Last Chapter: Well then, I hope you liked the long trek. This last chapter is the ending, in the *Finale* you may read the full explanation, and furthermore consider that what other characters think is not what the truth is. I don't know how many actually thought of how the ending was going to go…
There they were.
There he was.
As he stood, smirking, in that precise spot, the point where everything would change, he couldn't help it, he had to smirk. He had to smile, and it took all his self-control to avoid starting to laugh out maniacally.
Artos Basileus Sfor stood on a hill, staring at the landscape in front of him. The ships that had rolled on the harsh sands of the Sahara were now slowly starting to float upwards, their flags black and the clouds up above starting to condense and become grimmer by the minute. He could hear his wizards chant the long winded spells to change the weather, to allow for the Vampires to have reign, and to strengthen his troops, he could hear the music of the dirgesingers raise the power of the arcane energy scourging through the dead's bodies.
He could smile just at the thought of how it was going to end. He could, but instead he moved his line of thought elsewhere. Staring at his right, where the Mummy Lord was, and then at his left, where the Banshee was.
"I want no mistakes." He muttered, with a simple yet effective tone, as on that precise day, everything had to work like a clock.
The army had been pushed to the limit of speed just to get there before the specified time. Once there, the clerics had gone in front, searching for the obvious traps and doing their best to disarm them, although they still did suffer casualties, while within acceptable limits, it also scared the army, reducing their morale, as some of the traps had literally incinerated hundreds, while others had brought life to the very plants to attack them, and fighting off a giant tree with a puny steel sword isn't just the same as hacking into a living orc or human, at least the latter two bleed.
Furthermore, what had shocked them was that there was a table straight in the middle of the plain, with chairs. Every chair had the symbol of a deity, plus there was the symbol of Gallia, of Germania, of Albion and of Tristain, at the head of said table, stood the chair with the symbol of Necros.
Obviously no-one would have been that stupid to sit on a chair, at a meeting with the ruler of Necros, but still, they had double-checked, finding that the entirety of the chairs, and table, were but simply wooden furniture, with no hidden meaning nor hidden thing. This just served to make the Gallian's cleric even more uncomfortable, extremely more, to say the least.
"Your Highness," Agnes felt a tinge of guilt, as she spoke those words to another queen, but also a bit of pride regained, as she wouldn't fail this queen, never.
The Gallian's queen looked at the ex-captain of the musketeers, now sword of Heironeus, who was wearing a shining armor made of polished steel, and wielding a sword that, the chosen of Heironeus had sworn, would be able to cut through anything except Adamantium, the very same metal that had forged it.
"Agnes, no need to be so stiff: today is an extremely important day for everyone: we must give the example, and keep a cool demeanor." As the queen of Gallia spoke, Agnes nodded, looking at how Charlotte herself was patting, trying to hide her nervousness, Sylphid, and was finishing putting on her a thin metallic armor.
"Will the princess Charlotte participate into battle?" Agnes queried, worried.
"She insisted on being the fastest: if something goes wrong, she will hurry to rescue as many as she can from the table." The queen of Gallia replied softly.
"Though I hope nothing happens, as a Queen, but also as a mother, I know she will give her all in this battle." She added, looking with a glint of pride at her daughter.
"She'd have a twin too…but the monastery in which she was hidden…is no longer…"
"She doesn't know?" Agnes queried, to which the Queen shook her head.
"Then there's no need to have her suffer, is there?"
"You are right." The Queen spoke slowly, as time slowly began passing, the Queen started to think that all the King of Necros was waiting was for the rain to actually turn into a downpour...
"Agnes…when do you…" but her words were cut short, by the appearance, in the middle of the clearing, of the Wizard himself, just as the Germanian's ambassador had emerged from the forest, a horseman had reached from the sides of the clearing, the evil gods clerics had appeared once more, and ... that was all.
"Seems he got us all where he wanted us," Agnes muttered, as she looked at the figure on the horse getting down swiftly, and charging straight at another man, the Germanian's ambassador, just to see him too take his wand out, but then, as if on cue, both wands were taken into the hands of the King of Necros, who seemed to chuckle and invite them both with hand gestures, same thing for the Queen of Gallia.
"Time to go and parley then." The Queen of Gallia whispered, tugging onto her vest as she mounted a horse to get neared, followed by Agnes.
They'd have to traverse the Alder forest, which they knew was trapped, heck they were sure about it, as Vecna's spies had informed the higher ranks of the army, and as such the Hextor cultists had pulled back their troops, letting the Necromancer of Wee Jas to do their jobs: send in skeletons, get more corpses, send in more skeletons. The graveyards of the nearby Germanian cities had been emptied, after all the conscription notice issued was for the living…and the dead.
The first skirmishes, and the relative warnings to the sides, began as the first drops of rain started falling on the forest.
General Handenburg…no, Emperor Handenburg remained at the palace, to get crowned, and everything else. Thanks to the clerics, who could deliver messages through great distances by a simple use of a spell, he had learnt of the Pferdpanzer retreat from the Magic Academy, and, realizing he would have lost them never the less, had granted his loyal subordinate, Albert Von Riktofen, with the charge of General, having him act in the way he saw best: Have them surrender with no bloodshed, or have them utterly annihilated.
Albert stood watching over the maps of the area, and mumbling something about fighting in a forest with fire and fire spells and starting forest fires with the rain.
"Do we have oil?" he queried.
"Maybe two barrels at most." Came as the reply from the supply officer, who felt relieved when he heard just *who* was going to be their general. Usually, he'd feel distaste at being under a born commoner, but between him, and the other candidates…he'd gladly lick Albert's boots anytime. Some things the other did was just…plain wrong.
"Catapults?" he queried once more.
"None, we had to travel fast and lightly." The supply officer replied.
"Building one?" he queried.
"Weeks," the officer replied once more. This was a battle, not a siege where weeks was an acceptable time, he'd just have to man up and send his men straight through, that's what he'd do. Still, if he had done that they'd have already died by the traps, so the supply officer was glad he wasn't the one in charge.
"…Building one?" Albert queried, watching one of the clerics of Nerull, who simply unnerved him to no end.
"Hours." The reply came slowly.
"Have one built before nightfall." The cleric nodded, and left the room.
"Now, I know you're listening, so come out and speak." Albert spoke slowly, but clearly and with confidence in the room where only he and the supply officer seemed to be, now, alone.
Thoughts of lost sanity crossed the supplies officer's head, before a shadow actually emerged from the corner of the room, to reveal the Ex-King of Gallia.
"How did you know?" he queried, a bit…curious.
"I didn't. I was hoping on the Vecna cultist actually." As he said that, turning around with a grin, and looking in the other corner, he got a reply with a chuckle, as from said corner the Vecna cultist actually emerged.
"Fine, how did you know I was there?"
"It's a secret." Albert replied with a really wide grin, which sent a sour face on the Vecna's cultist.
"But I'll exchange it gladly for another one." He replied, "A really easy one too…I just want to know what the color of your underwear is."
The cultist's face turned angry, as *it* being a she, she was already half-way through slapping him, when she stopped, and muttered barely.
"Oh…I suppose they're even lacey! Well, to reply…I didn't, but since you get the habit of appearing from shadows, I took an educated guess, and one shadow was already taken by the king of Gallia so…"
Joseph chuckled, he actually liked the man!
To like someone after so much time! He should have made a treaty with Germania and the evil Gods years before!
The Vecna cultist's face turned red and her face contorted because of the anger she felt, but kept quiet, biting her lower lip.
"Now, if I presume correctly, your grace King Joseph…" as Albert turned to Joseph, he saw a dismissal hand wave.
"Please, call me Joseph and nothing more…" the ex-king of Gallia replied.
"As you wish…well then, Joseph, I was told you were a *Void* mage, correct?" as Albert queried that, Joseph nodded.
"I know the spells *Accelerando* which requires no casting time, but consumes a lot of willpower, as well as a spell called *Explosion*, the first makes time nearly stop, and makes me act really fast. The second on the other hand creates small scale explosions." As Joseph swiftly explained that, Albert nodded.
"Then I might have a plan for a fight in the forest." A thunder blasted up in the air, followed by the swift falling down of a downpour.
"I hate rain." Albert muttered once more.
"I hate rain too," replied a female voice, whose user walked into the tent, her black feathers and her red shot eyes showing her off as a strange crow hybrid.
"You're Artos' familiar." The cultist of Vecna stated.
"And you were the play toy of the Vizir of Salem, until my master killed yours." The crow replied bitterly, making the Vecna cultist clench her fist harder.
"Now, you are formally invited, blablabla, to take part into the possible peace and suicide treaty or war and suicide plan. No exchange. No coming back for refunds. You either accept or you do not. If you do, just go through the forest to the other side, there's a table, some chairs, and there it isn't raining." Albert raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah, I'll go. Though you think you're going to leave?" snapping his finger in Joseph direction, who nodded, using Accelerando to swiftly stab with his sword the crow, only for the wand to pass through the crow, leaving it unscathed.
"Sheesh, you actually tried to kill me quickly, instead of talking to me for hours and hours, about how you weren't afraid and the like, and you actually don't give a damn about the all ambassador thing...my master is going to like killing you slowly." As the Crow said that, and was about to leave, Albert yelled out:
"Tell your master that I enjoy roasted crow for a snack during parleys!"
After the crow completely disappeared, the supply officer looked at the general with a perplexed look.
"Are we really going to surrender?"
"Am I an idiot?" Albert queried back, looking puzzled at the idiocy of the man chosen for being a supply officer.
