Daryl and Denise – Chapter 18

dennisdenise

Life was good.

While he did get a brief pang in his heart for thinking those words after all he had done, he let the feelings of accomplishment and ease dominate his body. Winter in this world seemed to carry a strange charm with it; maybe it was the new sprites that hovered above the streets at night. This time of year carried a certain breeze with it, one that not only seemed to clear Daryl’s head, but redecorate it as well. He did wrap up warm, but tried to embrace this breeze however he could.

It hadn’t taken long for Daryl to grasp the concept of Christmas – it involved presents and anything with them was readily accepted – yet there were elements of this world yet to be discovered, and he was going to uncover them all. Just a few weeks ago, he had learned of the charity shop. It was like a regular shop, only the stock kept changing, and everything was cheap. It was a little game; go into the shop and see what you can get for little money. Daryl had just been and had obtained a woollen hat – still had to stop those monsters coming out – a new coat, a book called ‘Whizzer and Chips’ – stories with pictures enticed Daryl more than those with just words, crude as the stories were – and a video. Little gifts to himself, little rewards.

Yes, just recently he had found another job opening, and had gained another interview. He asked for no coffee, and had all the comedy routines he had seen the night before playing over in his head to keep the monsters calm. When the man told Daryl that the job would remove all independent thought, Daryl immediately cried out, ‘Yes!’ He was pretty sure that made a good impression.

It had better too. Working at Co-Op was beginning to grow stressful, what with that other till worker breathing down his neck, and all the giggling kids. Innocent children, apathetic towards the idea of death, no real danger.

He had seen offices on television. Their walls were pale and blank, the people there barely spoke. The perfect place to clear his mind. No children there, and no opportunities to kill anyone. The office people on TV never seemed like murderers.

The snow getting into his shoe brought Daryl out of the grey offices and back into the streets with the sparkling white splattered about the pavement. As he returned to reality, Daryl noticed he was passing a certain cafe he had been meaning to go to but never really bothered with. The name never really stuck in his head, but the fat chef on the yellow sign defined it enough. Daryl entered it just as he noticed it, almost as if the Santa on the window had beckoned him.

A cheeseburger and chips, the latter drowned in vinegar and topped with salt. It was nice. He’d have to come again.

Kicking up more snow as he walked, Daryl went back to his flat, and took a moment to admire it. It may usually be grey and dismal and underwhelming, but now, for some reason, it seemed to stand proudly.


‘Hah!’ Denise almost let loose a torrent of fire in laughter. ‘Can you believe the latest one? He really thought dressing up like a sheep and stealing them was the best way to top Aosoth!’

Since Denise laughed again, Dennis laughed with her. ‘You shouldn’t really waste your talents with someone like that.’

‘Yeah,’ grumbled Denise, gritting her teeth, ‘Some farmer thought I actually was attacking his sheep and put a pitchfork in my back.’ Rubbing the spot between her wings, she continued. ‘I have noticed something more significant however. That Mark is up to something big.’

‘What?’ said Dennis, exiting the hut for a while for some fresh air, ‘Is he knocking on doors and running away again?’

‘Ha ha,’ Denise said as she exited the hut with Dennis, trying to hide her own internal laugh. ‘No, he’s been hanging about with some more competent sorcerers, asking them for information and buying relics off them.’

‘Oh, you know them. They’re always trying to make those pranks go bigger. I mean, one time they summoned a demon just to give some kids a scare, and made it go away in a matter of minutes.’

‘Dennis, ever since Aosoth’s death, several witches and warlocks are trying to take her place as Kirkalan’s most feared enemy. Mark seems like the type of person to actually try and attempt that. When I go out next, I’ll try and see if I can find him, and see what he’s up to.’

‘You know what?’ said Dennis, walking away with Denise following, ‘I think we should just relish the peace we have now. These lame villains just help remind us that the worst’s over for now.’

‘You can never be too sure with this land,’ Denise looked to the sky. ‘It’s one thing after another here.’

Daryl and Denise – Chapter 17

mark

Oh, how glorious it is to be a hero! Though lugubrious and painful burdens come with that role, like having to walk until your feet hurt, it is the respect and admiration one obtains from one’s peers that make it worthwhile, as well as the feeling that you have truly done something right. When you walk down your village and see the people, you know that you have rescued them from certain doom. When you purchase a loaf of bread from the bakery, there is not only the anticipation of devouring a beautifully-prepared meal, but the pride you feel knowing that the bread could not have been made if you had not vanquished a malevolent beast.

Coover had been on a miniscule voyage to the bakery, and due to his glorious deeds and victory over the nefarious sorceress, he needed no coins in order to have a loaf of bread in his possession. The baker just handed one to him, and Coover took it, bringing it back to the abode of his parental figures. Another fine element of his heroism was how it benefitted his family. Ever since he vanquished the malevolence of the devilish Aosoth who was very evil and mean, Coover and his family had been given a bigger home to live in, with the villagers toiling feverously to create a larger foundation, and food that cost nothing was handed their way.

As Coover entered his delightful place of dwelling, he expected to see his maternal figure bestow another hug onto him, but instead found a strange shadow standing in front of a window. A demonic figure, almost eclipsing the light with its bat-like wings. Dropping his bread, Coover sought his sword. Just as he was about to run to his room, the daemon leapt in his tracks. It was a dragon. Not just any dragon, the one who saved him.

‘Coover,’ it said in a feminine voice, which made the boy who bore that name raise his fists. ‘I haven’t eaten your parents, if that’s what you’re thinking. They’re out, likely celebrating your fame.’ She closed up her wings as she sat herself down. ‘You should really honour your parents, you know. My own father fought valiantly in the war against Aosoth, only to fall in battle.’

‘Your kin, battle Aosoth?’ Coover chuckled, ‘You jest.’

‘I am grateful,’ continued the dragon, ‘for you defeating her once and for all.’ At this, she held out her hand, and Coover once again looked for his sword. ‘You’re supposed to shake it. I’m showing gratitude.’

Coover turned to the beast. ‘What do you want with me?’

‘As I said, I cannot thank you enough for defeating the witch once and for all, but it has now come to my attention that you have been taking credit for my own conquests. The people of Kirkalan believe you defeated Sam Wich.’

‘Why should I not take credit? I am giving hope to these poor peasants, which they need after having basked in the dark shadow of the dark, shadowy Aosoth for so long.’

‘I need my deeds to be acknowledged,’ she said, ‘for my people. We are sick of hiding and wish to protect the people as you have done.’

