Little by little the darkness cleared from Atreyu’s face.
After a while he asked: “How can you know all that? The cry by the Deep Chasm and the image in the magic mirror? Did you arrange it all in advance?”
The Childlike Empress picked up AURYN, and said, while putting the chain around her neck: “Didn’t you wear the Gem the whole time? Didn’t you know that through it I was always with you?”
“Not always,” said Atreyu. “I lost it.”
“Yes. Then you were really alone. Tell me what happened to you then.”
Atreyu told her the story.
“Now I know why you turned gray,” said the Childlike Empress. “You were too close to the Nothing.”
“Gmork, the werewolf, told me,” said Atreyu, “that when a Fantastican is swallowed up by the Nothing, he becomes a lie. Is that true?”
“Yes, it is true,” said the Childlike Empress, and her golden eyes darkened. “All lies were once creatures of Fantastica. They are made of the same stuff — but they have lost their true nature and become unrecognizable. But, as you might expect from a half-and-half creature like Gmork, he told you only half the truth. There are two ways of crossing the dividing line between Fantastica and the human world, a right one and a wrong one. When Fantasticans are cruelly dragged across it, that’s the wrong way. When humans, children of man, come to our world of their own free will, that’s the right way. Every human who has been here has learned something that could be learned only here, and returned to his own world a changed person. Because he had seen you creatures in your true form, he was able to see his own world and his fellow humans with new eyes. Where he had seen only dull, everyday reality, he now discovered wonders and mysteries. That is why humans were glad to come to Fantastica. And the more these visits enriched our world, the fewer lies there were in theirs, the better it became. Just as our two worlds can injure each other, they can also make each other whole again.”
For a time both were silent. Then she went on: “Humans are our hope. One of them must come and give me a new name. And he will come.”
Atreyu made no answer.