Saturday, January 20, 2018

Serial Saturday: "The Clan of Outcasts" GRAND FINALE






Series Finale
*Be sure to catch the end of Part 2 for an extra scene I added, for the sake of making this segment not quite so long!*
 

Azelie found it difficult to focus on soothing the crowd when she felt such agitation to be standing next to one so volatile, who had behaved so unpredictably in the entire time of their acquaintance.
“Azelie,” Zayra grunted. “Those four in the back are causing trouble!”

Azelie squinted at the burly group of rabble-rousers still shouting and keeping the ones in front of them sufficiently scared and distracted. “I’m working on it,” she muttered, trying to focus her thoughts on theirs, to calm their aggression.

Abruptly, she felt her mind surge and fill with the loud shouts of four minds talking at the same time, at full volume. She clapped her hands to her head and winced. The suddenness of the noise caused her to lose concentration on the other ones in front of her.

“Argh!”

Oh!” the woman in front of her gasped and staggered forward, arms stretched toward her. “Let me help you.”

Azelie raised her head and found herself staring right in the woman’s eyes. She felt it happen—the familiar pull that she experienced in her early days as a Paragon, the one that was the reason she had been chosen for the palace in the first place.

The woman smiled, clinging to Azelie’s hand as she stood.
You’re perfect,” she gushed.

Azelie winced at the word, but the smile slowly spread to other faces, and suddenly the obstinate shouters at the back didn’t matter. All attention focused intently on her, and a hush fell over the crowd as they shuffled forward, pressing closer to lay reverent hands upon Azelie.

“Zayra!” the young girl shrieked. “Help!”

It’s not fair!” Zayra’s voice regained some of the old high-pitched whine. “You’re getting all the attention, when you’re hardly doing anything! I’m doing most of the work! Everyone should be gathering around me!”

Azelie recognized the overtones, but it was too late. The intensity of emotion surged through the crowd, but instead of turning to Zayra, the crowd latched even tighter to Azelie.

She’s perfect! We want her! My turn! Mine!” the whispers rippled through, and Azelie could only stare in horror as the crowd pressed tighter, practically choking one another to lay a hand on her. Someone’s finger caught in the seam of her sleeve, and it ripped. The sound of tearing cloth seemed to galvanize others, and instead of crushing, Azelie felt them pulling on her clothes and her hair. Hands pushed on her ankles, raising her up above the crowd so that even more people could grab hold of her.

Zayra! Help me!” Azelie shrieked, though her voice barely cut through the gushing praises of the crowd. Azelie began pushing and kicking to free herself, wantonly flailing to escape before the grabbing hands stripped her naked. On the steps above her, Zayra clutched her head and wailed.
“Noooo! It’s happening again! It won’t stop! Make it stop!

A black shape emerged from the shadows in the doorway, and Troy surveyed his work with pride.
“It’s good to be back, isn’t it?” he called to the frantic Paragon.

Azelie shoved and pushed her way to a nearby statue, hauling herself up onto the pedestal, beyond the reach of the people. From that vantage point, she could see one side of the courtyard, where Damaris, Erlis, and Lizeth struggled to revive the newly-thawed Beren; the other side, where Edri and Velora battled each other within a root-cage, while Kaidan scrambled through the maze of roots to reach his sister; Jade hovered around the windows of the tower, unable to reach the pair inside, yet torn against abandoning them to assist any of her other friends.

“There should be someone left! There has to be someone!” she begged, as tears trickled down her face.

A gust of wind curled against her cheeks, curling wisps of her hair against her moist skin. Azelie watched as the wind knocked the heads of the pressing crowd against one another, and they stopped reaching for her.
The wind blew over Beren, ruffling his hair as his eyelids slowly fluttered.
The wind carried over to Kaidan, bolstering his efforts as he finally grasped Javira’s outstretched hand.
The wind blasted through the castle doors, flinging them wide with a thunderous crash. Azelie bit her lip, remembering how Jaran had lain in that entranceway, unprotected, and now exposed—
But the foyer stood empty. In all that wide space, there was not even a hint of a body.

