Well, well, it has been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry for the delay and here’s hoping it’ll be worth the wait by the time I finish with this week’s installment. I just spent two hours re-reading the whole saga to get back into the flow, so I’m all caught up (on my own story!) and ready to go. Hopefully you’ve all done some re-reading yourselves, or perhaps you remember everything already. Either way, let’s go back to the point where “everything was lost in the moment I drove that troll blade into Amelia’s heart.”
KINGDOM FOUND part 14
As soon as the blade was buried in Amelia’s chest, I heard a sound like the loudest thunderclap ever struck in heaven echoing from the other side of town.
“No!” Nestra screamed and rushed over to where I knelt with Amelia sagging on top of me. Blood rushed over my hand and I drew it away in disgust, leaving the blade in her heart. Amelia fell to the ground, clutched weakly at her heart for a moment and then went limp. All around us the fighting died down, and I knew it would be the last time. As life left her, the fealty spell weakened. It was finally the true end to the fighting. I couldn’t understand what Nestra was so upset about.
“What have you done?” she cried as she bent over Amelia. To my great shock, she began to whisper words over our fallen enemy. She was trying to heal her.
“What have I done?” I returned. “I have taken down our enemy! I have undone the fealty spell that makes our own people fight against us! I have fulfilled my destiny!”
Nestra looked up at me with utter panic in her eyes. “‘As long as I live!'” she said through panicked breaths. “That’s what she said, Prince Morty! ‘As long as I live!'” I shook my head in bewilderment. I really think I was making an effort not to remember at that point. The enormity of what I’d done was too much to accept right away.
“Oh no,” I heard the king mutter behind me. He rushed forward and lifted Amelia’s head. There was no response. “Is she..?”
“She lives,” Nestra replied. “But barely.”
As they spoke, I forced myself to remember. And my panic immediately matched theirs. I took care of myself, Amelia had told us. I cast an enchantment in Gold Legend so that, as long as I live, time in Gold Legend would move as time here does. If she died, time would leap forward in Gold Legend while we, pretty much the entire population of the kingdom, remained here. The entire population save one.
Amanda would wither and die and be hundreds of year’s worth of dust before we returned to her, if we ever even could.
Someone pushed past me. It was the Man at Arms. He looked down at Nestra holding the witch who had been my mother. Not knowing how weakened the fealty spell might be, I tensed myself for a fight. Finally, he spoke. “My queen,” he said, “tell us what to do and we shall do it.” She looked up gratefully but, not having any idea of how to proceed, she returned her gaze to Amelia and continued whispering over her.
“Can’t we just wish her back alive?” I asked.
“Some things are beyond wishing,” Nestra said sadly from the ground.
The king stood and looked at me sternly. “We must get her back,” he said.
“Back to Gold Legend,” I replied.
“Yes,” he said. “We must get everyone back. Before she dies.”
“All right,” I said. “I will give the order for everyone to wish themselves back across the border. We’ll be home in no time.”
“Oh, Prince,” Nestra said, taking a quick break from her healing words, “you have used the magic, but you do not understand it. It will take all the magical energy around me to keep her alive, even for a short time. There will be no wishing in her presence now, not as long as she lives.”
A perfect paradox. We couldn’t wish ourselves home as long as she lived, but if she died we may not have had a home to return to. There was only one thing to do.
“Get her to the breach,” I said to Mountainlost. Turning to the Man at Arms, I continued. “See that they move swift and sure. I fear the thunderclap we heard was the magic failing. The breach may not be open much longer. If it remains open at all.”
“What if it is closed to us?” he asked.
“Then God help us all,” I replied.
Mountainlost looked at me quizzically. “You’re not coming with us, are you?”
I shook my head. “This world may not be my true home, but I cannot leave it like this,” I said. “If no magic will work while Nestra is keeping my moth– Amelia alive, then I will wait here until you have all gone from this place. Then I will use what wishing time remains in this world to rebuild.”
