Daryl and Denise – Epilogue

‘Typical.’ Denise shook her head, smirking, as Daryl rose from the temple floor. ‘Didn’t kill Aosoth, couldn’t kill the little bugger there.’ Turning around, Daryl saw the creature Aruff had created for him to fight: a small round thing that almost resembled a miniature Spartypuss. It chuckled in a high-pitched way that reminded Daryl of an especially annoying cartoon character used in an advert. Were it that or Denise’s expression he wasn’t sure, but right afterwards, he got back onto his feet and kicked away the little thing, allowing it to bounce off a wall.

‘Very good, Daryl,’ said Aruff, slowly clapping. ‘Maybe next we can move you onto goblins.’

‘Still,’ said Denise, ‘It’s a start.’

Rubbing his head, Daryl took another look at the creature he kicked, and then back at Denise. ‘How long did it take you to get as good as you are?’

Denise sighed, rubbing her forehead. ‘Oh, don’t mind that. Anyway, I think that’ll be enough training for today. Now then, Daryl, do you still want to go back to your old village and get reacquainted?’

‘Of course,’ said Daryl, straightening out his tweed jacket, his vest, his tie. ‘It’s been yoinks since I’ve been there…’

‘Yoinks?’

‘A word I picked up from a book. Anyway…’ As they usually did, a thought suddenly popped into Daryl’s mind without warning. ‘They m-might not like me though.’

‘Of course they won’t,’ said Denise, folding her arms, ‘But don’t worry. I’ll talk with them about it.’

‘Okay,’ said Daryl, similar to the way a small child may reluctantly agree to his mother’s demands.

‘Hey!’ said Aruff, his voice echoing throughout the temple. ‘Do you want to atone or not?’

Turning away from Denise, Daryl nodded. ‘Yeah, sure do!’

‘Good.’ With that, Aruff created an elephantine blob that reached to the ceiling, with no facial features save for a mouth lined with fangs. Daryl charged, and ended up swallowed by the creature, swimming in slime.

Denise rolled her eyes. ‘Oh, this is going to be fun.’

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Daryl and Denise – Chapter 25

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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!’

Cheering.

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…’

‘Yes?’

‘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.’

‘Punch?’

‘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?’

‘Well…’

‘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.’

‘What?’

‘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.’

Daryl and Denise – Chapter 24

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‘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.’

‘But…’

‘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.

Déjà vu.

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.

Daryl and Denise – Chapter 23

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With Aosoth, Daryl, Bob and Gary out of the room, Spartypuss turned himself visible again, and re-opened Denise’s door, this time with her stepping out, albeit slowly. ‘I can’t very well stay here,’ said Denise, ‘If I do, she’ll try and make me her minion. But…’ She held her head in her hand.

‘Oh…’ Spartypuss quivered again. ‘Does this mean we’ll be going after her?’

‘No. It’s far too risky. I still feel I am unready to fight her and you…well…’ She looked about the dungeon for a while before turning back to Spartypuss, ‘First, please teleport me out of here.’ So Spartypuss raised his arms and magicked them away from Aosoth’s dungeon, and into a spot of quicksand. As Denise began to sink into the murky deep, Spartypuss then transported them to a wheat field. ‘We’ve got some travelling to do, Spartypuss, but I think we should walk to those destinations.’

‘Sorry,’ said Spartypuss, his eyes widening.

‘Don’t feel bad for yourself. We’ve got to focus. As much as a dump England apparently is, we still can’t let Aosoth take over.’

‘And we have to save Daryl too.’

‘Probably,’ replied Denise, folding her arms, ‘Now, we must find Coover, for he still has the Eye of Shodden, and maybe my mentor and your brother could be of use too.’

‘Oh no,’ said Spartypuss as he and Denise began to walk away from the field. ‘Aruff liked it when Aosoth ruled. He’s been saying Kirkalan has been boring without her!’

‘He is one of this land’s best fighters though,’ said Denise, ‘and he has the power to go up against Aosoth.’

‘Her power is far greater than that of both of us,’ said Spartypuss before he fainted, upsetting the wheat. Rolling her eyes, Denise grabbed Spartypuss by the undersides of his arms – he was very light to carry – and flew off into the sky, looking down at the scenery below. As much as she had to hide, she did have a good knowledge of how Kirkalan was laid out, and Coover’s house was certainly easy to find – and hard to miss – given how large and over-decorated it was. With the town full of people going about their business, Denise gently lowered herself and Spartypuss out of sight, and hid behind a house. With Spartypuss coming to, she gestured to him to follow her and they set off towards Coover’s residence.

Upon reaching it, Denise peeked through the window and saw that Coover was indeed inside, shining his shoes. Taking a deep breath, making sure not to let any fire escape, Denise dove in, and made the boy leap over backwards. ‘You again!’

