‘Hello, Daryl,’ said Denise, scratching at her trousers. ‘Here to help your mistress, eh?’
Just then, Daryl noticed Spartypuss beside her, and that the fellow in the baseball cap and jacket was Coover. ‘Oh,’ said Daryl, laughing a little, ‘you escaped. That’s good.’
‘Yes.’ Denise snarled a little. ‘Now, if you’ll excuse me, we’ve got to go face Aosoth.’
‘You!’ Coover pointed at Daryl. ‘Let us bring harsh punishment upon the murderous scoundrel.’
‘Let’s just leave him alone,’ said Denise, bringing Spartypuss and Coover with her, ‘He isn’t a threat. He can’t even help us. He’s nothing.’
The first dragon Daryl had seen in decades and this is what she had to say about him?
Instantly, Daryl remembered what she had told him in the dungeons. About him being a coward. And he was a coward too. Why else would he refuse to fight those skeletons and dethrone Aosoth again? Then came the image of his father, once again shaking his head and scowling at him.
But Denise would save the day, wouldn’t she? Wouldn’t Coover and even Spartypuss help out too? He wasn’t meant to help others. Some people were, some people weren’t. The peasants who had their village invaded weren’t meant to be heroes, they were meant to be saved. They didn’t endlessly complain about not being heroes, so why should Daryl? He wasn’t his father. Denise and Coover were better-trained than he was, and Spartypuss had magical powers, they were more than capable of saving England. And this world had highly-trained law enforcement too, so surely they could aid Denise, Coover and Spartypuss.
Despite telling himself that he should be staying out of this whole palaver, Daryl beat his wings and took to the air until he landed on top of a building, one that didn’t have black spires emerging out of it. Oh yes, more of those had arose, and one or two buildings now had gargoyles jutting out from them. Aosoth could create all sorts of architectural wonders from her fingertips, so Daryl wondered why she had her statue built by hand. Then he remembered Aosoth was evil. How could he forget?
Fluttering down slightly, Daryl looked as several police cars rode in near Aosoth’s throne, and some bobbies dove out. With thoughts that he might be an accessory to the crime as it were, Daryl flew right back up to the rooftops as the police drew out their guns. ‘You are under arrest for public disturbance, enslaving innocent people and having blank red eyes,’ said an officer on a megaphone. ‘Descend from your throne of pain with your hands up.’
‘And if I refuse?’ bellowed Aosoth. ‘Do you have a malicious army of the undead on your side?’
‘No,’ replied the officer.
‘Well then.’ More skeletons arose from the ground and leapt towards the policemen on the scene, poking and prodding them until they writhed on the ground in agony. ‘Now we have enough people working on my statue, so, I don’t know, throw them in a dungeon…’ She placed a finger on her nose. ‘Or better yet, have them build a dungeon!’ She laughed again, right until a bone hit her right between the eyes. Daryl descended slightly down again to see the three heroes make their way past the enslaved Brits to battle the skeleton armies. While Coover tried to fight them off with his sword, only to be punched by one in the face, Denise was dashing through the crowds, fighting whatever she could. She grabbed skeletons before they could grab her, knocking their heads off, throwing them to the ground. Still flapping above her, Daryl felt his legs tell him to go join her in the chaos, but his wings were content to stay where they were.
A loud scream pierced the air. While there were plenty of screams about, this one was the loudest and most familiar: Spartypuss.
It was the sound of his voice that made Daryl swoop down towards where the battle had just commenced. Despite his power, Spartypuss was running around with a skeleton clutching his shoulders, and another biting his leg. Slamming his foot down on the second skeleton’s ribcage, Daryl managed to get it off Spartypuss’ leg. As Spartypuss noticed having one less corpse clinging onto him, Daryl reached for the skeleton on the cat’s back. It leapt off, hands reaching for Daryl’s neck. Indeed, it did get a chance to throttle Daryl, right before Daryl kicked its leg off. Before the leg could rejoin the body, Daryl punched the skeleton to bits, making sure to toss away the skull.
‘Yay! You saved me!’ cried Spartypuss. Before he could hug Daryl, however, Daryl was knocked over backwards by a strong force. That force being none other than Coover.