Troy threw back his head and laughed.
“I won!” he cried, “The zephyr of fate blows the gates open for me!”

He turned to enter the castle, but just before he crossed the threshold, a bolt of lightning exploded from within, knocking him and everyone close to the front of the castle back several paces.
Troy regained his balance as a young man dressed in midnight blue came to stand in the doorway of the castle, a sword in his hand.

“Well,” grunted Troy, folding his arms. “Sleeping beauty awakes!”

Jaran surveyed the chaos in a single, sweeping glance, and he held out his palm. A few sparks skittered across his skin, but they fizzled as soon as they appeared.

“Oops!” Troy taunted him. “Looks like your power has run dry!”

“Jaran!” Jade screamed, diving toward them, but another gust of wind stalled her.

“Fight me, Troy!” Jaran challenged, gripping his sword with both hands and assuming a ready stance.

Troy seemed to pluck a sword out of the shadows behind him, and he matched the young prince.
“For the crown? Gladly!” he said, and lunged toward him.

Back and forth they parried and slashed, Troy pausing every so often to jack Jaran’s Gift—but the prince never once even considered his lightning, even when it coursed all around his body like an armor of fluorescent light—he fought with his sword, using the strategies his old master had taught him as a young man. He clashed blades again and again, all the way down the castle steps, while the villagers parted to give them room to battle.

Troy found it difficult to focus when the errant breeze kept blowing in his eyes, no matter which way he turned, and Jaran’s constant barrage and strong defense gave him little time to recover as he had done when fighting Denahlia. Part of him wondered why he hadn’t shadow-jumped away and left the cocky whelp swinging at nothing—but at the same time, he knew why.

Coward. To jump now, in the face of someone who wasn’t even fighting with a Gift, would fly in the face of all those whose Gifts he controlled.
Coward. The shadows were easy to hide in, easy to use; Troy liked things that were easy to manipulate.
Coward. The word would not leave him alone! The more he fought, the more insistent it became, wearing him down from the inside like nothing else could.
Coward. Coward. Coward.

Troy pressed Jaran back up the steps, and young Zayra caught his eye. She had recovered from his temporary jack; at least she wasn’t sniveling on the ground anymore. She had been so easy to sway, so susceptible to his power, even though his grip had slipped for those few minutes when that insufferable redhead had clamped onto her. If there was any chance for him to regain control of the situation, it would be through her.

“Your Highness!” He looked straight at her as he parried Jaran’s blows. He saw the way her eyes gleamed at the title. “My Queen! Come with me to reclaim your throne!” he kicked at Jaran’s unprotected side, sending the young man reeling back into the castle, and thrust his hand toward Zayra. “Your crown awaits, my dear! There is still time—this young pretender only needs to be reminded of his place, and you can rule over all the Realm like the queen you were meant to be!”

aran still continued to press against him, but at least in the Great Hall of the castle, they were out of the wind. Troy felt his hope renew as he watched the white-gowned waif trail after the battling pair, as if Troy held the leash and compelled her to come. He could feel his moment of victory nearing as he dashed away from Jaran and into the throne room, luring the man deeper in, further away from his friends, completely isolated, where black shadows hung over everything.

“Yes, my darling,” he crooned to the unfocused young woman. “Closer, my queen!” His queen. Completely under his control. He would win. Troy dodged a thrust from Jaran and clipped the young man in the side. The prince crumpled with a cry, and Troy held out his hand to Zayra.
“Come, Queen Zayra!”

She drifted forward to stand beside him, but did not take his hand. Tilting her head back, she raised her hands and grasped the crown upon her head. Without breaking eye contact with Troy, she lifted the crown off her head and declared staunchly, “I am no queen!”

As the Shadow watched, stunned, Zayra bent down and set the crown upon Jaran’s own head, crying, “NOW!”

The same zephyr that had blown across the courtyard now blasted through the broken window, and Troy found himself unable to resist its pressure. It picked up around his feet, tossing him backward—

Right into the cage he had so recently escaped.

