Chapter 2: Only One Wish (Keats)

When Keats left Suzette's borrowed home, he almost ran straight into Ellen.

"Oh, Keats, there you are," Ellen said.

"And here you are," Keats said. "I…"

"Did you go back to the Netherworld last night?" asked Ellen.

Keats blinked. "Yes, how did you know?" he asked; he hadn't seen her, so she couldn't have seen him…

"The Faerys were talking," Ellen replied. "Who did you speak to?"

"I spoke to my mother," Keats said, and he told Ellen everything he'd found out from the Audience Hall; he didn't bother telling her about Livane or Cernunnos, figuring that it wasn't worth wasting time on.

"I was hoping that perhaps you could shed some light on things," Keats added after he was finished recounting everything.

Ellen was silent for a moment. "I don't know about your parents, or about what you had to do with any of it, but I did find out some of what happened that made Ingrid want to kill someone," she finally said, and she recounted what she had learned in the Audience Hall to Keats; like him, she left out any details about her experiences in the Faery Realm.

When she mentioned the name Cecelia, however, he stopped her.

"Cecelia?" he asked. "Not…Not the little girl I met?"

"What?" asked Ellen.

Keats told her about the little blond girl he'd met in the Faery Realm.

"Huh…" Ellen said. "I suppose that must have been her."

"Please go on," Keats urged her, now more interested than ever.

Ellen finished recounting her conversation with Ingrid and the memory she'd seen from the Mnemosyne.

"So this whole affair started 17 years ago…Because of something a man called Ryan told Ingrid, she wanted to kill someone," Keats mused out loud when she was done.

Ellen nodded. "Yes," she said. "I wonder if Ryan is still in this village?"

"If he is, I haven't seen him," Keats said. He paused, then added, "I wonder…what was the incident at the church?" And what happened in my past? he added to himself.

"Ingrid didn't tell me, but Ryan would know," Ellen said.

"I suppose the only thing to do is ask around the village," Keats said.

Ellen nodded. "Let's split up," she said; "perhaps we'll get different pieces of the story from the same people if we both approach them individually."

"Seems like a rather low trick to get information from these people," Keats commented, "but I suppose it's necessary."

So they split up. Ellen went off towards the pub, and Keats walked over to Mr. O'Connell. Not that he thought Mr. O'Connell would know anything about Ryan from experience, but as a villager, maybe he'd heard something.

"A lighthouse keeper named Ryan?" Mr. O'Connell repeated when Keats asked about him. "Don't know him. I only arrived here a week ago." He paused, as though contemplating something, then added, "But I have the sense that something's wrong with these villagers…"

"What do you mean?" asked Keats.

"A bloody history unbefitting of a village with so many legends," Mr. O'Connell replied.

"A bloody history?" repeated Keats. "I think…I think I may be part of that history…"

"You think your past is connected to this village - that you might have been involved in something?" Mr. O'Connell asked sharply.

"I'm not sure," Keats replied slowly, and he walked away.

He approached Mrs. Lester next; she was standing outside her house, as she always seemed to do.

"Do you know a lighthouse keeper called Ryan?" Keats asked her.

"The lighthouse keeper Ryan?" Mrs. Lester repeated. "I remember him well." She hesitated. "He was…murdered. In the church graveyard." She hesitated again, then added, "Harriet was quite close to Ryan, I believe."

"Thank you," Keats told her sincerely; it was more information than he'd ever gotten out of any of the villagers before.

Another murder, he thought as he walked to Harriet's house. I wonder if that happened 17 years ago, as well…

"I'm asking around about the past," Keats told Harriet when he got to her house. "If you've been here for a while, perhaps you know something?"

"I have been here for a while, yes…" Harriet said slowly.

"Was there…some incident here, 17 years ago?" asked Keats.

Harriet sighed. "Ah, that brings back memories," she said reminiscently. "That was when there used to be a clinic here in the village. I lived in the village then, but only for a short time."

"Do you know a man called Ryan?" Keats asked.

Harriet nodded. "Ryan was the lighthouse keeper," she said. "A very kind man." She sighed heavily. "He died 17 years ago; murdered, in the graveyard, on a desolate night. It was early winter, just like it is now."

"Why was he in the graveyard?" asked Keats, curious.

"Someone asked him to go there," Harriet replied in an odd tone of voice.

Not wanting to push her further, as it was clearly a sensitive subject, Keats asked, "Do any of memento of his?"

"Would it help you to find something out?" Harriet asked in reply.

"In fact, it would," Keats told her.

"Hmm…" Harriet murmured, nodding pensively. "He left behind a photo," she finally said. "It's torn in half, though…"

Harriet pulled out the right half of a torn photo and gave it to Keats.

"If you're interested in Ryan, visit the hut on the cape to the north," Harriet added. "If you find anything out, do let me know, won't you?"

"Of course," Keats assured her, and he stepped outside.

He studied the photograph.

Is this a clinic…? And a doctor…? Harriet said there was a clinic in the church back then… He pocketed it. Time for a visit to the cape to the north, he decided, and he walked up the path that led to the lighthouse keeper's hut.

~o~

No sooner had Keats reached the door to the hut on the lighthouse cape than it opened, and out stepped Ellen.

"Ellen!" he exclaimed. "Why are you here?"

