Chapter ??: Nicte’s End
“We did it! We finally did it!” he thought, as he towered over Nicte’s dead body. He wanted to cheer, but fatigue quickly overtook his body as the adrenaline from the fight ebbed away in his veins. It had been a hell of a fight, but it finally was over. Nicte’s evil reign had come to an end. But somehow, that end felt anticlimactic to him. He wasn’t sure what he expected. Explosions? Fireworks? But it hadn’t been this. He wondered if the heroes he looked up to from his stories felt or thought the same as he did now. In stories, it always had sounded epic. Maybe in time, they’ll make a story out of this too, and make it sound epic. But ah well, he couldn’t really complain. In the end, all that mattered was that good conquered evil, and that every nightmare comes to an end. And at that end, almost all of his heroes had one thing in common: All they longed for, was going back home. Home…yeah, he could feel he longed for it too. The comfort of a warm, soft bed, and ditto pillow. And a decent, hot meal too. Home…he allowed himself to fantasize about it for a moment, then shrugged the daydream of him. “Though the battle may have ended, the journey hasn’t yet’ he said to himself, then wiped the blood off his sword and sheathed it.
Obi, knocked down flat by Nicte’s last desperate attack, tried to regain the breath that she’d knocked out of his lungs with her last blow. It had robbed his sight, too, however he hoped it was only temperorary. It was silent around him, except for footsteps slowly walking in his direction. Did they win? Or was that Nicte coming to finish him off? He struggled to climb back up, prepared to run to save his life and avenge his friends if the latter was the case. But his body refused. The footsteps, getting nearer, eventually stopped at his side. “Need a hand?” a familiar voice said to him. Alex! He reached out for the source of the voice, and felt a strong hand clasp his wrist. Obi clasped Alex’ wrist in return. Together, they succeeded in pulling him up and standing, though he needed to lean slightly on his friend to maintain his balance. Slowly, his sight returned to his eyes. “Are you okay?” Alex asked, looking tired and concerned. Obi nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine, just a little disorientated. But what about you? Man, you look awful!” Alex laughed, even though it hurted him a bit. “You’re one to speak! You look horrible too! But yeah, we won, so let’s patch you up and get back home. But we gotta find Violet and Rose first. Can you walk?” Obi carefully took a step, and another. Then he nodded. Together with his breath and eyesight, his strength had returned too. Alex knelt down, and handed Obi his bow and quiver, then together they walked over to where Rose was healing Violet, Alex complimenting Obi’s aim and archery skills.
Back at the camp, the rebels were celebrating. More felt then seen, they had witnesses a great change coming over the lands, like a heavy burden that was suddenly lifted. Even more so, the few wildlife that had succeeded to survive on the barren continent of Pyra had started acting weird, joyful almost. So it didn’t took long for rumors to spread, and for people to become hopeful, and gathering in small groups. And when they returned victorious, our four heroes accompanied by John who helped carry Violet on his back, they were met with cheers and applause, and everyone seemed to want to shake hands with them, hug them, congratulate them or talk to them all at once. Alex, too tired to resist, just let it all flow over him, and saw that the others were doing the same. They all looked and felt like zombies, except for John, who somehow seemed to have some energy left. Alex suspected that’s what they called experience. John calmed down the masses, forming a path through them for the others to follow, then brought them to a corner of the camp where an improvised medical center had been set up, with several beds, and some crates as seats and tables. Katelyn, Obi’s younger sister, was there too, nursing those who had returned from battle, either ill, wounded, or utterly exhausted, helped by several volunteers and friends of John with medical experience. John left them behind in their good care, then returned to the rebels to tell them the true story of what happened in there, to help with setting up the celebrations, and to ensure that they wouldn’t disturb our heroes until they had some rest. Alex felt truly grateful to him, for having come so far with them, and being so considerate. He wondered how if he’d ever have been able to do it without him. Katelyn ordered Violet in a bed, and had one prepared for Obi and Alex, as they sat down on one of the crates that hadn’t been occupied yet. A doctor came to check out Obi, and Rose offered to help around the medical center, leaving Alex behind on his own, where he sat and watched Katelyn and the others at work, and eventually started daydreaming of home again.
