Chapter 44

For the most part, the march through the Dark Wasteland was quiet and uneventful. King Belgrave paused when he got his first good glimpse of the Dark Wizard’s fortress. It was more immense than he had expected and rose into the clouds. “That castle must be as large as a mountain!” he exclaimed.

“It is a mountain,” Lugar replied. “At least, it was a mountain before the Dark Wizard changed it into a fortress. There are undying rumors that the ancients once considered the mountain to be sacred.”

“How high up does it go?”

“It goes up much higher than we can see right now,” the Barbidon answered. “The mountain slopes up from the lake on the east and rises until it ends with a high cliff on the western side where the Dark Wizard has built the tallest and greatest tower of the fortress. From bottom to top, it takes several hours to walk, if you’re fast. What you see now is the lower third of the fortress.”

“Wow, that is tall!” he muttered, as he tried to imagine just how much higher the fortress really was. He thought about Naiya’Nal trapped inside the fortress. Naiya’Nal, I am coming to save you, he thought.

I know, her voice replied in his head, come quickly!

How do you do that? There was no answer. He stood staring where he knew the tower was behind the clouds until Lugar grabbed his attention.

“King Belgrave, it is starting to snow and I want to get at least halfway through the Dark Wasteland before we camp for the night.”

King Belgrave smiled as he noticed the small flakes that had started to fall. “I am just anxious to save my wife,” he replied. He started walking again. “It isn’t too windy,” he said. “I don’t think it will be a very strong storm.”

Lugar laughed. “That’s why we clothed you in our own furs; you don’t know Sarda.”

An hour later, the snow was falling thick enough that King Belgrave could not see very far in front of him. “I cannot see the fortress. How do you know that we’re still heading in the right direction?” he asked Lugar, shouting over the strong wind.

“Storm lamps,” Lugar shouted back. He pointed at a Barbidon in the distance standing by a pole in the ground with a sheltered lantern on top. “Stick two in the ground so they make a straight line pointing to your destination, and then put a third one further up, always keeping them in as straight a line as possible. It only takes three, and as you go, you keep moving the last one to the front. It’s not perfect, but it will get you really close to where you need to go.”

“Sounds similar to using a compass,” King Belgrave replied.

“What’s a compass?” Lugar asked.

King Belgrave grinned and shook his head, realizing the Barbidons did not know what a compass was. “Nothing,” he answered.

They set up several shelters a little later, and King Belgrave was glad to warm himself by the fire that they built. It was still snowing when they set out the following morning, but only very lightly. The snow on the ground was not deep, except where it had formed into large drifts against the shelters, occasional shrubs, and anything else that stuck up from the flat land of the Dark Wasteland. It only took them half of that day to reach the long causeway that led from the shore to the fortress. The Barbidons claimed that it was the longest and probably the tallest bridge in the world. Lugar explained that the others still needed to get into position, so they would camp on the shore and wait for the morning to begin the attack. This time they posted marksman sentries to watch the sky for dragons. It was still dark in the morning and the snow was still lightly falling when the army was finished preparing for the attack. The white flag with the two red dragons was flying above them, and a blue flag, with a black bar across the bottom and against the staff flew just below it. King Belgrave removed the giant snake fang from his pack and tucked it into his belt under the furs. He was ready and nothing would stop him.

A single drumbeat sounded. Thirty seconds later, double drumbeats responded from both sides. The drum was beat three times, and with a loud shout, the Barbidon army began to rush toward the fortress. The soldiers with King Belgrave rushed onto the causeway, and the others began crossing the frozen lake from where they had been camped. A large banner fluttered above the gate of the fortress at the end of the causeway. It had the half-black, half-purple background of Narva’s flag, but the foreground had a blue cross with gold trim that divided the flag into quarters. Several dragons swooped down from the clouds and began melting holes into the ice. “Gulgvate!” Lugar shouted as he noticed tiny shapes of another group of soldiers in the distance running around the spots of open water, “I forgot about the spoonfish.”