‘Yes,’ said Denise, stretching out her wings, ‘I have something I need to discuss with you.’

‘Is it about how you wish for recognition…’

‘No!’ cried Denise, sending Coover scrambling for his sword. ‘It’s Aosoth!’

 

‘Her? The vile enchantress whom I vanquished?’

Denise held Coover by the arms, shaking him wildly. ‘She’s been resurrected and you have to stop her!’ One of her eyes bulged. ‘If you did stop her the first time.’

‘Preposterous!’ laughed Coover, ‘No-one would dare resurrect a black-hearted being such as Aosoth!’

‘Of course they would!’ Denise snarled, revealing every one of her jagged teeth. ‘There are people like that you know! Now, do you have the Eye of Shodden?’

‘Look, reptilian thing…’

‘Do you have the Eye?’

‘This is a trick, I know it!’

‘Do you have it or not?’

‘Yes. But I know what you want it for. You want to use it to destroy Kirkalan, do you not?’

Denise gritted her teeth as she released Coover. ‘I don’t want it. I want you to use it on Aosoth. Spartypuss! Spartypuss!’ Running to the window, Denise looked at Spartypuss, noticing some smoke rising from her nostrils. ‘Spartypuss, help me!’

‘B-but you’re being nasty!’

‘Well…of course I’m being nasty, what else can I be at a time like this?’

‘Coover?’ Turning away from Spartypuss, Denise saw a couple enter the room – a burly man and a thin woman – and the female of the two shrieked upon seeing Denise. ‘Son!’

‘Yes, father,’ said Coover, reaching for his sword, ‘This vile dragon was just trying to trick me out of the Eye of Shodden.’

Hearing this, Denise roared, which seemed to shake the entire house, sending both of Coover’s parents running away. ‘Monster!’ cried Coover, finally wielding his sword. As he swung it at Denise, she dove and slid down the floor. Coover lifted his sword again, but then found himself falling to the floor face-first, dropping his sword. Before he could pick it up, his hand was scrunched by a certain green claw. Once again, Denise lifted up Coover and brought his face closer to hers, with Coover sweating from how hot her breath was.

‘Listen here, you,’ said Denise, trembling, ‘Aosoth is back, I saw her get resurrected myself with my own eyes. You killed her once, you’ll bloody well kill her again, do you get me?’

‘Um,’ said Coover, eyes darting about to avoid Denise’s glare, ‘I suppose I must listen to you, despite what you are. What is Aosoth planning?’

‘She is planning to invade and dominate England. Spartypuss will transport us there and we will face her and destroy her, won’t we Spartypuss?’

Spartypuss instantly crawled into Coover’s house, looking at Denise. ‘Y-yes.’

‘Now fetch us the Eye, Coover.’ Coover did just that, opening a chest in the corner of his room and bringing out the Eye. ‘Good. Now keep it close to you at all times. We’re going to see Aruff to see if he can help us.’

‘But I told you,’ said Spartypuss. ‘He’s wanted Aosoth back.’

‘Yes,’ said Coover, ‘He’s had such little to do ever since I defeated her. The heroes he trained did want to kill her, after all.’

‘Very well then,’ said Denise as she led Coover and Spartypuss outside, ‘I’ll see if Gangrene can help us.’ So with more hiding and creeping later, Denise, Spartypuss and Coover arrived at Gangrene’s home, and he soon arrived at the door. ‘Gangrene,’ said Denise, ‘My suspicions about Aosoth were correct. She’s been resurrected.’

‘Ah, yes,’ said Gangrene, nodding his head, ‘I have sensed something evil rising.’

‘I have just escaped from the dungeons,’ said Denise. ‘My blood was used in her resurrection.’

‘Aha!’ cried Coover, pointing a finger at Denise, ‘I knew you had some part to play…’ He would have said more if small flames were not emitting from Denise’s nostrils. ‘Apparently she is to attack a little-known land known as England.’

‘That place?’ Gangrene sighed. ‘Oh, let her do that, it’ll make it more interesting.’

‘We still can’t let her get away though!’

‘Oh come on,’ said Gangrene, fingers on the door, ‘Coover saved Kirkalan from Aosoth, and you’ve been a good student. I’m too old for all of this nonsense. ‘

‘Well, fine then,’ snorted Denise. ‘I guess we three will have to defeat Aosoth on our own then. Spartypuss, send us to Aosoth’s lair, and try and concentrate this time.’

Spartypuss concentrated hard as Denise had told him to do, but teleported himself and his two friends into a cave of some kind. When a loud growl echoed throughout the cave, Spartypuss tried again, and had this time led Denise and Coover into the forest near Aosoth’s castle. ‘Close enough,’ said Denise, and she flew towards and into the castle, with Coover and Spartypuss following behind her. Ignoring the darkness and emptiness of the main hall, Denise still flew up the stairs, and searched for any sign of Aosoth. A loud crackling caught her ears, instinctively causing her to take to her feet and run to where she heard the crackling. Swinging open a prominent-looking door, Denise was greeted a flash of light. There stood Aosoth, Bob and Gary, all bathed in a brilliant white aura, and before Denise could do anything with them, they vanished.

