** BEWARE!! THIS PAGE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE PHOENIX PROJECT! **
When The Phoenix Project was first released, it contained an epilogue which received mixed reactions. Some readers adored it, others felt it diluted the true ending. Due to this, when it was re-released through Booktrope, I decided to cut the epilogue from the book itself and make it available as a feature on my website.
Below, you will find this extra bonus chapter which explains what happens to Raven following the events of The Phoenix Project. Enjoy!
From the crumbling ruins of Rome, a light shone out into the evening sky. The enchanting city glowed once more as people began to emerge from the desecrated remains of churches and shops.
On the other side of the Tiber, now littered with debris, was the pile of ash that had once been the centre of Catholicism. St. Peter’s Basilica, reduced to rubble and dust. The great bell that once chimed at the beginning of services had been removed, taken from the wreckage to a new home. It now lay nestled in between the ancient stone pillars of the Colosseum, signalling a new age of faith. It began to chime, the clear, crisp sounds echoing across Rome.
People crept from their hastily built shacks and began to walk towards the scattered remains of the Forum, now thriving with people from all walks of life, but seeking the same thing – freedom. They passed through the ruins of law courts and temples and up to the site where the Arch of Titus had once stood. Only the left column was still standing.
The light shone into the night, illuminating the sky around the remains of the Colosseum. The huge amphitheatre, imposing yet elegant, was lit up from inside as the choir and orchestra assembled on the stage in the centre. Upon its twelfth chime, the bell stopped, and the people knew it would soon be time.
From the far side of the Forum, Raven looked on with a mixture of awe and comfort at the place he had dreamt of for so long. He sat upon a wall, facing the Colosseum, his legs dangling freely over the rocky ground. He smiled as he remembered all the things he had been told about this place, how true they had been.
The chiming began again and a new wave of people came, flooding towards the Colosseum, weaving through the ruins, both ancient and modern. Raven drank in the sight of the crisp, velvet sky before casting his eyes downwards to the three objects that lay nestled in his lap. Three pieces of paper, each more special than the last. He unfolded the first: a newspaper article dated a week before and read it again, even though he knew it word for word.
Horror at Salverford
The remains of over a thousand people have been found in the cellars of Salverford prison. These people are not believed to have died in the well-publicised fights, but in underground ‘death chambers’ and crematoria. The discovery was made after a bomb exploded in the prison’s ‘Ruby Tower’. The tower, which served as the nucleus of the Phoenix Project, was completely gutted from the blast. The bombing took place as the three hundred inmates were watching a scheduled fight, deep in the underground arena. Subsequently nobody was harmed, although head warden Roger Abbott’s current whereabouts are unknown. Police suspect he may have fled the country when the truth about the project was revealed. Efforts have been made to contact his family but have so far been unsuccessful.
Police have not named any suspects in the bombing, although they have confirmed that the bomb was homemade and was in Roger Abbott’s office when it exploded. Witnesses have reported that earlier in the day, an unknown man was seen entering the prison carrying a large rucksack. He had been waved past security and greeted personally by Mr Abbott. Witnesses, however, have been unable to provide police with a description of the man.
Upon the prison’s destruction, firefighting teams discovered a cellar full of human remains. The underground chambers of the infamous Ruby Tower told a story of murder and torture, and forensic teams have so far uncovered the remains of over a thousand people, of whom only a few have been identified. Investigations are being conducted into how and why so many people died in the prison and, despite demands for a response, Downing Street has yet to issue a statement. The police say that there has been a drastic rise in the number of protests over the last two days, and social media sites are heaving with public outrage. Many say that the controversial disciplinary project has failed. The House of Commons will meet this evening to discuss the future of the scheme.
A satisfied smile spread across his face as he folded the article and tucked it carefully into his jacket pocket. He took the second piece of paper and ran his fingers gently across its surface, a sad affection coursing through him, and began to read.
If you’re reading this, then I guess you lasted longer than I did in that terrible place. Congratulations to you. I always knew you could do it if you just put your mind to it. I wanted to thank you for helping me in there. You really made the world a better place. I may have had acquaintances in Salverford, but I never had a friend until I met you. This is why I leave to you something I could only leave to a most trusted companion. Listed below are the details of my bank accounts in which the money I collected in prison has been accumulating, the contact details of my accomplices in the original bomb plot, and a rundown of the original plan, which I failed to see to completion.