"Same as you," she replied, a bit taken aback.

"Right…sorry…" Keats mumbled. He took a breath, then said, "So, you've searched this place already, have you?"

"Yes," Ellen replied, nodding.

"Are there any clues?" he asked.

"Only half a photo," she replied.

Keats blinked in surprise. "I have the other half!" he exclaimed.

He took out his half of the photo; Ellen took out hers. Sure enough, they matched. The picture was of a doctor standing beside a bed. In the bed was a little blond girl with an IV apparently attached to her.

"What could it mean?" Ellen wondered out loud.

"A doctor and his patient?" Keats asked aloud at the same time.

He studied the child in the picture. "Is this Cecelia?" he wondered out loud.

"Ingrid's daughter?" Ellen asked.

"Yes," Keats replied. "I think I saw her…Yes, the girl I saw was definitely this one."

"But we still don't know why she and Ryan died," Ellen said.

"And now, Ingrid," Keats added. He shook his head. "Just what is happening here?" he wondered out loud, and he knew the exact same question was on Ellen's mind.

They were silent for a minute.

"Could this photo be Ryan's memento?" Ellen finally asked.

"There's only one way to find out," Keats replied.

She nodded.

"Do you want to take it?" he asked her.

"No, you can use it," she replied. "This really is more your business than mine, anyway."

Keats nodded. "I'll let you know what I find," he told her.

"I'll meet you at the Henge tonight," she said.

With that, they both went back to their separate places to sleep until nightfall.

~o~

When Keats woke up just after dark, he took out the photo pieced together and studied it.

2 becomes 1, he thought. The lighthouse keeper Ryan's memento…?

He studied the child in the picture. That's definitely the girl I saw in the Faery Realm, he thought. I wonder what it means…

With a sigh, he stood up and walked outside. As always, the lights on in the pub caught his eye.

I wonder how no one notices… he thought.

He recalled Frizzie's premonition the night before. Maybe I should talk to her again…

He went to the pub.

~o~

Tonight, it was Jimmy who was absent. All the other Halflives Keats knew were there.

He approached Frizzie.

"The Netherworld was born when humans found intelligence and became conscious of death," she told him. "It has grown since that time, absorbing thoughts on death."

"The last time we spoke, you said another villager was going to die," he prompted her.

She shivered but didn't reply.

Keats sighed. I don't know what I was expecting, he thought. This isn't real, after all.

Still, he approached Ganconer; as the barman, Ganconer probably knew the most.

"Everyone has their troubles," he told Keats. "The Halflives come at night. Humans bring their troubles to the pub during the day, yeah. Often times, the Netherworld is the cause. Please drop in now and again."

Keats nodded. "I will," he said, and he left.

Now, to the Henge, he thought.

~o~

Belgae wasn't there when Keats got to the Henge, nor was Ellen. The stone pedestal was glowing again, though, and Keats walked up to it and placed the photo on it.

Just as last time, there was a flash that turned into a blue and green aura that surrounded him and the pedestal like a dome, and Keats heard a voice that had to be Ryan's.

"He ran off to the church graveyard. I must find him."

The light died.

To the church graveyard, then, Keats thought, and he turned and left.

He found Ellen waiting for him just inside the village proper.

"Keats," she acknowledged him.

"So, you've come," he said.

She nodded. She seemed to hesitate for a moment. Then she said, "I have a question: Does this Netherworld mean that the ancient legends were true?"

"The fabrications of ancient man and these illusions are unrelated," Keats stated flatly.

"But it seems quite real to me!" Ellen protested.

"To me as well," Keats admitted, "but the afterworld is no such place."

"How do you know?" Ellen challenged him.

"I just know," he replied. "There are clues, of sorts…" He resumed walking to the church, not wanting to discuss his reasons for not believing.

"May I come with you?" Ellen asked him.

He nodded. "To the church graveyard," he said; "Ryan's final resting place!"

~o~

Keats and Ellen went around behind the church. There was a gravestone that somehow seemed set apart from the others…

Suddenly, the lighthouse lit up and shone on the gravestone they had been looking at. Unlike last time, though, the door didn't bloom from the light.

Keats and Ellen stood there for a moment, confused. Then, Keats looked down and saw that a black, shadowy fog was forming under their feet.

"What?" he wondered out loud.

"What is this?" Ellen asked.

Suddenly, the ground under them was gone, and they both fell, screaming, into a black, bottomless pit.

Above them, where they had stood, streams of fire swirled around in front of the gravestone, and after they disappeared into the darkness, another liquid light design, different from the one that was the door to the Faery Realm, blossomed from light and flame.

~o~

When Keats opened his eyes, he found himself in a world of yellow dust.

He blinked to clear his vision and looked around. He appeared to be in a wasteland of dust and ruined stone buildings. Not too far off in the distance, he could hear the sounds of battle aircraft and exploding bombs.

"What is this place…?" he wondered out loud.

He noticed Belgae standing in front of him.

"So the Netherworld wasn't the Land of the Faerys?" Keats asked him; he had understood that there were other realms, but he hadn't guessed that there would be such a contrast between them.

"This place is…" Belgae paused. "Well, let us call it Warcadia," he finally said. "The Netherworld was born out of human thoughts on death. A Faery Realm of pleasure is how the ancients imagined the afterworld."

