As they returned to Castle Manchego, Ariadne spoke with joy of becoming a real princess.

"And when Tonio and I settle at the castle?" she said. "With his new crown? And I can have a real tiara not made of plastic? And we can get a real crown for my Fifi? And we can all live happily ever after?"

"I am to live at the castle?" said Spot. "With the King and Queen of the World?"

"And maybe a jeweled collar to match," said Ariadne. "Oh, think of what we can do."

"I'm sorry," said Brian. "But my parents depend on Spot. To hold out when they need to for the dawn. Why don't you look for a dog that needs you?"

"Perhaps Monsieur le Brian speaks, perhaps he speaks true," said Spot. "I cannot deny the duty to Mademoiselle and Monsieur les Parents."

"I suppose being a princess wouldn't mean all that much if we had to leave another family without," said Ariadne. "How silly to wear a crown and for my heart to still break over every bliss not made real."

"You were wrong, Hubert," said Brian at his first chance to do so. "The Minotaur didn't kill us."

"I said no king ever returns from the maze," said Mimbleshaw. "Not wrong, human. Perhaps a little disappointed. To see you hardly at all bewildered. But not overly so."

"I suppose I can try to be less magnificent next time," said Spot. "But I can offer no guarantee."

Having survived their ordeals, the dog and the boy were free to return to their neglected parents, where they were needed and tolerated. With our story finished, Gentle Reader, you and I for now must part. As the meantime goes by, remember the fundamental wisdom against which cruelty falls like rain and anvils if you share it too casually. Having our story taken is the least respect we need to take the least comfort in our lives. So love is always personal. If we make ourselves the same, one heartbreak will devastate us all. So much more vulnerable are we within maze and castle walls.

Keep a timid flame, my darling. Keep ready a tender glow for the pending century. For when a glimmer fanned will relieve us, at long last, of the shadows we forget we cast. For when we can only imagine we ever needed jesters. To reconsider how things are. To doubt. To see. And, as always, pray to keep safe Heaven's stranded children from what they dream.