Well, here it is: the final chapter of the book. It always seems so far away when I start a draft and see that empty folder with a lonely file named “Prologue.” But that’s how it gets done: I just work at it every day until I reach the goal. And before I know it a year has passed and I’m sitting at my desk staring at a folder full of literary goodness.
Man, this is inspirational stuff. I sure hope an uncertain kid stumbles upon this blog someday. He’ll be searching for his purpose in life and then he’ll read this. It’ll probably motivate him to go explore Mars or something.
29 – For the Lost
King placed his palms on the desk, his eyes lost in the glossy surface.
“She can’t be dead––” he uttered. “She survived it. I saw her. I just––I just saw her.”
The group said nothing, watching him sob over the desk. With a sigh, Vornis stepped through the wide double doors.
“Parlay did survive it,” he said. “But not in a way you can understand.”
“How would you know?” Conneld asked.
“Because I knew her;” the beast said, “I’m her friend, Vornis.”
King looked up from the table. “But you’re not––you don’t look––”
“Sometimes people change,” he said, baring white teeth. “We lose something; someone. Maybe a whole lot of someones. When you’ve lost that much, sometimes the only way to cope is to lose yourself, too.”
“Lose yourself?” King repeated, searching the eyes of those around him. “But she was here? She was alive?”
Vornis sniffed. He nodded at Mean, Darrow, Tecker, and Tome. “Parlay found them. Before Pinada did. Before their trip to the past. Any memory of them had been buried, though. She was someone new; someone that could deal with the tragedy. Someone that could do whatever it took to make sure it didn’t happen again.”
Mean took Tecker’s arm, hiding her face in his sleeve. King glared at her.
“What did you do to her!?” he demanded. “If Pinada wasn’t involved, and you were the only ones on the planet––!” He slammed his fist on the desk, and she broke out in a sob.
“She feels bad enough about it!” Tecker shouted. “Back off!”
“About what?” King shouted, his hands shaking. Vornis stepped past Conneld, putting his claw on the desk.
“Parlay wanted to spread magic to their world,” he began. “She used a little something called a ‘hall.'”
“A what?” Conneld asked. King slinked back, scratching his wild beard.
“It’s a kind of hex door,” Vornis explained. “A large one. One that’s open permanently.”
Conneld shook his head. “There’s nothing like that.” His glanced over at his brother, who was avoiding his gaze. “Oh, you’re kidding me.”
“You want to tell him about it, King?” Vornis questioned. “About your little project down in the mine? You want to explain what happens when a pattern that large is formed?”
“Mine?” Conneld asked, “The Droldragia one?” He stabbed a finger past Vornis to King. “Is that where the Hellzoo monster came from!? You brought it here!?”
“I told her about the lab,” King said, his voice cracking. “I told her to go to the other world. It was the last thing I said––so help me, it was the last thing––”
“Oh, she tried to go, all right,” Vornis cut in. “That’s when your little chain-link friend decided to come along for the ride through your hall.”
King frowned, wiping his eyes with his robe’s sleeve. “I killed her,” he said. “I should have dismantled it. I should have had it destroyed!” He pressed his hands on his head, seething through his teeth. “But I covered it up. I had Pinada seal it away.”
He held his head over the desk, and Mean made her way over, pulling away from Tecker.
“King, she died saving my dad and me,” Mean said. “I didn’t know why she did it at first; she was, like Vornis said, a lot different than the Parlay you knew. She was hard and jaded; a bit annoying, really.” She looked back at Tecker. “But now that I know how she used to be, I think that Parlay came back at the end. She saved her friend and even complete strangers. Just like she wanted––”
Mean choked, dipping her head as tears dripped down her face. Tome cleared his throat.
“And then there’s what she did for me,” he announced. “Parlay gave me the form she had––shall we say––taken.”
Conneld looked him over. “What does that even mean?” he asked. Tome braced himself.
“It means I roamed the world as a spirit; I had left my body some time ago.” He paused. “I’m sure you’re aware that there are only a few people who could do something like that.”
Conneld stepped back and King froze in his seat.
“So Eon was right,” Conneld said. “Sing was there, with us, the whole time.”