"Have the catapult aimed at the damn location where the meeting is: there are damn chairs and all and if a wind mage can't see them then he'd better be ready to have his eyes carved out, then, when I give the signal, fire the oils, have a fire mage launch something fiery against it, and Joseph can use Accelerando to pull me out. There. Problem solved. Sheesh."
Joseph…simply chuckled, that was a low blow even for his standards…effective, but low.
"What about our side of the clerics?" the Vecna cleric queried.
"Hey, you're the cleric of the god of secrets honey, not me. If you want I'd suggest your god drops you and call me on for favors, since you can't seem to get just how much of a boon you can get out of…the other god's cleric right now…get it?" as soon as he finished speaking, the cultist of Vecna looked at him for a moment, before stopping to stare to the side, nodding, and then leaving in silence.
"Next time around I'm making you pay for another hint!" Albert chuckled once more. He was coming to like this stuff… He had prepared the plan knowing full well that, nine out of ten, there was someone else listening to it, and that by doing so he would have created distrust into the ranks. He wasn't a man of faith or of religions, belonging to an external pantheon or not, he was a man of science. He was a fervent Atheist if you wanted to put it in some way or another. He'd crush them all.
Just like Artos Basileus Sfor thought he would, he'd do it better.
"Have a horse ready, and send order sixty-six thorough the camp, they'll know what to do." Albert said to the supply officer, who had no idea what the order was about, but still, he'd obey, so he did the military salute.
"Joseph, grab the horse and then reach for me, by the time you arrive, either everything is solved, or everything is in deep, deep need of explosions."
"But you said…oh you cunning devil!" Josephs smirked once more, as he and the General moved.
"If you watch the scene, and you see me scratching my right chin, come and get me though, got it?" as Albert chose the signal, Joseph nodded.
*Demons & Devils- Tristain's capital surroundings*
Orcus smiled for a brief moment, before frowning, but in the end, shaking his head like it didn't matter, he launched forward with an unstoppable yell, as did all the demons at his side. It was time to put an end to this.
The overlord of the devils stood on the other side, his face contorted between anger and scorn, as violent curses poured forward from his foul mouth, the Malebranche devils on his side charged too against the incoming demonic horde, and soon, a battle that recurred permanently on the first layer of the nine hells, happened on Tristain's soil once more. As brothers in evil, but enemies on Order and Chaos, the two foul sides met with brutal power and uncaring blazes, against calculative movements and backstabbing trickery.
Orcus saw the overlord of the devils, who had assumed his real form, of twisted horns and red skin, long nails and fierce clawed hands, the right one wrapped around a sword as big as a house and yelling a furious and foul curse, charged.
The Overlord of devils saw Orcus, as the foul and corpulent humanoid creature which had powerful goat legs and a desiccated head similar to that of a ram. His great wings were stirring up a reeking cloud of diseased air. He seemed somewhere between life and death - his sore-ridden body suggesting diseased life, but his head and glowing red eyes suggested undeath. His thick, spiny tail was in constant motion, and he used it well, cleaving through demons and devils alike just to reach him.
Asmodeus couldn't help but realize that this wasn't the real reason why Artos wanted him there. He came to realize the truth of the matter only seconds afterwards the departure of the Wizard, but decided to play along. The very least he could do, because the Wizard's plans, and his, were but the same: the destruction of the gods, those who had cast him down, and those who had ruined the life of an otherwise ignorant boy, who would have probably lived his life till a normal, pathetical, mortal death.
Fighting Orcus wasn't a bad deal, after all, if it helped close his own plan, which had gone on for thousands and thousands of years. Still, he never liked the pain that seemed to increase from his wounds that were cracked and still wept blood every time he fought.
As both the sides minions left place for their two overlords to fight, more chaos erupted when a third party entered the scene, blowing up half the overlords' armies in less than a second.
That. Well that made both the Demon and the Devil stare at each other and since shock and surprise was on both their face that…well that shocked everyone else. Asmodeus never showed shock, never. He always did his best to look like it was part of his plan, like everything was going on his side. To show surprise was a weakness, a horrible weakness. Yet…
"REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE QUEEN'S LAND YOU FOUL CREATURES! EXPLOSION!" both the Demon and the Devil, in their towering heights, jumped backwards, with speed, avoiding another bright light explosion that…tore apart their units like they were made of paper. What was worst however was that they actually felt the demons, and the devils, being…exorcised: they weren't returning to their plane, to then get a portal and come back, they were actually killed, there and without fault. The more the strange pink-haired banshee killed, the less powerful both of them felt, as their follower's numbers were greatly reduced. What was worst was that the pink-haired banshee simply stopped time whenever the hell she liked it! This was going against all rules, every single damn rule ever placed. She flickered her damn wand and puff, hundreds destroyed, thousands wounded. Furthermore she wasn't even there, as that was an illusion of her, as some unlucky Vrock discovered trying to plunge downwards and snatch her up, only to end impacting against a group of really famished War Imps.
The demon and the devil lords stared at each other in surprise, but then, as if on cue, they both let out a loud roar:
The giant white ball engulfed them all, tearing them apart at a level of pain that they couldn't believe, and, the next moment, once the explosion spell subsided, there was nothing there. Not even a speck of dust.
The academy was empty when Louise had reached it, so, for lack of better things she had gone straight towards the capital…only to find it under attack by monsters…
S: Told you it would work.
V: I'm powerful! I'm Powerful!
B: Yes, you are. Good, so it works.
L: What were they yelling? It sounded awfully like your name, but my Abyssal is a bit rusty.
S: Oh you and your subtle *I already know* questions!
L: I learned from a master after all!
B: Oh she's growing on us isn't she?
S: Yeah! We could adopt her, you know?
L: My parents are still alive…
Louise stared from the little meadow in which she was hiding, the escape of the devils and the demons that had been fighting by the time she had reached the area with her horse. She'd seen the fight from far away, as the sky had been a strange hue of red, with enormous flying monsters fighting and lashing at each other, falling on the battlefield as spells were hurled around, and the ground was shattered and drenched in the blood of the foul creatures. She had used an illusion spell, and then she had hidden and begun the real matter of fact work on them.
Void spells. Without an element, without a restraint, those were the only things that would actually harm them: they were cheating, in a certain way. Still, cheating is everything for those too weak to win. TO cheat is to live, to live one must cheat.
S: Those two you killed were on par with the gods. One was Orcus, demon prince of the undead, while the other was Asmodeus, ruler of the ninth circle of hell.
L: Really powerful? So … am I as strong as you now?
B: Hardly. Remember, you need more than six-hundreds of battle-experience, but you did good kid, you did good…I'm half proud.
S: And I'm the other half-proud.
"Still…it seems a bit ...I don't know...let's move guys!" as Louise gave the order, her small, feeble army of skeletons and zombie started marching in line, to collect the weapons and armors left scattered around from the already dead by the time she had gotten there.
S: The stronger you are.
B: The more battles are decided in a blink of an eye.
S: Seconds, in fact. The first one to cast is the first one to win. Blink an eye? You just died.
B: no second chances on that.
L: I see…
Then she felt something tug at her, from one of her skeletal scouts that she had sent forward, it was a vision of…the maid? What was she doing in… Oh, she was in Tarbes, her hometown. She was speaking to someone. The skeleton had opened the door and then…
It had lost contact.
"What happened?" Louise whispered.
B: Yeah, what?
L: Nothing…though we're taking a detour to Tarbes.
L: You're monotone.
S: What? Me? No!
L: What *is* in Tarbes?
B: absolutely nothing.
Louise mounted on her horse, and clutching the reins hard, she stared at her small *army*.
"TO TARBES." She yelled, no longer caring about the voices in her head, telling her not to go, she wasn't shutting them up, she was simply ignoring them…and because of that, they couldn't stop her.
She had been on the trail of the Pferdpanzer Corps like a dog would have been on that of a raw steak. She hadn't slept, she hadn't eaten, and she hadn't cared at all, her horse had nearly given in one night, and that had forced her to rest. As she had laid to the side of the panting best, who had literally preferred staying on the side, she couldn't help but shiver at what the men of the Pferdpanzer Corps, but especially, Hellfire, would do to her younger sister. They hadn't gone towards the capital though, so, maybe, they were meeting someplace less guarded, and that would have made it easier to rescue her younger sister. She even had snatched two wands, just to hand one over to the elven girl, the naïf girl, the one that had been brought into this damn life and this situation by HER.
It was all Fouquet's fault, she was sure of it. The fact she was giving herself the fault in third person was even worst, but she had to live with what she got, and that was the truth: it was her fault.
She closed her eyes, trying to doze off, but she suddenly jolted up on her knees, feeling a sharp pain coming from her side.
Moving her hand to the side, she could feel a sharp point coming out of it, assuming the form of teethes, then followed by the entirety of a flaming skull, which, laughing heavily, began eating her up, leaving nothing but pain and darkness.
She opened her eyes with a scream, her horse walking nearby to eat some of the grass and with a set of sharp breathes, as she stood up, shaking her head: she had to keep her cool. The nightmare had to simply be a result of the stress that was … eating her up.
Fouquet mounted on her horse, and began, albeit at a calmer pace, to follow the tracks of the Pferdpanzer, she had to reach them in time, she hoped.
When she actually had reached them, she had mentally sent curses to anything and anyone who could receive them. There was a damn ARMY there, and she was on a Tristain's horse with the symbol of Tristain on the saddle, and a Tristain's noble mantle.
