We open this chapter with the announcement of the Rite of Justice. Achim goes to Zante to ask Katrina’s advice on the matter, though I’m not sure why or what she could possibly know. Maybe he just wants to see her? I’m sure that makes En Shevil happy. En Shevil, by the way, recognizes Katrina on sight in the scene below, but I don’t think I ever wrote or even planned a scene in which they meet face-to-face.
En Shevil, meanwhile, is trying to dig up information on the assassin, and visits the Thieves’ Guild looking for clues. No indication in my notes about what she finds. This, by the way, is her second day as arena champion, but again I didn’t designate an opponent for her.
The next day, En Shevil goes through the transporter again. This was to be yet another crossover, with another author’s world, but I don’t remember anything about it. She would probably have been killed by someone else’s main character again. Too bad.
In the evening, Achim encounters Bruno and heads off to Minos Island. Then, in the middle of the night, the following scene takes place…
“En Shevil,” came a great voice that she could not help but recognize, shattering her sleep and making her jump.
“Orono!” she cried.
“The time of thy proving draweth nigh, little one. Arm thyself.” As Orono continued speaking, En Shevil arose without question, dressed, and prepared for battle. “Even now thy champion and Elsa fight for the freedom of this land, but they shall fail, for Minos is their doom. The Prophecy Stone shall be broken and the Dragon of Marete shall awaken. If the heroes fight, they shall conquer, but not without heavy and grievous loss: the dragon shall claim many lives before the battle endeth. Thou art the only hope for them.”
“Why me?” asked En Shevil, speaking magically.
“Thou hast the blood of the greater dragons in thee, child. Now thou mayest live up to thine heritage, thrust on thee though it was: conquer this dragon and destroy it; save thy friends and prove thyself a true Heroine worthy of the man thou lovest.”
“How in the name of Iblis am I supposed to kill a dragon in some way that they can’t do just as easily?”
“Listen, thou arrogant child! The Dragon of Marete was created by the binding of dark powers. Thus, he is of the lesser blood, with no consciousness beyond the desire for death. Such creatures can, in the course of centuries, be tamed by those of greater blood, but for him there is now no such chance. Thou, of the higher breed, hast the power to control him for a time, to drive him away from Marete and weaken him unto his destruction. Thou must throw aside thy petty fear of the power within thee, for thou wilt need it to the last.”
“Why can’t you just kill him?”
“I give thee but a chance to regain thy standing in the eyes of dragons the world over. If thou deniest this opportunity, Marete shall not be destroyed.” En Shevil understood. She didn’t even have to take this chance; the dragon would still be killed if she went back to bed. Orono added, “Perhaps after this deed thou wilt feel at peace with thyself — saving the lives of all of Marete must surely be recompense for taking the lives that thou hast.” There the dragon was wrong, of course, wasn’t she? No matter — having heard what she had, En Shevil could no more remain here than she could swim. She secured her silence charm around her neck, and at that moment the air filled with magic, rippling, and she disappeared.
Startled, she found herself in a very different place: great rocky walls reared up on all sides, dark yet lit with a pulsating crimson light. A river of lava lay before her, the painful heat causing her to step back. Through its steam she saw the warped image of a brilliantly-colored temple, before whose shattered doors stood the dragon, restrained only by three thin lines of purple lightning. Nearby stood Achim, Elsa, and Toro, and, above the ground in an oval of red light, Katrina. She could not be sure, but it seemed that a small crowd of humans was massed in the hazy darkness to her left.
“Dazah!” cried Achim. “I’m sorry to drag you into this, but help me stand this pillar up!” He was pushing against a dragon pillar, the last one unbroken on Marete. She looked around, wondering whether to obey him or face the dragon. “The dragon can’t be harmed if this isn’t standing!” he cried. So she ran to his side.
Even with their combined strength it would not move. Elsa, Katrina, and Toro were all heading for the dragon when another shape appeared through the steam, green-skinned and huge. “Gort fight dragon,” he said, surprising them all. “Gort be hero too.”
