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The Last Wahleinmaier
Careful not to slam the heavy, glass doors behind her, Piper Wahleinmaier hurried down the steps of the Medallion Centre. Halfway there, she turned at the sound of someone calling her name.
“Dr. Piper!” One of Piper’s most spirited patients, Claire Brandon, bounded down the steps behind her. The young girl’s hot pink sweatshirt and neon green jeans contrasted beautifully with her dark features. Piper steadied herself as Claire launched into her arms. “Dr. Piper, are you coming in tomorrow? I have to show you this really awesome abstract I made all by myself!”
“Well, Claire,” Piper smiled, “I’ll be here, but I have three different sessions. If you come right after 4:00, you should catch me.”
“Okay.” Claire jumped down and c***ed her head ever so slightly to the side. “I love you, Dr. Piper.”
Piper touched her heart and said, “And I love you… How are you getting home today?”
Claire’s eyes clouded over just a little. “I think my dad’s coming to get me. Maybe. I don’t know. I guess he is.”
“Okay, Claire. You have my number; call me if you need me.” Piper gave Claire one last hug and watched as she went back inside the silvery-blue building. Then, Piper went to the parking lot across the street where her husband of two weeks was waiting for her.
Nicholas Darcangelo got out of the black Altima, opened the door for Piper, his wife, and stowed her canvas bags in the backseat. Once they were driving, he asked, “How was your day, Piper?” She closed her eyes for a few minutes, adjusted the armrest, reclined the seat, and then answered.
“Well, at first, it was very stressful. My newest patient is a 15 year old, Peyton. Her parents signed her up for 2 ½ hour sessions three days a week, and she is not at all happy about it.”
“What class is she?” Nicholas questioned.
“Unfortunately, suicidal. I’m thinking to consult with her parents on the subject of group sessions. Seems like she would do better off with the other teens of that category which I meet with on Thursdays. At first, when she came in, she refused to even pick up any of the art tools, and bragged about the things she’s done to try and end her life. Then, she fell silent, and didn’t say another word even when her mother picked her up. I take it she's convinced that if she is successful, she has made a great accomplishment. I just don’t understand her theory.”
“Aw, no worries,” Nicholas said, “You’ll figure her out. You always do, you know.”
“Yes, I will. For now, I’ll come up with a new tactic on reaching her. I hope her parents agree to group therapy. I have two teens there, Michaela and Terence, who also are dealing with similar problems.”
“Who was that little girl you were hugging outside of the Centre?”
Piper grinned broadly, “That’s Claire. I told you about her the other day, remember? The most enthusiastic, helpful, and friendly patient I have ever had in my entire career. She’s the sweetest angel.”
“Why does she need therapy?” Nicholas asked, confused.
“It just makes my heart hurt,” Piper sighed, “She’s a victim of rape. It surprises me how bright and happy she is when she has gone through that, what I… Her father’s half-brother was the offender; he’s in jail, supposedly. Now, she’s been acting just slightly off, so I’m wondering if something else is going on. I’m suspecting her father…” Piper shivered and rubbed her temples anxiously.
Nicholas looked over at Piper’s paling face and stroked her arm.
“Don’t worry.” He said, “It’ll be fine. It’s gonna be okay.”
“This is why I’m a child therapist, Nicky. I promised myself I would never let any child go through what I did. I’d feel responsible if I didn’t investigate and then something happened. I could never forgive myself. Besides, it’s Claire. Claire trusts me to protect her, and I have to.”
“I…” Nicholas sighed heavily and scratched his head. He couldn’t lie to Piper and tell her that she could protect Claire. Not now, with the facts he had to reveal to her. There was no way Piper would ever see her beloved Claire again. Nicholas sighed again, and nearly cried aloud from the piercing pain in his heart.
As they continued to drive, Piper glanced up and saw a sign for one of the nearby cities, Elton. “Where are we going, Nicky?”
Nicholas pretended not to hear her and kept driving. He felt a surprising tear spurt into his eye. How could he tell her? What would be the best way to tell his wife that she had to die?
“Nicholas?” Piper repeated, breaking into his thoughts. “Where are you taking us?” She touched his shoulder gently. “What’s wrong, honey? What’s going on? You can tell me.”
“Piper,” Nicholas cleared his throat a couple times, “As to where we’re going, trust me on this one… I need to tell you a story.”
