Hello strangers... Put away the pitchforks and poking-sticks, because here it is! The FINAL CHAPTER! I'm so sorry it has taken me this long. My dog ate it... :S
I'd like to thank everyone who has reviewed this story and encouraged me to keep on writing, whether by flattery or outright threats of violence! XD You guys all rule. Thankyou for your patience. :)
Chapter 23: The Future
When my eyes opened it was to brilliant daylight. For a moment I longed to be asleep again, to be back in the wonderful arms that had held me in my dream. And then I felt the ground rough beneath me, felt the dust on my face, and remembered that it was all true. I raised myself slowly onto hands and knees and looked around. Seeing nothing but more dust and rocks, I got to my feet and took a few steps. Although I was mentally exhausted, I found that there was no pain in my body, no aching muscles or stinging cuts. She had taken it all away.
I stared blankly around, seeking out some familiar landmark or object to indicate where I was. The distant rise and fall of hills in one direction, and the white shapes of buildings through the heat haze in the other, proved that I was in fact still on the site of Karel's camp, although there was nothing left to be seen of it. Every tent, truck, crate of equipment and fallen soldier had disappeared into the earth without trace. Derinkuyu was no more, and yet the ground beneath my feet seemed as undisturbed as though the great collapse had never occurred. It really was like waking from a dream.
Eventually my eyes fell on a nearby patch of shrubs that seemed vaguely familiar, so I wandered towards it. To my astonishment, the motorcycle was still lying on its side amongst the scrubby undergrowth, undamaged. My exit from this condemned place had been assured. But what of Asharagael? I swallowed hard, not prepared for this solitude. What about Kurtis? Could it be that he had disappeared into the ether along with the angel when she departed? I hung my head and slowly sat down on the ground beside the bike. I knew it was nothing short of a miracle that I was still alive, but I felt no sense of victory. I was completely alone.
I may have sat there for minutes or hours, I couldn't say. But once the numbness had abated enough, I got back to my feet and started to feel around in my pockets for the keys to the motorcycle. I had to hold myself together long enough to get away from this place, even though the only real option for me now was to return to Ozan's house. I could wash and rest there, once I had called the police or an ambulance to take my poor friend's body away. The thought was almost too much to bear, and I longed for my own home, and my own loved ones, even if they were few.
As I fumbled with the keys, I was distracted by a movement a short distance away. Something on the ground was shifting, dust rising lazily around the source of the motion. I frowned, squinting against the bright day to see it better. A shape that I had previously taken to be a rock or part of the bleak scenery was rising up, dust and sand parting to show what seemed to be… a figure?
A second later I was running flat out, my fatigue forgotten as I charged across the dry ground. I fell to my knees beside the figure, brushing away dust and earth from shoulders clad in a dark and tattered t-shirt, legs in faded khaki combats, a head of dark, tousled hair…
"Kurtis," I gasped, my heart threatening to leap into my throat and out into the open air. "Are you… alive?"
He was sitting now, shaking his arms and hair, coughing in the cloud of dust. His blue eyes opened to me, and he smiled weakly at my question. "I think so."
"I thought… I thought you'd gone," I stammered, putting my hands on his face as though to convince myself he was real. "I thought she'd taken you with her."
"She," he repeated faintly, then shook his head slowly in confusion and disbelief. "She was real, wasn't she?"
"Yes," I told him. "She was. She killed Karel, and the Nephilim. She saved us."
"My God," Kurtis said. Underneath the layers of grime, he looked and sounded completely exhausted in mind and body. "It's like a long, crazy dream. Or maybe a nightmare."
"Kurtis, it's alright now," I assured him. "It's over." I wrapped my grateful arms around him, pulling him close to my warmth and my life. "It's over."
Somehow we had made it through the rest of the day, although neither of us would later remember quite how we did it, or where we found the reserves of energy in our exhausted state. Kurtis sat by the log-burning stove in the Nevsehir hotel suite, his damp hair hanging in his face, gazing into the flames with a look that resembled deep sadness. I stopped combing my own newly-washed hair, and went to stand in front of him.
"How are you feeling?" I asked, tentatively. His mood had been understandably dark and distant since I had found him, and I knew he was struggling to deal with everything that had happened. So far he had failed to even show any relief at Karel's demise, and I was longing to reach out to him and give him some comfort.
He didn't reply for some time, but sat silently staring into the fire as though he han't heard me speak. I was about to tell him that it was alright, that he didn't have to talk about anything if he didn't want to, when he spoke.
"I'm afraid," he said finally. "I don't know what I am anymore." His voice was hushed and exhausted.
"You're what you always were," I said gently, sitting down beside him. "A Lux Veritatis warrior. A fighter." I put a hand to his cheek and turned his face until he was looking in my eyes. "You're Kurtis."
His eyes searched mine, confused and lost. "But that's not all I am, is it?"
I shook my head. "She – Asharagael – is linked to you, that's true. And I don't really know what that means yet, but I know that it doesn't make you any less you. It just makes you stronger."
"Stronger," he echoed, playing with the potential of the word and then rejecting it. "I certainly don't feel stronger."