With a shocked smile Achim cried, “Gort! Come help us with this thing!” The false man approached and applied all his effort to the pillar, which, with three sets of arms and backs working on it, slowly righted. “Everyone! You can attack now!”
The group that En Shevil thought she had imagined in the darkness poured forward, and her breath was caught in her throat as she saw the familiar shape in the lead: Reeshaka was pitting her small band of EOF warriors against an opponent that was doubtless beyond the mental scope of any of them. Nevertheless, she admired their bravery. But for all the attacks, magic and otherwise, now being placed on the monster, the dragon did not seem to be taking any hurt.
“Sacrifice,” she heard Achim say as he stood upright, slapping his palms on his thighs. “Katrina!” he cried, turning. “The Sybil said there must be a sacrifice for the dragon to die! ‘The blood of love!'”
“Blood to attract the forces from the dragon? That would work! Who though is willing to face this death?”
“‘Face this death’–‘blood of love…'” She did not hear him whisper, En Shevil… “I’ll do it!” said Achim. Her heart leaped with fear, and she grasped at him as he ran from her side, though she missed him entirely. Achim stood before the dragon, just across the river, raising his arms. “Hey, dragon!” he shouted, throwing his magical spear at the monster’s head. The latter rose into the air, letting out an earsplitting roar that spoke to En Shevil’s ears the love of death and a lust for blood. That horrible kinship had again awakened in her with the sound, strong and fierce as it had not been on Hydra Island. It stirred her anger, and, caught up in a sudden rage, she took a deep breath and returned the cry, roaring the dragon’s roar from weak human lungs fueled by magic and despair. Something sharp lodged itself in her chest, and she realized she had shattered her silence charm.
But she had prevented the sacrifice. The dragon’s head remained motionless in the air, startled in the unexpected recognition of one of its own kin in a strange body. Its attackers were staring at her as well, and for a moment all was silent. She ran forward, jumping with a double flip over the stream and racing to the dragon’s side. Laying her hands flat on the burning hot flank of the creature, she opened herself to him. The great rolling desert of her magic was laid bare to the searing pool of magma that was his consciousness; the two combined, lava spilling onto the sand and melting it until all was a rolling whirlpool of glassy molten rock. She entered into his mind, somehow letting her body unform; she was the dragon.
Images of his life bombarded her: a primitive, devilish awareness pairing with dark powers called forth by the Atlantean wizards to create him; destroying most of Atlantis, then flying wildly over the sea, twisting and spinning through the swiftly-moving air that heated at his passing; burning for the sheer joy of ruin, destroying forests and towns, evaporating lakes, devouring every creature in his path. She felt once more the adrenaline of killing, and the evil passion of Avigilante power. Deathscar had returned. She saw him sleep, glutted on the lives of thousands, for many years; she felt the hunger of his awakening, his realization that a new island had formed where he had destroyed the old; she felt him arise and destroy once more, bringing new death to Silmaria. Deathscar rejoiced at his triumph, feeling the glorious fullness that came from the dragon’s feast.
Then she felt his pain as he weakened, suddenly and without preamble, at the raising of a simple pillar by the hands of tiny men. A second pillar stood, and she felt his power being bound. With every new pillar she cringed, feeling it in him like a knife wound. Finally she watched him retreat to the palace in Dragon Blood Cavern, bound and powerless. The wrath of Deathscar joined with her brother dragon at the humans who had caused him such pain. All was the desire to make them suffer.
She watched him in the darkness of long years, brooding and bitter, until a sudden snapping crack, accompanied by the dying cry of a Silmarian guard, gave him a sudden hope of new life. The second death and broken pillar woke him fully, and soon five more deaths were to set him free. Free. He was free to bring vengeance on those who had imprisoned him. His strength regained, he was no longer a prisoner of pathetic man. He was Doom, and Deathscar was with him in readiness, joining him in the pleasure of his sudden freedom. Their quest was now for the destruction of Silmaria.