‘Hah!’ cried Coover, raising an arm into the air, ‘You are using your feminine wiles to lure me into a trap! Just like that one time with the evil seductress Grimhelda, who said she wanted to make me her love, when all she really wanted to do was eat my heart! I almost fell for her deceit, but I realised what is what she wished to do, and destroyed her in seconds.’

The dragon was silent for a moment, before she stood up. ‘You just made that up, didn’t you?’

‘That is unimportant! You, fiend, want my fame for yourself so you can trap the innocent people of this magnificent land! Well, I’m onto you!’

Rolling her eyes, the dragon walked to the window. ‘I have no time for this.’ As she stretched her wings to fly away, she added, ‘I’m not even sure you did kill Aosoth.’ She then flew away, the coward. Ah, even the mere sight of Coover is enough to send the monsters fleeing. As long as he lives, and he certainly had a long life ahead of him, that dragon’s scheme would never succeed. For decades, Coover would stand as a symbol, something for Kirkalan to look up to, a reassurance that they would never have to be afraid ever again.

After watching the dragon fly away into the distance, Coover turned around, and saw the loaf he had purchased lying there on the floor, begging him to pick it up. He did just that, and stared at the bread for a while, thinking of all the mouth-watering delights he could create.

Just then, his parents arrived home.

‘Hi Mum. Hi Dad. I got the bread.’

‘Oh good. Anything happen while we were gone?’

‘Nothing much.’


The figure, draped in a purple cloak concealing all but his hands, made his way to the caves. Part of the darkest of Kirkalanian mountains, this place was perfect for various concoctions and experiments. And did he have an idea for an experiment.

‘Is that you, Mark?’ Inside the cave, illuminated by several candles, stood another figure in a purple cloak. In his hands was a spell book, which he closed upon meeting his partner. ‘Up for a game of draughts?’

‘Aw no, Bill,’ said Mark, gesturing towards Bill’s book, ‘I’ve got an idea for a spell we could do.’

‘Oh, good!’ Bill dropped his book as he began to rub his hands in excitement. ‘We haven’t had a good spell together in donkey’s years! So, are we gonna make it rain? Turn the milk into blood? Kill all the hamsters?’

Mark shook his head. ‘No, something bigger!’

‘You don’t mean that door thing, do you?’

‘We’re gonna resurrect Aosoth!’

Freezing on the spot, Bill was silent for a minute before he responded, ‘You really think we should?’

‘Well, I know everything we need, and I think if we work together, I think we can get everything…’

‘I said, do you think we should?’ Bill approached Mark, eyebrows arched underneath his hood.

‘Well, we’re evil, aren’t we?’

‘Yeah, but not evil enough to resurrect Aosoth. I mean, I was at the pub with Bob and Gary, and they had a lot to say about her, I’ll tell you that. Apparently, not only did she sacrifice small children and drown kittens when she was bored, she snored really loud too.’

‘Just think,’ said Mark, raising his hands in the air, ‘Kirkalan is so boring now. With Aosoth, everyone was living in fear and it was glorious. People cowering in their houses, bankrupting and ruining themselves all to prolong their lives.’

‘Exactly. She was awful.’

‘Wonderfully awful. Without her, there’s no more fear. Everybody is “peaceful” and “happy”. It’s so bleeding boring. Besides, you like making people afraid, don’t you?’

‘Well, yeah,’ said Bill, ‘But Aosoth really gave me the creeps. Those red eyes, brrr.’

‘Yeah, I wish I had that sort of power.’

Bill sighed, burying his unseen face in his hand. ‘I may practice black magic and worship demons,’ he continued, ‘but even I have standards. I never really liked bringing back the dead anyway. Utterly disgusting that is.’ Slumping his shoulders, Bill glided out of the cave, mumbling to himself. ‘Wait til Bob and Gary get a load of this.’

‘Well, fine!’ Mark stomped his feet on the floor like a child sent to his bedroom. ‘I’ll do it myself then!’ Walking over to Bill’s desk, he looked over all the alchemical and magical items they had managed to amass over the years. It was far from everything he needed to resurrect the mightiest witch in Kirkalan, but it would do. For far too long, he and his friend had only used their resources and powers to pull pranks, little diversions that would disappear before the next day. They had never really tried to dominate this land.

Well, if Aosoth were brought back from the dead, she would be the dominator. Maybe she would even let Mark have some land of his own to play with. Heck, maybe bringing back Aosoth will bring her greatest minion back. He was apparently scary.

Daryl and Denise – Chapter 16

darylfight

How long has it been? A year. It has to have been a year.

October. Those occult monsters were adorning the shop windows again, and the air certainly felt the same as it was when he first came here with Spartypuss.

It was definitely a year since he had been in England, and a little less than that since he had last talked to Spartypuss. Daryl briefly wondered if he should attempt to summon Spartypuss just to talk about how he had gotten on in the year he had been in this place, but, remembering how Spartypuss could be, he decided against it. The cat god was far too bright, and Daryl had gotten used to the gloom this place usually offered. Heck, he welcomed it. He had never really pondered why, though.

And he had kept his Co-Op job for about a year too, though he did do the occasional odd job on the side. No monsters had emerged in Co-Op, nor did anything bad happen during the dog-walking or even that one job with the blender.

Oh wait…

One day, Daryl had gone to Co-Op with a lot on his mind, having seen a movie about war the preceding night and the necessary lack of sleep getting to him, and had a hard time keeping still at the till. A co-worker slapped him on the shoulder because of it, and that only made the rumblings worse. Soon, he ran from the till and into the staff room, his head feeling like it was going to explode. It did explode too, creating a fat, hairy, giggling creature. One that spoke.

‘Daryl is a twit,
Can’t do nothing right,
He lets the monsters out,
And don’t put up no fight.’

The hairy blob then ran out of the staff room into the shop, with Daryl leaping through the door. ‘What the hell is that?’ he heard the co-worker say, which made his feet move in various directions. Where was that – oh no it went outside!  Regaining himself, he ran through the automatic door, only to see the monster playing pattycake with a young child outside. This scene made Daryl pause for a moment before he approached the child.

‘That monster’s a bad influence,’ he told the child as he grabbed the monster by the scruff of its neck. Slowly, he walked towards the bin outside and threw the monster in. His stomach still sunk, he walked slowly back to the store, attempting to pretend nothing just happened.

‘What was that?’ said the co-worker as Daryl moved back to his till.

‘Oh nothing,’ said Daryl, moving his legs a little.

