Chapter Twelve

Peace at Last

Jade lay in my arms; she was beginning to fade.
I swear, she was transparent. The other shade walkers had already disintegrated, the moment Antharion had driven his sword into Alatheria's heart.
"Jade, I don't understand. How did...How did you get here?" I asked her.
"William," she replied. "Hérion. Bethany, he...he killed me."
"What?"
"That night. The night I left SINsation with him. He took me back to my house and...and..."
Jade composed herself, and forced herself to continue.
"He killed me. That's where we all came from; the shade walkers. Hérion is able to move freely between Myranthand and the human world, and he uses this ability to kill innocent mortal girls and bring them back here, to be that bitch's priestesses."
"God," I sobbed. "Jade, I'm so sorry..."
She shook her head, weakly.
"It doesn't matter anymore," she whispered. "None of it matters anymore. What matters is that it's all over. She's gone, the Oracle's safe...you're safe. That's all I care about."
"There you go, worrying about me all the time instead of taking care of yourself," I laughed through my tears.
"I love you, Beth," she said.
"I know," I replied. "Love you too."
I hugged her, holding her until she faded into nothingness.
I leapt to my feet and ran to Antharion, sobbing hysterically.
"I'm sorry, love," he whispered. "But at least she's at peace, now."
I nodded against his chest, finally gaining control over myself.
We left the castle and the spoils of the battle behind, and returned to our steeds. I was relieved to find Lashäd perfectly unharmed, and Mugrumple safe in my saddlebag.

After travelling for days, we finally returned to Lakehaven. Although I couldn't see her, I had a strong feeling that Avalon was with us the entire time.
Draxus called the staff together in the Great Hall.
Antharion and I stood in front of the High Table, with Draxus, Daug and Koralynne beside us.
Koralynne cried silently, overwhelmed and devastated by the loss of her brother.
I gently rubbed her back, and she gave me a grateful smile.
I jumped at a sudden sound, and the entire gathering gasped as a bright beam of whitish-blue light suddenly burst into view directly in front of Antharion and myself.
It faded, and a woman stood before us.
She was almost a head taller than Antharion, with waist-length, golden blonde hair. Her skin was the colour of fresh milk, with a slight rosy look to her high cheekbones.
I knew, without a doubt, that this was the goddess Avalon in her true form.
"We lost many great friends at the hands of the Countess Alatheria," she said in a voice like a bell. "But I am pleased to say that the kingdom of Lakehaven and the land of Myranthand are now at peace once again."
Everyone cheered.
She turned to Antharion and I and embraced us both in turn, and then, slowly, she transformed into a tiger once again.
She looked at me, directly into my eyes.
You did spectacularly well, Sairalindë, she told me. Your parents would be proud.
I smiled, unsure of what to say.
She flicked her tail once and prowled away, dematerialising right before my eyes.
I turned back to the congregation and smiled, collecting myself.
"Well," I said. "Let's celebrate."
Mugrumple flapped his wings excitedly and I laughed.
We took our seats, and the feast began.
Much like the feast we had on my first night in Myranthand, the table was laid out with platters of seafood, cheese, fruits, vegetables, and breads, and a tureen of thick pumpkin soup. The centrepiece was a delectable haunch of venison.

"Come, love," Antharion said softly when the feast was over, cupping my face gently in his hands and kissing me. "Let's get some sleep."
I smiled and kissed him back.
"That sounds wonderful."
We retired to our chamber and curled up under the covers together, his arms around my waist.
I couldn't forget Jade and the rest of our friends whom we lost in the battle, but I was glad it was finally over.

~*~

I woke up with the sun streaming in thin columns of light through my curtains.
That dream was completely weird, just bizarre, but strangely intriguing.
I chalked it up to my vivid imagination, and crawled out of bed, remembering that today was the day. I would be moving out of my parents house; moving out on my own.

I pulled on a pair of jeans and an orange turtleneck sweater, and started packing away my belongings.
Faintly, I heard footsteps coming up the hallway.
"Bethany...Are you sure you're ready for this, honey?" My mother appeared in the doorway behind me.
"Yes, Mom," I said gently, going over and giving her a hug. "I'm old enough to move on and get out of your hair now. Besides, I can't back out now, the settlement's already finalised."
Wait...hadn't I said the exact same thing to her in my dream?
Must have been a coincidence.
She hugged me back.
"Take care of yourself, okay?"
"I will," I smiled. "I promise."
I grinned as Dad entered the room.
"I'll visit every birthday and Christmas." I promised.
My mother's smile faltered, briefly.
Just as it had in the dream...
She and Dad shared a look, and I immediately became concerned.
"Guys? Is something wrong?"
They looked slightly startled and flustered, as though they didn't know how to answer my question.
"No," My mother replied finally. "Everything's fine, dear."
After a long, tearful goodbye, (just like in the dream) I slid into my little red Volvo and left my parents house, following the moving van toward my own.