Jade slammed the door shut behind him, and he saw all the former Outcasts who were his victims gathered in the throne room to view his downfall. The medic with the bluefire and the healer he’d tried to contaminate with Dragon’s Blood both made short work of Jaran’s wounds, and he soon stood alongside his brother and friends.

As for Jade, she nodded to the group, and five of them separated to form the Zodiac that opened a portal to Justicia. She stared down at Troy and wagged her head.

“Juros will not be pleased when he hears what you’ve done,” she said. “Something tells me you’ll be staying in there for at least a few millennia.”

Troy huddled at the bottom of the cage as she sent it through the portal in front of her.

“Wait!” Beren called before she quite disappeared.
Jade turned to face him.

The young king couldn’t restrain a bright blush as he stammered, “What about you? Aren’t you worried that you might still be rejected for the mistakes you made?”

Jade blinked at him, a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth. “You don’t know?” she blurted.
Beren squinted. “Know what?”
Jade’s smile grew. “The zephyr—that was Juros’ forgiveness.”
“Juros controls the wind?” Jaran asked.
“No,” answered Jade. “But your father could.”

As if the very mention could recall his essence, Jaran and Beren felt the same thrill racing down their necks. “Our father?

“B-but he’s dead!” Lizeth cried. “He’s been dead for a long time!”

Jade nodded toward the portal. “But his Gifted spirit lives on in a special dimension reserved for those Gifted loyal to Juros’ purpose. I believe Juros allowed him this one last deed to ensure that the Realm survives, and all Troy’s schemes come to nothing.” She turned to look at the shimmering surface, as if she could see something beyond the opening. “I should leave you now,” she said, glancing back over the assembled group. “I won’t forget any of you.”

Beren’s expression twisted as he asked, “You’ll visit us sometimes, won’t you?”

Jade sighed, but shook her head. “I think the Abnormals have interfered with the Realm quite enough. You who are Gifted can still learn about your Gifts, and use them to help those around you, as we intended—but you don’t need our meddling to accomplish it.” She gazed around the group. “You all have proven yourselves more than capable of looking after one another without my help.” She paused one last time to bow deeply before the two brothers. “Fare thee well, young king.” She smiled, slipped through the portal, and the Zodiac vanished behind her.

The silence hung as thick as the black soot that clung to the walls around them.
Beren coughed and glanced at his brother. He nodded with a smile.
“Looks good on you,” he murmured.

Jaran frowned at the remark. “Huh? Oh,” he lifted the crown off his head and handed it to his brother. “Here, I think it should be yours.”

Beren made no move to receive the crown. “No, you keep it; from what I’ve seen, I think you would make a better king than I would.”

Jaran persisted. “B-but you’re the heir! It’s not my place—“

“You’ve lived in the kingdom longer,” Beren reminded him. “I still feel like I hardly know the place.”

“Come on, Beren!” Jaran looked like he might grab his brother’s hands and place them on the crown himself. “What about the coronation? What about taking your rightful place?”

Beren shrugged, albeit as he grinned at his brother’s discomfort. “Been there, done that, wasn’t my style.” He snatched the crown away, but only to immediately plunk it back on Jaran’s head. “Your turn!”

“For what it’s worth,” Korsan spoke up, stroking his beard, “the portents do speak favorably of the younger brother superseding the older.”

“There, see?” Beren ribbed his brother. “We don’t want to disappoint the portents!”

Jaran still kept his hands down by his sides. “I have no idea what I’m doing,” he complained.

Beren nodded to the old Mage. “Then it would behoove you to establish your court with the aid of the same sage who advised our father. He would know exactly what you should be doing.”

Jaran glanced at the mage standing before him. “Will, ah, will you be the royal advisor, then, Mage Korsan?”

The wise old man nodded, bowing low. “It would be my honor to serve the son of King Balwyn.”

A smile unfolded across Jaran’s face, and he glanced to his brother. “That’s done,” he said with a note of relief. “What next?”

Beren shrugged. “How should I know? Didn’t the council groom you for becoming king in my absence?”

Jaran wagged his head.