Nothing like that happened afterwards, at least nothing that Daryl could remember. He was pretty sure bad things happened to him and happened because of him when he was working for Aosoth, but forced them out of his mind. Or maybe Aosoth had forced them out herself.

Oh great. It had been months since Daryl had thought about Aosoth’s death and now she was disintegrating before his eyes once more. Shaking his head, Daryl tightly closed his eyes and repeated to himself a funny routine he had heard on television the other day. The castle and the dying witch had vanished, making Daryl sigh in relief. Getting rid of that was going to get harder, wasn’t it?

Still mumbling random humour to himself, Daryl pondered on whether or not he should celebrate a year here. A celebration would cost money, and Daryl was saving his money for a new accommodation. One of those nicer houses he kept seeing on the television. The reason he had to fill out all those boring forms at the bank. The reason he was always actively seeking more jobs.

The floor of his flat was covered in discarded newspaper pages from his frantic job searching, and while Daryl did very well know another purpose those were used for, he never did bother cleaning up. Either he had other things on his mind, or his mind was too blank to notice the newspapers.

Cleaning them up would be a good celebration, wouldn’t it?

On his hands and knees, Daryl collected all the papers and crumbled them up, chucking them into the black bag. Having collected them all, the room seemed a completely different place altogether. The carpet in particular seemed striking in how much more prominent it was.

Well, makes sense. The reason he had come here was to lead a different life.

What else could he do to make this place different? He rarely opened windows, and those usually let in a refreshing breeze. Off he went, opening every window in his flat, letting the air in. Should he? Yes, he opened his head, letting it be aired out. No monsters in a clear head. No.

Once more he slumped into his couch, this time not turning on the TV, but rather embracing the air he had let loose into the flat, allowing it to wash away his grumbling feelings. Ah, it was just like…just like the air back home really.

Should he forget Kirkalan completely? It may have been the place where he was rendered a pariah, but still, he missed some of the sights. There was a tree, a thick tree which sat atop a hill that he used to sleep under…that was a long time ago, wasn’t it? Before he even met Aosoth? He was pretty sure he couldn’t remember a time without Aosoth, so that tree’s sudden appearance almost set Daryl tipping his chair over again.

Oh yes, things weren’t completely awful. Another image entered his mind as he let the wind surround him. A sparkling pool, surrounded by powerful hills. Daryl, the adult Daryl, once sat there by himself, his feet dipped in the water. Oh yes, his mind was a blank there too, which was odd considering how clearly Daryl remembered it.

That water, there was something special about it. Daryl had run his claws through the tap-dispensed water of this world and it didn’t seem to cleanse him the way the pool did. Oh, that’s how he remembered the pool. He had just been to the house of a villager who had refused to give sacrifices to Aosoth, and had done something he would rather not remember. When he did the deed, he flew away, and had spied the pool.

Do they have pools in England? He had walked past a ‘swimming pool’, but he did not wish to use a pool to swim in. He didn’t even know how to swim.

The parks had good scenery, but rather constrained scenery. Surely there had to be something like what Kirkalan offered here. The city did have its own sense of beauty, especially when it was illuminated by those lights, but it did little to calm down the sensations in Daryl’s head and stomach.

That would be a nice celebration, wouldn’t it? In the year he had been here, Daryl had never really explored the city he had been living in. He did find some new shops here and there when out and about, but had never ventured further.

After a while of airing his flat, Daryl closed all his windows save one, and flew out of it. He hadn’t used his wings in a while, with his place of employment being in walking distance, and just flapping them had begun to clear up the tingling that had echoed through his gut. In fact, all his thoughts and memories had seemed to vanish in an instant.

All that existed was the sky.

He beat his wings faster, propelling him higher to the clouds; white clouds, in contrast to the usual grey. The city had now become a selection of grey blocks, all slightly indistinguishable from each other. More of that crisp, calming air.

After spinning around, to allow his body to fully absorb the air around him, Daryl darted away from his flat, away from the city, towards new and untold places for him to linger in. Descending slightly, a road became clearer, and Daryl followed it until shades of green caught his eye.

From above, he heard a slight roar, which made him lose his balance somewhat, being reminded of what usually emerged from his head. Out of curiosity, he flew upwards slightly, and upon getting a closer look, saw it was a thin white vehicle soaring through the sky. It had wings, yet did not flap them. An aeroplane, was it? Yes, he had seen several of those on television, yet had never really pondered them. He had never really thought about what it would be like to fly sitting down, because those things seemed so separate to him. While knowing that flying by himself obviously took more work than an aeroplane ride would, he knew that using his own wings would make reaching his destination seem like a reward.

Ignoring the aeroplane for a minute, Daryl flew down again to see the road framed by lampposts and green fields. In fact, Daryl was pretty certain he saw some wheat not too far away. Down, down he soared, landing on a patch of land. It did look like Kirkalan somewhat, even if the road, the lampposts and the cars broke the illusion somewhat. It was a different sort of Kirkalan, a calmer one, a private one.

Walking away from the road, he raised his arms and welcomed this new spot. After having walked far enough that the road had now become a blur, he stretched out his wings and lay down onto the ground. He closed his eyes, letting the soft moan of the air fill his ears. Just fall asleep…

Oh no! That’s precisely what happened back in that field, wasn’t it? Fall asleep and a monster comes out? Immediately, thoughts of relaxing left Daryl’s mind, causing him to leap up and stumble about for a while. Soon that trio of angry humans from back in Kirkalan appeared before him, and then promptly disappeared, leaving behind that feeling of unease.

Shutting his eyes again, Daryl shook his head quickly. If it didn’t stop a monster coming out, it would at least make the monster too dizzy to cause any damage when it did come out. After doing that, he opened his eyes to the quiet scenery surrounding him, and his mind was at peace again. This wasn’t Kirkalan, not barbaric, filthy Kirkalan. This place was capable of creating wonders the Kirkalanians could never have imagined, and all without magic too. And if they had better devices, it seemed logical that they should have better scenery too.

After lingering in the field for a while, Daryl returned to his flat, where he watched television,  looked for employment and even took a little nap until night fell. Then, he opened his windows again, with that breeze entering his room once more. The breeze at night had a different flavour to it, one Daryl savoured. After allowing the air to waft through his home for a while, he closed the windows save one again, and flew out again. Closing the window behind him after making sure his keys were in his pocket, he looked down to see the array of lights in the city.