Worst, however, was that she couldn't get neared at all, when she watched, from far away, thanks to a spyglass, the sight of her sister been taken by a brutish guy, and flung into a tent.
She gritted her teethes, punching her fist deep into the ground. Then she heard a commotion in the camp minutes later and, returning her spyglass, she saw Von Riktofen burning alive the guy with the most furious face ever seen, and his flame, well…it was black.
"That's why he's the hellfire…his fire is black…" Fouquet muttered in awe. Still, when she saw Tiffania falling on the ground, crying, her heart cringed again, as the man grabbed her by the side and pushed her to follow him, this time however, nobody stopped them from moving.
"I'm getting her back you bastard. Just you wait. I'll steal her right under your nose."
Uh! I love challenges!
"Wh-what?" Fouquet turned around, but saw no-one. Just what was going on?
Hey. How about a bet?
…WHO ARE YOU!
Not important. Bets are more important.
You dash off and manage to grab the girl's hand, before she reaches the command tent…if you do that, then I'll swish you away together with your horse.
Fouquet knew better than trust a strange voice in her head, but that *was* a nice choice. She expected surprise to be on her side, so that was why she let go of all her inhibition and common sense, that was yelling at her that charging into a tend-base camp made of over a thousand Germanians was a bad idea, and actually started galloping straight through, using her wand to create a stone golem, to distract as many as he could.
The look on the commander of the Pferdpanzer was priceless, she realized, as she actually managed to get close to him just in the time it took him to raise his wand. Nobody actually would have expected that, but after the initial surprise, many had tried getting in the way of the horse, just to get trampled or more intelligently dodging to the side the steed. Arrows had darted, as bolts actually ended up hitting her on the side of her body, like the dream, her lower side was suddenly charred beyond recognition, eaten by the flames of the second in command of the Pferdpanzers, Gunter. As she fell down, she slowly started crawling towards her sister.
As Tiffania saw her sister arriving by horse, she thought she had turned mad, but all she could was to start screaming when the first bolt hit her on the side, then an arrow, then another arrow, another bolt. As she neared by, she saw that Albert didn't want to, she had told him of who Fouquet was for her, but she couldn't stop her sister in time from running him over! Then, a cone of flame engulfed the horse, and the lower half of Fouquet, the Crumbling Earth was now black and charred, still, vomiting blood, the green haired woman moved forward.
She wouldn't stop now, and if she did, well, if she did die, then maybe she'd meet Arty again, his smile, his gentle touch.
"SISTER!" Tiffania ran, surprisingly left by Albert to go and grab the hand of Fouquet…only for the thief to disappear alone.
"Sis?" Tiffania turned around looking at Albert, who had the same puzzled look.
"Where is my sister!"
To that, Albert had not a single clue too.
When Mathilda came to, she was laid on a patch of grass, Artos at her side, watching her with a smile.
"I'm dead." She matter of fact said.
"Nah," Artos replied shaking his head.
"You are dead. So I am dead too." she pointed that out pretty calmly.
"Nope: I am alive, dead, and undead. You are simply alive." He replied with a more calm way.
"So, where are we?" Fouquet asked, deciding to ignore the intense belief of being alive that Arty seemed to possess, and looking around, it seemed like a normal green hill, without much in the distance but a series of glints.
"That over there is the Gallian's army. There is my army to that side, and the Germanian one is just behind the forest."
"So it's another war?" Mathilda queried, looking at Artos, who simply smiled back at her.
"Well, that depends. They can surrender." Artos pointed that out.
"Oh yes, they would be wise to, I wonder why they haven't yet." Mathilda replied.
"Hope is such a fickle thing." As Arty said that, Mathilda grabbed him by the sides of his robe, and pushed him closer for a kiss, but Artos held her still with a hand.
"Not right now. We'll have time…that I promise."
"So, why feign your dead?"
"Who said I didn't die?" Artos queried back.
"Then how are you alive?"
"I'm a powerful Wizard!" he pointed that out patting on his heart.
"A spell?" Mathilda queried.
"I'll tell you when everything is done…till then, do me a favor, and attack the Germanian's ambassador when you appear there on a horse. Furthermore, please, act surprised no matter what I do…it's all part of the plan."
"The plan?" Mathilda queried perplexed.
"Yes, the plan." As Artos nodded that, he gently brought his hand forward, to move away a slip of green hair from Mathilda's head and put it behind her right ear.
"Fine then, but then you'll explain everything, got it?" she replied.
"I sure will." Artos smiled, and in that moment, she felt herself on a horse, seeing emerging from the woods the Germanian ambassador, who was no other than Albert Von Riktofen, and as her hand went to her wand, and she began chanting, so did Albert, realizing just what was going on.
How much time had passed? She couldn't recall, yet it seemed more than likely a day. As that thought crossed her mind, she realized her wand, and that of Albert, had been taken away by an invisible force, and pulled straight into the palms of a mantled figure, who was gently floating mere inches above his seat, as the ruler of Necros, Artos Basileus Sfor, looked at them through his bone helm, his eyes glittering red, he smiled.
Everything was going according to plan.
"I told you before, but let me repeat myself: I hold no ill will, nor intention for harm. Do not test my patience, for the one I substitute isn't at all forgiving as I am" Substitute…who? Basileus? Sfor?
"Yes, precisely, at Newcastle"
"Which means we are going to take the ship from La Rochelle, right?"
How did he know of La Rochelle before being told? Had he looked at it in the library, but why? HE had later said it would have taken weeks to get the point, and he was reading magic books, not geography ones.
Arty whistled once, and from nowhere, with a loud and tangible *crack* a crow appeared, setting himself on his shoulder. The only things strange about the crow were his eyes, red as blood, and the fact that it stood eerily silent on the wizard's shoulder.
"This is Guendaline, and *SHE* is a wonderful familiar" Arty replied, nodding as he petted the crow on the head.
How did he conjure the familiar? It should have always been with him, right? Unless he had already grabbed her from his plane, but then, how? Familiars can't be conjured outside of one's plane.
"Yes...those who understand the lessons are few, but they exist." That message was for Wardes, yet he did nothing to him leaving him alive till later on… and even then, he hid waiting for me to do the kill, why?
Wardes immediately threw an air blade at Arty, which dispersed into nothingness inches before touching him or Louise. Why didn't he dodge? Why did he dispel it? He should have been sure of the dispel working before doing it. So…when?
Hope is a fickle thing, girl. Sfor said that sentence…didn't he? Yet why was she feeling that someone else had?
When the pirates shot at him on the ship, why did they shoot? Why did he let himself be shot?
Her memory feverishly worked once more on the events, realizing some words that she had forgotten.
"Sleep well child, for the night will moan with…"
"the screams of the dead" she had heard that sentence? When? How? Why was it different?
"Wardes!" Louise yelled, "what are you doing?"
"Killing the Tristain envoy" he replied. If Basileus had wanted to kill everyone in the castle, then why didn't he also kill Wardes? What was the point of letting him live, so that he would try and kill her? She had to KNOW.
"Per Binding Rules Agreement, you are offered the choice about your life. Choose." If he was forced to have her choose, why were both he and Basileus protecting her? It meant he had to be forced to, but then…one had asked two things. So that left…one more thing to be asked by Sfor and maybe also Basileus. One more order, unable to refuse it.
"I suppose that the use of a Void Spell is especially taxing on willpower" How did he know? He knew about the Gandalfr's runes too. Had he researched them previously, then why not warn her that she was damn Brimir reincarnated? What did he need to…prove?
Wait. Proof. He always worked with proofs.
"Louise Françoise, my dear friend, please…be wary of your familiar, he has to be hiding something" The Queen had been right, dead-on, and she hadn't believed her friend, she had instead insisted that Artos was right. He always was right after all.
"Good master and bad master. They are both the same. One dies the other comes. The other comes destruction comes. Death and death. Death and DEATH!" The crow had spoken like that, yet she had defended Arty once more. Truth had come differently. Death. One dies, the other comes, but why?
"Why are you immortal? What happened?" He had dodged the question. Now she knew it had to be something evil.
"Louise. Go and call Siesta's father" he whispered. This had come at the time Marcus had died, when she had left him alone in the forest. The forest of Tarbes, it had been half an hour before Marcus' father had come back, Arty behind…she didn't want to think, but what if he had done something in that time period?
She was growing increasingly paranoid, trying to find faults in anything that Artos had ever done.
Then he had headed to the fields of Tarbes again, but had lost the airplane, where? How? She couldn't believe he had simply lost it, so it had to have gone *somewhere*. Maybe in Tarbes itself? That was where it was? Was he planning on using it to bring down the gods?
"Arty snapped his finger and a long black wand appeared in his hands".
To call back the dead, to speak to them, to conjure them, to bring them up as servants or friends…to resurrect them, Arty could have resurrected the previous King, with a Wish spell, had he wanted to, but he hadn't. Why?
"alter your memory so you don't recall anything, and then keep going as nothing happened" Oh g…
L: What was I doing?
B: We were going to Tarbes because you're on a mission to cure your paranoia.
L: Oh, RIGHT! I'm sure you're hiding something.
B: You have no idea…
Nobody actually wanted to sit down on the chairs, as everyone was wary of possible tricks; furthermore, they all felt a bit of divine power, lingering around, that wasn't there previously, when those who could check last did.
Artos stood there, unfazed, looking to his right and to his left side, before muttering:
"You can place circle of truths around the area, if you so wish." With those words, the clerics nodded, it was common courtesy in parleys after all. If the Ruler of Necros was going to lie, they'd know it.
