Final Tribute by StarDuchess

Vampire Game – by Judal, licensed by Tokyopop

WARNING: Major spoilers ahead!

This takes place just after the main ending, before the epilogue. The great Vampire King Duzell has given his life into the La Gamme spell to defeat Lassen, thereby saving Princess Ishtar and stopping the war between Pheliosta and Razenia.

Here is part II. Enjoy!

Far off in the distance, shapes moved through the sky, black on black, quietly blotting out the stars and growing larger as they approached. Soon the rhythmic swish of large wings, not feathery, but solid like gliders, drummed through the air. A chill descended on the crowd, and even against Her Highness' wishes, the soldiers pulled out swords and bows. Figures materialized on the wind with flowing black robes and waves of hair. Pale faces and hands glowed in the eerie moonlight.

"VAMPIRES!" Sir Galahad screamed. "Get Her Highness out of here!" He rushed forward to stand between Ishtar and the approaching enemy, unbelieving that the war could still be upon them.

Some guards ran back to the gate, half in fear, half in warning. Several of the others had already begun Holy Magic spells. Selen grabbed Sir Keld who was shaking in fear and pushed him toward the gate, hoping that her son was doing the same for the princess; however when she looked back she saw Darres had placed his hands on the princess' shoulders but neither had moved nor looked panicked. Illsaide gave a questioning glance to his blood relative.

"You can all save your breaths. They won't attack, and I'm sure none of you want another war on your hands for firing first." Ishtar remained calm while giving them knowing glances before turning her head back to the newcomers.

"Are you mad?" asked a trembling Sir Keld. "Captain Darres, knock her out and escape to the castle! Vampires cannot be allowed to harm her!"

"This one doesn't mean us any harm. She comes to pay her respects," Darres quietly informed the assembled party.

Selen narrowed her eyes in bafflement. "What do you mean, son?"

"This one helped us defeat Lassen and stop the war. She is here just to observe the funeral."

"I invited her!" chimed in Ishtar, a very smug look across her features.

Everyone gasped in horror. The future queen of Pheliosta really was mad!

By this time, three vampires had dropped to the ground some pace apart from the torchlight. The back two only stood there, their arms crossed and a wary image in their expressions. The front one was somber and sad but not at all scared. She boldly walked toward the group of humans, her eyes finding and resting on Ishtar. Most everyone took two steps back from the intruder, arms still at the ready. The princess and her captain never flinched.

"Hi," Ishtar said. "Thanks for coming."

The vampire regarded her momentarily before nodding. "I am still acting on my own free will. The others think I am foolish to come but I could not pass up this opportunity to say goodbye to my king."

Most of the assembled crowd was at a loss. King, what king? They had all been wondering why a lowly servant was being given such a distinct honor by their princess, but considering that this was Ishtar they were talking about, they all just shook their heads and went along with it. The girl never did make much sense. Now a water monster and a vampire show up? All of their brains hit a brick wall in shock, which gave Ishtar the time to get things rolling.

"Alright, now that we're all here, let's get started." She turned back to the body lying in state. "Here lies the reincarnated Vampire King Duzell,"-more gasps from the party behind her-"fearsome enemy, loyal companion, best dresser this side of La Naan." Her captain rolled his eyes and her cousin gave her a quick befuddled look. "Although his returning mission to find and destroy my great-grandfather's reincarnation was a failure, we had many fun adventures together and even helped stop a war, so it wasn't all bad, right?" At this her eyes took on a glossy sheen and the smile that had graced her mouth for a second slipped away. "I'll miss you. Thank you for being my friend, Duzie." There might have been more she wanted to say but she couldn't stop her jaw from trembling and the signal from her brain never made it to her lips. After a moment of silence, feeling the wind tickle her cheek, she nodded to the torch bearer to continue.

He approached the pyre, his boots crunching on the stones and grass underfoot, stopping when he reached the backside. With efficiency he thrust the burning torch into the center of the wood pile until the kindling caught and blazed to life. Orange and red fire danced sporadically, gaining momentum. The dead vampire king's skin appeared to glow from within and for a while his body seemed to be untouched by the licking flames.

As the crackling continued into the night air, the three miss-matched main characters sank to their knees. Illsaide looked sad and dejected. Ishtar looked lost in her own thoughts, although in reality loss had numbed all brain activity. She wasn't even watching her friend's form sizzle and blacken. The visiting vampire had no expression on her face whatsoever. The rest of the gathering milled about, confused and wary.

About an hour later the flames had begun to subside. It would be hours still before the smoldering embers burned themselves out but the majority of the body was ashes and sufficient time had passed for the dead to be honored. Besides, the wind had picked up and everyone save the vampires were starting to shiver from the chill air.