They all looked like sprites, swarming around the city to bestow illumination and peace upon it. Daryl had heard of sprites, those small creatures that were supposed to guide the people of Kirkalan when they were lost, but those stories were all myths. Yet now, Daryl saw these creatures of fantasy out and about, ready to guide him from his morass of doubts and confusion.

He followed the lights, and it led him back to the road, down where he found that pseudo-Kirkalan. His flight seemed to last shorter than it did during the day, and sooner than he knew, he was back in that field. Were it not for the slight yellow glow of the sprites, it would look exactly like the fields of Kirkalan at night too. That memory involving those villagers popped up again, but quickly melted and slipped away into the darkness.

So, what to do here? There were no sheep or any edible creatures, nothing to strike a conversation with. There was really nobody to strike a conversation with in the city either though, so that wasn’t too much of a problem. People did cause problems though, as incessantly watching the news proved to Daryl, so a place without people shouldn’t have any problems. Problems caused monsters and monsters caused problems, so a place without problems is a place without monsters…

Why was he thinking?

There should be no thoughts here either. Just a chance to relax under the watch of the sprites.

 

Daryl and Denise – Chapter 15

samwich

The booming laughter made Coover’s ears sting as he lay in the dungeon of the mighty Sam Wich. That raucous cackling was terrific indeed, but Coover did not let that deter him from his quest. This menace had been causing terror all over Kirkalan and there was a need for him to be vanquished.

After a short while, the door burst open, revealing the source of the laughter; a tall man, donning a colourful robe. Sam Wich. With a cry of confidence, Coover lunged for the monster, only to be stopped by several blobs leaping at him. Coover fell on his back as a blob, resting atop his stomach, licked its lips.

‘Hello,’ said the wicked man, ‘I am the mighty Sam Wich. You are not an uppercrust figure are you? You are a farmer, correct?’ Coover nodded. ‘You plant…vegetables.’ With the slow utterance of that final word, Sam Wich grabbed Coover by the collar and threw him to the floor. ‘There are far more delicious things available to eat, such as…’ With another flash of magic, two giant pieces of bread appeared, trapping the serf within them. ‘Now, my little pets,’ continued Sam, turning to his blobs, ‘Here’s your meal of the day!’

‘Not so fast!’ In an instant, Sam Wich fell on top of his babies, the latter squirming under the former. ‘Bread? That’s your symbol?’ came the voice of the figure. ‘That is pathetic.’ It sounded soft and female.

Looking from behind a piece of bread, Coover watched Sam Wich attempt to lift himself up, only to be held up by a mysterious figure. After Sam Wich was slammed into a wall, the figure moved onto the blobs, picking them up and throwing them against their master.

Having escaped from the bread, the boy crept towards his saviour. A dragon.

‘Monster!’ Coover pointed at the dragon’s face. ‘I may not have been able to defeat Sam Wich, but I will defeat you!’

‘Oh, for the love of…’ The dragon held Coover by the collar, just as Sam Wich had done a second ago. ‘You defeated Aosoth, I expect better from you!’

‘Of course I was the one who vanquished her, like I will vanquish you!’

Rolling her eyes, the dragon grabbed Coover by the arm, flying him through the castle walls. ‘Look, I’m saving you. I’m good.’

‘Ha! More likely you will be bringing me to your lair to feast on my flesh, as your kind is so often wont to do. But I, Coover, will not let that happen! I will slay you, and –‘

‘We’re out,’ said the dragon, gesturing towards the sunshine. Plopping Coover on the ground, she flew off.


Her name was Sasha. Daryl and Sasha. That sounded a little nice.

Despite Daryl’s dearth of money, they were going out to a rather elegant restaurant, that was even quite far away from his flat. Despite slight trembling telling him that he might not be able to afford this, Daryl still found himself staring at his surroundings. Regal red dominated the walls, with a shining chessboard pattern for the floor. Given the usual grey of this world, Daryl embraced the surroundings here. He had always wondered what the king’s castle must have looked like, and this, he thought, might be it.

A waiter, a tall man whose black and white appearance made him stick out in his surroundings, served them their food. Spaghetti. It looked like brains, like tentacles…

He turned to Sasha, the human in the black dress. With her long hair and pale skin, she looked a lot like the Princess of Kirkalan. She wasn’t the princess though; she apparently worked at the bank, and was also a dogsitter. Imagine if she were the princess though, sent here to keep an eye on Daryl to make sure he doesn’t cause more destruction.

‘S-so,’ said Daryl, sticking his fork into the spaghetti. Sasha really did look like the princess. ‘Have you seen anything good on TV at all?’

‘Well,’ said Sasha after taking another bite of her spaghetti. ‘I did see “Let’s Ridicule Everything” last week and I did think that was pretty funny…but, you know, haven’t had much time for TV recently. Work and things. I’m just glad I can take a break for once.’

‘Yeah,’ said Daryl, looking at the chandelier above him. ‘I try to clear my mind sometimes…’

‘I have way too much to think about,’ said Sasha, ‘I mean, there’s a promotion I really want to get, and there’s the whole economy, and all the stuff you read in the papers. Can you believe what happened to that kid in Warrington?’

While Daryl hadn’t heard that particular story, he still nodded and smiled. ‘And I hear last week, some person got attacked. Kinda makes you wish you could have saved him.’

‘Well,’ replied Sasha with a smile, ‘you are a dragon, aren’t you? You could fly in, burn the bad guys to a crisp and save the day.’ At this, Daryl tapped a claw on his chin. ‘I wouldn’t try it though, you’d get arrested in seconds. There’s a reason there aren’t a lot of dragons here. No offense.’

‘None taken,’ said Daryl, a response he had heard on television once, ‘But I don’t think we should be talking about this stuff.’

‘Yeah.’ And so they both ate their spaghetti, without a further word said between them until they ordered dessert. Then they had a brief chat about politics, where Daryl tried to absorb any information he could, before it was time for him to take her home.

‘I’ll call you,’ Sasha had said, and yet the next week passed with Daryl’s phone being completely silent.

Daryl and Denise – Chapter 14

spartaruff

There were many reasons why Aruff had chosen to erect his temple in the village of the barbarians. The most obvious reason is that the barbarians worshipped him, and their songs of praise were just the thing to help him get up in the morning. Of course, the company he kept also benefitted the heroes he trained, providing targets for the would-be warriors to practice their skills on.

Also of note was how effective the barbarians were at keeping Spartypuss away.