You don’t have to do anything with these details. The choice is yours. Were you to walk away and ignore them, I would bear you no ill will. Whatever you choose to do, I am sure it will be the right thing.
The words still affected him, even after reading them a thousand times. He could still hear her voice saying the words and see her delicate lips mouth the sounds. It was one thing that never got easier with time. But it was okay now, their mission had been accomplished and she could finally rest in peace. He tucked the letter away in his inside pocket, close to his heart, and tapped it with his hand as he cast his eyes once more over Rome, her homeland, her everything.
With a flutter of his heart, he turned to the next, the final piece of paper in his hand. Another letter, warm and loving, one he had waited so long to receive. When it finally fell into his hands he had nearly cried with joy, and even now the impact of the words made him well up with compassion. He pulled the last letter from its envelope and began to read.
My dearest love,
If you are reading this, it means you have finally found your freedom and can taste the fresh air of liberty once more. I am proud of you, for it is something I could never have achieved myself. I thank you for granting me my own freedom, but I know I will be able to thank you in person when we meet again.
I have found a place, impeccable in its sanctuary, greater than all that we had hoped it would be. It is perfect, save for one thing. I shall never be complete until you are by my side again. I wait for you, counting the days till your release, knowing that you shall survive and shall be with me again.
I live a peaceful life, far from the horrors of Salverford, but I am not lonely, as you shall soon see. I have company, wonderful, beautiful company, beyond your most brilliant dreams. I know you will be delighted to meet my companion and shall love her as I do. We wait for you in freedom.
He could not help but let a warm smile spread across his lips and an excited leap beat within his heart. It was time to go. He tucked away the final letter, stood up and brushed the dust from his black tuxedo. He straightened his tie, ran a hand through his tidy dark hair and jumped down from the wall. His shoes crunched upon the ancient pathway, and he set off towards the Colosseum, joining the throngs of people snaking through the ruins. Down the Via Sacra, under the laurel trees he walked, towards the remains of the Arch of Titus. As he stepped onto the ancient gateway, he saw the Colosseum. Lit with sombre rays, it was huge, silhouetted against the indigo sky.
Music began to drift from the amphitheatre, gentle, classical melodies. He walked up to the archways that stood around the base of the building, marvelling at the genius of its architecture. He passed into the stadium, his breath catching in his throat as he caught his first glimpse of the interior. His heart pounded with anticipation and awe resonated within his soul. This was the moment his whole life had been leading up to.
He climbed the old stone stairways to the first set of temporary seats and sat himself down near to the front, not wanting anything to obscure his view. He was close enough to see the stage clearly, and most importantly, to be seen from the stage. His heart quickened as the orchestra began to play the next song. All lights focused on the stage as the choir, standing in rows at the back, began to sing in Latin.
Every nerve in his body tingled with the anticipation of seeing her again. He was giddily nervous and a little afraid, but he knew he deserved this. After everything he’d been through, it was time for a little happiness.
The music was so beautiful it made him catch his breath. At the height of the song, Kiri walked out onto the stage. Her long red hair flowed in curls and her gown trailed out behind her. As she walked to the front of the stage, Raven’s heartbeat quickened and shivers coursed over him as she began to sing. The magic of her voice drifted over him, her words like witchcraft, and he was transfixed.
The music ended and Kiri bowed to the appreciative applause of the audience. Raven clapped with enthusiasm. He couldn’t believe he had allowed himself to forget how beautiful her voice was. It brought back so many memories of their brief and beautiful time together. His heart skipped as he thought of speaking to her again, of the moment that he would finally hear her soft voice.
She bowed to the admiring crowds and lifted her eyes to the upper levels, searching every face, as she had done at every performance for the past four years, hoping, wishing, that today might be the day that he would come for her.
He waited calmly for the moment when she would see him, when he could finally gaze into her eyes once more and his existence would be complete. Although he sat far from her, she recognised him instantly. He was the same as always, dark features, a passionate intensity in his eyes and thick dark hair framing handsome characteristics. Yet he seemed different – calmer somehow, more confident a determination in his eyes. He was a man now, no longer confused, no longer immature.