"And so Warcadia must be a contemporary image of death, then," Keats finished. "That makes sense." He paused. "Where is Ryan?" he asked Belgae. "Inside another Folklore?"

"Not necessarily," Belgae replied; "but it's true that the dead who feel powerful emotions - such as rage, hatred, or sorrow - tend to get pulled into Folklores."

"I see," said Keats. "I have more questions, though. You said there are as many realms as there are stars in the sky. Are they all so…different?"

"Indeed," Belgae replied. "The Faery Realm was only the beginning. This Warcadia is quite far removed from the real world; and the further away it is, the more strength necessary to open the door to that world."

"And my strength is limited, is that it?" Keats asked.

Belgae's hat and mask moved to imply a nod. "That's why you need the power of the Folklores," he told Keats. "You defeated Cernunnos in the Faery Realm, and so…"

"You mean that's why I was able to enter Warcadia?" Keats asked. "So, two birds with one stone, eh? I get to talk to the dead and I get access to more realms."

"Precisely," replied Belgae.

Keats nodded. Before he went on, he turned around and looked behind him. Sure enough, there, nestled among the red rock that littered the fringes of Warcadia and looking very odd and out-of-place, was another one of the glowing flowers he had seen in the Faery Realm.

I guess a portal is a portal, no matter where you go, he thought, and he started walking into the war zone.

He didn't get far before he met a small person that didn't look at all like the Faerys of the Faery Realm. This one was yellow-skinned and bald, though there was a swirling pattern on its scalp. Its eye-sockets were so deep that its head looked skull-like. It was wearing orange and black clothes, and Keats couldn't quite tell, but it also looked a bit taller than the Faerys of the Faery Realm.

"Hello," Keats said to it. "What are you?"

"We are Rebel Denizens," the little yellow person replied.

"Rebel Denizens?" Keats repeated.

The little yellow person nodded. "There are quite a few who don't like the Faery Lord. He behaves like he represents the entire realm!" The Rebel Denizen shook its head in disgust.

"Oh," Keats said, and he went on, approaching another Rebel Denizen.

"I came for you," the Rebel Denizen told Keats. "Let me tell you a few things."

"Okay," Keats said with a nod.

"Ahead you can go right or left; the path to the right is a bit roundabout," said the Rebel Denizen. "You can decide to move on, or just walk around a little; you might find something good. I certainly won't stop you if you want to hurry on, though. Just be careful; there are many difficulties ahead."

Keats nodded in acknowledgement.

"Now, this is a battlefield," the Rebel Denizen went on. "Unlike the Faery Realm, we don't have a meeting room for the dead here. If you want to meet the dead, you'll have to look for them."

So it's better for me if Ryan is in the Folklore, Keats thought. Naturally. He didn't complain out loud, though. Instead he said, "You said you came for me…?"

The Rebel Denizen nodded. "Denizens of the Netherworld cannot pass freely between the realms; that's why we follow you two as you go," it told Keats.

"Ah," Keats said, nodding. He listened to the Rebel Denizen give him a tip about how to power up his Folks, then went on.

To his surprise, the next person he came across was a Faery from the Faery Realm. Looking at it, Keats realized that he couldn't tell if the Rebel Denizens' skins really were yellow, because in the light of Warcadia, the gray skin of the Faerys also looked yellow.

"The flow of time in the Netherworld is different from that of the real world," the Faery told Keats. "You could end up passing someone whom you thought left after you, or you could end up behind someone you thought you'd passed."

Keats nodded. In other words, Ellen could be ahead of me or behind me, even though we both came here at the same time, he thought, and he proceeded to the Folk-infested areas of Warcadia.

The place was definitely a war zone. Rubble was everywhere; sometimes Keats wondered if something above him was about to collapse. Dry fountains in stone courtyards were barely recognizable, and what looked like once-majestic stone arches and doorways were crumbling under the stress of the unceasing battle.

The Folks he met were simple enough. They were all roughly the same size, and though they were annoying in groups, on their own they were all about as strong as Poukes. The Folks he met were Hawk, Bullseye, and Barrager; they were all humanoid, and looked like tiny soldiers. Hawk was almost exactly like Pouke; Bullseye was a long-range shooter; and Barrager was a wide-range scattered-bullet shooter.

Keats took the long way around in case there was something worth looking for, but he didn't find anything particularly useful. The little Folks were annoying, and Keats was somewhat injured by the time he got through the roundabout path.

Finally, Keats found himself in what could have been a either stadium or a theatre at one time, but was so rubble-strewn it was hard to tell. No Folks were to be seen, but Keats could make out a shining green barrier just across the round room.

A territory, he thought. I wonder what kind of strong Folks live here in Warcadia?

He only had to take a few steps towards the center of the room to find out. With an explosion, a large, thick, vaguely humanoid Folk appeared in the center of the arena. Keats took a couple of steps closer, and with a bunch of smaller explosions, eight Hawks appeared around the edge of the center stage.

Oh, great, thought Keats.

As he had expected, fighting the larger Folk with a swarm of Hawks running around was as frustrating as it was dangerous. Keats tried to get rid of the Hawks first, but their tendency to charge with their bayonets kept them from getting into a manageable group, and often times, while Keats was trying to deal with one or two Hawks, either another Hawk or the more powerful Folk would hit him and make it very difficult to absorb the Hawks' Ids.