The cat god had come to visit his brother, and, having teleported to the wrong spot again, was spied in a second by a particularly bored barbarian. With a cry, all the muscular brutes marched out of their huts, cracking their knuckles and screaming unintelligible battle cries. Hearing this, Spartypuss darted up the stairs to Aruff’s temple, and threw the door open. As a bearded barbarian neared, Spartypuss slammed the door, breathing heavily. He turned around, and saw his brother, along with his brother’s latest student. Both looked surprised.

‘What are you doing here?’ asked Aruff, his hands on his hips.

‘Happy Birthday!’ Out of nowhere, Spartypuss conjured up a noisemaker, which he used to fill the temple with a tiny cacophony, before taking out a cake from his waistcoat pocket, despite it being far too big to fit in there. As he lifted the cake into the air, pink icing dripped onto the stone ground.

‘How dare you!’ Aruff seized Spartypuss’ arm, making the cake fall onto the floor. ‘Shaming my name by associating it with saccharine nonsense!’

Spartypuss looked to the cake, now reduced to a pile of pink and brown mush. When Aruff shoved his foot into the mess, Spartypuss cried even harder, kneeling to the ground. Denise walked over with her arm outstretched, but Aruff stopped her. ‘There’s no room in this world for people like him,’ said Aruff, shaking his head. ‘If he wasn’t immortal, he’d be dead by now.’

Hearing the roaring of his people from outside, Aruff shoved Spartypuss out of the way and reached for the door handle. In an instant, a whole host of barbarians entered, causing Denise to leap into the air above them. While they did near Spartypuss, one pointed in Denise’s direction and threw a spear. Denise whacked it away, sending it tumbling to the ground.

Then she dove. Soaring above the heads of the barbarians, she made sure to glide about in circles. The brutes kept their eyes on her, and ended up dizzy while doing so. Most of them swerving about aimlessly, Denise rose and dove at them, slugging one barbarian between the eyes, causing a group of them to fall like dominoes. While admiring her job for a while, Denise did end up getting a punch from a barbarian still standing. It sent her to the other side of the room, and made her gain quite a headache. Shaking herself alert, she saw that barbarian near. She picked up a bowl from under an Aruff statue, and hurled it at the attacker. While he stumbled a bit from the bowl in his face, Denise leapt at him and scratched his face with her claws.

With that one screaming in pain, Denise flew over to the others getting up off of the floor. Another spear was thrown in her direction, and she quickly caught it in her claw. With this weapon at her disposal, she darted towards one beast and shoved the spear right in his mouth, the scream of agony making her smile. Turning around, she swiftly punched another barbarian, then another behind the previous, then rose into the air again, watching the cowards retreat. As they left, Spartypuss clapped.

‘Yay!’ said he, ‘but why did you shove the spear into that one’s mouth? That was nasty.’

Aruff nodded, and turned to Denise. ‘For once I agree with my brother,’ he said, ‘You indeed have the viciousness a warrior needs, but I do think you were a little sloppy here and there.’

Taking one last look at his ruined cake, Spartypuss left the temple, teleporting away from the barbarians into the middle of a deep fjord. Slapping his face at his own mistake, Spartypuss teleported away to a flower field, where he let the air and swaying movement calm him, allowing him to think better.

Why not pay a visit to a friend?


Walking back to his flat, Daryl sighed in relief. His first day on a new job and nothing happened. No head monsters appeared at all; in fact, Daryl didn’t have a single thought in his head. His brain was entirely clear as he carried out his job, and the day went by so quickly too. Despite the brevity, going back to his home still felt like a weight off his shoulders.

A few seconds after entering, he slumped himself on the sofa. He had seen a human do this in a television show he watched, and thus he thought doing so would help him fit in a little easier. He was just like them now. Nothing strange, nothing horrid. Just another person. Nobody at the store even brought up his wings, his scales or the fangs protruding through his mouth. They didn’t really say anything really.

Daryl did as they did, lying in silence for an hour or so, letting his head be as clear as possible. Just as he was about to fall asleep, a loud noise shook him, filling his mind with a variety of images. He swore he even saw Aosoth before his eyes for a second. Shaking himself, he saw none other than Spartypuss in the room, his arms outstretched. When Daryl got out of his seat, Spartypuss immediately hugged him.

‘Geez, okay, stop!’ Daryl squealed.

Spartypuss released Daryl, looking a little sad while doing so. ‘I just wanted to see how you were doing.’

‘Oh, yeah,’ said Daryl, brushing himself off. ‘I’m doing fine. Really. I just got a new job…’

‘Oh, that’s wonderful!’ cried Spartypuss, twirling around on the spot. ‘I think we should celebrate!’

‘No, no!’ said Daryl, waving his hands. ‘It’s fine!’

‘I insist! You must be tired after a hard day at work, so I’ll make you dinner!’ From his back, Spartypuss pulled out an apron and put it on, beaming all the while. Sighing, Daryl showed Spartypuss to his kitchen and watched him prepare a meal. Potato salad, followed by a bowl full of lollipops. ‘You better appreciate this,’ Spartypuss had said, ‘I ended up in about three flats before coming here!’

Soon the meal was ready, and Daryl slowly ate, trying not to let the presence of a Kirkalanian fill his mind with any more foundations for monsters. ‘Good food,’ said Daryl after swallowing a bunch of potatoes, ‘but I would like to be alone for now.’

‘Oh,’ wailed Spartypuss, ‘I was hoping we could talk more. I mean, it has been a long time.’

‘Well,’ said Daryl, playing with his fork nervously, ‘It’s just…I’m trying to forget Kirkalan for the moment and…’ All of a sudden, he noticed Spartypuss’ disappointed expression. ‘Not that I want to forget you, of course, we’re friends after all…’

‘Oh, don’t worry!’ Once again, the pink cat smiled. ‘I understand!’ And with that, Spartypuss poofed away.

Daryl continued eating, trying to clear his head as he did at the shop. Yet with Spartypuss’ appearance, Kirkalan had found its way back into his mind, and with it, the death of Aosoth. The plain grey walls of Daryl’s flat made way for the blackness of his former home, illuminated by the force that reduced the greatest evil in the land to a lifeless pile of ashes. He smelled her roasting flesh, and heard her final scream echo throughout the halls. Having seen his crime again, Daryl could only back away.

Thud.

Instantly, he was back in his flat, having fallen to the floor after accidentally tipping his chair backwards. Despite being in a better setting, the memory still ran through his head. At the Co-Op, the creature who not only murdered several villagers but his own boss, sat behind the counter. Yet the people who came just acted as if he didn’t exist. What if they found out though? Oh, they’d be just like those back home, only no, they’d be worse, wouldn’t they? They have guns and technology and things.

