Disclaimer: Danny Phantom and all related characters and information are the property of Butch Hartman and Viacom International, Inc.


Chapter XXXII

Danny released a heavy sigh, his mental reserves being taxed to their limits. Getting into the mind of a human or a ghost was one thing, but trying to make sure that his hold didn't loosen on Malhecor's mind was a challenge in and of itself, the illusion that had to be created even more taxing.

Sam reached out blindly, her hand grazing his arm momentarily before clutching his hand in hers, allowing their strength to flow around them. Between the two, silver energy was flowing like rivers through the air, weaving a celestial tapestry around the Guardians and their enemy.

Faster and faster the energy coursed over the trio, flashes of light bursting forth each time a thread of energy crashed against another, and soon, the three were lost amidst the cascading sparks, their power reaching heights that even the Guardians' previous incarnations had been unable to attain. Slowly, the silver lines began to extend outward, and those gathered near the square stepped back, avoiding the cords as if they carried an electric charge. They could have, for there was little known about this power, and less of a want to find out first-hand what it was doing.

Lines of energy shot down along the street, and the lights that lined the streets flickered momentarily before blowing out. The glass covers that were on the lights remained unharmed, but there was a tinkling sound from each light as the bulbs within shattered to pieces, the shards dancing around within their containing havens. Silver energy pulsed over the streets like a massive highway of veins and arteries, throbbing with a life of their own, and, unseen by those of mortal blood, these were indeed vessels of life-blood – the Guardians were calling to the planet itself, asking for the assistance of the world beneath them for the power to rescue it, and all of existence, from the tainted soul of their foe.

She responded in kind, the Earth Mother reaching out to touch the Guardians, giving them the strength to continue and fortify their illusion, weaving the power of the Creatrix around Malhecor. Deeper into his mind they dove, destroying every feeling of the outside world, drawing him further into his own Oblivion. They pulled from his mind the sensation of every single thing that existed in creation, drawing him into their trap, pulling him beyond the edge of the Void.

Danny's voice rang out from within the walls of their cocoon, reaching into the minds of everyone within the city, and they heard his power, his confidence. This was not Danny Fenton they were hearing, but someone, something more than he had ever been. There was a power to his voice and a wisdom beyond the grasp of the ages, and in their hearts, they knew that Malhecor was losing. "Nothing can withstand Oblivion, Malhecor. We have reached the event horizon of a black hole, and we, too, must give ourselves to the Void. You must have known. Even we, children of the Creatrix and rulers of creation by Her hand, cannot stand against the Void. We do not have Her power, for She is the only one who can truly contain and tame Oblivion."

Sam's voice rang through their consciousness as well, entrancing, captivating, a siren's call to the hearts of humanity. "She is beyond us, Malhecor, and always has been. Though this world is gone forever, She will remake another in the same image, with the lessons She has learned allowing Her the wisdom to not repeat the same mistakes. Only in your victory do you realize the futility of your endeavor, and with your greatest victory, you have been defeated. You were always a fool, my brother."

With a sudden torrent of flashes and a powerful surge from the arterial energy cords, everyone felt a great burden suddenly lifted as the essence of the creature that had once been a Guardian, and had become the bane of the living universe, dissipated, gone forever from their world, as well as the world beyond. A deafening crash sounded from the town square, and in the blink of an eye, the silver power that had been surrounding the Guardians vanished. Blinking their eyes to wipe away the blinding spots in their vision, there were a few who could, at first, see what was still standing, if anything at all. Finally managing to clear their vision, some of the people stepped forward, two vague forms standing at the center of the square.

Maddie was the first to reach the pair, and she stopped suddenly, unsure of whether or not the pair was still alive. As still as statues and as quiet as shadows they stood, eyes shut against the world, and Maddie reached a hand tentatively towards her son, partially afraid of being shocked, more afraid still of finding that her son had killed himself to save the world. Touching him lightly, she stumbled back in shock as his eyes snapped open, orbs of liquid silver turning with oceanic tides locked directly on her. Sam's eyes now drifted open, mirroring Danny's mercurial gaze, and both looked at her, then at the people surrounding them, their opaque eyes showing no emotion and no recognition.

