Today we finally come to the end of Roxanne's story. I can't believe it's come to this point already! I really hope you liked the journey and that you like the ending! Haha! So, without any more rambling, on to the end. Ooh, that sounds interesting.
Oliver and the rest of the party were coming closer slowly, weapons drawn. They made it painfully obvious that they would attack if he did anything. "Unhand her." Oliver said quietly.
The Trickster laughed harshly and tightened his grip. But what he hadn't seen was that Roxanne had silently been taking the Amberiolus crystal from the bag she carried with her. Even as he was hugging her to him, she had the crystal in her hand and was waiting for the right moment.
Cookie was the first to see the crystal in Roxanne's grip and he frowned, looking at her with questions in his eyes. She smiled in answer, the calm still washing over her in waves. One after the other, the companions noticed the crystal and all of them seemed to share in Cookie's confusion, but Roxanne only beamed at them, no answer coming from her.
Dusk was slowly circling them, trying to get to the Trickster from behind. Roxanne hoped the rogue wouldn't hurt the man, because she knew she could save him.
"So, little girl, how do you plan to act now?" he demanded of her in his dead voice. "Pinned and helpless, you can't do anything now. And I can snap you like a twig!" With that, his grip around her tightened further.
Black robed figures had started to enter the room and were lining the walls. They laughed quietly at the words of their leader, but made no move to come closer. The companions were outnumbered soon and it was obvious that all of the inhabitants of the black city had come to witness the spectacle, filling the cavernous room to the brink.
Roxanne's sole concern was that the Trickster's book was pressed between them. With his strong grip, the thin man was keeping her from it. But for some reason, even that didn't diminish her calm. She started to wiggle about in his arms, trying to widen the gap between them, but he wouldn't relent.
The crowd of people started to taunt her, calling her all kinds of names and trying to make her feel inferior. She paid them no mind until the first one noticed the crystal in her hand. "Master!" the voice called, "She has one of those accursed rocks!"
This was what caused the Trickster to push her from him violently, sudden fear visible in his very fibre. "No!" he hissed, retreating from her.
But Roxanne came forward, her target firmly in her gaze.
The companions positioned themselves between the Trickster and the crowd, who were now restless and ready to attack. This continued for some time, the black clad people coming ever closer, while the Trickster attempted to retreat and the companions kept him from doing so. At last, the line broke and the people of the black city advanced.
Pandemonium broke out and the sound of steel on steel rung in the air as the two forces collided. The companions were outnumbered fifty to one, but fought valiantly.
Still, Roxanne made no progress.
She and the Trickster barely took the fighting in, their eyes locked and their movements slow. They were in the centre of it all, the slender man trying to get away, and the purple haired girl trying to get to him. Neither had the advantage.
The fighting continued.
The companions tried to spare all their attackers' lives, which meant there was no end to the sea of black crossing blades with them. They were tiring swiftly.
"Roxanne! You've got to move now! We can't hold them!" Samir shouted when yet another one jumped on him.
And finally, Roxanne took to action.
In a single lurch, a jump that seemed impossibly long to those who watched, she almost flew towards her enemy, with the crystal outstretched in both hands. It seemed to happen slowly, as if even time itself was being affected by what was happening. Her hair whipped behind her as she flung herself towards the Trickster and suddenly the crystal flared out in a bright, white light.
The closer she came to the man, the more intense the crystal flared, until the light beaming from it was almost blinding.
And then she collided with him, sticking the flaring stone into the Trickster's book.
There was sudden silence, so absolute, sound seemed not to exist at all. The light blazed until no one could see anything but its brilliance and the moment seemed to freeze for all time.
When sound and sight suddenly returned to all those present, the Trickster shouted a long, screeching and resounding; "NOOOOO!", before he gasped and fell to his knees.
The white light flared out a second time, cleansing everything it touched of the taint it carried. As it rolled over the floors, walls and people, all darkness and distortion disappeared, replacing everything with wholesome beauty and purity. The black robes seemed to dissolve and the people were suddenly laughing and rejoicing, restored to their former states of mind and dressed in pristine white.