As he made his way off of the floor, Daryl put his hand to his heart. It pounded away, the beat to which a creature from the head would usually make its appearance. He clung onto his trilby again, expecting something to emerge, but thankfully, nothing came out. The mere fact that there was no monster made Daryl’s mind a blank again, causing him to slump back down onto the couch.

Have some peace now, just have some peace.

The next morning, Daryl went into work, determined to keep himself calm and thoughtless the whole time. When he saw a group of smiling teenagers enter the store however, blabbering about who-knows-what, his mind flashed back to a village he once observed before he had razed it. Having seen a family enjoying their company, he almost flew away and gave up. Then he thought of Aosoth.

The teenagers took a six-pack to the counter, Daryl rung it up and collected the money without saying a word. Those kids left, and they were lucky they did. Just a few more seconds and Daryl might have breathed fire or let another head monster escape. Shuddering, Daryl held his head and looked around for other customers. His fellow till-worker was giving him a cold stare, which made Daryl shudder all the more until said worker gave him a good slap.

Something about that slap seemed to quiet whatever was leaping up and down in his brain, so Daryl made his thoughts empty again, going through the job as usual. The day went by quickly, with no other missteps. And so did the next day and the day after that.

Maybe boredom was good after all. The job he had was a boring one, the customers were mostly boring and the co-workers were too. They didn’t even feel like humans, more like the visions Aosoth could conjure to entertain herself. He still wouldn’t kill them, but probably because he couldn’t find it in himself to care about them.

 

Upon returning home, Daryl once again found himself throwing himself onto the couch, it becoming a daily tradition for him. Sadly, it did nothing to clear his mind, and the thoughts, ponderings and memories were as frantic and prominent as ever.

Maybe he did need Spartypuss here. As annoying as the cat was, he was responsible for Daryl being here, and was always willing to help. Yes, Spartypuss would think of a way to control the head monsters. No, knowing Spartypuss, one look at one of those creatures and he’d be running back to Kirkalan faster than one could say, ‘What the hell is that coming out of that green dude’s head?’

If he was to fit in with this world, he needed help from someone of this world. Someone to teach him the ropes, explain things, help him gain a greater knowledge. Perhaps one of his co-workers? No, they didn’t seem to like him very much.

Then, Daryl noticed the newspaper lying on the armrest. Those were always good guides to this world, even if most of what they reported cast pallor over Daryl. Picking it up, Daryl flicked through it.

“Lonely Hearts?”

Daryl and Denise – Chapter 13

chicken

While it did tend to remind him of his predicament, what with the footage of battles fought with unusual weapons and that one movie about the thin guy who felt guilty, Daryl still couldn’t help but go back to television. When he saw that thirty-second array of bright colours and cheer, hosted by a fat bearded figure, he momentarily forgot about the rent. He was reminded of that one hunk of meat he once had; it tasted so good, he made sure to chew slowly, to make it last longer. When television gave his mind a much-needed emptiness, he made sure to watch for as long as he possibly could, even when he knew he had more important things to do.

The phone rang, and as it did, Daryl’s head began to shake. His body wanted to stay, begging Daryl to clear his head further, but with a beat of his wings, Daryl forced himself towards the phone. ‘Hello?’

‘Yes, this is Gordholm Industries. We’ve received your application form, and we would like you to come in for an interview on Saturday…’

Hearing that, both Daryl’s head and stomach felt as clear as they did when a particularly good programme was on. Granted, Daryl had sent in several forms so one was them was bound to work, yet he had that sense he had already redeemed a lifetime of servitude to evil.

‘I can make it,’ replied Daryl, and after a confirmation, Daryl hung up the phone. His wings beating once more, Daryl scribbled down the date and time in the notepad, and paced about the room in excitement. Finally, a line of work that wouldn’t involve mindless annihilation, one where’d actually get a chance to do good, be productive and not be persecuted!

He tried to sit back in front of the TV and further let his worries fade away, but the news he had received had left him unable to sit still for very long. Just when he thought he was engaged in the current programme, the idea of gaining money through being helpful entered his mind again, causing him to get off his seat and walk around for a while. He tried to imagine himself, among human beings that accepted him, ones he could talk to, confide in and trust. And they would trust him.

Oh yes, this could be the beginning of something. The influence of Aosoth would be gone forever, and Daryl would have finally found his place.


He didn’t get the job.

Walking home, his wings beneath a crumpled black coat, Daryl pondered on how the interview went. He had read a book from the library about preparing for interviews, and had done everything it had said. Neat appearance – already had that. Dragons were meant to be noble, after all. Practice questions, guidelines, he had done the whole lot of them.

So what was it that made his would-be employer shun him? Maybe it was when he told a joke about goblins to him to lighten the mood? Maybe the man didn’t like jokes, and he definitely hadn’t met any goblins.

No, wait, it was the coffee.

Yes, the man had made Daryl some coffee to have while they had their career-related chat. Daryl took one sip of his coffee and it was too hot. Yelping at how it burned his tongue, Daryl spat fire everywhere, causing several things to crumble into black ash, and setting off the sprinklers. ‘That was my favourite plant,’ cried the man, leaping to his desk. He jumped up and down on the desk until it broke. ‘That was my favourite desk!’

Well, at least he agreed not to sue.

Pausing for a moment, he looked around the streets to find something to distract him from that little failure. Just above him, there was a shop called ‘coop’. Coop, as in a place where chickens were kept. Daryl chuckled a little, as he had always found chickens funny. It was something about the way they walked, or the movement of their heads.

Strangely enough, Daryl’s head began rumbling again, even though he had forgotten about the interview for a while. Before Daryl could clutch on to his trilby, a chicken popped out of his head and fluttered down to the ground. It walked around in the fashion chickens usually do, but Daryl didn’t laugh. It was something from his head, so it would likely have fangs or laser eyes and would kill just about anyone it sees. He wanted to run up and seize it, yet he could not bring himself to move. All he could do was wait for the chicken to do something.

It flew away.

While Daryl did breathe a sigh of relief, there was still an uneasy feeling bubbling up. The stare he gained from an old woman carrying plastic bags certainly didn’t soothe that feeling. ‘Um, animals, eh?’ said Daryl, laughing nervously as the old lady passed him. Still smiling a forced smile, Daryl looked at the ‘coop’ and noticed a dash between the two “o”s. For a minute, he tried to figure out what it meant. A really long chicken coop? Then, remembering what just happened, he tried to get his mind off chickens for a bit. He tried to make anagrams out of Co-op’s name. Ocop. Poco.