Ishtar rose from her knees, her two guests immediately following suit. The group in back tensed again, ready to be at arms at a moment's notice but heeding their monarch's decree to not draw weapons, much to their dismay. It made them all uneasy.

Ishtar turned to the vampiress and spoke, "Well, I guess that wraps it up. Thanks again for coming."

The other stared at her with slight confusion. "It was an honor to serve my King."

"What's going to happen now? Who are the vampires going to follow?"

"Things are unsure at the moment. Many of us are not used to managing on our own. Some think our King betrayed us, abandoned us, and that it was right to follow behind the Marquis. They immediately want to sign up with the next highest noble and to either continue the war or set up a truce. Some do not believe the stories of our King, the Marquis and your Prince Lassen and have decided that it is futile to engage you humans in either peace or war."

"And, what do you think?" asked Ishtar.

The vampiress frowned slightly. "I will wait for my King's reincarnation to serve him again, but in the meantime I am pushing for peaceful relations. There might even be some social advantages to engaging each others' company."

"Okay! I'm cool with that!" the young royal enthused. Most of the attendents' mouths dropped open in new shock. Oh, boy. They were all going to need psychological attention after this night. "If you need me to send a representative for your council or anything, just let me know. I'm sure Sir Keld can scare up a body or two." The old man behind Ishtar looked sick at this prospect, while the vampire's eyes widened with astonishment. Darres shook his head slightly and Illsaide merely narrowed his eyes at his cousin. "Please tell whoever ends up in charge that I am open to negotiations."

Guffaws and stutters were heard all around. Protests of "No, Your Highness, don't trust them!" and "You cannot be serious, Your Majesty!" speared through the night but had no effect on the princess or her unlikely companion. Instead, the undead creature quietly nodded her head and flew off into the night, followed by her two companions who had never strayed from where they had landed.

Upon their departure, Ishtar turned to face Illsaide. "So, what about your plans? What are you going to do?"

Eyes cast downward uncertainly, the young warrior raised a gloved hand and scratched at the back of his neck. "Honestly, I don't know. I'm not the champion of Ci Xeneth anymore. Nor the vampires'. All I know is fighting, so with the war over, there's not much for me to do."

"We've all lost so much in this war," she said seriously. "All the kingdoms will be rebuilding and will need new leaders. Vord will be the new King of Razenia; of course, there's still Aunt Ramia in La Naan and me here in Pheliosta. The vampires will have to find a new King or Queen. Darres could take Zi Alda but he doesn't want to, so I'm leaning on setting up a temporary government there and in Mill Sei. There's also an opening in Ci Xeneth, if you're interested."

Illsaide looked stunned along with the entire rest of the funeral party. "After all I did, you would still want me to rule?"

"You're not such a bad guy, cousin; you just chose the wrong side. Besides, it doesn't take a competent person to be placed as head of a country, just a proper birth parent, so you still qualify!" Ishtar finished this statement off with a big grin on her face. Sir Keld looked angry and Sir Galahad looked horrified.

"You're crazy, Ishtar," the Holy Warrior entoned. He didn't feel qualified for anything. "No, I can't do that. The people would never accept me as both monster and traitor. Besides, there are too many memories that I want to forget just now."

"What about the water creatures? They are in need of new leadership too, and you have every right to that throne as well."

"I know nothing about them or their culture. I haven't been raised as one of them so I can't see them trusting me. Would they even be interested in a bastard prince? I still don't know the first thing about running a country."

"What, and you think I do?" Laughter rang out over the open field.

The young half-breed smirked. "You have a point there. But, seriously, I feel lost and bereft. I think I need some time to sort things out in my mind and discover who I really am and what I really want."

"That sounds sensible. You should definitely hang out with the water creatures and see that side of life. And, if you want some rollicking good times, just come kidnap me and we'll go on another adventure!" This last was said cheerily and had everyone including Darres groaning.

The young prince's face broke out into a lop-sided smirk and audible snort. "Okay, maybe, I will. Take care, Ish," and without another word Illsaide turned and walked out into the forest.

"Your Majesty, are you completely out of your mind?" questioned Sir Galahad.

Before Ishtar could respond, however, Selen stepped in saying, "Look. It's late. Everyone's had a busy couple of weeks and now is not the time to concern ourselves with such matters. Let's sleep on it and commence debriefings tomorrow when we're all rested." She took on her authority figure stance and everyone started sauntering back to the castle.

Ishtar held back a moment to gaze at her dead friend. "Don't worry, Duzie, I'll keep my promise to you." With that she turned around and headed toward her future as the new Queen of Pheliosta.

Author's Note: I hope you all enjoyed the conclusion. Any and all constructive criticism is welcome. Heck, even flames are welcome! Just please review!