Letting the chair clatter to the ground, Denise collapsed to her knees, staring at the spot where Aosoth had vanished. She took a moment to collect herself, tiny flames emerging from her mouth, before she felt a hand on her shoulder. Spartypuss, his bright smile regained.
‘Well,’ said Denise, chuckling to herself. ‘Just be glad your brother wasn’t here. I don’t know how he would have reacted to seeing how you heroically defeated Aosoth’s army.’
‘But that mean old witch’s gone now,’ said Spartypuss, raising his arms. ‘And it’s all because of you and Daryl!’
‘Yes,’ said Denise, actually feeling herself filling with a sense of confidence, ‘but Coover did his part too. Which reminds me…’
Springing off the road, Denise flew to the building where she put Coover, and took him back down to Earth, cap and all. ‘What is this sorcery?’ cried Coover. ‘What was I doing atop a building? Especially when I should be down there fighting the mistress of evil?’
‘The fight’s over,’ replied Denise, ‘Aosoth is gone. She’s given up.’
‘Of course!’ said Coover as he set foot on the ground. ‘She knew better than to deal with me, after all. Even in this ridiculous outfit, I was still too much for her to handle!’
‘Anyway,’ said Denise, turning to Spartypuss, ‘Aosoth is gone and can’t overpower you, so can you use your magic to rebuild this town?’
‘Of course!’ said Spartypuss, pointing to the air, ‘but first!’ Using his magic, he made balloons of several colours materialise from the ground, followed by an endless table filled with sweets, cakes, fizzy pop and just about everything that made up Spartypuss’ diet. ‘Hey, everyone!’ yelled Spartypuss, pushing Denise and Coover forward towards the freed humans. ‘These people helped save us!’
People were cheering for her. She had done her part in fighting Aosoth, and she was getting her reward for doing so. These people didn’t scream at her appearance or try to attack her. They only wanted to congratulate her, her prize for all her years of training.
‘Oh, you’re a dragon!’ came a voice from behind Denise. There stood a rather portly young man, with a bad case of acne and a t-shirt with a wizard that resembled Gangrene. ‘Oh, I love dragons! And you’re a girl one too!’ As the man sighed, Denise turned away and looked upwards.
‘Excuse me for a minute,’ she said, before taking to the air once again. Wearing these clothes made the flying a little more disjointed than usual, but she still beat her wings as quickly as possible, trying to navigate this alien world. Sometimes she would see buildings that reminded her of Kirkalanian architecture, but she found herself wondering why anyone would want to live in a giant white cube.
Soon enough, she came to some fields that would be like those of Kirkalan were they a different shade of green and if they didn’t have that big curve piercing them. Just being in a place that wasn’t the native home she had made her feel a little dizzy, and made her circle about twice before she gently landed to regain her bearings. As her head grew more solid, she told herself that she had seen a certain green and brown figure land somewhere, and tried to remind herself where it went. She flew again, but not too far from the ground, and soon enough found Daryl sitting by himself among the grass.
‘Oh,’ he said, lifting his head upward, ‘It’s you. I’m…I’m sorry I didn’t kill Aosoth.’
‘You really should have, Daryl.’
Standing up, Daryl replied, ‘It’s what she wanted me to do.’ Upon saying this, Daryl covered his face with his hands, scrunching it up. ‘I felt bad about…’
‘Never mind. What she was trying to do was make sure that I couldn’t live up to my father.’
‘I know, Daryl,’ said Denise, walking towards him. ‘Your father was a great dragon. He was the best of us.’
‘You told me that,’ said Daryl, with a slight growl in his voice. Taking a deep breath, he asked, ‘Did he really kill Aosoth’s father?’
‘What else could he do?’ said Denise, grabbing Daryl’s jacket. ‘You bloody well think…’ She slowly let go of Daryl, hanging her head.
‘I just thought…I just thought there’d be another way.’ Sighing, he added, ‘But if you want to kill me, go ahead, I guess.’
‘I don’t want to kill you, Daryl.’ Denise put her hand on Daryl’s shoulder. ‘You had no choice in the matter, did you?’
‘No,’ replied Daryl.
Denise’s eyes widened. ‘What did she do to you, Daryl? Tell me.’
