In this time of fear,
When prayer so often proved in vain,
Hope seemed like the summer birds
too swiftly flown away.
Yet now I'm standing here
with heart so full I can't explain
seeking faith and speaking words I never thought I'd say

There can be miracles when you believe.
Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill.
Who knows what miracles you can achieve
when you believe
Somehow you will, you will when you believe.

- There can be miracles when you believe, Prince of Egypt

Chapter 22: The true magic words

Rhoswen had leaned in lovingly into Marius' gentle paw when he suddenly let out an ear-splitting roar. She looked down in time to see Nihilus pull out a bloodied dagger from the Beast's side, making her shriek in distress.

The villain swings back for another shot, but Tacticus tackles him.

They fall off the ledge but a weakening Marius just barely manages to grab a hold of Tacticus' arm with a vengeful Nihilus hanging on to Tacticus' clothes.

"It looks like you're going to kill me after all," Nihilus tells Tacticus "But this time I'm taking you and that foul creature with me!"

Marius started to slip but then Ben, Zak and Rhoswen came to his aid.

"No, you're not!" Ben grunted as he strained to pull them to safety.

Seeing what they're doing Nihilus raised his blade. "No, this time you won't escape me!"

Tacticus then notices the cloth starting to tear as did Marius.

"Nihilus, take my hand!" Tacticus cried.

"No, I want your life!"

But the cloth tore and he fell to his doom, causing the heroes to turn their heads away at the awful sight. The other rushed over in time to see the three pull both Beast and ex-soldier to safety but Marius was losing blood.

The men exchanged glances; knowing their friend didn't have much time.

Rhoswen gently cradles Marius' head, looking saddened. "My poor Beast…I'm sorry for all the trouble I've caused you."

"I don't blame you in anything," Marius answered her, "I die happy, truly blessed because I knew friendship and because I've met you…"

"Don't say that, we're here. We can still make it."

"At least I get to see you…one last time." Darkness began to cloud his vision, but he fought to keep his eyes on her face. Until he sees something in his final moments. "I see him, Rhoswen…he's… r…"

And then, to everyone's sorrow, the lion-like head falls back, and his eyes close.

Rhoswen shook her head refusing to believe this was happening; it did not matter if Nihilus was gone forever or that she, her friends and father were free from Nero's hatred. Freedom was meaningless if her beast was not there with her.

She grips his paw but Marius doesn't react. "No, please. Oh please, don't go. Not yet. You can't leave me…I love you."

Far away in Rome, the final flower vanishes completely from the mosaic…

Back in the desert, the story keepers looked dejected that another friend has been lost trying to help them. Suddenly, a beam of light falls, like a colorful shooting star.

Marcus, who had been crying silently is the first to notice, "Hey, what's that?"

One by one they all notice the second beam and were awestruck. What was happening?

Then another comes. And another, and another. Streaks of multicolored light began to rain down.

"Rhos - Rhoswen look!"

She finally notices what is happening. She stops crying for a second, then starts to back away; her eyes widening with wonder and trepidity.

Then a large beam of golden sunlight shines down upon Marius' motionless body, causing it to slowly rise.

It could be seen in Shem hadar miles away, much to the astonishment of the denizens and recent newcomers.

"What's that?"

"What is THAT?"

The bewildered travelers watch in marvel as the Beast's body is wrapped in his cloak like a cocoon. The huge body shrinking, changing.

A fore paw stretches out and the claws turn into fingers. A hind paw emerges and becomes a human foot. Finally, a wind blows across his face and the fur melts away in a blinding flash of white-gold light.

Then the figure is gently laid back down where Marius' body once lay as if by giant hands. And it stood up, it's back to them before turning around to reveal a handsome man with an inverted triangle face shape, his nose was long and straight, slightly wavy black hair that fell to his shoulders and fair skin.

Rhoswen was the first to speak up. "But where's Marius? Where is my Beast?"

The stranger looked at his hands in astonishment then glanced at her tenderly. "Look into my eyes Rhoswen, I am he."

