The sight was breathtaking. The lights. The dancing. The ballroom itself was a stunning piece of art. The air was filled with the lively melody from the orchestra. Everything seemed perfect. But as Rachel - or rather Raven- stood behind the curtain, watching the scene before her, she couldn't help but feel out of place.
"He's not there." Rachel turned to see the Duchess beside her, watching the crowd as well.
"Who do you think I'm looking for?"
"A certain young man who found a music box." There was no question in the Duchess's voice, only certainty. This made Rachel slightly irritated. She faced the crowd again.
"He's probably off spending his money as fast as he can." Azar couldn't help but take in the blankness of her granddaughter's face, or the thinly veiled hurt under her monotone. She gestured to the crowd.
"You were born into this world, Raven. All these glittering jewels and riches. But they mean very little if you are not happy. I've started to wonder if this is what you really want, if this will make you happy." Rachel turned from the curtain, facing away from her grandmother.
"What do you mean? I found you. That's all I've ever wanted." Azar shook her head at the Princess's stubbornness.
"You'll always have me Raven. I love you and nothing can ever change that. But if you deny what's in your heart…you will never live it down." She sighed and Rachel turned to face the older woman, her face blank but her eyes showing so much more than she realized. She put a gentle and frail hand under Rachel's chin. "He didn't take the money. None of them did." Rachel's blue eyes widened slightly, guilt started to bubble in her stomach.
"What?" Azar smiled, knowing that her job was done. She leaned forward and planted a kiss on Rachel's forehead.
"Whatever you choose, we' ll always have each other." And with that she departed through the velvet barrier. Rachel started to follow but stopped. Was this really what she wanted? A bark from Silkie interrupted her thoughts. She turned just in time to see the dog run out the double doors.
What's gotten into him? Rachel followed the pooch onto the balcony and down the steps that led to the hedge maze behind the palace.
*** Logan sat on the bench at the train station, watching as people went to and from the ticket booth. "What do you want? Aren't you supposed to be helping the Duchess?"
"Well, I thought I'd come and try to talk some sense into ya," came Tanya's smooth as honey voice. "I'm the only one who hasn't tried yet." She took a seat beside the blonde and leaned against the backboard.
"You're not the only one."
"You really gonna leave her?"
"What do you expect me to do? She's the princess, I'm…I'm a con and a thief. She's deserves a prince or something." Tanya crossed her arms and shook her head.
"You liked her before she was the princess. And I know she liked you. So why not give it a chance darlin?"
"But she wont even talk to me. And she looks at me with those eyes…they're so full of hurt."
"Then apologize up and down to high heaven if you have to. But don't you dare just throw in the towel before you even try." Tanya stood and faced Logan with a look a mother might give her child. "Look Hon, if you want to run back to Jump, I wont stop ya. But you'll always regret not going back and being there for her." And with that she disappeared into the crowd.
*** "When I get my hands on that dog, I'm going to kill him," Rachel muttered. She heard another bark and walked through another passageway in the hedge. Fog coated the area but she could still see Silkie sitting on the ground, looking around with evident confusion.
"There you are mutt." The dog looked over at Rachel but then went back to scanning the area. Rachel stopped. Something was terribly wrong.
"Raven…"The girl and the dog froze.
"Raven…" They looked around. Nothing was there. Suddenly the vines started to move, causing Rachel and Silkie to do the smart thing and run toward the exit. The vines grabbed at them as they went. Once out they waited for something to come running after them but nothing did. Rachel sighed in relief and turned to the dog who was looking straight ahead, across the bridge.
"Raven…"Silkie growled at the voice. Rachel looked and saw a figure in the shadows of the fog. He was covered in black and silver robes which were a stark contrast to his snow white hair and goatee. A patch covered his right eye but his left was an ice blue that sent a chill down Rachel's spine. His lips were turned into a coy smile of a predator about to pounce on its prey.
"Raven. The years have turned you into a beautiful gem. I wish I could say the same for myself." Rachel stared.
"I…know you," she whispered. The man's smile turned into a smirk.
"Last seen at a party like this if I remember correctly."
"You put a curse on us."
"Followed by a night on thin ice." His tone showed massive displeasure at the memory. "Remember?" He raised his reliquary and the whole area was bathed in an orange power that shook the bridge and cracked the ice far below. Rachel's eyes lit up in recognition before they narrowed into a deadly glare.
"Slade," she hissed.
"Ah. So you do remember me. Im so flattered." He raised the trinket again and this time fiery demons sprouted from it and attacked the Princess.
"Get off!" Rachel shouted as she tried to swat at the creatures. They dissipated, leaving Rachel's dress with rips and tears and her hair in a disheveled mess. She returned her glare to Slade. "Im not afraid of you!"
"That, my dear, can be easily fixed." The artifact once again glowed a fiery color and the stone beneath Rachel's feet began to give way till a huge slab was hanging by only a few metal rods and cables. Rachel clung to the protruding stones as she dangled above the river; falling debris caused the ice to splinter.
Slade stood on the bridge and watched as the Princess tried to pull herself up. Slade's smile turned cruel. "No one can save you now, child."
"Think again, dude!" Slade turned just as a punch hit him square in the jaw. He stumbled back and tripped over some debris. Logan slid down the slab and grabbed Rachel by her arms in an attempt to haul her up. Slade stood and saw the two.
"How sweet. But you're not the only one with backup." Logan was suddenly knocked away by a stone pillar to his chest. Logan skid across the bridge and stopped on the opposite side.
"Not so tough now, huh hero boy." Rachel and Logan looked up to see a girl, floating on a rock. She had blonde hair and glowing yellow eyes. Logan stood and started to walk toward Rachel only to be pushed back by another pillar.
