"I can't watch this," Jill said, as she turned away, "This isn't happening! They can hardly walk, and you want them to slay some dragon?"
"I never said it was an easy quest," Marbruk replied, "It tests strength, character, and forces people to consider all of their options."
Max didn't think as she ran around the edge of the clearing. Run, she told herself, concentrate on getting behind it, just keep going. Screaming, as fire erupted behind her, she picked up her pace.
Kenny watched Max disappear around the dragon, and prayed that she would be okay. I can't lose her now, if there is a God here, keep her safe.
"Hey!" he yelled, "Down here, you fire breathing asshole!"
He took an involuntary step back, as the dragon lowered his head down, "Yeah you!"
Max froze as she came upon the dragon's tail, "Shit, he's huge. Distract him? What, by pulling his tail? Oh, we didn't really think this through!"
Scooping up some of the larger rocks, she eyed the back of it's head, "I know I throw like a girl, but come on. A couple good shots, and I'll work on it later. Give me a break here."
Taking a deep breath, she let the first one fly.
"What are you talking about?" Jimmy asked, "It's breathing fire at them! How many options do they really have?"
Marbruk nodded, "The willingness to accept the unknown. Look. Watch. Have faith in your friends."
"Yes," Max said, under her breath as the first rock connected with the dragon's head, and she threw another one, "Hey! Over here!"
What the hell am I doing, she thought, as she continued to throw rocks at the beast's head. God, I must have a death wish.
"Here we go," she shouted, as the beast reeled it's head around to see her, "Kenny!"
"Got it!" he yelled back, as he raised the sword and smashed the blade down on the dragon's neck, "Max, get down!"
She dove on the ground, as flames erupted above her. Daring a glance up, she heard it let our a roar as it turned back to Kenny, as the blood dripped down its neck. Seeing the scorch marks on the rocks above her, she shakily stood up, and watched the dragon advance on Kenny.
"No," she whispered, as it roared again, "Something, anything . . ."
She watched as Kenny raised the sword again, and swung it at the dragon, "Max, get out of here!"
"Not a chance," she shouted back, as she lunged for the creatures tail, "Hey, buddy, over here! You still want a piece of me?"
Kenny watched in horror, as Max clamored up on the creatures back, "What the hell are you doing?"
"Really trying to piss it off!" she yelled back, as she bashed it with the rock again, as it roared and tried to throw her off, "Do it!"
Knowing he wouldn't get another chance. He thrust the sword with all his might into the dragons throat. Holding tight to the end, he jerked it up and down, as it's blood spilled out.
"Max, hold on!" he yelled, as the creature thrashed in pain and let out a ferocious groan, as it crashed to the ground, "Max!"
"I'm okay," she panted, as Kenny ran to her side, "It didn't fall on me."
"What the hell were you thinking? You could have been killed!"
"I was trying to keep its attention, so you could cut its head off," she retorted, "And it worked."
"You scared the crap out of me!"
She looked at him, and shook her head, "You weren't the only one. Kenny?"
She nodded, "Um, I think that is number seven. We did it."
He stared at her for a long instant, "Holy shit."
"All seven," Max said, as they threw their arms around each other, "Oh my God, do you know what this means?"
He kissed her before responding, "We saved the world from evil? We can go home?"
She nodded, as he slid the seventh orb into the pouch, "Oh yeah. We're going home!"
"Wait. We're supposed to do something with them first, then it'll be defeated."
"It can't be any worse than anything so far," Max argued, "The top of the mountain."
"Why don't we go get this over with? We can be home by tonight."
"They did it," Jill said under her breath, "I don't believe it."
Marbruk shook it head, "They have all seven orbs. They have to put them in the sacred circle, and only then will the evil be defeated."
"What does this evil do?" Jimmy asked, "What is it?"
"It seeks to take the souls of everyone in the universe. It's taken over half of the ones in my world. The people that they are taken from become servants of the evil, and seek to destroy all the goodness in the world. These orbs, once placed in the sacred circle, will expunge the evil," Marbruk said, "They won't make it easy for your friends. I hope that they realize that."
Kenny kept one arm wrapped around Max, as they made their way to the summit. It isn't over yet, he kept repeating to himself, we have to remember that. Somehow I think that this is going to be the hardest part.
"We need to make a plan," Max said, breaking the silence.
"We put the orbs in, and then see what happens?"
"I don't think that this thing is going to let us walk in and just do it. One of us has to finish this, no matter what."
"We're both getting out of here, Max. We've made it this far together, and we're going to finish it together. Don't go getting pessimistic on me."
"I'm not. It's just . . . we're so close. I can't really believe it. How come no one has come to stop us on the hike up? I doubt that this evil thing is dumb enough to just let us waltz in and destroy it."
"Hey, Princess. Wait a second," Kenny said, as he brushed her hair back from her face, "I need to tell you something first."
"We aren't saying good-bye, not yet," Max said quietly.
He shook his head, "No . . . I don't ever want to say good-bye to you. Through this whole thing so far, I couldn't imagine doing this with anyone else. You're the reason I made it this far. Whatever happens next . . . it's been worth it to . . . finally have this."
