The force field disappeared, and Stephen noticed that the celestial woman who conjured it had fallen to the ground. Stephen didn’t have the chance to save her though since Xavier came barreling at him at full force! Xavier kept repeating the same curse he used on Emily, and Stephen just kept dodging his hexes while pleading to Emily, “Please, please wake up!”
After Stephen repeated this plea several times, Xavier lost his concentration and raved, “You’re at death’s door and all you can think about is your lover? You stupid cose, be a man and fight for your life!”
Stephen didn’t want to give away any clues to his actual plan, so he decided to keep Xavier distracted by vexing him. “What? You think I should live like you do? Full of hate and all alone? Some life!”
“I’m not alone!” Xavier scoffed. “Look around! Do you see all of the people on my side? After I win this battle and take my rightful place on the throne, I’ll only have more! I’ll be the most famous man in the world! I’ll never be alone!”
“You didn’t deny being full of hate!” Stephen pointed out. “It doesn’t matter how famous you may become- no one loves you!”
Xavier argued, “Are you kidding? I have hundreds of people who adore me!”
Stephen corrected him, “They try to please you because they’re afraid of you! If they really cared about you, you wouldn’t have to force them to help you! You’re a nasty person that no one could ever truly love!”
“So what?” Xavier spat. “I don’t need that sentimental crap! I don’t want it! I can focus a hundred percent of my energy on myself and give myself everything I need to run the world! We won’t need that mushy garbage in my glorious future!”
“Oh, what glory!” Stephen retorted. “No family, no friendship, no romance, your people will have no other purpose than to simply exist just to serve your ass! You think you’re so beloved? No one likes you now, but if you take away everything they love, they’re gonna hate you!”
Xavier ranted, “People who love are fools! Their heartstrings get manipulated into doing things that are against their better judgment! That wench on the ground there tricked Alexander into making Amouraq weak, and that little hussy laying there has your mind so messed up that you’re about to die just ’cause your feelings got hurt! That’ll never happen to me! My people will know how to survive!”
Stephen shot back, “Yeah, but they won’t know how to live!”
“Enough!” Xavier shouted. “You’re not gonna get me to change my mind! You’re about to see that love does nothing but get you killed!”
“You’re wrong!” Emily mustered all of her might to utter those words to him. Stephen’s entire body flooded with joy to see that she hadn’t lost her life, and Xavier seemed too stunned to stop her from standing up to confront him. “The only reason I’m here now is because someone’s love gave me a purpose to come back. Multiple people’s love, actually. They gave me strength when I didn’t have any! If I didn’t have love, I don’t think I could have made it. There wouldn’t have been much point in existing just for myself! Love saved my life!”
Xavier’s initial shock of her return started to wear off, and he seethed, “You’re all idiots! I hope all this love was worth sacrificing your blood!”
He raised his hands to jinx them, but before he could get the words of the spell out of his mouth, Stephen interrupted, “Hey Xavier, you’re about to find out just how powerful sacrificing your blood can be! Emily, catch!”
Stephen tossed Emily the ancient dagger that he found in the attic, and Xavier looked confused when she didn’t try to use it on him. Instead, she pointed the blade towards herself, and he watched in complete astonishment as she cut her left palm! She faced her wound towards the earth, and as soon as a drop of blood touched the dirt, a beam of warm light shot towards Stephen! That force formed a glass orb with billowy smoke inside it, and Xavier stared at it with a perplexed stupor on what it did. It soon became clear though as the bodies of Xavier’s followers all got sucked into the orb! Some of his most loyal subjects got taken in too, and Stephen smirked at Xavier as he said, “Goodbye, Xavier!” Xavier tried everything he could to avoid it, but the effects of the orb overpowered him. Stephen caught one last glimpse of Xavier’s cold, fearful eyes before he got completely engulfed inside the orb! As soon as he disappeared, Stephen threw the orb to the ground, making it shatter into several small pieces! The moment it broke, a wave of wind swept over the land, but it disappeared as quickly as it came! The sun seemed to shine brighter, the birds chirped more, and it took everyone a while to absorb all of the events that just occurred. The people left gave some tentative steps forward, and with nothing detrimental occurring as a result of their actions, they realized, all at once, that it was over!
The field roared with exuberant cries of joy! People clapped, cheered, cried tears of ecstasy, danced, and embraced each other in celebration. Stephen bolted to Emily and squeezed her tightly! Emily sobbed in happiness, and Stephen couldn’t help getting emotional himself! “We did it!” Stephen could hardly process this joyous news! Not only was Xavier unable to harm anyone ever again, but he and the love of his life both survived! He felt so lucky to feel her warmth as he held her close to him, especially since he almost lost her! They gazed into each other’s eyes as if they needed to verify that they had each other, and then Stephen got the overwhelming urge to kiss her passionately! Her touch made him feel lighter than air, and it simply amazed him that he lived to experience this moment!
Once the initial shock of victory wore off a bit, Stephen wondered if the rest of his team was okay or not. He looked around and saw the fox-like creature trying to help up the demigoddess, who hadn’t gotten up from the ground. Stephen and Emily rushed over to assist, and Stephen got relieved to see that she was still breathing! They each went onto one side of her, but her immense height made it too difficult for them to lift her by themselves, so a couple of people raced over to back them up. Once they got her standing again, Stephen’s heart leapt for joy to see that their aides had been Alastair and Allison! He wanted to rejoice for their good health, but he needed to make sure that the lady in front of them felt alright. Thankfully, she was smiling down on them! Alastair and Allison stared incredulously, and Allison questioned, “Is that… Is that the Nymph Queen of Good?”
