Well here it is! The Ending end! Wohoo! It's done I tell ya!
"Glad you could come."
"I wouldn't miss this," was the rather matter-of-factly reply, but there was a warmth in the voice, albeit hard to recognize, "where's Kevin?"
"He's on his way," Lise smiled, glancing around at all the birds landing just outside the castle.
The winds weren't less tricky, but they had all shown up guided by a certain white dragon. One or two spirits had most certainly helped.
"You're worried about something," the main guest stated.
Lise rubbed her neck. She had stopped trying to fight the moves she got from Kevin. He had begun to rub his forehead like she did now and then, as well.
"We have one problem," she admitted.
"And that is?"
"We have this tradition called the Challenge of the Queen," Lise said, "I can't talk Kevin into doing it."
"Prove he can beat me in battle…"
Lise almost bit her tongue off when she realized what she was saying to whom.
"Is that so?" Beast King calmly said.
"… And if it takes more than five seconds and one single bruise we'll recap your training! From scratch!"
"That's better," Beast King said in a calmer voice and finally put Kevin down again.
He had at least been kind enough to wait until Lise wasn't present before he had a talk with his son about the tradition. Elliot, Hawk and Martin were rather wide-eyed however.
"I… guess I better inform the queen that you will do it then…" the latter mumbled and left the room to find Lise.
She had been called by Eliza to make a final check on the ceremonial wedding armor the warrior women used. Martin himself found that strange since they should have fixed that already, it was only half an hour until the ceremonies should start… what kind of time was that to try out the clothes?
Kevin heavily sat down on a chair, absentmindedly stroking Karl's fur as the pup placed his head in his friend's lap.
"So you fight, then you go change into more proper clothes for the occasion as I got it?" Hawk said, trying to make conversation.
"Yeah," Elliot said, giving Beast King another nervous glance, "that's it. Normally they have a training fight to test the suitor before the wedding day too, but… well yeah."
The bridegroom didn't even seem to listen. He wore his normal clothes, or rather a new set of them he had gotten when coming to Rolante.
They were all caught in the final minutes of just waiting for something big to start, and those are hard to make use of.
Not too far away Martin opened the door to the royal chamber.
"Miss, I just needed to tell… you…"
His voice trailed off and he blinked. Lise smiled nervously.
"Oops," Eliza softly stated.
"Isn't it wonderful?" Jessica warmly asked.
Martin blinked. And blinked. Finally he found his voice again.
"It's fantastic," he softly said, earning the three women's smiles, "well miss, I just came to tell you that Kevin's father … hrm… talked him into going through with the Challenge after all."
"I'll have to ask Kevin to forgive me," she mumbled, "I shouldn't have told Beast King…"
"Oh shut it," Eliza said, "it's needed and you know it. People are already shocked about that you marry a beastman and even more over that the whole Beast Kingdom is visiting. The tradition should calm them a little, it shows that our new allies are agreeing to our rules."
"I guess you're right…"
Lise glanced at herself in the mirror that had been brought into her room just for this occasion. Normally mirrors were banned from bedrooms in Rolante due to another old tradition.
The queen pushed an imagined strand of hair from her face and gulped. The wedding nerves were really setting in…
"Well, now that we knows it fits perfectly, better get it off and into your armor," Eliza helpfully instructed as she saw her leader lost in thought.
"I will see you later then," Martin warmly smiled and closed the door as he left.
Lise had just gotten into her everyday armor when there was another knock on the door and a small face peeked in, encircled by dark golden locks. And a pink hat with bells.
"Hi Carlie," Lise said with a gentle smile.
She got a wide, happy grin in return and the kid sneaked in. It was then revealed that she carried a bouquet of big, clock formed flowers. They seemed to glow faintly, almost as if they were made by moonlight.
"Carlie got them from fairy grandfather!" she happily said and offered the gift to Lise.
She carefully accepted the flowers; they seemed so delicate that she was afraid they'd break at the touch.
They were glowing.
"They shine more at night!" the child happily said, "nice, huh?"
Lise looked down at the cute little girl.
"They're wonderful," she warmly said, "thanks Carlie. And tell your grandfather so, too."
