The Siege of Zenithia

Mike Stabosz

The balloon descended in front of the castle of Santeem. It never became perfectly clear what exactly had happened to the people of Santeem. Alena knew in her heart that something evil had caused the disappearance of the residents of Santeem castle, and now that the Rulers of Evil were gone, they should be back. Alena waited as the balloon descended. She was worried. What would happen if they were still gone? Where would she go? Even if the people hadn't returned, the monsters would be gone, and she could start to repopulate the castle. That would be easy; there were plenty of people willing to live in and work in the castle. The difficulty would be in living the rest of her life without her father.

The balloon hit the ground. At first, Alena was tense, but then she noticed something. Theron, the castle architect, was walking around inside. She moved up closer. There she saw Viron, who worked as castle physician, and two of the guards, James and Ransto. The people were back! She rushed upstairs where her father was waiting.

"Alena!" The king shouted gleefully.

"Daddy!" Alena shouted back and leaped into his arms. They hugged happily.

Behind them, Cristo and Brey were walking up, with the hero in back of them. Alena looked back, "How silly of me! In all my excitement I forgot to introduce you," she gestured to the hero, "This is Zarchery. He's the legendary hero. He led us in our quest to find Necrosaro."

"Pleased to meet you Zarchery. I'm glad my daughter is safely back in the castle. It's probably thanks to your help as well as that of Cristo and Brey," the king said.

Zarchery bowed, "Thank you, your majesty. Alena was quite a fighter. I was actually a bit surprised that a princess could be so proficient in hand-to-hand combat."

"She had quite a gift," Cristo interjected, "she probably could have done it without us."

"That I doubt," Brey said "She was quite strong by the end, but without our help in the early training battles, she would probably have perished."

"I did win that tournament in Endor all by myself," Alena added.

"Impressive!" the king exclaimed, "I hear those tournaments are pretty tough."

"We also became the first humans to enter Zenithia, and we met Master Dragon," Alena said.

"Really?" the king replied, "I thought that was just a fairy tale told to children."

"It's real, he's real," Brey said.

It had been a year since their adventure. They were preparing for a reunion party for the eight Chosen Ones. Dire Palace was chosen as the location. Without Necrosaro or his minions around, the place was up for grabs. For some reason, the country of Burland gained possession of the island, including the town of Riverton. The king of Burland still didn't want to rule over the island himself, so he appointed Ragnar as regent. Ragnar had made the decision to host the reunion.

"Princess," Cristo said, "you needn't be so nervous. You journeyed around for two months with these people. You know them better than you know your own father."

"I know," Alena replied, "but still, it's been a whole year. I haven't maintained actual contact with these people. Who knows how they've changed."

"I wouldn't worry about it," Cristo said. "It's like Master Dragon said 'the friendship which has grown among you during this journey is so strong that nothing can break it'. Besides, won't it be fun to see what the rest of the gang has been up to?"

"I suppose so," Alena said.

"I see you're wearing your battle clothes," Cristo commented.

"Well, I like the Dress of Radiance. It's comfortable and it looks good," Alena said in reply.

"Yes, it has a nice yellow shine. At least your armor looks good. My Metal Babble Armor is a dingy gray. I couldn't wear that to a party," Cristo said.

"Do you think Brey still remembers how to get there?" Alena asked.

"I'm sure he could transport us there. He's been keeping in training as have I. How about you princess?"

"I thought it would be important. It's the strangest thing. When we defeated Necrosaro, we destroyed all his minions in the upper world. The World of Darkness is still teeming with monsters," Alena said.

"I've been training there too," Cristo said. "So has Brey. We're not getting much stronger, but we're staying in shape."

"Well, I hope the others have kept to training," Alena said. "It would seem quite a shame for all that skill we obtained over the months to go to waste."

Brey slipped his head into the door. "Are you two ready to go yet?"

"Yeah, just about," Alena said, "I just need to put my shoes on," she stepped into her closet.

"I'm ready when you are," Cristo said. He was most eager to get there.

