Well, here we are folks. We’ve reached the end of this tale. Matticus and I would very much like to thank all of you who have taken the time to read all, or even some, of this story. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed writing it. Have a great day everyone!
First, there was blackness. Then, there was pain. It was soon followed by an unnerving numbing sensation that started off small, but slowly expanded until it enveloped his whole being. Plex didn’t know which one was worse. None of them seemed to match what he should have been feeling.
He had just killed Lavalandinarial, the dragon overlord whose tyrannical rule over his world led to the deaths of countless innocent people of all races. This should be a time when he was filled with happy feelings, not pain and then numbness. His sister and his teammates should be all around him, jumping for joy, yet here he was all alone. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.
In a flash, it all came back to him: his sister being hit by the dragon’s tail, the cuts he sustained from debris flying up when the dragon tried to hit him with her tail, and the wounds in his back from the dragon exploding upon her death.
His first thought was of his sister. Was she alive? Was she dead? For that matter, was he alive? There was nothing around him except a vast empty space. There was light, but not much. Was this the afterlife? The elves had legends of what occurred after you died, but this didn’t match any of them.
“Wake up, damn you!”
The voice came from all around him. It was a deep voice, and one he recognized. There was a slight accent to it. For a moment, he couldn’t place it, but he finally recognized the accent as being dwarven. That was odd. The only dwarf that was coming to mind was Frukeld. This voice didn’t sound like the old dwarf, though. Who could it be?
“I said wake up, damn you!”
This time the voice was followed by a warm feeling all around him. It flowed over, under, and then finally through him. As the warmth built within him, Plex saw the area he was in begin to brighten. It was no longer an empty void. He was in the sky, surrounded by stars. Below him, clouds drifted lazily by. At the very bottom of his vision, there was a tiny dot, barely visible. Somehow, he knew that the dot was where he really was.
“I’m only going to tell you to wake up one more time before I start smacking you!”
The warmth filled him until he felt like he would explode. With one giant burst, it shot out of him in every direction. Plex felt himself falling. Looking down, he saw the dot growing bigger and bigger. Up above, the stars became smaller and smaller. His gaze drifted back down, towards his destination. It didn’t take long for him to recognize it as it came into view.
It was the arena where he had played football.
Plex’s eyes shot open as his floating form crashed into his body, which had been placed on the fifty yard line. He finally got a glimpse of the dwarf behind the voice. It was Kalant, the linebacker from his football team. Plex raised up to greet his teammate and, as soon as he did, the arena around him erupted in cheers. His jaw dropped open when he saw that the seats were filled to capacity.
“Don’t you dare pass out now,” Kalant grumbled while offering a steadying hand.
Plex gladly took it and took a moment to make sure his feet were steady under him before sweeping his gaze across the crowd. The stadium wasn’t just at capacity. It was beyond. Everyone was packed in, standing shoulder to shoulder, and extra space along the sidelines had been cleared for even more spectators. The other football teams rimmed the edge of the field. In his quick glance, he recognized many faces but the numbers were too overwhelming, the sound was too overwhelming.
Every person in that packed stadium was cheering and stomping and clapping. The sound was jubilant and somewhat terrifying.
“What is everyone cheering for?”
Plex could barely hear his own question. Kalant somehow heard it though and chuckled before replying, “For you, of course. They would have celebrated you either way but it is far better to celebrate the living.”
“Me? I didn’t do anything.”
This time Kalant laughed rather than chuckled. “Didn’t do anything? Didn’t do anything?”
Plex spun in a circle, feeling more himself, feeling stronger, he wanted to take in the whole stadium again. He wanted to see the rest of his team. He wanted to see his sister.
While he looked, Plex said, “No. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t come up with any of the plans. I didn’t gather any of the troops. I didn’t create the weapon.”
“You threw it though and you threw it true,” Kalant interrupted.
Then, before Plex could argue, Kalant went on, “You rose to the occasion and you stood against the beast, mentally and physically, when too few had the courage or resolve to do so. You inspired loyalty and you led people against the dragon. It may not have gone according to the plans Frukeld and the others had drawn up, but so what of that? Those plans were never more than an idea. And the purpose of that idea was to find someone inspiring he could take the beast down when the moment arrived.
“You, Plex. You were that champion and you did wonderfully. Not only did you just throw the spear and slay the beast but you helped create the opportunity to do so. You stood against her. You refused to let anyone else needlessly suffer. You showed us all how foolish we had been to cower before her for as long as we did.
“So, yes, they are cheering for you and I cheer for you too.”
With that, Kalant took two steps away from Plex and clapped toward the elf. Then adding his voice to the rest of the cacophony, Kalant cried out with triumph towards the sky.
Plex stared dumbfounded at the dwarf. His vision began to swim and he felt his legs go numb again. Gritting his teeth he forced himself to stand there and take in the applause he still felt he didn’t deserve. When he felt like he couldn’t take anymore, he pushed the noise aside as best he could, banishing it from his mind, and forced his concentration on seeking out Gilania.
Why wasn’t she standing there with him? He couldn’t have done it without her. She’d found the spear and gotten it into his hands, putting herself directly at risk in doing so. His heart sank as his search continued to be fruitless. The certainty that she wasn’t alive began to sink in. Otherwise, she would have been out there with him already.
“My sister?” Plex asked, afraid of the answer.
Kalant’s face turned somber. “She lives,” he began, “but she’s in bad shape. Frukeld and his most powerful healers are doing everything they can for her as we speak. The old man seemed convinced that he could heal her, but her injuries looked pretty serious to me.”
“I’ve got to go check on her.”
“That won’t be necessary,” came a voice from behind them.
Plex whipped his head around to look at the speaker and immediately felt a wave of dizziness wash over him. He steadied himself and blinked until his vision returned to normal. When it did, he saw that it was Frukeld standing there, not Gilania. “My sister?”
“Is resting comfortably,” the old dwarf answered. “We were able to heal most of her injuries, but some of them were too great to heal completely. Her back, in particular, was bad. We managed to put her spine back together, but not before it was permanently damaged. She will likely walk with a limp for the rest of her life.”
Plex let loose a huge sigh of relief. While walking with a limp wasn’t something that anyone would want to do, it was certainly better than the alternative. “What about my injuries?” Plex asked. “If all the healers were with Gilania, who healed me?”
“I said that all of Frukeld’s healers were with her,” Kalant responded. “Not all the healers in the world.”
“When you killed the dragon,” Frukeld explained after seeing the confusion on Plex’s face, “her magical hold over people was broken. Once free from her dominance, some of the healers who were under her
thrall came to your aid.”
“And you trusted them? They could’ve been faking to get close enough to kill me.”
“We had guards there to ensure your safety. Besides, you trusted your fellow elf, didn’t you?”
Plex couldn’t argue with that. He did trust an elven woman after he broke the dragon’s hold over her. Wait, he thought. What had happened to her? And Coach Sprout? And Baclem? And everyone else that had gone through this journey with him? “Where are the others?”
“Things are still very chaotic right now,” Frukeld answered. “Even though you killed the dragon, some of her people remain loyal to her after death. They’re putting up some resistance and a few of your friends and teammates are fighting still. We’ve managed to drive them out of the city. They’re scattered, for the moment, but they’ll regroup and be a problem for us down the road.”
Plex looked around the cheering crowd. The sight of all the races mingling and standing together gave him hope. “What do we do now?”
“We build a better world.”