Then he noticed the sign outside. “Hiring now. Ask for application inside.”

That positive feeling returning slightly, he entered. After picking up a box of branflakes, he asked for a form at the counter, and received one. He held it in front of his face as he exited the shop, a blank canvas for him to fill in.

Daryl and Denise – Chapter 12

deniselizard

How long had it been since Spartypuss had brought Daryl here? A few weeks, a month? Months here had only thirty days, and despite now having a calendar, he still couldn’t get used to it. Was it October or November or maybe even December? It still felt like October, and Daryl used to tell the time by how it felt. No, ‘Halloween’ was at the end of October, and people were no longer dressing up as witches, thank goodness.

Perhaps he couldn’t tell the time because of how boring this place was. True, his new flat, with actual toiletries and more room to walk about in, was an improvement over the room Aosoth had given him. Still, it was strange how every invention in this world, wondrous, varied things, could lose their novelty after a while. Listening to the brrm brrm of the cars outside, Daryl chuckled to himself at how he could ever be frightened of those things. He had little use for an oven, as he preferred his meat raw.

Still, it was better than being chased by the villagers with their weaponry, and there was no chance of a pitchfork in the backside. Being persecuted wasn’t boring, and neither was committing the acts he so regretted, so surely there’s a bright side to boredom, isn’t there? Yes, boredom meant no thoughts, and no thoughts meant no head monsters. Yes, boredom is the best way to a clear head.

But, wait. Wasn’t he thinking right now? And about things he’d rather not think about? That’s right, boredom did lead to thoughts after all. His mind subconsciously trying to keep him occupied. So, boredom wasn’t a good thing after all, then.

Oh look, the mail’s here.

Shifting through the mail with his claws, Daryl ignored the bills – that was custom around here, he had heard – and opened one to find the application form he had asked for had arrived. Tearing it open with a claw, he set it on his table and took a quick look through it.

It involved writing.

Beside the torn up envelope and its many contents, there sat a pen and a notepad. On the notepad was the word ‘Daryl’ scribbled over and over again, in varying degrees of neatness. Once more Daryl picked up the pen and tried to write his name again. It wobbled as he held it, but he did the D fine. Then the A. R…oh no. The R had become a deformed A. With that, Daryl reduced the sheet to a tiny ball and threw it across the room.

Let’s try again. D is fine. A is all wonky. Crumble up, try again.

Oh, he wrote it quite neatly this time. Now for the surname. Blitherblot. Daryl Blitherblot. B is neat. Take time with the L. Oh yes. And now the I…the T…

The T was a deformed mess.

Instantly, Daryl threw the notepad to the floor, and swept away the application form, pieces of paper fluttering to the floor. He looked at the claws that had caused all this mess, both of them shivering. If he couldn’t fill out an application form, what could he do? Was he supposed to do nothing but destroy? The screaming and burning humans flashed past his eyes again, and his trilby rumbled. Holding tightly onto its brim, Daryl closed his eyes and tried to think of something else.

Oh, if only Spartypuss were here. Oh, but he had to leave to let Daryl get on by himself. That’s what gods do. Spartypuss couldn’t give Daryl a nice house right away, Daryl had to work for it.

Daryl wanted that, didn’t he? Good chance to make himself feel better about himself? A way to gradually atone for all the destruction and chaos he caused? In a way, penance?

That’s a good way to look at it, yes. The trilby stopped shaking.

‘Now let’s try this again.’

D.


Dodging another sword attack, Denise slid down the temple, noticing Aruff slumping his shoulders and sitting down. ‘Training will have to be cut short today,’ said Aruff, looking at his wrist, which had a strange white light wrapped around it, ‘I have to give a speech at the feast of Coover.’ Sighing, he walked over to Denise. ‘Maybe you should come.’

Denise folded her arms, her eyes narrowing. ‘I can’t. Humans still don’t trust dragons. That is why I’m here, after all.’

‘Ah yes,’ said Aruff, putting a finger to his chin, ‘You know, that gives me an idea.’ He snapped his fingers.

‘What did you just do?’

‘Oh, I just created a giant monster to attack the feast,’ said Aruff.

‘You did what?’

‘It would have been boring anyway.’

After giving Aruff a displeased stare, Denise flew away. Although she originally had no intention of going, Denise knew where the feast was being held. All celebrations in Kirkalan were held where the battle of Krokengar’s defeat was held. For a few seconds, Denise fantasised about having a memorial of her own, but shook her head, trying to focus. In a few seconds, she had flown to the battlefield, where a huge pink lizard had whacked over the table with its tail. As she flew closer, she noticed several people backing away from the creature, some trying to run away, some holding broken chair legs and other objects like swords and others cried Coover’s name.

Wonderful. An audience.

Swooping down, Denise grabbed the lizard by the neck, wrapping her arms around it. Her arms were too small to strangle the thing, but she still pulled on it until she landed on its back. As she clung on, the beast roared, and tried to swipe at her. Taking to the air again, narrowly dodging the pink lizard’s grasp, she turned her attention towards the monster’s head. She dove right for the eyes. One claw outstretched, she quickly jabbed it into the monster’s eye, and she watched it scream in pain.

Making monsters never was one of Aruff’s strong points.

That criticism was further proven when Denise dug her claws into the beast’s neck, slicing it open. With a final bellow, the lizard fell dead, landing next to a sword-wielding Coover.

‘Look!’ said a man, peering out from behind a stone, ‘The beast is dead!’

Hearing this, Denise felt an urge to flee, but forced herself to stand atop the slain beast, even though she felt her legs begin to ache. She looked down on the people, and while she did feel a rise from having saved them, there was still an annoying little slither that struck her heart.

‘Coover has saved us again!’

Looking down from her perch, Denise saw Coover lean on his sword, plunging it into the ground, holding his head up to the sky. The people all came towards him, singing his praises, yelling his name, ignoring Denise. At least for a while.

‘Coover!’ screamed a rather fat man, pointing upwards, ‘It’s another of them bloody dragons!’

Now was the time to listen to instinct. Denise’s wings told her to fly away, and fly away she did. No spears this time, just gobs of food picked up off the ground. Her wings beat faster, propelling her above the clouds, where she hoped the light there would soothe her. She needed to relax after things like that.

After bathing in the light, she dove, heading for her village in the mountains. Down she fluttered, landing right next to the statue of Daniel too, her preferred spot to land. Inspiration and all that. Sadly, Dennis was nowhere to be found. A conversation with him always lightened her mood. So off she went for a lie down then.