The house was large, maybe larger than necessary for a young woman living alone, with a small porch and an awning supported by intricately carved, white pillars. The walls were off-white, the door and windows trimmed with a deep, woody brown.
Once everything was unpacked and the movers had left, I took another chance to explore the house. At the end of the long downstairs hallway was a door that had been locked when I had first visited the house.
Today, however, it was unlocked. I opened the door carefully, surprised when it did not creak, and peeked inside.
My jaw dropped in awe.
Okay, holy freaking crap. This was getting insane.
Behind the door was exactly what had been there in my dream.
It was a beautiful greenhouse, filled with lush, green plants and flowers which were blooming perfectly. There was a strange cement plant box in the middle of the room, and in the centre of it was a small door.
I hesitated.
Should I? Things were weird enough already, did I really want to—oh the hell with it.
I tried the handle, but the door was locked (didn't surprise me, really).
Disappointed, I left the door alone and watered a few of the plants.

As I was heading back up the hallway-- you guessed it--the phone rang.
"Hello?" I pretended I didn't know who was calling.
"Hey, Miss Independent. How's things in the new house?"
Courtney. Of course. This was too much.
"Um...Hi, Courtney. It's...quiet. You're the first official call I've had."
"You okay? You sound a little funny. Like you're worried about something."
"Just tired after the move, I guess," I covered up.
She giggled.
"That's understandable. Hey, the girls and I have been thinking. Why don't we go out for a celebratory drink?"
"Sounds great!"
"Excellent. We'll pick you up in an hour, is that enough time?"
"It's perfect. See you then!"
We hung up and I hurried to get ready.
I slipped into a pair of jeans, my favourite pair of leopard-print high-heels and a black halter top, and was just finishing my makeup when the girls arrived. I grabbed my purse and hurried outside, locking the door behind me.
I ran down the driveway, almost losing my shoes in the process, and practically threw myself into Courtney's adorable little white Honda Sedan.
The girls all squealed by way of welcoming me, and Courtney leaned over in the driver's seat next to me to give me a hug.
"So, where are we going?" I already knew the answer.
"It's opening night at SINsation." Vanessa spoke up from the back seat. "Jared said he'd let us in for free."
"That's so sweet of him." I said, not quite as excited as I had been in the dream.
She grinned.
"When are you two getting married?" I teased her.
"When he works up the courage to ask me." Vanessa replied, perfecting her mascara.

Well, everything went exactly the way it had in the dream, so I won't bore you with the details.
The only thing different was that William didn't show up.
I was secretly relieved, for Jade's sake.

I hobbled over to Courtney's car and almost fell into the front passenger seat.
"Court," I said, my voice slurred. "You ssshure you can drive?"
"Hey, you had more than I did." she laughed.
"How many fingers am I holding up?" I asked, and flipped her off.
She and Vanessa howled with laughter.

"Sure you can get to the door without falling on your ass?" Courtney teased as we pulled up outside my house.
"I think so."
"Want us to carry you?" Vanessa offered. "And by 'us' I mean Courtney, of course."
I laughed.
"Nah, I'll be fine. Thanks for the great night, girls."
I clambered out of the Sedan and made my way up the driveway, already feeling the effects of the alcohol lessening. I fumbled with the key and finally got the door open.
As I stepped inside, I immediately noticed that things looked somehow different.
Almost as though someone, or something, had been in the house, but the door had been locked.
I chalked it up to the alcohol that was still in my system, and went to bed.

At around five in the morning I was awoken by a strange sound coming from the end of the hallway. I sat up in bed and listened hard.
I heard it again; a scuttling sound, like tiny footsteps, running up the hall from the greenhouse.
It was accompanied by the heavier, slower footfalls of a slightly larger being.
I jumped out of bed and tiptoed to the door, pressing myself against it.
"Who's there?" I asked, loudly. "You're breaking-and-entering! If you don't get out of here now, I'm calling the cops!"
I opened the door a little, and was almost knocked off my feet as a small creature practically flew into the room.
Mugrumple looked just as he had in the dream.
I rubbed my eyes, then shut them tightly and shook my head vigorously before opening them again.
Nope. Still there. Okay...
"Ah!" It cried in a high-pitched voice. "It is you, Sairalindë Eáranë!"
"
Queen Sairalindë," A gruff voice corrected, and I cowered as another creature entered the room.
As I suspected, it was a dwarf, dressed from head to toe in golden armour; his ginger beard was tied into two plaits, his hair flowing down his back. "Please, your Highness, forgive him for his insubordination."
He glared Mugrumple, who lowered his head.
"I'm sorry," I spluttered. This was just too freaking weird. "But...do I know you? And...what did you call me?"
I knew the answer, obviously, but things were apparently supposed to happen this way so I played along.
"I am Draxus, your Highness, the King's General. And this is Daug," the dwarf gestured to a small warty creature the size of a toy poodle hat had just entered the room.
"And Mugrumple."
He gestured to Mugrumple, who bowed so low that the tip of his pointed nose touched the floor.
"And you," Draxus looked at me. "Are Sairalindë Eáranë, Queen of Myranthand."
I'm pretty sure I passed out at that point.

THE END