“They shouldn’t be much of a problem,” King Belgrave shouted back. “I’ve been in plenty of water and was never attacked by spoonfish.”

Lugar pulled King Belgrave to the railing of the causeway and let the others pass them by. “Unlike the waters of the rest of the world, this lake is always hungry,” Lugar explained. “Touch the water and the spoonfish will swarm out like a giant bulge, fully consuming your flesh before your skeleton falls in.”

“I don’t have the time to test that,” King Belgrave replied. “Come on, we need to defeat Vemrok!” They turned and continued to run along the causeway to the gate.

Soon they saw the Dark Witch Vemrok standing alone on the causeway, waiting for them. She looked almost like Marla’Su, except that she wore the tooth of a small na’karden on a string around her neck. She held her hands toward them, her palms outward, and her fingers touching. The front few ranks of the Barbidons suddenly ran into an unseen barrier that pushed them out and over the sides of the causeway. Those behind slowed down and stopped. King Belgrave held his sword in front of him and pushed his way to the front of the Barbidons. “Vemrok, your magic will not stop me,” he loudly told the girl. “Throw off the shackles of the Dark Wizard and let me pass.”

Vemrok snickered. “Voth has given me greater powers than you ever could,” she answered. “Show me a greater power and perhaps then I will consider your demand.”

“I highly suggest that you reconsider,” King Belgrave replied. “Exposing you to a greater power could result in your death.”

“Death? Why should I fear death when you cannot reach me?” she asked.

King Belgrave frowned. He swung his sword at the invisible wall and her weak magic shattered with a loud cracking noise. Vemrok flinched and her eyes widened. She stepped back and quickly made another magic wall. “Is that all you have to show me, a sword that can slash through a magic wall?” she taunted. She pulled out a shimmering orb of gold and purple from beneath her cloak. “I have been given things that you cannot even begin to imagine.”

“I have quite an imagination,” King Belgrave retorted, slashing through her second wall of magic.

Vemrok threw the orb onto the causeway between them. It exploded with a loud blast of gold and purple sparks, throwing them both backwards. A few large rocks from the side of the causeway fell and crashed through the ice below as the Barbidons helped King Belgrave to his feet.

Vemrok rolled over and pushed herself back up. An evil grin spread across her face as she pulled out another orb. “There are more where that one came from,” she joked.

“Stop me,” King Belgrave shouted back to her as he started sprinting toward her, “if you can!”

Vemrok threw the second orb and turned to run. King Belgrave skillfully blocked the orb with his shield so that it flew over the side of the causeway and exploded harmlessly on the ice below.

“One more, I dare you,” King Belgrave shouted at her. She briefly turned and threw a third orb, tripping over her black cloak as she turned back. King Belgrave dropped his sword and caught the orb in his hand. “Now, what do you have that I do not?” he asked, preparing to throw it back at her.

A hand grabbed King Belgrave’s arm and stopped his throw. “I won’t let you kill my sister,” Marla’Su declared, brushing past King Belgrave and pushing him to the side in the process. King Belgrave watched with annoyance as Marla’Su ran toward her sister. He couldn’t throw the orb or he would kill both of the girls. “Darda’Gu,” she called, “Voth is not worth your life. Do not make them have to kill you!”

Vemrok rose to her feet and fled down the causeway back to the fortress with Marla’Su in pursuit.

King Belgrave turned to Lugar. “Where did she come from?” he asked, tossing the orb over the side of the causeway to explode harmlessly on the ice below. “I told her to stay in Nazval.”

“This would not be the first time that a former Dark Witch has ignored your orders,” Lugar replied. “Let her and Vemrok settle their affairs and let the rest of us take the fortress.” He picked up King Belgrave’s sword and handed it back. Lugar raised his own sword in the air. “Warriors of Sarda,” he roared, “Rishlawilgel woth gesharv! Rishlawilgel woth vewgah!”