When he woke up he was lying in a soft warm bed, and wondered if he had been dreaming again. His fantasy often wandered without bounds after he read one of his favored adventure stories, and it reflected in his dreams. “That’s it, no more adventures stories before bedtime for me!” he thought to himself, knowing all too well that was a promise he wouldn’t keep. Only as he felt something poking his chest and noticed he wasn’t in his room, he realized it hadn’t been a dream. He looked up, and found Obi towering up over him, poking him with a stick. Taking a closer look, he saw Obi was holding a walking stick, and it quickly became apparent why. His chest was covered in bandages, and his balance was still uneasy. Alex grunted. “Hey, quit that. That hurts, you know” he said, trying to push himself to a sitting position. He found it harder than he’d anticipated. Obi smiled, and reached out his hand. “Need a hand?” he said, grinning. Alex chuckled. “Nah, I’m fine. I might accidentally pull you over” he said. Still, he took his friend’s wrist in his, and slowly stood up. Even bent over slightly and leaning on a walking stick, his best friend was still a head taller than he was. “So…what happened to your chest?” Alex asked, as he stretched himself out carefully. “You look like half a mummy.” “Three fractured ribs” Obi said, “all on my left side. But they’ll heal. At least they’re no longer pressing on my lungs. Could have been a whole lot worse.” Alex nodded. Obi was right, of course. They had been very lucky to come out alive, with all five of them. It could have gone the other way around too. But it hadn’t, and that was what mattered. “So,” Alex said, “What did you wake me up for anyways? Are we packing up and going home?” Obi shook his head. “Not yet. The rebels are holding a big celebration party it seems, and they want us to be there as honorary guests. But more importantly, Rose asked me to bring you to her so that she can check you and fix you up before you go off and act crazy like always.”
Together they limped towards the medical center, where Rose was waiting for him already. She looked a bit impatient and very tired, but she had that fire in her eyes that immediately told Alex it was a bad idea to suggest her to go and rest. He sat down on a crate next to her, and she ordered him to remove his shirt. He obeyed. She went through the process of checking his body for injuries, checking his pupils, reflexes and movements, and asking him to walk around so she could check his balance. “So, no sly jokes today?” she said, suddenly, catching Alex off guard. He gave her a confused look. “When I asked to take off your shirt? Normally you’d make a sly joke. Sure you don’t have any brain damage?” He didn’t know if she was teasing him or being serious. He just shrugged. “Nah, too tired for them. I can try to think of one though, if you want me to.” He gave her a mischievous look, and she rolled her eyes in return. “Nevermind, I see you’re still the same. By the way, you got a burn mark on your left arm, we’ll have to treat that first, and then you’re free to go.” He looked at his left arm, where scorched skin stretched from shoulder to elbow, and realized he didn’t fully block that fireball Nicte had sent his way. Now he saw the wound, he started to feel it too. As he observed it more closely, Rose took a herbal concoction and pulled his arm towards her. Then she sprayed some on the wound. Alex gritted his teeth. “That stings! Why can’t you just use your healing magic?” he hissed through his teeth, as Rose rolled her eyes again. “I’m pretty sure you haven’t noticed, but after you killed that witch, my magic has been growing weaker. All magic, in fact. I only have a little bit left, and only for emergencies. And this…” she sprayed some more of the medicine on his wound “This is not an emergency. Now act like a man, Violet’s watching.” Alex straightened up, still gritting his teeth but no longer complaining, letting Rose treat him in silence. He didn’t want Violet to think he was a whiner, even though he liked to complain a lot. When Rose finally finished treating his arm, he rose, and turned around walking as casually as he could, looking around for Violet. When he couldn’t find her, he turned back to Rose. “Umm, hey…Where did Violet go? I don’t see her…” Rose looked up at him and smiled, packing up her equipment. “Oh, she’s still sleeping. I lied. But it was the only way to stop you from complaining. You know, you’re pretty whiny for a guy who just saved the world.” She winked at him, and walked away. Then he realized he’d been tricked, and saw some of the rebels laughing. Angry, he strode off, muttering profanities under his breath, till he was well out of reach of anyone to hear. Eventually, after he had cooled down again, he noticed how hungry he’d become, and forgetting all about being fooled, he returned to the party, to eat as much as he could and, so he hoped, to dance a little bit with Violet.