Slowly, everyone took a seat in the middle of the plain, only after having made a circle of silver powder and sprinkled holy, or unholy, water, around place, everyone eyeing each other, keeping careful contact also with the Ruler of Necros. The only point where it wasn't raining, but still it wasn't sunny never the less, was precisely there. Fouquet, strangely, was gestured to seat in the Albion's spot.
"There isn't anyone else from Albion's nobility." Artos stated as she took the seat.
The Good clerics took a seat on the right side, while the evil Gods' chosen took the seats on the left, with the Germanian's ambassador, where, surprisingly, all decided against sitting.
"I'm fine on my feet." He said dismissing the issue, so as Albert Von Riktofen stayed put, Artos smiled. That one was the one that had impressed Guendaline. The other evil gods did the same.
"Now then…as I'm sure you all know you can't possibly defeat…"
"Excuse me, but I want to know something before we begin." The Wee Jas necromancer, a strange pale guy with dark green hair, raised his hand, and, at a nod of Artos, kept speaking.
"This isn't a trap."
"No, it's not. I made a personal agreement with the god Mechanus, that this be considered an area of talk. The moment hostilities begin, everyone sitting at the table is sent immediately back at the nearest temple of their gods, as per agreements, the lingering divine energy is Mechanus' acknowledgement of said contract."
At those words, the evil clerics smirked in anger, and took a seat, they weren't outright threatening only because they'd have hell to pay, considering what they had to give to the Vecna cultist, and they'd get everything back later on, but not now.
Strangely, Albert didn't sit.
Artos eyed him perplexed, did the man realize?
"Well then, we may begin now: as I was previously mentioning," as he said that, Albert simply scratched his right chin, and the next moment, he was gone.
"What is…" the Erythnul chosen, a strange Gnoll with really horrible teethes, was furiously trying to get to his axe.
"The Germanian ambassador doesn't even want to hear the terms? I'm surprised, but well, it was his choice, however." As Artos shrugged, he kept on saying.
"You may surrender now, or die. If you surrender, eventually you will be killed, you will become an undead, and you will be awakened…maybe."
All the clerics actually looked at each other. Was this the man who was able to convince people, to con people into going around naked, and who was known to have the most silver tongue out of all the planes? He was just making them angry, and without reason too.
Mathilda was perplexed. This didn't look at all how Arty handled thing, it was like, whoever was there, was utterly bored and uncaring, like it didn't matter. Yet he had been tender minutes before…what was going on? As she tried to recollect the memories between her idiotic charge into the Germanian encampment and her arrival there, a difficult task, she seemed to recall pain, charred legs, and then a pair of red fiery eyes.
"Shouldn't you wait for the Tristain's ambassador?" the Queen of Gallia politely spoke, "At least before explaining terms?"
"Why should I? The queen's dead, as is the ruler of the ninth circle of hell, and Orcus." At the name pronounced, the clerics shivered, looking around, did that fool just say out loud the name of a demonic entity! Yet…nothing happened. Then they realized the man hadn't been lying, so, either he knew how to avoid the circle of truth's effects, which was still plausible, being him the monster that their Gods warned them against, or maybe he was saying the truth…which was even worst, as it meant he had the power to destroy beings that even the gods themselves didn't want to challenge.
"What…" the cleric of Nerull had no words, what was…
"Happened? It happened that I have my hands on a power so great that it bypasses whatever divine protection, unholy protection or merely protection anyone has, it's like the Fury of the Gods epic spell, only…it works with a flick of a wrist and without back damage."
The cleric of Vecna looked at the wizard with distrust in her eyes, before muttering under her breath.
"You are lying. You wouldn't say such a…"
"I say what I want, you believe what you want...the circle of truth is here, so either I'm saying the truth, either I firmly believe it's the truth," the reply came as a snap.
"I've got the power to utterly crush ANY god and ANY divine being of ANY type, form, or species. NOBODY AND NOTHING can stop me now, so SURRENDER AND DIE or fight and DIE, there is no talking, no exchanging insults or anything else, that is my power."
The clerics shivered as strange waves of fear entered the very core of their souls, and Mathilda herself, being the closest, felt the need to place a hand in front of her mouth to avoid screaming out.
"Still, if you really want a proof of my power…fine. Guendaline, grab the Duchess, Karin the heavy wind," as Artos muttered that rolling his eyes over, a crow-woman appeared from the back of the ruler of Necros, before disappearing in a shadow, just to re-emerge less than a minute later, with the Duchess chained and bound.
Even chained, and probably beaten by the interrogators of Germania, the Duchess didn't seem the type to falter. Her gaze remained steeled, even as she was forced to sit.
"Why would this demonst…" demonstrate your power? That was the question in the voice of Bidashal, who, for the first time since having accepted to become the cleric of Corellon Lathian, died in his voice, when Shilasil, the cleric of St. Cuthbert, gritted his teeth looking at the shocked faces of the clerics of the evil deities.
"He probably grabbed her from some safe and secluded location in Germania, without any of them knowing."
"No, it's better than that, good old thorn in my side…" Artos replied, "She was meant to become the play toy of their new emperor, and as such, was in his rooms, heavily guarded rooms…So guess who *is* still in his room? And who has a familiar that can do that with ease? And if this is easy then…where does that leave us?"
Shilasil's eyes bulged, no. It couldn't be.
"You…YOU ARE NOT A…" Lich, the word never came however, as the next moment Shilasil's body was turned to ash, his soul screaming in agony, as under the horned elm two flickering red eyes dispelled the illusion on his body.
There, there stood the Demilich Artos Basileus Sfor.
"H-how…" the cleric of Vecna died, a sword passing her from side to side where her heart was.
"Y-You said…" the cleric of Nerull's head swiftly fell from his neck, no longer supported.
"Think it in death." Artos replied, shrugging.
"ARTOS!" the roar came from Agnes, who charged at the flying skull, flaming sword in hand. The Queen of Gallia had suffered the same fate as the cleric of Vecna, as the swords had seemingly appeared all at the same time, striking down all at the table with a swift movement, all, except Mathilda, and Agnes herself.
"I kind of wondered where the portal of positive energy was for quite a long time." As he queried that, Agnes sword harmlessly bounced off an invisible shield in front of the skull.
"That's when I realized that probably, they wouldn't be using a flashy thing like a Solar to guard it." As he added that, he slowly began floating right in front of Mathilda who, from the shock, had fainted.
"Instead, they'd place it somewhere that would be impossible to find out, somewhere to keep it safe and especially, somewhere *smart*." Agnes charged once more, fury, scorn, hate in her face, not caring the slightest for the words of the skull.
"You should stop your petty tries, kid." The Skull muttered, pushing her on the ground with a giant hand of force.
"Wh…WHY! WHY YOU! DAMN YOU! DAMN YOU TO HELL!" Agnes yelled at the skull, her sword blazing furiously as she tried her best to remove the hand from her.
"I've been in hell for the past centuries, kid. Today is the day everything ends. I do need one last thing though…" as he said that, he looked at the Duchess, Karin the Heavy wind, who stared back at him, her face a mixture of worry and anger.
"My daughter," the Duchess muttered, "How long have you been using her?"
"From the very beginning," Sfor replied, with relative ease, "You see...no, never mind, silly old me trying to explain everything. Wrong habits are hard to break." At that moment, a ray burst forward from the table towards the skull, which dodged to the side.
"I did think it was too easy!" as he muttered that, he realized that Shilasil, but also Bidashal, who had been close to the other man, were both pretty much unscathed.
"Elven magic of this land to reinforce the body, huh? Should have gone with a blade of utter darkness," Sfor muttered, "as for Shilasil, yeah, there's a reason you're a torn on my side…you actually had the balls to cast an illusion spell, contemplative that you are, I hate your guts."
"Shut up you monster from hell! You lied about Mechanus' protection!" Shilasil exclaimed, launching another ray, white and fiery, at the skull, which still dodged it much egregiously.
"I did not. You'd have picked it up. The truth was that an attack had already happened in the area…but there was no-one sitting on a chair, so no-one went back." As Sfor grinned, "which is why your gods didn't intervene, you see, as of the meeting, they do not know what future is going to happen, so they didn't know I was lying to them."
"What are you talking about?" Bidashal queried.
"I'm saying that right now, while we are *here* bickering, and fighting to the death…somewhere else, the cogs of fate are turning in my favor…" With that wicked grin, the Skull began casting and counter casting spells, as all Agnes could do was watch from the side, too weak to actually intervene in a battle between centuries old foes.
Louise's skeletons had neared the village before everyone else. So, when Louise actually arrived, the villagers had already grabbed their pitchforks and torches, and had bundled together in the town square, staring at the strange necromantic creatures that certainly didn't look amiable.
The pink-haired girl couldn't care less about them, she strolled with calm towards Siesta's house, and literally had Janson tear down the door.
There, standing with his hands folded into his lap, stood Basileus.
She knew it was him, even with the illusion he had casted to look alive.
"I was right…Where is Arty?" She queried, as the voices inside her head died out, her anger visible and touchable.
Basileus shrugged, removing his semblance of life from his features, and standing up slowly.
"He never liked wars, so…"
"You lied about the flip coin rules." Louise pointed out, "Every one of your words has been a lie".
"Oh no, I didn't." Basileus replied, "At least, I had a plan forming up, but I never did much, I don't know what you are thinking, but the truth is another: Arty actually died when the gods called down the pillar of divine energy." As he spoke that, easily, a staff, red and golden, with spikes on the top, emerged to his right side.
