October 31st couldn't have come any sooner; Anya could tell that the natives were restless. The palace had been growing darker and darker in the short two weeks before the ball, and everyone in it seemed to be taking on a gloomy disposition.
Her siblings were absolutely terrified of the darkness they felt taking over the palace; Anya would sometimes wake in the middle of the night to find Alexi crawling under the covers next to her, conveniently forgetting the fact that he was a "big boy" about to turn thirteen and cowering next to his big sister because he was now so afraid of his mother.
Even Anya would occasionally feel affected by the dark curse, and snap at someone for no reason, quickly apologizing afterwards to the victim.
It was now the night of the ball, and Anya and her siblings had been getting ready all day, occasionally going out when they were decent to greet an important guest as they arrived. It was about two hours before the ball when their grandmother came into Anya's room, where her sister Maria was helping her get ready and brother Alexi was sitting next to them, disinterested in hair and makeup. As soon as the old woman came in, all of the children ran towards her, crushing her in a hug.
"My children, my children!" she cried, astonished at their behavior, "what has gotten into you?"
"We're scared grandmother, Mama and Papa have been acting very strange." Alexi said, clinging to her desperately.
She looked up at the girls, Maria nodding furiously, and Anya, who looked the worst out of the trio, fear and anxiety growing in her eyes.
Nothing could slip by the Dowager Empress, especially something that was bothering her favorite granddaughter.
Acting as if she noticed nothing, she pulled all the children in for a hug once more and then set them to work.
"Everything will be fine by Alexi, but for now, we must not let your mother and father get even more irritated, we have to help them prepare for such a big event. Now everyone go and see what you can do-except for you Anastasia, you're not nearly ready."
Anya couldn't help but agree; her hair was half pinned up, and she was merely in her undergarments, unable to pick out a good enough costume from the dozens laid out in front of her. As her siblings made their way out of the room, her grandmother took her by the hand and led her into her room and sat her down in front of the giant vanity.
Anya trusted her grandmother as much as her mother to help her get ready, so she sat there silently as her grandmother went rifling through the costumes that were on a clothes rack next to the vanity.
"So." Her grandmother began, "has anything interesting happened since Maria's ball?"
"No, nothing really," Anya said casually, trying to appear happy for her grandmother, picking up the tiny music box that the Empress gave her so many years ago. "Anything interesting in Paris?" she replied as she stuck the necklace that she always wore into the key hole and turned it, tinkling music notes soon following as the box opened and the tiny figures inside began to dance.
"Oh, a few squabbles among the bourgeoisie, typical really," the woman said equally as casually, turning some dresses over and then putting them aside.
Anya set the music box down, the notes still tinkling away as she walked over to her grandmother.
"I have absolutely no idea which one to wear…"
Her grandmother nodded silently, but then her eyes lit up as she picked up the last dress.
"This one." She said smiling, holding it up to her granddaughter.
"B-but grandmamma!" Anya stammered, are you sure? It's a bit…revealing."
The old woman shrugged, "The times are changing, and besides, you'll look stunning."
"If you say so," Anya said in a falsely-happy voice as she took the costume and started to put it on.
Her grandmother moved to the vanity, taking the music box into her hands as Anya finished putting the costume on.
"I must say, you looked the most worried about your mother and father, what's wrong my dear?"
"Er-It's nothing, you know me, I can be a bit of a worrier." Anya said as she fumbled with a clasp on her costume.
Her grandmother slowly got up from her seat, setting the music box down as she helped Anya put the rest of her costume on.
"Anastasia, my dear, you are many things, but not a worrier."
'Damn,' Anya thought, wincing at her grandmothers prowess at sniffing out secrets.
She sighed and then turned to the old woman, "Alright, I'll tell you, but please don't tell anyone else."
"Fine," her grandmother said calmly, "but we need to get you ready, the ball's starting soon."
She sat Anya down and began combing her hair, taming it and making small curls at the ends. "So what's going on around here?"
Anya squeezed her eyes shut and spit it out; "Rasputin's back."