Daryl described everything he could remember. All the torture and the verbal and physical abuse hurled his way, and of course, his earliest memories of his old village.
‘No dragon should have to go through that, Daryl,’ replied Denise.
‘Oh, well, thank you.’
‘I want to help you, Daryl. I know how you can be trained to have a stronger backbone against your foes, how you can be more like your father was. The way you fought Aosoth reminded me of him a little.’
Daryl’s eyes shifted back and forth. ‘I don’t know.’
‘I’ll help you go back to your village. I’ll reintroduce you to all the other dragons and…’ She shook her head. ‘I don’t know either.’
‘No, no,’ said Daryl, ‘I think it’s a good idea.’
‘So, you want to go back to Kirkalan then?’
‘I want…I want to redeem myself. I really do.’
‘I understand,’ said Denise. ‘I’ll bring you back to Kirkalan, and I’ll help you get the training you deserve.’ She put her finger to her chin as she thought it over. ‘I know this really good trainer.’
‘I’d appreciate that a lot,’ Daryl nodded.
‘Thank you.’ Denise looked to the sky, beginning to beat her wings. ‘Now, if you’d like to join me, Spartypuss is holding a party.’
‘Okay,’ was all Daryl said before joining her.
The two dragons flew back to the street where the party was being held, and it certainly was in full swing. Speakers that were almost as tall as the surrounding buildings now stood where Aosoth’s throne used to be, letting frantic and ferocious music pound across the area. These sounds made Denise lose her sense of balance and spiralled right into a building. After she pulled herself out, blaming both the music and the general feel of her clothing, she turned around to see a smiling Daryl dancing away to the ungodly sounds emanating from the speakers.
‘You actually like that?’ Denise asked, hands on hips.
‘It took me a while to get used to it,’ said Daryl as loud as he could, ‘but it grows on you.’
‘What…’ All of a sudden, Denise noticed her body moving on its own accord. Her tail swayed back and forth, her wings opening and closing randomly and her legs moved about in several different directions. Due to the discordant nature of her legs, she once again lost balance and, her arms swaying about as much as her legs, Denise almost hit the ground. Before she could do that, however, Daryl grabbed her by the arm and brought her back to her feet. ‘That happens,’ he said.
‘Thanks,’ replied Denise, brushing herself off. The music having lost its hypnotic effect on her – those things never last – Denise walked past the people in hopes of finding Coover and Spartypuss, just to have a chat with them about how things ended up. For a minute, she stood and looked at the many people dancing and enjoying themselves – and those who were covering their ears and yelling – and noticed that they noticed her. Some waved to her, some just seemed to ignore her, but they weren’t attacking her, nor were they accusing her of any wrongdoings or anything like that.
As she looked away, though, she saw none other than Aruff speaking with Spartypuss. Though it was still hard to hear anything with the music pounding away, Denise still found herself able to overhear their conversation. Probably because they were gods, really.
‘Ooh, brother,’ said Spartypuss, ‘Did you see me against Aosoth’s army? I lasted a full hour without breaking into tears!’
‘I bet you did,’ said Aruff, ‘Still, it’s nice that you tried something new.’
‘Brought some boar’s blood,’ replied Aruff, making a stein of said blood appear before guzzling it down.
‘Aruff!’ said Denise, and when she appeared, Spartypuss used his magic to turn down the volume of the speakers slightly. ‘Do you think you’re ready to take on another student?’
‘Oh really?’ said Aruff, raising an eyebrow. ‘It’s not that Daryl, is it?’
‘Because I’d be happy to take on one of Aosoth’s own!’ Aruff grinned, spilling some of his drink as he raised out his hands as if he were going to give Denise a hug. ‘It would be interesting, and Kirkalan could certainly stand to be more interesting. Where is Daryl?’
Speak of the devil, Daryl showed up. A disposable cup of Ribena in one hand, he turned to Aruff and shuddered. ‘Your brother?’ Daryl asked Spartypuss.
‘Oh no!’ Aruff slapped his face. ‘You’ve been listening to what my brother says, haven’t you? You really do need my help.’
‘You said you wanted training to help redeem yourself,’ said Denise, ‘Well, here you go.’
Daryl shrugged. ‘I don’t have anything better to do.’