"The problem was that the Clone spell, a high level necromancy spell, actually worked, and the soul of Arty merged into a full-fledged body…back in Terenestia." As he finished pointing that out, Louise looked at him with a puzzled expression.
"Then your voices in my head?"
"That was part of the plan: did you really, really think Arty would have been THAT stupid? It was to fool you, have you avoid asking unnecessary questions to someone who'd have troubles lying, because yes, he *is* good, for the moment."
"How did you manage that?"
"Mental links are easy to establish with my magic system, having them feign being real was a part of it."
"What about the Void voice, the githzerai charging through…the negative energy plane?" Louise queried, shocked.
"Mostly forced and controlled dreams, the void voice was simply me, having you come to term with yourself and your real power, and using it by mending it to my purposes to entrap, and absorb the energy of the plane. You haven't realized that, normally, you shouldn't be able to so easily summon and control so many large undeads?"
"Then how did you come in existence, if Arty was the one dying?" Louise queried, worried.
"I didn't lie when I said my consciousness had ended up inside of you, Louise, as that of Sfor. However, once Arty died, and got back, he slowly tried, and succeeded, into summoning us one at a time, reverse casting your Void summon spell, the reason he needed weeks before coming back was so that each of us could copy our own spells in different books, and prepare carefully. We are three separate entities now, all equally powerful…by now, Sfor has revealed his real presence out, and the gods are desperately going to look for Arty and Me."
"Did you really have to do this? Why didn't you ASK ME for help!" Louise's eyes started to water, as the feelings of betrayal came even louder on her, as she raised her wand.
"Because, otherwise, you wouldn't have killed us," Basileus whispered, "I need you to kill us off, you proved you could do it, and that is what I want you to do."
"You're lying…you're telling me this so I don't kill you." Louise replied, shaking her head, her hand trembling.
"You could use accelerando, and explosion, and be done with it. Why don't you?" Basileus replied.
"Where is Arty?" She asked.
"I won't answer that until you defeat me." Basileus replied, his staff beginning to swing.
"WHERE. IS. ARTY!" As Louise launched Accelerando, she charged through, only to find out that Basileus moved swiftly on par, if not faster than her.
"Haste and Stop Time." He muttered, as he knocked her to the side, throwing his staff to the side of Louise, making her scream in pain.
In that moment, Janson attacked the mysterious undead creature that was harming his master.
"It's useless to fight me once I'm serious. You should have attacked at the beginning." Basileus muttered, waving a hand, as Louise screamed even harder, for Janson turned to dust.
"Disrupt Undead" Basileus whispered.
"YOU MONSTER!" as Louise yelled that, Basileus jumped backward, just in time to avoid a blast of fire, black fire, coming at him from the side.
"H-how?" this time, it was Basileus' turn to be shocked, as he was staring at Albert Von Riktofen, the Hellfire, his wand aimed at him.
"ATTACK HIM!" Albert waved his hand swiftly, running behind the wall of the house in time to avoid a polar ray, that would have spelled his doom, had been just any man, but he had learned the way of the fight, you move, or you die.
Louise used accelerando once more, this time managing to lodge her wand deeply into Basileus' side, before the Wizard managed to launch a sort of sonic wave, sending the wooden house to crash down, but also throwing Louise out into the square, where the rest of her undeads charged at the enemy, only to be turned to ash in the blink of an eye.
Albert dashed next to the pink-haired girl, and muttered:
"We kill him, and then we talk!"
Louise actually nodded to the man's words, he had Germanian symbols on him, and, last she knew, Germania was still allied with Tristain…
She raised her wand, panting as the double use of Accelerando had left her weakened.
"You think you can defeat me?" Basileus queried, as the dust dispersed to reveal the Lich form in all of its necromantic glory.
"YOU THINK YOU CAN DEFEAT A BEING OF SIX-HUNDRED YEARS!" he roared, as waves of fear landed onto them.
"Everyone dies, eventually," was all that Albert muttered, before launching forward a fire ray from the tip of his wand, who was met with the appearance of a fire elemental, bigger than anything seen before by them.
"Pyros, Scorcher of forests, kill the man, but leave the girl alive!" as Pyros' hand fell down upon Albert, he smiled. Well, it was a good day as any to die.
The fire elemental's hands stopped, however, as a set of small pure white sphere appeared all over its body, before making it shiver and explode into pieces.
A staggered Joseph made his appearance, panting for air after the effort to bring down such an enormous monster had taken its toll.
"You are interesting, Von Riktofen! I won't let interesting things…" but he couldn't finish the sentence, a sword passing him from side to side, standing next to the fallen body of the man was a Halfling, covered in a dark cape, the symbols of Olidammara on him.
Albert jumped backward on reflex, avoiding a scorching ray that was probably aimed at the ground where he had stood moments before, Basileus hadn't seemed fazed by the appearance of the halfling, and had instead used it to his own advantage, before making his staff swirl to his side, avoiding all the five crossbow darts that the Halfling, Zick, sent against him.
"Kids should stop making adult sick." As Basileus snapped his fingers, an even bigger fire elemental appeared, of colossal stature.
"Ignus, burner of hope, annihilate…" and then Ignus disappeared, as Louise stood there, pointing her wand at him, with a wicked smile.
"Dispel works also on summoned creature if I'm fast enough."
Basileus growled, as he resorted to a barrage of magic missiles, just to see them all disperse before his very eyes.
Professor Colbert stood in the clearing, wand in hand, the very same wand that Arty had gifted him before, now used against him.
"I KNEW IT!" he roared, as his wand flickered slowly, a flame snake appearing.
A barrage of black-colored fireballs threw itself at the Wizard from the side, as Von Riktofen kept running and chanting, while avoiding a set of rays that would pretty much spell his immediate departure. Same thing happened for Zick, only he was shooting bolts, and Basileus had actually managed to conjure swarms of rats, helped by the thick dust that was starting to levitate around them.
The fire snake, that launched itself forward from the tip of Colbert's wand, met its equal in an earth elemental, but that was probably what Colbert wanted, as from his free hands, force missiles launched themselves forward, aiming at the Wizard in the middle of the dust.
"You should shoot only with clear visibility of the target." Basileus muttered, as he jumped backwards once more, seeing how his shields, his mage armor, his magical protection, had seemingly been disabled either by the disjunction of Mordenkainen in the wand, or by Louise's Dispel magic.
Louise was beginning to tire, and thus forced herself to mutter as quickly as possible the explosion spell, she didn't care if she died there, the important thing was to carry Basileus to the tomb with her!
Albert's breath became irregular, as all he wanted right then was to catch a breather, and, to do so, he dashed into a half-destroyed house, away from sight, away from enemy spells.
As he panted for breath, he looked to his left, red eyes meeting his own.
"You are a Shadow." He muttered.
"The lord of Shadows." The shadow replied.
"You haven't killed me yet." Albert actually pointed that out, seeing how he would obviously still die right there no matter what, so, better get going to the other side while trying to look at the very least, a bit…cool.
"The Lord said to not attack all who don't believe in gods, you are thus an ally." As the lord of shadow actually pointed that out, a thought came straight through Albert's mind.
It couldn't be.
Yes, it could be.
He dashed towards the fight, still in progress, and as Louise was about to complete her incantation, the bright white sphere ready to appear, he barely managed to yell a…
"ST…" before a crossbow bolt embedded itself deeply into the side of his neck and forcing him to silence, and death.
The fake believer of Olidammara dashed forward, just as the rats, on cue, stopped attacking him, and launched themselves against Colbert who, swiftly, but not enough, didn't get away from a bolt, straight through his head.
Louise finished the incantation, as her right hand was swiftly removed from her body by the swinging of a really, really sharp sword, sending emotions of pain running through her body, as a sphere appeared in that moment just around the white energy explosion, which seemed to become brighter by the second.
"Just as planned," Basileus chuckled, as the halfling smirked, while kicking Louise to the side, his right foot standing on her still remaining attached arm.
"No more attacking for you missy."
"…trust no one." Louise muttered, no longer even strong enough to cry her frustration.
"If it can be of help, you actually lasted more than any normal enemies I usually fight." Basileus chuckled.
"So, Boss, everything's ready?" Zick queried Basileus, who stood in silence for a moment.
"Seems like it."
Shilasil panted, as his armor cracked and fell to the side, the only thing standing between him and death was the Mirror Shield that Agnes had brought up, but which had cost Bidashal's right arm to snap the captain out of her blind rage, as Sfor simply stood there, a cackling sound coming from his teeth snapping repeatedly.
"This is so much fun, you know?" The Demilich muttered, "I'm sure you're asking yourself *How is that possible?* the gods should intervene! Why is no-one coming to stop big-bad me? The reason, you lousy pathetical meat bags, is the same reason I hate the gods: they don't care. Now, however, I've got the insider view on the matter. They'll be forced to come, or they'll see ME ascend to godhood. After all…the Energy of Two planes, positive and Negative, will flow into ME." With a chuckle, he conjured an Earth elemental, as big as a house.
"Do me a favor, and toy with the three idiots while I grab all I need to grab." As the Skull said that, he flew, having Mathilda and the Duchess actually flying, by force, together with him, now at a faster than ever rate, towards the Gallian's army, who had tried to charge through, seeing what was happening, only to be met with the appearance of the Death wings, which had cleaved through their numbers and their dragoons like they were made of paper. The Germanian Army had instead been stalled in the forest by half the Necros' forces, and the forest itself was being heavily bombarded with a substance akin Greek fire, which, thanks to the rain going on, simply grew stronger by the second, wails of death were also commonly heard, bringing doom upon the Germanian side who's ears it managed to catch, as the Banshee yelled like it was meant to be, her claws moving in close when the need came.