The Barbidons charged with renewed vigor and a long loud yell. In a short while, they were rushing through the fortress gate. The Barbidons quickly spread out to meet the enemy soldiers, but stopped short when they noticed that they were surrounded by a large number of enemy archers. As soon as King Belgrave stepped through the gate, he recognized the commander of the Huvudets, the same commander that had taunted him at the end of the battle at Nasad. They briefly glared at each other, then ignoring the battle around them, slowly stepped toward each other. The soldiers around them, both the Barbidons and Huvudets, ignored their enemies to watch the two leaders.

“Was one defeat not enough,” Huvttiuq taunted as they started to circle around each other, “that you must come begging for a second? You will find me willing to oblige such a request.”

King Belgrave pointed his sword at the Huvudet. “You speak of defeat as if it was certain, but I will not be defeated while my heart still beats and prophecy remains unfulfilled.”

“Prophecy,” Huvttiuq scoffed, swatting at King Belgrave’s sword with his own. “Prophecy is nothing more than an unfounded superstition, a belief that has been forced upon your people for ages to create a culture where the educated questioning of its existence is frowned upon and forbidden. Tell me that there is prophecy and I will tell you that all evidence points to the contrary.”

“Is that your own conclusion or is that what Voth told you to believe?” King Belgrave questioned. “You speak of evidence and ignore the evidence of prophecy that you have personally witnessed. Were not the ancient prophecies foretelling my retreat and the last stand of the Red Exemplars at Nasad carved into stone above the doors of that tunnel ages before it happened? Do you simply discard the beliefs of generations of people as being unfounded with claims that they were not intelligent enough to question their own beliefs? If you are so much more intelligent than everyone else that ever lived, why do you belligerently deny the evidence of prophecy when it is right in front of you? Believe me when I say that your life is a lie and that everything you stand for is false.”

For a moment, the two stood silently staring at each other. After a moment, Huvttiuq raised his sword toward King Belgrave. “Logic will not solve this dispute.”

“But perhaps it might end it,” King Belgrave interrupted.

“How so?” Huvttiuq asked, stepping back defensively.

“My fight is not with you or the armies of this world,” King Belgrave explained. “My fight is with Voth alone. Take me to him and the outcome will determine who is correct.”

“You want me to step aside and let you through to fight my master?” Huvttiuq asked. “To do so would be treason, and the consequences of treason are quite deadly around here.” He pointed to his left with his sword. King Belgrave turned his head and looked. The arrow pierced corpse of either Vemrok or Marla’Su lay face down just beyond the trunks of a few leafless trees, the corpse contorted by her unexpected killing. King Belgrave could not tell for sure which sister it was, but he could not mistake the black cloak and purple robes of the Dark Witches. They were strangely twisted from her fall, but were held tight to her body by the arrows. Blood stained the snow beneath her.

King Belgrave looked back at Huvttiuq and gripped his sword tighter. He leaned forward and pointed the sword at Huvttiuq’s neck. “Give me one good reason to not avenge the girl’s death,” King Belgrave growled.

The Huvudet commander gripped his sword with both hands and slowly raised it over his right shoulder. “You will not survive my reasoning,” he replied spitefully. Huvttiuq lunged and slashed at King Belgrave with all his might.

King Belgrave stepped back and easily parried the blow. “Your reasoning lacks persuasion,” he scolded, raising his sword to return the strike.

“Huvttiuq,” a girl’s voice called. The Huvudet commander stepped back and looked over his shoulder to see where the voice came from. King Belgrave looked up the hill. A Dark Witch stepped from behind a pillar. “Huvttiuq, by the authority of Voth, I command you to lower your weapons and allow this man safe passage to the tower.”

King Belgrave tried to figure out which of the sisters it was as she slowly walked toward them. She was wearing Vemrok’s na’karden tooth around her neck, but he also noticed her wearing the ring that he had given to Marla’Su to take to Panei.

