The Card Dealer: Part 14

Part 14: The End

 

I was aware that I was laying in a pile of sand, but it was awhile before I opened my eyes to actually see that I was. I laid there for a moment, feeling numb and forgetting where I was or what had happened. I could only stare up at the gray sky with a furrowed brow, searching through my swirling thoughts.

The Card Dealer…I saw him and actually dueled with him…and with Greaves…

I instantly sat up then, ignoring that my whole body hurt when I did. My eyes widened as I took in the scene around me; I was certainly still on the island, though the island was longer…well…an island. The beach was mostly in tact, and the cliff was missing completely, though I could see some of it sticking up from the sea water.

But the plan had worked. Greaves was nowhere in sight.

“Wait a minute…,” I said to myself. “How…” How the heck was I still alive? I searched through my memories again, and remembered Adrian’s idea to shield us with his magic…could it have worked for all of us? It was such a big job, one that could have possibly drained Adrian of his power.

It took me a awhile, but I got to my feet and scanned the area. If the others were around, they would have to be on the beach as well since there weren’t any other places to fall…unless they fell into the sea, which I did my best not to think about. I walked along the beach, feeling to weak to call for their names.

I looked up at the sky when a drop of rain hit my head. It was definitely about to storm again. I should’ve watched where I was going, because I suddenly tripped and face planted right in the sand.

“Ah, geez,” I muttered to myself as I spit sand out of my mouth. I sat up and turned around to see what I had tripped over, and gasped. “Zion?!”

The merman had washed up on the shore, but the slow rise and fall of his chest assured me that he was still alive. I shook him to try and wake him up, though I was a little he would try to kill me like he did the night before. At least…I thought it was the night before. I had no way of knowing how long I had been out.

Zion stirred a little, and a few more seconds passed before he groggily opened his eyes.

“Where…what happened?” He slurred, looking up at me. His skin was freezing when I touched him, and it looked gray and almost lifeless. He looked like straight up death, but he still gave me a lopsided smile as he closed his eyes. “Who knew…a pretty princess would come save me…”

Yep, he was the Zion I remembered.  I rolled my eyes.

“Zion, you have to get back in the water,” I urged as I tried to push him towards the waves. His tail had already started to wither. “Come on, can’t you move?”

Zion gritted his teeth and tried to roll over and push himself up.

“Where the heck am I?” He asked, his eyes suddenly going wide when he got a good look at his surroundings. “Holy smokes, what happened?”

“Long story,” I huffed, getting to my feet and dusting the sand off of my hands and robe. “Look, just get yourself back in the water and I’ll explain.”

Zion did as I told him, with a only a little struggle. Once he was back in the sea, he propped himself up in the sand and looked up at me.

“So what’s the scoop? Did you bring me here for a little alone time?” He asked with a smirk. “Sorry, but I know a lot better places than this.”

“Zion, please, this is serious!” I said. “What is the last thing you remember?”

Zion searched his brain for a moment, then his face darkened. “Ah…right.”

“What?” I knelt down in the sand. He shrugged.

“The last thing I remember was following that ship like you told me to, right? I was just following it and it came to these waters I had never been to before…I might have called you then, but I don’t remember.”

“Right,” I said, crossing my arms. “How did you call me anyway? That’s a spell.”

Zion’s face darkened even more. “We’re not talking about that right now.” I raised my eyebrows, but I decided not to press for answers. “Anyway, I was swimming along, and all of a sudden, everything goes black. I can’t remember much anything after that call.”

I pursed my lips as I looked out over the sea.

“Well, aren’t you gonna tell me what you’re doing?” Zion asked as he rolled over on his back and floated on the waves.

With a sigh, I explained everything that had happened, and his expression went from confused to even more confused as he listened. When I had told the whole story, he was looking up at me with a furrowed brow like I was crazy.

“I can’t believe you guys actually did that,” he said after a moment of silence. “Well, where are the rest of the jokers?”

“That’s what I don’t know,” I said, turning in a circle to see if I could spot anyone. “I…don’t like the thought, but do you mind looking around under the water for me?”