It was then that Danny spoke, and the voice that slipped through his lips was the same as the one they had heard only moments before – deep, resonating with a power beyond belief. "He is gone for good now. He has hurt many and left still more within the Void of Oblivion, their spirits unable to return from that hollow nonentity, but no more will our tainted brethren torment this land, nor will he torture the spirits who have crossed into the next world. He brought Oblivion within himself, and by grasping at a power that none can control, he has destroyed himself in his quest for dominion. Be at ease, and take this time to grieve those lost to his ruination. The war is over, and peace can once again reign in these lands." Danny smiled softly at those assembled, his eyes still unfocused, swirling silver orbs turning upon the crowd before glancing at the Guardian beside him. Wordlessly, the two vanished into thin air.

- - - - -

Clockwork looked over his shoulder, the four members of the Order huddled on the floor, asleep, and his elder eyes caught sight of two forms in the distance. He smiled, knowing at once who they were. He had watched their progression throughout the battle, and had lost sight of them only for a while after their fall to Malhecor, unable to pierce the veil between his world and the one they had been within.

Crimson eyes met hoary ones, and the trio assembled nodded collectively in recognition of one another. Sam spoke, and Clockwork could feel her power resonating within her voice. "He is gone, and there is little left to keep you apart from the world. You know how hard it was for us to breach this world of yours, Clockwork."

"Yes, I do know, but I had to make sure," he said, smiling briefly. "After all, you aren't the only ones who serve the will of the Creatrix."

Danny stepped to the side, flowing his energy over the floor and touching each of the four prone forms lightly, calling them from their slumbering state.

Slowly, the four members of the Order pushed themselves to their feet, bowing their heads in respect of the incarnate Guardians. Silently, they began to leave the tower, heading for the edge of Clockwork's realm, knowing that the conversation that would take place was not meant for their ears, nor for any other being in creation save for the three remaining in the tower.

Moments later, Danny and Sam stepped out of the tower, Clockwork's realm suddenly shifting back within the folds of time in the Ghost Zone. Power audibly moving around the pair, the four followed Danny and Sam as they took off for the Gateway clearing.

- - - - -

Stepping past the curtain of leaves, Danny and Sam were somewhat shocked to find the area undamaged, as if Malhecor had not found it important to attack his particular area. Taking it as a small blessing amidst the hell that had become of both worlds, Danny and Sam walked to where the Gateway had been before the ritual, and both were aware of the spiritual essences awaiting judgment that hovered near the area.

As the Guardians turned their backs to one another, intertwining their hands, the four members of the Order surrounded them, each seated at one of the four quarters and dropping into deep meditation. Calling out to one another through their inner strength, they forged a psychic connection between them all, encircling the Guardians within their raised power, and as mind linked to mind, the four becoming as one cohesive unit, they poured their energy upon the area where the Gateway had once been, the ring of light flaring alive.

"The shadows have passed," Sam intoned, her eyes lit from within by a potent inner fire, "and darkness is gone away."

"The light of the Creatrix has returned this day," Danny continued, his deep voice echoing in the clearing.

"Bound by the children of the one above all," the Order intoned, "sealed by those who understand the delicate need for balance in all things, we call now the power once more."

Sam and Danny continued together, "Hearken now unto our voices, those who wander, lost, between the worlds of life and death. Hear now the voice of the One calling you home, bringing you to peaceful shores."

As the ring of light began to glow brighter still, the Guardians let the silver fluid that had conjoined with them run from their hands to the ground beneath, and they hovered over the reforming Gateway. "We have restored the balance of worlds and brought down the harbinger of shadows, so now do we recall the seal and release the bonds that have locked the doorway between dimensions."

With an audible rush of wind, the Gateway surged beneath them, the silver fluid once more showing the waterfall of images, the multitude of afterlives that waited beyond. Landing at the opposite edges of the Gateway, Sam and Danny knelt, reaching out to the worlds around them, calling the dead to their next life, silently summoning them to the haven of serenity that lay within the Summerlands.