“Okay.” Piper sat back, puzzled, in her seat. “Tell me.”
“Hundreds of years ago there was a magical city named Carthage. It was filled with fairies, unicorns, satyrs, and all sorts of other mystical beings. The King of this land was an honest, noble man, William Caesar. He ruled the land peacefully, and there were never any wars or violent happenings in Carthage.
“However, one fateful day, the city was paid a visit by an evil man, Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar was King William’s envious half-brother. He had been banned from Carthage when William was only nine years old, on account of his wicked behavior. Now that their father, Gaius Julius Caesar, had passed on, Julius the Second returned to Carthage in anger.
“First of all, Julius was angry because he had been banned from Carthage. Then, upon his return, Julius loathed King William for receiving the throne from their late father. Julius had always felt that William was the favorite; supposedly because William’s mother, Agatha, had been loved by King Gaius more than Aurelia, Julius’ mother. Now that Julius was back, he demanded the throne from King William.
“King William refused to give up the precious kingdom to his greedy, contemptible half-brother. When Julius saw that he was defeated, he left the city of Carthage in haste. Although he was gone, King William still felt wary and vigilantly watched for him. Zeptus Wahleinmaier, the King’s best friend and trusted advisor, told King William that it wasn’t over. Julius would return."
Piper’s eyebrows rose, “That Zeptus guy, he has my last name!”
Nicholas nodded his head, made a left turn on Anderson Boulevard, and continued speaking. “Sure enough, one cold, stormy night, Julius did come back. He rode into the city, screaming at the top of his lungs, and scared all the happy subjects into hiding. Once King William and Zeptus joined him outside, Julius made a grave declaration.
“‘Since you have shunned me and refused to appease your only brother,’ he said, ‘this city is now cursed forever! The lights shall go out in Carthage! Nothing will grow here! Everything will slowly decay! The inhabitants of Carthage shall have a slow and painful death! There will be blood upon the step of every residence! This city shall be no more!!! But as for you, my dear brother,’ Julius said evilly, ‘you shall die this very night! And your children shall eat your blood!’”
“Zeptus spoke up calmly, before King William could say a word. ‘Julius. Art thou drunken? Thy father loved this Carthage. His very hands nurtured this city and made it grow. Surely thou must rethink thy curse. Wilt thou destroy this land, and make thy father to turn over in his grave over his eldest son’s doings? Wilt thou sacrifice so much for so little?’”
“Julius spat on the ground. ‘William will die,’ he said, ‘and you, Zeptus, will not be able to stop all the decadence from occurring. However,’ Julius smirked, ‘this curse can be broken. By the second day of the third month of the hundredth leap year, the last Wahleinmaier’s heart must be carved out in the city of Utica, placed in a mother-of-pearl box inlaid with silk, carried to Carthage, and the heart’s blood sprinkled over the holy ziggurat.
At this point, Piper gasped softly, and covered her face with her hands. Nicholas looked over, his eyes wild with caged emotion. “Shall I go on?” He asked.
“Julius then left Carthage. Near midnight, King William had a severe heart attack and died. Even the water sprites and wood nymphs came out to sing when the news came. The whole city felt it. That same night, changes began happening. All the fruit trees dried up, as well as brooks and rivers. The inhabitants of Carthage all knew that their time was well limited.
“Zeptus mourned the loss of King William the most, and couldn’t bear to remain in Carthage. He appointed a kind, honest unicorn, Raziele, as queen over Carthage. Then, Zeptus disappeared into the human world and never returned to Carthage.”
“Now if you visit Carthage, it is so dark you can’t see your hand before your face. Nothing is fully alive there, and even Queen Raziele is beginning to decay. The stench of death is so strong it sticks to your clothes and threatens to kill. It’s February 28th now. And it’s also a leap year. The hundredth leap year. If nothing is done by March 2nd… Carthage is lost forever.”
“Oh, Nicky!” Piper cried out, “That’s just terrible! Could we help them? Please?”
A sob caught in Nicholas’ throat, and he coughed before responding. “We’re gonna try. You see, I am the great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of Julius Caesar, better known as Caesar Augustus.”
Piper sat up, her large chocolate brown eyes wide. She pushed her layered hair behind her ears, and listened intently.