Sfor dodged to the side, avoiding what looked like ice javelin, thrown at him by a flying blue dragon, on top of which stood a very enraged blue haired girl.
"YOU BETRAYED ME!" She yelled, as even Sylphid actually looked scary, roaring at him and doing her best to keep pace.
"Grab a ticket and follow the line!" Sfor yelled back at her, making sure both Karin and Mathilda avoided being hit, it would suck to lose them now, as the rain around him assumed the form of a small typhoon, "Scirocco, last born of Zephyr, keep the brat away." With a smirk, the Demilich kept going, as the small blackish air elemental launched itself against Charlotte's dragon, aiming at its wing.
Sylphid managed to dodge to the side in time, but the small air elemental was fast, and kept chase, forcing Charlotte to turn around, to cast a Air hammer at the summoned elemental, but doing little to no damage, as the moving black typhoon avoided the hits.
She'd have to face the problem head on, and as she prepared ice lances, a thunder flashed down on her and Sylphid, sending the two on the ground, pain jolting through Sylphid's body who crash landed on a couple of unfortunate Gallian soldiers and enemy zombies, with Charlotte rolling out her back, no longer awake, just a couple of meters away.
"E…Elder…sister." Was all the Rhyme Dragon muttered, before darkness engulfed her vision, the last sight she had was of her elder sister twitching, still for the after effects of being hit by a thunderbolt.
When they'd wake up, they'd probably be in a lot of pain…if they actually did wake up.
Sfor swiftly reached the flying ship he and his men had happily stole from the elven city's docks, and looked with a wide grin at the banner holder on the ship, who was staring downwards, at the raging battle.
Karin felt the sudden need to sleep, as Mathilda, still knocked out by the earlier shock, didn't require a spell to have her put together with the *other* guests in the below deck.
"My, a penny for your thoughts, Prince Tudor?" he queried, with a chuckle, as all the death knight replied with was silence.
"You may speak." The Demilich added.
"Henrietta?" he asked.
"Dead…saddening, but necessary to ensure it would work."
"What?" Wales queried, not out of sadness for the loss of his beloved cousin, more out of curiosity as to what the man, his ruler, had to test.
"The previous overlord of hell had been tasked with retrieving her soul. I wanted to make sure souls from this world would travel between planes."
"To make sure the final steps would be completed." Sfor replied simply.
"I have to query why, before killing me, you subjected me to an illusion."
"That was Basileus, the old me was usually a bit melodramatic in acting, thought it did prove that even royal magic wasn't going to cut it."
"Cut it for what?"
"Now, now, not answering that, just, not yet…Get everyone ready…is Arty doing his job downstairs?"
"Good." With that said, Sfor sent a mental warning to Basileus.
Basileus grabbed hold of the emotionless Louise, and transported her, after being handed over a strange ornate dagger from Zick, to a strange wooden construction. There were no lights coming in from outside, but the walls were thin enough to hear the downpour coming from outside. In this small confined space stood Arty, who looked with a saddened expression at the whimpering child. That's when Louise realized she wasn't alone in there.
There was the fake heretic, who laid asleep, there was her mother, her sisters, who looked furiously at the man in the center of what seemed like an enormous and utterly complicated arcane set of glyphs, and there was Charlotte too, who had been gagged and dragged in a corner, yet she was wearing nun clothing.
She was stunned in seeing also Tiffania and Fouquet standing there, but more than that, there was a steel contraption, that had at its center what looked like a sword, a flaming sword, staring at her with two red eyes.
"Well partner, you got them all. It's faint, but it's there…I'm feeling the Void from the big breasted girl and now also from the blue haired youngster…" as Derflinger finished speaking, Arty nodded, biting his lower lip, as Basileus moved the sphere containing the yet to go off explosion in the center of the room.
"Both Riktofen and Colbert arriving were your try to ease your conscience?" Basileus snapped at Arty, who nodded in silence.
"You shouldn't have counted on the assassin's help though…you gave him the dagger of Dissolution, didn't you?" Arty nodded once more, tears running down his cheeks.
"Now that there are no more risks of interruption, where did Sfor go?" as Basileus queried that, the skull cackled, appearing in one of the three points of the circle's drawn inside triangle.
"I'm here young me, let's get this going." Sfor replied, and as he said that, Louise was grabbed and tossed against the wall, while the young red-head girl was grabbed and thrown in the center of the circle.
"Test her." Arty moved his hands, whispering a couple of words as the glyphs shone brightly for a second, but then he shook his head.
"So much for paralyzing her in the midst of the city, while avoiding the Concordant Killer's gaze," Sfor muttered, as he levitated her up, and with a sickening noise tossed her to the side of the room.
"Next." Mathilda was actually taken and brought in the circle by Arty, who repeated the incantation, when the glyphs shone only for a second, he let out a sigh of relief, shaking his head, and grabbing her before Sfor or Basileus could do anything to her.
"Hypocrite!" Was the thought of disdain in Louise's mind as her gaze tried her best to pierce through the Wizard's back as he then nodded for the next one to come forward; Karin, Louise's mother, was brought forward, her sleeping form didn't even look too angry, but it still wasn't a happy face to see.
"Not her." Arty muttered, as the process repeated itself both for Cattleya and Eleonore, and Tiffania.
Then, Arty turned his gaze to the Charlotte look-alike, and with a nod, she was placed in the middle of the Glyphs.
In that moment, the glyphs shone brightly, before turning a sickening dark color.
"So it's her…when we tested her before it wasn't…"
"Half was inside of Albert Von Riktofen. I killed him to make sure it would be transferred as a whole. One side used to make the evil go through, the other for the good ones. It explains the increase of clerics in Gallia: she was used for that." Basileus explained.
"It's troublesome" Sfor muttered.
"Still, grab the pink-haired whiner and throw her in too." As darkness engulfed Louise's vision, she knew she was going to die forever cursing the name of those three.
At that moment, just as the three wizards were about to begin their chants, the downpour stopped, the temperature warming up considerably in the blink of an eye, as noises of planes crashing, at least those guided by the Vampires, echoed outside the thin walls.
Without further delay, the three Wizards began their chants.
The Death Knight weren't participating in the battle. No, they had all been stashed aboard the ship for a sole reason: that moment. There orders were to stop the gods from advancing and entering the ship, and that they were going to do.
The first to charge through their ranks was Heironeus, god of Valor, and as he descended upon the battlefield, instead of the ship, many of the Necros soldiers turned to dust just by barely trying to attack him, it wasn't until his unrelenting sword met against the pure gold hue of a staff that it finally found a worthy foe:
"I AM AMHOTEP THE FIFTH!" the mummy lord yelled, as Heironeus' shield absorbed the bash of the mummy, throwing her across the landscape by the counterstrike. Yet the mummy lord rose again.
"I AM AMHOTEP THE SIXTH!" it roared as it charged once more.
Again, it was thrown on the ground.
In the end, Heironeus grew tired, and turned around, just as the mummy's bandages came undone, as it latched firmly onto the god's back, grabbing him into a hold.
"AMHOTEP THE TENTH RULES!" he roared into the ear of the god, literally not letting go the god of valor, as they both trashed around. Wee Jas finally sighed at the sight, deciding she'd best intervene, and met the sword of the god of Valor with her dagger.
"Please make him stop!" Heironeus actually pleaded, and for once, Wee Jas felt a tinge of willingness…only a tinge though, as she actually enjoyed seeing the mummy being destroyed, then reformed, then destroyed again.
"Must be some tough spell in there." She muttered.
Then the next to come was Vecna, god of secret, as it realized with bitter taste that someone was wielding an artifact he'd hope never to see again.
"THE SWORD OF KH…" a set of bullets flew through the body of lich-god, who stumbled for a moment, staring at the Baron Sinfer Von Tereskian, wielder of the Sword of Khas and of a certain trinket to avoid sun death.
"FOR THE RULER OF NECROS!" it yelled, as the cockpit had been cracked, his fear of heights all but forgotten but kept in check, as the fear for his ruler went above and beyond anything else.
Vecna moved a hand to the side, a set of fireball darting at the Zero fighter replica, only to be absorbed by the spell absorption glyphs placed on its wings, and fired back at the wizard, who retorted with the use of a swiftened dispel, before throwing a barrage of Magic Missiles, which harmlessly impacted against a Shield spell.
"Tough nut to crack huh," Vecna muttered as he tried conjuring an air elemental.
Tried being the correct word.
"Wh…WHAT!" as Vecna yelled its surprise, the Baron grinned, ready for another run-in and firing another barrage of bullets.
In the forest, Obad-Hai and Elhonna were clashing against the Germanian's forces, who on their end, were aided by Hextor and Nerull.
"Come on! Is that the best you can do!" Hextor taunted Obad-hai, "Have you gotten senile yet you worthless deity!"
"Shut up! May the Balance punish your excesses!" as staff met flail, scimitar was meeting scythe.
"You think this was destiny?" Nerull muttered, wickedly grinning at Elhonna.
"Feel the wrath of Nature!" as Elhonna snarled, she looked at the trees on her right.
"What? Not answering your call?" Nerull wickedly laughed, as he landed a kick to Elhonna's side.
"Maybe I should chop your head off!" Nerull chuckled, as his scythe came down swiftly, but missing Elhonna's head by a couple of inches.
"In your dreams you Necrophile!" as Elhonna yelled that, her scimitar pushed the scythe to the side, that Nerull let go, since once he did that, and jumped backwards, it reappeared in his hands long enough to block an attack.