“For what it’s worth,” Azelie spoke up, “I think the Royal Council was too concerned about securing power for themselves and trying to maintain control of Zayra in her madness, that no one really paid any attention to the young Prince.”

Emphatically, Jaran nodded. “That’s very true; I wasn’t really doing much of anything except testing my Gift over and over again.” He turned to Korsan. “You’re my adviser now; what should I do for the rest of my—of the Royal Court?” he shied away from ownership just yet.

Korsan stroked his beard. “A King ought to have a Royal Historian in his employ, a record-keeper who knows the history of the Realm by heart, so that the wise ruler can avoid the mistakes and pitfalls of his predecessors.” At Jaran’s persisting confusion, he nodded to the white-haired young woman standing behind the young king. “Aurelle, can you still recall the contents of the Royal Library?”

Aurelle grinned. With a wave of her hand, she projected a roll of parchment, and a flick of her fingers filled the scroll with writing. “Looks like I still have the upgraded Gift,” she remarked.

Jaran glanced around. “All right, who’s next?” His eye fell on Edri. “Captain Edri,” he addressed her.
The woman with the three scars across her face took one look at the crown upon his head and knelt before him. She offered her sword, holding it across her hands before her somber face. “By this blade, I swear fealty to the Crown and to the Son of King Balwyn who sits on the throne in the White Castle.”

Jaran stood a little taller at this declaration, and he accepted the sword. Gripping the thing awkwardly, he touched the blade against Edri’s shoulders. “I appoint you as Captain of the King’s Guard. Use your Gift wisely and well.”

“I will,” Edri vowed, and she stood and accepted the sword from him.

The next person to catch Jaran’s eye was Erlis. She grinned at him, one eye grey and the other golden. “You don’t even need to ask me, my liege,” she bowed. “I would be honored to serve as your Healer.”

“Lizeth too,” Jaran added, gesturing to the tall, red-headed woman. “She can be your assistant.”

Lizeth nodded, lighting a small spark of bluefire on her fingertips as she bowed. It extinguished, and she moved to stand next to Erlis.

Jaran turned to survey the rest of the group standing around him. “Where’s Denahlia?”

“Here,” came the blunt voice from the edge of the crowd. She reluctantly removed her hood that would have kept her out of sight long enough to slip away. “What do you want from me?”

Jaran grinned at her surliness. “How is your Gift, after that fight with Troy?”

She snorted. “You mean the one where he danced circles around me before beating me all to pieces and leaving me for dead with nothing?” She blinked once, twice, and Jaran could see her expression changing as the way her eyes perceived what they saw changed ever so slightly. “Well, what do you know? I still have it!”

Jaran peered at her appraisingly. “How would you like to be the new Harbor Watch of the Realm?”

Denahlia sighed. “Like to? You mean I have to put myself under someone else’s orders again?” She waved a hand. “No offense, but I’ve had about enough of getting told what to do and where to go and who to do it to.”

“Then I give you the license to run The Harbor as you see fit,” Jaran replied patiently. “Provided it is within the bounds of the Law, and in accordance with the aim of using your Gift for the benefit of others, and for the peace of the Realm.”

Denahlia huffed, but she nodded. “Oh, all right,” she groaned.

“Speaking of setting up a Watch,” Jaran continued, scanning the area for another certain face. “The Forest could use some looking after.”

Velora smirked at him. “I suppose you’ll be putting me in charge of that now, eh?” she asked, though with considerably less grumpiness than Denahlia had displayed.

Jaran shrugged. “You are The Wolf, after all,” he remarked. “The Forest will be safer with your pack to protect it and guard the citizens who walk through it.”

Her strange eyes glinted at the prospect. “Any threat from the North will have to get through me,” she murmured.

“What about me?” Damaris piped up. He toyed with a palm-sized ball of flame, tossing it casually between his hands. “I’ve got a much better handle on my Gift now.”

Jaran grinned widely. “Oh, I think I know the place you’ll be most useful.”

Damaris extinguished the flame and watched the king expectantly; would his luck hold? “And where would that be?”

“The kitchen,” Jaran responded simply.