Zion paled considerable, but nodded. “Yeah, you look around on the beach and I’ll…see if I can find anything…hopefully not.” He didn’t wait for me to say anything else before he disappeared under the black waves. I shivered at the though of him finding anyone down there, but I had my own job to focus on. I left the shoreline to search around the trees and along the beach. It was awhile before I finally found someone laying amidst a crowd of bushes.

“Lex!” I cried, running up and kneeling beside her. I sighed with relief when I saw she was still breathing, but a horrible cut was on her face. I took her by her shoulders and shook her. “Lex, wake up!”

It took a a minute, but her eyes opened, and she looked around seeming completely dazed.

“Claudia…where am I? What are we doing here?” She mumbled, trying to sit up. I pushed her back down.

“Stay here while I find the others, okay? Don’t move.” Lex peered up at me in confusion.

“Why? What happened to the others? Where’s Adrian?”

I held up my hands. “Let me find out for myself and I’ll tell you,” I said. “For now, stay put.” I patted her shoulder and stood. I was at the other side of the island, and I hadn’t found anyone else yet. I pressed my lips together as I scanned for another figure, praying I would find someone. My legs felt weak, but I took off running back down to the other side of the island, this time keeping my eyes glued to the shoreline.

I was nearing the other side when another limp figure caught my eyes. Elena was lying in the sand with the waves crashing over her. I barely knew the girl, and she had worked for Greaves, but I still gasped when I saw her.

“Elena?” I said as I approached her. I knelt beside her, ignoring the waves getting water into my shoes and getting my robe all wet. She was still alive, I could tell. I tried to wake her, but she was out cold. Instead, I pulled her up into the sand where the waves couldn’t reach her and decided I’d just have to wait until she woke up herself.

About that time, Zion came back up out of the water a few feet away from me lugging someone up with him. My heart sinking, I ran as fast as I could through the sand.

Zion looked up at me as he shoved Leon, who had a death grip on a fistful of seaweed and was coughing up water, up onto the shore.

“This kid never ceases to amaze me,” he said, shaking his head. “He’s the only one I’ve found so far, but I’ll keep looking.”

“I still haven’t found Clark or Adrian,” I said as I knelt down next to Leon. Zion shrugged.

“Never heard of Clark, but I guess I’ll just pull up anybody else I find down there.” He dove back into the water while I pulled Leon further up the beach.

“I-I’m…cold,” he mumbled. His lips had turned blue from lack of oxygen, but I figured has had drained the Essence out of seaweed to keep himself alive.

“I know,” I said as I laid him down in the sand. “After we find Clark and Adrian we can figure out a way to get home.”

“Did…did our plan work?” He asked as he tossed his wad of wilted seaweed aside. “Is Greaves gone?” He looked up at me with terrified eyes. I couldn’t answer his question because I had no idea. From the looks of it, I assumed so, because that explosion would have HAD to kill him. I simply shrugged.

“Don’t worry about that right now,” I said, sitting down next to him. “Listen, you must have been conscious this whole time in order to stay alive, right?”

“Yeah,” Leon replied, nodding his head. “I almost went to sleep forever, I think, until Zion found me…”

I shivered. “Do you know how long it’s been since the explosion?”

“Not long…I didn’t keep track. Maybe half an hour?” Leon sighed and closed his eyes. “Can I rest now?”

“Yes, but I have one more question…did you see where Adrian went?” I held my breath as he seemed to think about it. Eventually, he shook his head.

“N-no…but if he’s in the water…” He opened his eyes again. “He said he knew how to drain Essence too…but it might have been too late…”

I didn’t want to think about that. “Well, you just rest now, and I’ll come get you when it’s time to go home, okay?”

Leon nodded. “Tell me if you find the others,” he said. He closed his eyes again as I stood and dusted my robe off in vain. Now I was wet and sandy. I just wanted to go home.

“Claudia!” I turned to see Lex running up, slowly with a little limp. I hurried over to meet her.

“You should be resting!” I said, catching her by the arms. She was as white as a sheet, making the cut on her cheek stand out even more. She shook her head.

“Have you found Adrian?” She held on to me in desperation. I hung my head.