“He was a wicked man, and so was his son. However, Julius’ son, Cesarion, died while his own son was only three. This son was raised by his lovely mother, and thankfully turned the Caesar line into somewhat moral people.
“This story I just told you has been passed down in my family from generation to generation. As you know, my father died of prostate cancer last year. On his last day he called me to him and said, ‘Nicolai, my boy, time is almost up. Next year will be the hundredth leap year. Nicholas, listen to me! I need you to save Carthage. I need you to find… the last Wahleinmaier.’ I promised I would, and he died with a smile on his face. I’m sorry, Piper,” Nicholas whispered, “I promised.”
Piper nodded, connecting pieces in her mind, “What happens next in the story?”
“After my father’s death, I went on a search for the Wahleinmaiers. I found a newspaper article on your father’s sudden and tragic death.”
“I was only seven,” Piper murmured, “He was a scientist, and hoped to be the next Galileo Galilei. ‘Frederick Wahleinmaier,’ he used to say, ‘will change the world.’ I didn’t understand. Some men wanted to steal his first great discovery for themselves; when they attacked him in the night, rather than let them take his glory, he drank the chemical solution of the formula. I always thought he should have let them take it rather than die. I didn’t understand why he would leave us so thoughtlessly. I felt as if my mother and I should have been more important than some scientific discovery. And I’ve always wondered what elements were in the solution, which killed him.”
“Now do you understand?” Nicholas asked gently.
“No.” Piper shook her head. “I don’t.”
“In the article they mentioned your father had a little girl. Then, I decided you must be the one I was looking for. It had to be. If Frederick Wahleinmaier was dead, and he had left one daughter, whom, if married, would no longer be a Wahleinmaier, the daughter had to be the last Wahleinmaier. There was no other.”
“Yes,” Piper said sadly, “I am the last Wahleinmaier.”
“The next article was even more tragic than the last. This one described how your mother, Patricia Smith Wahleinmaier, had jumped off a 27-floor building only a month after your father’s death.”
“Yes,” Piper laughed shortly, “She also left me behind. Then, I was fostered by a 48-year old man and his aging wife. A year after I arrived, she passed on, and I was her replacement. My new “father” used me for pleasure every night. And I didn’t know. All I knew was that it hurt. Thank God for my 4th grade teacher! I’ll always remember Mrs. Cornwallis. She called the police when I cried to her one day after school that I didn’t want to go home because it hurt down there.”
“I’m sorry, Pipe,” Nicholas breathed out, “We don’t have to talk about this.”
Piper shook her head. “No, I want to. They took me to the hospital, and found… things. I never saw him again, and I pray I never do. From then on, I lived in a group home with four other girls. I left at nineteen, got an apartment, and pursued my dream. Now I can help others, and that somehow has made me okay. As much as those kids depend on me, I need them.”
“Piper, are you okay?” Nicholas queried, concerned. “You’re shaking.”
Piper shook her head wildly, and then nodded back at him. “Tell me the rest of the story.”
“That’s it, basically. The rest… I looked for you, and I found you. I found you at the Medallion Centre. At the reception desk, I asked for a Ms. Aaliyah Wahleinmaier. The receptionist blinked, then said, ‘oh, you mean Piper; that’s her coming down the hall there.’ I looked, and I saw this beautiful woman. I looked, and you were coming closer, and you took my breath away. I thanked the receptionist and left hastily. I couldn’t tell you the awful message I had come with, and who’s to say you would have even believed me then.”
“Mandy- the receptionist- told me this guy was looking for me,” Piper said, “I looked out and saw you. I wondered what you wanted.”
“I didn’t know what to do. My mission would have been so much easier if the last Wahleinmaier was a male.” Nicholas laughed abruptly. “Then I was at the bookstore one day, and I saw you. You were even more beautiful than the first time I saw you. I was about to leave when you came up to me and said…”
“‘You were looking for me last week at the Medallion Centre.’” Piper continued, “And you said, ‘You’re beautiful.’”
“I didn’t mean to say it; it just slipped out. Then, I asked you out… You know all this already, Piper. You know what happens next.”
“Tell me!” Piper insisted.
“We were together for about three months. I loved you so much; I couldn’t bear to tell you why I had been looking for you in the first place. I wanted to marry you, but I had to fulfill the promise. My father would know if Carthage turned to dust. King William would know. Zeptus would know. Julius Caesar would know. And they would know I had failed them.”