"I'll be outside the castle," Brey said, "Shall we take the long way or teleport there?"

"Dire Palace is a long way; we'd better teleport there," Alena said as she stepped out of the closet.

"I agree," Cristo replied.

"Good, so you're all ready, let's go," Brey ordered. They walked out of the castle. Brey chanted a few words of magic. It took him little effort, as Return was a relatively simple spell. Within seconds they had disappeared. The group rematerialized in front of Dire Palace.

"This place looks really different," Cristo said. "Ragnar did a great job redecorating it."

"Ragnar wouldn't redecorate it," Alena replied. "Interior decoration isn't his thing."

"Well," Cristo asserted. "He probably got some people to do it for him, because this is not the Dire Palace I remember."

A man in a fancy suit walked up to them, "May I help you?" he asked. "Very well, and your names?" the man asked.

"I'm Alena, princess of Santeem. This is Cristo, the royal chancellor, and Brey, head of education at the palace. And what is your name?"

"I am Max, head servant for Lord Ragnar," he replied.

Alena laughed. As royalty herself, she found it a bit odd that Ragnar had become a nobleman of Burland.

"Right this way," Max said as he led them ahead a little. They turned right and through a winding corridor. Near there was a set of stairs. Max instructed them to go up the staircase.

Cristo was the first upstairs. He immediately spotted his old friend Taloon. Taloon and he were great friends during the quest. Taloon had a great sense of humor and Cristo liked to laugh. "Taloon!" Cristo shouted.

"Hey Cristo, how's it been?" Taloon replied.

"Very peaceful. No human armies are attacking, and monsters are absent from the upper world. How about you? Have you been keeping in training?" Cristo asked.

"I've had to. There's treasures everywhere and none of it's cheap. I always find myself in tight spots where I must fight and call on my training. Also the occasional Merchant's guild reinforcements come in handy," Taloon replied.

"What kind of treasures have you found?" Cristo inquired.

"I found a cave somewhere northwest of Kievs in the Ceviak Sands about five months ago. It was supposed to have something valuable called The Shawl of The Soul, but when I got to where the shawl was supposed to be, I found the treasure chest was sealed shut. I couldn't get the damn thing open, so I left empty handed."

"Tough break," Cristo said. "Did you ever find anything else?"

"Yeah. I found a treasure chest in a cave near Soretta," Taloon replied.

"The Cave of the Padequia?" Cristo asked.

"Yes. There was some great stuff in it," Taloon answered.

"But Brey said that you guys got every chest from there the first time around," Cristo replied, puzzled.

"We didn't. After the quest, I took the Flute of Uncovering all around the world. Usually, it wouldn't do anything, but a few times I discovered some secrets. In the cave, it turns out there was a secret room."

"Really, what did you find there?" Cristo asked.

"There were three chests. The first was full of swords. These things were valuable. They dated back to the time of Erdrick," Taloon answered.

"That's a long time ago."

"Yeah, but these were some great weapons. And they were all labeled. One said 'Thor's Sword', another said 'Snowblast Sword'. I found some other weapons in the chest. There was a Golden Claw, a Staff of Reflection, and a Demon Axe. These things sold for a fortune," Taloon said.

"What about the other chests?" Cristo asked.

"One of them had a golden statue in it. That was worth about 30,000 gold pieces. The other held something called the 'Staff of Hargon'. I took a good, long look at it and determined two things. First it was cursed, second it was worthless. But I did sell the statue to an art collector in Endor. I'm thinking of having an addition added to the house."

"Well, I'm glad to see you're doing well. How's the family?" Cristo asked.

"Neta's still a loving wife despite my constant wandering. I think she's just glad that I bring home lots of nice treasures. Otherwise, she'd probably leave me. And my son is taking business courses from a local teacher in Endor. He's hoping to study under Howden one day and eventually own his own business."

"That's great. Well, see you," Cristo said.