Huvttiuq grunted and thrust his sword into the ground in front of him. He motioned for the other Huvudets to do the same. King Belgrave sheathed his sword. “Lugar, call off the attack and pull the armies back to shore. The job of the Barbidons in this war is over.”

“Kill my master and I will believe your prophecy,” Huvttiuq muttered disdainfully, “but I think that the next time we meet, I will be dumping your corpse into the lake.”

“Don’t bother finding a cart for my body,” King Belgrave replied, stepping past Huvttiuq. “You won’t need it.”

“Huvttiuq,” the Dark Witch called again. He turned to look at her. “Have you ever wondered why Voth has always designated one of his servants to seek out and destroy anyone who attempts to fulfill prophecy? I suggest that you believe everything that this king has told you, because even Voth believes in prophecy and fears its fulfillment.”

“If such is true, then why would he have denied it to my race?” Huvttiuq asked.

“Slaves are more willing to serve one who lies of assured victory than one who suggests the possibility or inevitability of defeat,” she answered. Huvttiuq frowned and did not reply.

King Belgrave made his way up the hill to the girl. “Which sister are you?” he asked her.

“I am Vemrok, the one designated to lead his armies,” she replied. “My given name is Darda’Gu. Follow me; I will take you to the tower.”

Darda’Gu led King Belgrave along a path that meandered further into the fortress. The path led through an arched tunnel in a wall. Along the top of the arch was a strange writing. King Belgrave could not read it, but he guessed that its purpose was to inspire fear in the hearts of anyone that might have tried to attack the fortress. From there they passed a number of smaller buildings, which Darda’Gu explained were mostly storerooms and living quarters. Various pillars and monuments were also scattered throughout the area, erected over the many years of the Dark Wizard’s reign to commemorate many of his more notable minions. King Belgrave frequently noticed writing in the strange language, but he did not ask for a translation. He could feel the malevolent power of the evil writing and did not think that even Darda’Gu knew what it meant. They passed through another narrow tunnel, up a few flights of stairs, and came out facing a massive stone structure that curved away at either side. He could hear growling and occasional snarls and other noises made by ferocious beasts. “That is the dragon arena,” Darda’Gu explained. “Dragons will get you to the top much faster, but first I wish to ask you a question.”

She pulled King Belgrave over to a bench near a statue of a Dark Witch. Darda’Gu sat down, but King Belgrave stood for a moment examining the statue. He could tell that it had only been there for a few years and that someone had recently chipped off the face. “This is the finest looking monument that we have passed,” King Belgrave observed. “Her pose has a powerful regal demeanor, and considering the care taken in its carving, the face must have been beautiful before it was removed.” He stepped closer and brushed away the thin dusting of snow from one of the arms.

“She was Voth’s favorite,” Darda’Gu explained. “I have heard him speak of her many times. She was to be his queen and over time he would make her less human and more like him so that she could rule this world forever. She had more power and beauty than any other Dark Witch ever did.”

“If she was Voth’s favorite, then why would someone dare to ruin the face?” King Belgrave asked.

“She turned against Voth and chose a different king,” Darda’Gu answered. “She is Naiya’Nal, the third dragon destined to choose the ultimate victor of this war. Enraged by her actions, Voth struck off the face. He left the rest intact with the hope that he would eventually take her back.”

King Belgrave noticed something almost completely hidden in the snow sitting on the statue’s pedestal. He reached down and picked up the tiny object. It was a silver ring shaped like a dragon and had two purple stones for eyes. “What is the significance of this ring?” he asked.

“There are two kings that use the dragon as the symbol of their sovereignty,” Darda’Gu replied. “When Voth gave Naiya’Nal that ring, he was giving her his authority.”

King Belgrave looked at Darda’Gu. “The ring is here, so she obviously rejected his offer.”

