It’s been awhile, I know, but believe it or not, the ending of the Valerian Cycle is nearing its end. Finally, the story of Phillip, Theo and Kaelynn will be told, in all its awful, amazing, incredible, glory. Will Theo’s throne be won or lost? Will Nostalgia be returned to history, or will an entire people be lost to the winds of war and the whims of time? Will Theo’s dog, Thumper, ever be revealed…
Only time will tell…
Until that time, however, here is Chapter One of the Final Gathering. Hope you enjoy! As always, I am open to suggestions, comments, or even feelings…
(Advanced Readers Copy- Non-edited)
Absolutely no clue what to do next. Open to suggestions.
The apartment was as dark as sin when we slipped in. Maggie went first as her eyes were the best- that and she still carried that otherworldly glow from the park and the battle which helped the rest of us escape- Dad went in next, followed by me and then Kaelynn.
We tried our best to be quiet.
Thinking of church mice here…
Beyond the sliding glass doors of my father’s apartment the world seemed to be on fire. Sirens wailed throughout the city like a million angels mourning the death of the world, choppers chopped and ambulances careened. The absolute definition of chaos if you ask me, pure and simple, and the closer one went towards Central Park, the epicenter of tonight’s events, the more chaotic and crowded the world became.
Also, so much deeper the darkness.
In the ensuing chaos following the final battle, my dad’s return and our frustration and despair at finding Belvedere Castles remaining gateway vandalized and beyond repair, we’d managed to evade New York’s finest by winding our way down darkened alleys and deserted city streets, past flying fire trucks filled with lights, bells and voices, and a night air filled with smoke and red/blue strobe lights. When we reached Dad and Kaelynn’s apartment, the doorman let us in with little more than a glance and mumbled ‘Hello’, even as he strained his neck south towards the epicenter of mayhem and madness.
Central Park, or at least its closest approximation.
“Have you seen what’s going on,” he asked, neck on a swivel.
Needless to say we ignored him and went on inside. After all, he really didn’t need to ask what was going on, all he had to do was lean out and see. The middle of 42nd street burned as bright as a funeral pyre, still, partly from the explosion and collapse of Leo’s and half the block it seemed, and partly from what seemed like the entire New York Police and Fire Department vehicles all lined up and waiting to arrive at the scene. Near Leo’s, emergency crews were still scrambling to pick through the wreckage and debris, putting out stubborn fires and the occasional re-flare, while still combing for bodies and such.
It would take a while. A long while.
As for Central Park, I could only imagine. To put it succinctly, much had been lost in the aftermath of the world’s first and only violent magical terrorist attack.
Before entering the apartment, Dad and Kaelynn had stopped to look intently upon their next door neighbor’s door- what had once been Aaron’s apartment. Their giant friend had perished in the park defending Kaelynn from marauding shadow mastiff’s. This made me wonder, who would watch his giant television set now? Buy the latest in technology?
Speaking of perished, Lycan, dads proverbial Benedict Arnold, and Fallon his body guard- as well as the man with the silver singing spurs and my entire reason for coming here- to exact my revenge -had also been lost in the battle, but who was really counting?
The apartment was as quiet and warm as a tomb, and at the moment just as dark. Dad mentioned we should leave the lights off, especially after Kaelynn had filled him in on Aaron’s apartment and Hitchcock’s attack of the birds.
Along the south wall, the sliding glass doors, blinds currently drawn, managed to mute most of the flashing lights and chaos that was downtown. In the ensuing silence, Dad’s tick-tock wall clock sounded like Big Ben.
It was a little past three in the morning of a very long and eventful night. Not nearly as eventful as Dad’s and Kaelynn, though.
Dad had died, Kaelynn had fallen down a rabbit’s hole.
Funny, how quickly life can change. One minute you’re wondering if your favorite TV show will be on tonight, or pre-empted for the game, the next, you’re fighting for your life and the lives around you, in the middle of Central Park.
Once inside, and after Maggie had taken a quick look around, Kaelynn had closed and dead-bolted the front door, sagging against it afterwards like all the life had been drained out of her. “Finally,” she said, her voice sounding broken and haggard. “We’re alone and home.”
Dad, careful as always, went from room to room double-checking the windows and doors, even after Maggie had inspected them.
