Friday, November 6, 2020

Thursday Tales: The Last Chapter

Her fingers flew across the keys.

Chapter 49


Jane blinked quickly as she emerged from the innards of the mountain into the bright sun. How long had she been inside? How long had they all been inside?

Her friends followed her out, all blinking the same.  Her friends.  She laughed a little at that thought. They were such a ragtag bunch. Humans and elves and dwarves and dryads and... just all of them. Races that normally hated each other, who would have happily knifed each other in a barroom brawl, and yet... yet they had become her friends.  All drawn together by a common goal, a common enemy to vanquish.

She dropped her sword and slid down the side of the mountain into a near-crouch, ignoring the pain as the rocks dug into her skin, drawing a little blood as she went.  It hardly mattered now -- it just mixed with all the rest. She let her head fall into her hands and, just for a moment, allowed her thoughts to swirl.

A few years ago, they would have happily knifed each other -- it took the arrival of a lowly heretic wizard who drew on the fears and prejudices of the people to amass more and more power to change all of that. It had been so frustrating in the beginning. She couldn't understand why so many were drawn to someone who was so obviously not... good. Alec had told her that it was simply what they wanted, that everyone wants someone to believe in, sometimes just someone to give them someone else to blame.

Oh, Alec. Even closed, she could feel the pain of the heartache behind her eyes, and she opened them to shake it away.  But, not before Damian, on one knee across from her, saw it. He merely nodded.  He'd had his own losses -- they all had -- and he understood. They all understood.

She stood up, and opened her mouth to speak. No words came. What do you say after you vanquish the beast?  What do you say after your quest is over and you're not sure what comes next? What do you say when you're not sure the next step, where you go from here, and what there is to go home to?

She met Damian's eyes again, and whispered, "I don't know know what we do next." She felt like a failure of a leader in that moment.

He stood and put his hand on her shoulder in comfort. He was solid -- a man of few words, but meaningful when they were spoken. "Breathe, Jane."  He turned to face their friends, and she was grateful for his strength.

"My friends," he began.  "Our friends... a battle has been won. Take solace in that win. Take meaning from this moment. Breathe it in and know that this is what we have fought for --  but also, "he paused.  "Also, it isn't. The hatred amassed in that cave -- was drawn from our homes.  And it still rests there. The battle was the easy part. What comes next... will take us all. What comes next is the healing and the rebuilding."

Jane took strength from that. They all did. Yes. The quest was over, but there was more for her to do. More for them to do. 

There was yet light in the day.

THE END

The writer smiled and pushed back from her desk. She picked up her cup of tea, a little cold now, and wandered to the window. She was done.  Editing yet to do, of course, but she was done and it felt good to have the story out.

Yet, she couldn't help but frown at the world outside. Something was wrong with it. It was great! She should be satisfied! But, something was wrong with it and she wasn't really sure what.

She sat back down at her desk and stared at her screen. Carefully, she highlighted the files for Chapters 1-48.

Move to... New Folder.
"Back Story"

She reopened Chapter 49... erased the "49"... typed "1."

The vanquishing quest wasn't the story she wanted to tell.   The rebuilding was.


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