Keats barely managed to finish off the last Hawk. The larger Folk was far more powerful, with flamethrowers and cannonballs that could hit Keats at both short and long range.

I can't take much more of this, thought Keats. He could feel himself on the edge of death…or, if the Faery he had spoken to in the Faery Realm was right, worse.

He gritted his teeth together. I can't lose this, he thought determinedly. I can't leave Suzette…I can't fail…I must find out what happened in my past…!

Keats's determination grew inside him until he felt like he would burst…and suddenly, he realized it wasn't just in his mind; he could physically feel the strength of his will expanding throughout his entire being. He doubled over in pain, all his muscles clenched, there was a flash of light and a whirl of wind, and power exploded through his body.

Had he bothered to look down at himself, Keats would have noticed that he had transformed, but he didn't. Instead, he charged at the Folk. The fire from the flamethrower blasted him, but he didn't even feel it. He summoned the powers of his Folks, and instead of summoning Ids, he tapped into the very elements his Folks controlled, unleashing them in powerful blasts against the monster he faced. The giant fire Folk didn't even have time to attack again before Keats knocked it to the ground and its Id came out.

Keats grabbed the Id. As he had expected, it struggled, but it was no match for him, and Keats yanked out the Id and absorbed it.

Volcano.

Exhausted, Keats fell to his knees. There was another flash of light and whirl of wind, and then…everything was still.

What was that? Keats wondered as he tried to catch his breath. How did I do that?

He stayed on the ground for a moment, panting. Then, he stood up, turned to the exit, and moved on.

~o~

To Keats's relief, the next area was safe from Folks. As soon as he got there, he was met by Livane.

"Livane!" he said.

Livane nodded her acknowledgement at him. "Quite a number of Faerys have been sent in," she said, looking around, her arms crossed. "Interfering in other realms like this is no small matter."

"Denizens of the Faery Realm?" Keats asked. "Why are they coming here?"

"Immensely powerful being sometimes control Denizens of a Netherworld," Livane told Keats. "The Faery Lord is one of them. Actually, it was he who invited Ellen into the Netherworld."

"Is that scarecrow his emissary?" asked Keats. "What's so special about her?"

"One question at a time," Livane said with a slight smile.

"What's the Faery Lord's goal?" asked Keats.

"The Faery Lord aims to change the Netherworld," Livane replied. "The Faerys don't think the Netherworld is how it should be."

"Surprisingly progressive for a realm created from ancient ideas," Keats commented.

Livane shrugged. "They're simply clinging to an older era, that's all," she said.

"So what's the relationship between Ellen and them?" Keats asked.

"Denizens of the Netherworld cannot pass freely between the realms," Livane explained. "It seems the Faery Lord has cast some type of spell on Ellen…it opened up a path to the Netherworld where Ellen is."

"So Ellen is a Netherworld trailblazer for all Faerys, is she?" Keats said.

Livane nodded. "Enough for now," she said. "Speak to the dead to solve your so-called conundrum."

"I was intending to," Keats told her, and he hurried to the portal that was just a little past Livane.

He sighed with relief when he touched the portal and felt his battered soul heal. That was close, he thought. I can't rely on…on whatever happened to happen again. I need to be more careful…

But what did happen? What was that?

Setting his confusion aside, Keats approached the nearest Rebel Denizen.

"It's odd that the Faerys are strolling around Warcadia like they owned the place," the Rebel Denizen commented to Keats.

Keats nodded. This Faery Lord certainly doesn't sound like a very pleasant fellow, he thought as he approached the next Rebel Denizen.

The second Rebel Denizen sighed when Keats reached him. "Helping you is not easy," it said. "Anything you'd like to know?"

"I'll hear whatever you have to tell me," Keats replied, a bit embarrassed that the Rebel Denizens felt like they had to make such an effort on his behalf.

"First of all, the Ultimate Shield will only appear before the Ultimate Spear," the Rebel Denizen told him. "Understand?"

"No," Keats replied honestly.

The Rebel Denizen smiled. "You will," it said.

I hope so, Keats thought. "Actually, I was wondering: what are all these Faerys doing here, anyway?" he asked the Rebel Denizen.

"On the Faery Lord's order, Faerys are pouring in, including Bogle the Faery Knight," the Rebel Denizen replied. "Their aim is to protect Ellen. You'll need some luck, Keats."

Luck with what? Keats wondered. It's not as if the Faerys need to protect Ellen from me; I'm her Guardian. "Is there anything else?" he asked.

"You've passed the territory of the Militia; now you're in the territory of the Machine Soldiers," the Rebel Denizen said. "The Machine Soldiers are ridiculously durable. They're extremely hard to handle. Deal with their armor first." The Rebel Denizen added another tip for powering up Keats's Folks, and Keats nodded his thanks and turned to the third Rebel Denizen in the area.

"Some Denizens entered this realm long ago to help clean it up," it told Keats. "Ironically, fighting each other for so long has turned them into Folks. We need to be careful…"

Keats nodded, then went on.

…only to be stopped by a blue Mystery Stone.

None of his Folks could break it; he was completely blocked.

Maybe, if I go back, I'll find another way around, he thought, and he did so.