“Why did you marry me, Nicholas? Why didn’t you just kidnap me, and carve out my heart at Utica?”
Nicholas winced at the harsh tone of Piper’s voice, the use of his full name, and her rawness about the whole situation. “I married you because I love you, Piper,” his voice cracked involuntarily, “and I wanted you to experience the best life I could give you before I had to take your life away.”
“This is why you insisted we get married right away, isn’t it? All this time you knew I would have to die, and you just let me live and love and be loved? And that’s why you didn’t want me to take your last name, right? I had to stay Wahleinmaier, so I could save a nation of extraterrestrial beings I don’t even care about! What about Claire? What about our life, our love?”
“I’m sorry, Piper. I thought this was the best way. I gave you what I thought you would want. I gave you your dream wedding, and house… I love you, Piper, and I wanted you to have all your dreams before… I didn’t know any other way. I love you so much. Tell me what I could have done better!”
Piper stared out the window at the lonely road they were traveling on. “Nothing, Nicky.” She sighed and curled up on the seat as much as the seatbelt would let her. “You did right. You made a promise to your dad, and believe it or not, I feel slightly comforted knowing my death will save all of Carthage. It sounds beautiful. I’m glad I had a chance to know you, to love you… I did a lot in my lifetime. I’m glad I was married, I was an art therapist, and I helped individuals want to live again… Even though circumstances destroyed my ability to have children of my own, I had Claire. I lived.”
Nicholas banged the steering wheel. “Would you stop speaking of yourself in past tense?!”
“I’m sorry,” Piper said, “I’m trying to come to grips with my plight. I’m tired, I guess.
Wake me up when we’re there, okay?”
A few hours later, Nicholas drove past Bertham, and made a left on Rockley. He pulled into the city of Utica. Following the trusted GPS, Nicholas found the empty wooded area with the stone altar he had searched for on Google. After parking the car, he sat back and watched Piper sleep restlessly.
“Piper.” He so hated to wake her. “Piper, we’re here, Princess.”
Piper looked at him through misty, tear-stained eyes. “This is so pretty. What’s it called?”
“It doesn’t have a name,” Nicholas smiled.
“Call it something pretty. For me, okay?”
“I will... Beautiful Sacrifice.”
Piper looked at him searchingly with her eyes, “Nicky, isn’t that what Jesus did? He died for the whole world, and now I’m dying for a small world. He died on a cross, and I’m dying on an altar. Do you think He can see me? Does He see me, Nicholas?” Piper’s eyes flooded with tears as she pleaded.
Although Nicholas had never believed in Jesus- or God for that matter- he assured Piper, “He does. He sees you, and He loves you, Piper.”
“But He died willingly, and I don’t want to go. I don’t want to die!” Tears slid down Piper’s cheeks as Nicholas held her. “Why do I have to be the last Wahleinmaier?” She began to cry hysterically and clutched at her husband, who was also crying.
“I’m sorry, Piper,” He said in a husky voice, “I have only two days left!”
She continued to cry as Nicholas rocked her gently to him. He stroked her hair, and held her securely. Then, Nicholas slipped in Vice Verses, the newest album from Switchfoot, and skipped it to track #4. “Restless” drifted out through the speakers.
“Do I have to feel it?” She sat up and stared at him intently through wild eyes.
“No, Piper. I have an anesthesia. All you have to do is swallow it, you’ll fall asleep, and-”
“-Be gone forever. I hate that awful man! I don’t want to go!”
Nicholas reached out and took her hand, “I know, Piper. If I could I would take your place. I would die for you. I don’t have the power to break the curse, though.”
“And you have only two days to get to Carthage. Nicky, why are there such evil people like Julius Caesar? Don’t answer that. Do you think I’ll be stuck here somewhere, as a ghost who can’t rest, like the song says, because she was unsettled?” Piper laughed aloud. “Don’t answer that.” She got up and opened the car door. “Are you ready?”
“Am I ready?” Nicholas was surprised at Piper’s sudden easiness and calm disposition. “What about you? Are you ready?”
