A/N: I wrote this at three in the morning after finishing Soldiers of Halla. It's a bit rushed and maybe the last few paragraphs don't sound all that much like Bobby, but it was late and I decided to sacrifice voice for style. I think the message still comes though. I was very upset with the ending of the Pendragon series, and although I respect that D.J. Machale wrote himself into a corner, that doesn't make his scrambling to get out of it any more appealing. I've been a fan of the series for years and just had time to read the last three books. To me, they felt wrong. This is my attempt to put it right, and it would mean the world to me if you would read and review. Thanks.
We all stood together. The Travelers, convened one last time. I looked around at the faces of my friends. My fellow spirits. I saw weariness and joy. Uncertainty tempered by acceptance. I also saw fear. None of us knew what would happen to us now. Would we vanish like smoke, transform into nothing more than dust on the wind? Would we become transparent, as Saint Dane had done? Thinking of this possibility, I felt suddenly angry. It didn't seem fair that, after all we had been through, it had to end like this. We had sacrificed time and again, put our lives on the line so many times, and for what? So we could become a part of something greater before we ever had a chance to truly live? My gut twisted at the thought. I turned to Loor, who stood a few paces away from me. Her smooth, dark features were distorted. She was conflicted, too. I looked at Uncle Press. There was a half-smile on his face, and I knew he was waiting for me to speak. That was when I made up my mind. Because this was wasn't the way it was meant to be.
"Wait." Everyone's head snapped up, confirming my earlier suspicions. No one wanted to be the first to step into the void. "Listen for a minute. I know that our…ultimate destiny is Solara, but who says we can't take a detour first? After all we've been through, we deserve the chance to be happy." I looked the stately black man who stood opposite me square in the eye. "Isn't that what you said to me on Eelong, Gunny? Saint Dane was all about taking away people's chance to be happy. Now that he's gone, we can't let him do that to us, too."
"I don't mind the sound of that," said Siry thoughtfully. Everyone turned to look at him, and he turned sheepish all of a sudden. "I mean, I feel stupid saying this, but I'm just a kid, you know? I want to go home, even if home isn't what it used to be. And I know the traveling will use up energy, but maybe, if I do everything I can to help my people, it'll make it all right."
"I don't think that will be necessary." Aja this time, greeting our stares with her warm, self-confident smile. "Solara is healthy, now, right? By going home, we can't upset the balance. Saint Dane is gone."
Uncle Press cleared his throat, and we all turned to him, instinctively seeking out the wisest among us for guidance. I expected him to reprimand us, to tell us that it was just wishful thinking. I was prepared to accept that it was our time, even if I didn't like it. But instead, he said something which threw me completely.
"You're right, Bobby."
I was never much for tearful goodbyes. I'd always thought that if we won this war and everything worked out the way it was meant to me, I wouldn't have to say goodbye to my friends. I don't know what I thought - that we would all live in some hippie compound together? I guess I never really thought that far ahead. Anyway, it all seemed to go too fast, now. One moment Aja was kissing me on the cheek (I had the sense that Loor was containing herself with difficulty), the next I was shaking Siry's hand and telling him that no matter what happened he would always be a hero in my eyes, and to say hi to the remaining Jakills and the tribunal for me. I stared into Kasha's unblinking green eyes and rested the palm of my hand against the rough skin of her paw. Elli gave me a hug, somewhat to my embarrassment, but after I got over the initial surprise I hugged her back like she was my grandmother. "Thank you for my daughter," she whispered in my ear, and not knowing what to say, I simply nodded.
The hardest goodbyes were last, naturally. I held out my hand for Alder to shake, but he was having none of that. He pulled me into a bear hug before drawing back and saying gravely, "You will always be like a brother to me, Pendragon." I nodded again, my chest tight, and turned to Gunny.
The older man was standing with his arms folded across his chest, a smile toying with the corners of his lips. So many emotions welled up at once, but the only thing I could think of to say was "How 'bout them Yankees?" We both laughed. "It was nice knowing you….Shorty," he teased, but it wasn't quite as effective now that I was almost his height. Bracing ourselves, we shook hands with as much grace as we could muster.
I turned to Spader next and saw, not to my surprise, that the aquaneer had a wide grin on his face. I held out my hand for him to shake as well, and he seized it briefly before pulling me into a hug. "Hobey ho, mate," he said stoically.
"First one to Grolo's buys the Sniggers," I replied without thinking. Tears sprung to two pairs of eyes as we remembered that there no longer was a Grolo's, and we awkwardly pretended to be inspecting the architecture of the Taj Mahal so as to avoid embarrassment. When our eyes were dry again, I began to apologize for my careless mistake, but Spader shook his head. "No, mate. I'm glad I remember. Thank you." Unable to speak, I clasped his hand and nodded again in silence. I was doing a lot of this nodding business.
After a few minutes of individual goodbyes we all gathered in a circle once more. My eyes traveled over the faces of my friends, my accomplices, and I said the only words that felt right.