In front of the Gallian army, however, there was a bizarre stand-off.
Erythnul, Gruumsh, Lolth and Kurtulmak were in a staring contest with Moradin, Corellon Lathian, Pelor and Kord.
Everyone was staring at each other, waiting.
They realized that a clash among major deities, done there, would probably leave but charred ground.
"So…how about we kill the Wizard first?" Lolth suggested.
"Just so you can backstab us when we turn around!" Corellon Lathian spat.
"Spoke the graceful woman!" Gruumsh snarled.
"Said the one-eyed freak who can't even count to ten!" Moradin replied.
"Bad breath overgrown dwarf needs lesson!" Kurtulmak snarled.
"Shut up creature of the caves and of darkness!" Pelor was furious.
"You shut up you whimsical and overly weak god!" Erythnul replied to the god of the sun.
"Face someone your own size!" Kord boomed with his voice.
Useless to say that the sheer presence of said gods had brought the Gallian army to its knees, and many who could, by luck or chance, avoid their auras had started running away.
The only one missing, that was St. Cuthbert.
He was upwards, flying straight against the ship which held Arty inside, only to find a barrage of divine fire columns burst downwards at him, from the Death Knights special and unique ability.
He had to halt his progress, realizing that the ship had begun being surrounded by a thin shield of sorts that was blocking his perceptions of what happened inside.
He had to dash in, swiftly.
More Death Knights swapped with those who had already used their abilities, and St. Cuthbert growled under his breath the numbers of those that, once used, started up more Death Wings to come at him, who he had to take down both in melee and from afar, using bits and scraps of divine power.
He was smarter than a certain Gruumsh, down below, if he'd tackle the problem, he'd probably get burned, and if he didn't tackle it, then it would probably spell his doom.
He had to be quick on his decision…time was running out.
He wielded his cudgel with both his hands, and with a loud roar charged through the fire columns, which did nothing to him, and the divine energies of the arcane weave, that actually wounded him.
He charged straight through the wooden deck, cursing himself as he felt pain, for the first time in many millennia.
Once he reached the lower deck, moving from level to level, all he could do was bring the cudgel to a furious halt, when, passing through the entirety of the ship, he had not found the Wizard.
"What…HE'S NOT HERE!" St. Cuthbert yelled to his fellow gods.
"WHAT!" was the general reply, especially with Vecna.
"But…" then a sudden realization hit everyone, everyone who had been warned where the Demilich was going to be by a known neutral source.
Neutral meaning it wouldn't care, not that it would help.
"OLIDAMMARA!" as everyone roared its anger, the laughing thief actually laughed, safely hidden in one of the spinning cogs of Mechanus, who was in the process of calculating an optimal course of action for the Wizard's demise in him usurping the gods' power.
That was when his cogs stopped working.
"Mechanus?" Olidammara queried worried.
"I'm stupid." Was all the god planet replied, and that made Olidammara cringe that something, something wasn't going at all like she had planned it to be: a nice laugh, the gods getting on a fight, ending it, and she'd manage to slip Artos away and have fun with him all by her/himself.
"What happened?" Boccob actually queried, moving his nose away from his book.
"He got me," was all that Mechanus could say, before having his cogs start moving at a slower pace.
"What did he do?" Garl queried, puzzled.
"HE bested you in your conning Olidammara and you in your tricks, Garl," was what the god-planet muttered after a moment.
Perplexed, everyone's consciousness drifted to the battle, and then to where Artos was…
"Wait, he seems to be there, even the heat and the noises but…" Olidammara opened her eyes wide.
"HE'S IN TARBES!"
Underground Tarbes, in a wooden rectangle made to resemble the interior of the ship to the last detail, Artos, Basileus and Sfor ended the hum and the chant, and the next moment, from Louise's and Charlotte's look alike bodies, two spheres, one dark and one white, emerged, and as they began merging with the Void's one, Arty fell on the ground, his body slowly turning to dust, as did that of Basileus.
"To pay the price of good, evil must be paid. To pay the price of evil, good must be paid. All that remains after the void is the price of innocence, a price many in this room paid." Sfor muttered, as he slowly moved closer to the one remaining sphere, which was now a grey color, the containment sphere was actually bulging, ready to crack.
"Okay smart boy, you got me, what's your plan now?" Olidammara's avatar appeared in the middle of the room, looking at the skull with a perplexed look.
"Have you ever wanted, to touch something, but lacked the hands to do that?" as Sfor dashed head on in the sphere, Olidammara's avatar stared wide eyed, as she barely managed, and heck, only because she was the Goddess of thievery and swift at that too, to escape the explosion which rocked through the village of Tarbes, engulfing Tristain, and being seen even from the battlefield near the forest of Alder.
"What…was that?" was the general murmur of the gods, as they suddenly realized their time was over. They had to go back.
As they tried, however, they realized they couldn't.
They couldn't go back.
They couldn't DAMN MOVE from that plane, and as they slowly would come to realize, they had been the one getting exiled…because their way in, and out, the two portals of negative and positive energy, were no longer there, thus bringing to a failure all other gates, and with the death of Asmodeus and Orcus, the gates created by them had been shut closed, as no other demon lord or devil lord wanted to face what had killed those two.
Mechanus, begrudgingly, had no choice: he had to accept that Artos Basileus Sfor would have to take on the mantle of all the gods he had exiled, and on his hand, Artos was actually pleased with the result.
Olidammara stopped toying with the man, and confessed he actually was a female cross dresser, while Garl didn't know wherever to congratulate him or to prank him and Yondalla simply shook her head at the thought of having lost that poor lost soul of a Zick. Boccob simply raised his head from his book, and, after a moment, bro-fisted Artos.
God Artos, High Deity of the pantheon, stood yawning near the beach by the side of the Fertek.
He was at ease now. He smiled slowly to the bundle of green hair that was his first born, and looked to his right side, to see Mathilda sigh, as she had to, once more, remove sand from the boy's head.
"I say, I don't get it: why can't demigods simply learn *not* to have sand in their hair? And ears?"
"He's not yet a Demigod, honey. I still have to give him his rank, but I'll wait until he's grown up and mature enough."
"You know, if the Ghorzun is an island, why don't we have a trip to the mainland?" as Mathilda suggested that, Artos sighed shaking his head.
"I'd like to, but I'm having trouble enough getting used to the Domains I have, as some clash with one another, I'd like to avoid meeting some gods of foreign pantheons for a while."
"Foreign pantheons?" Mathilda queried perplexed.
"Sure…woe the day someone thought cows could pray to cow gods and cats to cat gods, since it stuck around…Egyptian, Nordic, Asgardian, Oriental…too many gods to count. I'm having a headache just thinking about the annual meeting…I'll be sure to avoid mentioning how my great plan worked out…don't like Loki's glint in his eyes every time he asks about that."
"Fine big shot: explain to me again what your big bad plan actually was, because I swear, I'll never understand half of it."
Artos smiled, and then replied with a wide grin:
"There were only three parts of it:
Conning, Testing, Execution.
First off, I had to con everyone in believing my plan worked in a set of small step, or pebbles, keeping them up with paranoid behaviors, and worries. They had to think I was hell-bent on power to crush them, and so I kept doing things that influenced me into becoming *the Founder's chosen* The Brimir reborn, and so on.
Second, I had to test things, for example in Newcastle, I tested the strength of the void by throwing an artifact in the middle of the explosion that Louise launched, and since it actually destroyed it, I realized it was a pretty good magic. I had actually previously tested my theory that summoning could be reversed, by calling to me Guendaline, and from there I experimented with the undeads summoned by me in the castle, then by killing personally Wales and trying to send him back, a fact which didn't work through teleport, but it *did* work through a gate spell. Furthermore, I realized his royal magic wasn't going to cut it at that time."
"So then you were an evil bastard from the beginning?" Mathilda queried, earning herself a scowled face from Artos.
"No! I was the good guy of the trio: what the gods failed to realize was that flip coin was but one epic spell…and I am a really old Wizard…it was difficult to hide my thoughts from the gods, but my thought's thoughts'? That was easier, so another reason for Sfor and Basileus to actually enter Louise's mind was that: make the plan as foolproof as possible before coming back. Then, you must recall that I prefer simple things, because they work the best." As he pointed that out, Mathilda nodded.
"I basically based everything on misunderstandings, Mathilda, by the time the plan was down I knew what I had to do: the default evil mastermind plan of calling forth an army, preparing for war in that world to take it over and forcing the good guys," said with a smirk of anger, "to play their cards. Which they did, when they exponentially increased the number of interventions, from shooting me down from the sky to calling hundreds of their clerics to war in another plane that, mind you, had yet to be attached to the wheel, and thanks to the aid of the spirits of water, earth, air and fire, I managed to have them *naturally* select only certain areas to influence. So I did the only thing possible: I spoke to Mechanus, who is neutrality, no matter what."
"When did you speak with him? Before or after faking your death?"
"I was dead alright, but I knew that souls would travel back to their original plane, I was pretty sure on it, but I needed proof to be sure, it was essential for the later part of the plan."
"When my soul got back in my body, I didn't immediately move, but used the spell, Flip Coin, to call forth Basileus in my stead, who then went to speak with Mechanus, once Mechanus accepted the terms I had brought forth, and what I offered in exchange."
"What was it?"
"I'm getting to it! I offered him transgressors of the law among the gods and punishment for them…as long as he would have waited three years for it."
"You already knew that Louise would have charged in Tristania?"
