“Don’t be afraid, it’ll be alright!
Hold on for just one more night!
It’s never too late for a brand-new start!
Never give up the battles of your heart!”
I sang this to myself as I sat in the barren, gray hall that marked the onset of the tunnel leading from the prison to the courthouse. Many men waited in this space, but they shackled us up in a way that kept us all separate from each other. No one looked optimistic about going through this process, and I can’t say I blamed them! After years of working on the other end of this system, I knew exactly what would happen for each of us after we got our trial! They may as well have left us in our cells, it wasn’t like anybody would get to go home afterwards! It drove me crazy to waste all this time sitting here with nothing to do but croon out Arielle ballads! I would much rather have begun searching for the Arch Deity, and not merely so I could save the world from Birsha’s domination- the sooner I found them, the sooner I could reunite with Violet!
The last moment I saw her kept replaying over and over again in my head! Right after the security car crashed, Violet confessed that she loved me! I got so stunned by hearing exactly what my heart hoped to hear for so long that I couldn’t move or speak, and I really kicked myself for not saying something back! Seconds later, the police opened the trunk and got us out. From that point on, we would remain apart! I can’t even put into words how painful that felt! To find out that this beautiful, saint-like goddess returned my affections in one minute and to get torn away from her in the next minute was insanely devastating! It broke me! I got no sleep whatsoever from the agony of it all, and my sorrows only deepened as the evening went on! The longer I was without her, the more it seemed like I would never get to see her again! This plan made so much sense when we initially embarked on it, but now I regretted the choice we made! Well, we had a moral obligation to search through every corner of the lockup organization, and I knew we intended to escape if we came up empty, but I really wished that we would have found a way to spend one more night together so we could act like a true couple! Even one more hour would have sufficed so we could have made love, talked, held each other, and et cetera at least once in case we lost the chance to ever do any of that with each other…
When I contemplated the prospect of getting incarcerated for my entire lifetime, it sounded so unreasonable and unfeasible, but now that I was here, the possibility had so much more merit! I hadn’t imagined how daunting this isolation would feel, and while I had originally started on this journey alone, the support I received throughout the mission made more of a difference than I realized! Yes, I could have made new allies in this place, but that was no guarantee! I glanced around at the individuals around me, and a few of them didn’t seem terribly friendly, which led me to the topic of my safety. Birsha could have certainly implemented some plants within this establishment, and they could silence me before I even had a shot at speaking to another helpful associate! Not only did it appear plausible that I would hunt for the Arch Deity until my last breath, but that event could have come earlier than I anticipated!
Suddenly, a bright light blinded our dark quarters! Our eyes had barely readjusted when an officer ordered us, “Everyone rise!” Once we had all done so, he went on, “The judge will see you in the order your cases were received. You may talk to your lawyer but no one else. If you do not get your trial date today, we will assemble you for tomorrow’s pool. Any questions?” Not a single soul raised their hands, and I wasn’t sure if that stemmed from a clarity of his directions or a collective surrender of willpower! “Okay, let’s go!”
We all shuffled forward with dismal expressions, no one hint of optimism emanated from any person there! As the group inched forward, I wondered if I would see any of my former colleagues in the room. Even if one of them got permission to communicate with me, I doubt any of them would want to do so! They most likely believed in my guilt, and with the corruption in the system, my pending verdict would only enhance their opinions! That was fine with me; I chose to represent myself to expedite this process, and my one silver lining in this instance was that I may get sentenced quickly, which would enable me to return to prison swiftly so I could begin my exploration for the Arch Deity that much faster! I had already begun to sift through all of the probable scenarios of this portion of the quest when, in the blink of an eye, the mood in the tunnel totally changed…
The officer commanded to us, “Stop! Everyone, stop immediately!” We all heeded his word, but we also gazed at him peculiarly. He conveyed his instructions rather nervously, and while the volume on his watch was low enough that we couldn’t make out what was being discussed, we could tell the guy on the other end felt rather frantic! “Are you sure?” the officer probed. Whatever response the other officer gave made our guard bit his lip, and we all knew that something drastic had occurred! I dared to let myself shed some of my pessimism- perhaps Violet had dreamt up a method of freeing herself! If she had done that, that could only mean one thing: she had found the Arch Deity! It seemed like a ludicrous notion to entertain until…
“Run! Everyone, run back to-!” Before the officer could even finish his sentence, an explosion boomed above us! No one got hit by the stones that shot out in our vicinity, and when we uncovered our arms, which we had instinctually hid under, we beheld a perfectly round hole over our heads! This confused the other men, but I knew that we had just witnessed magic! The faint hope of the Arch Deity coming to the rescue grew stronger in me, so when I abruptly got lifted into the air, I did not panic as the others did! My restraints slid off in an explicable manner, and as I looked back at everyone, I gave them a small shrug. I didn’t want to announce anything exciting that may have been on the horizon without any proof, but I felt a little bad for leaving them utterly addled by my strange departure. I supposed that most people would have freaked out at a juncture like this, but the closer I got to the outside, the more peaceful I became! I could smell the sweet aroma the city emitted, and it made me imagine how thrilling it was to be able to gain freedom from both the legal system and the evil reign that loomed over our society! As I exited the tunnel, I fully expected to meet the kind soul who was destined to save us all, but instead…
“You!” I shouted as my insides practically froze from shock. All of the joy that I experienced instantly evaporated, and going from expecting a savior to viewing a killer felt like walking into a bad dream! It didn’t seem real, and my brain had trouble processing this surrealism! I had scratch my arm and feel the sensation in order to make sure that I hadn’t fallen asleep in my cell, and Birsha took a minute to thoroughly savor my anguish! As she relished in the distress that her appearance had caused me, I couldn’t help but ponder if this was the reason she had kept me alive. She could have killed me in the tunnel, and that would have eliminated the threat I posed to her regime in an instant, so her sparing me was significant! She wanted something from me, so I didn’t need to fear death from her, at least not yet! It mystified me as to what she might draw out from me, but it perplexed me more to see how she carried herself- her arms were folded in fashion that made her cloak hide the entire front of her body! I almost didn’t want to learn what to know what she was keeping concealed in there, but I had to determine the cause of this behavior- whatever show she had planned must go on! “What do you have there?”