In another part of the castle, Zarchery and Ragnar were talking. They had also been quite close. They were both a bit aloof and they were both good fighters. Ragnar, although a leader and a great general among his own soldiers, was always a bit withdrawn amongst the team. Ragnar just attacked what needed attacking.

"So, how's your year been?" Ragnar asked.

"Kinda depressing," Zarchery said. "I mean, what do I do now that evil's been vanquished? I'm the Hero of legend that was to defeat the Ruler of Evil. We defeated both of them, so what is there to do now?"

"What have you been doing?" Ragnar asked.

"I lived in Zenithia for about a month, but it's a pretty boring place; so I decided to return to the Earth and see what I could do there," Zarchery answered.

"What are you doing down here?"

"First I was a little depressed. I was raised in a secluded village north of Branca. I didn't know anyone other than you guys, and my only real experience was in fighting," Zarchery said.

"So did you find a good way to apply those skills?" Ragnar asked.

"Yes," Zarchery said, 'I joined the army. I am now, thanks to my massive experience in monster fighting, leader of the Endorian army. I lead troops into battle and in training exercises, and I even devise battle plans for them. I just want them to be ready in case of an attack. I won't let Endor face the same fate as my hometown. Hey, I've been wondering, how'd you get this job?"

"It's a long story," Ragnar replied. "After Necrosaro was defeated, this palace was empty. This entire island was unowned. The king of Burland rushed to claim it. Unfortunately, an emissary from Gardenbur got there at the exact same time. The queen wanted the castle just as much, so there was a bit of a dispute over the land."

"How'd you settle it?" Zarchery asked, "I never heard of any wars in the past fifty years."

"We did it civilly. Neither side wanted any bloodshed, so we worked out a compromise.'

"Which was?" Zarchery inquired.

"Chess. The queen of Gardenbur and the king of Burland were both quite good. However, the king was better. They played best three out of five. Burland won the land, and Gardenbur withdrew. The king wanted to reward me for my various heroic actions over the years, so he gave me this parcel of land."

"Good deal," Zarchery said, "How are your abilities? Have you kept in training all these months."

"Of course," Ragnar replied. "I have to defend the palace in case of an attack. I mustn't go soft. I've been using weapons so much that I'm terrible at bare handed attack, but I'll never have to attack without weapons. My trusty Metal Babble Sword will always do me well."

"Nice seeing you again," Zarchery said.

Somewhere else, the three women of the team were chatting.

"So, I heard you two went on a little adventure shortly after getting home, is that right?" Alena asked.

"Yeah, we went after the legendary Shawl of The Soul. It started when Nara told some guy's fortune. We all got together and went to a cave in the Ceviak Sands. We confronted and killed Kory The Hunter," Mara said.

"Really?" Alena said. "I hear he's pretty tough."

"He is strong, but he's nothing compared to what we faced on the quest. The really tough part was his Bounce," Nara said.

"He had a Bounce? What did you do?" Alena asked.

"We were nearly defeated, but then I got an idea," Mara answered.

"What, what was it?" Alena asked, annoyed and heavily in anticipation.

"I knew the explosive nature of Explodet. I knew that if I got close enough, even though the spell was to bounce back at me, that it would hurt Kory. Being in such close proximity to the blast caused Kory to feel the blast even with his Bounce on. The powerful blast left him incapacitated, then our traveling companion slit Kory's throat," Mara said.

"What did you do with the Shawl. I hear it's rather lovely. Where is it?" Alena inquired.

"Forget about it," Nara said, "When I put it on I passed out for a week and saw that this was something that must not fall into evil's hands, so I sealed the chest in such a fashion that only one other person and I can open it."

"So nobody other than you and the other can ever again open the chest?" Alena asked.

"Yes," Nara answered seriously. "Nobody will get that shawl."

"Good to see you're having some adventure. I've just been sitting around the palace with nothing to do. I still go to the World of Darkness for weekly training sessions. Still, I've always felt that there was something more. I have this feeling that there's some special mission for me that has yet to be fulfilled." Alena said.