"When each of us began this journey, we had no idea where it would lead. It was hard, and there were a lot of times when I thought none of us would make it, but we did. Halla is whole once more. It will never be perfect, but that in itself is something to celebrate, because it means that there is always something to work toward, and, after seeing everything that we have, if we can still manage to believe in the essential good of humanity, then we have truly done something right."
I felt a strange humming that seemed to come from within my chest as my words sank in. A radiance grew from everywhere and nowhere until it seemed to suffuse everything with its effervescence. One by one, my friends vanished. They were going home, trusting to the spirits of Solara to put them where and when they needed to be. Finally it was just me and Loor left standing about ten feet away from a man I believed to be my uncle for the first fourteen years of my existence. I walked over to him and embraced him as I'd never had a chance to before his death on Cloral. Then, with his silent approval and the forces of Halla at work all around me, I grasped Loor's hand and stepped into the light.
We reappeared in the middle of a desert. The sky above was blue and the earth was baking hot beneath our feet. I did not recognize the place until Loor let out a shout of job and took off running. The action was so girlish and carefree that for a second I thought I had accidentally traveled with something other than the woman I loved. But then I turned around and saw what had made her cry out in happiness, and this time I could not keep a few tears from escaping down my cheeks.
It was Zadaa. Beautiful and restored to the way it was after we'd won the territory. With the vast freshwater ocean to quench their thirst and no Dados to interfere, the partnership between the Batu and the Rokador had evolved the way it was supposed to. History has followed it's true and natural course.
But of course, I didn't register any of that at that moment. All I knew then was that Loor was happy and we were safe, and that was more than enough for me.
Together we ran into the city, hardly noticing the storm clouds brewing on the horizon. We had just entered the walls when the storm hit, drenching us with it's cool refreshment. Loor's dark skin was captivating when covered in tiny droplets, and her white smile broke out often and infectiously. She pulled her hair out of it's normal braid and shook it free, and that simply gesture undid me completely. I ran at her and scooped her into my arms, enjoying a moment of wild triumph before she had me pinned against the wall of a building, her face just inches from mine.
"Never make the first move…" she growled playfully into my ear before leaning in to kiss me. My hands made their way to her hips as her arms wound around my neck, pulling me closer. She tasted sweet like the summer rain that soaked us as we stood outside, holding each other tighter with each passing moment as though we were afraid the other might slip away.
We stopped to trade quick kisses several times as we made our way back to Loor's compound. Sneaking in without being seen was not a challenge, as the rain reduced visibility considerably. My shirt was over my head as soon as the door was shut behind us, and although Loor was momentarily stymied by my belt, I took the time to trace circles on her surprisingly sensitive shoulder blades. She responded by kissing me so ferociously I forgot my name before pushing me down on her cot. She shrugged out of her armor, and a gasp escaped my throat at how vulnerable she looked, and how beautiful, standing there with her hair down around her shoulders and every thin, taut muscle in her slim body quivering with anticipation. I felt extremely nervous all of sudden and managed to choke out a "Loor…are you sure-" before she was sitting on my lap and I promptly forgot about everything else. She planted a brief kiss on my neck before drawing back to stare into my eyes with her impossibly dark chocolate ones. "Our destiny is to be together, Bobby," she said, and my first name sounded so wonderful coming from that mouth that all of the rest of my uncertainty faded away and I leaned forward to capture the water droplet that lingered in the cleft of her pretty, dark lips as the rain pounded the ground outside with the steady roar of life that does not end.
To say that these past few months have been the happiest of my life is the biggest understatement of all time. I know that I am only writing this for myself now. I know that Saint Dane is defeated forever, the proof being the fact that his influences have vanished from Zadaa without a trace. I assume the same thing has happened on the other territories, but I am content in trusting their fates to my friends. I know we will meet again someday, but not just yet.
Until then, I look forward to all the mornings of waking up with her in my arms, although I know that one will ever compare to the perfection of the first. I remember the red dress she wore at our wedding as the Batu sang in the background and white flower petals rained down on our heads. I look forward to the time, in five years or ten, when the sweet swell of her belly will prevent her from wearing her armor and she'll have to resort to soft dresses for months until she brings new life to this world. I look forward to tousling my son's curly hair and telling him stories (less scary, of course) of the adventures Mommy and Daddy had when they were young.
I look forward to all that, and I look forward to meeting the Travelers again someday, to seeing them in the meadow and sharing one last knowing smile before our spirits become one. I saw the way that Courtney looked at Mark during the final battle, and I remember the frantic way he reached out for her before they were both pushed into the flume in the Bronx by Naymeer. I know that he loves her, and I feel confident that once given the chance she will realize that she feels the same way and has for quite some time now. Maybe it's not the future either of us envisioned when we were just kids standing shyly on a doorstep four years ago, but looking at my beautiful bride still asleep her hair splayed out across the pillow and the sheet bunched up around her lovely waist, I know more than ever that this is the way it was meant to be.