‘I should have known you’d be aiding the mistress of darkness in her conquest!’ Coover spat in Daryl’s face as he placed his foot down on the dragon’s stomach. Feeling that trepidation return, Daryl closed his eyes and turned away.
He received a slight bonk on the head.
Opening his eyes, Daryl saw Coover wielding a plastic traffic cone. ‘What maliciousness is this?’ said Coover, looking over his pseudo-weapon. ‘Where is my sword?’ After he asked that question, his eyes bulged, with him fumbling about in his pockets. ‘And where is the Eye of Shodden? Did you thieve it, foul monster?’ Daryl shook his head. ‘A likely story. Perhaps a few whacks of this surreal sculpture shall make you confess?’
Coover, however, ended up whacked himself, and with his own sword at that. A skeleton now wielded it, and was about to dig it through Coover’s skull before Coover leapt out of its way. It then hit Coover right in the face, knocking him unconscious. Once again, the skeleton lifted up the sword, right before Daryl dived in and grabbed its arms. A bout of struggling ensued before Daryl managed to knock the skeleton over. As it clattered to the floor, Daryl picked Coover off of the ground, and looked for some place safe to take him.
Before he could fly upwards, however, another skeleton leapt up in front of him and touched him between the eyes. That scorching pain flooded his body again, and Daryl dropped Coover while holding the spot where he was prodded. Hearing a swooping sound, he turned around to see Denise fighting off the skeleton attacking Coover. ‘Fat lot of help you are,’ she said to Daryl.
After she had managed to get Coover to a safe place atop a building, Denise dove down to face more skeletons, while Daryl rose upwards to watch her. That energy he had gained when saving Coover had vanished, and he hoped watching Denise would have that energy return. Having brought Coover to safety, she turned her attention towards the skeletal hordes, breaking them to pieces and breaking them again when they reformed. She certainly fought better than Daryl could hope to do. A skeleton reached to touch her on the forehead, but she detached the arm right away. When the skeletons began to multiply, she rose into the air and quickly descended, just to take out many at a time.
That’s what he needed.
Just like Denise, he dove down towards the skeletons, eager to shatter them to bits, to remind Aosoth that she had no place in this world.
The skeletons piled on top of him.
That energy vanished, and all he could do now was wave his arms about as if merely doing that would stop the skeletons from trying to suppress his actions. The words of Denise filled his brain again. He was a coward. He was useless. That figure in the crystal ball, leading the dragons to victory and persuading them to rise above their reputation? That figure had nothing to do with Daryl. Daniel was supposed to inspire the dragons, to help them succeed. Daniel defeated evil and destroyed monstrosities.
What was Daryl meant to do?
These thoughts did not just suddenly appear when the skeletons had Daryl in their clutches. They had been creeping about, waiting for the right moment to strike. Ready to create another of those creatures.
Sure enough, something did come out of Daryl’s head – something that resembled a purple ghost- which sent the skeletons that had previously had him in their clutches stumbling over backwards. Daryl may have been free of the skeletons, but the spectral monster had now taken hold of him, wrapping around his body like a snake, reducing the use of his arms.
‘If you’re going to help,’ growled Denise as she approached Daryl, ‘you might want to try actually fighting the army.’
‘But why help anyway?’ hissed the monster into Daryl’s ear. ‘You’ll just fail. It won’t change anything you’ve done.’
Denise looked at the monster. ‘He’s sorta right. You shouldn’t be helping; you need help.’
Before she could return to the fight, however, Denise found herself blasted by a bolt of yellow energy. Falling to her knees, Bob and Gary grabbed her by the shoulders, and kicked her. Daryl stepped forward to help her, but the ghost-like monster constricted him tighter, and threw him to the ground, dragging him away. His head lifted up though, and Daryl watched Denise get tortured by Bob and Gary. They had those special swords that could deliver electric shocks, and used them to their full potential, giggling as Denise screamed in agony.
The ruined buildings of England began to shrink away, transforming into a set of burning huts under a sky strewn with thick clouds. By one of the burning huts, there lay another female dragon, the flames nearby reflected in her tears. Behind her stood Bob and Gary, the red light in the area making them look more demonic than they deserved to look. Suddenly, their hellish red aura became an eerie blue as Bob raised the glowing sword. Slamming it down, the female dragon screeched before covering her face. Again, Bob raised it and threw it down. Again she screamed.