His heart jumped as their eyes locked. They were oblivious to the crowds around them. All sounds, all sights obscured by the pure joy of simply being together again.
They moved at the same time, Raven jumping from his seat and running to the stairs to descend to her level, Kiri moving hurriedly across the stage, dress trailing behind her, to reach the steps and meet him on the descent. His feet moved quickly on the ancient stone, slipping on the worn, moss-covered steps. With a racing heart and his breath heaving in short gasps, he jumped the final few steps and landed in an internal passageway.
Before he knew it, she was there.
They stopped, frozen on the spot, simply allowing their eyes to roam over each other. Five years. Five years without seeing one another, five years without the comfort of the other’s touch. He had wondered if it would still feel the same after all this time. He knew without a doubt that he still loved her, but would her passion for him have waned? He had worried about this, but as he stood before her now, her eyes filling with tears, he knew she still felt the same.
It was he who moved first. He took her into his arms, pulling her tightly towards him, enclosing her in a firm, gentle embrace. She trembled as she sank into his chest and released a deep sigh she had been holding for four years. She had thought she would never see him again, thought he could never survive Salverford. How could anybody last the full five years in there? But here he was, and things were suddenly the same as they always were, as if no time had passed at all.
She pulled back and looked deep into his eyes, noting again the calm wisdom now etched within them. She searched for the anguish that had ravaged his features but found only acceptance. A surge of happiness welled up within her, and as her heart pounded with a love that had never died, she leant forward and kissed him.
Eventually they broke apart. “I’m sorry I’m so late,” he whispered. “I wanted to come straightaway but there was something I had to do first.”
“I know,” she said, smiling, “and I understand. I would have done the same, but you’re here now – that’s all that matters.”
He stroked her cheek gently. Her eyes lit up as she began to speak again. “There’s something I have to tell you.”
“What is it?”
“No – maybe it’s easier to show you.” She took his hand in hers and pulled him towards the centre of the amphitheatre, where the makeshift wooden stage covered the ruins beneath. Most of the spectators were dispersing now, making their way back through Rome to wherever they lived amongst its ruins. Only a few people remained, some children playing at the front, their parents trying to usher them away from their friends. The children ran in and out of the spotlights that lit the stage, making shadow puppets with glee, laughing at the shapes.
When they reached the front, Kiri dropped his hand and called to the children. One little girl looked up and ran over to where they stood. Her dark hair flowed behind her with every step, and as the tiny child came closer, Raven examined her delicate features, her soft dainty nose, small rounded lips, wide green eyes. Eyes the colour of emeralds.
She giggled as she was swooped up into her mother’s loving arms. She played for a moment with the long red hair that swept around her own dark locks until she was placed again on the floor and wrapped her arms around the woman’s legs.
“Her name is Lucis. She’s four years old.”
The man stared at the little girl, a slow realisation breaking upon him.
“After Salverford, I came straight here and Lucis was born after about eight months. She was conceived in the prison.”
He struggled to get his mind around her words. His gaze switched to the tiny child now clinging to her mother’s legs, looking up at him with a mixture of wariness and curiosity. He knelt down to face her and she shrank back, unsure what to make of the stranger. His breathing quickened as he examined her green eyes, so like her mother’s, surrounded by his thick dark hair. His heartbeat skipped and he felt shivers tingle across his entire body.
He was surprised, certainly, he had never expected this, but he was not afraid. Her mother leant down and spoke to Lucis. “Lucis, do you know who this man is? I told you he was coming, do you remember?”
Lucis looked up at her mother with wide eyes and said in an tiny voice, “Daddy?”
Her mother smiled, tears gathering in the corners of her eyes. “Yes. He is here at last. What should you say?”
The little girl turned back to her father.
“Hello,” she said, offering him a shy smile.
He wanted to reply but his voice caught in his throat and he only managed a croak. He reached out and gently ran his fingers over her cheek as she blushed and giggled. He smiled in amazement at the little miracle. She embodied everything he had dreamed of: a new life, a chance to start again. He stood to face Kiri and a wide smile broke out upon his lips.
“Let’s leave this place. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” he said.
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