“He’s…not on the island…I’ve looked everywhere…,” I said in a low voice. “Zion is looking in the water.”

Lex whirled around towards the sea. “In there?!”

I put my hand on her shoulder. “Don’t panic, Lex…Zion pulled Leon out a minute ago and he’s fine, besides him being exhausted…and Adrian knows how to drain Essence. We just have to hope he was able to do that like Leon was.” Lex turned back to me.

“Where’s Leon?” I pointed to where he was laying.

“There, but I wouldn’t bother him. He’s trying to rest,” I explained, but she didn’t listen to me. She ran to him and dropped down by his side. I was too far away to hear anything she might have said to him, but Zion coming back up out of the water made me turn my attention back to him.

“Claudia, I found him!” Zion cried. I gritted my teeth, praying silently that Adrian would be alright. I ran into the wave to help him pull Adrian up out of the water. Lex must have heard, because she was next to me in an instant.

“Oh, Adrian!” She cried, getting down in the sand and trying to feel for his heartbeat. “Adrian, please!”

I got on my knees beside him, my eyes wide with horror. I had never seen my master look so gray. His robe had lost it’s sparkel and was heavy with water, and I couldn’t tell if he was breathing or not. I glanced up to see if Zion was still here, but he had already gone back under, but I knew if Clark was down there, he would have died by now.

“Claudia, what should we do?” Lex asked me, looking at me with tears streaming down her face. I really didn’t have an answer for that. Adrian couldn’t have stayed under water for that long the way Leon could, and if he had been knocked unconscious like most of us, he wouldn’t have been able to drain Essence.

“Lex…,” I said, my own eyes starting fill up with tears. “There’s…no way he could have survived…”

Zion came back up and wiped the salt water off of his face.

“Sorry, Claudia, but I can’t find the other guy…besides, if he was in the water…”

I nodded. “Yeah…”

“Is Adrian…?” Zion climbed up out of the water to see him. “He wasn’t underwater when I found him…the wave were pushing him to the shore…”

I bit my lip as Lex buried her face in Adrian’s chest and began to cry.

Leon suddenly appeared beside me with a grim expression.

“I thought I heard you found him,” he said in a quiet voice. “He’s…dead…”

I already knew it, but my heart sank when he said it out loud. I grasped Adrian’s cold hand, searching for his pulse, trying to prove Leon wrong…but there was nothing.

Adrian was dead.

Along with Lex, and then Leon, I cried for my master. He knew creating a shield around us would have killed him. He sacrificed himself for us. Worse was the fact that this was my fault. If I hadn’t gotten us into that duel…no, if I hadn’t come to this island in the first place, this never would have happened.

After a few minutes, Leon dried his tears and spoke in a quivering voice. “We…we saved the Kingdom,” he said. “And Adrian sacrificed himself to save it.”

“And us,” Lex said with a sniffle. “The king should hear of this…”

I nodded as I wiped at my eyes with the back of my hand. “He will…”

“You guys need to get home,” Zion spoke up.

“But how?” Leon whispered. He stood and faced the water. “Our boat broke…”

Zion heaved a sigh. “I can swim back to Jadehaven and get someone to come get you,” he said. Before we could say anything else, he returned to the water and was swimming off as fast as he could go.

We sat around Adrian trying to process what had happened for hours until we finally saw a ship in the distance. Elena had woken up sometime around then, and we had to explain that we hadn’t been able to find Clark. I thought she might freak out, or cry, or something. But she only sat in the sand with a cold look on her face and her eyes staring off into the distance.

It was night when the boat finally arrived and we were able to climb on board. I was relieved that one of the men on board was Mr. Caldwell, who was grieved to find that Adrian had been killed.

I explained everything. What Master Greaves had done, who the Card Dealer was. No one said a word except me the whole ride home. Leon was curled up asleep in a corner. Elena was still staring off across the sea. Lex was sitting with Adrian’s body, clutching his hand to her chest.

This was definitely not how I was expecting this little trip to end. I tried to make myself comfortable on the wooden deck of the boat, and after a few minutes, I fell asleep.