“Even if we make it back to Gold Legend,” the king said, “if she dies before you can return, you will be lost to us forever.”
“Once I’m through wishing things right here, I will cross the border. I swear it.”
“And if the breach closes?” Mountainlost asked.
“I won’t need the breach,” I said. “It is a noble, a sentimental theory of magic that makes the words work, remember? I know what to say.”
After a moment, the king smiled. “I believe you do,” he replied. “Just see that you say it in good time. We’d hate to lose you, even to a noble end.” He then turned to survey the assembled throng of humans. Here and there a few trolls still stood but, with no army to back them up, they were in no mood to fight.
“People,” Mountainlost said in a commanding voice, “this war is over. If you are of earth, return to your homes and remake your lives as best you can. If you are trolls, return to Gold Legend and bother us no more on pain of death. If you are my people, we march. Now and swiftly.”
“Pick her up,” Nestra said to the Man at Arms. Several others rushed forward and helped him lift Amelia while Nestra continued to move her hands over the wound and whisper words of healing.
The army of Gold Legend moved out. I stood in the burned out ruin of the town hall and watched them go. Many people from my home town watched in bewilderment as well, and then began to slowly head for their homes. As the army filed past me, many of them waved or shook my hand or cried and called me “highness,” but one stopped. It was Bibble-kins. “Don’t be long, now,” he said.
“I’m right behind you,” I replied, and found suddenly that I had to choke back tears. He looked at me sadly a moment longer, then nodded and turned to leave. “Bibble-kins,” I said, and he turned back to face me. “If you see Amanda–” I said, and then stopped myself. “When you see Amanda,” I corrected, “tell her… Tell her that I love her. That I’ve always loved her.”
Tears stood out in his eyes. “What if she still doesn’t remember you, my prince?” he said.
“Tell her anyway,” I replied.
He hesitated a moment longer. “What if she doesn’t remember me?” he said through tears that finally fell.
“Remind her,” I said. “Now go, you big, beautiful fuzzball.”
He smiled and nodded and turned away. I watched him leave knowing that it would be his fluffy black tail that would disappear last, telling me when to start wishing the town back in order.
I rebuilt the town hall first. I thought about making a huge wish to cover all the destruction that had been made, but I realized that “normal” people from earth need some sort of order to hang onto. The town had been destroyed and almost everyone knew it. So just snapping everything back to normal would probably be as much of a brain scramble as anything else that had happened this day. So I wished things up one at a time, and got creative with things like scaffolding and partially built top floors. Hopefully, by the next morning, everyone would be part of the rebuilding of the town and it would all work itself out in the end. By then, I hoped to be long gone. They could sort out what was left.
Eventually, I got around to the street where I grew up. There wasn’t too much destruction there, but I walked down the street anyway. Some of my old neighbors watched me from the safety of their windows. I waved at the first few I saw, but when they scuttled back from the windows in fear, I kind of gave up on being friendly. These weren’t my people anymore, and I guess they knew it as well as I did.
When I got to my old house I just stood there for a moment. This was where I had grown up. This was where I had loved a woman who turned out to be the enemy of everything that was true in my life. This was where I was lied to for years, where my real life was stolen from me. I had wished the rest of the town back up. This house I wished down.
When nothing was left, not a stick, not a brick, I turned and walked back up the street. I would give the town a quick once over and then make my way to my real home. I could only hope that the army had made it to the breach, and that Nestra was still managing to keep Amelia clinging to life. I could only hope. But as I reached the end of the street and turned, I saw what was waiting for me just past the corner and I stopped hoping.
It was Dr. Desnipes.
He was leaning against a tree just watching me. There was still a hideous gash in his clothes where I had stabbed him earlier, but apparently the transformation of turning into a troll had sealed the wound even when he was returned to human form. He smiled at me and I saw in his eyes that he was quite literally insane. I guess dying and turning into a troll and then turning back into a human will do that to you. Especially when you were at least halfway there to begin with. He stepped forward and pointed a bony finger in my face, all the while holding his other hand behind his back.