The blue then melted away to make way for the red of the flame, as Gary raised a sword of his own.
Daryl closed his eyes as he heard one final scream.
Then there were more screams. Those of his people. Those of the neighbours he passed by when he was playing outside, who would often wave at him and say hello. Those of some other dragon children who would sometimes play ball with him.
‘Hey, Aosoth,’ said Bob, ‘You want us to kill the kid too?’
‘Weren’t you listening?’ Daryl heard Gary say as the claws tightened around Daryl’s arms. ‘She has plans for him.’
‘Indeed,’ came the low voice of Aosoth, running her fingers down Daryl’s neck. ‘This young lad has so much potential…’
‘No!’ Daryl raised his arms and released himself from both the memory and the monster’s grasp. Knocking it over, he dove for Bob and Gary, knocking off their helmets. With Gary under his claws, Daryl stared at his frightened face for a few seconds before plunging his fist between Gary’s eyes. Gary’s skin strangely felt like a marshmallow, but that just seemed to add to the sense of satisfaction – Gary’s face had become a giant stress ball. With Gary out cold, Daryl turned his attention towards Bob, the fat little squat running away. Daryl let him run – the mere fact that he was afraid was satisfaction enough. Another skeleton approached however, and Daryl whacked it away without a thought.
‘Daryl?’ Looking down, Daryl saw that Denise was still alive. ‘Well, I suppose I should thank you…’
While he did need some reassurance at that moment, Daryl found himself ignoring Denise, for he actually felt ideas form in his head. Nothing that could make monsters rise; actual, honest ideas on how he could help. ‘Hey! Skeletons! Come and get me!’ Flying off, Daryl forced the skeletons to follow him, until he came to a building and rose upward.
The building was a television shop.
Even in all the carnage, the televisions were still on, and the skeletons were fixated on what was playing. Their enslaving and battling were all forgotten in favour of reality shows and trashy celebrities. From atop the shop, Daryl found himself laughing at what had happened. Oh yes, he needed laughter. Even though some of his confidence had returned to him, there was still that rumbling growing stronger and quicker.
Aosoth arose from her throne. She who had enslaved him, turned him into a pathetic, snivelling little lackey and was now planning to torture him further. That’s what she lived for, wasn’t it? It was what she needed to make her feel alive. She said so herself.
It wasn’t Daryl’s fault he was seen as a monster by the people of Kirkalan. It was Aosoth’s, all Aosoth’s fault. And she needed to be punished.
Diving down from the building, Daryl fluttered in front of a grinning Aosoth, still sitting on her throne. ‘Well, well, well,’ Aosoth said, shaking her head, ‘So you thought you could save this silly little land and stop me, did you? You wanted to be the hero for once.’ Daryl tightened his fists, furious flame rising from his nostrils. ‘Oh, someone’s a little peeved. What is it? Is it because you couldn’t live up to your father? Is it because Denise doesn’t want to go out with you? Oh!’ Her eyes bulged, almost blinding Daryl with their light. ‘You remembered, didn’t you? Yes,’ she added, feigning regret by putting her arm over her face, ‘I did kill your mother and some of your dragon friends. All so I could take over. How cruel I was. So go ahead, Daryl. Put me to rest.’
As Daryl was getting ready to blow a torrent of fire in her face, she tossed him something, which he grabbed without really intending to. The Eye of Shodden. ‘What is this?’
‘You hate my guts, don’t you, Daryl? And you do want to be the hero your father was?’ She folded her arms, looking at the humans she towered over. ‘Your father killed my father, and he enjoyed every minute of it.’
‘I killed you once.’
‘Yes, but nobody acknowledged it, did they? And look, you have an audience! The people of England will watch you kill me, and they’ll name you a hero. Maybe you won’t even have to pay taxes anymore. And look,’ She pointed downwards at a certain green figure. ‘And another dragon too! Just think, if you destroy me, she’ll see it. She’ll tell all the other dragons, and they’ll forgive the bad reputation you gave them! They’ll think of you the same way they did your father!’