 

~ ~ ~

 

When the king found out about what had happened, Adrian was given a funeral that would have usually been saved for the death of a Master Class Wizard. He even got his name on a gold plaque in the Hall of Wizards at the palace. I could only imagine what he would have thought of all that. He’d act like we were giving him to much praise, but I knew he’d enjoy every second of it and milk it for all it was worth.

I never told Lex he had been planning on proposing to her. I felt like that would have made things worse. A few months after the events had taken place, Lex informed us all that she would be going to the future and staying there. I didn’t like it, but I held back my protests. Leon, however, did not.

“You can’t leave us!” He cried, hugging her legs.

“I’ll come back here every now and then,” she said as she patted his head. I pried him off of her.

“Well…if you really want that,” I said. Lex smiled.

“I think I just need some time away from here,” she said. I could understand that.

She left the night after she told us, and I didn’t see her for awhile after that. Leon came to live with me in the shop, which I ended up deciding to close now that not many people came around anymore.

Elena disappeared soon after the island incident and I never saw her again. I often wondered what happened to her, but I heard she had gone off to a far away country, though I had no idea which one.

As for me, I found myself dressing up in a mask and costume and visiting different places to entertain people with magic card tricks. It took a lot of practice, and I was no where near as talented as Adrian, but I still managed to become quite popular. I was now known as the new Card Dealer, with Leon as my assistant.

One night, after one of my shows, I was traveling home by myself, as Leon had gone on ahead of me. The sun was barely visible in the west, and the sky was turning dark. Stars spread out across the darkness, colorful and bright. the moon was huge and full, but it no longer seem ominous to me. Jadehaven was once again a peaceful place.

Shops with darkened windows stood on either side of me. I saw no one in the streets, besides one lonely figure up ahead close to my house, standing in the shadows, shuffling a deck of cards. He looked up at me as I passed by, but said nothing. I couldn’t make out his face in the darkness, but I could vaguely see his eyes in the moonlight. I could tell he was smiling when I met his gaze.

“H-hello,” I mumbled to be polite. He nodded her head at me.

“Coming back from a show, I see,” he said. His voice was familiar. Not in a way that I had heard it before, but in a way that reminded me of someone else.

“Yes sir,” I said with a nod.

“Hm,” the man said, nodding. “So you’re the new Card Dealer?”

“I guess so,” I said, shrugging. “That’s what I’m called now, anyway. Who are you?”

There was a pause. One that made me the slightest bit more curious when he looked back down at the cards he stopped shuffling.

“Eh,” he finally said, shrugging. “Someone you’re doing just fine without.”

I tilted my head and squinted my eyes to try and see into the shadows.

“Claudia!” Leon’s voice startled me into whirling around, turning my back on the man.

“Coming!” I called. I started to run towards the house when I thought to say goodbye to the man. I turned back around, only to find that he was gone. I raised my eyebrows. Surely he couldn’t have gotten away that quickly without be seeing. With a sigh, I started back towards the house, then his words hit me.

Someone you’re doing fine without…

I glanced back one more time, and saw nothing, but I realized what I had seen. I didn’t usually believe in ghosts, but just this once, I did.

I returned home with a smile on my face, because I knew now that somewhere out there, Adrian was watching the new Card Dealer.

And something told me he’d be really proud.

 

~ ♠ ♣ ♦ ♥ ~

Finally!!! This is the last part, and I’m kind of relieved it’s over! I’ve been writing this for nearly a year, and I’m honestly not that sad to say goodbye to it. I don’t usually get tired of stories, there’s a few I’ve been writing in for more that three years, but for some reason this one got old for me. This part was probably one of the most difficult to write, partly because I couldn’t figure out who to kill, partly because I’m terrible at ending things. I hope this wasn’t completely boring and everything like that and that at least some of you liked it! Thank you to all of y’all who stuck around from the very beginning to keep up with this story, all of your encouragement was what literally kept me going, so thank you so much for that! The new story will be talked about in more detail soon, and should start releasing in either August or September depending on how much gets done. Thank you again for reading this story, I hope you liked it! Have a good Sunday, stay healthy, and God bless!

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