DISCLAIMER: I own nothing. All mistakes are my own. As for the atrocious wait... um... sorry? I know I have a lot to apologize for, and the list will grow by the end of this piece. Beware of horribly long (but necessary) author's note at the end.
DG would give anything to be warm and dry again. She tried to daydream about a roaring fire and hot chocolate and flannel pajamas. But the pouring rain doused her body and her thoughts and always pulled her back—screaming—into reality. A reality where she was hurriedly filling bags with sand and trying to save a village from the swelling river nearby.
Mud squelched under her boots with each step she took, hauling another bag onto the makeshift barrier they were constructing. All around her villagers, guards and advisors were working feverishly, doing what they could to save the small town from the rising waters. DG had to admit that she was proud of her staff. . .they hardly questioned her anymore. As soon as the rain started and she told them to get outside and start filling bags, they hadn't even protested—just turned and obeyed her. Maybe they had finally realized that they could only ever trust their Queen to do the unexpected.
DG swiped at her eyes, taking a brief moment to take a breath and check on everyone's progress. They were working quickly, considering all the extra hands, but it wouldn't be enough. The river was rising too fast and she feared a sudden swell would send the wall over and destroy everything in its path.
She wasn't going to give up though. A shout drew her attention and she quickly moved over to Cain and Norris, who were filling bags together. Cain handed her an empty bag and picked up the shovel, giving her the easier of the jobs. As tempting as it was to yell at him, she didn't have the extra energy to. Norris grabbed two of the filled bags in his thick hands and stacked them on the wall, pounding them into position.
"This won't be enough," he said, his voice deadened by the rain as he leaned over to pick up more.
"I know," DG replied, keeping her voice low to prevent the others from hearing it. "But we have to try. If we're lucky, the rain will stop and the river will abate. We have to hope that we'll still make it."
"Deeg," Cain grunted, digging the shovel into the ground. "I know you don't want to hear it, but we have to think about getting you away. If that wall collapses and the waters come towards us, you could be swept away."
DG twisted the top of the bag closed and glared up at Cain, water dripping off her lashes. "No, I don't want to hear it. You know me and danger: I could care less about it. Besides, it tends to find me no matter where I go. I'm not leaving, Wyatt, not until this is over with."
"My Lady, at least consider taking a break and getting out of the rain for a minute."
"Are you taking a break?" Norris's eyes slid away from hers. "No, you're not. None of the people out here are taking a break, because we can't afford to waste the time or manpower. Don't waste your breath trying to convince me otherwise." She put her head back down to the ground, tying off another bag.
They worked in silence for another hour, not bothering to spend the breath on talk when they needed every bit of energy to keep moving. Switching positions regularly to give each other a relative break, they continued shoveling, tying and hauling as the water line rose higher and higher.
Dismayed shouts broke the tedium and brought their attention round. The water had risen high enough that it was now licking the top of the sand wall, small waves pushing the water over and letting it pool on the other side.
"Damnit," DG hissed, throwing her shovel down. "Okay, that's it. It won't be enough, no matter how much longer we work. We need to get everyone out of here now." Cain nodded and turned, yelling out orders.
Norris didn't even bother tying the bag in his hands. "My Lady, we must go now."
DG shook her head, droplets swinging off the ends of her hair. "No. I need to make sure everyone gets out okay first. I wouldn't be surprised if half these people refuse to give up and I will not leave while they remain behind to die."
"Stop, Norris. If you want me to leave, then help Cain evacuate the village." Her bodyguard clenched his teeth, but nodded. Turning, he began to add his voice to Cain's, yelling at people to get a move on and abandon their tasks. DG stood off to the side, arms crossed over her chest as she watched, eyes darting from the river, back to the people and mentally trying to calculate just how much time they had left.
She should have known it wouldn't be enough.
The dull roar in the distance was the first clue. The panicked screams from the people was the second clue. The wave of water rushing towards them was the third. The wall was going to collapse in seconds, under the pressure of this new surge. And the people would never be able to get away in time.
Barely aware of her sodden feet moving, DG ran towards the wall, ducking past Norris and dodging Cain's outstretched hand. She wove around fleeing villagers, the lone fish against the tide. She slipped and fell several times, her boots sinking in the mud and her clothes plastered to her body. But she kept moving, shouting at the villagers to run faster, to get out of the way.
When the gush of water reached their hastily constructed wall, DG had just reached the last of the villagers. She could hear Cain's terrified cries behind her, unintelligible beneath the screaming wave. Just as the wall collapsed and the water rushed towards her, she crouched down, held up her hands and pushed.
In a flash of gold, her magic sprung to life, creating a barrier against the water. She couldn't extend it enough to stop the water entirely, but she was able to protect the area that herself and all the villagers were in. She could faintly hear them yelling behind her, whether in fear or awe, she couldn't tell. As long as they were still evacuating, she couldn't care less.
All her attention though was on her magic and on not letting the barrier collapse—if it did, she would be swept away and either drown or suffer as her fragile body was bashed against trees and rocks, uncontrolled in the tide. DG grit her teeth and curled her fingers slightly, trying to get a firmer grasp on her magic. The force of the water kept battering against the barrier, trying desperately to find a way through like a sentient being. The pitch in her ears began to climb, began to become painful and drown everything else out.
Her breathing grew more labored with each second as her hands began to shake. Though the water still banged against her shield, it was doing so with less intensity now, slowly dying down. She couldn't let her magic go though, not yet. She had to give the villagers as much time as possible to escape.