She felt the brush stop halfway down her head and looked up into the mirror to see her grandmother's expression, which wasn't a good one.
"Rasputin?" She whispered, "but he-"
"I know, I know," Anya said frantically, "and I have no idea what to do, Dimitri…Dimitri was supposed to help me stop him, but he's gone, Mama banished him. Oh Grandmama, I have no idea what to do." The girl cradeled her head in her hands, looking defeated.
"Dimitri?" her grandmother said, raising an eyebrow, "Is he one of the palace guards?"
"He's a kitchen boy…" Anya mumbled, afraid of what her grandmother would say about being around people with a much lower status than her.
"A kitchen boy…" the old woman mused, "the times really are changing…well, my child, I will help you in any way that is possible."
"What?" Anya said, completely taken off guard, "Grandmama are you sure?"
The old woman nodded with authority, "I want that evil man out of my country as much as you do."
"Alright." Anya breathed, feeling the butterflies in her stomach begin to calm down when she inhaled again, "If you really want to do this, here's the plan…"
"And now introducing, the Grand Duchess, Anastasia!"
The crowd erupted in cheers, and Anya was pretty sure she saw a few jaws unhinge and hit the ground as she made her way down the grand staircase.
She did the usual Grand Duchess smile and wave, making her way down the staircase elegantly, just as she was taught. Her spirits became somewhat brighter at her entrance, and she couldn't help but feel beautiful; The mermaid costume she was wearing was stunning; the skirt and top she was wearing was ocean blue, while the bracelets and see-through veil attached to the costume were a shimmery gold.
Anya made her way down to the rest of the family, her mother looking angry, her father looking positively smug. Her father, who was more-so Rasputin by now, made a quick speech and welcomed the guests, the ball starting as soon as he finished.
Anya mingled with the crowd for a while, pretending to be interested in what people were saying, but her mind was elsewhere, preparing for the task that lay ahead. Fifteen minutes before midnight, her grandmother called for everyone's attention, making a speech about her granddaughters and youth, distracting everyone for awhile. She then prompted her son to do the same, so he awkwardly started to make a speech, fumbling as he ad-libbed the whole thing. Anya was sneaking her way through the crowd the whole time, finally making it to the center of the ballroom where her grandmother and father were. Rasputin was completely distracted, oblivious to the fact that she was right behind him as he thought about his plan that was about to unfold in a few minutes. Right when her hand touched the reliquary hanging around his waist, she heard a sharp cry and suddenly, her mother's hand was on her shoulder, dragging her away from her father.
"What on earth are you doing, sneaking up on your father like that!" the woman yelled, drawing the attention of everyone in the room.
Anya turned desperately to look for her grandmother, but she had vanished. Confused, she frantically scanned the crowd, but couldn't look any further once her father turned around, a glint of malice in his eyes as he realized what she was doing.
"You! Don't you dare touch me, Romanov swine!"
The crowd gasped, confused at the Czar's sudden change of heart. He looked up at the clock which read five minutes until midnight and then pulled the reliquary off of his belt.
"Yessss…" the Czar hissed, his body glowing an eerie green, "My powers are returning!" he cried.
Violently shoving the reliquary in the air, the glass windows of the dance hall shattered, sending shards of glass as well as panic in every direction. The guests were now clamoring for the doors, desperate to find a way out. Only the Czarina stood firm, unaffected by the events occurring, completely under his spell. Green smoke began to unfurl from the Czar's body, piling higher and higher until a new figure appeared; the real Rasputin came out of the smoke, his rotten gray hands now holding the reliquary as the Czar's body collapsed to the ground.
With another loud cry, he hoisted the reliquary into the air again, surrounding the Romanov family, save Anastasia, with the same green light emanating from himself. They were soon flung into the air, suspended several feet above the ballroom floor.
Determined to see this man gone, Anastasia rushed at him, tackling him to the ground, the reliquary flying out of his hands and hitting the ground several feet away. He gasped as he heard the fragile object hit the marble floor and he shoved Anya off of him in a quick movement, scrambling for the reliquary. She tried to reach it first, but she wasn't quick enough. With a wave of his hand, winged demons flew out of the reliquary and held her still, despite the fight she was putting up against them.