The maiden frowned in puzzlement, looking him over. And she looked into his eyes… they were the same warm gold-brown as her beloved beast.

A radiant smile graced her features. "It IS you!"

"I was turned into a beast - so as to open my eyes to other's pain beyond my wealth and indifference - the spell could only be broken if a woman could see past my beastly façade and love me before the final rose in the mosaic vanished."

Milo suddenly brightened. "Now I know who this is! This is the same ambassador that went missing two years ago! Isn't he Regis?"

Zak cleared his throat awkwardly.

"Hate to interrupt this er…" He and the others were still stunned by this turn of events, "Happy reunion but we better continue to Shem hadar."

That was true, their journey was far from over. They still had to travel to Shem hadar through the desert. It was a long trek, Marcus was so tired he nearly fell off Regis.

Tacticus helped him back up. "Hey now, no sleeping on the job."

"C'mon Marcus, we'll be there soon."

"I…think I see an oasis with palm trees and water too." The little boy blinked dazedly.

Helena whispered worriedly to the others. "I don't think the children can last much longer."

Zak poured it down a cup but it was little. Ben took it and gave it to the small boy

Marius patted the little boy's back encouragingly, "Drink you'll need your strength."

"How's that Marcus, better?" Ben asked.

"Yeah," he sighed, "Now I see our parents waving."

"Marcus, don't start this again. I'm telling you the only thing out there is sand -" Justin turns and stops short. "And mom and dad?"

And lo, running towards them waving was a crowd of their friends including the two boy's parents and Rhoswen's worried father.

Justin and Marcus are reunited with their parents, Tacticus with Miriam and Anna, Rhoswen with her father and Marius' loyal friends as humans once more.

"Regis, I just want to say…thanks we couldn't have done it without you."

Milo gave a wry smile. "What're you talking to him for? He's just a dumb horse."

The horse neighs and Zak raises an eyebrow with a small grin.

Marius is seen talking with his household family about everything. He mentioned to them despite his appearance and Rhoswen's reassurance he suspected something else that was now crystal clear.

"I know it sounds crazy, but if I didn't know any better, I'd say Ben and his wife KNEW. Somehow. They must've suspected we all used to be human, yet never said anything else about it."

"I suppose it's taught us to have a little more faith in the kindness from the unexpected of places." Prospera said sagely.

That night, Cyrus' parents gave a grand performance with Ben telling a story as the grand finale. "On such a happy night, how fitting it is to tell such a happy story."

Anna whispered to the other children, "This'll be the first time we hear one without being chased or having to hide."

"Or under a spell." added Colin.

"I could get used to this." quipped Cyrus.

Colin frowns in confusion, "Do I have still have to sleep in a makeshift den?"

Everyone laughs. Then Ben tells his captivated audience the tale of Jesus' ascension.

"…They knew then that the death of Jesus wasn't the end, it was only the beginning… and so it is for all of us, as we carry the stories from here to the ends of the Earth each of us can be story-keeper."

"Even me?" questioned Marcus.

"And me?" asked Colin

"Even you Marcus. For now you know the stories of Jesus' birth to his loving acts of healing from his most amazing miracles to the way children simply love him. And as we pass these stories on, may other comes to find the love of Jesus just as we have till one day there are as many Storykeepers as there are stars in the sky."

Marius held Rhoswen's hand. "Think you can live as the wife of a most likely exiled legate?"

Rhoswen grinned. "I'll take my chances. If you don't mind sharing all we've learned to Britannia someday."

"Sounds like a plan."

Nearby the lovers, the servants and Milo watch them cheerily.

"Whaddoyou think they'll call this story Regis?" Milo asked, his amused gaze flickering over Rhoswen and Marius.

The horse neighs once.

"I got it now! Beauty and the Beast."

Certain as the sun
Rising in the east
Tale as old as time
Song as old as rhyme
Beauty and the Beast.

Tale as old as time
Song as old as rhyme
Beauty and the Beast.

The End