“Jack, don’t listen to her-!” To my shock, Violet popped out from beneath her draping! Her hands and ankles were bound, and before she could finish speaking, Birsha pulled a band out of her pocket and gagged her as well!
Birsha scoffed at my appall, “Aw, did you love her?”
She squeezed her face into her side in a mocking simulation of empathy, and I could ascertain that she was trying to get under my skin. I refused to give in, so I bravely asserted, “I still do!”
Birsha cackled, and then she addressed me, “Well then, I’m sure you wouldn’t want anything to happen to her, would you? Tell you what, I’ll make you a deal: You leave me alone, and I’ll do the same for the two of you. No one gets hurt!”
“No one but the people you oppress!” I corrected her.
“Ugh, oppression is positively the wrong term for what I do! I was a Guardian once, you know! Very idealistic, like you! Once I saw how much wickedness flourished in the world, I knew my calling was to rectify it! The planet will be better off once the wicked have paid for their sins, you’ll see!” Birsha stared at me with a slight necessity in her eyes as if she was crossing her fingers that her argument had swayed me.
I retaliated, “No, I won’t! You can call it by any other name, but what you’re doing is tyranny! You don’t get to decide who’s good and who’s evil! And honestly, I don’t think it matters to you! You just want control, and you have enough financial and magical power to do that! You don’t wanna help humankind, you only wanna serve yourself! No one deserves that, not even the people you disagree with!”
Birsha scowled at me, and then she made one last attempt to persuade me, “So, you’re giving up your girlfriend so you can make some kind of moral stance? Sounds kinda selfish!”
It really stumped me as to why she was going through so much effort for a bid to get me to acquiesce to her whims! She threatened our lives during this entire venture, and now that she was in our presence, she seemed adamant about our surrender! It was almost as though she was hesitant to harm us! I peered at Violet’s pleading expression, and then it hit me! “Don’t kill her! Take me instead!” She gawked at me dumbfoundedly, so I iterated, “Sacrifice my life, and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble! If you don’t, I’ll keep fighting you and your reign for the rest of my days! I’m the mastermind behind the resistance against you, so you’d be better off killing me!” She did nothing but glare at me, so I challenged her, “What’s wrong? Your powers are legendary! Surely, you can defeat the likes of me in a flash, can’t you?” I gave her a second to reply, and when she didn’t, I concluded, “Maybe you can’t! Maybe your life force is-!”
I meant to convey that her life force could be running short, but she cut me off by barking to some nearby Fallens, “Get him!”
She threw Violet down and disappeared behind her armored forces, who all took aim at me! I received a silver shield out of nowhere covered myself with it, and once the hexes bounced off of it, I could see that Violet used a spell to free herself and was now firing back at them! “Violet, no!” I cried out. I wanted her to run and preserve herself, I couldn’t allow her to sap the last of her life force on this! We were both outnumbered, we needed to escape right away!
To my surprise, Gurcharan and Jasleen stepped forward and began to engage in combat! I had no clue how they knew we needed their assistance, and I kind of always figured that they had a non-violent stance like Lama Malva. Just as she came to my mind, Lama Malva appeared on the battlefield along with Samaya! Gabrielle and some teachers joined in too! A few strangers volunteered too! It floored me to see this large quantity of Guardians, especially since it took me years to discover one! However, it also gratified me to witness so many of them were willing to forgo their secrecy and contend in this public foray! I deduced that they sensed how great the need to do this was, and as both sides hurled jinxes at each other, it truly seemed like we were battling for the soul of civilization!
