Denise. She had called him a disgrace. She spoke of him as a monster, just like the humans of Kirkalan. He knew why, he perfectly understood why. Yet after he uncontrollably trembled in Aosoth’s laboratory, he made his way back to the dungeon where Denise was kept. Bob and Gary did nothing to stop him; in fact, they just stepped out of his way when he entered. Daryl would have thought this suspicious, but he couldn’t help but walk to Denise’s cell, where the female dragon looked at him with a raised eyebrow. ‘You again. What is it now?’
Daryl opened his mouth to talk, but all that came out was a hissing sound.
‘What is it?’
‘Is that all you wanted to say to me?’ Daryl shook his head. ‘Well, what then?’
‘My father,’ Daryl managed to croak out. ‘He…was a hero…and…his f…’
‘Yes,’ said Denise, growling. ‘He and the Blitherblot clan were supposed to redeem us in the eyes of Kirkalan. He tried to bring us a new era, but his son ended up working for his murderer.’
Daryl squeaked again.
‘That’s all you can say, isn’t it? That’s because you’re a coward, aren’t you? Why did you go to England, anyway?’
Attempting to answer, all Daryl could manage was another squeak, and thus, he hung his head.
‘You were to face the consequences for your actions, so you ran away to where you thought nobody would find you,’ sneered Denise, ‘That is utterly pathetic.’
‘You don’t understand!’
‘Don’t try that crap with me, I understand completely. You followed Aosoth because you were scared she’d kill you if you didn’t. You left Kirkalan because you were scared you’d be killed if you didn’t. All you want to do is save your own scales.’
‘No,’ said Daryl, wringing his hands, ‘That’s not…’
‘Your father risked his life, just to improve those of his people. You should be doing the same, instead of trying to undo everything he’s done.’
Daryl held his head. ‘Denise, please.’
‘You should feel lucky Aosoth has been resurrected,’ growled Denise. ‘The people of Kirkalan won’t lay a finger on you now. They’ll be afraid, just like you are now.’
Then it sprang.
Out of Daryl’s head came a snake-like monster, topped with a head that resembled a balloon, emitting a scream that had both dragons squirm. Just as it was about to shriek again, Denise grabbed it by the neck and threw it to the ground, silencing it.
‘Thank you,’ said Daryl. ‘Now…c-can you please help me…?’
‘Daryl!’ There came Aosoth, hands clasped together. ‘There you are,’ she said in a sing-song kind of way. ‘I want to talk to you.’
Daryl turned to Denise, who only stared at him with a snarl, then back to Aosoth. ‘What about?’
‘That England place you went to. It sounds lovely.’
‘No…’ Daryl replied, ‘Don’t the p-people of Kirkalan h-hate it?’
‘But you had such nice things to say about it, Daryl! That’s why I’m going to take it over!’
Hearing this, Daryl stumbled over and hit the bars of Denise’s cell, hearing another growl from the female dragon. ‘W-why?’
‘Because I’m an evil sorceress? I need to take over, it makes me feel alive!’ She raised her arms in the air, before using them to raise Daryl off of the floor and slam him into another wall. ‘Doesn’t it make you feel alive too?’ Daryl could only nod. ‘Bob! Gary!’ The two henchmen stood firm. ‘Assemble the troops! I’ll summon some more skeletons. Daryl, you stay here. I’m sure you’ll help in whatever way you can.’ Laughing again, Aosoth took Bob and Gary and the three left the dungeon towards Aosoth’s laboratory. Daryl just sat against the wall, heavily breathing.
‘Did you give her the idea to invade England, Daryl?’ Looking up, Daryl saw Denise was speaking to him. ‘Well, did you?’
‘That’s what they all say when questioned. Aruff told me about people like you.’
‘Yes. You like to think you’re a mighty beast, don’t you? I mean, everyone in Kirkalan is afraid of you, they think that your head would be worth a fortune. Do you like that?’
‘No, of course not!’
‘Oh really?’ asked Denise, cocking an eyebrow or whatever substituted for one, ‘Are you sure? Aren’t you happy that you have something that makes up for your utter cowardice? Oh look, I think your head’s shaking again.’ Daryl held onto it. ‘Didn’t she just say she needed henchmen for her invasion? Why not make a monster then? It’ll get you in her good books, that’s for sure.’
‘I don’t want to.’
‘I don’t believe you,’ growled Denise. ‘You want to shame your father, go ahead. I’m not stopping you. I don’t care what happens to England anyway, it can burn to the ground for all I care.’ She turned her back to Daryl, so Daryl did likewise and turned away. The image of his father still lay in his brain, still snarling at him. What would he say if he walked across the destruction caused by his son? Knowing what would erupt from his head if he pondered too much on it, Daryl tried to shoo the thoughts away, but the pounding against his skull continued. The image of his father leading fellow dragons to victory. Daryl couldn’t even go back to his own village after Aosoth’s first death. He felt like crying…
But someone else already was.