"Let me see your hand," Nara insisted.

"Why?" Alena asked.

"I'm going to read your future to see if you do have a special mission," Nara answered.

"You know I don't put any stock in that stuff," Alena said skeptically.

"My gifts are real," Nara insisted, "Besides, you know that psychic predictions come true. Remember the House of Prophecy near Haville? The prophetess said that we would soon meet Ragnar and defeat the Ruler of Evil. That came true, so do my predictions."

"I suppose it couldn't hurt," Alena said, still a bit doubtful.

Nara stepped closer. She grabbed Alena's hand and closed her eyes. "I can see," Nara said.

Nara concentrated a little harder. She saw Alena standing alone, corpses strewn around her. In the middle of the room was a dead beast with multiple gashes in its head. Something had attacked it and killed it bare-handed. Nara was now curious as to where she saw Alena. Nara looked deeper. This place was light and cloudy. It seemed very familiar. Suddenly, Nara realized it.

"It's Zenithia!" Nara shouted.

"What about Zenithia?" Alena asked.

"Something's going to happen there. I saw you standing alone amongst a group of corpses. Some disaster is going to befall Zenithia!" Nara exclaimed.

"What could happen to Zenithia?" Mara asked. "Master Dragon is protector of that place. Nothing that could stop him. Even if a being was strong enough, it's sheer evil would surely repel it from the castle. Anything that strong and evil could go nowhere near Zenithia."

"It couldn't," interjected Brey, who had come after Nara shouted to see what all the commotion was about, "but do we even know when this happens?"

"Maybe if I look again, harder, I can determine that," Nara said.

Nara approached Alena for a second reading. Nara grabbed her hand and was about to begin reading when suddenly...

THUD! A sound came from the roof.

"What was that?" Taloon asked, surprised.

"I don't know," replied Zarchery, "but I'm going to check it out."

Zarchery rushed up the stairs. Ragnar had installed some stairs to the top of the building throughout Dire Palace. Climbing the walls was just too much trouble. He rounded the corner, followed close by the highly curious Alena. The rest of the gang followed.

Zarchery arrived at the source of the noise. He noticed a winged creature, similar to a human. Zarchery approached closer. Then he was able to identify the figure.

"Lucia!" Zarchery exclaimed, alarmed at her sudden arrival and bad condition. She was beaten and bloody. One of her wings had been severed, and an eye was missing.

"What happened?" Alena asked.

"A.. A.. monster. Appeared and... and... attacked Zenithia," she replied painfully. Lucia stood up again, "Thanks Nara," she said.

"What happened to Zenithia?" Zarchery inquired.

"A beast arose and demolished the castle. A giant beast with humanoid features arose and attacked," Lucia answered.

"But how could it destroy Zenithia? Why didn't Master Dragon do anything?" Alena asked.

"It was too powerful, Master Dragon could do nothing," Lucia replied.

"What about the Silver Aura?" Brey asked. Over the year, Brey had learned a great deal of Zenithian history, part of which was the formation of the Silver Aura. After Esturk's troops had ambushed the castle during the Esturkian War, Master Dragon saw the need for better defensive measures. Using the Barrier spell and the ancient Alefgardian artifact called the Sphere of Light, Master Dragon crafted the Silver Aura and put it all around Zenithian castle. It managed to keep all but the strongest of evils out of the castle. And anything that could penetrate the Aura would be quickly destroyed by Master Dragon and the Zenithians.

"It was broken," Lucia answered. "Somehow the spell was broken."

"How could this have happened?" Mara asked desperately.

"It gets worse," Lucia said.

"How is it worse?" Zarchery asked. He was becoming extremely worried as well as fearful. Monsters had destroyed his earthly home fourteen months before, and now a different fiend had ransacked his Zenithian home. This was more than a palace; it was his heritage.

"In the heart of Zenithia lies the Prism of Malroth," Lucia answered.

"Malroth," Taloon said, "wasn't he that big guy slain by the last great descendants of Erdrick? What does his prism do?"