‘Damn it,’ snarled Denise as Coover and Spartypuss caught up with her. ‘We’re too late.’

‘If you cannot bring us to this accursed abode on time,’ said Coover to Spartypuss, ‘Can you at least give us some illumination?’ Spartypuss created a torch to lighten up the dank depths of Aosoth’s castle, and to reveal his wide mouth trembling.

‘We can’t stay here though,’ Denise shook her head, ‘We have to get to England.’

‘Well,’ said Spartypuss, ‘Like I told Daryl, you can’t go there like that; you need some new clothes.’

‘Wait, did you just say…?’ Before Denise could finish her sentence, she found herself engulfed in a burst of smoke. When the smoke cleared, she found herself wearing a pair of black trousers and a white shirt, both of which had holes for her wings and tail, and her toes were contracted by a pair of neat black shoes.

‘Hmm, maybe Coover too. People don’t dress like that there.’ Creating another burst of smoke, Coover’s wardrobe changed as well; he now bore a t-shirt, a bomber jacket, jeans and the ensemble was topped off by a backwards baseball cap.

‘What is the meaning of this?’ Coover yelled, ‘Throwing away the clothes of a warrior for these ridiculous articles! You may be a god, but this is a blasphemy!’

Hearing this, Spartypuss buried his head in his hands and began to cry again, before Denise slapped him on the shoulder. ‘Get on with it!’


Daryl knew this street. He had walked down it several times, flown past it several times, and had done so much of his shopping there. Didn’t he even consider a job in one of the shops there? All the time he had spent in this world, this street had a more magical air than some of the more enchanted spots in Kirkalan, with each of the shops promising new things for Daryl to try and use. He still hadn’t gotten round to eating chocolate Weetabix.

Not that he would ever get a chance to, now that Aosoth had arrived in England. Her grand entrance, being engulfed by a torrent of flame which was then punctuated by a flurry of bats flying upwards into the sky, did not go unnoticed. The passersby all stood still and looked at the sorceress from another world that had invaded theirs.

Yet one had thrown an empty can at her.

‘Who did that?’ bellowed Aosoth, as a hoody came forward, chuckling to himself. ‘You dare insult the majesty that is Aosoth?’

‘You wha?’ said the hoody as he came up to Aosoth. ‘What, you some sort of goth?’ Laughing again, he flicked Aosoth on the nose before running away.

Before he could go back to whatever sanctuary he had, Aosoth had raised her arm and had reduced the rather crude young man into ashes. More people ran to the scene of the crime, and all were silent, except for the man who said ‘Can you saw him in half too?’

‘Listen, people of England! I am Aosoth! I once ruled the glorious land of Kirkalan, but now I have selected your world to be my new dominion! What happened to that brat there…’ She gestured towards the ashes on the pavement. ‘…will surely happen to you if you do not follow my every word!’

‘Well,’ said a passerby, ‘Can’t be worse than the Tories.’

That passerby was forced to face Aosoth. ‘Oh, you think you’re funny, do you?’ The man shook his head, still with a slight smile. ‘And what are “Tories” anyway? They sound like some sort of goblin.’ Aosoth tossed the man away and turned her attention back towards the crowds. ‘Now, unless you lot want to suffer my wrath, you will do as I command and make me your queen.’ Raising her hands again, she created another portal to Kirkalan, which an array of skeletons emerged from.

While Daryl had been expecting this, the skeletons arriving made him leap over backwards, and yet another head monster arose, this one resembling a human skeleton with skeletal spider legs. This monster did join its inspiration in holding the people captive, forcing them to watch as Aosoth used her powers to create a throne for her to admire her world atop.

‘Now, scary skeletons,’ said Aosoth, proudly pointing towards the sky, ‘get these people to build a statue of me! Come on, chop chop.’

As Aosoth ordered above her throne and Daryl stood still, the skeletons tried to push the humans below into creating a monument to their ruler. One person was about to be grabbed by a skeleton when he kicked it right in the hips and made it collapse. When that person was about to walk away proudly, the skeleton reassembled itself and poked the person in the back. That would-be hero squealed in pain, as he was given some sculpting tools by the skeleton, the latter’s eyes glowing red.

What could Daryl do? His father wouldn’t have let those people suffer under Aosoth and her armies. Those images he saw in the crystal ball replayed in his head once again, with Daryl clutching his cavity to ensure it didn’t cause anything to escape. Could he have been at the forefront of a dragon army, leading his species to greatness? Those visions played again, and played faster, like when Daryl had that video cassette and experimented with the remote control.