“She took the ring for a short time,” Darda’Gu replied. “She took the ring before she learned of the lies that had shaped her life and everything she had known. Naiya’Nal rejected the ring on the same night that she turned against Voth.”

King Belgrave smiled and pulled out Naiya’Nal’s red armband that Marla’Su had given to him in Nazval. He wrapped the ring in the red cloth and put it back in his pocket. “Why did you do that?” Darda’Gu asked.

“Did you bring me to this statue of your own will or Voth’s?” he asked. “For it would seem that my being shown this statue is not by chance.”

“I have heard stories of the Red Exemplars and the red armbands they wear,” she replied, pulling a red armband from beneath her cloak. “I brought you here to ask what Naiya’Nal did to merit the wearing of their color, and how, so recently, my sister was given that same honor.”

King Belgrave took one more look at the statue and sat down beside Darda’Gu. He slowly pulled the armband from her hands and looked it over. “Red is the color of courage,” he said, “the courage to lay down one’s life for the fulfillment of prophecy. The Red Exemplars gave Naiya’Nal her armband as a symbol to show the world that she no longer served their enemy.”

“But what about my sister?” Darda’Gu asked. “I thought that the Red Exemplars were finally defeated at Nasad.”

King Belgrave pulled up the fur on his arm and showed her the scar on his forearm. “My blood has been spilled to remember their sacrifice and my life is dedicated to the completion of prophecy. I am a Red Exemplar.”

“But you are not wearing an armband,” she replied.

King Belgrave smiled and covered his arm. “I gave mine to Marla’Su to wear,” he said, “not to distinguish her as a Red Exemplar, but for her to wear it as a reminder to the world of all that has been lost in this war against evil. I did not want her harmed at such a young age, so I told her to travel to Panei and not interfere with this battle. I really wish that she had listened.”

Darda’Gu sniffed. “She tried to save my life and lost her own. Voth gave me a quick rigorous training where I learned to hate my enemies. Seeing my sister, one who had become my enemy by turning against Voth, get killed because she loved me...” She stopped talking as she started to cry.

“You did the right thing by ordering the end of the battle,” King Belgrave reassured. He took her arm and tied the red armband around it. “Get me to Voth,” he ordered. “His tyranny must be brought to an end.”

She wiped her eyes and sniffed. “A dragon will take you there quickest.” She stood up and led him toward the dragon arena. Just inside, she handed him a long lance. “This is a dragon lance,” she explained. “It will keep you safe if one of the younger dragons attacks when we enter. Do not try to use it on any of the large ones though, they will burn you.” She leafed through an old tome on a table and quickly memorized a few lines. She picked up a dragon lance for herself. “I will tell a dragon to take you to Voth. Feel free to drop the lance when it picks you up.” She walked over to a thick door and grabbed the handle. “Ready?”

King Belgrave nodded. “If I do not return, seek out Commander Sidrahkir of Tanarad and give him the ring that you took from your sister’s body. I gave it to her with those instructions and I trust that you will now do as she was ordered.”

Darda’Gu turned the knob and pushed open the door. Warm air gusted into the room and they made their way down the tunnel to the dragon arena. The ground inside was a wide expanse of smoking embers scattered around various blazing fires. The arena was open to the sky, but the many fires and hot embers kept it warm. There were more dragons inside than King Belgrave had ever seen at one time. Several looked over at the two intruders, but many just ignored them. One of the smaller dragons flew toward them out of curiosity, but flew away when Darda’Gu brandished her lance at it. “Ik shivbijnor Felz yarkrig Voth dazho Naiya’Nal!” Darda’Gu yelled.

One of the dragons that had been lying curled near a fire on the far side of the dragon arena let out a long growl and sat up. It looked at them and then leaped into the air. It flew over and picked up King Belgrave with its feet before King Belgrave could react. As the ground fell away below him, he saw Darda’Gu dart back into the tunnel to leave the dragon arena. He got a brief glimpse of more of the fortress before the dragon carried him into the clouds. He was still holding the dragon lance and did not want to drop it in case someone was below him. Up they flew, but King Belgrave could not guess how high because of the clouds.