"It is the same Malroth, and his prism is quite hazardous. It is the most potent source of power in all of the universe. If possessed by an individual, it will make that individual nearly omnipotent. As it is, the prism is used to power Zenithia castle and keep it afloat," Lucia replied.

"Why haven't they taken it yet?" Cristo inquired.

"A powerful seal prevents such a thing," Lucia answered, "When the attack became too intense for Master Dragon to handle, he went behind closed doors. In those doors is a stairway leading to the castle's lower basement. Master Dragon sealed the door to stop the evil being from entering. But the seal cannot last much longer. You must go there immediately. I believe that only you, the Chosen Ones who defeated the Rulers of Evil, are capable of stopping this menace."

"Let's kick ass," Ragnar said. He was eager to fight, as he was already suited up.

"If we must again fight for peace, then so be it," Zarchery said, "I'd advise you all to return to your respective homes and find your old equipment. That is, if you're coming."

"We'll go," Nara and Mara said. Mara chanted Return and they disappeared.

"We must do this," Alena insisted.

"I concur," Brey said.

"Let's go," Cristo said. Brey chanted some words of magic and they were off.

"I'm rarin' to go. This should be entertaining," Taloon said jovially. He flung the Wing of Wyvern into the air and was off.

"I'll be back Ragnar, you wait here," Zarchery commanded. Brey chanted the words to Return, "Stohmba-goovtah-gegeendah," and they disappeared.

Almost instantaneously they were in front of Zenithia. Zarchery was the first to notice the disaster. Corpses were strewn around everywhere. The walls had a blackish tint.

"Fire," Brey stated, "These walls have been severely burnt. Our foe seems to have a sufficient command over heat."

"I'm ready for him," Taloon said, drawing his Sword of Miracles.

"We'd better check inside," Zarchery suggested. He stepped up the stairs while the others followed close behind. The inside was worse than the outside. They had seen corpses outside, now a corpse would have been inviting. Instead there were scattered masses of blood and an occasional limb.

"Who's done this!" Ragnar yelled angrily, "They shall surely die as mercilessly as they hath slaughtered."

"It seems that nothing could be this powerful. Even Necrosaro couldn't have destroyed this much," Mara said.

"He could have," Cristo interjected, "but he would have sustained significant damage, especially if Master Dragon fought."

"All the easier for me to carve out my next year's income," Taloon said. Taloon, being a world famous merchant, always seemed to see things as a source of money. This wasn't really greed, just ambition. He could always see the most profitable way out of anything without hurting anyone who didn't deserve it.

"Stay close together," Zarchery said, "it's likely to have a great deal of power even in an injured state. It might even know Healall."

Zarchery thought that the best way to go was straight. Perhaps Master Dragon was still in his chambers. Perhaps that was where the basement stairs were. He proceeded straight up the steps. When he arrived at the top, he saw something odd. A monster was attacking the door.

Zarchery rushed forward, "Stop now, ye swine!"

The monster turned around. Only when met face to face was the true shock. This beast bore a visage much more disgusting than that of any previous foe. His head was large and bulbous, and his ears were large and pointy. His torso was bony, as if skin had been given to a Necrodain skeleton. His arms were long and tubular, and his hands flat with pointy fingers. He wore an ash-black robe and a red helmet.

"Who are you to command Parthek the Mystical? I answer to noone, and soon all shall answer to me!"

"Leave Zenithia immediately," Zarchery commanded, "or cease to exist!"

"You sound like ones foolish enough to challenge me. Very well, your fate shall match those of the fools around this palace. I will destroy you, and then break this fragile seal. Zenithia shall fall, and I, with the Prism of Malroth, shall rule all!"

All drew their weapons. Ragnar was the first, and most eager of them all. He charged full force with his Metal Babble Sword drawn. Zarchery and Taloon were beside him, charging almost as fast. Ragnar came down on top of Parthek with his sword poised straight for Parthek's brain. Ragnar's sword came in contact, but, nothing. The sword ricocheted off and sent Ragnar flying against the wall.

