Tamara gazed out of the large picture window as snow fell silently over the Great Plains. A warm fire crackled in the hearth, and Tamara was nursing a cup of hot cocoa as she puzzled through a series of runes in the Wizard alphabet. She was attempting to translate one of the hardest songs from The Canticle of the Elements, and had runic dictionaries and notes spread out all over the couch. She laughed silently to herself - twenty years after first getting this book, she was still trying to reveal all of its mysteries!
Yule was fast approaching, and Tamara was always drawn back to Cantyr this time of the year. She and Max usually spent the New Year in New Camelot at the Crystal Palace with all the festivities, but to Tamara's country heart there was simply nothing like being at the Heartland Farm for Yuletide.
"Still working on that book, eh?" Charity said as she pushed some papers out of the way and settled down next to Tamara, a cup of cocoa in her own hand as well. Charity's once-auburn hair was now streaked with gray, but Tamara still hoped she aged half as well as her mother.
"Sometimes I think I'll never master all its secrets," Tamara sighed.
Charity shrugged. "Maybe you won't. That's the nice thing about legacies, dear - the work continues even after you're gone." Her mother referred, of course, to Tamara's spellsinging protégés at the University in New Camelot.
The door opened, and a gust of icy wind blew inside. "Well, all the animals are bedded for the night," Doc said. Tamara's father wiggled his white mustache, brushing off the snow that had collected there.
Max followed him inside. "If Sugar gets any bigger, I'm not sure he'll fit inside," he said with a chuckle.
"Boots off, boots off!" Charity said as she glared over her spectacles. "If you track slush onto my nice clean floors, I shall have to deny you any of the chocolate on the stove!" Tamara smiled - some things never changed.
Sugar would always be with her - their mental bond was strong, and had been forged before Tamara was ever the Heart Stone rider. But thinking of Sugar made her think of all the things that had changed since the dragon egg had shown up on their doorstep all those years ago. Merlin being lost in the Wild Magic, the Crown Jewels becoming tuned to the Enchanted Jewels (and to a lesser extent Tamara, Fallon, and Gwen), all the problems over Kale, Wizard Jewels and Morgana, the turning of the Circle again, Spike and Cleo going through their own Friendship Ring ceremonies.
"Mommy, mommy, I climbed up on Bessie!" little Celesta exclaimed proudly as she followed Max inside. Celesta was Tamara and Max's first born - she was a daredevil (much to the delight of her godmother Fallon) and always curious about the world around her. She had also inherited Tamara's pink hair, much to Charity's delight.
Lark tottered in after his big sister. "Me too!" he said.
"Poor Bessie," Max said with a chuckle as he picked up Lark and helped him take off his boots. Tamara gazed warmly at her husband, her partner. The young lord was just as dashing as the first time she'd met him, but had finally gotten over his shyness after being with Tamara for a long time.
"Time to put those books away, Mom!" Celesta said. Lark followed his big sister as they began shifting all of Tamara's careful research around. Sadly, her daughter didn't seem to share Tamara's love of music, but the former Heart Stone rider hoped she might change that tune in time.
"All right, all right," Tamara replied, marking her place and carefully collating all her notes and writing a reminder to consult with Professor Hill when they got back to New Camelot.
Doc brought the children cups of cocoa before pouring some for himself and Max. Tamara thought she saw Doc add a bit of an adult flavoring to his and Max's beverages, but declined commenting on it.
"Grandma, tell us a story about Jewel Riders," Lark said as he cuddled up to Charity.
"But I've told you all my stories a hundred times child!" Charity said with a trilling laugh.
Celesta looked thoughtful for a moment. "Then tell us again about Uncle Devon and Auntie Argent and their true love," she finally said, batting her eyelashes. Having grown up around the Jewel Riders of both Tamara and Charity's generations, Celesta loved hearing about the mysterious Jewel Riders she had never met. Tamara liked telling them about Devon because it kept him alive to her in some small way, but sometimes it was painful to think about how long it had been since she'd seen the man who could have been her brother.
Just as Charity was about to start telling the story, a soft golden glow appeared outside the window. At first, it almost looked to Tamara as if snowflakes made of light were falling to the ground. But the closer she looked, Tamara could see pure, golden magic swirling in eddies outside the farmhouse.
Growing concerned, Tamara picked up the Canticle and flipped to a song in the 'Stone' section she knew could create a magical barrier. Whatever was going on out there, she wanted to be ready to protect her family in case it was dangerous.