"Logan!" Rachel tried to pull herself up but couldn't. Slade walked, practically strolled, over to where she clung desperately to the ledge. He kneeled down and lifted her by her hair.
"Id say that I'm sad to see you go, but I try not to make a habit out of lying." Rachel said nothing. "Goodbye, you're Highness." He let go and Rachel quickly grabbed onto a metal rod sticking out of the bridge. Slade let out a surprised sound and looked down to see Silkie had bitten his leg. He pointed the reliquary at the pooch and a fiery demon started to wrestle with the dog. A splash pulled Slade's attention back to where Rachel was…only she wasn't there.
"Finally." Slade smiled a satisfied smile. "The last of the Roth's is dead."
"No! Rachel!" Logan zoomed by the sorcerer and went to dive but Tara grabbed him by his neck.
"Oops. To slow," she taunted before she sent him flying into a giant slab of the bridge. He hit it with a thud before he hit the ground. Slade never turned his attention from the water.
"Long live the Roths."
"I couldn't have said it better myself." Slade was suddenly tackled to the ground as Rachel tried to grab the relic. He pushed the petite girl off an she tumbled across the ground. Slade stood, a look of severe irritation on his face.
"You just wont die, will you?"
"There's probably a really good reason for that," she replied as she pushed herself up.
"Be that as it may, I've had enough!" He raised the relic but Silkie jumped and grabbed it before he could use it. Apparently his sparring partner had evaporated. The relic hit the ground with a clink and rolled until it stopped under Rachel's feet. Fractures appeared on the surface as she put pressure on it.
Tara's smirk vanished as a sudden pain shot through her body. The rock she was floating on started to crumble till it burst apart, managing to hit Logan in the head with one of the bigger chunks in the process. Tara fell to the ground and landed with a loud thud as a pain racked through her body. Rachel looked over at Logan and stomped harder on the relic.
"This is for Logan." Slade tried to grab the trinket but Rachel rolled it out of his reach. She stomped harder again. Tara actually started to scream as miniature cracks started to appear on her creamy smooth skin and her eyes lost their yellow glow.
"This is for my family." Slade made another grab for it.
"I'll tear you to pieces you little brat!" Slade yelled, actually fearing for his life.
"Then this, this should be for you!" Rachel replied. "Goodbye and good riddance." She stomped one more time and the reliquary shattered under the pressure, a pulse pushing Rachel and Slade apart. A fiery orange beam centered itself around the sorcerer.
The fractures on Tara's skin started to widen and a orange and yellow light shone through. She soon was engulfed in a blinding light before she practically disintegrated into thin air.
A beam hit Slade and it looked as if he was being torn apart in different direction till his skin left and bones collapsed out of his robes. They glowed orange and jerked around before stopping and blowing away with the wind. (Crappy but hey)
Rachel sighed tiredly before she quickly rushed over to where Logan lay still completely motionless. Silkie sniffed the boy before letting out a small whine. Rachel placed her hand on Logan's cheek.
"Don't you dare do this to me now Logan," she said, trying to sound threatening. Logan didn't move. Rachel ran her hand through her hair. Silkie let out a sad and haunted howl. "Come on, Logan. If this is one of your jokes then your sense of humor is even more messed up than I thought." Rachel closed her eyes. "I forgive you…just please…don't leave me."
"I could never leave you, Rae." Rachel's eyes opened to see Logan staring at her with tired eyes. He moved to sit up when he noticed Rachel looking at him with an angry expression. "Rae?" Rachel suddenly grabbed him and hugged him tightly.
"Just shut up," she said, her voice cracking a little. Logan winced and gently pushed Rachel away then held his ribs. He noticed the look on Rachel's face.
"What can I say? All men are babies." Rachel smirked as he pushed himself up onto his knees.
"Very true. But I thought you were going back to Jump."
"Well, I was."
"And you didn't take the money?"
Logan shook his head. "I couldn't." Rachel raised a brow.
"Why?" Logan rubbed the back of his neck nervously.
"Well…I…uh…"he stuttered. Rachel continued to smirk and turned his face towards her. Logan's eyes immediately found her's. In that moment all his nervousness seemed to melt away. "I couldn't do something like that to you Rae. You deserve so much better." Rachel searched his face. Then she shook her head.
"There is no better." Logan smiled and started to lean forward when Silkie barked, catching both their attentions. He was holding the crown between his teeth. Logan took it from the dog and handed it over to Rachel.
"There, um, waiting for you." Rachel took the crown and looked at Logan and then back at the crown. She shook her head.
*** Azar placed the crown on the cushioned seat and picked up the note that sat next to it. She smiled and handed it over to Tanya who read it with Kory hovered over her shoulder.
"Well, what do ya know?" she said. Kory clapped enthusiastically.
"They have eloped! This is a perfectly joyous ending!"
"No." Both girls turned their attention to the older woman. "it's a perfect beginning."
*** "May I have this dance, Miss Roth?" Rachel smiled as Logan held out his hand for her to take it.
"I'd be honored, Mr. Marks," she replied playing along and taking his hand. They twirled around on the deck of the ferry as the lights of Azerath shining brightly behind them. Silkie watched with a content look on his face. Logan spun Rachel out and then twirled her back into his chest and held her close with his hands wrapped around her waist. He placed his chin on her shoulder.
"I love you Rae," he whispered into her ear. Rachel turned her face toward him and smiled over at him. She placed a hand against the back of his head and pressed her lips against his. She then pulled away, smile still in place. She looked straight into his eyes and saw all the adoration and pure love in his emerald pools. She pecked his lips again.
"I love you too."
And to think, this all started with a music box.
Well that's it folks. Wow….never thought I'd be done. Sad its over. Oh well….other projects await.