As quickly and unconsciously as he killed Aosoth, he ran towards the skeleton that had just hurt that man and stared at it. Though the skeleton had no facial muscles, Daryl could still tell what it was thinking as it looked over him. Again, his claws were balled into a fist, and he tried to create an image of him hitting the skeleton or Aosoth in the face, but before he could, the skeleton poked him in the snout.

It felt like his own fire burning his face. Clenching his snout in pain, he hopped about screaming as some of the people around him began to laugh. Upon hearing the laughter, the pain of the skeleton seemed to mysteriously vanish, only to be replaced by a new kind of pain. Indeed, this stinging brought forth yet another head monster: a giant green blob that bellowed, ‘STOP LAUGHING AND GET BACK TO WORK!’

Seeing this made the laughing people silent and Aosoth erupt in her own brand of laughter. ‘See, Daryl, you can be useful.’ A rumbling began in Daryl’s gut, but he could sense a small sliver of pride in there somewhere, which made the rumbling grow stronger.

He could stop them. He could stop the skeletons and he could stop Aosoth. If he did, he would be living up to his family’s name, he would be a hero and would no longer be the pariah among Kirkalan and his own species. Even if they did have a painful touch, he could still stop the skeletons.

Aosoth had conjured a huge block of stone in the middle of the street, and the skeletons were using their powers to make sure the humans were going to make it into a statue of Aosoth’s visage. Daryl  was sure, however, that one person said ‘Got nothing better to do.’ Nonetheless, Daryl tried to look for any courage he had. He killed Aosoth once, didn’t he?

That again. Once more he found himself back in the halls of Aosoth’s castle, where the glow of the Eye disintegrated Aosoth. Aosoth was alive now, so that image shouldn’t have bothered him as much, but he did it, he killed her, and there was nothing he could do to change the past.

He looked upon the skeletons, and briefly wondered what they were like before their flesh rotted away. Having lurked in Aosoth’s castle for so long, Daryl had seen the skeletons of the knights that had failed to dethrone Aosoth and her family. When he was bored, he would ponder on how those bones were when they had muscle and flesh. Did they have wives and children mourning their passing? Or even just girlfriends who were waiting to be wed? So what of these reanimated corpses then?

With that in mind, the invisible barrier between Daryl and Aosoth grew stronger, and he froze, letting the skeletons go about their enslaving. Then all Aosoth had to do was yell ‘Daryl!’ and he flew up to her throne. ‘You know, Daryl,’ said Aosoth in thought, ‘This place is nice, but it doesn’t really scream “Evil” to me. Any suggestions?’

‘W-well, you are b-building…’ Daryl was about to remind Aosoth of the statue, but looking at her hand, the hand that could deliver his punishment for killing her, he thought that maybe he shouldn’t talk back. ‘How about a few black spires he-here and there?’

‘Yes, I think that would do fine,’ said Aosoth, as she waved a finger. All of a sudden, huge spires emerged from the ground, reducing a poor little corner shop to rubble. Good thing the shopkeeper and the customers got out in time. Oh wait, the skeletons got them, never mind.

Daryl backed away again, this time landing in Aosoth’s lap. ‘S-sorry…’

‘Oh, go and do something useful with yourself,’ snarled Aosoth, using her magic to lift Daryl off of her throne and throw him down onto the pavement. Picking himself up, Daryl began to feel rather dizzy, stumbling about through the skeletons and enslaved people with no sense of direction. Eventually, he came to a wall, where he lay against until he was able to regain his balance. Still all those thoughts twirled in his head in a disorganised dance. His father back in the day, his time with Aosoth, how his fond memories of being in England would be tarnished by this invasion. Though he was now a bit firmer, he still walked about aimlessly as he decided what he should do.

Then he saw Denise.

Daryl and Denise – Chapter 22

aosothmonster

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?’

‘S-sorry.’

‘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?’

‘M-maybe.’

‘That’s what they all say when questioned. Aruff told me about people like you.’

‘Did he?’

‘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.

‘Daryl…?’

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.’

Daryl and Denise – Chapter 21

 

asteroth

After seeing what could come out of his head if he lost his guard, and how his cellmate reacted to such a thing, Daryl had spent the whole night awake. The female dragon slumbered quite peacefully, but Daryl forced himself to keep alert, one hand beneath his eyes, the other atop his head. The loud snores coming from the female helped keep him awake, but something in his head seemed to move to the rhythm of those snores.

Morning soon came, though it was hard to tell in this castle, with Daryl shuddering in the corner. No monsters. Good. What time – oh no. If he was in here, he wouldn’t be able to get to work. Even if he did escape, he would lose his only chance at a better life.