Damaris opened his mouth to protest, but just before anything more than a small “ha!” escaped his lips, he recalled himself and chose to say nothing.

Erlis nudged him. “A tongue is much harder to tame than a fire; you show great promise already.”

The young boy glowed with the praise. Unlucky? Living at a palace and enjoying steady employment among people who accepted him struck Damaris as the luckiest he had ever been in his life.

“Now, as for you two,” Jaran turned to Kaidan and Javira, hanging their heads and looking very much less haughty than they had been before. “Your crimes against the Crown should not go unpunished—the way you both tried to undermine the safety and peace of this nation and use its government for your own purposes is absolutely wrong and I think you know that I could have you executed or banished like you condemned so many others with authority you had no right to use.”

Kaidan stared at the ground with pinched lips, while Javira raised her eyes with a small sob. “Please! We were unwitting pawns of Troy, deceived into thinking that what we were doing was right… We didn’t know—“

“However, your aid here at the last fight cannot be overlooked, either,” Beren continued, at a nod from his brother. “Therefore, you may stay at the palace—Kaidan, you’ll be assisting Aurelle as an archivist, since her touch can amass information, and yours can be used to confirm the accuracy of the records. As for Javira—I do believe your Gift is most suited to work in the palace gardens.”

Javira twirled her finger, drawing up a sprig of forget-me-nots from the patch of tossed dirt beside her. “Yes, your highness,” she whispered.

Kaidan composed himself enough to bow with a blank expression. “Thank you, your majesty,” he said.

Jaran shared a grin with Beren. He was fitting in with his new royal position quite nicely.

Those with assignments meandered off to assess the state of things. Aurelle and Kaidan headed for the library, Erlis and Lizeth to the medical stores, while Velora and Denahlia took their leave to survey their new domains. Edri turned quickly, so no one would see the tears gathering in her eyes. She headed toward the garrison at the far side of the courtyard--but first, she stopped by the mound of roots Javira left behind, to claim a fallen body there. Sir Justin The Brave would receive a hero's burial, though she alone would mourn him. 

Soon, all who remained were Jaran, Beren, Korsan, Damaris, Azelie, and Zayra.

Azelie didn’t speak, even though she could. She ducked her head and smoothed invisible wrinkles on her dingy apron. When she looked up, Jaran stood close enough to seize her hand.

“Azelie…” he began.

She raised her gaze and smiled at him. “Yes?”

A small smile played about his lips and his cheeks flushed as he asked, “Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife, and the Queen of this Realm?”

A matching smile unfolded over the young woman’s face, making her look more radiant than ever. “I accept, King Jaran.”

Zayra frowned as she watched the two of them. Small tears trickled down her cheeks. “What am I going to do, then?” she asked. “Being queen is the only life I’ve ever known. I don’t even have anywhere to live!”

Beren gave a little cough. “Er, well,” he mumbled, “I cannot offer you the throne you’ve sat on, since I gave that up—but, as a former king to a former queen, would you like to be almost-royals together?” He held out his hand to her.

Zayra’s eyes widened, and her mouth dropped open very slightly. “Oh,” she gasped. “You mean, you—“ She raised a hand to her cheek. “You want me to… to stay?”

Beren held her gaze and nodded, still offering his hand. “Yes, if you’re willing to work along with us to restore peace and unity to the Realm.”

Zayra placed her hand in his. “Yes, of course! I accept.”

High over the Realm, a lone Angel watched the scene with a smile. Things just might turn out for the better, after all.

THE END

 
SEASON 1: 


SEASON 2: 
Episode 1: "Upgrades" --> Episode 2: "Strategic Maneuvers" --> Episode 3: "Swiftly Tilting Odds" --> Episode 4: "Potential" --> Episode 5: "Unleashed" --> Episode 6: "Bluefire" --> Episode 7: "Alterations" --> Episode 8: "Damaris and the Dragon" --> Episode 9: "The Justification of Jade" Part 1 and Part 2 --> Episode 10: "The Zodiac at Zero Hour"
 
SERIES FINALE: >Part 1< >Part 2< >Part 3<