So sorry this is late. I have had a hectic weekend and last couple of days, what with finals week approaching at Georgia Tech, but this is the second to last post! And the last post will be posted later today as well, as a bonus. It’s been a great ride sharing this story with you, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.
Scrimm had made his way to the top of the Fortress again, and was busy directing lightning strikes and watching his friends wreak havoc, his hound by his side again. There were just too many troops, he knew, and he was running out of energy. A single lightning flash illuminated the figure of Raychel retreating from the tower.
And a Tamrune, larger than any other in this battle, breaking out of the tower. In a heavy second, Scrimm fell to the ground, powerless. The clouds remained, but no more lightning brewed in the heavens. His hound collapsed in a piteous whine.
Behind him he felt a small young presence.
The Tamrune loomed over the battlefield, growing larger and larger, its wings stretching over the battlefield, until it was resembled nothing but an angel engorged on the spoils of its slaves. It screeched once and raised its hand. Above it the Tamrune rent the sky asunder with lightning, and little pinpricks of light, blinding white light, gathered in its hand. Suddenly a roar diffused through the air, clawing at Scrimm’s ears, and an inexorable wind blew in the Tamrune’s direction.
The sky cracked behind the Tamrune, and a high pitched scream drilled through Scrimm’s head. He covered his ears, and could feel the blood flow freely down his ears.
Where there had been a gray and purple cloudscape, there was now a pure white sky. Where the sun had shone behind the cloud, there was now a pure black moon. Someone had opened up a passage between the Half World and this world.
Suddenly a single figure stepped out from the Half World, luminescent through the rising dust so that it resembled a cloak of fragile shadows holding back a bright light. Coronus, Scrimm thought, must not be pleased.
The Tamrune Eclipsius, though the same size, cowered before this being much older and more powerful than himself.
“Eclipsius”, Coronus uttered in a deep basso profundo, a crowd of thousands singing in unison. “You have transgressed our laws.”
It raised a single finger and jammed it hard into Eclipsius’s chest. From there, a tiny brilliantly purple and red and orange spot appeared. It grew in size, and the roaring intensified, until only Eclipsius’s terrified screeches could be heard over it. Like a mouth the purple red orange blemish finally consumed its prey and he dissolved in a flash of the darkest white and the brightest black.
Eclipsius was no more.
And the Half-World vanished.
Scrimm quickly turned around and beheld Rebecca shaking violently, and held out his arms to comfort her.
“I’m so sorry!”, she mumbled. “I lost myself and I, all I wanted to do, was tear the world apart and send him back”
“You did well, kid.”, Scrimm whispered. “Your father is proud of you.”
Rent’s ears were ringing, and the back of his head felt sticky. What am I doing?, he thought. He looked around and realized he was lying on the floor, along with everybody in the council. He quickly rose and stepped outside in the silence. He gasped.
Both armies had been knocked flat, and the sky was empty. Rent stared off in the distance and saw a graveyard of stone and scrap metal. He searched the skies and the ground for any sign of Raychel, feeling ashamed for sending her alone. He growled with frustration, and silently thanked Raychel for her efforts. A low murmur filled his ears as a multitude of tired, confused, bleeding, dying soldiers rose from the ground, covered in filth, sweat, blood and mud. Sensing defeat, the men quickly surrendered, dropping their swords into the ground. The silver wolves transformed into panting, gasping, weakened men.
“Hey Rent.”, a familiar voice whispered. He turned around and saw Raychel, bleeding profusely from her legs and shoulders, her hair sticky with blood and sweat, but with a victorious grin shining through. “We did it. We’ve won.” Rent smiled and turned away.
Rent’s knees shook, but he kept himself tall out of sheer will, and slowly walked through the crowd of bears until he was face to face with the trembling men. “You surrender?” Several nodded quickly. But not all. Some of the men parted, revealing a bloodstained man with black hair and yellow eyes, who Rent recognized instantly.
“Feragrim.”, he said darkly. The man shuffled forward, and Rent stepped quickly to meet him. “Hello, Lucas Westhorn. That was what we called you back in the day.”
“Rent. Spare us. Spare the Enforcers too. We did not want this power.”
“Oh, but I know you did, Westhorn- Feragrim, I mean. You are a complete opportunist, a bully at heart. You were with us when you thought we would win, then you sold yourself to Lucio for a pittance. For that power.”, Rent replied.
Feragrim said nothing. To Rent he looked pathetic in his grime covered human form, his once impeccable hair matted with grime and blood.
“You sold us out, traitor.”, Rent continued, his tone hardening, implacable, furious. “Dominic lost his wife because of you. And you thought we would sit easily and run away with our tails behind our legs, did you?”
Feragrim blurted out nastily, “Dominic did run away.”