Each in their turn, the essences of those who had passed away within the last few weeks came forth, the Guardians giving themselves to their powers, seeking the truth within each spirit before letting them pass the Gateway, the few malevolent spirits turned away, given new being as residents of the Ghost Zone. Watching as they moved into the next world, Danny and Sam couldn't help but smile at the looks of tranquility that crept over the faces of those who had been allowed beyond.

A sensation crawled slowly up Danny's spine, and he turned to face the spirit that was seeking passage, and shock stole over his senses for a moment as the wizened eyes of the elder halfa met his own, Danny realizing that Vlad had somehow managed to survive a death that should have utterly destroyed him. Though unable to speak, Vlad's mind linked for a moment with Danny's, and the youth sensed the turmoil that had possessed Vlad for so long had finally vanished. Looking into his heart, the Guardian sensed the willingness Vlad had to let go of his ways and his pain. Nodding as the deceased passed the final test, Danny was shocked to see a pair of golden eyes looking into his own silvered ones.

In seeing the failure I became and the monster that I kept within me, I found something greater than I could have ever managed, Vlad spoke through their link. I am just sorry that I didn't see it sooner, for, perhaps, it would have saved so many so much pain.

"Don't worry, Vladimir," Danny consoled him. "You, like all the others, will be reborn, and you will live to see a new day dawn. What lies in the past cannot be changed, and we can only look to the future with hope, for that is the sustaining power of mankind – their trust in the possibilities beyond."

Vlad nodded silently before stepping up to the circular ingress, slowly lowering himself into the watery veil that cleansed his soul of all its pain, guiding him into the world beyond life with a heart seeking the new and the pure that existed, the horrors and atrocity of his life now fading memories.

A spark of light erupted from the Gateway, and the fluid surged upwards, the four members of the Order scattering as the rising wave crashed down upon the Guardians, Sam and Danny pushed to the ground by the sheer force of the flowing essence, their bodies overcome with a deep cold as they once more absorbed the Gateway into themselves. Spasming on the ground, the pair slowly managed to find their way to their feet, feeling a strange emptiness to the circle that had housed the Gateway for so many long eons.

"It is within you, for you are no longer bound to this place," Anila spoke softly. "You carry not only the Guardians' powers, but also the keys to the Gateway, for it is through you alone that the spirits can attain their new paths."

The four bowed to the Guardians before moving to different areas of the clearing.

Danny and Sam looked at each other for the first time since they'd broken Malhecor, and they both gasped. Though their eyes had regained their original lustrous color, the pupils embraced within the ring of their irises were no longer black. Instead, silver energy swirled there, spiraling in the dance of the cosmos, galaxies twirling in their eyes, and Danny smiled lightly before pressing his lips softly against Sam's, holding her tightly against him as he reached for the space between the human world and the Ghost Zone, tearing a mental hole in the fabric of space-time before guiding them through, taking them from the Gateway Clearing and into his bedroom.

- - - - -

Maddie knocked lightly on her son's bedroom door. Though it had been over twenty-four hours ago that they had taken on Malhecor for the last time, neither he nor Sam had presented themselves to the world. Getting no answer, she opened the door, sucking in a silent breath as she found the two sitting cross-legged on their respective beds, silver energy weaving around them, the nine Warriors kneeling at the foot of Danny's bed, still and quiet.

A few moments passed before the dancing silver light slowed and dissipated, and Danny looked up to his mother, his silver pupils glistening in the light flowing in from the window. Sam, too, turned her head as she opened a portal between the beds, allowing the nine ghosts to return to their home dimension. The pair stood, and Danny was the first to reach Maddie, embracing his mother lightly before pulling away.

"What's up, Mom?"

Maddie struggled to find her voice, her remaining arm quivering, and Danny rested his hand against it, flowing soft, warm blue energy into her, calming her frayed, pained nerves.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, it's just…a lot has happened. I'm still trying to deal with it all."