Fire erupted from his nostrils again, which awoke the female. ‘Stop that,’ she growled, and the flames immediately ceased. She looked as if she was ready to attack Daryl again at any moment, so Daryl cowered once again.

‘I-I really d-didn’t want to work for A-Aosoth, you know.’

The female sat with a fierce expression. ‘And yet you continued doing her work until that kid Coover killed her.’

Daryl opened his mouth to correct that last point, but words failed him about that. Instead, he responded, ‘I was afraid.’

‘Afraid of what?’ She stood up, towering over Daryl. ‘Look at you. You’re a member of a proud species, and you’re…well…’ Daryl, grabbing his head again, stood up to face her. ‘What would your father think of you now?’

‘My father?’

Before the female could say anything else, Aosoth glided into the room, chortling softly. ‘Hello, did we have a good night’s sleep?’ The female dragon ran to the bars, but was knocked over backwards by a blast from Aosoth. ‘Or did we play together at all? No? Pity. Well, anyway.’ Opening the cell door, she grabbed Daryl by the arm and let him out, leaving the dazed female still trapped.

‘W-w-what do you want?’ blurted out Daryl. ‘I-I’m so so sorry.’

‘Don’t worry about that now, Daryl,’ said Aosoth, stroking Daryl’s cavity. ‘It did allow me to have a spectacular resurrection, and I’ve always wanted one of those. Now, I know you’ve been in that other world for a while now…’

‘I’m sorry!’

‘Stop saying that! Being there for so long, you’d be likely to know its many technologies. So, perhaps you’d like to share your knowledge about that world with me, to see if there is anything that can aid me in terrorising the people of Kirkalan once more. If you do, I’ll let you go back to your cosy little flat, and you’ll never have to worry about me ever again!’

‘R-really?’

‘Of course,’ said Aosoth, her voice getting higher, ‘Would I lie to you?’

‘Um, just a sec,’ said Daryl, as he suddenly rushed back to the cell, where the female dragon leaned against the bars. After checking to see Aosoth wasn’t listening, he said, ‘Hey! Fellow dragon!’

‘My name is Denise, if you must know.’

‘Okay, hello Denise. Anyway, Aosoth just told me to tell her about England…’

‘That dump?’ Denise folded her arms. ‘You actually went there?’

‘Yes, but now Aosoth wants me to tell her about stuff there that can help her and said that if I do, I’ll go home. But I can’t work for her again, but I do want to go home…’

‘Why are you telling me this?’

‘Well…’ Daryl rubbed his arm. ‘I thought you would know what to do.’

Denise responded by laughing. Pounding the bars of her cell, she let loose a bout of cruel laughter before slowly regaining herself. ‘I suppose I should be flattered. But I’m going to let you figure it out for yourself. Whichever you choose, it’ll save me having to put up with you any further.’

Fidgeting with his cavity some more, Daryl forced himself to look at Denise. ‘What did you say about my father?’

‘What does it matter? Even if I told you, it’s not like I’d be able to help you.’

‘No, please.’ Further requests were silenced when Aosoth entered.

‘Have you come to a decision yet?’ She turned to Denise for a moment. ‘What’s the matter? Were you hoping she’d help you? Forget it, Daryl. Everyone in Kirkalan hates you, even members of your own species. Just help me out this once, and I’ll teleport you back to your humble little home.’

‘I-I th-thought you liked having me help you though…’

‘But come on, Daryl. I just want you to be happy.’ Aosoth punctuated that word with a grin revealing her jagged teeth. ‘ And if you’re happier in England than here, then so be it.’

Daryl turned to Denise, sitting in her cell, and back at Aosoth, then around at the place he wanted to forget. ‘Oh, very well. I’ll t-tell you,’ he replied, hanging his head. A roar from the cell made him shudder, yet he still let Aosoth grip him and take him to her laboratory.

What could Daryl do?


What could Denise do?

The son of her idol had been in the same room as her, had stood before her, and had spoken to her. The son that was believed dead, and was even given a memorial service. The son Denise had even hoped to take the place of. Daryl was not Daniel, but he was Daniel’s son, so finding out he was the dragon working for Aosoth was as much a blow to her as if Daniel himself had joined the forces of darkness.

It was entirely possible that this could be some trick of Aosoth’s to lower her morale, but…who cares if it was? It was Daniel she was fighting to keep the memory of, not his son or whatever was claiming to be his son.

If he could become evil, could she too?

Attempting to shake these thoughts from her head, Denise instead tried to focus on escaping. Aosoth had fed Bob and Gary a heavy amount of caffeine and had enchanted their keys, so there was no point in waiting for them to fall asleep. She thought back to her training with Gangrene, and remembered his advice on outsmarting opponents.

‘Bob! Gary!’

‘What is it?’ growled the taller of the two. ‘You know Aosoth put a fireproof spell on us too?’