“Dominic is dead, you little dog!”, Rent yelled. Feragrim glared at him with nothing but malice in his eyes, and all thoughts of surrender clearly forgotten. “I tried to catch you for all those years, to make you pay. And now I have the opportunity.”. A nasty gleam shone in Rent’s face as he raised his sword.
Someone grabbed his arm.
“Stop this madness Elderes .”, Everall said. “Feragrim will pay for his crimes and for his betrayal. But you cannot let this campaign descend into revenge! Get a hold of yourself!”
Rent paused, silent and unreadable.
Feragrim laughed and leaped at Rent, but before Rent could move Everall threw his lance at Feragrim. The lance slammed into him with thundering force, and Feragrim fell back, dead before his body landed in the mud with a slick splash. Everall promptly stepped over and pulled his lance out from Feragrim’s body.
Rent glared at Everall, and for a pregnant second Everall held up his lance warily. “You just took my revenge for me, brother. Right after you lectured me on controlling myself.”, Rent said.
“Self-defense is another matter, Elderes.”, Everall replied.
Rent looked away.
After a long pause, Rent called out, “You that we have labored to fight, join us as we march back. Your king is dead, but the capital must be taken. If you retreat, we will pursue you and annihilate you. Join us in the march and you will stay safe.”
The defeated army knelt, leaving their stained weapons in the thick mud. Rent turned to an eagle. “Send word back to the clans that we have won and that they are free to return”. He turned to the rest of the army and cried out, “Now, my comrades! We march to their capital!”. A wave of groans beat Rent back. “We will eat first! And then we will march!”
A week passed while the soldiers rested, healed, and ate, and then the march began. Thunderous footsteps echoed through the ashy landscape of the scarred forest. Many bears and eagles and monkeys left his army as they passed their homes. Rent did nothing to pursue them. Another week passed until they reached the mountains, and another to cross. The winds blew, icy to the touch, as the sun relinquished its dominion over the sky and a light caress of snow fell. The marching soldiers constantly exclaimed in wonder at the foreign sights and at the land so sparse.
Soon they entered what used to be Lucio’s empire and began passing around towns. It must have been a fearful sight to see Rent, his eyes glinting and his golden brown hair waving behind him, followed by a steady stream of equally imposing animals. Everywhere they marched, they were greeted by hushed voices and fearful glances.
They reached the gates of the capital city, Mador, and waited. No one was willing to fight, so the monkeys took a cannon and blasted the gates to bits. With such a dramatic entrance, Rent marched in, ever closer to his goal. Fearful faces peered at him through the windows.
As they passed through the silent capital, suddenly an aristocrat in a velvet coat of the finest threads stepped onto the street before the advancing army.
“What have you done with our king?”, he asked with a haughty face.
Besides him, Rent heard Jack startle and mutter. “I remember this man”, Jack said.
Jack suddenly stepped forward, and the aristocrat stepped back in surprise. “Sir,” Jack began in a mocking tone, and drew his pistol, silver with a vein of cobalt blue. The aristocratic man flinched, then as his eyes took in the details of the pistol and stared at the special vein of cobalt arcing through the pistol his mouth opened in shock.
“You!”, he cried. “You took that pistol I had bought all those years ago.”
“You can have it back”, Jack replied, and threw the pistol onto the street. It landed with a clatter. “I have no need of it in this new world.”
The aristocrat left the street, pistol in hand, with a dumfounded expression on his face.
Soon Rent reached the site of the tower, a void of suffocation. He gazed at the emptiness and declared, “Lucio is gone. Your empire is gone”. His voiced echoed all throughout the city, leaving a cascade of despair.
Weeks had passed, and now Rent and Everall sat on wooden chairs, makeshift thrones, gazing at a map. Although they worked in the same throne room that Lucio had sat in, they had just brought in a desk and some working materials. Everall had proposed moving to a room with more light, but Rent was obstinate upon this point. The hours passed by as they set to work breaking apart Lucio’s empire. Consulting sheaves of maps throughout history, they pondered the best way to divide each nation, and slashed at the map. By the time he and Everall had finished, it was almost as if Lucio had never conquered the land. Rent had restored the past as well as possible. Executed kings and nobles he could not resurrect, but he gave out orders and contacted heirs and issued laws reinstating each king or heir to their rightful throne.
They also dug deep into the foundations of the tower, as per Lucio’s last words to Raychel, and found the remains of his experiments. These elves were promptly freed, and since their transformations had been interrupted mid-way, they reverted back to their prideful elfishness.
Rent held a map and called up a servant. “Take this and have the printers make copies. I want this near everybody’s front door by morning.” The servant left, and Rent looked outside, watching the intertwining shades of brilliance as the sun rose.