Back by the portal flower, Keats found a narrow bridge across a chasm. It led in the wrong direction, but he decided that there was a chance it would come back around, so he followed the path.

The area he found himself in wasn't blocked off, and it did indeed circle back around in the right direction. He took a few steps forward, and suddenly, a large hunk of metal dropped from the sky…and stood up.

A Folk.

Machine Soldier, Keats thought, remembering what the Rebel Denizen had told him. The Folk that had appeared was certainly that. It looked like an enormous metal human head with no body and two long javelins for arms. Deal with its armor first...how am I supposed to do that?

He didn't have much time; though, strangely, he had a bit more time than he expected. This Folk took a minute to charge up…before charging at Keats like an enormous drill. Startled (though he shouldn't have been, given how much he'd already seen), Keats was a bit too late in dodging it, and the blow of it sent him crashing to the ground.

Ignoring the pain from the blow, Keats forced himself back up and struck out with Pouke…

…which did absolutely nothing.

The blow just glanced off the thing, and Keats could sense that the Folk hadn't been damaged at all.

Alarmed, Keats started fighting by trying out several different Folks; he hadn't found a single picture book page for handling any of the Warcadia Folks, so he was just shooting in the dark. Luckily, after a few tries, he found that Bargest worked, so, even though Bargest was somewhat slow and cumbersome to work with, he eventually managed to beat the Machine Soldier's Id out and absorb it. Fortunately, it didn't struggle.

Ga-Dearg.

Spotting some Mystery Stones on top of a hill, Keats fought his way through what was almost a barrage of Ga-Deargs and, to his surprise, little Militia soldiers. He was almost desperate for a picture book page, and any Mystery Stone was his only hope at getting information he could use; he didn't want to have to keep shooting in the dark, as he had with the first Ga-Dearg. Fighting using Bargest was slow going, and dangerous at that, but he really did need a page…

And, to his relief, he found one in one of the Mystery Stones on the hill! He looked at it.

What?

It appeared to be a depiction of a Hawk, a Bullseye, and a Barrager, one of which was being hit with a fireball, apparently from nowhere.

How is this supposed to help me? Keats thought, partly furious, partly frantic. What does it even mean?

…Oh well.

He pocketed the useless page and went on.

~o~

The next space Keats found himself in was full of Militia soldiers again.

This can't be right, he barely had time to think before they swarmed on him. Seconds later, he was surprised to see another Volcano, but he didn't have time to question it.

He fought. He got rid of the little ones first, then fought the Volcano. When he beat the Id out of it, it surprisingly didn't resist being absorbed.

Then Keats realized why.

Brummbear.

That wasn't a Volcano after all, he thought. Huh.

There were some more little Militia soldiers across a narrow bridge - a fair number, actually, but nothing serious. Up a hill was an empty clearing that was a dead end…but when Keats turned to go back, three Machine Soldiers dropped out of the sky.

They weren't Ga-Deargs. They had appendages that ended in two halves of an enormous shield that looked like a face; when they put the two halves together, nothing Keats attacked them with from the front could touch them. They were always vulnerable from the back, though, and while they charged after shielding themselves for a little while, the pause they took to charge was more than enough time for Keats to run around behind them and use Bargest. Their Ids didn't struggle once they were beaten out.

Patriot.

When all three were gone, a Mystery Stone appeared; when Keats broke it, a new page was revealed.

Keats looked at it.

The picture looked like either Brummbear or Volcano attacking…something. Another Machine Soldier, that much was clear; it looked like a tank with a head.

Finally, something useful, Keats thought, and he went back, then down another path, and into a territory.

The Folk was clearly the one depicted on the page Keats had just found. It was enormous - several times Keats's size - and it was very much an automated tank. It had eight, spider-like legs and a huge metal head, there was a cannon on its back, it had machine guns on its sides, and it could move both forwards and backwards equally well, and with the force of a battering ram at that.

Keats took a guess at using Brummbear, and luckily, it was the right choice. Still, the enormous Folk took a lot of wearing down, and Keats was very much beaten up by the time the huge Folk's Id came out. Of course, the Id struggled, and pretty hard at that, but finally, Keats absorbed it.

Gargantua.

Keats took a moment to try, in vain, to catch his breath, then climbed up the slight hill and went on.

~o~

The hill quickly became steeper, until suddenly, it was actually a steep stone staircase - although, the steps were made with Netherworld Denizens in mind, so the steps were very small.

Not much further on, Keats was met once more by Livane.

He nodded a greeting at her, which she returned.

"The Folklore fortress is right in front of you," she told him. She looked around, and a note of disgust crept into her voice as she added, "Foolish Faerys…They're en route to the fortress with Ellen now." She shook her head. "Their little army is all flesh and no substance. They'll never defeat the Folklore," she spat.

"What about Ellen?" Keats asked. "Why don't they just let her battle the Folklore on her own? I'm sure she could handle it."

Livane looked at Keats silently for a moment before speaking, and when she did, she didn't answer his question.

"Ellen's Cloak has given her the power to battle the Folklore," she said slowly. "Her Cloak has also given you power. So, like it or not, there's a bond between you and Ellen. You're likely to meet up with her here in the Netherworld."

Keats was silent, waiting for Livane to say something more. When she didn't, he rolled his eyes and continued on.