"No, but I did control her thoughts through the use of a specific word *Sphynx*. I had a lot of nights alone with her, and so I inserted fail safes devices in case she ever realized something was off."
"Like me being able to alter memories. Which I did on the queen of Gallia to convince her to wage war, instead of simply barricading herself in the cities, or which I did on Joseph to convince him to actually take an interest in fighting for the Germanian's side, and in taking on the evil gods worship."
"So wait, you reinforced the evil side?"
"I also reinforced the good side. I camouflaged myself as a fiery knight in white armor, and saved Agnes from death in Tristania, all because I wasn't able to sense, as I first thought I would be, who was the portal of good energy. It was only later that I came to the idea that it had to have been split, since evil gods came from Germania, and good ones from Gallia…it was clear: one had to be in Gallia, and the other in Germania."
"So…you just had over a million people to check?"
"No, I narrowed it down, and there was one more failsafe device inserted into the thirteen year old red-head: she would have woken up and dashed in my defense, had any good gods entered the room."
"Why the good gods and not the evil ones, or the neutral ones?"
"Neutrals, like that thief that entered your mind in the camp at the time, would simply act for playing, and, you were knocked cold and thus you didn't know, she actually brought you back to the outskirts of the Germanian camp and left you there, which forced me to intervene to save you, nearly breaking away the truth of the matter. The evil ones were more on carnage and slaughter, and wouldn't have passed up on an occasion to do some army destruction,"
"Oh my knight in shining armor, what is the truth?" Mathilda muttered, while she rolled her eyes over and forced her son not to eat the tasty looking sand.
"That I didn't actually want to fight the gods. Heck, I am not suicidal. I wanted to have them removed from play, have them stashed elsewhere, so that I could return home together with those I held dear. Furthermore, I knew I couldn't do it alone, so, after brief pondering, I realized that since I had flip-coin available, and it worked for Basileus who filled me in with what Sfor and he were doing, I realized I could actually call them all back…in different bodies. The first to go back was Basileus, who, however, feigned being me for a while, grabbed Louise, and dropped her in Albion, after establishing a mental link and keeping up the façade of there being more than one of them, a fact that Sfor had done before."
"So you stayed here to strengthen the army? The one you later sent to their death, or to their own back in Halkeginia?"
"Oh no, I summoned also Sfor, and with those two keeping tabs on Louise and the rest, using illusions when needed, I hid in Tarbes, preparing the stage, and since I was of good alignment, nobody tried to find me."
"So…you basically washed your hands clean of everything?"
"No, but I needed the gods distracted from me and concentrated on Basileus and Sfor for the most possible time, that's why I swiftly summoned Albert Von Riktofen and Professor Colbert to Basileus' side, while Zick was with him, blinded by the promise of riches, I hoped we would have gone with plan B, since if Basileus had fallen in battle, then Sfor would have retreated from the battle and would have waited for him reappearing in his phylactery."
"And you being in Tarbes would have claimed everything. That was opportunistic of you." Mathilda replied pointing that out.
"IT would have been a good guy being god, instead of having, as of now, three different gods who are the same person, yet everyone now has his head...think the lives Sfor took, or Basileus enslaved."
"Yeah, not caring, I'm with the good guy who treats me like a pampered queen, so get on with the story of your diabolical plan: What is it that you actually *did* in the end?"
"I removed the energy, because in the end it's just energy, from the bodies of Louise and Charlotte's twin sister, who after the death of Riktofen had to take on both sides of the portal. Still, they would have clashed without a middle ground to meet, and that's where Louise's explosion came into being."
"You chopped her right hand off."
"Basileus was there, not I, she risked dispelling the containment sphere, as did Colbert, which is why I had to have my own apprentice shot down and killed…in any case, with the explosion contained…"
"How did you contain it? I mean, you did say it worked in killing demons and devils"
"The dispel magic of the void system, Sfor sent me the way it worked, and I practically merged the spell with a sphere of Otiluke, It wouldn't have matter how much it grew, the borders would have been absorbed and nullified. A feat I did with the other two of infinite negativity and infinite positivity, merging them all together and finally having Sfor dash straight through it, while having in his gems the souls of myself, Basileus, yours, Tiffania's, Louise's, her mother and her two sisters."
"So…how did *he* get back?"
"He slipped through the crack in reality made by the explosion, and the only one who actually managed to follow him was the avatar of Olidammara, who was, last I recall his face from what I was seeing, scared senseless." As Artos chuckled at the thought, he kept speaking.
"Then Sfor broke the gems, releasing the souls and letting us back to life with the Unlimited Wish spell, having become a god, he chose me and Basileus for extra *push* in the god pantheon, and he recreated the destroyed gems, and after I patched up Louise's hand, I pointed out the problems of sending them back."
"A feat you basically weren't able to do." Mathilda added, recalling how Tiffania had come to the Wizard's aid by erasing, and using void magic for the first time too, the Valliére's family memory.
"No, and I still believe it was an underhanded trickery to give them false memories…but there was no way to send them back, and I did owe something to Louise for all the suffering I brought her through…ignorance is bliss for some."
"I have a final question."
"Why would the ultra-evil Sfor actually want to make you deities?"
"Do you know what it is, to wish for hands? To wish for eyes when you have seen before and now you cannot? Do you know what it means to vehemently wish for something, something you know that normally you will never receive, and finally get there?"
"You forced him to."
"Binding rules agreement stated clearly that, if a persona had acquired conscience, it would have been best to abide by all rules entailed, last of which being that, if one persona managed, by some twist of fate, to get another body and achieve godhood, it should make the other persona arise too."
"…there's no way I'm believing that." Artos shrugged and snapped his finger.
An enormous scroll appeared right in front of them, even when closed, it seemed massive.
"Over ninety-nine thousands of possible corollaries, variables, and possible happenings compose the Binding rules agreement. And this is just the first scroll."
"…that's why Sfor wanted hands so badly?"
"It's a pain to write your thoughts down and write very important stuff down too…"
"So both Basileus and Sfor actually forced you to do two evil things right?"
"Actually, only in part: Sfor had wanted the pink-haired girl dead at the end of it all, but since he had kept showing her some memories, that's why I could bring it down to a less terrible punishment, and since he *did* break the trust, he paid it back by saving as many members of that girls family as possible."
"He wanted me to keep quiet about the whole plan to you until it was over…I would have told you otherwise."
"Even with the gods hearing every thought and word?"
As the two set of lips met, someone, on the far side of the beach, made a puking face and sighed raising his eyes to the sky.
"Oh Great god Basileus give me strength not to smack down your other self." As the pink-haired girl spoke so, she received a small breeze of wind that ruffled her hair, as, while she hadn't heard a word, she was seeing those two act lovey-dovey, when they had meeting to be at with the other two gods, in less than a hour!
"I still suspect there's more to it though." Mathilda whispered, looking into the green eyes of Artos, who grinned back at her.
"You're right. I had a set of other plans ready, from using the energy of the planes as bombs and destroy everything, to forcefully bringing to life Brimir himself, and make him a new *god*. I even feigned being the chosen of the god of secrets and of the god of tyrants, when it was needed, Handenburg gave a speech *I* prepared for him, and there were a lot of other plans I could have gone with…so in one way or the other…"
"You would have had a winning deck?"
"Precisely…that's what being a planner actually means."
"That's why I can't defeat you at chess."
"You fare well against Guendaline."
"She's a crow!"
"Please, she's able to tear a new hole on any Tarrasque she encounters."
"…what's a Tarrasque?"
With the final words echoing through the sound of waves crashing against the sandy beach, the tale of how a man, who became a wizard, who became a lich, who became a demilich, and who finally became three gods, comes to an end.
"I was once the most mystical god of all the pantheon,
When Olidammara betrayed me she made a mistake!"
"Shut up and walk Wee Jas!"
"You shut it up Gruumsh! We already sang your song, so why can't I sing mine!"
"Because you're tone deaf!"
"Speaks the Dwarf who can't even find a damn steel vein now!"
"What's your problem! Sure, there aren't any dwarves right now, but a couple of centuries and you'll see!"
"Kurtulmak wants Kobolds. Kobolds."
"Hey guys, I was thinking, what about going fishing?"
"Shut it Obad-Hai!"
"Pouty aren't you, Elhonna?"
"Turn out that, difference asides, she and Nerull have the hots for one another."
"VECNA SHUT YOUR TRAP!"
"Touched a nerve of yours heh Nerull? Thought you'd have them all dead though…" *giggle*.
"Please kill me."
"Oh man up Pelor! Let's throw boulders around!"
"I will most gladly accept that challenge, Kord, if it pleases you!"
"Yeah Heironeus, go play," *snicker* "idiot."
"I heard that Hextor!"
"Oh my, what are you going to do, call mom?"
"Sniff…WE DON'T HAVE A MOM!"
"Oh stop crying you all!"
"SHUT UP LOLTH!" *general yell of the strange company of assorted guys*
"Nobody loves me…this is racism I tell you."
"So, what's the mission about?"
"We've got to slay an evil ancient dragon that feeds on void users for the pope."
"Onwards, TO GLORY!"
"somebody, throw a sock into his mouth."
The mummy was actually the spell *Create greater undead* given sentience.
Louise's rant was pure paranoia, obviously.
Hope you liked the Omake.
The reason no elements work for the guys, or elemental summonings, is because of the ancient spirits of Halkeginia, who sided with Artos.
The *ancient evil dragon tm* of doom makes a cameo appearance.
It's been a pleasure having you as my readers, really.
(especially because you kept up with the clear Disney songs reference without batting an eyelid)