Perhaps his head is too durable. Zarchery thought. He had met beasts like that before. Eigerhorns and Swingers had indestructible heads. Top armor merchants were trying to harness this quality in shield, armor, and helmets. He aimed for the torso. His Zenithian sword would pierce the flesh and end the monster's existence. Zarchery jumped at Parthek, aiming for the chest. Zarchery hit it dead on, but even his sharp blade failed to pierce the skin of his opponent. Zarchery fell to the ground.

Taloon had even less success. Taloon was a clumsy fellow, and on his way to attacking, he had tripped. Taloon's Sword of Miracles flew from his hand straight at Parthek's left eye. Still, the sword did nothing but bounce off and hit Zarchery. Good thing it was the handle and not the blade.

In the midst of these frontal assaults, Parthek stood still. It seemed as if he was planning for something big, and that was frightening. Meanwhile, Brey scanned for a Bounce. Brey had learned a special technique recently that could detect all Bounce spells.

"It's clear," Brey announced to the team.

With that note, Mara prepared her best attack. She began to chant "Stoofahd-steengdooh-fardon," the words for Explodet. Parthek still did nothing.

From Mara's hands shot a loud blast. It flew over to Parthek. A violet fog then lit up and became visible to the people. The explosion dissipated.

"Damn!" Mara said. "Fendspell."

Zarchery got up after suffering from the abrupt fall. "A Fendspell is quite a problem," he thought, "but the sword should help." He held up the Zenithian Sword and chanted, "Reesah-Pooskah-Freeguh-Plinzo."

But nothing happened.

"Fool!" Parthek shouted, "did you really believe that the powers of Zenithia would work in the midst of its destruction."

Zarchery hadn't thought of that. But if spells wouldn't work, then only weapons could. Parthek must have a weak point.

Ragnar was again on Parthek, this time he wasn't charging, but Parthek was fighting. Ragnar was hacking away at all available parts of Parthek's body, but to no avail. Suddenly, Parthek grabbed Ragnar and held him in mid-air.

"Why couldn't you do the smart thing and stay away?" Parthek demanded.

"Someone must stop your meglomaniacal schemes, and it might as well be us," Ragnar answered. He then aimed his sword again at Parthek.

"Very well," Parthek replied, "then die."

Parthek's eyes began to glow fiercely. The glow went to his arms, and then it grew obvious. He was going to decapitate Ragnar. The team had seen this, and they knew what a magic decapitation was. They charged at him.

Taloon and Cristo were first. They both brandished their swords and charged full force. Nara, Mara, and Brey were behind, they waved their weapons in the air. Zarchery was even farther behind, but Alena was trying from the side.

Parthek became quickly aware of this. Although he knew their weapons could do nothing, he didn't want humans all over him. He threw Ragnar down. "Yook-Seey!" he shouted. Orange lights flew toward the six, and they dropped to the floor like stones. Now only Ragnar was still awake, but not for long.

"Allow me to finish," Parthek said. The glow began again. Soon it was again at his arms and then his hands. Ragnar tried desperately to wiggle loose, but Parthek was too strong even for the mighty Ragnar. Ragnar gave up as he felt a tingling around his neck.

"Oh shit," Ragnar said. A second later his head fell to the floor, and Ragnar was deceased.

Mara woke up just to see this happening. "You monster!" she shouted. Mara realized that although spells couldn't reach Parthek, fire could.

"Androug-Charlok-Draglod," she chanted. Mara instantaneously transformed into a giant dragon. She let loose a ferocious torrent of fire onto Parthek. He was bathed in fire like a man in a flood.

"Is that all you can do?" Parthek asked mockingly. He wasn't the least bit hurt. Mara had forgotten that as a master of fire, flames would not harm him.