Almost as suddenly as the flight began, a large black structure loomed out of the clouds in front of them. It was the top of the tall tower. Floating higher above them was a slowly rotating ring of rocks and greenish fire. At the eastern end of the tower was a spire that was higher than the other spires of the tower. From here, a cloth canopy was stretched tight across the top of the tower to cover what was normally an open ceiling. He could not see any entrances, so he guessed that the dragon was just going to drop him above the canopy. The dragon flew closer and King Belgrave tossed the dragon lance at the canopy. It ripped a small hole in the cloth and he could hear it thud into the floor inside the tower. The dragon carried him just a bit further above the hole and let go. He slid down the taut fabric and managed to grab hold of the small hole just as he was sliding past it. The hole began to tear from the weight of King Belgrave pulling on it. As the dragon flew away, King Belgrave pulled out his dagger and with a quick slash, cut enough of the fabric that his weight pulled him through the canopy and into the tower. He dropped to the floor and landed on his hands and knees.

Voth stood near the center of the candlelit room, the dragon lance sticking from the floor just inches away from him. “You could have poked out someone’s eye with that thing,” the Dark Wizard frowned.

“It’s a shame that he missed,” Naiya’Nal replied. “I’ve always wondered about the color of your blood.” King Belgrave looked past the Dark Wizard and saw Naiya’Nal locked in a cage at the far end of the room. She pressed against the bars in anticipation of her freedom.

King Belgrave stood up and tried to go to his wife, but Voth pulled the dragon lance from the floor and used the blunt end to push King Belgrave away. He pointed to the far end of the tower, behind King Belgrave. “Do you like my new windows? I had my servants put them in yesterday,” he said.

King Belgrave looked behind him. The windows were stained glass of purples and blues in a diamond pattern. “They go well with the black décor of this room and matches the darkness of your heart,” he answered. “You know that I did not come here for a tour, so why would you want to show me your windows?”

“Just beyond those windows is the rest of the world,” the Dark Wizard answered. “You came here for two reasons, to rescue your queen and to overthrow the reign of someone that you view as an adversary. I wish to offer you a truce. Serve me and I will give back your queen and make you into a great king, bearing my authority over of all of the lands of men and Barbidons. Everything beyond those windows can be yours for nothing more than your pledge of allegiance to me.”

King Belgrave turned back to Voth. He quickly removed his fur outfit and pulled out his sword. “Victory is won, not bought,” he responded. “Are you really so fearful of your demise that you must pour out your coffers at my feet and beg? The lands of men and Barbidons already call me their king and I have come to rescue my queen. I will not be your slave in this world or the next.”

The Dark Wizard snorted in disgust and tossed the dragon lance against the wall. He grabbed a knife off of one of the tables. It fit in his hand like brass knuckles, but was sharp along the striking edge and had a sharpened triangle affixed to one end of the handle. The knife was rusty, but the sharpened edges gleamed in the candlelight. “You feel confident,” the Dark Wizard taunted. “You think that your sword will keep you safe from my magic.” He shook his head. “I will kill you without my magic.”

King Belgrave raised his sword and lunged at the Dark Wizard. Voth fiercely returned the attack and King Belgrave felt he that was fighting a strong adversary. After several blocked slashes to the Dark Wizard’s arms, King Belgrave realized that Voth had thick armor hidden on his arms beneath his cloak. He swung low for the Dark Wizard’s legs, but his attention was pulled away to Voth’s knife as it swung near his chest. The brightness of the edges shone with anticipation of his blood. He managed to circle around the Dark Wizard so that he was closer to Naiya’Nal. Taking a quick step backward toward her, He quickly pulled out the red armband that was wrapped around the ring and tossed it her way.