Daryl looked at the Eye and played about with it, while staring at Aosoth. Once again, he heard her dying screams and saw her disintegrating form. He wasn’t told to kill her then, he did it because he wanted to. But he didn’t want to kill, now, did he?
Aosoth could get resurrected again, couldn’t she? That’s why she wanted him to kill her, so she could get resurrected again and could gloat at him about it. So perhaps he could just use the Eye on her anyway, it wouldn’t matter. She deserved to die as many times as possible, anyway.
‘Come on, Daryl. Hurry up. Be a hero.’ Aosoth put her arms on her hips, raising an eyebrow. ‘Maybe if I die a second time, they won’t bother resurrecting me.’
Daryl punched Aosoth right in the face.
When Aosoth rubbed her face from the pain, she still smiled. ‘Oh, they all saw that, didn’t they? They know how brave you are to face little old me. So go ahead, finish me off.’
Daryl once again looked at the Eye, and held it as he did during Aosoth’s first death, before pulling it away and observing it again. Turning around, he looked to the crowds to see skeletons not distracted by television poking some more people, Spartypuss still running away screaming, and Denise looking upwards. Her claws were clenched with anticipation; she obviously wanted Daryl to do as Aosoth was commanding. The Eye was still in his hand, and Daryl forced himself to look at it.
Then he threw it to the ground.
The Eye shattered into pieces, its power wafting away from the broken shell, making the skeleton army vanish in a second. Shuddering more than he would have done had he actually done the deed, Daryl stared at the cackling Aosoth. ‘Now look what you’ve done. I’ll enslave this land forever more, now, because of you! Just because you’re a coward!’
While flinching a little, Daryl walked up to Aosoth, chortling to himself. ‘No…no, I’m not a coward.’
‘Of course you are.’
‘It’s you who’s the coward.’ Daryl laughed again, this time a small amount of fire emitting from his mouth. ‘I know what you were trying to do. You were afraid of a fair fight.’
‘Um, Daryl,’ said Aosoth. ‘You do know I’m evil, don’t you?’
Daryl’s response to this was to not only hit her again, but pick her up and throw her down from her throne. It didn’t kill her – nothing could now – but she was still hurt from it. Rising up from the ground, a beam of energy shot out from her palm, and while it singed Daryl’s shoe a little, it still missed him. He beat his wings quicker, and flew down to where his old boss stood. Her hands lit up again, blazing as strongly as her eyes. Daryl ran to her, reaching for her hand in hopes of stopping a spell before it happened, but instead found another beam ramming him right in the stomach, sending him cartwheeling to the wall of a shop.
As Aosoth blew the smoke off her finger, she approached Daryl slowly, smirking. Daryl then pried himself away from the wall, and bore his claws. Aosoth looked just as she did all those years ago, back when she took Daryl away to her castle, where she would raise him in her own twisted way. She wore the same face she bore when she had Daryl put on the rack, when Daryl felt his limbs would be ripped off his body.
With all those memories rising once more, it was no surprise that a certain creature had returned. The pseudo-dog rose again, and lunged towards Aosoth. Aosoth created a small burst of flame as the dog approached, singing it. As it felt the flame, it rose upwards, laughing, only to come crashing down upon Aosoth’s head, almost flattening her.
While she raised her hand again in order to attack, the dog tightly clutched her wrist and threw her into the air before catching her again, beginning to juggle her. Daryl couldn’t help but chuckle.
Then the monster retreated within Daryl’s head, taking Aosoth with it.
While Daryl did gain quite a headache, his head did not change shape, nor did he actually feel Aosoth against the inside of his head. When he tried walking, he managed to keep his balance. Well, right until Aosoth splatted to the ground right before him. Trembling, she rose. ‘Wh-what…’
Then Denise hit her with a chair.
‘Oh,’ grumbled Aosoth as she collapsed to the road face first. ‘Well, Daryl, my spell did what it was supposed to do.’ Daryl stared at Aosoth with narrowed eyes. ‘Still, I could have done without seeing what’s in your mi…’ She shuddered again. ‘Screw it. I’m off.’ With another glowing claw, she made her throne disappear, then the new architecture, and finally herself.
As soon as Aosoth disappeared, Daryl flew away.