She entered her hut, and took from beside her bed a book. Poetry written about the conquests of Daniel and his father, Darren. Darren had freed his race from the tyranny of Landorm, the powerful dragon who had forced others of his kind to use their power to destroy and aid the evil warlocks of Kirkalan. They were born to spread fear, that was his philosophy. The other dragons would have objected, but having willingly co-operated with so many warlocks had given him a dark magic of his own. Daniel’s father, however, was the first dragon brave enough to stand up to Landorm, and rallied several other dragons against him.

A fight ensued, and Darren and his men were victorius. With a supplier of evil aid vanquished, he believed this to be a new age for both dragons and humans alike. Unfortunately, the dragons were not forgiven easily, and they were still hunted and persecuted by the humans. Thus, they had to relocate. After that, he set out to protect the people of Kirkalan from any disaster that might fall their way, and trusted his son to carry on his legacy.

Daniel did as his father wished him to do, and made his mark by finding the Wand of Warton and using it to obliterate the evil tyrant Asteroth. Alas, Asteroth’s daughter, Aosoth got her revenge. She challenged him to a battle, and with a single blast of magic, killed Daniel instantly. After that, she sent her henchmen out to kill Daniel’s wife and any children, which forced the dragons to relocate again, to this village in the mountains.

Remembering Aosoth and her kin, Denise threw the book across the hut before letting loose a small piece of fire. Just then, Dennis came in. ‘Whoa! Something the matter?’

Taking a deep breath, Denise eased down onto her bed. ‘It’s nothing. I was just thinking about Aosoth.’

‘Well, she’s dead now, ain’t she?’

‘Yes,’ said Denise, twiddling her claws, ‘But it is a shame that none of his children were able to kill her.’

‘’is? Oh, you mean Daniel!’

‘Of course I do.’ Lying on her bed, she took another deep breath. ‘I wonder if this whole thing will be worth it.’

‘Sure it will,’ said Dennis, his usual peppy self, ‘There’s always monsters and creeps out ‘ere that need a good talking-to.’

‘Yes,’ said Denise, her eyes narrowing, ‘but knowing some of the people around here, the monsters and creeps may very well be an improvement.’

‘Oh dear,’ Dennis approached Denise’s bed, putting a hand on her shoulder, ‘I’ve ‘eard this sorta talk before. And the people who say it usually end up becoming evil.’

Denise sat upwards, looking at Dennis. ‘Hmm, that’s a risk I might be taking,’ she noted, rubbing her chin. ‘Greater heroes than me have been known to go down the path of darkness…I just hope it doesn’t happen to this Coover lad. That would be hell.’

Dennis chuckled and decided to leave Denise to her reading.


It was a work of beauty, at least, by his standards. Daryl had spent the last hour or so admiring his completed application form. Filled out in block capitals and black ink as the letter had told him to do. It may have been a day or so since the letter was sent to him, but it was completed now, and was probably the best thing Daryl had done. Thus, it did sting him a little to put it in the envelope and put it in the postbox, but that small amount of pride he had prevailed. It kept with him as he walked back to his flat, and when he switched on the television again.

Laughter. That always calmed him down, and thus lessened the chance of more head monsters making their appearance. On went a show about people at desks chatting about various things, all the while chuckling and smiling. Putting up his feet, Daryl hoped to do the same as they did.

Apparently this show talked about current events too. It would help Daryl understand this place.

As he watched, he went over what he had learned so far in his head. Post is delivered by men and not eagles. They have a Queen but no King, and the Queen’s guards wear funny hats. Everybody was low on money at that moment; a thought that made Daryl’s stomach sink before he turned back to the TV. Oh, right now they were talking about that lack of money. Photos of men in smart suits lying on the streets filled the screen, punctuated with raucous laughter.

Daryl switched the television off.

There was always the possibility he might not get a job at all, and the amount of money Spartypuss was allowed to give a mortal was limited, but perhaps living in a cardboard box in this world would be better than being hunted in Kirkalan. People might actually try and help him.

No, that would likely come with a lot of stress, wouldn’t it?

With the TV off and nothing else to do, Daryl picked up a notepad.


‘You know,’ said Gangrene, pouring the tea, ‘I think you should be taking a break. Aosoth had no heir, and she and her family was more or less the only true threat Kirkalan ever really had.’ He set the tray of tea down by Denise, the latter restless on her seat. ‘Then again, I suppose you cannot join the celebrations now, can you?’

‘I’m not sure about that Coover boy,’ said Denise, picking up her teacup, ‘Are you?’

Gangrene gently sat down beside Denise, adjusting with his hat as if it would help his thoughts flow better. ‘I admit I had my doubts about him, but still. He was the one the prophecy said would destroy Aosoth and then he went and did just that. We should admire him for that.’

‘Of course,’ said Denise, eyeballs to the ceiling, ‘Yesterday, though, I defeated a creature Aruff had created. The people thought Coover had done it, and he went and took that praise.’

Gangrene chuckled. ‘I sense a bit of jealously there.’

‘I told you,’ said Denise, taking a sip of tea, ‘people need to understand that we are not savage. I’m trying to reclaim what we should have.’

Slouching, Gangrene looked at Denise with narrowed eyes. ‘I’ve been around enough heroes. I know it’s just becoming a popularity contest these days.’

Denise rolled her eyes. ‘I hate it when you get like this.’

‘I am merely saying what I have observed. That is what you want from me, isn’t it? And I suppose you want to know what Aruff observes too.’

‘Indeed,’ said Denise, ‘I still feel I have a lot to learn.’ Placing her arms behind her head, she kicked her legs in the air as she thought about her re-reading that week. ‘I don’t think there’ll be another like Daniel.’

‘If it makes you feel better,’ said Gangrene, ‘I don’t think there’ll be another like Aosoth. With her dead, the best, or the worst, what we have is that Martin Muchter.’

Denise smiled as she reminded herself of that character. ‘Remember when he thought knocking on doors and running away would cause Hordton to spiral into chaos? Still, I wish we still had Daniel.’

‘As do I,’ said Gangrene, stepping out of his chair. ‘He was a good warrior he was. In fact, you did remind me of him during our moments of training.’

‘Oh,’ said Denise with a slight chuckle of modesty, as she got out of her chair to wander about with Gangrene. ‘We both know I’m not that great. If I were, the people would be more welcoming of my kind right now.’

Gangrene sighed. ‘Sometimes I think you give people too much credit.’