They reared up, breaking the lightning bolts like ropes and sending them snapping, whip-like, into the ground with crackling surges of dying power. They beat their wings, rising up above the heads of the frightened attackers, and rose out of the rocks. Two small shapes followed them into the sky. High above Marete they soared, ready to sweep down and bring destruction on Silmaria and anything else they could find. The dragon Deathscar laughed, roaring with its newfound strength.
But En Shevil was not dead yet. Slowly, even as the dragon she had become prepared to bring doom to the little island, she regained control of herself. The Sechburg months of concentrating on pushing Deathscar aside had been of worth, for without them she would never have had the strength to do so now. More than ever she could see the split in herself: En Shevil the human, the thief, the warrior, and Deathscar the dragon, the murderer, the madwoman. She could not be dragon and human at once–and therefore the Dragon must die. She drove him away from Marete.
Briefly over the sea they flew, wild and consumed with fire and rage. Over the mainland where their shadow brought fear to all who stood below; past barren lands where little grew and no man lived, and finally out to where the great ocean was cold and empty and huge islands of ice floated. They twisted and dove in the sky, he attempting to shake her from his mind. But as his fire died in the cold of the north his mind and her magic were cooling, hardening together irrevocably. She knew that once she left his mind, her magic (what she had not already exhausted) would be lost to her forever, trapped in the dying consciousness of a creature she had renounced, relinquished with the dark power from the depths of Marete. So also would be lost her own draconic half. But how to kill him?
They fell towards the sea, feeling her strength draining out of her as he fought even harder for control. Into the icy water they plunged, a great steam rising and waves spreading out in every direction. There was no more fear in her for this water, this dragon’s grave–it was life after death as Deathscar met her final end. They struggled, he still trying to break free and she ever weakening, but she pushed him deeper, until light was gone and his body drew its last breath. And there the dragon died. As his mind spun into blackness, pulling her with it, she grasped at the last thread of magic, her last chance to live–willing herself out, willing herself free. She felt a terrible pain as if she were being ripped apart, as if someone were tearing her heart from her chest, wrenching some inner part of her like a bee’s stinger. At once came the sensations of something strongly grasping her arms and existence fading away into nothingness. But even as the sable curtain fell across her vision, she smiled with a spirit mouth, knowing that what she had lost was a killer. Whether En Shevil lived or died, Deathscar had come to her story’s conclusion.
When she awoke she was on the uncomfortable bed in the octagonal room of Erasmus’ castle. Through what stricture of magic she did not know, she was clothed as she had been before the battle, save only that her charm was gone and her hair once again blonde. She sat up, chest fluttering, then fell back again, completely exhausted. “Achim,” she murmured.
“Last thing I heard, he was headed for Minos to beat someone up, or rescue Elsa, or something.” This was Fenris, who now hopped onto the bed beside her. He said something else she could not hear, for she fell then into an intense and dreamless sleep until at least ten hours later when she again opened her eyes and sat up. Her energy was totally restored, but something was missing inside her. She felt lighter somehow, less weighed down, and yet somehow complete and full as she had not been since her transportation to Itsumo Kawai. Rawn sat at the table looking out the window into a night sky. She sighed once, then turned her head towards En Shevil. Seeing her awake, she jumped up and rushed over to her, every semblance of Faery calm momentarily gone. She swore some oath of her homeland and clasped the other in her arms. “You’re alive!”
“I’ve been alive for the last while, it seems” she said.
“But you could not hear me say it while you slept,” said Rawn, her eyes filled with tears. “And you have saved Silmaria from Doom.”
“How did I get here?”
“I thought you were gonna die, so I lev’d you into the transporter. And now you’re back, safe and whole.”
“Levitated me? From where? I was miles away, out in the ocean!”
“Your friends rescued you. The demons.”
“They followed the dragon, and found your body.”
“Askgaella doesn’t have wings.”
“It would appear she does now.”
“How? Where are they?”
“They said they are going east, but that they will see you again.”
“What? Why did they leave?”
“They seemed rather shy of humans.”