Parhtek was angry. He brandished a giant sword and marched towards Mara. Mara clawed at him, but she was not used to clawing. The attacks were inaccurate and did little damage. Parthek swung his sword. It was a more brutal attack than had been felt before. Mara was cut in half horizontally. The damage caused a shape shift. Mara reverted to human form, and blood gushed out of her torso. The death was almost instant, and nearly painless.

With that, Parthek turned to the others. He saw five of them lying in close proximity. Zarchery, Cristo, Brey, Nara, and Taloon. "This will be easier than the Zenithians," he thought. Parthek readied his sword.

"I will rule the world!" Parthek shouted, "and neither staff nor sword, blunt nor bow, or sharp edged tool can destroy Parthek the Mystical."

Alena awoke just as he was saying these words. "If no weapon can harm him, then what to do?" she thought.

She looked to the side to see Parthek. He was driving his sword into the still sleeping fighters. Alena was overcome with emotion as she jumped up and ran towards Parthek. She didn't talk, just ran. She jumped onto his back and struck with her Fire Claw.

It penetrated! Parthek shrieked in pain as the blazing hot claw dug into his lower back. He bucked about wildly and flung Alena back. Dark blue blood flowed out of the gaping wound.

"That's it!" Alena thought. "Swords and staffs do nothing, but hands work fine."

Parthek swung his sword. Alena, widely billed as one of the world's most agile people, she dodged several times. Alena then dashed to the side, rolled forward, and pounced again on Parthek. This time, from the front, she sliced his neck.

"AAAAAUUUUGH!!!" Parthek yelled, "Why didn't I learn Healall?" Instead, he tried a Heal, but little happened. The wound on his back closed up, but his head was still injured.

While he was writhing in pain, Alena managed to get another hit, this time in the back of his neck.

"AGGH! You damned humans!" Parthek shouted. He was still alive, but unable to attack, and nearly dead.

Alena then finished the job. She jumped up and kicked Parthek square in the head. His head, hardly connected to his torso, flew off. Parthek fell to the floor, as dead as Alena's companions.

"What now?" Alena asked herself. Then she remembered, Cristo had a leaf from the giant World Tree. She rushed over to Cristo's body. It was horrendous. Just like the others, Cristo's body was sliced into three nearly equal pieces. Alena began to gag, but then remembered what she had to do. She removed the leaf and placed pieces of it in Cristo's mouth. Immediately, the pieces fused together, and all wounds closed. Cristo stood up.

"Where is that fiend?" Cristo asked angrily. His sword was brandished and ready to fight. "Oh. Good," Cristo said. Even though Princess Alena was strong, he didn't like being one-upped by women, especially royalty.

"I need you to do something Cristo," Alena stated authoritatively.

"What is it princess?" he asked.

"Look around," Alena said.

"Oh. Revivals. Of course," Cristo said.

"Thanks Cristo," Alena said, "I'll see if I can get Master Dragon to let us in."

"You do that," Cristo suggested. He turned around and got to work. "Stay back Parthek, I'm ready to destroy the Prism. I can do that," a voice said from inside.

"Master Dragon?" Alena asked.

"You know it's me, you've been trying to get in for an hour," the voice said.

"It's me, Alena."

"No it's not. I know you can alter your voice," Master Dragon replied.

"Yes it is. I destroyed Parthek," Alena argued.

"Nice try, but a human could never stop Parthek," Master Dragon said skeptically.

Zarchery, along with the others, came up to the door, "It's us," he said, "You can relax."

"It is you," Master Dragon said, "I can sense Zarchery. Stand back, I'll open the door."

The party took a few steps backwards. The door slowly opened outward. Master Dragon stepped outside.

"You did it! I thought I was impressed with Esturk and Necrosaro, but this is big. Zarchery, you amaze me!"

"Thanks," Zarchery said, "but it was Alena. Congratulate her. Parthek killed us all, and she managed to find his weakness. At least that's what Cristo told me."

"Swords and staffs could not harm Parthek, but my Fire Claw sliced him up. I decapitated him," Alena said.

"Parthek is dead, and that's good enough. Thank you for your assistance, especially you Alena," Master Dragon said.