Danny smiled briefly, nodding in agreement. "We all are."

Maddie blinked, remembering something and reached into her pocket. "Vlad left this for you, but I forgot to give it to you before."

"Thanks, Mom," Danny said as Maddie left the room and closed the door.

"Dinner will be ready in an hour," she called as she descended the stairs.

"Okay," Danny returned. "We'll be down later." Floating onto Sam's cot and nuzzling next to her, he popped the seal on the envelope. "I wonder what this is about. Why would Vlad have left me a letter?"

"Only way to find out is to read it," Sam replied, and Danny pulled a thick stack of notebook paper from the envelope. Looking over the pages, he noticed that Vlad had only written on one side, which helped explain the size of the stack in his hand.

Daniel,

I think that it is important for me to speak my mind before things go further downward. I know that there is no real reason for me to even be writing this letter, considering the news the GIW had for your parents today, but this will be my last bit of solace before I, too, fall to this cursed ghost creature you tried to save me from.

First off, I want to apologize to you for all of my actions over the past few years. I have no excuse for the way that I acted, especially towards you and your father, and more so for the way I was towards your mother. None of you ever did anything to deserve the treatment that I gave, and I was a fool to not see this fact sooner. Jack was my friend and my companion, my lab partner when the three of us were just starting our research into the Ghost Zone, and I had seen the connection between him and Maddie long before the accident. I just thought that…I thought that there could have been something between her and I other than just friendship, and the accident had been something that gave Jack all the distance that he needed from me, and in that closed-minded theory, I have become an embittered old man that missed every opportunity to find the same happiness that your parents have found with each other.

All I ever wanted, in truth, was a family, a precious thing that would have helped me to escape the bitter past that I had suffered through, and in trying to make you the son I never had, I became the very thing that I swore to my mother that I would never allow myself to be. You see, no one I met in all of my school years ever found out that the parents that came to all the necessary school functions weren't my biological parents, and to this day, you and Maddie are the only people that I have ever told.

My father was an abusive monster of a man who would go through anyone and anything that stood in his way, and when my mother became one of those obstacles, she suffered a mortal price for that 'transgression'. My father murdered my mother in front of my eyes, even though it was days after her beating that her body finally succumbed to the damage he'd dealt. I ran away from a home a few days after she died because my father found me to be the next target for his rage – a son would be nothing but a burden to raise and a responsibility he didn't have time to shoulder, useless to him until he could find some sort of reason for me to be alive, and he was not a patient man. He had no time for anyone but himself. He was arrested for what he'd done to me, and a few years later, after I had been taken in by another family, I discovered that he had started a fight in the prison he was in, killed by the hands of another, just as my mother had died.

I had lost touch with your parents shortly after the accident, and I never bothered to get back in touch with them until about a month after I heard that they had been granted the gift of a daughter. One of our mutual classmates had informed me of this, but I didn't give much thought to it. Between the birth of your sister and you, however, was when your parents came into the public eye as amateur ghost hunters, which, by the way, your father still is in a great number of respects. You really should try to help him out with that, or at least try to get your mother to do something. It'd help them both when they're out on assignment or patrol.

Back to the point, however, I had started to wonder if they had found the fault with the original Portal, and by this time, I had already found the power residing within me. At that point, I had only used it to establish myself as part of the wealthier class, and I wanted to make sure that whatever was going on with their research, they didn't make the same mistake that had so violently mutated me. I got back in touch with them as soon as I could, and soon after, found out that your mother was pregnant again. I stayed with them for a while, overseeing their progress on the ghost technology, but I was relieved to have found that the Portal was the one thing they were unconcerned with. I figured that my task was done, and I left town about a month before you were born.

A short while later, they sent me a package, a short 'hello and how are you' letter and a couple of pictures, but when I saw those photos of their new son, of you, something broke inside of me, and the idea consumed me that you could have been mine, that you should have been mine, that Maddie and I could have been something. Thus began my downward spiral into the creature I have become. Little by little, my ghost form began to change, and I could never look at myself in the mirror as that change continued. You see, bit by bit, my ghost form changed from a lanky form much like your own, to the muscular, terrible form of my father, and I realized, only faintly at the time, that I had lied to my mother all those years ago.