There were three Faerys ahead of him on the steps, which led up to a thick metal door. Keats saw a portal flower by the door, and was relieved. Still, he took the time to speak with the Faerys.

"So you're the famous Keats?" the first one asked him. "I hardly think someone like you could defeat Ellen."

Defeat? Keats thought, bewildered. I'm her Guardian! I'm not going to try to defeat her! He didn't say this, however, and walked up to the next Faery.

"I wonder why Livane contacted you," it said. "Livane has other supporters, but she never lets anyone accompany her except Belgae."

Keats made a mental note of this but said nothing, walking up to the last Faery in the area.

"What would you like to know?" asked the third Faery.

"What do you have to tell me?" Keats asked in reply.

"First of all, ahead is a hotly-contested zone," the Faery told him. "It is crammed with Folks. Watch out for yourself."

"Thank you," Keats said, with about as much sincerity as he thought the Faery felt.

"Now, the Warcadia Folklore, Dreadnought, is a terrifying weapon of destruction," the Faery went on. "It burns up plenty of fuel, but carries a lot as well, so it just keeps on going and going. Set it on fire and that'd be it, I bet, but apparently its armor is really thick."

Keats nodded. "I'm here to meet the dead," he told the Faery; "that's my main goal, at least. If the person I'm looking for isn't in the Folklore…?"

"The spirits of the dead become hidden when the Folklore appears," the Faery told him. "Defeat the Folklore and you could meet the dead one you seek."

"Hmm…" Keats said, thinking. Sounds like I'll have to battle the Folklore to meet Ryan one way or the other.

Both Keats and the Faery were silent for a moment. Then the Faery added, "Even Netherworld Denizens have their troubles. That's why they ask for help from Messengers, who travel the Netherworld freely."

Keats blinked. What sorts of troubles could a Netherworld Denizen have? he wondered, but he didn't ask. Instead, he touched the portal flower to heal his injuries, braced himself, and went through the gate.

~o~

The space ahead was a stretch of battle-ravaged earth in front of the fortress in which the Folklore waited. For a moment, there were no visible Folks in the area, but Keats knew better than to be fooled. Sure enough, as soon as he took two steps into the area, Folks started appearing out of nowhere.

And there were a lot. Machine Soldiers and Militia alike, working together to defeat him. The area was divided into two sections by a trench and a few red Mystery Stones; Keats decided to defeat all the Folks on one side before breaking through to the other, which turned out to be a wise choice, as both sides were, as the Faery had warned him, crammed with Folks.

By the time he was done fighting, Keats was badly wounded; fortunately, one of the Mystery Stones by the entrance contained a large blue light droplet, and Keats was mostly restored by it.

Another one of the Mystery Stones held two pages that depicted how to battle Dreadnought. The first page showed Volcano using its flamethrower on what Keats guessed must be the Folklore's fuel tank, followed by Brummbear blasting at huge, claw-like legs. The second page showed Hawk attacking the Folklore - though Keats had no idea how that would work - followed by Ga-Dearg attacking the monster's mouth.

He looked up at the fortress.

Right, he thought; no point in wasting time.

He went in.

~o~

Keats barely had time to look around the fortress - which was really more like an arena - before the structure just opposite the door caught his eye. It looked like a skull with demon horns; this had barely gone through Keats's mind when a platform inside it was raised, carrying with it the Warcadia Folklore, Dreadnought.

It was huge, mechanical, and otherwise not really comparable to anything known to mankind. It had four legs with only one joint each at about the knee, a rocket gun came out of its belly, and its mouth was a flamethrower. There were force fields around its legs and the fuel tank on its rear end, and it seemed to enjoy throwing its weight around by smashing the ground with two of its legs to create shockwaves or leaping into the sky to crash down on top of Keats.

It took several minutes of working hard simply to not get crushed before Keats noticed that Dreadnought always paused after crashing to the ground, and that the force field around the fuel tank disappeared when this happened. He had to dodge and run in several times, but using Volcano, he eventually managed to overheat the fuel tank, which burst open.

Dreadnought roared, and the force fields around its legs vanished; to save energy, Keats guessed.

Keats continued running around, trying not to get shot or blasted, and using Brummbear against Dreadnought's legs when he could get a clear shot. After a few hits, the metal armor on one of the legs was blasted off, exposing the leg beneath; it was visibly charged with electricity, but, based on the pages he had found, Keats guessed that it was more vulnerable than the armored legs.

That explains how Hawk could be any use here, I suppose, he barely had time to think.

He decided to take out the armor on the rest of the legs before attacking the exposed parts, which was no easy task. Still, it was worth the effort; when all the armor had been blasted off, Dreadnought gave a mighty roar, then collapsed to the ground, its mouth hanging open.

Keats remembered the image on the second page about the Folklore, ran up to Dreadnought's head, and attacked the glowing orb in its mouth - which Keats guessed to be like a power core - with Ga-Dearg. He felt that the attacks were effective, but after a few hits, Dreadnought roared again, then suddenly spewed a wall of fire from its mouth. Keats hadn't expected this, and had no time to run out of the way before the force of the flames knocked him to the ground.

He was already badly injured, and the blast of fire was almost more than Keats could take. Still, Keats managed to force himself to his feet.

