a construction accident last year. He gave me this ancient earring the day before the accident. He said a tree on the moon gave it to him when he was my age. It's been said it belonged to Mora Pol from your story. Do you know if that is true, sir?"

The Storyteller knelt to Polmora's level. He pulled back his hood. His sandy blond hair was slicked back in soft waves, and his vivid electric blue eyes shone with eons of wisdom.

"It's all true," the Storyteller said. He placed a ball of parchment in Polmora's hand. "You carry a legacy with you."

Polmora's eyes widened and his mouth dropped. "But...wait! You walk like you're old!"

"Oh, child," the Storyteller smiled and briefly stooped forward like an old man. "Emulating age is easy for a Changeling."

The baffled expression on Polmora's face became a grin. "You've always been him. All this time! You're Odo! You're the world!"

"I am, and I need you to remember the story," whispered Odo. He touched Polmora's earring and spoke to the boy's mind. "Remember it forever, because you will see how it ends."

"You aren't coming with us?"

"I can't. My destiny is here. That is why you need to remember for me."

"I will, sir. I promise." Polmora hugged Odo, almost getting lost in his robes. He spoke aloud, "Thank you for being home."

Simple words from the mouth of a child who had barely lived, yet they said volumes.

"You're welcome." Odo straightened to his full height. "Run along, now. Your mother is waiting."

Polmora bolted towards a petite woman wearing a red dress. "I saw his face, mommy! I saw the Storyteller's face! He's Odo from the story! He's really Odo!"

Neryskira turned to look. She glimpsed a golden ripple disappearing into the ground.

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The final biosphere launched.

Hours after its departure, the planet and moon literally unraveled like cosmic ribbons. All traces of plants and civilization flew off, surrounding their new form in a shimmering veil of debris. Gravity pulled the Changelings back together and they merged into a massive, glistening bubble trapped in a death spiral around the broiling red giant.

Two figures congealed on a platform at the center of the sphere. They appeared as identical Bajorans, differing only in hair and eye coloring.

"Mother," Kejal began, "Are you ready?"

"I don't know." Odo looked away. "I don't have a choice anymore, do I?"

Kejal kissed Odo's forehead. "You aren't choosing alone. We're doing this together. You and me."

"You and me," Odo said. He stopped to watch their outer surface glow red hot. Oddly, it didn't hurt.

Kejal followed Odo's gaze. His expression softened. "So, have you finally decided this isn't the end?"

Odo gripped his son's shoulders. "I don't know. I just hope what's left of us grows into a new star. One made from all of us."

"Heh, there's that word again." Kejal replied. "Hope."

They hugged each other. Odo's cupped the back of Kejal's head. The star's heat made further shape shifting impossible. There was no escape. He felt trapped. Images of Doctor Mora's face covered in blood rose unbidden in his mind. He forced them to retreat behind happier memories. Why did that always haunt him at the worst times?

"Now I know why I was born," Kejal squeezed Odo's shoulders. "You're scared, but I'm here to show you that you don't have to be."

The outer layer of the sphere began to burn away in the star's solar wind. Trails of glowing material billowed out like a comet's diaphanous tail.

How strange. It hurt in waves, yet it was no more painful than labor. Somehow, Odo expected worse.

Kira's ashes glittered everywhere, tiny dust motes within a sunbeam. Odo realized he'd been breathing them the whole time.

"It's starting," whispered Kejal. "Pray with me?"

Odo blinked, "How?"

"Just call out to what you believe in."

Kejal peered upward and began the song he sang at Doctor Mora's funeral eons ago. A prayer asking the Prophets to light a wayward traveler's destination.

Incredible heat blazed down. Odo clutched Kejal tighter. He watched the embers-- pieces of himself and his son-- mingle with Kira's cremains in the star's hellish onslaught. It happened too quickly to register more than a dull ache.

Kejal kept chanting. Odo sank to sit on an outcropping. He held Kejal closer and listened. Only his son would greet his imminent demise with a song.

Get a hold of yourself! Odo berated himself. Doctor Mora showed you how to die with dignity eleven billion years ago, now follow his example!

"It's okay." Kejal patted his arm. He curled up in Odo's lap like he used to in his youth and laid his head on his shoulder. "I'm right here with you. I love you, mother."

Odo's fingers dented Kejal's clothing. "I love you, too, Kejal."

Kejal remained perfectly calm. How could he not feel mortal terror? How was he so certain?

Odo clutched his offspring tighter, trying in vain to protect him from the inevitable. He comforted himself with an errant thought. We left our footprints with the Odoans. If all else fails, I know the story will live on. The Odoans will remember there was an Odo, a Kejal, a Kira Nerys, an Aleexa and a Mora Pol.

The star's boiling surface surged closer. He squeezed his eyes shut and waited for oblivion.