I gave myself to my research then, which is why I was able to get a working Portal up and running about three years before your parents. When I found that they had decided to pick up the project again, I decided, somewhat selfishly, to deny them both the blueprints to my own Portal as well as a warning of the risks that the machine could pose to someone if improperly activated. However, as you and I both know, that risk was actualized; it created yet another half-ghost – you. The true danger in this development to my warped mind was that you would come after me, that you would try to destroy me because you were Jack's son. I also feared that you would be the reason that Maddie would be yet further from me. With a power that could have rivaled my own within a short time, there would be little I could do to get to her. Again, I gave into my father's behavioral pattern, and I tried to get through you somehow to get to my real goal, and I cared little for what it might cost. You and Maddie were all that I cared to let survive, though the thought of what would happen to your sister never actually crossed my mind. Kill Jack, marry Maddie, and take you on as my heir and son – that was my master plan.

Recently, however, when your father came to my door and informed me that I was in danger, I thought that he was kidding. What could possibly be stronger than me? I was stronger than you, would always be, and there was no one in the Ghost Zone that I knew of that could challenge me.

That's when the revelation of what you were came.

When I was ordered to run you through the simulator, I thought that Maddie and Jack needed you to practice so that you would have even the glimmer of a chance against Malhecor, but as I kept increasing the power that the ghosts were using against you and raising the difficulty of the simulations, I began to see something beyond my wildest dreams manifesting in you, and the thought that you would be able to take me down began to take over rational thought. That is why I snapped at you that morning. I began to fear for my own life because of the power in you, and I find myself sitting here now, rambling onto a piece of paper, realizing how much of a fool I was, and I am embarrassed to admit that it was only because of the impending and inevitable end of my life, precluded by you and Sam dying, that I was finally able to look back on my life and see what I had mutated into.

Daniel, I am truly sorry that I did not listen to you, that I tried to challenge you, and that I attacked you. I have taken a surgical saw to the binders that you put on me and removed as much of the outer bracelet as I could, though I can still feel the cold metal twisting in my wrists. I know that you said getting me involved in the fights was the last choice that you'd make in the matter, but I believe that it is a choice for me to make. Besides, I feel something growing inside, some great power that has been buried inside for all these long years. I will take your actions as my example, and though it is my death that comes on swift wings because of this decision, I will stand and fight. I will do what I can with my power to honor your strength, though I also diminish your sacrifice by exposing myself. Forgive me, Daniel, wherever it is that you have gone. This is my final act of defiance against what my father was and the final plea for forgiveness from my mother for breaking the promise that I made to her.

There is a formal will written up in the castle in the bottom drawer of my bedroom nightstand. Though you are gone, I feel that there is some way that you will return, and I pass all of my possessions on to you and your family. I know that they can be put to good use, and in these, my final moments, I have found peace with myself.

Goodbye, Daniel and Jazmine, children of my best friends.

Goodbye, Maddie, my unrequited love, and Jack, my dearest friend.

Vladimir Masters

Danny looked over the letter once more before folding the papers and placing them back in the envelope. The writing had become ragged and crooked in the last couple of paragraphs, and Danny could sense the fear that had slowly gripped Vlad as the news sunk in that his last saving grace had been killed.

Turning to Sam, Danny was at a loss for words, and she leaned into him, taking him into her warm embrace. He smiled faintly as a thought came to his mind. "He found the Guardian within him, the light that Malhecor had lost. I saw it in his eyes, Sam. He found the power to fight in those final minutes because he was able to escape the darkness that had taken hold."

Sam smiled as she kissed Danny's neck. "So he survived," she said. "I just wish that we could have found our power sooner. It would have saved so many."