"Carlie will do that, yup-yup!"
And with that she hurried off again. Jessica carefully touched the petals.
"These are beautiful…" the desert princess mumbled.
"They really are," Eliza agreed, coming over with a vase.
Where had she gotten that from anyway…?
Lise just tried to get her nerves back in order.
"Speaking of flowers, how is the desert?" she asked Jessica.
Hawk's love smiled with pride.
"We're doing better than we could have hoped for," she said, "the planting of new trees is coming along great. Getting ice blocks for water from Altena is actually working."
"Well, they've got a few blocks to spare…"
Jessica tilted her head, smiling.
"You'll do fine out there," she said, understanding.
"I hope so…" Lise said with a nervous smile.
A few minutes later she hurried to the throne room through a side door, flanked by eight amazons in ornamented armor. Those armors were for special occasions, though a tad bit simpler than the one meant for wedding…
Lise pushed the thoughts aside as the nine women came into the throne room. She went over to the throne and sat down, trying to focus on her breathing to calm down. She was way too nervous.
Elliot came through the other side door and gave his sister a big smile as he placed himself on the left side of the throne. He wore his typical Rolante green clothes, but these had white and golden embroideries.
"Ready?" Eliza gently asked, waiting for her queen to nod before she hurried down to the gates together with Merci.
Lise had wanted Valeya - the amazon who had fought together with the queen and Hawk as they retook Rolante – to be among the amazons standing "guard" behind and beside her during the ceremony, but that warrior still hadn't fully recovered from her wounds from the battle against Bill and Ben, sadly.
The gates opened and guests began to stream in, placing themselves so that the long carpet up to the throne was left untouched. Most of the humans tried to keep a distance to the male beastmen. There were women from the same people there too, but Lise had with a bit of surprise noted that female beasts didn't have any fur and looked just like human women. Well, they were definitely a bit more muscled, but otherwise you couldn't really see any difference.
Lise recognized a few of her suitors in the crowd, they looked rather sour all of them. Oh yes, they had kept coming. Even more so when the wedding had been announced.
There were Duran and king Richard… Angela and her mother…
'This is simply unbelievable…' Lise reflected over the guests.
Some people from Navarre were also there, but it was obvious that they didn't feel quite comfortable being in the castle they had hurt so badly. Only Hawk, Jessica, the Kahn and Nikita seemed fully relaxed.
Carlie was there somewhere… probably over there with the Priest of Light, who stood beside a young Light priest with almost white hair.
The whole world came to Rolante, after the many battles the humans had suffered. Lise silently prayed no fighting would occur with all the fights still fresh in people's memory.
Finally the stream of guests ceased and the gates were closed. Merci and Eliza stayed put down there, however. For a few moments there was a murmur from the crowd due to whispered conversations, but they all ceased as Lise stood.
"I thank you all for coming," she said, surprising herself with her warm, steady voice, "it is truly amazing that you all, people from all over the world, has come here today. Allow me to propose a meeting between all leaders here tomorrow."
An agreeing mumble was heard. Lise caught Beast King's eyes and she thought that she saw him smile a little, even. She widened her own smile a bit and then let her gaze sweep over the crowd again.
"As for today, this marks not only a new peaceful era for Rolante, but also one for the Beast Kingdom. I am aware of some people's bitterness against the beasts, but know now that Rolante will from this day on be allied with the Moonlight forest and the amazons will support the inhabitants of Luna's land if they should need our aid in any way."
She caught Beast King's eye again, almost expecting to see an amused glistening at the idea that the beastmen would need help of humans. But the smile was more definite this time instead.
He was obviously in a mood for surprising.
"Following our tradition with the Challenge of the Queen," Lise continued and held back a wish to wince as she thought of Kevin's reluctance again, "prince Kevin of the Beast Kingdom will have to challenge me in battle to prove his worth before he can become king of Rolante."
At this, suppressed laughter could be heard from the beastman population of the room. Despite her worry for her fiancé Lise could hardly stop herself from smirking at what she was saying.