‘I know. I was just wondering why you lot are following her orders. Don’t you hate her?’

‘Well,’ replied the fatter one, kicking up some dirt, ‘everyone hates their boss. But we gotta have a job.’

‘But,’ said Denise, smugly folding her arms, ‘She doesn’t pay you. Besides, I think your potential is wasted here.’

‘Oh, nice try,’ said Gary, holding his spear proudly, ‘You see, Little Miss Smartie, we tried different jobs after Aosoth’s defeat, and none of them worked out for us. You never realise what you have until it’s gone, and guardwork is truly my calling. It’s Bob’s too.’ Bob nodded to emphasise Gary’s point.

Denise collapsed on her hands and knees. Stupid Denise. Stupid little dragon. All those years of training, and look where you are now. Trying to live up to Daniel’s standards, hah. And now his own son’s gone and joined Aosoth. Right now he’s helping her bring misery and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

Nothing could be done at all.


‘And there’s this thing called an egg-beater. As you can tell by the n-name, it can cause harm. Okay, it c-can’t just beat eggs, I mean, I used it and it hurt my claws plenty…’

‘Very interesting,’ chuckled Aosoth, ‘So this world has a screen that hypnotises people, and a little cylinder that turn food into liquid. I wonder if you can get a bigger version of one of those…’

‘Oh, they do have a bigger version of one of those,’ said Daryl, nodding his head, ‘They’re called cinemas but I don’t think they are as hypnotic…’

‘I guess Kirkalan misjudged England. We thought it was just a boring wasteland, but it has so many delights! I’ll give some of these little gizmos a try!’ Using her magic, Aosoth conjured up an egg-beater. After observing it for a while, she turned the handle, and watched the beaters rotate. Holding it to Daryl’s face, she gave a “hmph” of disappointment as it only made Daryl flinch slightly.

Despite the pain administrated from the egg-beater being minimal, Daryl still turned away, hiding his eyes. He knew of much more potent things, things which could more properly assist Aosoth, he thought that if he brought minimal damage to the other world, he would be able to forgive himself more easily.

‘You’re hiding something from me, aren’t you?’

Why couldn’t she just send him home? If she didn’t mind that he killed her, why not just leave him be? She had conquered Kirkalan once without technology, and she had enough power to do it again without his help. He had rent to pay and a job to do. He was just a boring, working man, no use to an evil sorceress.

‘There’s bigger things in this world that you’re not telling me about, isn’t there? What’s wrong, are you afraid? Oh come on, Daryl, I’m your friend. I have taken care of you, haven’t I?’

All of a sudden, Daryl gained an urge to ask Aosoth something he knew he shouldn’t: ‘Do you know anything about my father?’

A grin crossed Aosoth’s face. ‘Do you really want to know?’ Daryl didn’t answer, but Aosoth still took him to her crystal ball. ‘Here. Let me show you.’

Daryl pressed his snout against the crystal ball, and saw a dragon that resembled a more muscular version of himself. This muscular dragon dove from the sky to hit a giant blob in the stomach. The blob extended its tentacle in the dragon’s direction, slime falling to the ground as it did. The dragon darted upwards and dove again, this time digging his claw into the blob’s eyeball. After he ripped out the eyeball, the blob slithered away. Looking down, the dragon saw a younger dragon, who cheered at the monster’s defeat.

‘His name was Daniel, and the other dragons saw him as a hero. Disgusting, eh?’

The crystal ball then revealed another image, that of another dragon standing beside an array of other dragons. ‘And this is your grandfather, Darren. He was just as bad,’ said Aosoth.

‘My brethren,’ said Darren in a voice Daryl found both familiar and alien, ‘once we were forced to toil for evil, and it turned the humans against us. Well, now that Asteroth is threatening to dominate Kirkalan, we will show him that we are not to be treated as henchmen!’ The crowds of dragons cheered.

Darren led the dragons into battle, and while most seemed to be relying only on their fire breath and muscles to do battle, others came prepared with swords and bows and arrows. They descended from a rocky ledge to meet with another dragon, this one donning a black robe not unlike Aosoth’s. The dragons ran towards this robed creature, but with a lift of his arm, he sent them all tumbling over backwards. ‘Foolish peasants,’ laughed the robed dragon, ‘You want to rebel against me?’

‘Landorm!’ cried Darren. ‘We will not stand for your oppression any longer!’

‘Oh, really?’ said Landorm. ‘You think you are mighty enough to challenge me? Well, you shouldn’t be wasting your might on me or on protecting those miserable humans. If you rebel against me, you’re no smarter than they are.’

‘They need us.’ Darren slowly stepped forward.