"I'm just glad that we found it at all. We saved existence, Sam. We saved a lot, even if we lost so much." Danny bowed his head. "But I do agree with you. We lost a lot in the end," he admitted, eyes turning to the envelope in his lap, "and there will be a lot of names on that memorial that I was talking about, and I really, really wish that it wasn't the case."

- - - - -

Danny held the small piece of gauze in place as the GIW agent removed the needle from his arm, two pints of silver blood sitting in a bag hanging next to the chair Danny was sitting in, a similar bag hanging near Sam. Sitting up, a thin band of blue energy coursed over the small puncture wound, repairing the area, Sam's green energy doing the same.

"I don't know how your bodies are going to respond to so much blood being drawn, so I'd advise you to get a decent amount of fluids in and to avoid any heavy lifting," the agent said as Sam and Danny began to head out of the facility. "Thank you both for your cooperation."

"No worries," Danny said, grabbing a small plastic container of cranberry juice from the table near the door, tossing a second to Sam. "Let us know if there's anything else you need when the results of all the tests and what-not come back."

Sam popped the thin aluminum lid of the container at the edge, drinking all the contents in one quick gulp. "Take it easy, guys," she called over her shoulder.

The agents that had been collecting the samples and running physical analysis tests over the previous five hours gathered their data and the samples they had collected from the teens before heading for the lab area of the facility.

- - - - -

It had been seven months since the final battle with Malhecor, and Danny and Sam hung back as the governor walked up to the stage. Commissioned four months previous and paid off by the Manson and joint Fenton-Masters estates, a group of sculptors and architects had built the monument that would stand on the hill nearest City Hall. Secrecy had consumed the project, and aside from the fourteen people who were working on the monument, no one else had seen the finished product yet. Even Danny and Sam had kept away from the area during the process, and now, Governor Lurasenic would be revealing it to the world. Bearing the names of the two hundred seventy-four human fatalities, as well as the three hundred and seventeen ghosts lost to Malhecor, all that anyone had really heard of the monument was that there was a lot of work put into a very involved section about halfway through construction.

Danny turned towards his family, smiling lightly as the audience began to settle down. His mother had managed well enough after the fight, and with the governmental funding they had received to develop stronger anti-ghost weaponry, she finally had the means by which to replace her arm. A shining titanium arm was hidden by the sleeve of her shirt, his mother at least having the decency to wear something other than her hazmat suit to the assembly, and Danny watched with a sense of admiration as his mother rose to her feet, applauding the governor as he took his place at the podium, her cybernetic arm moving with the same fluidity of her biological one. Danny smirked on the inside, knowing just how much anti-ghost weaponry that arm was now packing, and it came to mind that half of what was in there shouldn't have even fit, especially with the massive amount of wiring required to form the functional neural interface of the limb. His mother was, indeed, a genius when it came to machines. His father and sister stood by Maddie, the black patch that had covered his sister's eye socket replaced with a dull silver one, the teen having adamantly refused to replace the lost eye. Sam's family stood a few rows back, all three fortunate to have escaped the damage that Malhecor had wrought.

"People of Amity Park, of Minnesota, of the United States, and of the world, I am proud to be her today to present to you a piece of artwork commissioned by the two heroes of our planet. Bearing the names of all who fell during the attacks seven months ago, human and ghost alike…" The governor stopped suddenly, his eyes travelling to the back of the assembled crowd. Everyone turned, and their eyes met with the sight of a ghost, his body cloaked in purple, a clock adorning his torso, an intricate staff in his hand, followed through the portal by four forms hooded in white. The governor quickly regained his stature as the ghosts settled behind the human crowd. "Bearing the names of all who fell, this monument stands as a testament to the faith of the two in themselves, as well as their faith and trust in all of us, existing on both sides of the world." Towering behind him was an amorphous shape covered by a giant tarp, the monument hidden from the eyes of all, and easily thirty feet tall. "In memory of all of those who are no longer with us, and in the spirit of hope for all, this statue lies within the town where the great enemy was defeated, and may all who come upon it for the many years to come know the power by which we have survived." Signaling to someone near the stage, a radio was raised to another's lips, the command given. The whirring hum of helicopter blades soon reached the ears of those assembled, and the tarp was slowly removed as the half-dozen choppers moved further skyward.