"We kept each other going, saved ourselves from whatever this place wanted to happen to us," she replied, "As for us . . . What's between us now, it's why I want to finish this. Not just to save the world, but to explore it fully."
Kenny kissed her softly before replying, "So what do you say we go knock the rest of this out?"
"Did they just kiss?" Jimmy asked, as they watched the pair make their way closer to the summit, "What the hell is going on there?"
"I take it that they weren't lovers before?" Marbruk asked, "They had such a strong connection when they came to my world, I sort of assumed . . . Their destiny is written, their souls are connected. Can't you feel it?"
"We heard that," Carter trailed off, as he, Skeeter and Morell came into the room, "That he was awake? What's happening?"
"We're watching Kenny and Max finish their quest," Jill supplied, "And make out while doing it."
"Welcome," a voice boomed out, "We've been waiting for you."
"Where are you?" Kenny asked, as he pulled Max in closer.
"Everywhere. Do you really think that you can defeat us, just because you finished Marbruk's ridiculous quest? That it makes you special in any way?"
"That's the plan," Max replied, as she clung tightly to the bag of orbs and Kenny raised the sword, "So why don't you come out and show yourself? What is that?"
Diving to the ground as the winged creatures swept in from above, "Keep you head down!"
"Is that," Max choked out, "Is that what happened to the people that were taken?"
Kenny dared a glance up at the white haired, pale, red eyed, winged creatures, that swept in the air above them. They almost look human, he thought, except for, well, everything.
"Now what?" Max asked, as they dove back in the trees for cover, "They aren't going to let us anywhere near the circle."
"We didn't come this far to fail," Kenny replied.
Max nodded, as she looked at the swooping creatures above and listened to the cackling laughter coming from the sky, "You want to make a run for the center?"
He shook his head, "We'll never make it. There are too many of them."
"There has to be a way," Max replied, "I got pretty good at throwing rocks."
"We can make a deal," the voice said again, "You're both strong warriors. Join us, and I'll let you live. We need you on our side."
"Go to hell," Kenny shouted.
"Pity. We'll have to eat your flesh then, but not before," he started, "Oh, you'll see. You'll be joining us, no one has been able to resist us so far."
"Max!" Kenny yelled, as she was yanked away from him by some unseen force. Jumping to his feet, he watched as she smashed into the altar and lay still on the ground, "Max!"
The voice chuckled again, "It hurts doesn't it. To lose the one thing that matters? I can give her back to you, for a price."
Kenny stared at her still form, as the winged creatures settled on the branches of the trees, "What price?"
He laughed again, "Join us, and we'll let your mate live. It's that simple. Her life for yours."
"I can't lose her," Kenny said quietly, as he found he couldn't tear his eyes from her still form. No, he thought, no, as he his fear boiled up to the surface. Losing Max, to Danny, to this, to whatever . . . that is what scares me more than anything. Is that what happened to all of these people? They let their fears destroy them? Is that it?
"I need a decision."
"Show yourself to me," he demanded, "Before I do anything else."
"So be it," he said, as the shadows materialized in front of him, "Happy now?"
Kenny swallowed, as he watched Max move slightly, and pull herself up next to the altar, "Yes."
"You want your mate to live?"
"I don't want anything to happen to Max, ever," Kenny admitted, as the horned man advanced on him, "She's too good for all of this . . .my greatest fear is losing her."
"It's fear that makes people weak, that makes it so they can join me. Fear consumes them, it's consuming you."
Kenny felt his body shake, as he watched Max lay the first orbs into the altar, "No . . . I won't let it. She wouldn't want me too, she wouldn't want to die in vain."
"Stupid, stupid, humans. You can't stop us, no one can," he sighed, "I can make it so much worse. Do you want to know what is going to happen to your mate's immortal soul?"
He swiped his hand in the air, and Kenny recoiled as he looked into a place so dark and cold, he felt himself shiver, "No."
"Eternal suffering, for all of humanity."
Kenny shook his head, as he watched Max slam the rest of the orbs into the circle, "I don't think so!"
He watched Max stumble away from the altar as a bright light burst forth from it.
"No!" screamed the demon, "No!"
Kenny grabbed Max, and pulled her down onto the ground, as the bright light erupted all around them, "Don't look at it!"
She buried her head in his chest, "What's happening?"
They clung to each other, as the demons around them screamed.
"What the hell happened?" Jimmy asked, as they watched the picture in front of them flood with the light.
"We'll have to see," Marbruk said, "I have to go back."
"Are they alive?" Carter asked, "That thing, any of it, did they survive?"
"They have too. They defeated the evil, it's their destiny . . . Things are about to change drastically in my world and in theirs," Marbruk said, "I promised them they could go home if they completed the quest."
"They did complete it," Morell said.
"You are going to let them go home?" Jill asked.
"It's not entirely up to me," Marbruk said, "Or to them anymore."
"That isn't good enough," Jimmy said, as Marbruk strained to raise his arm, "You aren't going anywhere until we get an answer from you!"
"Why won't it work?" Marbruk asked, as he failed to open the portal.