I must be almost there, he thought, almost desperately. Just a little more…

He used Hawk to attack the exposed legs, as the picture book directed. He underestimated the strength of the electrical charge on the legs, though, and after a few strikes, he came a little too close and found himself paralyzed by electricity.

Luckily, he was paralyzed at the same time Dreadnought collapsed again, so while the opportunity to attack was lost, he managed to fight off the paralyzing charge just in time to get out of the way of Dreadnought's flamethrower.

I need to be more careful…but I also need to keep fighting, he thought. The picture book prescribed Hawk for this part of the battle, so I just need to not get so close…

He kept fighting. He tried to be careful, but he did get paralyzed a couple more times. He was especially careful to avoid getting hit by the fire, so he didn't get more than a few hits to Dreadnought's mouth when it fell. It was a long struggle, and Keats barely managed to hang on, but finally, Dreadnought fell for the last time, and its Id came out.

Like Cernunnos, Dreadnought's Id put up a terrific fight, but Keats finally absorbed it. Dreadnought gave one final roar, then self-destructed.

This makes two, Keats thought to himself wearily. He looked around but didn't see Ryan anywhere, so he went back.

~o~

Keats took a moment to heal himself at the portal flower when he got to it. Only after that did he notice Belgae and Livane standing by the door. Livane was looking around unhappily.

"Faery losses are mounting," Belgae said. "They should have left it to Ellen."

That's what I said, Keats thought. He noticed Livane's expression. "You look glum," he commented.

She shook her head. "Such a waste," she said; "fighting a battle that cannot be won."

"A bit sympathetic of the enemy, are we?" Keats asked cynically, trying to lighten the mood a bit.

He was unsuccessful. "Just like ancient man as I know him," Livane muttered, more to herself than to Keats or Belgae, as though Keats hadn't spoken.

"And how would you know?" Keats asked, surprised.

She looked at him then. "I know," she said; "as I know the ancient Netherworld."

Keats shook his head. "I don't know who the hell you are," he said.

"If you want to know, then work with me," Livane said.

"But the scale of this is beyond me," Keats began to protest.

"Perhaps we can stop the grandiosity," Livane said before Keats could add anything more. She turned away from the gate and gestured at a figure standing on the steps. "Is that not who you seek?" she asked.

Keats looked at the man. He was somewhat short and wearing a thick, blue winter coat and a hat with flaps that covered his ears.

"Is that Ryan?" Keats wondered out loud.

He approached the man and asked him.

"Are you Ryan?" he asked.

"Yes," Ryan replied slowly. "…Who are you?"

"I came here to ask you something," Keats said quickly, remembering he only had so much time: "What happened at the church 17 years ago? And why were you killed?"

"I see…" Ryan said. He sighed. "On the night of Samhain 17 years ago, I was behind the church with Harriet. We saw Cecelia and Dr. Lester inside."

"When that photo was taken?" Keats asked.

Ryan nodded. "That's right," he said. "Harriet took it. Something odd was going on…At that time, Dr. Lester had a clinic inside the church. If you really want to find out about the incident at the church, ask him."

"Ask Dr. Lester…?" Keats repeated; Dr. Lester had been unavailable to speak with since Keats had arrived in Doolin Village.

Ryan nodded again. "That's right," he said. He hesitated, then added, "If Harriet's still in the village, please tell her something: Tell her it's all my fault. Tell her to forget intangible things, and try to be happy. If she doesn't believe you, take her behind the church at night. 17 years ago, I asked Harriet there because there was something I wanted to show her. If you show it to her, she'll believe you."

"All right," Keats said, "but you still haven't answered an important question: Why were you killed?"

"Oh…" Ryan said, "that…17 years ago, I made a terrible mistake…Erg!" he grunted.

"Hmm? No! Wait!" Keats exclaimed.

There was a flash of light, and when it died down, Ryan was gone, and in his place stood a Mnemosyne. Keats didn't have time to curse his luck before the bulb on the Mnemosyne's back started to swell. Resignedly, Keats reached out and touched the bulb, which burst on contact.

Again, there was a flash of light that turned into fragments of scenes and sounds.

"Harriet…"

"What are you trying to do?"

"Now, please, let go."

"No, I cannot"

"!"

The vision settled, and Keats saw Harriet and Ryan facing each other in Harriet's house.

"You're mistaken!" Ryan exclaimed at her. "Dr. Lester has a heart of gold!"

The vision flickered, and Keats got the slight impression of the sound of something ripping. When the memory settled again, Ryan was lying by the wall in a position that implied he'd been flung against it.

"Oh, no!" Harriet exclaimed.

"I'm sorry…" Ryan said. "Your precious photo…"

"Don't worry," Harriet said. "It was my fault, as well."

The vision flickered again.

"Ryan, I have an idea for you," Harriet said. "Children have always liked you, yes?" Another flicker. "I want you to get the truth out of him."

"You want me to ask him?" Ryan asked.

Again, the vision flickered; really, the whole thing felt fragmented to Keats.

"Yes…I will," Ryan said. "If it'll convince you. I don't know what you're after, but I don't want you to dishonor yourself."

"Thank you," said Harriet. "But be careful; he may have a Faery guardian…"

There was another flash, and when it faded, Keats found himself back in Warcadia.

He thought for a moment.

It feels as though I only got pieces of a memory that time, he thought. How can that be…?

Suddenly, it occurred to him.