A collective gasp filled the area as the monument came into view. Rising out of the hill itself, the base of the statues was adorned with grass and flowers, the natural decorations growing out of hollows in the monument, and a plaque glistened in the sunlight, though, at this distance, no names could have been seen. The rest of the work came into view, an androgynous figure cast of reflective silver stooped onto its knees, a globe embraced within its arms, head turned down towards the North Pole, and another collective gasp was heard as the masses realized that the globe was actually moving, though slowly. The fluid within the orb moved as the tides, and the green that covered the temperate areas of the planet dipped as if brushed by the wind. Hazy white blew over the world, mimicking the movement of clouds, thin and nearly transparent white smoke moving airily across the globe.

The governor motioned towards the crowds, and Danny and Sam took to the air, floating towards the stage, a round of roaring applause surging through the crowd. Shaking hands with the governor, Danny nodded slightly towards Sam, and he stood at her side as she stepped up to the microphone. "My greetings to all in attendance, both here with us and watching from abroad," Sam began, taking a calming breath before continuing. "This statue stands for something many of us put into question when Malhecor's presence was brought to our attention – our faith. Many of us questioned the paths we followed when the existence of the Creatrix, a female Divine, was revealed to us, but this monument stands now as an answer to the question of what the Divine truly is. Neither male nor female, human, yet not human in its ambiguity, the polished surface reflects those who gaze upon it, the message that faith is what we believe, what we find inside of us. Before the final confrontation, Daniel and I were able to speak with the Creatrix, as we call Her, and we discovered this – the Divine One is what you make It to be, and all religions are embraced, just as our world is. By whatever name you call out, be it God or Allah or Yahweh or Goddess or Creatrix, the Divine One will hear your prayers, and through faith shall all of us be strong and united for all the days to come." Sam stopped momentarily, unsure of how to finish, as Danny was initially the one who was supposed to be speaking, and he telepathically guided her through the final part of the speech. "We are one people," she went on, "and there is no true difference among us, so let this begin the dawning of a new day, a day where all are accepted as they are accepted by the Divine – as they are and without discrimination, their individual traits and frailties part of the condition of existence that we are all part of. We are all one family in this existence, both humans and ghosts, and with time, it is our hope that all will understand and accept this. May the blessings of the Divine be upon us all."

A cheer rose from all around, and the Guardians embraced as they faced the statue on the hill, the power of their words resounding around the world, the emotions of all beings cresting within them.

- - - - -

The last of the news crews had departed about fifteen minutes ago, having gotten their fill of answers from the two teens, and Danny and Sam had volunteered to stay behind and clean up the square, the four members of the Order helping them. Clockwork had come to observe the ceremony and had brought the four ghosts with, as he had felt that their presence would have been a small show of the acceptance of the tense alliance between the worlds.

As Clockwork and the four were leaving for the Ghost Zone, Danny heard a small whimper behind him, turning to face a small Labrador Retriever pup that had emerged from the nearby bushes. Though healthy-looking, the dog wore no collar, and Danny and Sam knelt down to reduce the apparent size difference.

"Come here, little one," Sam said softly, stretching her hand towards the small dog, but it took a step back, pressing its ears against its head.

Danny saw something beyond the pup's wet eyes, felt a spark of familiarity, and leaned down further, edging close to the obsidian-furred canine. "Gi estas tutprava. Venu tie ĉi, malgranda oni," (1) he said softly, the words caressing the pup's ears gently, and it leapt into Danny's arms, the Guardian unable to keep the tears from falling from his eyes. "He, amiko, bona vidi vin," (2) he said as he nuzzled softly into the furry neck of the yipping bundle in his arms. Looking up, Danny found tears in Sam's eyes as well.

- LA FINI –


Esperanto Translations:

(1) – It's all right. Come here, little one.

(2) – Hey, friend, good to see you.