"You're injured," Jill said, "The drugs maybe?"
"They can't come home without me there to guide them. I have to go back."
"Max," Kenny groaned, as he opened his eyes, "You okay?"
"I think so," she whispered as they sat up, "Kenny? Did we do it?"
He nodded, as he held her close, "You were amazing. God, Max, I thought . . . I thought you were dead. He wanted me to think that."
"He knew I would do anything to save you. Losing you was my greatest fear."
"That's what happened," she trailed off, "All of the people he took. He was going to use their fears?"
Kenny nodded again, "I knew you wouldn't want me to save you if it meant . . ."
Max hugged him close to her, "Yeah. We did it."
They looked around the abandon mountain top silently, as they stood.
"Is something supposed to happen?" Kenny asked, "Somehow . . . where is Marbruk? Aren't we supposed to go home now?"
"Maybe we're not finished yet?" Max asked.
"I'm done. We defeated their evil, Princess."
"Now what?" Max asked, as their surroundings shifted and changed, "Kenny?"
"This place," he started, as he didn't loosen his grip on her, "Where are we now?"
"Your Royal Highness," a voice said, "Welcome home!"
"The castle," Max said softly, "I think it means we're done."
"You finished the quest," the King said, "Marbruk told us everything after you departed."
"And where is Marbruk?" Max asked.
"We know that you're not Annabelle and William, they're gone," the King continued, "But it's not bother. You're both heroes, champions in this land. You'll be celebrated as such."
"Great," Kenny said, "Where is Marbruk?"
"Later, later," the King said, "You have to come with me first. There is much to prepare for."
"Not a chance," Kenny said, as they stood rooted in the hallway, "We're not going anywhere with anyone until we see Marbruk."
The King sighed, "Marbruk is missing."
"How are we supposed to get home then?" Max whispered, and felt like she might get sick.
"Home?" the King asked puzzled, "You are home."
"No, we're not. This isn't our world," Kenny argued, "We don't belong here."
"It is written, prophesied," the King said, "The lovers would defeat the evil, and lead our world."
"Well that's just great," Max replied sarcastically, "Thanks, but no. That wasn't part of the deal."
"You're our saviors," the King continued.
"How do we get back to our world?" Kenny demanded.
"Marbruk is the only one that can do that," the King sighed, "He is the only one who can open the portal. Until he returns, you are stuck here."
"Son of a bitch," Kenny said under his breath, as he turned to look at Max, "What do you think?"
"Where could he be?" she asked, as a realization hit her, "He went to our world, remember? To stop them from looking for us? What if he got trapped there? Or something happened to him?"
"Is there a way to see into our world?" Kenny asked, "Do you guys keep a crystal ball around here or something?"
"If you submit to your destiny here, anything is possible."
"I promised them they could come home," Marbruk groaned, "Open damn you!"
"I guess you're stuck here," Jimmy commented, "Like they're stuck?"
Marbruk shook his head, "It's their decision then, if they want to lead our world. I can't help them from here."
"What is our destiny here?" Max managed to ask.
The King sighed, "You're champions. There are many battles ahead, not just in our world but in others. Several changes need to take place. It is your destiny."
"Yeah, right," Kenny replied, as he clutched a shocked Max to him, "We're not doing this."
"Do you not love your Princess?"
"She's the whole reason I made it through all of this."
"You do not wish to spend eternity together? Making this world a better and safer place? You could do so much good here!"
"We can't stay here," Max interjected, as some of her shock wore off, "We can't fix your world for you. You're the King, it's what you should be doing. How come none of you knights or whoever could defeat this thing? Maybe if you relied on training and developing your world, you wouldn't need to suck people in here through portals!"
"That is what I'm talking about," he exclaimed, "That kind of vision!"
"We're not visionaries! Or Gods! Or whatever else this place wants to turn us into!" Max snapped, "We're human beings, damn you. Now let us go!"
"What if we try together?" Carter asked.
"You're the one who tried to open it before? You would have succeeded too," Marbruk sighed, "Take my hand."
"I can't watch this," Skeeter muttered, as a bright light erupted, in front of the hospital bed, "Holy shit!"
"No!" Marbruk screamed, as he collapsed back on the bed and lay still.
"Max, he isn't going to listen to us," Kenny said, as he pulled her back, "Come on, lets just get out of here."
"And go where?" she asked, whirling around to face him.
"Anywhere! We'll find our own way home."
She shook her head, "How?"
"Don't go getting pessimistic on me!" he snapped, "It'll be easy compared to everything else, Princess!"
"You don't really believe that?" Max asked, as the hopelessness of the situation threatened to overwhelm her.
He pulled her in closer, and wanted to shake her in frustration, "Yeah, I do. You want to stay here? Play it safe? That's crap. It isn't you."
She nodded slowly, and let is words play over in her mind, "There has to be another wizard somewhere . . ."
"That's my girl," he said softly, as he looked back over at the King, "We're leaving now."
The King sighed, "Sorry, I can't allow that."
Kenny pulled Max closer to his side, as the guards surrounded them, "Now what?"