Piper looked up at the bright sun and smiled back at him. Her eyes glowed with not quite anticipation, but something close to it. “I’m ready.” She spun in the rays of the golden sun, making her hair shine reddish in the natural light. Piper laughed again and tugged at her baby blue sweater before slamming the car door shut. “Nicky, put on Somewhere over the Rainbow, okay?”
“What are you doing?” Nicholas asked as Piper lifted her hands and began to sway and spin in the breeze.
“Connecting with my inner child. C’mon! Dance with me.”
Nicholas took Piper’s hands, and swayed back and forth with her as the sun smiled down on them. “… ‘They’re really saying I love you…’”
Piper gave him one of her famous Piper smiles. “‘And the dreams that you dare to, why can’t I?’ ”
Nicholas looked up at the blue sky and thought what a beautiful, perfect day this would be if not for the circumstances under which they were here. If only they could really find each other over the rainbow after this was all over. If only there was another way.
As the last notes of the song drifted away in the wind, both Nicholas and Piper knew their time was up. Nicholas opened the trunk of the car, reached in, and came up with a bottle of anesthetic pills and a mother-of-pearl box inlaid with silk. He then secured her hand in his, and they walked together to the stone altar, stronger than ever before.
At the altar, Piper knelt, pulling Nicholas down with her. “What are you going to carve my heart out with?”
Nicholas grimaced at the reminder that he was going to do the honors. “Don’t worry about it, please.”
“Where did you get the special box? It’s nice.”
“Things Remembered; I had a catalogue.”
“Nicholas, I’m sorry, but can you just promise me one thing?”
“I want you to take care of Claire. Mandy will help you a little. Just make sure she’s okay, and nobody is harming her for the rest of her life.”
“I will. I promise.” In his mind, Nicholas thought, ‘Why do I keep making these vital promises? Don’t I ever learn?’
“I’m ready, Nicky, but first,” Piper said, “Can we pray?”
“Anything you want, Piper,” Nicholas agreed reluctantly.
Piper bowed her head, “Our Heavenly Father, we thank You for the time You gave us together. We thank You for the love You have given us. Thank You for life, and for death, and for the city of Carthage. We thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to die for us. We love You. Amen.”
Piper stood, and turned as Nicholas hugged her softly. “Thank you, Piper,” he whispered. “Forgive me.”
“What ever for?”
“No more tears, Nicky. Save them for when you really need them. Don’t cry for me.”
Nicholas bent his head and kissed her gently. “I will always love you, Piper.”
Then Piper swallowed the anesthesia pill, and lay with her back on the stone altar. Nicholas watched as she slowly closed her eyes. He tried, but, unable to contain them, he let a few tears fall. She truly was beautiful.
When Nicholas made certain that Piper would not wake up, he drew a jeweled blade from his chest pocket. Then, hating himself for it, and nearly vomiting, Nicholas carved his beloved wife’s heart out of her body. After it was done, he nearly killed himself in a moment of mad grief, but the reason he had gone through it all stopped him. He had to save Carthage. Wrapping Piper’s heart in the pretty blue sweater she had been wearing, he placed it in the mother-of-pearl box inlaid with silk. Turning back to the altar, Nicholas gasped. Piper’s body had disappeared and in its place was a gold compass.
Underneath the gold compass was a note penned on a broad, coral leaf. It read: Go to L.A. The city of Carthage is buried underneath. This magical compass will show you the way. When you reach the right area, take the compass apart and lay the pieces at your feet. You will find Carthage.
Nicholas looked around him for signs of a messenger. All he saw was an old raven perched on a nearby tree. Its eyes were so evil; Nicholas was convinced it was a person in disguise. He quickly gathered his things, jumped in the Altima, and sped off.
“Oh, God,” Nicholas thought aloud, “Two days to get to California. Unless this car flies, I’ll be getting a good ten or so speeding tickets. What if I killed Piper and I don’t even reach Carthage in time? Not only will I be a murderer, but also a failure.”
Going at 112 miles an hour, Nicholas zoomed down highways and backways, relying on the voice of his GPS, and not stopping to glance at even road signs. Twice he passed a police car, but the cops must have been sleeping, because not once was he pulled over. In fact, he scratched the side of the second police car, and nothing happened.
Nicholas reached Los Angeles, California on March 1st at 11:17 pm. There were only 43 minutes remaining. He took the leaf, compass, and heart with him and started off. The compass buzzed in his palm and said in a metallic voice, “Straight ahead.”