“Yes, I am,” the Nymph Queen of Good replied graciously. Alastair and Allison hastily bowed down to her, and she gently responded, “There is no need for that! I owe you all a thank you for saving my land! I’m so proud of you all! Especially to you, Stephen, for figuring out the secret of Alexander’s dagger!”
“That was King Alexander’s?” Stephen ogled the dagger that Emily had in her hands. “Wow! Then you must have infused it with your magic so we could defeat Xavier!”
Emily asked her, “How did you know this would happen?”
The Nymph Queen of Good answered, “We didn’t know the specifics, but we knew that, one day, our descendants would face wickedness that would overwhelm themselves and everyone around them. It’s not the first time in history that it’s happened, and it won’t be the last! That’s how life goes. The Nymph Queen of Evil grew stronger with all of the darkness that Xavier brought, but now that you vanquished it, goodness will reign for many years, which will weaken my sister’s powers. Don’t worry, I’ll get my strength back! I can protect these sacred woods so that no one can use it maliciously again! Only kindhearted creatures of this planet and others will be permitted to enter the Hidden Forest!”
“The Nymph Queen of Evil helped Xavier find those aliens!” Alastair figured out.
“Is there anything we can do for you before go home?” Stephen posed to the Nymph Queen of Good.
The Nymph Queen of Good politely declined, “You’ve all done enough!” The fox-like creature playfully barked at Stephen’s feet, so she amended her statement, “Apparently my vulpecular disagrees!”
Stephen knelt down to pet it, and he commented to the creature, “You were so brave! Thank you for your help once again!” The vulpecular bore a happy grin as Emily, Allison, and Alastair all bent over to pet it. After it had enough, it skipped over to its owner. Stephen waved to them both. “Thank you!”
The Nymph Queen of Good waved back them and echoed back, “Thank you!” Everyone but the Nymph Queen of Good and the vulpecular turned towards the castle and merrily headed home.
As Stephen, Emily, Allison, Alastair, Marcus, Yvette, Oscar, Dagan, and Hugo headed into the attic, Allison reported, “Finnian is in stable condition, but the doctors say that he won’t be able to work again.”
“Well, it looks like you’re not the only one retiring after this, Alastair!” Stephen half joked, which made everyone chuckle.
“We’ll see!” Alastair expressed somewhat hesitantly. “If Xavier’s name isn’t off this list, I swear…!”
Dagan remarked, “Oh, it will be! I can feel it!”
Oscar suggested, “Let’s hurry and find out!”
Stephen opened the wooden doors that protected the document, and with a sense of mounting anticipation, everyone’s eyes found the bottom of the list. To their immense relief, Xavier’s name had vanished! They all exhaled in alleviation, and they reveled in this confirmation of the end of his reign of terror! Stephen still couldn’t believe that they would all get to back to their normal lives again! He had always hoped that this day would come, but it almost seemed like a dream to actually get to live in this reality!
“So, are you finally gonna take some time off?” Yvette queried.
“He has to! Emily won’t wanna honeymoon at the ICI headquarters!” Marcus jested. Everyone laughed, but Emily acknowledged the truth of his words.
Allison studied the list again and observed, “Xavier’s name is gone, but the length of the list is still the same. Why is that?” Allison started scrolling to the list to discover the reason for this.
Emily put her hand over the top of the list, and as everyone gave her a quizzical look, she explained, “When I told Xavier that multiple people’s love saved my life, I’m sure you all figured that I meant Stephen and my family and friends, and I did mean that, but there was someone else’s love that helped save my life, someone who I didn’t even know existed ’til right before the battle…”
Most of them seemed curious about who she meant, but Allison’s eyes lit up knowingly. Stephen’s insides churned. In his mind, the only way the list would have stayed the same length would have been if she found a new man to marry. The possibility of that devastated him, and if that was the case, he wanted to know right away to get the pain over with! “Who?”
Broadly beaming at him, Emily revealed, “Our baby!”
Everyone but Stephen reacted happily, but Stephen’s jaw dropped open! “We’re having a baby?” He had always been afraid to start a family of his own after his parents’ murder, but Emily changed everything for him. He couldn’t wait to do all kinds of wholesome things with her, but with Xavier’s constant threat of demise, he never thought he’d get the chance to experience a simply joy like that! Emily nodded in confirmation, and a surge of excitement cascaded throughout his body. “We’re having a baby!” He scooped Emily up and spun her around in exhiliration.
“Can I sell this story to Celebrity Tonight?” Dagan kidded. “Penny Melrose is gonna have kittens over this!”
“Especially since you would now get recognized as king,” Hugo brought up. “Once you’re formally married to the queen, and because you helped create the future heir, Emily has the right to give you the title of king!”
Stephen mused this revelation over. “King, huh? Wow! I guess the prophecy that Xavier always feared came to light after all! He said that King Alexander predicted that, one day, a cose will survive the Hidden Forest just like he did and that cose would become king! It’s funny, he basically made that prophecy come true!”
Hugo corrected him, “Actually, I think King Patrick did the moment he hired you to fight against Xavier.”
“Patrick would be a good name if we have a boy.” Emily grinned.
“Allison would be a good name if it’s a girl!” Allison winked.
They all pleasantly argued over baby names as they headed out of the attic. Stephen suddenly remembered something and doubled back into the attic. He put Alexander’s dagger back into the chest it came from, and as he headed out again, he knew that it would turn up for the next person who needed it!