"But what about Parthek," Cristo asked. "What if he is revived?"

"I know a way," Brey stated.

"What is it?" Taloon asked, "This guy was tough, I don't want him fighting ever again."

"Well," Brey said. "Revive and Vivify work only because of the presence of the body. If the body cannot piece together, the victim remains dead."

"So what do we do?" Mara asked.

"Simple," Brey said, "we cut up the body and separate the pieces across the world."

"You mean we have to take bits of that thing with us?" Nara asked. The thought of a rotting monster head was disgusting.

"It's not that bad," Zarchery interjected, "each of us take a piece home and bury it near our home. We live far enough apart that this should neutralize the danger."

"I guess, that's not so bad," Nara admitted, "I'll bury it before it gets too gross."

"Then it's settled," Zarchery said.

He turned to Master Dragon, "How did this happen?" he asked.

"Parthek caught us off guard. We thought that he was too weak if he had penetrated the Silver Aura. We fought poorly, and we were slaughtered. Few still stand. In fact, I'm the only Zenithian still around. It's a good thing I can revive my citizens," Master Dragon answered.

"He must have been strong to do this damage," Brey said. "But how did he destroy the Silver Aura?"

"I discovered that while I was locked behind the doors. Silver Aura is only made to last 150 years, then it must be reinstalled for another 150 years. It must be time to reinstall it. Parthek knew this somehow, and so he attacked at that time." Master Dragon replied.

"We've got to clean this place up," Mara insisted. She was big on helping others in crisis.

"No need to," Master Dragon said, "I can bring my workers back easily. I've done mass revivals before."

"Will they really feel up to rebuilding?" Mara asked.

"I've asked them before. They feel great after coming back. You all go home," Master Dragon insisted.

"Let's go to our homes and rest," Ragnar suggested, "and we can have our reunion party later."

"Good idea," said the others.

Mara and Nara left first. Mara chanted Return and they both disappeared. Ragnar went next. He had to borrow a Wyvern wing from Taloon. Taloon grabbed Parthek's sword, "This will sell for a bundle," he said. Zarchery bade farewell to Master Dragon and the Zenithians he had already revived. He then cast Return and vanished.

"Princess, what's wrong," Cristo asked.

"What? Oh, nothing," Alena replied.

"Why are you just standing there?" Cristo asked.

"I was thinking about Nara. She told me that I would find myself standing alone in Zenithia amongst a group of corpses. I didn't think it would happen so soon," Alena said.

"The fates work mysteriously," Cristo said.

"Yeah, they do," Alena replied.

"Are you two ready?" Brey asked.

"Yes. Let's go." Cristo said.

"I'm ready," Alena said. "Bye Master Dragon."

"Stay safe Alena, and thanks for the help," Master Dragon shouted back.

Brey stood outside and chanted Return. He, Alena, and Cristo reappeared in front of Santeem castle.

"It's late," Alena observed.

"Yeah, I'm tired," Cristo said.

"We could all use a good nap," Brey said. It was odd how Sleep and Sleepmore never left them feeling rested. Dying and coming back to life was very tiring.

Alena went up to her room. She lied down in bed. Since she hadn't died in the fight, she still felt rather alert. She began to read from her favorite book, Legends of Erdrick. The Erdrick line, although now dead, performed amazing feats in all generations. She could never figure out how so much heroism had come from one bloodline.

After reading twenty pages, Alena put the book down. She began to contemplate life. She had helped save the world from evil beings that toyed with evolution a year ago. Just a few hours ago, she had single-handedly saved Zenithia and the world from Parthek the Mystical. With this action, that adventurous instinct that had been with her for so many years was gone and she was ready to go back to being a normal princess. She would still train, just in case. Otherwise, she was just another princess, and someday possibly Queen Alena of Santeem since her mother was dead and she was an only child.

Alena turned over in her bed. She closed her eyes and went to sleep. Today was her last day as an adventurer. Tomorrow would be her first day as a princess.

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