The castle was returned to a state of previous beauty, leaving not even a glimmer of its ugliness.
And the man who was the Trickster suddenly looked serene, his eyes pale in blindness, and he was robed in white. In a flash of insight, Roxanne realised that the Trickster had once been a Storyteller, and that the decay of his book had corrupted him so much that he himself forgot that fact.
Looking to the book, she saw that it was completely restored, without a smear of taint on any part of it. Every page was back in the book, crisp and white; brand new. She knew, without a doubt, that every other book in Araheim would be the same. The crystal had saved them all.
The companions started to whoop and jump, knowing they had won.
"You did it!" Oliver called, running over to Roxanne. He caught her in a bear hug, swung her through the air and then kissed her full on the mouth. They both blushed when it was over, but he didn't let her go.
The man who was formerly the Trickster came to her slowly, extending both hands and taking hers in them. "I thank you." he said, his voice no longer morbid and harsh. "You saved us all. Would you accept some kind of gift for your service?"
Roxanne shook her head in answer. "I couldn't."
The blind man nodded his head. "I understand. Accept our thanks then. Your name will be written in the Book of Time and we will remember you, always. Now we must return the books to the Great Library, and I will set these good folk to that task." With that he turned and started to speak to the people.
She couldn't believe it was finally over. Everything had come to this moment and Roxanne felt almost bittersweet about it. "What happens now?" she asked to no one in particular.
They looked at her strangely. She imagined someone was pushing hair out of her face and speaking to her urgently, but the sound seemed to come from a million miles away.
"Now, you wake up." Oliver said.
That wasn't at all what she expected. "Wake up?" she asked dumbly, not understanding. Everything started spinning about her and the faces nearest to her were dissolving. "I don't understand..."
"Please, miss, wake up."
"Miss?" she mumbled. Why was he calling her 'miss'? It was almost too much!
"I'm really sorry, miss, we didn't mean it! Please just wake up!"
He was shaking her. She didn't like it, so she opened her eyes. Her vision seemed to swim and the world turned around her nauseatingly. Roxanne had no idea what was happening, but the face in front of her was so familiar that she relaxed.
"Oliver." she said.
"How did you...? Do we know each other?" he asked. Roxanne ignored the question. She didn't understand and she said so. Oliver laughed guiltily and started to explain. "We were playing catch. My friends and I, I mean." he pointed to a group off to one side. There were Dusk, Rocket, Samir and Reinhart, looking worriedly at her. "I accidentally threw the ball too hard and it hit you full on the head. I'm really sorry!"
"'S okay" Roxanne said and started to look around.
She could see Cookie and Madra, sitting on a picnic blanket and enjoying a meal together. She could also see two blind men on a bench, reading with swift fingers from their Braille printed books. Her novel was open on the ground next to her, exactly as it had been before. Oliver was looking at her worriedly, but when she smiled at him he seemed to relax.
"So it was all a dream?" she mumbled to herself.
"No, the ball really hit you." Oliver said. "Can I take you to see a doctor maybe? Or walk you home?"
Roxanne smiled. "I'd like that." she said.
He helped her to her feet and they started to walk from the park. "I really feel like I know you." he said, putting his arm around her to support her.
"You kind of do." she mumbled below her breath. He didn't hear that and she added aloud; "You know, you don't have to hurl balls at girls' heads for an excuse to get to know them."
He laughed. "This might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
And they walked to her house together, lost in conversation. Neither of them saw the two blind men, gazing in their direction as if they could see them, serene smiles on their faces.
And that's that. Done and dusted! Now I need a name and I need your help in picking one. So I'm going to add a poll and ask you to vote and help me pick one. You can vote until the end of the year and you can pick more than one option too, if there's more than one title you like. So get voting!!
When the name has been chosen, I want to go back and edit this story, maybe flesh it out a bit and then publish it as an ebook. I'll keep you updated on the process, which might move slowly due to my looming motherhood.
Thank you for all of you supporting me during this journey!
Have a fantastic weekend, stay beautiful and be kind to animals,