"Oh Anastasia, did you really think you could defeat me? The most powerful sorcerer in all of Russia?"
A howling wind appeared from nowhere, slamming all of the ballroom doors shut and trapping everyone inside.
"You Romanov's tried to banish me, huh? Well you and your family will be banished from this earth, and I will rule all of Russia!"
"I'm not afraid of you!" She shouted at him, still trying to escape her captors.
"I can fix that!" Rasputin cried, sending the partygoers into a frantic state as more monsters began pouring out of the reliquary, some right at her to pin her down, others at her family members, and more at the guests, tugging and pulling at their hair and clothes.
"Say your prayer's Anastasia! No one can save you now!" Rasputin cried, raising his hand in the air, poised to strike.
A fist went slamming into Rasputin's jaw, knocking him across the room. The demons dissipated as quickly as they appeared, freeing Anya. She looked around to see who her savior was and saw none other than Dimitri rushing into the room, rolling up his sleeves as he did so. He grabbed the reliquary that was lying on the ground, tossing it towards Anya as he continued charging towards Rasputin.
Rasputin roared as he got to his feet, and with a frantic movement of his hands, sent the demons holding Anya at Dimitri, smashing him into a stone pillar and knocking him out cold.
"Dimitri!" Anya screamed desperately, wanting to come to his rescue, but instead, running towards the reliquary lying on the ground three feet in front of her. Rasputin let out an anguished cry as he realized he was too late; this time she got there first, slamming her heel onto the glass vial right as the clock struck midnight.
Glaring at the evil man that had caused her family so much pain, she shouted over the clock's resounding gong, grinding her heel into the glass,
"This is for Dimitri!"
The vial quickly began to crack and turn an angry red, the monsters in the ballroom evaporating into thin air. The wind became even more violent, whipping her hair into her eyes as she shouted again,
Rasputin desperately scrambled towards her, "Give it back!"
"This is for my family!"
Anya stomped her foot again, chunks of glass breaking off of the vial and her family members were released from their invisible harnesses, dropping onto the ballroom floor.
"I'll tear you to pieces!" Rasputin screamed as he grabbed onto her leg, trying to force her off of the reliquary.
"And this!" she cried over the roaring wind, "This is for you! Dosvidanya!"
At the last chime, the reliquary shattered completely, a green beam of light shooting out of it straight into the sky, the wind circling around it.
"Noooooo!" Rasputin screamed, his body slowly melting away as winged creatures came out of the light beam, grabbing him by his arms as he desperately tried to escape him. A deep fiery chasm appeared in the ballroom floor, a few feet from where Anya stood, and as the reliquary fell in, the monsters dragged Rasputin down into the depths, the crack sealing itself up behind him.
The air now stood still, as well as everyone else in the building; a feeling of calm was beginning to penetrate the atmosphere. Anya was frozen to the spot in shock, she couldn't believe that all of that had just happened in such little time. She was brought back as soon as she heard Dimitri groan a few feet away.
"Dimitri!" She yelled as she ran towards him, knocking him over just as soon as he'd started to get up.
"Ow ow ow ow ow, let go, let go, let go!" he groaned, worming his way out of the bone-crushing embrace Anya had him in.
"Sorry!" she winced as he slowly as up, taking in his surroundings.
The rest of the family was now waking up, her mother and father in a complete daze.
"What…happened?" the Czar asked groggily, rubbing his forehead as he helped his fallen wife up.
"Papa!" Anya cried as she now flung herself at him, "It's really you!"
"Really me? Anastasia, dear, what's going on?" He laughed as she latched herself onto him.
"Oh Papa," Anya began, raising her head to look up at her father, "Rasputin, he came back and he possessed you, and then he started to control Mama, and then, tonight he was supposed to release a curse on our family, and-and-oh Papa, I'm glad you're alright."
Her father stood there dazed for a moment, but then smiled at his ecstatic daughter.
"Did you save us from him, my little shvibzik?"