‘Of course they need you to protect them.’ Landorm laughed. ‘They couldn’t even find their undergarments without help! We’re better than them; they fear us, so why not use that to our advantage?’ Right as he said that, Darren punched Landorm in the face. As Landorm raised his hands to attack again, Darren pushed him down onto the ground. ‘You have such strength. You could be useful as…’ Once again, Landorm was struck down, and Daniel beckoned his army to come forward.

Suddenly, the crystal went blank, with Daryl backing away. His claws twitched and his mouth went dry as he turned to Aosoth. ‘Ridiculous, isn’t it?’ said Aosoth, shaking her head, ‘I think these “heroes” are so amusing, don’t you? Their over-dramatic speeches, their pompousness, their looking-out-for-others thing. Thank goodness you chose to work with me, eh, Daryl? I mean, look at what your father did here.’

Another image appeared on the crystal ball: the face of Aosoth herself. No, it wasn’t Aosoth, rather a male version of her, with a moustache under his pointed nose. Smirking, he turned to a window, from which Daniel burst through, a wand in his grasp. ‘Asteroth! Your days are numbered!’

‘No they aren’t!’ sneered Asteroth. ‘It is your days that are numbered! Go ahead! Count them!’

Just as Daniel flew upwards, Asteroth lifted his arms and let loose several bolts of magical electricity, shocking Daniel out of the air. Daniel landed on his feet, however, and raised his arm to show off the wand.

‘The Wand of Warton.’ Asteroth still looked proud, placing his hands on his hips and narrowing his eyes at Daniel. ‘You really think you can destroy me with that thing?’ Just then, Daniel flicked the wand twice and it let out its own beam, slowly disintegrating Asteroth. ‘Oh.’ Eventually, Asteroth was reduced to nothing, Daniel punctuating his victory with a roar.

‘Ridiculous,’ said Aosoth, shaking her head, ‘And that was my father too. But you, Daryl, you chose to listen to the wise words of that Landorm fellow, and followed me. You’re wiser than your father, you are? Wasn’t he a funny one?’

Daryl collapsed to the floor, holding his legs, his wings wrapped around his body. Staring at the crystal ball again, he expected to see his father’s face again, sneering at him. It didn’t come, but he still covered his eyes with his hands, gibbering and squeaking.

‘I said, “Isn’t this stuff funny?” Gods, Daryl, you are such a killjoy.’ With that, Aosoth left the room, leaving Daryl trembling on the floor.

Daryl and Denise – Chapter 20

darylmeetsdenise

It could be no-one else. The gigantic cranium, the nose like a vulture’s beak, the red eyes now bathing her dungeon in a hellish glow. Dropping Mark, Denise stood in silence, her claws twitching. The fire that once begged for release had now been extinguished, and her urge to fight had evaporated completely. Slowly Aosoth levitated out of the cauldron, the tentacles at the end of her dress moving hypnotically.

‘Yes!’ Aosoth screamed, lightning striking outside as it usually did when she spoke, ‘I am alive again! Who has resurrected me?’

‘Oh! Me! Me!’ Mark leapt off of the floor, leaping about excitedly. ‘I did it.’

Aosoth peered down to look at Mark. ‘Your cloak looks stupid,’ she replied. A blue bolt emitted from her finger, disintegrating Mark in seconds. Seeing this suddenly ignited a burst of energy within Denise, and she leapt at Aosoth instinctively, only to be grabbed by the neck. ‘Well, well, don’t you have spunk? I think you’ll make a fine minion.’ Using her free arm, Denise punched Aosoth in the stomach. With an ‘oof’, Aosoth dropped Denise, the latter rolling about on the floor before positioning to attack. Denise leapt into the air, but suddenly, a cage made of lightning surrounded her, giving her a brief shock when she tried to touch the bars.

‘Get me out of here!’

‘Why do you heroes keep saying that?’ said Aosoth. ‘I’ve never let someone out when they’ve asked me to.’ Floating to the cage, Aosoth surveyed her prey. ‘Silly little dragon. Your kind isn’t meant to stop me. You’re supposed to serve me.’

‘Daniel wouldn’t have served you and neither will I!’

‘Daniel? That blowhard? He’s dead, and so will you be if you don’t shut your yap.’ Aosoth reached into the cage and stroked Denise’s chin, with Denise biting her hand right off her arm. ‘A killer instinct. That’ll be useful.’ Looking at her arm, Aosoth watched as a new hand appeared in a wisp of black smoke. ‘Of course, there is another dragon with a killer instinct too. I think I’ll find him first, then deal with you.’


So the office job was going well.

Daryl was so certain he’d get fired after the stapler incident, but everybody seemed to overlook that now. And no monsters had come out of his head in days. A clear head. A clear conscience.

Into his flat he walked, humming a tune he had heard on the radio. Now that another day was complete, it was time to watch the television. It would likely be something he had already seen, but he thought watching those shows again and again would help his understanding of the world they intended to portray.