Can’t say that I blame him. Dying and being brought back to life was bound to make a person just a wee bit paranoid.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” It was Maggie, once more my best friend, all signs of her ‘fallen angel’ persona gone. Just a simple girl asking a simple guy she cared about, if he was okay. Steel shone in her eyes, had since the park.
She was one tough cookie.
Maggie’s hand gripped mine as she stared into my eyes. I tried my best to smile back, failed, so instead nodded in return.
In the back of my mind all I could see was Dad dying over and over again, his eyes going wide as Blair’s dagger plunged in again and –
“I’m fine,” I said. “Besides, I should be asking you the same question. You look like someone whose been in a cat fight in the middle of a sticker bush.” She was literally covered in scratches and cuts. “Besides, it was you who took on the… whatever Neit was, and survived.” Barely…
At the sound of the dark demon’s name Maggie winced. I leaned in and pressed my forehead against hers, breathing in her scent. “Sorry,” I said.
In this instance, it was obviously too soon.
About that time Dad returned to the living room, taking the stairs from their bedroom two at a time, his eyes as wary as ever. His shirt, still splotched with crusty dried blood, stuck to him in all the places Blair’s dagger had stabbed him.
I turned away.
“We can’t stay for too long,” he said, “we need to get out of here.” His eyes flickered towards the windows and door, again.
Behind me, Kaelynn sagged to the floor, head in her hands. “They’re locked,” she said, sounding defeated. She was as pale as newly fallen snow, of which, there was plenty outside. Though it had stopped around midnight.
As he started to say something, Maggie reached out and gripped his arm. “Surely we can stay for a moment.” Her eyes said more, however. They said we all needed a break.
“Perhaps that would be best,” he said, the tick at the corner of his left eye dancing. He may be saying it, but he sure wasn’t thinking it.
With a gentleness I hadn’t seen in quite a while, he guided Kaelynn over to the couch where they sat down. Maggie took up her station by the front door, arms crossed, back straight, while I sat down across from my dad.
We’d all removed our winter garb, at least for the moment.
Which brings us full circle to what I’d said at the beginning, ‘What the hell do we do now?’
“I have no idea,” answered my dad.
“Shouldn’t they be done with us,” I asked, “after all, they essentially won. I didn’t get you back home before midnight.”
“And why exactly is that relevant,” Kaelynn asked. “The midnight thing, that is?”
“We need to formulate a plane,” barked Maggie, wringing her hands.
“Not sure exactly, you’d have to ask Phillip. He’s the one who told me about the deadline.”
“I’m loath to say they’ve won either way.”
“We are so screwed…”
As you can see, there were about a thousand conversations going on, none of them making much sense.
“Time out,” said dad, holding up his hands. By this time Kaelynn had gotten up, gone over to the refridge and gotten each of us a bottle of Da’Nasty water. Nasty or not, it sure tasted good. Other than the sirens going on outside, and the dull thump of helicopters, the apartment complex seemed pretty much asleep- what we should have been. “We’re not going to get anywhere with a hundred separate conversations going on. One at a time, okay?”
There he was looking all serious. Not anything like he’d been dead just awhile before.
“At least the son-of-a-bitch responsible is dead,” I said. “And his conspirator gone.” I was meaning Fallon and Lycan, of course, the Black Magister and his silver-singing spur wearing friend. With that being said however, I looked a lot more joyful on the outside then what I felt on the inside.
Dad seemed to sense it as well. I could see the disapproval in his eyes, thankfully, he let it stay there. In my opinion, I just had to say it- even if it still didn’t feel like victory. Father getting killed by Blair on Umpire Rock had wrecked all that, even if he had returned.
“Say what you will about Lycan,” Dad intoned, “in his mind he was doing what he thought to be right. He was also following my orders.”
“Did that include betrayal?” I asked. “You can defend him all you want. But still, in the end, Mom and Sis are dead pretty much because of him. Don’t forget that, either.”
The silence after my words weighed a ton.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” muttered Kaelynn, almost under her breath.
“What did you say, hun?” asked dad.
“I said, I don’t even know where to begin. Even now, it all seems like some sort of bad dream, or a nightmare.” And with that she launched into what I feel, even now, to be the most extraordinary story I’d ever heard.
At the very least, we should have had hot cocoa with marshmallows.