Anya began to nod, but she stopped and turned towards Dimitri who was trying as hard as he could to blend in with the crowd.
"Not quite," she said, stepping away from her father to grab Dimitri before he disappeared, "he helped too," she added with a fond smile.
Dimitri smiled sheepishly back at her, but did a quick awkward bow before the Czar.
"Are you a soldier, my boy?" Her father asked, clapping his hand on Dimitri's arm.
Looking slightly ashamed, Dimitri averted his eyes and mumbled, "Just a humble kitchen boy, your majesty."
Anya looked at him with sad eyes, but then tightly gripped his hand in hers as if to say that she didn't care who he was or what rank he was, he was still hers.
This small gesture didn't get past her father's watchful eye and he knew love when he saw it.
The Czar turned Dimitri towards him and said, "Any man brave enough to face Rasputin is better than the best soldier in my eyes. Especially a man who would go so far to protect my Anastasia."
Anya and Dimitri looked up, their shocked expressions mirroring each others as they looked up at her father who was beaming at them, her mother walking towards them and linking arms with her husband, smiling as well.
"From now on," the Czar's voice boomed across the ballroom, "my children and their children can marry whomever they choose, just so long as they love each other as much as these two. And let this young man and my daughter forever be remembered as the couple who saved myself, my family, and my country!"
The audience broke out into cheers as Anya and Dimitri's smiles split into even wider grins. With a whooping laugh, he picked her up into the air and spun her around, Anya crashing her lips into his as he set her down. She could hear her sisters scream with delight, but all she cared about was the man that was holding her against him.
It took them a few seconds for their own little world to dissolve back into the real one, the crowd's cheers almost deafening and her siblings attacking her with a barrage of hugs. The girls all giggled and laughed, while Alexi gave Dimitri a once over before firmly shaking his hand and nodding with approval.
"I knew you could do it," a voice said from behind them.
Anya and Dimitri whirled around to see the Dowager Empress standing there with her arms wide open.
"Grandmama!" Anya squealed as she hugged the old woman, "Where did you go? I was terrified when you left!"
"Oh, well, this old woman has a few tricks up her sleeve." she said slyly as she gave Dimitri a knowing look.
Anya shot him a puzzled glance and he just shrugged, "I'm honored to know that you think I could've broken out of prison myself, but even I'm not that good," he said as he winked at the Empress.
The old woman smiled at him and her granddaughter, then handed her off, leaving the two of them alone as she searched for her son and her daughter-in-law.
Dimitri embraced Anya again, stealing a kiss from her lips just before fireworks went off from outside of the palace. A rainbow of colored sparks filled the air with each boom, and the partygoers grew even louder, the sense of celebration increasing ten-fold.
"Wow," Dimitri said, as Anya repositioned herself so that they could both watch the fireworks, "Your dad sure knows how to throw a party."
She let out a hearty laugh, pulling his arms around her even tighter as she felt her heart fill with happiness. She was glad that this was all over; glad that this would never happen again; glad that her family was safe; and most of all, glad that he was hers and always would be. "So," Anya said, slightly swaying as the band began to play once again, the guests twirling all around them, "what now?"
Dimitri shrugged slightly, his arms still clamped around her, "I dunno, but I guess this is the end of that little adventure."
Anya shook her head, looking up and smiling at him, "No, it's just the beginning of a bigger one."
Done, finally. At 2:30 AM...sorry, but there might be some typos!
First of all, I'd like to once again thank all of the dedicated fans who have stuck with me til the very end, your reviews really helped me finish this up, youe positive comments were the best pick-me-ups! I hope you enjoyed this!
I drew a quick picture of the costume that Anya wore for the /gallery/23705077#/d4c9icl
I don't think I'll be writing anything else for a while, probably just gonna stick with /user/goarikgo?feature=mhee
and my art in general, college, it's a killer.
Maybe these will make up for me not writing anymore?
That's all for now guys, but thank you again for all of your love, you guys are the best!
Lots of love,
*ps-I updated chapter 7, added something at the end* 10/9/11