Eliza and Merci once again opened the gate and flanked Kevin as he silently entered and continued up the carpet. For once he was walking straight, even if it doubtlessly took quite a bit of will and strain not to crouch like his spine was born to do.
He looked calmer than Lise had feared. She walked down the short stair to the floor, into the open area between the aisle and the throne's platform.
Kevin met Lise's eyes as she carefully smiled and moved into a defensive stance. The look on her face made him feel a little better, though he felt as if he was going to pieces of anxiousness.
The two amazons that had followed him moved away.
"Begin!" Eliza announced.
Fine, let's get this over with.
One, two, three… and wham.
Lise's eyes twinkled with held back laughter as she found herself on the floor with Kevin's elbow against her chest and his other hand under her head.
"And prince Kevin is victorious," Eliza mildly commented.
It took a moment for most guests to digest what had happened. Then the cheering started.
"Four seconds," Beast King commented though nobody listened to him, "he was careful."
"Wasn't so bad, was it?" Lise whispered.
"I guess…" Kevin mumbled back, "fine?"
"Not a scratch," she warmly said in a low voice, caressing his cheek.
Then he smiled and stood, helping her get up in the process.
A bluish light surrounded the two and as it faded Lise found Kevin's clothes being completely white with golden lining and with silver embroideries of the moon and trees. He didn't seem surprised at all, glancing upwards as whispers filled the room again. Lise followed his gaze. Jinn smiled down at her, surrounded by the seven other spirits who mostly did just the same. Except for a dark bat creature holding an eerie eye in its claws, obviously Shade. But he lacked a mouth and the eye seemed like it was constantly looking indifferent.
Luna's wink explained who was guilty of Kevin's change of clothes.
The queen of Rolante warmly smiled at the spirits for a moment, before she looked back at her bridegroom.
"I'll get to change manually, it seems," she said in a low voice before letting go of him.
Eliza took over again, together with Merci bringing Lise down the aisle.
Kevin was saved from standing alone and awkward by the same that had redressed him.
"And you have our blessings," Luna softly said, floating down to his eyelevel.
"Thanks," Kevin smiled.
"But you forgot something, Luna," Beast King's voice said, surprisingly gentle.
Kevin turned to his father, who swept his arms around in a storm of crimson. Thick, but not heavy cloth weighed down on the young half blood's shoulders, and with a low clicking sound the golden buckle on the chain keeping the cloth in place closed. The cloak looked very much like the one Beast King wore.
"I thought you could use something in our colors and not only this green," the older beastman said.
"Thank you, father," Kevin replied, the edges of his lips twitching.
The beastman's face hardly changed, but not even he could hide the way he smelled.
Meanwhile three women rushed towards the royal chamber, the long way.
The spirits surely had meant well, but Lise couldn't help but feel a bit stressed about keeping Kevin waiting for her. Had he at least had his own redressing to tend to he wouldn't have to…
But Luna had gotten him into the clothes he should have gotten anyway. Though she had added the embroideries.
Eliza, Merci and Lise dove into the latter's room, there trying to catch their breath.
"I think he'll be alright for a while," the amazon captain stated as she went over to the waiting piece of clothing where it hung on a coat hanger from the edge of the wardrobe.
The queen fumbled with the laces of her armor, after what felt like an eternity only wearing a silk version of her tunic. It had spared time to wear that all the while. Merci dumped the armor in the wardrobe and Eliza held up the new clothes for her leader. Without any real thought in her head she just held her hair aside while her captain worked the buttons on her back.
"Your tiara," Merci helpfully said.
Almost zombie alike Lise nodded and pulled the green accessory off her head.
"Get me the flowers, thanks," Eliza gently said, and the other amazon nodded.
But as soon as the captain reached out for the small, white mountain roses Merci offered her they glistened and swept into Lise's hair, neatly placing themselves in a perfect row across the top of her head.
The faint surprise was soon quelled.
"Didn't think we'd left you hanging, did you?" Jinn said with a wink, floating in the middle of the room.
"Thanks for the help," Lise managed to mumble, absentmindedly and nervously glancing at herself in the mirror again.
She bit her lower lip.
"The final piece," Merci gently said, holding up what seemed to be two pieces of frozen mist, "hold still."