Almost crying in relief at the similarities between the compass and his GPS, Nicholas ran straight ahead until the compass buzzed out another command, then he turned left. The lights of the city kept him from tripping and falling several times. He thought his legs would give way, but finally the compass said, “Stop.”
Nicholas stopped. He didn’t even glance at his watch. Instead, he untwisted the compass and laid the pieces the feet of his black Nikes. Instantaneously, the earth swirled all around him, and he shot down into a hole that wasn’t there before. He fell and fell and fell, and then finally landed right on his feet in a place that resembled a graveyard, except for its poor upkeep.
Turning to the left, Nicholas saw an old, feeble unicorn making her way towards him. Although her coat was matted and dirty, and her eyes were nearly dead, her horn shone brightly. Nicholas dropped to his knees before her.
“Rise,” she spoke in a majestic voice, “Follow me.”
He didn’t know how she knew him or what he was here for, but Nicholas knew that he was in the presence of Queen Raziele. The deeper they got into the jungle which was Carthage, the darker it became, and the more rancid the air smelled. She led him to a temple that was covered with moss, vines, and diseased rats.
“This is the holy ziggurat,” Queen Raziele said, and Nicholas was once more amazed at the dignity of her voice.
Opening the mother-of-pearl box inlaid in gold, Nicholas looked at his watch. 11:53 pm. Seven minutes remaining. He squeezed some of Piper’s dark, red blood into his hands, and then sprinkled it over the ziggurat, saying, “This is the blood of the last Wahleinmaier.”
Queen Raziele and Nicholas both waited in growing despair. All sorts of thoughts began swirling through Nicholas’ mind. How much blood was to be sprinkled? Was the heart supposed to be actually carried to Carthage, and not driven? Was the message passed to his generation wrong, like a game of Telephone? Was it too late?
Nicholas’ heart sank as his watch beeped loudly. 12:00 am. The second day of the third month of the hundredth leap year. Had he failed? As he looked at the Queen miserably, Nicholas heard the faint strainings of a violin. All of a sudden, a celestial light burst out of the ziggurat. The moss, vines, and rats were flung away into the darkness, and the holy ziggurat was restored to its pristine condition.
Queen Raziele leaped in joy as her bones strengthened, and her coat began to shine. All around them changes could be seen. The darkness cleared and the sun shone brighter than it had ever shone before. Beautiful plants shot up out of the now fertile earth, and flowers bloomed colossally. The air smelled sweet like lavender and baby powder, and all the trees stood tall to their normal gigantic size.
“Come out, my friends!” the Queen shouted, “The curse is broken! We are free!”
Water sprites splashed out of ponds, brooks, and rivers that hadn’t been there before. The redwood tree nymphs peeked out, and fairies came out of their hiding and began to flit back and forth. Nicholas stared in awe as a parade of centaurs, satyrs, dwarfs, and elves marched out clapping, led by three astrids.
Carthage was huge, as well as very beautiful. Nicholas could see why it meant so much to his ancestors. He was pleased that the curse was finally broken! Piper would love this place; maybe the Queen could build a shrine for her here. Piper had always loved beauty such as this.
A group of sprites, pixies, and fairies began to dance and sing as a gorgeous rainbow stretched out like a canvas and covered the entire sky. “We are free! We are free! The curse is broken! We are free! We are free! Now we live!”
There were so many different creatures present. Nicholas was a little intimidated by the ones he couldn’t recognize from television. They all began to cheer and party as they ate fruit from the Everlasting Trees of Life. Now that his job was done, Nicholas turned from all the festivities, pushed through the flowering trees, and looked for a way to get home. He was done here.
Queen Raziele galloped into the Heavenly Forest after Nicholas. “Nicholas!” She called and knelt at his feet when he turned to her. “You are blessed! You broke the curse! You saved Carthage! And you are not happy? Why?”
Nicholas kicked at the pebbles beneath his feet. “I didn’t save Carthage,” he almost shouted, “I didn’t break the curse! Piper did.”
“The last Wahleinmaier. Piper was the last Wahleinmaier. She was also my wife, and I killed her by carving out her heart so her blood could save your land. She died for this, and she’ll never see it, and I’ll never see her again.”