“Where is Achim?”
“I have been watching him for you. When he reached the city he collapsed; he is also only just awakened. The city now wishes to know your fate. They asked me if I knew aught of you, and I told them I would look for you. What do you wish?”
“My magic is gone,” said En Shevil softly, picking up the mask that lay on the table. “Send me to Achim, please. I must speak with him before I decide.”
“You will tell him? You know he loves you.”
“I… haven’t decided yet.” And I don’t know that. Rawn nodded, and magic filled the air. She found herself standing beside the gate near Gnome Ann’s Land. Achim was walking slowly up the slope, doubtless heading for the Hall of Kings. “Achim,” she said. He stopped, remaining motionless for a moment, then turned and looked at her. His hand went to his face, then he ran to meet her and throw his arms around her. He was weeping, and did not say anything for several moments.
Finally he released her, taking a step back but never removing his eyes from her. “Dazah,” he said. “You’re alive.” She nodded slowly. He reached one hand into his pocket, and his cheeks went red. “I keep making the mistake of not acting soon enough, and run the risk of losing someone else I love.” He pulled his fist from his pocket and opened his hand to display a golden ring with a small white gem. “Will you… please… marry me?”
Her emotion at that moment, to hear those words, was indescribable. Almost without thought guiding them her hands reached up, slower than slow, to the mask on her face. Close to tears herself, she removed it and dropped her arms again, looking him openly eye to eye for the first time since she could not remember when. “If you still want me, I will,” she said.
Evidently I had intended another scene, or at least a transitional paragraph, here, since I have a line of nonsense words in the file breaking up these two parts. Maybe I was just so happy to have finally hooked up my boring leads that I typed nonsense words in my excitement. In any case, on with the ending!
After a tearful meeting with Logos, Rakeesh, Erasmus, Rawnmé, and Elsa, during which plans were made and goodbyes were said, En Shevil, Achim, and Elsa were called to stand on the platform as the entire population of the island was summoned to the Hall of Kings. Needless to say, only the very lucky citizens actually got a place in the Hall, the rest spilling out into the courtyards and beyond. As the battle-weary group stood on the platform in the Hall, all they could see was a mass of happy movement, and the overwhelming sounds of joy swept over them. En Shevil’s heart fluttered in a way she had never before felt as she realized that she was one of the primary causes of their happiness. She glanced up at Erasmus and Rawn as they lounged on a hovering purple sofa nearby. They smiled.
Logos stood forward, raising his staff for silence. This spread like a wave out of the wide-flung doors to the standing crowd without. Eager anticipation was in the air as the centaur began to speak. “The Rites of Rulership are over. Here are the heroes who have freed Silmaria. They have freed our fishing villages, and driven the invaders off Marete. They have defeated the general of the mercenaries, and made certain they will never return to Silmaria’s shores. They have dared the depths of Hades, and proved their courage and valor. They have brought us peace with Atlantis, and made the seas safe for boats and travel. They have brought the unjust to justice, and made the murderers pay for their crimes. These are the ones who averted this dire fate. These are the Heroes of Silmaria!”
The aforementioned were deafened by the roar of loving gratitude welling from the wildly applauding crowd. Cries of loyalty were in every throat, tears in every eye. Minutes passed as the Silmarians continued to cheer, until Logos raised his staff once more. When they were quieted, he continued.
“Many of our citizens, although uninvolved in the Rites of Rulership, have stood beside the Prince of Shapier and the Heroine of Spielburg, and gallantly risked their lives in facing the Dragon of Doom so that the prophecy of Silmaria’s destruction should not come to pass. To name them, Toro the minotaur; Gort the scientist; Reeshaka dar Kreesha and her noble warriors of the Eternal Order of Fighters; and the mage Katrina.
“But another has also faced the dragon, shining above the rest in her courage and self-sacrifice. Though seemingly resigning herself to death in the action, she single-handedly defeated the Dragon of Doom; she has saved Silmaria and the rest of the world. Here is Dazah, En Shevil of Shapier!”