Naiya’Nal reached through the bars of the cage and picked it up. The ring fell out as she straightened the cloth to put it on her arm. She set down the red cloth and picked up the silver dragon shaped ring. She did not know where he had found it, but she knew what it meant. She placed the ring on her finger and then put the red armband on her arm.

King Belgrave’s attacks began to become more erratic as he focused more and more on the jagged blade held by the Dark Wizard. It wanted his blood and he could feel it. The metal, red with rust, wanted to be red with his blood. His eyes began to follow the small blade as the Dark Wizard moved it through the air with the violence of his attacks. King Belgrave’s own sword was no longer important to him and he began to slow his strokes. Voth’s knife wanted him and he knew it.

“Belgrave, close your eyes,” Naiya’Nal shouted. “The magic of the knife will destroy you if you keep looking at it!”

Voth grabbed something from the table and threw it at her cage. “Be quiet, woman,” he ordered.

“Close your eyes,” Naiya’Nal shouted once more.

King Belgrave briefly closed his eyes. He felt the power of the spell break and he opened his eyes. He renewed his attack and slashed with more vigor than before. The rusted knife flashed before him again. He turned his focus to see where it went and he knew the knife had him under its power once again. He closed his eyes once more, stepped past the Dark Wizard, and swung his sword as hard as he could. Both weapons tasted blood, King Belgrave’s sword cutting through the Dark Wizard’s back, and the knife cutting across the top of King Belgrave’s right hand. He screamed from the pain and dropped his sword. He opened his eyes and turned his head in time to see the Dark Wizard’s body fall face down to the ground behind him. He sank to his knees, holding his injured hand.

King Belgrave looked back at Naiya’Nal. She was reaching through the bars of the cage and pulling on the lock. “Break the lock and let me out,” she urged as he stood up. She pointed toward the wall. “Hit it hard with the dragon lance.” He rushed over and picked up the heavy weapon. The pain of his injured hand wrapping around the pole made him wince. He swung the dragon lance at the lock. It rattled in its place, but did not break. He swung again and nothing happened. “Hurry, Belgrave,” Naiya’Nal said, looking past him. He gave the dragon lance another strong swing against the lock. It finally broke and clattered against the floor.

Naiya’Nal slammed open the cage door and charged outward. King Belgrave tried to grab her, but she was too fast and bolted past him. He spun around to see where she was going and saw the wounded Dark Wizard stagger to his feet and turn around. Naiya’Nal smashed into Voth and her momentum carried both of them to the other side of the room. King Belgrave rushed after them.

The windows shattered from the force of Naiya’Nal and Voth crashing into them and they fell over the side of the tower. King Belgrave dived after them without thinking. The clouds had already begun to disappear and the warm sun was shining down on them as they plunged through the cold air toward the frozen lake below. Belgrave pulled the snake fang from where he had tucked it in his belt and caught up with Naiya’Nal and Voth. She had her hands wrapped around Voth’s neck, trying to strangle him. King Belgrave grabbed onto the Dark Wizard’s cloak with one hand and plunged the fang deep into the Dark Wizard’s chest with the other. The viciously strong poison acted quickly, causing a fire to spread through the Dark Wizard’s veins until he was consumed by the flames. King Belgrave pulled Naiya’Nal closer to him and wrapped his arms around her. They were plummeting to a rapidly approaching death, but at least they were together again.

For a brief moment, Belgrave felt only the body of his wife, but then he suddenly found himself choking on warm seawater. Naiya’Nal pulled him to the surface where he gasped for air. “Where are we?” he asked. She began to pull him toward a nearby beach. Once his feet touched the bottom, he walked the rest of the way. “Where are we?” he asked again, once they were on the shore.

Naiya’Nal put her arms around Belgrave and smiled. “We did it!” she announced, pointing toward a shining city of tall towers on a land far in the distance. “You’re home now!”