Navarog wasn't quite sure what he had missed. He had been aware of moments during his death-sleep limbo, but those had been some unfolding expanse of quivering dreams, unmeasurable and full of things ungraspable.

Mother told him he had been asleep for a little over a year. "And you're lucky, you arrogant fool, that it's only been a year, that your girl just happened upon here. And you're luckier still that you're a sentimental fool enough to cover for your less useful foolishness," Isadore growled, waving her hands about as she paced in front of the couch Navarog was sitting on, a continuation of a lecture that seemed to know no end.

Navarog, scoffing, added, "And I suppose I'm lucky that my mother is a sentimental fool enough to cover for me, as well."

Isadore sneered her agreement. "And you're lucky that Kendra Sorenson is a sentimental fool enough to make our covering worth anything."

Navarog looked away from his mother's gaze to glare at a painting of a whirling sea. "That doesn't count. She only wanted to save her brother. Perhaps Kendra is sentimental, but she is not a fool enough to save sentiments for me."

"Well, son, I don't know what to tell you. Women don't tend to care for men that they have to trick into being murdered," Isadore exclaimed, throwing her hands up.

"If you don't know what to tell me, why try to tell me anything at all?" Navarog asked, attempting to burn a hole in his mother's painting.

Isadore sighed. "What I'm trying to say is that you sure know how to pick them. She killed the demon king, you know, while you were out of it."

Blinking, Navarog, turned back to his mother. "Kendra did what?"

"Yes. I'm afraid you lost your chance at the demon prison. It got opened, mind you, but just long enough for the dragon king to join the fight, Kendra Sorenson to slay Gorgrog, and the rest of the horde to get tricked into a new prison. I'm afraid the old fairy realm is the new Zzyxx and the old Zzyxx is the new fairy realm."

Uncrossing his arms, Navarog sighed, "I guess the artifacts are already rescrambled, then?"


"And I suppose there's no point in even asking if Kendra bothered to claim the demon crown?"

"She'd be stuck in the new Zzyxx if she had."

"I would have made an excellent king consort," Navarog grumbled..

"Did you miss the 'tricking you into getting eaten' part? Besides, you'd only be the king consort of a cage," Isadore huffed.

"I suppose. And I suppose the dragon crown has the same caveats."

Isadore eyed her son with exasperation, "I think you're forgetting whose son ate you. Whose scrawny, shamed son ate you."

Running a finger along the blue thread of the couch, Navarog thought through next steps. Mother was right and his reputation was in tatters, though he was much more apt to give Kendra credit for his getting eaten than the disgraced dragon prince. Not that that would improve his reputation among the dragons, but nonetheless. Still Navarog thought his triumphant return with a dead fairy dragon was sure to put his reputation on the mend. "I figure if I kill that son, it cancels out. And I figure it shows Celebrant I'm not scared of his wrath while I'm at it. Maybe, some other dragon prince could stand to die too. One with a little more menace."

Still exasperated, Isadore couldn't quite reel in a fond smile at her utterly ridiculous son."Then you'll just seem like an exposed weakling desperate to cover his underbelly. Raxtus isn't supposed to be even worth murdering, not even worth the disgrace of stooping that low. A better plan is to leave him alive to humiliate his father."

Navarog hummed his concession . "Then an even better plan, perhaps, might be to cut right to the chase."

"No, an even better plan is to destabilize Celebrant and re-establish yourself first. If you plan on some ascension, you need to be respected, and, preferably, favored over the present king. Your ascension would need to be a triumph. A difficult task, considering your relation to the demons."

"So what you really mean by that is you think I ought to kill Titan Valley's prince?" Navarog scrutinized his mother. "You think if I'm in charge of this preserve, you have a better chance of getting out of it."

"You wouldn't be in charge of the preserve. The caretaker would be."

"Then I suppose the giant queen will have to go as well," Navarog said dismissively.

"God, did I really raise you to be so damn arrogant? You know the last dragon that challenged Celebrant got his brains fried, from the inside. Killing one of the five crowns is not as easy a task as you seem to think it is."

"Perhaps, but I could do it. I know I could. And if I was King of the Dragons, I'm sure I could find a way to get you out of here."

She snorted. "Celebrant certainly seems to think he's in the position to get all of us out of here."

Navarog creased his eyebrows, wholly certain that he had heard of no such declarations issued from the proud 'just' king of the cages. Celebrant certainly seemed content to hold the power he had, sure of its being absolute, in regards to his caged subjects even if it did not extend over his captors nor over those dragons who were free of the preserves' rules.

Of course, that, being outside the powers of both the preserves and Celebrant's kingship, the power to do what he wished and go where he wished, was not a privilege Navarog was eager to give up. There were many different kinds of power, and he had much of many kinds, even if his only crown was honorary and virtually powerless in terms of politics.

But Navarog wanted more. He always did, even if he didn't want to give up what he had. But if he could keep himself in the loopholes and he could have more, a nice crown and a way to sneak his mother through the loops, that would truly be something.

His mother spoke of something else, though. Some other thing he missed in that room, sleeping a year away. An alarmingly eventful year, apparently, if the demon king was dead and the dragon king was trying his hand at being useful.

Mother sighed, briefly exiting into her kitchen at a beeping behest before returning with a clutched steaming mug. "Almost as soon as the demon prison was re-closed, a movement began among the dragons, led by their king. You see, in return for aiding the Knights of Dawn in the battle of Zzyxx, the dragons were promised that they would be able to rule over themselves in the preserves, with Celebrant being promised caretakership of Wyrmroost. Instead, Celebrant got co-caretakership, sharing rule over Wyrmroost with another dragon, Camarat, Agad's convenient brother.

"Obviously, this angered Celebrant and it only got worse when Agad called on a couple of children to replace Camarat. Despite the insult of being put equal with the Sorenson siblings, despite the king's personal efforts of establishing independent rule of Wyrmroost and, more than that, freedom from the preserves, the Sorensons have created a habit of one-upping Celebrant, especially your dear Kendra. They got the scepter, they banished the Wizenstone, and they absconded before they could be eaten. Some of the dragons have been wondering, I must admit, if the king is losing his touch. It's not just the Sorensons either. That dragon who got his brains fried managed to damage a few scales on the way down. He had a breath weapon, you see, that apparently Celebrant lacked immunity to. Some breathing darkness thing, I believe. It's almost enough to make one talk."

Navarog's mouth curled into a vicious smirk. "Well, isn't that just perfect."