When the Grimhold opened Veronica felt the year 2000 enter her mind. However, she didn't have time to panic, didn't have time to realize that another forty-one years in addition ot all those other centuries had passed where Balthazar had been forced to conduct his search alone. All she knew was that Maxim Horvath was in the world again, something that Balthazar would never allow.
Then the opening was gone and she was left with the full force of her mounting fear. Any second she expected to see Horvath shoved back into the Grimhold, but time had a different meaning inside that prison. She walked around the cold gray landscape, shivering and waiting to see evidence of her love's triumph.
The thought that perhaps Balthazar had killed him did enter her mind. Of course, she doubted he was capable of that. At one point Balthazar and Horvath had been brothers. Horvath had since been corrupted and turned cruel, but she knew that Balthazar hadn't gone that way. If it had been by accident though or for extreme self-defense…
Just when she had reconciled herself to the thought that that was what had happened she felt the Grimhold open again. It was 2010, and Sun-Lok was being let out. She nearly had a heart attack. Was he growing weaker out there from the countless centuries spent fighting? Or, and this thought nearly brought her to her knees, had Horvath escaped and killed him?
No, he was not weak, he was stronger than that. Veronica had to believe that he was out there, that he was still fighting and that the odds were just stacking up against him. Perhaps this was it, the last days. Perhaps he was training the Prime Merlinian at that moment and had gotten into trouble that was less avoidable with another person. Her mind raced for an answer.
Soon afterwards she felt the release of Abigail Williams. Veronica barely had time to process this before she was flooded with sharp, strange light. There was a high-pitched laughter behind her, and then after that it was like falling headfirst into steel daggers. Everything hurt, even her hair.
Then she was looking out through a pair of eyes over a park. However, she was looking at them through something else, almost like a film had been thrown over her. There was a detached feeling to her as she took in her surroundings. Horvath stood looking earnestly at her and she heard herself say;
"It's me Horvath, Morgana."
Horvath looked somewhat crestfallen, but it was nothing to what Veronica was feeling. Veronica was completely, totally, and utterly panicked. Morgana had control now; this complete fool had let her out. Furiously she tried to overthrow her captor, but Morgana brushed her aside like she was nothing.
"No need to look so pathetic," she sneered at Horvath.
Get out, get out! Veronica cried, shoving and tearing wildly inside of herself.
Sorry my dear, but I've got a world to destroy, Morgana laughed back, And honestly, this body's better than being an astral projection. It's in rather good condition too. Perhaps I should just keep it.
Veronica screamed in protest. It felt like she was insubstantial, just an extra passenger in her own body. She had no power anymore, no flesh, no magic. There was nothing that she could do to combat Morgana's take over. There was nothing she could do to prevent the Rising that was coming now, the rising that was the focal point to Morgana's attention. She could see nothing now except Latin script in her mind, nothing but the pentagram that was forming over this strange city.
Then she felt an opportunity. For whatever reason; the Rising was failing. Someone somewhere was doing something and she didn't feel like questioning it. The magic was backfiring and Veronica was going to have a chance to get her body back. She tensed just as the spell collapsed on herself.
Almost immediately she found herself in a struggle with the now somewhat weakened Morgana. It was painful, even more so than when she had first been let out of the Grimhold. They had both waited a long time to reenter the world for their own reasons, and both wanted desperately to be in it. However, Veronica had more to lose. Her determination gave her an edge so that the two were evenly matched, pushing and clawing at each other for control.
Then, as suddenly as their fight had started, it ended. Veronica felt herself rushing back into her flesh. It was an odd feeling after so many years away from it. There were all the different sensations that came with skin, namely an intense cold that probably carried over from the Grimhold. It took a supreme effort even to open her eyes again, an unfamiliar movement after so many years.
When she saw who it was who was holding her though, she felt a smile tug on her lips. The smile was gone before it started though. Balthazar was in pain, clutching his stomach and trying to keep himself from collapsing. Immediately she knew what had happened. In a blind panic she pushed herself up and cried;
"Balthazar, what have you done?"
He just looked at her. There was a fierce glint of love there, a look that she had grown accustomed to. Now though it was much more desperate.
"The same thing you did for me."
She reached out to touch his face, choking on the words that she had done that for him so that he wouldn't have to sacrifice himself. She was still fighting for words as a boy came running up. He looked about twenty and in the uncomfortable elation halfway between hysteria and adrenaline.
Veronica checked his hand for a ring; nothing. He wasn't a sorcerer then? It shocked her. It was unlike Balthazar to bring a defenseless person into a battle. When he asked the boy to put him in the Grimhold though; she didn't care that he was defenseless. His steadfast refusal made her want to hug him and she made sure that Balthazar knew her opinion as well with a firm;
"And nor will I."
His head tilted up and she felt her blood run cold when a venomous voice drawled;
The next few minutes were a blur as Morgana left Balthazar. She attacked them and she felt Balthazar throw his body over hers. Then the fire moved around them and Veronica wagered a peek. The boy was standing in front of them, pushing away the fire. He looked as surprised as she was. It appeared that Balthazar hadn't brought anyone defenseless into the battle.
"No way," he said.
"It is you," Balthazar said, pride and satisfaction in his voice.
Veronica tilted her head next to her love's in awe. He'd found him, had done the impossible.
"The Prime Merlinian," hissed Morgana.
Her tactics changed and soon Veronica found herself fighting next to Balthazar like she had in the old days. However, just in the old days Morgana was more powerful than them. Even if Veronica had been completely prepared to do battle she still would've struggled. Now though, her shields were as effective against Morgana's plasma bolts as a piece of paper.