Tamara and Max slipped on boots and stepped out the front door onto the porch. The magic, golden light had intensified, appearing now like a small star glowing in the yard. Despite Tamara's admonition to stay inside, her parents and the children had joined them on the front porch, though Lark cowered behind Charity's skirts.
The star burst with a wave of light into a small, shining golden portal. It looked to Tamara like the Wild Magic portals, but she had never seen one that looked like this before!
A tendril of white magic reached out of the portal and stuck into the snow. Tamara hummed a note, trying to sense what kind of strange magic this was. She was hit with a vision of a golden cup. The Grail. After all this time, could it really be?
Abandoning her plan to create a wall, Tamara began to hum and sing series of notes, trying desperately to tune the magic of the portal and stabilize it. Finally, the portal opened wide, and five shapes stepped through.
Tamara's breath was misty in the cold air as her brain struggled to process what she was seeing.
"Hi, kid," Devon said with a mischievous, lopsided grin. He was surrounded by Argent, Ruby, Aquilon, and a beautiful pegasus.
"How?" was all Tamara could sputter as she began to cry.
Devon had the decency to look sheepish as he folded her into a warm hug. "It took me a long time to get a hang of the Grail's powers and break through the Border Mists."
"You...don't look a day older than when we parted," Tamara said through the sniffles.
Argent smiled. "Merlin did say that the exposure to the Grail's magic would likely prolong his life."
When Tamara finally pulled apart from Devon, she quickly introduced her awestruck children to their Uncle and Aunt before Devon pulled Charity down the front steps.
"Charity, there's someone here who would really like to say hello," Devon said, motioning for Ruby and Aquilon to move aside and fully reveal the pegasus.
Charity's eyes welled with tears. "Oh my...is this a dream?" she said, tentatively reaching out to the horse, her hand shaking as though it would pass through a mirage.
Morning Glory whinnied softly. "I'm here, Charity," the pegasus said simply.
"It's a Yuletide miracle," Doc said as Charity embraced her long-separated Jewel Rider partner.
"I never forgot our promise," Devon said, winking at Tamara.
"Wherever did you find her?" Tamara pressed, her eyes bright with tears.
"I believe that is a tale best told over a hot cup of cocoa," Argent said, laying a hand on Tamara's shoulder. "For it is winding, with twists and turns we might never have imagined."
Charity shooed the rest of the family back into the farmhouse then, as she was determined to personally see to Morning Glory, Aquilon, and Ruby getting settled in the barn. Tamara stayed on the porch a moment longer as the snow continued to fall, and she sent up a silent prayer of thanks to the spirits of Arthur and Guinevere for bringing not only Devon and Argent home, but blessing them with Glory's return to Avalon as well. Tamara couldn't wait to tell the pegasus that her foal was the bonded of the Queen of Avalon, but decided it might be a subject best left for the morning.
Opening the door, Tamara smiled as she saw her children rapt with attention as Devon began telling the story. Charity returned then and slipped her arm through Tamara's as they surveyed the cozy scene. Tamara's family was truly together again, and despite the chill in the air, her heart was warm.
Thank you so much to everyone who has shared this tale with Tamara, Devon, and I. We started down this path together over five years ago, and I never in a million years thought it would take this long to finish walking it. For those that have continued reading, I thank you for your time and hope it has been a worthwhile journey.
Jewel Riders has meant so much to me for so long. I've loved the show since I was small, and the opportunity to tell a story set in Avalon has always been something I've longed to accomplish since my days of reading the wonderful fic archive at Stormy's Avalon website. It was almost comforting, knowing that I had this manuscript to tinker with, knowing that I could come play in this sandbox any time I wanted. But more than comfort I wanted to stay true to my promise and finish this story. NaNoWriMo was the fire lit under me that helped me accomplish that goal.
Still, I hate saying goodbye. I don't feel sorrow at saying goodbye to Tamara, because I know she has many adventures ahead (Crown Jewels will need saving very soon!), and others will tell her stories. But I find I have grown very fond of Devon and Argent, two characters of my own creation. I never expected to become so attached to them – they were originally just placeholders until Tamara and Fallon went through their Friendship Ring Ceremonies. I will forever wonder what adventures the Grail sent them on, and who they met in the outside world. But time marches on, and even though I won't be able to tell the rest of their stories, I made sure they found their way home. (In the spirit of truth, I will admit I got a little choked up writing Devon and Tamara's final conversation and the Epilogue).
So for a final time, I thank you for reading my story. Writing this story has been a joy, and sharing it even better. If you are ever on Livejournal, stop by our jewel_power community and say hello. As reviews are the currency by which we are paid around here, please take a moment to let me know what you thought. Good or ill, your words will brighten my day.