"Of course you don't, not now. You've gone through a nightmare today. Karel put you through hell." And me, too, I thought, although I didn't voice my own pain. I had to watch him murder you. "But in the end you defeated him. Because of this gift that you have. Don't you see? You saved everything."
"But –" he lowered his head again. "I don't have any control over it. It just happened, I don't know how, I didn't even know what was going on. Lara, I nearly got us both killed. It wasn't me who was strong, or powerful. It was her." He looked away bitterly.
"No, that's not true," I said, urgently. "You did something, Kurtis. You were… Listen, Asharagael described you as her 'beacon'. She said that no-one had sent them a signal that strong for a long, long time, and that was how she found us. That was how she killed Karel and the Nephilim. You may be the only one left, but you're the only one ever to summon an angel to Earth. You may not understand how it works yet, but with time you will."
"I don't know," he said, closing his eyes. "I don't know if I can do this. It's all too much. I'm so tired." He put his head in his hands. "I can't do this on my own."
I moved from the couch to kneel in front of him, and put my arms around him. "You don't have to do it alone," I said, kissing the top of his head.
"Lara, I can't let you do this any more. You've been through enough, and there's worse to come." He looked up at me again. "I can't put you through any more of this."
His voice was so flat and full of despair, and his eyes so sorrowful, that my heart wrenched painfully for him.
"I don't care how bad it gets. I want to do this." He shook his head again wearily. "What else do I have?" I went on. "Kurtis, there's never been anything in my life as important as this. I can't go back to my old life now, knowing what has to be done." I imagined spending my remaining years alone, rattling round in a house that was too big for me, never feeling any sense of purpose or doing anything of consequence. "I'm not afraid. The only thing I'm afraid of is –"
I broke off, my voice failing me. Kurtis looked at me, his eyes still sad but soft and caring too. He trailed a finger down my face. "What?"
"I can't lose you," I whispered.
He kissed me gently.
"I understand," he said. "But even if this is what we want to do, where do we start? What the hell do we do first? If there are other Nephilim, where are they? How do I fight them? Everyone that could have helped us is dead…" He trailed off, leaving us in silence again.
"Maybe not," I said eventually. An idea was forming in my mind, the spark of something wonderful, if only it were possible.
Kurtis noticed the change in my tone, and my rapt expression. "What do you mean?" he asked, looking at me curiously.
I frowned, not sure how best to explain something I was still piecing together myself.
"You could find help," I said at last. "You could start the Lux Veritatis again."
His eyes widened in surprise at those words. "Lara, you know as well as I do, they're all dead. There's no-one left. It's just me."
"Yes, there's just you. But there doesn't have to be. Think about it, Kurtis. You're as powerful as any member of the Lux Veritatis since they first began. What's stopping you from training people yourself?"
He shook his head vigourously. "You don't understand, Lara. The powers of the Lux Veritatis were passed on through blood lines. All those families have been killed. And even if I did find any survivors, I wouldn't know how to train them, how to initiate them. I was never taught that much, and the traditions are all gone along with the men who kept them going. All the books and records are destroyed. It's over."
"How do you know you can't train people? And as for the powers being carried on through blood, there must be thousands of people who descended from the first Lux Veritatis members, whether they know it or not. And hundreds of thousands more who have their own powers, for whatever reason, and could be trained to use them against the Nephilim. " He still looked unconvinced, but let me go on talking. "You have your tattoo, Kurtis. You have the language, the Light of Truth that Ozan told us about. That's what needs to be passed on, that's how we can keep the connection to the angels. You can still pass on everything you do know. Yes, the rules for the ceremonies and initiations have been lost. But the angels didn't write the rituals. Men did. They did it to build up a tradition around their beliefs and their duties. The original gift was the language. You have some of it; Ozan left some of it behind. We can work with that."
He looked at me for a long time. "I don't know, it's just…" He sighed heavily. "It's such a huge task. I wouldn't know where to start."
"Well then, that's why you're lucky to have me," I replied, and gave him the closest thing to a smile that I could muster.
He met it with a slight smile of his own, and I could see at least some calm returning to his eyes, vying with the uncertainty.
"Let's just say all this is possible. If it were possible, how would we even go about it? We'd need to travel, we'd need somewhere to train people, somewhere for it all to happen. A base of operations, or whatever."
I managed a real smile that time. "Kurtis. You're forgetting that I own a bloody big mansion. And I'm stinking rich."
He smiled back. "Are you sure you want to commit everything to this?" he said softly.
"To saving the world? Yes, I think I'm okay with that." I put my arms around his neck and kissed him deeply, trying to show him how much he was needed, and how much I believed in him. He wound his own arms around my waist and held me close, resting his forehead against mine when the kiss ended.
"It might not work," he said hesitantly, quietly; I could tell he was saying it for my benefit, not wanting me to offer up too much false hope.
"I know," I told him. "But let's do it anyway."
A/N: So, there you have it. Of course I couldn't really kill Kurtie! I'd never forgive myself! Anyway, as you may have noticed, there's lots of sequel-friendly stuff in there, and yes indeed I am planning a sequel. :DI can't say when it will commence, because I'll only disappoint, but hopefully it won't be long. Thankyou all again for your reviews and feedback. :) giant hugs