The cheers that followed must have been heard in the far corners of the earth, and the great hall shook to its foundations. En Shevil was so filled with happiness that she covered her face with her hands and wept.
Truly she had redeemed herself.
“One person has proven himself beyond all others in the Rites of Rulership,” continued Logos at last. “He has shown again and again the true meaning of heroism. He has earned the title of Hero in four lands, and again in ours. Silmaria has never had someone more fitting to sit upon her throne. Achim, Prince of Shapier, will you bear the burden of our crown? Will you become the next king of Silmaria?”
Achim grinned, looking around the Hall of Kings gleefully. “I will not be your King,” he said at last. There was a noise of general surprise and limited displeasure from the crowd.
“Why? Why have you gone through so much for us, risked your life for Silmaria? Why do you not want the reward of the rulership of this kingdom?” Logos knew, of course, but wanted Achim to tell the assembly.
“I do not intend to leave my adopted father without an heir, and it will be a big enough task to rule Shapier someday.” He turned to En Shevil and took her hand. “Also, this Heroine here has finally agreed to become my wife, and I intend to go home and marry her before she runs off again!” He pulled her to him and put his arms around her. For a moment there was silence as there had not been for any previous pause, a sort of collective gasp at the perfect, fitting sweetness of this announcement. Then arms waved and a tremendous cheer burst forth, a cheer more full of encouraging words and hopeful phrases than any other had been.
Logos was smiling at her and the tears running down her cheeks. “The blessings and good wishes of Silmaria will go with you both; may your union be one of happiness and peace. And do you both take this as token of our gratitude.” He gestured, and a guard stepped forward with something in his hands shrouded in black cloth. “The Prophecy Stone is gone, but it will always be a symbol of this dark time in Silmaria, and the light you have restored. Wolfie the canine has prepared this replica, and now we hope you will accept it as a badge of honor.” The guard presented the small statue to En Shevil, who pulled free the cloth and gazed at the Stone in wonder. This, then, was the symbol of their victory. It was truly beautiful. “There is but one other apart from the Prince who has proven that she deserves the throne of Silmaria. Elsa von Spielburg, will you be the next king of Silmaria?”
Elsa, looking righteously proud, responded, “Yes, I will serve this kingdom gladly, for the honor of Silmaria and these my friends. I will be King of Marete!”
Logos nodded, and raised the gilt-edged box of dark carven wood which he held. Dead silence fell as he lifted its lid and drew out a thin silver circlet set with a single blue stone, holding it up before the people. He turned to Elsa, who knelt, and set it slowly upon her head. “Behold Elsa, King of Silmaria!”
The following elated clamor from the people was thunderous, Elsa’s smile more genuine than most En Shevil had ever seen on her face. The new King of Silmaria went over to her friend and squeezed her hand. “Thank you,” she said, though En Shevil could only read her lips.
“Congratulations,” the Shapierian replied. “I know you’ll be wonderful.”
Achim shook Elsa’s hand heartily with a wide grin, and put his mouth to En Shevil’s ear. “Are you ready to go home?” he asked.
Longing suddenly with a weary homesickness for the sands of Shapier, she nodded, and he signaled Erasmus. “Yes, please,” she said as magic filled the air and the sounds of cheering Silmarians dimmed. “I want to see my parents.”
So that’s the official end of Pride of her Parents, and I think it raises a lot of questions. Can En Shevil really get over her
interminable angst guilt about what she did as Deathscar? Why did Orono imply that En Shevil was still terrified of magic when she’s clearly been using magic indiscriminately (and at Mary-Sue levels of power) for quite some time? Did Achim really think he was in love with ‘Dazah,’ or was he just so happy to see her alive that he inadvertently proposed? If the game hadn’t been patched, might he not have engaged both her hand and Katrina’s? And what the crap actually happened to Askgaella and Gorllex?
Well, some of those questions might have been answered, more or less, in one or both of the sequels I had planned. Sequels to a story that was destined never to be finished? Yes, this is the way I work.