One hit her in the stomach and she staggered weakly. The next thing she knew she was being pushed to the side. She hit the ground and rolled for a minute, struggling to get up. The boy was standing in the fountain, on his feet now and starting to fulfill his destiny. Power was pouring off of him now, even if Morgana couldn't see it. He would succeed. Without another thought to the Prime Merlinian she started looking around for her love.
She found him a few feet away at the foot of the stairs. Veronica staggered to his side and shook him lightly. When he didn't respond she quickly took his pulse. There was nothing. With a horrible feeling mounting in her she checked his pulse again, listened for a heartbeat, felt for some signs of breathing. Nothing.
"Balthazar," she whispered softly, "Please…just…please…"
After all this time, after all this waiting, he was gone. All of those centuries and she had barely even touched him, said so little to him when she had so much to say. Tentatively she touched his face, murmuring his name, quieter each time until her words faded away. The cold was consuming her now and she had no strength to care much.
An icier feeling stabbed the sides of her cheeks. Veronica touched one of them and found that her fingers were wet. She took a deep breath and let the hand that wasn't stroking Balthazar's rapidly cooling face fall limply by her side. The last time she had cried she'd been nine, mourning the death of her family. She hadn't cried even when Merlin had died.
She could've laughed at the irony if she didn't feel so broken. All those years without crying and now she couldn't stop. Vaguely her mind registered footsteps running up to her. Veronica looked numbly up. The Prime Merlinian was there, slightly flushed from his victory. He was looking concerned though, and had obviously asked her something. All she could manage were the hollow words, strange;
"He's gone…he completed his quest."
She saw the depression on the boy's face, the desolation. Veronica sympathized. However, she couldn't bring herself to say anything else though and turned back to Balthazar's face. There was no strength in her to help with the sorrow of another. There was no strength left for anything, weak as that sounded.
One of her tears splashed on his face. There had been loss before, but not like this. It felt somewhat like when her family had gone, like there was no world anymore. Unlike then though, she wasn't a child. She didn't have that knowledge that there was a future out there somewhere. Could she even go on now? She doubted it. What was there left in her life now, now that her heart had been ripped out? It wasn't life, it was just existence.
"No. No, that's not good enough."
Turning around she saw the Prime Merlinian get up and stride down the stairs. He oozed determination as he said;
"If Morgana stopped his heart, maybe I can start it again."
Knowing that he was about to try something Veronica reluctantly got out of his way. She watched him summon up plasma bolts and scream phrases that she didn't understand. She understood what he was feeling. If she had the power than she would try anything, anything at all to try and bring him back. Finally though, even he had to admit defeat. He slumped back and Veronica looked silently to the ground.
"I had a dream," Balthazar mumbled.
Both of them looked up. Veronica clasped her hands in front of her face in a wordless prayer of thanks to the powers that be.
"You were insulting me," he said reproachfully, "repeatedly."
"Who, me?" asked the Prime Merlinian, shrugging.
"No, makes sense actually," he said, allowing the boy to help him up.
They exchanged a few more words and the Prime Merlinian shoved something into his hands. She couldn't find enough feeling in her feet to propel herself forward for those minutes until the Prime Merlinian ran off to answer someone who was calling his name. Veronica didn't pay much attention though. She only had eyes for the man who was making his way towards her.
Without a word he gently took her face in his hands and kissed her. She returned it with closed eyes, wanting him to understand the love that she still felt for him. Balthazar seemed to have the same aim in mind, staying close to her even after their lips no longer touched. When he pulled back completely she looked down at what was in his hands.
Veronica saw the necklace and recognized it instantly. For a moment she stared at it, letting the sight of it fill her soul as well as its implications. Then she smiled and pushed her hair away in quiet acceptance of the betrothal gift. He clasped it onto her neck quietly before leaning in for another kiss, this one much more passionate. She laid a kiss on his jaw before moving her head so that it was right next to his ear.
"You never needed to give me anything," she murmured, "Never even needed to ask."
"I wanted to do it properly."
"Well," she smiled, "You have."
"I always hoped that…in the end…" he said vaguely, "But at least…at least I was able to stay close to you."
She knew the truth of his words. He wasn't talking about a physical closeness, such a thing had been impossible. It was an emotional one, she could tell by the look in his eyes. Veronica smiled. Morgana, there had been no one else. It wasn't as though she had ever had a doubt but it still touched her that he'd carried that necklace with him for so long. Suddenly she shivered, the cold she had been feeling for centuries catching up with her.
"Cold?" he asked.
She nodded a little, reluctant to move away from him. He took off his coat and wrapped it around her shoulders. Veronica was too weak to protest and accepted it gratefully. The smell of old leather, fire, and some sort of oily smell that she couldn't identify that came from it. If she concentrated she could just pick up plasma and smoke.
Still, he needed help as well. For support she wrapped her arms around his waist. Balthazar leaned into the contact gratefully and rested on arm on her shoulders. Just as she tucked her head into the crook of his neck there was a sudden noise behind them. Veronica turned her head, as did Balthazar. A squirrel darted across the grass. Balthazar chuckled again, a warm, wonderful sound.
"Squirrels," he said, "That's just about as dangerous as it gets right now."
The last of the dark dust that had once been Morgana blew away. It blew slowly in the air, twisting slowly. The dust flew across counties, states, and the ocean. Eventually it sunk into the ground outside of Glastonbury. It wormed its way down until it found a forgotten catacomb filled with bones.
Finally the dust found what it was looking for in a sealed stone coffin, grand and large in its design. Sinking underneath the stone lid, there was a small burst of green-black light. For a moment, the silence and stillness of the dead reigned once more. Inside the stone coffin though, a hand twitched slowly. After all, a millennia is a long time to acquire rigor mortis.