I picked up a pipe that I found in the rubble from the blasted tunnel, and I struck as many Fallens with it as I could as I weaved my way through the crowd! It agonized me not to check on Violet, but I couldn’t ensure her security until I located Birsha! As long as she maintained her existence, she would only use her influence for injustice, so she had to get fished out! Somebody had to take care of her and put a stop to this malevolence! When I reached the other side of the battlefield, I still didn’t see her, so I hollered, “Come on, Birsha, you coward! Come out and fight! If you don’t, everyone will learn your secret! Your wealth is strong, but your life force isn’t! You rule over people with your money, and you make them all buy the idea that you have potent abilities, but you’re a liar! Aren’t you? You pathetic little-!”
All of a sudden, a gust of wind hit my skull, and it caused me enough pain that I tumbled to the ground! Everyone stopped what they were doing as Birsha hovered over me, and she snapped, “You’re not worth losing any life force over! I could though! It would be so easy- you’re right here and you can’t go anywhere else! You can’t defend yourself either, so you’re truly doomed! Was it worth it to you? Some of your comrades have fallen, have you noticed? I craned my neck to study the damage, and while I saw many individuals from her Army on the floor, I saw Lama Malva and couple of teachers also lying motionless! That was difficult to behold, and then it got worse! My heart plummeted completely when I saw Violet had become unconscious too! Birsha could perceive my turmoil, so she expounded on that concept, “Your love is gone too! And soon, you will be too! Everything will go back to as it was after this is over, and my scheme can really expand with a few less dissidents in it! So, do you still think that this was the right decision? Was it worth it?”
I used every iota of my strength to relay to her, “Yes!”
She snarled, but the then she accepted my conclusion. “Then so be it!” She raised her hand and conjured up a spell to strike me down…
An unexpected warmth spread throughout me, and at first, I assumed that I had met my demise, but as the warm sensation gained steam, it didn’t feel destructive! It was soothing and comforting as if every fiber inside of me now emitted a radiant energy! An electricity spread throughout my veins, and it moved faster and faster until… poof! I couldn’t explain it at the time, but something in my gut indicated to me that I had just become the Arch Deity! I tested the waters by pointing my palms at the ground and willing my powers to lift me up, and it worked! Birsha watched me float above her in sheer horror, and I could detect her life force emptying. Never in my life did I envision myself doing any fatalistic harm to anyone, not even rotten people, but I knew that if I didn’t act, I would endanger countless of innocent lives! As a show of mercy to the earth, I had to empty out the meager remains of her life force! “It was worth it!” A bluster of wind shot out of my fingers, and with one final shriek, Birsha transformed into a pile of dust!
The bystanders all cheered at this victory, but my work wasn’t done yet! I aimed my magic at the Guardians who fell, and one by one, they all came back to life! I sped over to Violet’s side and prayed that my spell would work on her too… Once her lids flew open, I stooped down and braced her in my arms! She smiled at me and exclaimed, “Jack!” She pulled me in, and we kissed passionately! The pleasure was intense, but it elated me more to have her with me right then! She survived, and now I could spend a lifetime making her feel as happy as I felt from simply having her company! It was astonishing to believe she wanted me as much as I wanted her, and instantaneously, everything became so much brighter! It struck me to repeat so many of the words from my favorite love songs, and it may have sounded cheesy to everyone else, but I felt too wonderful to care what anyone else thought! The villain was defeated, and I got the girl, it was just like the perfect finish to my very own eighties’ flick!
When our lips parted and we took a breath, Violet stared at herself incredulously and observed, “My life force is restored! So, you’re the…?”
“That’s right!” I confirmed.
“But that means the previous one is…!” She scoped out the area, and her eyes grew wide in aghast when she espied something on the opposite end of the battlefield! “Grandma!”
Violet darted over to where Patty laid, and my insides ached to see this sight! Patty was gasping, struggling to inhale! When she saw Violet, she croaked out, “I’m sorry!”
She assured her, “Don’t be sorry! You did good!”
“I’m sorry I didn’t do this sooner!” Patty apologized. “I forgot who I was sometimes! When she killed my grandson, Alfred, I remembered everything and knew it was time!” She looked to me and stated gratefully, “Thank you for bringing her back to me!”
“A promise is a promise!” I replied with tears brimming in my eyes. She appeared as though she wanted to talk more, but the color drained from her skin and her muscles grew heavy. She closed her eyes and then moved no more!
Violet sobbed uncontrollably, and I embraced her as I ached too. The truth of the Arch Deity was startling, and it bewildered me that she had given me her life force! I imagined that if she hadn’t had those memory issues that she would have made the transition sooner, and it saddened me to think of the misery her plight must have caused her! As we mourned her loss, I resolved to make sure that Doctor Canenta’s cure would come to fruition and distribute to all the afflicted patients eligible as a dedication to her legacy!
Once the grieving somewhat subsided, Violet and I stood up and faced the crowd, who all celebrated our contribution to this victory! It felt totally strange, but we were grateful for their accolades! Gurcharan approached us and asked, “What happens now?”
I answered, “There’s gonna be a lot of changes around here!” As we made our way through the debris, I reflected on where to start. We had reached the ending I had hoped for, but truthfully, it felt more like an entirely new beginning!