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.