The water had finally retreated to the level of their constructed wall and the strain against the barrier had significantly diminished. She couldn't hear anything beyond the pitch in her ears and the desperate gasping breathes rattling through her chest. Blinking owlishly, DG shook her head one last time, trying to clear her eyes. Then, hoping she had bought them enough time, she lowered her hands, let go of her magic and fell to the ground.
She never hit the mud though. Two arms caught her and swept her upward, keeping her above the rush of the water pouring in through the new opening of the wall. Shouts invaded her mind, people yelling for more sandbags and that they needed to rebuild the wall. She should have been mad that they weren't evacuated. But she couldn't work up the strength to open her eyes, let alone go on a tirade.
"How is she?" The tense voice belonged to Norris.
"I don't know," Cain replied. She could feel his voice through his chest. "She hasn't opened her eyes, but she isn't bleeding either. Deeg? I need you to wake up, Sweetheart."
She wanted to reply, but she was too tired to make her jaw work. It was starting to get frustrating actually—apparently she was drained enough to make all physical movement impossible, but she wasn't drained enough to actually pass out. It was an uncomfortable and inconvenient limbo.
"Damnit," Norris growled, callused fingers going to her neck. "She's still alive, but I don't like this. . .coma she's in. She always bled before she fell unconscious. So what's wrong?"
"I told you, I don't know," Cain snarled. DG fingers twitched as she ached to reach up and slap the two men. Neither saw the action. "I'm going to get her inside and try to warm her up, see if that helps. Finish rebuilding the wall then see what damage was done."
"Right. At least she managed to save the village—it all would have been lost without her."
"I know," Cain sighed. "Stupid, stupid girl. Go. I'll let you know if she wakes up." Norris sloshed off and Cain moved forward, carrying DG somewhere out of the rain and into warmth. He gently set her down on a soft surface. "You're starting to worry me, Sweetheart. I know it was a brave thing you did, trying to save everyone, but it was very stupid too. If you had let go a minute earlier the water would have been too much. You cut it too close." He sighed and caressed her cheek, pushing her wet hair out of the way. "But I guess that's part of the reason I love you so much. You take chances because it's best for everyone else. You do what's right without hardly a thought. You amaze me each and every day DG. You frustrate me to hell, but you amaze me too." He paused again, as if waiting for her to respond. Even if she could though, DG had a feeling she would be stunned speechless. She started to focus on making her body work. Cain grasped her hand and brought it to his face, kissing her palm. "Please, Sweetheart. Wake up."
Fighting against her own exhaustion, DG cracked her eyes open, waiting until they focused before she turned her attention to Cain. "Wyatt," she croaked, her voice weak.
Cain's face broke out in a relieved smile. He leaned forward and kissed her before pulling back and cupping her face gently. "Marry me," he murmured.
That was enough to break DG out of her temporary paralysis. Her eyes widened and all of her limbs twitched. "What?" she choked, voice high and strained.
He pulled back a bit, grabbing one of her hands within his own and leaving the other on her cheek. "I know this isn't some elaborate, romantic proposal, but I can't wait long enough to plan one. I love you, DG. In fact, I fall more in love with you each day, with each word you speak and every thing you do. I love you. And the only thing I am sure of is that I cannot bear to live without you. So, DG? Will you marry me?"
It took barely a moment before her face broke out into a brilliant smile, eyes shining and face glowing underneath the raindrops on her skin. "Yes." Cain's smile was indescribable as he leaned forward to kiss her again, with as much passion as he dared to use in her drained state. She kissed back as well as she was able, unwilling to stop the moment for any reason.
DG couldn't help but idly wonder why they seemed to have their most defining moments during disasters. But then again, she didn't really care when they happened so long as they did happen. Enough strength returned to her body that she was able to reach her hand up and twine it through the short hairs at the base of Cain's neck. Her future husband's neck.
Flooding, magical drain and weakness be damned. Life was good.
So. Let's begin with apologies, shall we? I apologize for the wait. I never meant for it to stretch this long. But I've had absolutely no desire to write in the past two months. As it is, I kinda had to force this one out, and I think it shows. Therefore, I also apologize for the quality of this piece. I truly feel that it is subpar and not up to my normal standards. You guys are so amazing and you deserve the best, so I'm sorry for the lack of polish here. Similarly, I'm sorry it's so short. Well, short for me.
Now. Here's the unfortunate, bad news, but please read it all! I am marking this story as complete. When I started this series, I always intended each chapter to be its own complete story with its own conflict and resolution. That way, should I fall off the face of the earth, no one is left with a cliffhanger. There is a slight chance I might return and add more chapters; I do have ideas written down that I never got to (including Effie's Norris piece *wince*). But I am not going to promise that these pieces will ever be written. I feel like DG and Cain are in a good place right now—happy and (relatively) safe. There's some resolution here, which is all I can ask for.
While I am sorry to say it, I think this is the end. I just don't have the drive for this story anymore and lately I've been feeling the pull to return to my original fiction and start knocking my book into shape. The one thing that has kept me going though is you guys. Even when my attention first began to wan, I kept at it because you are simply the best reviewers I've ever had. I adore each and every one of you and I cherish each review. I try to respond to every review I get (though I know I missed a few the last time around, so I'm sorry to those that didn't get a reply from me!).
My last request is that you please review and let me know what you think, both about this chapter and Coronation as a whole. Whether you reply the day this chapter is posted or two years after it's posted, I truly love your reviews. Thank you all for sticking with me and I hope that you enjoyed this story. With any luck, I'll be back. But if not, thanks for everything! You all are simply the best!