"What are they made of?" Lise asked, halfway back in the real world again.
"Secret of the seamstress," Eliza shrugged, the tip of her tongue sticking out as she tried to hold the thin, stretched cloth in place while Merci nimbly secured the ribbons around Lise's shoulders.
"Finished," the amazon proudly stated and moved back to get the national treasure that was leaning against the wall.
It had been kept in Rolante for generations, through wonder the ninja's hadn't found it… through wonder or the hidden door in the throne room behind which it was stored.
Lise accepted the crystal pole with a weak smile. She was getting fastened in reality again, quickly. The whirlwind in her mind was quite unstructured.
"You've forgotten something," Wisp's familiar voice softly said.
He floated into existence beside the smiling Jinn.
"I can't think of anything…" Eliza protested, frowning as she tried to think of whatever the spirit meant.
"It's not your fault," Wisp said, smiling.
He turned to the wardrobe, and from the drawer inside a golden chain floated, stopping in the air before Lise.
"I can't wear that," she said and shook her head, "it's not…"
"It's yours," Wisp kindly but resolutely said.
The clip on the Briesingamen opened and the necklace snaked itself around the queen's neck.
"Now you're done," Wisp smiled.
He and Jinn disappeared again, sharing a soft expression.
Lise took in a deep breath to calm down. She exchanged glances with her two friends, and they nodded encouragement.
The queen smiled.
The throne room turned completely silent as the gates suddenly cracked open. The few people that had been talking to Kevin, including Hawk, Duran, Angela and Carlie, hurriedly retook their places. Karl also returned to sitting silently beside Beast King.
Kevin tried not to bit his tongue. He didn't mind everybody watching him anymore, but still felt nervous.
'It's just Lise!' he tried to tell himself, to no avail.
Waiting hadn't been pleasant, despite his friends and father's attempts to keep him company. But now it would soon be over, finally.
Merci and Eliza pushed the gate open with ease, then positioned themselves with their backs against the two pieces of the double doors. Soft thumps were heard from all over the throne room as every amazon slammed their right fist into their armored chest to greet their queen and general.
Again the watching spirits added to the effect.
Jinn and Luna left their place above the throne and swept down the hall. Stopping above the open, waiting portal they spread their arms and wings, sending a waterfall of softly blue-green and silvery light over the entrance. The light spread over the floor like liquid, flowing the room with over-worldly colors. Some guests tried to move aside in surprise, but soon realized that the only thing that the sea gave them was a vague, pleasant warmth.
The waterfall split as Lise stepped through it, careful not to trample on her skirt.
The guests blinked. The amazons blinked. Elliot blinked. Kevin blinked. The spirits softly smiled.
In her hands a crystal spear rested. Golden threads snaked around it until they flowed into the almost glowing point. But the rest of her wasn't anything amazon alike.
That wasn't the ceremonial armor.
The Briesingamen's tiny jewels sparkled against the warmly sun burnt skin and the silken, cream colored cloth. The dress was rather simple, slick against Lise's body and upper arms, but by her elbows and waist it flowed out like water. But the fact that it was free of flounces didn't make it less beautiful on her, didn't make her less stunning. Small, white roses almost formed an aureole in her golden hair. That effect was added by the transparent wings on her back, seemingly made of sun rays.
Kevin hardly dared to take her hand as she moved up to him and took the spear in her left hand, reaching out with the other. He was almost afraid she'd flutter away like a dream if he disturbed her appearance. But she stood firm at his touch, and he carefully put his other hand over Lise's much smaller, almost as an insurance.
She smiled gently and spoke without taking her eyes away from Kevin's gaze:
"As the queen of Rolante I accept prince Kevin of the Beast Kingdom as my husband, hereby ruler by my side. If anyone feels more worthy of my love…"
At this she even let her gaze run over the crowd with a hint of mischief.
"… I believe the appropriate way of proving that would be to challenge him."
There was a short moment's silence, then hardly suppressed chuckles and snorts could be heard from most parts of the room. Kevin gave a small grin before he too spoke, and all fell politely silent though still smiling widely in some cases.