Ellen came here to meet Ryan, too, and we both came for the same memory. Maybe she has the missing pieces…

He sighed. Then, he walked back to the portal flower, activated it, and went home.

~o~

It was midday when Keats found himself back in the church graveyard. He didn't see Ellen anywhere, and decided to go directly to Harriet's house.

"Well, you're back!" Harriet said when he walked in. "Did you meet the dead…?" She sounded a bit sarcastic, and Keats immediately knew that giving her Ryan's message right away would be pointless.

"Ryan said he wants you to go back to the place you agreed to meet him 17 years ago," he said instead.

"What?" Harriet exclaimed, alarmed. "How do you…?"

"17 years ago, you saw Dr. Lester and Cecelia in the church," Keats went on. "Something odd was going on, so you took that photo?"

Harriet paled, but said nothing.

"Please come with me to the same place again today," Keats said firmly. "That's what Ryan wants you to do."

"How could you possibly know a thing like that?" Harriet asked breathlessly.

"Ryan said that he did something wrong, that he did it for you, and it got him killed," Keats continued, determined to use everything he had learned to get through to her. "The least you can do is grant him his request now."

Harriet shook her head. "Do you really expect me to believe this madness…?" she asked, sounding in shock but still in denial.

Keats sighed and turned to go; he had nothing else to use on her. He had his hand on the doorknob when Harriet exclaimed, "Wait…!"

He turned back to look at her.

"I…suppose I do want to know…why Ryan wanted me to go to the church that day," she said slowly. "Please take me to the church."

"Okay, I will," Keats said. Then, he remembered the rest of Ryan's instruction, and added, "at night. He said it had to be at night."

"Very well," Harriet said. "Please return at sunset."

Keats blinked, then nodded. "Okay," he said, and he left.

~o~

Just outside Harriet's house, Keats ran into Ellen.

"Keats!" she exclaimed. "There you are!"

He nodded. "Did you speak to Ryan?" he asked her.

She nodded. "Did you?" she asked.

He nodded again. "The memory I got from the Mnemosyne felt fragmented, though," he said.

"I thought the same thing," Ellen said, and they shared the memories they had seen.

Based on Ellen's input, Keats took the full memory to look something like this:

"You're wrong!" exclaimed Ryan. "Dr. Lester has a heart of gold!"

"Then how do you explain this photo?" Harriet asked coolly.

"B…But…" Ryan spluttered, and he reached out and grabbed the photo in Harriet's hand.

"What are you trying to do?" Harriet asked.

"Let go!" Ryan shouted.

"No, I cannot!" Harriet cried.

The photo ripped in two, and the backlash sent Ryan crashing against the wall.

Harriet gasped. "Oh, no!" she exclaimed.

"I'm sorry," Ryan said. "Your precious photo…"

"Don't worry," Harriet said; "it was my fault, as well…It's all right, Ryan…"

There was silence between them for a minute.

"Ryan, I have an idea for you," Harriet finally said: "Children have always liked you, yes? In that case, could you find out what the boy knows? I want you to get the truth out of him."

"Me?" Ryan asked. "You want me to ask him?"

There was another pause.

"Yes…I shall," Ryan finally said. "If it will convince you. I don't know what you're after, but I don't want you to dishonor yourself."

"Thank you," Harriet said; "but be careful. He may have a Faery guardian…"

The memory shifted, showing Ryan crouched down in front of a young boy whose face could not be seen.

"Please, I really need to know," Ryan said to the boy. "We're pals, aren't we?"

The memory shifted again, Ryan exclaimed, "Hrg!", and he was dead.

"I wonder who that boy was," Keats commented.

"Yes, me too," Ellen agreed.

They stood in silence for a minute. Then Ellen said, "Well, Harriet's expecting me-"

"Oh, yes, of course," Keats said, stepping aside. "Go right ahead."

Ellen smiled at him. "Thank you," she said, and she passed him and went inside, leaving Keats to ponder the newly reconstructed memory, and what it might mean, until sunset…

~o~

When sunset came, Keats went to Harriet's house and wheeled her to the church graveyard. As they waited for the sun to finish setting, Keats spoke.

"What happened here?" he asked Harriet.

"He asked me here 17 years ago," she replied. "On the night of Samhain."

There was silence for a minute as the sun finished setting. When night had completely fallen, a bunch of white flowers bloomed from their buds; they almost seemed to glow in the moonlight.

"Flowers blooming at night?" Keats wondered out loud. "Is this what Ryan wanted to show you?"

Harriet sighed wistfully, and Keats knew she had come to the same conclusion.

"Keats," she said softly, "may I ask…Did he despise me?"

"No, he did not," Keats said, and he told her what Ryan had told him to tell her.

She sighed again. "Even after death, he still cares about me," she said reminiscently. "To stop groping in the dark, and focus on the joys of living."

"Would you meet Ryan, if you could?" Keats asked out of pure curiosity.

She sighed again. "Yes…I would," she replied. She shook her head. "My obsession with myth ruined his life."

Taking this as a sign that she might be willing to talk, Keats asked again, "What happened that night at the church?"

Harriet was silent for a moment. "In time, I will speak," she finally replied. "The church…was Dr. Lester's clinic, at the time. Go and see him. He is sure to show a reaction."

She was unwilling to say anything more.