Time passed, and he found himself talking to Jack, whose left arm was held in a sling. “Raychel wants to go back to ‘Elysium.'”, Jack said. He looked worn and torn from the massive bloodshed he had had to
Rent nodded. “Scrimm can take her, but I’d like to talk to her first.” Jack chortled and left.
Raychel and Scrimm returned with Jack. “Thank you people, for everything”, Rent began. “I remember asking you to join. I was naive. I risked your lives to win back my kingdom”. Rent paused and put his head in his hands. “I’m just glad you’re alive. I would never forgive myself if…”
Raychel broke in. “We’re alive. You’ve won.”
Rent nodded. “So true. Now, all of you have had your shards removed, yes? Jack and Scrimm, you have been provided with a million gold coins each from Lucio’s treasury, so that you can live comfortably. Now, Raychel, you’ve released the prisoners from Juregard. I will send them back to where they came from, and they will soon be free of their misery”. Raychel nodded. “Scrimm.”, he continued. “What will you do?”.
Scrimm glanced away. “I have some issues pertaining the Library to take care of. You will hear from me soon.”
Rent then turned to Jack. “You Jack, I hope will be my assistant. I need to clear away some unresolved issues, sort out some of Lucio’s mess, and possibly do some diplomacy. Then I will let you be on your merry little way again.”
Jack shook his head. “Rebecca and I must vanish. I have nowhere to go, not north, not south. We will go settle somewhere and survive. The law will not be after me again.” Jack’s eyes searched Rent’s face, Rent realized, for trust and for warning.”
Rent’s face fell. “Very well, Jack. Provided you keep a low profile, you will live comfortably.“ He then turned to Raychel. “Raychel, you will go to Elysium? How?”, he asked again.
Raychel paused and said, “I can follow the pathways that the dead take, even if I am not dead.”
“I do not pretend to understand, but good luck.”
Everyone walked outside, standing in the fresh sunlight. Rent stared into the horizon, and with a reluctant finality, he said, “Good bye”
As they parted ways and vanished down the streets, he knew he would never see any of them again.
Rent and Everall left the capital Mador soon after and returned to their old country of Silmaria. The nation and its townsfolk were still Silmarian at heart, and were eager for a true king to return. Everall caught Rent staring in the direction of the ruins of the palace over the rolling hills. “We will have to build it again, once you are king.”, Everall said.
Rent looked at him with pure laughter in his eyes and answered, “No, brother. This time you take the throne. I am sick and tired of ruling.”
Everall was crowned King, and Rent bid a farewell to his brother and vanished. Only Everall knew that Rent had returned to the bears. They spent the rest of their life separate until death. It was said that upon Everall’s dying day, an old wrinkled and worn Rent, with twisting and roiling pure white hair and a silver diadem, visited him upon his deathbed. They stared at each other and died within minutes of each other.
Jack and Rebecca walked hand in hand down the street, in full view of passerby, unafraid of any pursuers. As the sky became sunrise golden for a split second Rebecca quivered with excitement, and Jack smiled. A new day, he thought. Memories of Emily crossed his mind, and for the first time he felt truly happy. “Daddy, we need a house. And I need a mother.”, Rebecca said.
And what am I going to do with you? You apparently already have a destiny” Jack thought to himself, then said, “Tell you what. Once you grow older, I will send you back to Scrimm. I think he will be the best person to guide you.”
Rebecca smiled mysteriously as if the world was merely a play and she held the script. Jack stood perplexed, and nodded. Together they left Mador the capital and settled in a small town closer north. Soon Jack met a woman, and both fell in love with each other. Rebecca was delighted with her new mother, and Jack lived quietly for the rest of his life.
Scrimm and Raychel stayed together for several more days, until they reached the town of Hilda Rey. As they climbed up the mountain path now suffused with snow, they stayed silent. Soon they reached the entrance to the Barrow Maze, stark and clear in the snow and darkness. Stepping in, they reached the point where Scrimm had sat reading his book. “Ready?”, he asked. Raychel nodded. “Good-bye forever, Raychel Everstar.”, he said, and then with a twisting of scents and colors, Raychel vanished.
Scrimm quickly left, and traveled to the mountains. He searched and searched through them and came across a cave, wide and spacious. From here he opened the parchment and read it out aloud:
If you are reading this, I am dead. Look through the first five mountains in the Dragon’s Tail mountain range for a wide spacious cave, and read my words aloud. This is the entrance to the New Library that I had spent the years of my exile on. All the books and knowledge have been copied and placed here as well.
A door opened in the cave and he stepped inside. Passing down multitudes of staircases, he soon came to a terrace overlooking darkness. He chanted a spell and the light banished the darkness, revealing row upon row upon row of bookcases.
Scrimm became the first Book Master of the New Library, and his Library became a popular destination for would be scholars.