“Hmmm,” Queen Raziele said, “I don’t know about that. Let’s ask our counselors, shall we?”
Queen Raziele led Nicholas to a beautiful section of land across Lake Magnificent (which they flew over). There she pointed out two great statues. They were now golden but Nicholas assumed they had been gray or even black yesterday.
“Meet King William and Zeptus Wahleinmaier.”
The ancient-looking stone faces stared back at him, but their eyes somehow looked alive.
“Zeptus, William,” Queen Raziele said, “I need your help.”
“Raziele,” Zeptus spoke in a deep voice, “Now that the land is restored to its rightful state, we are leaving. There is no need to stay. Everything is fulfilled.”
“Thanks to this young man here, everything is fulfilled,” Queen Raziele said defiantly, “Without him none of this would have happened. Now, he needs something, and before you leave you must help him receive it.”
“Alright, Raziele, if you insist. But then, we are gone.”
“Zeptus, Piper’s, one of your descendants, blood was sprinkled over the ziggurat to restore Carthage. Piper, obviously, was the last Wahleinmaier. She was Nicholas’ beloved wife, and he had to kill her for our land. He wants Piper back. Is it possible?”
The statue was silent for a short while, then said, “Yes. The only way we can conduct this Piper’s resurrection is if she comes back as a magical being of Carthage.”
Raziele snorted and pawed the ground. “Zeptus, is that all you can come up with? Very well. Nicholas, the best way to do this would be to make Piper one of the fairy folk. They are just like humans, except they have the ability to perform magic, as fairies do. We can also make you one of the fairy folk, so that you and Piper can be together in a normal fashion.”
“Sounds good to me,” Nicholas said.
“Okay, Zeptus, do your thing,” Queen Raziele said.
The wind picked up and blew fiercely all around them. It was warm air, and Nicholas could smell Piper in it. Sure enough, when the wind died down, Piper was standing beside Nicholas, beautiful as ever.
“Thank you.” Nicholas and Piper said in unison.
“No, thank you,” Zeptus said in his gravelly tone, “and Raziele, I’ll see you when you get up here.”
“Alright,” Queen Raziele smiled, “Goodbye for now. William, don’t you speak?”
“Thank you,” William spoke for the first time, “Now I can rest in peace.”
Piper grabbed Nicholas’ hand and laughed loudly. “So this is what it feels like to live life! So this is breathing air for the very first time!”
Queen Raziele danced with them back across Lake Magnificent, through the Heavenly Forest, and back to where the Freedom Celebration was taking place.
There they found all the beings gathered around an old, scary-looking raven. It was bleeding profusely from a wound in its heart. It was the same raven Nicholas had seen at Beautiful Sacrifice.
“Stop!” Queen Raziele commanded when a goblin poked the raven with its spear. “Julius Caesar Augustus, what are you doing here?”
“Gah-gah,” the poor raven croaked.
“What are you trying to say?”
“I’m sorry-gah- for- gah- all the trouble I put you all-gah- through.”
“Kill him!” A naiad shouted cruelly, which is against their nature.
“What do you want, Julius?” Queen Raziele asked.
“Kill me!” He gasped, and they did. They killed the raven and buried him at the Celestial Burial Ground. Julius Caesar was a very important part of their history. If not for Julius Caesar, there would be no Piper and Nicholas. If not for this foolish, malicious man, there would be no story to tell. Yes, Julius Caesar was a vital part of the history of Carthage.
Three days later, all the inhabitants of Carthage gathered at the Palace for the crowning ceremony. Queen Raziele decided that she had reigned long enough, and that Nicholas and Piper should be the rulers of Carthage. After all, together, they had saved this beautiful land, and had lain to rest the minds of men who had roamed for hundreds of years.
“Now, promise in the presence of all your subjects,” Madame Raziele said, “give them what they need!”
“I promise to always nurture and protect Carthage, and cultivate its beauty,” Nicholas and Piper declared in sync, “I promise to rule Carthage with love and honesty.”
“Inhabitants of Carthage,” Queen Raziele announced, “I give you King Nicholas Darcangelo and Queen Aaliyah Piper Wahleinmaier!”
The whole city of Carthage raised their hooves and horns, and shouted at the tops of their lungs, “Long live the King! Long live the Queen! Long live Carthage!”