"Mother," Kejal whispered, "I understand why you're afraid, but don't be. There is so much to experience. We'll do this together, okay? You and me. Now open your eyes and see."

Grief-stricken, surrounded by his imminent incineration, Odo lifted his head. His eyes reflected a light not caused by the star above him. Both his eyebrows went up. The same glow came from himself, Kejal and the last Odoan biosphere barely visible in the distance.

"I lifted this vision from father's pillow. It's what he saw right before he died. Can you see it, mother? Can you see the light?"

"Kejal, I-- "

Odo remembered the whiteness he saw during Kejal's birth, the deka seed he'd planted and transporting Doctor Mora's braid into a nebula. All were things he did out of hope, and they came true.

I understand now.

Just like that, his fear became acceptance. His grip on his son relaxed. He beamed with tears welling in his eyes.

It was so simple.

"I found it," Odo said, "I found my prayer."

Kejal nuzzled Odo's shoulder. His response was drowned out by the disintegration of the last layer between them and the star's radiation. Their approximated skin began to dry out and flake off as the vacuum of space violently whipped at their hair.

Kejal looked up. Half his face was crumbling. He still managed a smile.

Odo felt himself solidifying like volcanic glass. He kissed his son's undamaged right ear and closed his eyes.

The light brightened.

Kejal gasped.

Odo said his prayer.

"Nerys."

A split second later, superheated plasma reduced everything to ashes.

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An image of the dying sun superimposed itself over Polmora, who peered at the chaos through a transparent wall.

He saw the glowing golden sphere disappear into the sun's heaving photosphere. The star shrank, convulsed and swelled to immense size. This time, its outer surface kept expanding.

No more fusion and no more struggle against gravity.

Polmora couldn't see the white dwarf through its thick shell of stellar gas, but he knew of its presence. Gravitational pressure collapsed the star's core into a dense carbon sphere no bigger than a planet.

Tears trickled down the boy's cheeks. His home was gone. Cremated by the sun that gave it life.

Someday, the outpouring stardust would bloom into an orange, red and green planetary nebula illuminated by the central white dwarf. To other worlds, it would be another dead star. To the Odoans, it became a cosmic tombstone memorializing a love story billions of years old. Even that was destined to continue outward and seed the interstellar medium with raw materials for new stars, planets and life forms.

Polmora touched the glossy, clear wall.

"Did you see it, mother?" He sniffled and wiped his face. "Did you see it go?"

"Yes." Neryskira squeezed his shoulder. Her fingers trembled. "I saw it."

Polmora unclasped his earring and stared at it on his brown palm. The weight of its importance made it the most priceless jewelry in existence, but Polmora didn't let that intimidate him. He took the wadded paper from his pocket and unrolled it. A lock of auburn hair revealed itself. It was braided into a circle, tied together by a single white string and wrapped tightly around a gold bracelet with red beads. Names were written on the parchment in ancient Bajoran script.

Kira Nerys

Mora Leruu

Mora Sirah

Mora Y'lai

Mora Ival

Mora Myrna

Four artifacts of value beyond measure. And the Storyteller, Odo, chose him to keep them!

Polmora looked up again, smiling through his grief. If he focused hard enough, he could sense the memories within the objects. The story's truth lay in the love woven throughout them like fine, unbreakable threads.

Odo chose me. I don't know why, but he did. In his name, I will be the new Storyteller. That way, he will live forever.

He began by telling the entire tale to everyone who listened. The biosphere he occupied glimmered as it sped towards a new beginning.

And somewhere unseen, six points of light converged inside creation.

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"For a better world without hate,
Follow your heart, believe in fate.
Only visions and the mind
will guide you to the light.

Mission is over, mission is done.
I will miss you, children of the sun.
Now it's time to go and say.
Goodbye, goodbye Milky Way..."


--Enigma, "Goodbye, Milky Way"

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"I'm going home; you can't keep me here.
I'm saying goodbye for the last time, yeah.
I'll find a way; my spirit's guiding me.
All alone, I'll fight to be free

And they said
Never forget you were born under the morning star.
Don't lose sight of the light, she's there,
she's waiting for you.
Contemplate the mystery of love, of love.
Never forget your destiny."


--Zephyr, "Destiny"

Chapter End Notes:
**Finale soundtrack**

Time's Passage: https://app.box.com/s/rpvahv7d83jl4nsrjz6b

The Storyteller Reveals Himself: https://app.box.com/s/ahvzm28usafc72l61nwk

Seeing the Light/The New Storyteller: https://app.box.com/s/kickhjerh4wssdu97fy5

Finale 1: https://app.box.com/s/tpxol40bx6fa635e4i2e

Finale 2: https://app.box.com/s/d4miz2eo1rvo9ky3z88l

***MUSIC VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APbQdFwljnM

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