Entering his flat and throwing himself onto the most prominent chair had become instinct to him, so when his daily routine was interrupted by the television refusing to turn on, Daryl twitched. He slammed his claws on the buttons but there was still nothing but a blank screen.

It was broken down again. Oh, the last time there was something wrong with the television, a box-shaped monster had run rampant around the flat. Being a bit more used to stuff like this, Daryl didn’t have a repeat of that episode, but rather he went away to look for a good book to read. He still hadn’t read all of that Whizzer and Chips book yet, so off he went to find it.

The television exploded.

Turning around, Daryl saw that the screen had shattered, and an inky substance had begun to leak out. Before Daryl could take a closer look, a tentacle shot out from the television, wrapping around his leg. It lifted him upwards, and slammed him on the floor, right on the head. Then it slammed him again. And again. And again.

Sure enough, a monster emerged from his head, another black tentacle. One that looked exactly like what came out of the TV, one that looked exactly like those of Aosoth.

As much as he shook his head, Daryl could not stop the tentacle from pulling him into the television, into the darkness. It wasn’t just any darkness though, it was Aosoth’s darkness. It was the darkness in her castle so that must mean I must be back in her castle it’s not a dream it’s real it’s real it’s time to be punished Daryl yes it is Aosoth’s back

OH GOD AOSOTH’S BACK.

Yes, it was indeed her. Aosoth stood above Daryl’s shuddering form, kicking him as he lay on the ground. Daryl attempted to say something, but all that came from his mouth was random gibberish and saliva. Once again, Aosoth kicked him, and after he rolled, she placed her invisible foot in Daryl’s face, crushing it.

Out from the cavity in Daryl’s head came a whole host of monsters, little blobs with piranha teeth, leaping about biting the air. Seeing those creatures perform their discordant dance, Aosoth created another cage of electricity to trap them in. ‘Well, well, well,’ said Aosoth, ‘You thought you could kill me and abandon me for a more boring lifestyle in that gloomy other world, did you?’

‘I-I-I’m sorry.’

‘I know you are. Now, off to your cell until I can think about what to do with you. Oh, and I’ve got a nice little friend there for you to play with.’

Daryl did not need to be pulled by the claw to his cell, but he was anyway, Aosoth making sure her grip was tight. As they neared the cell, Daryl saw none other than Bob and Gary standing before him.

‘You know what,’ said Gary. ‘I’m actually kinda glad we’re back.’

‘Yeah,’ replied Bob. ‘Nothing beats guard work.’

The two took a hold of Daryl and tossed him into the cell. After that, Aosoth conjured up two cups of coffee, and force fed the coffee down Bob and Gary’s throats. As Daryl looked at the coffee dribbling down their necks, he was hit in the back of his head.

‘You!’ Ignoring the laughter of Aosoth as she left the room, Daryl looked up to see his cellmate. A dragon just like him. It had been years since he had seen another of his species, yet he could tell this one was female. Daryl took off his hat for her and said ‘H-hello’, but that led to a kick in the face.

‘Why did you work for Aosoth?’ growled the female dragon.

‘I d-didn’t want to…I-I…’

‘You sullied the name of our species, and all to spread her evil! I have been trying hard to bring honour to the dragons, but…’ Another punch to the face. ‘You’ve ruined it all! The humans still won’t trust us! We still have to hide from them! All because of you!’ To emphasise that last word, she grabbed Daryl by his tie and held his face to hers. ‘What is your name, anyway?’

‘D-Daryl.’

The female raised an eyebrow. ‘Daryl what?’

Daryl gulped. ‘B-Blitherblot.’

The female’s claws began to shudder. ‘N-no,’ she said, losing her balance, ‘No, y-you’re joking!’

‘No, no I’m not. That really is my surname.’

All at once, the female wrapped her claws around Daryl’s neck, and tightened them, right before slamming Daryl’s head against the bars of their cell. Daryl closed his eyes as if that would lessen the pain, and heard incoherent grunts and snarls come from the female’s mouth. After another slam against the bars, he fell. Opening his eyes, he saw the female lifting her fist, her face twisted into a furious grimace. She looked like Aosoth.

Daryl cowered and awaited the blow. Just then, the female fell to her knees, burying her face in her hands. She was silent for a moment as Daryl backed away into a wall.

‘It’s all been a lie, hasn’t it?’

Still on his knees, Daryl edged towards her, extending his arm. He wanted to place his hand on her shoulder, but she grabbed it before he could. ‘Get away from me.’

‘I was just trying…’

‘I don’t want you anywhere near me.’ To emphasise this, she stood up and walked to the furthest corner of the cell. ‘If you know what’s good for you, you won’t bother me.’

At that moment, another monster burst from Daryl’s head, a screeching black snake. It slithered towards the bars, but in a second, the female grabbed it and snapped its neck.

‘Don’t. Bother me.’