Looking upwards again, Daryl looked at Denise behind bars, and saw her crouched over, sobbing loudly. Something within Daryl compelled him to approach the cell, to face the smell of prisoners past, and to say, ‘Are you okay?’
Wiping away the mucus from her snout, Denise replied, ‘What do you think?’ She then turned away from Daryl, and towards the floor. ‘I’m such an idiot.’
‘Uh, don’t you mean to say I’m an idiot?’ replied Daryl.
‘I’ve wasted my life,’ sighed Denise. ‘My entire bleeding life! Maybe I should have been a baker…’
‘Now, come now,’ said Daryl before turning away from the cell, beginning to feel tears forming in his own eyes. He was no good at comfort, certainly not as good as…
What about him?
‘Spartypuss!’ cried Daryl. ‘Spartypuss, come here!’ While this aroused Denise’s interest, Spartypuss didn’t appear, causing Daryl to collapse again. Just as he was about to slam his head against the wall, however, Spartypuss did pop in, his waistcoat in tatters.
‘I’m just glad I got away from that…thing in the cellar,’ gibbered Spartypuss.
‘C-could you help me please?’ said Daryl, ‘Could you r-release Denise here?’
‘I’ll try,’ replied Spartypuss, conjuring up a key in his hand. He shoved it into the keyhole of Denise’s cell, but then realised it wouldn’t fit. Then he conjured up another key and successfully unlocked the door, holding his arm out as he did. Denise didn’t move.
‘Come on, Denise,’ said Daryl. ‘If we’re going to stop Aosoth, we may need your help.’
‘Oh, now you want to stop Aosoth, do you?’
‘It’s what my father would have wanted, isn’t it?’
‘And what do you need me for?’ grumbled Denise, walking towards the back of the cell, ‘I’m not ready to fight Aosoth. She’s far too powerful.’
‘Oh no!’ Spartypuss dove into the cell, slammed the door shut and shrunk. ‘I forgot her power exceeds mine!’
‘Well,’ said Daryl, still shuddering slightly, ‘I guess I’ll go stop her myself.’
‘No, don’t!’ squealed Spartypuss, reaching for Daryl, ‘She’s far too powerful! You’ll die!’
Daryl gave no response, but instead, forced his legs to go towards the stairs. As he neared it, he looked back at Denise, who stared at him, but said nothing in objection. Daryl placed a foot on the first step, then stopped. He looked at his foot on the step before forcing the other one onto the second step. With both feet on steps, he looked upward at where the steps led, when he suddenly felt something lift within him. It wasn’t in his head, but it still made him leap backwards into the dungeon. Reminding himself of what his father would do, he placed himself back up on the stairs, only to stumble downwards again. A quick turn around, and Spartypuss was still there shuddering and Denise was shaking her head.
Daryl’s head shook too.
Out from his cavity spilled an array of purple orbs, shaking and jumping about the dungeon. Daryl ran about, trying to capture them, but all that led to was him tripping over his shoelace, which had suddenly become untied.
Aosoth was back earlier than expected, making Spartypuss turn invisible. Standing up straight, Daryl stared at the staircase until Aosoth slithered down it, the red illuminating the room rendering the little blobs still and silent. ‘Oh, you made some monsters, did you?’
Turning around, Daryl saw Denise still in her cell with the door closed, and Spartypuss nowhere to be found. ‘Yes, I guess I di…’
Without warning, Aosoth raised her hands and stretched open her mouth, letting loose a horrific roar. As she did, the red that filled the room grew deeper, though it seemed to be blotted with new shadows. Feeling stinging sensations over his body, Daryl clutched himself as he felt his head shudder again. Down from his brain came a clone of Aosoth – at least a clone of her head attached to a lizard-like body.
‘Excellent!’ The red in the room returned to its normal shade, and Aosoth cuddled the miniature her like a pet. Daryl stepped back and fumbled through his pockets. Oh, he dropped the Eye after killing Aosoth that first time. If he had it here right now…
A part of him was horrified that he thought of killing Aosoth again, but that part shrunk quickly when looking at how Aosoth admired her copy. Seeing the twin Aosoths made him remember all she had made him do while under her power the first time. When she brought in a man who refused to pay his taxes, he was forced to terrify the man into paying. His hand balled up into a fist as he looked back at Aosoth and then at Denise.
What would Denise think of him if he had never joined Aosoth? If it weren’t for Aosoth, he’d be able to return to his village…no he’d still be in his village, wouldn’t he? He’d just be another dragon, a commoner that could live peacefully with his brethren. Denise wouldn’t accuse and torment him.
Then again, he would have never been to England either, and he had come to like England. But if he had never been to England, it would have been left alone and Aosoth would have never invaded it and
Aosoth slapped him right in the face. ‘Pay attention when I’m talking to you, Daryl,’ she said, with another small monster fluttering out of Daryl’s head as she did. ‘Anyway, I’d just like to thank you for giving me the idea to invade England. I never would have thought of it were it not for you. Just think,’ continued Aosoth as she led Daryl up the staircase, ‘all those people who will die at the hands of my minions and myself, they will have died because of you.’