The following morning, they all meet up at Brian’s house for breakfast to discuss what happened the night before.
“Opal was killed, but a skillful surgeon, who happened to be there—and one of the chosen—saved her child, Olivander. Luminous nearly turned his back on the babe, but his eldest daughter insisted that he care for the child. It was no fault of the baby that his mother was evil. As he grew, he developed some miraculous gifts, not the least of which were prophetic dreams.”
“How do you know all this?” Brian asked. “I didn’t get that much from Luminous.”
“Virtuous did a lot of talking over the last few days. He was most concerned about your Rider. He had a theory about that too.”
“I’ve been wondering about that,” Andre said. “It seems way too weird that we found that incantation with no real explanation. We assumed it was the Peddler.”
“When the Peddler was in Meru all the time,” Marissa said with a grin.
“It was Luminous, as I’m sure you’ve guessed. He knew one day that Opal would try to come back. Rather than letting that happen, he left clues in various places. It wasn’t until Cliff compiled everything, donating it to the historical society, that his secrets were revealed. He hoped that we would find his information and bring him back so he could fight Opal. Which he did. None too subtle, perhaps, but certainly final. The drawings we found were done by the Olivander, the Dreamer, drawn after the fact, of course.”
“This is making my brain hurt,” Chase declared. “What I wanna know is what’s next? Are we always going to be battling some hidden evil, or will we get to live normal lives from now on?”
“I’d never call my own life exactly normal,” Annabelle said. “But it’s certainly been quieter than yours. We had the odd crisis, but never anything this serious. I don’t know why your generation is plagued so much more with these things.” She shook her head sadly. “If I could take the burden from you, I would.”
Brian looked at the group of people to whom he had grown so close over the last year. “I don’t know about the rest of us, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Even if someone walked up and said they could take this job from me, make my skills go away, I wouldn’t do it.”
“Why not?” Marissa asked. “It’s been nothing but trouble for you. You’ve nearly died more times in the last year than I can count.”
“Someone has to, Marissa. There will always be evil in the world, of one kind or another. I’m proud of how we’ve come together and fought against it. Even if nothing else ever happens to us, we can look back at this time and know we made a difference.”
“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” Marissa replied.
“So, what now?” Sweet asked. “Do we just go back to being the class nerd or the jock or the social pariah? Where do we fit in now?”
“Wherever we want,” Brian replied. “I don’t know about you, but I’m not scared to be me anymore. I’ve battled elementals, saved the girl I love from demons. I’ve been possessed and survived. I’ve dodged swamp wraiths and thrown my coffee in the eye of an ice storm. Do you think that the high school cliques scare me anymore?”
“You’ve got a point, Brian,” Ginnifer said. “When you’ve done what we have—which we can never in a million years tell—the things that used to be intimidating, don’t matter anymore.”
The adults finally called it a day, deciding to go their separate ways for relaxing naps. The teenagers gathered in Brian’s basement once more. Sitting around the ping pong table with cans of soda and bags of chips, they talked about everything that had happened.
“What about the heightened senses,” Jordan asked. “Are you still on a Rider high?”
“Not like I was, but I can still see, hear and smell things better than before. I don’t think that will ever go completely away. I have to admit, disconcerting as it is, it came in handy.”
Jordan kissed his cheek and he smiled almost sadly.
“I was wishing to be a normal teen just a few days ago,” Brian said. “But now, I don’t want the drama. All that angst and wondering if the girl I like is interested in me. I’m just as glad that we come in pairs, destined to be together. It takes all the stress of dating out of the equation.” He stretched, putting an arm around Jordan. “Yup, got me the best girl in the world and didn’t have to work to get her.”
Jordan rabbit punched him, making him gasp. Laughing, she gave him a kiss. “But you have to work to keep me happy. Just because it’s preordained doesn’t mean you can be a jackass.”
“I will never purposely be a jackass,” Brian promised. “I can’t be held responsible for the occasional judgment errors.”
“Like telling me you were Luminous?”
“Ah, lass,” he drawled. “But I was, just for a moment. Right before I kissed you.”
“You said that you kissed me.” She tensed up, ready to smack him again.
“He initiated it,” he admitted. “Your kiss is what brought me back. He’s gone for good, Jordan. I promise. Andre can confirm, no more Rider.”
“He’s right, Jordan. The Rider is completely gone. No more worries about the man who wasn’t there.”
“Thank God,” Jordan said. “Because I really hated that guy. He had shit taste in women.”
“That he did,” Brian said, kissing her. “But I don’t.”
© 2017 Dellani Oakes