“What have you done with my house?” he said.
“I destroyed it,” I said evenly. “It destroyed me, so I destroyed it.”
He laughed. “How melodramatic,” he said, stepping closer still. “Tell me, little prince, are you done rebuilding this wretched town? Because we have unfinished business, you and I. And, as you may recall, it’s not really your town after all. It’s mine. So, are you done playing savior? I find the role very ironic, considering that all of this is your fault.”
“My fault?” I said. “You’re the one who broke down the wall.”
“And you’re the one who wished her across it,” he returned. My heart sank. I guess he could see it on my face. “Oh, yes,” he continued, “I wished the wall down this morning, and I knew I’d let people in. But I still didn’t know I could get out. I thought I might die if I crossed the breach, you see? I was still so frightened this morning. So I was making trolls left and right in that forest, avoiding the hole in the world. And then I saw her. Your little princess just appeared at the top of a hill and she was dancing, dancing. She danced right out of Gold Legend and into your arms. And I knew then that the barrier could be crossed. You see, silly little prince? You were my key to finally getting out.”
“You were there?” I said.
“I saw you dancing,” he said, stepping closer. “I saw you kissing.” He sneered as though the act disgusted him. “I would have crossed worlds right then, but her awful cat-monster showed up. So I ran. And I determined to gather my army, so I could cross worlds in triumph and finally come home!”
“So, what do you want now?” I asked. “All these years, you’ve been trying to get back here, and now you’re here. What do you want from me?”
“I want my army!” he screeched, losing his composure entirely. “I spent ten years building an army to come back and take this stupid little town! This state, this country, this world! Do you think I want to be here as a nobody? As a missing person? I want my army! I want my power! And I WANT MY HOUSE!”
With that, he pulled the sword he had taken from me earlier out from behind his back and thrust it at me. I leaped out of the way and lost my balance on the curb. Falling into the street, I tried to roll and gain my feet again, but he brought the sword crashing down on my back. My armor caved a little and the sound was deafening. He struck me repeatedly, not even trying to pierce my armor or stab me, but just thrashing me to keep me off my feet.
“You took everything from me!” he cried while beating me with my own sword. “Everything I’ve been working for, everything I’ve thought about and wanted for the last ten years! You took her away from me! I did it all for her, and now she’s gone! She’s gone! I loved her, and she’s gone!”
“It was just a spell!” I shouted, trying to roll over and face him. “She put a spell on you to make her love you!”
“It doesn’t matter why! After ten years, it doesn’t matter! You took my hopes! You took my dreams!”
I managed to roll over onto my back and look up at him. He was out of breath and staring down at me with wide eyes.
“And you tried to kill me,” he finished.
All I could think of was the breach closing across town, and Amelia slowly dying, and my chance of returning to Gold Legend while my friends still lived fading further away with each moment I stayed here in this world. I saw him raising the sword above his head for a fatal strike, and made my peace with the fact that, if they were safe, it might just have to be good enough for me.
That didn’t mean I couldn’t get in one last jab.
“I didn’t try to kill you,” I said. “I did kill you, you crazy bastard.”
He brought the sword down with all his might, and it stopped a foot away from my face with the loudest clash of metal I have ever heard. I looked to see what had stopped his blade and there standing over me, shining brilliantly in the afternoon sun, stood Amanda in full battle armor.
“Trying to kill an unarmed man, Doctor?” she said. “And here I thought we were fighting civilized warfare.”
The doctor backed away, fear etched across his face. Amanda lowered the visor on her helmet and raised her sword in challenge.
“My father, the king, sends his regards,” she said.
TO BE CONTINUED
Well, that was fun. Hope it was worth waiting for. Next week should be a capper.
See you in seven (for real),