"I will forever do everything I can to help you, Lise," he warmly said, then added with a tone similar to hers, "and I'll throw anyone trying to tear us apart down the mountain."
Lise forced back a chuckle and hung her right arm around his neck as he pulled her into his embrace, and they kissed to the sound of cheers mixed with amused laughter at the threats.
And above them the spirits gently smiled before vanishing in a rain of their corresponding colors.
"We'll be watching over you…"
As is appropriate at every occasion with many guests, a feast was held. The problem was the castle's lack of big rooms, so the Great corridor was used as it had proven worthy for the job before; the doors hidden behind green curtains and flowers. No one complained as it was well done.
"Well, we've found it pretty appropriate that you keep this safe," Duran said while most guests were still finding themselves somewhere to sit.
Lise took the small children's toy drum as the hero offered her it.
"Are you sure, Duran?" she asked.
"Yeah, it belongs here," he said with a smile, "Flammie is your national guardian after all."
"Thank you, then," the queen smiled.
Duran stumbled off dragged by a smiling Angela, before Kevin even had time to say anything to the warrior.
"You're sitting beside me, I've been bored out of my mind all these weeks!" she stated before getting out of reach for the ear.
Lise put the drum carefully on the table beside her glass.
"Duran's not getting away," Kevin muttered in a low voice, smiling.
"So I see…"
The queen chuckled. Their hands sneaked at each other below the table.
"You looked great back there, I was about to fall apart of tension," she mumbled with a low laugh.
"Gah… was no better."
They exchanged glances and chuckled.
"Hey Kev," Elliot interrupted, looking past his sister, "Angela was wondering what your cloak was made of. She said she didn't know the material."
"It's made by the beastmen's own fur and dyed in the blood of our enemies," Beast King said before Kevin even could open his mouth, completely grave.
For a moment things was quiet around the royal table, until Kevin couldn't fight back his snicker any longer.
"Fine," Beast King said, almost gentler, "it's dyed with the fire blooms in the Moonlight forest."
"Phew…" Elliot mumbled.
Lise just chuckled, even if she'd been hesitant about whether it was a joke or not as well.
The dishes were finally brought in, a mix of meat and fish so everyone could pick whatever they wanted. There were, needless to say, more meat than fish being readied due to a big part of the guests.
Even though it was a very special day night fell eventually. As dusk began to envelope the outside world and candles quickly were lit on the tables, Beast King stood.
"We better take our leave for tonight, then," he announced, causing every full blood beastman and woman to stand, "Luna's peace, Kevin, Lise."
"Luna's peace, father," the new king of Rolante replied, smiling even if it wasn't fully visibly returned.
"Jinn's protection, Beast King," Lise agreed.
He almost smiled and then led his people out of the castle.
As the moons rose above the mountain tops, a mighty choir of howls filled the night winds. They echoed throughout every stone, calling out to the zombies and chibi devils that it might be wise to stay in hiding this night.
Lise smiled towards the window of the royal chamber, working on the last ribbon on her wings. The chair she had been sitting on during the dinner hadn't had a very high backrest as the dress and its accessory had been –secretly- planned for a while.
"No need for patrolling for a few days," Kevin mildly commented, carefully holding the wings so that they wouldn't fall to the floor when Lise succeeded in setting them free.
"There goes half the training program," she chuckled, "will have to think of something else. Tomorrow."
Kevin put the wings on a chair and stood watching her for a moment. Lise smiled.
"Ceremonial armor?" he pointed out with a smile, letting her pull him into an embrace.
"It just didn't feel right all of a sudden," Lise mumbled, leaning her cheek on his shoulder.
A slight, familiar coolness suddenly stroke the insides of Lise's stomach, leaving as soon as it had come.
'I guess I better dispel that now, as you'll want heirs I suppose?' Wisp's voice gently said in her head.
She sent him a warm, thought smile.
'Thanks for everything.'
'The same to you. Be well, my friends.'
And then he was gone.
Lise smiled up at Kevin, watching his golden crystal eyes that no longer carried even a hint of the grief that once had been inside of him.
He bent his neck and they kissed in the faint light of candles, moonlight and the enchanted flowers from the elf forest.