King swallowed, nodding at Tome. “So. She knew who you were?”
“She did,” Tome replied. “It was a selfless act that only the real Parlay could have granted. And before you ask: no, I didn’t know that Pinada was evil all those times that I tried to stop him. It was jealousy and spite that drove me; I deserve no credit for my previous attacks on him. Parlay knew my past, and she saved me anyway.”
“It sounds like something she’d do,” King told him. “I’m glad––I’m glad someone was with her. I’m sorry I snapped at you, Miss Mean.”
He dabbed at his eyes as the room was silent. After a moment, he tugged on his robe, nodding.
“Well,” he said. “There’s only one last thing I wish to know: what happened to Pinada?”
“It’s a bit confusing,” Tecker stated. “But I think Darrow figured most of it out.”
“Well we all discussed it,” Darrow admitted. “Tome––ah, Sing––told me that Pinada didn’t have any special power for the early part of his life. It was only later that he was able to comprehend complex patterns, and, you know, stop meteors. So he goes along, just thinking he’s really smart or something, and comes up with the plan to kill everyone with the slate virus like you heard.”
He took a sip from the chipped mug that had appeared in his hand. “Then when he sees us at the fair he recognizes Tome as Sing. After you all disappeared and we didn’t he figures that we must have the virus already, and that his future self must have sent us back to test it. The time-traveling version, that is.”
“So that’s what he didn’t kill you then?” King asked. “To test his virus for him? What if he’s using it, then? How can we know he’s really gone for good!?”
Darrow held up a finger. “I’ll get to that,” he went on. “During the years that no one was on this planet, Pinada figured out where his powers came from: his future spirit was inhabiting his body.”
“Like multiple personalities,” King chimed in.
“Yeah,” Darrow said. “Only they’re the same guy; just from different times. Or I should say, different ages. You see, we tried to use the time machine again when we got back to the present. Well, Dark, Mean, and Tome did. They went down in the mine and attacked Pinada.”
“I cut off his air and forced him to poke a few holes in his case,” Tecker said. “Then I used Eon’s stone rory to suck out all the magic.”
“But it only affects the younger Pinada, the one in control of the body,” Darrow said. “It’s at this point that the older one takes over, suppressing the other one so that he can fight back with magic.”
“He told us that he had finally taken the virus himself,” Mean broke in. “That he would go back into the past so that he could torment everyone all over again.”
“But he messed up,” Darrow continued. “Only one mind can be affected at a time. And the mind that the virus had bonded to was the younger one. I believe that mind was sent back, then––without the body.”
“And that’s when he possesses himself in the past,” Tome said. “He goes through the later half of his life again––hidden until that confrontation in the mine.”
“And that’s when he’s killed,” Darrow reasoned. “He didn’t realize what happened: that his other self was gone already. It’s probably why he didn’t see the end coming.”
“So how did you do it!?” King asked, tipping forward in his seat.
“He stabbed himself with his own sword or something,” Darrow said. “It sounded pretty amazing, but I wasn’t there so I can’t explain it real well.”
“So the body’s still down there,” King stated, slumping back. “I’ll see to it that it’s recovered; I’ll dismantle every blasted piece of technology in there, too.”
Conneld rose an eyebrow. “Everything?” he asked.
“Yes,” King replied with a sigh, “you can go down with me if you want. But first we need to take care of the mess Pinada left us. The hex doors are all open, the power grid is a mess, and there are still so many injured––or dead. Before I vanished I saw both Caldera and Mr. Veinsmith killed by him before their viruses activated.” He exhaled again, smoothing his wild beard. “I supposed I’ll petition for monuments––I just––there’s so much to do. I think I’ve had enough talking for today.”
Several weeks later, two monuments graced the roof of the pyramid: one marked with a flag and the other displaying a sword. There were pots of flowers and wreaths decorating them both, and Tenny bowed his head at them as he walked past. Ahead, Darrow stood next to a third monument: one carved out of onyx and fitted with a bronze plaque. It read: “For Trisk Henning, who was afflicted with slate, yet did not return with the rest. May she find her way home.”
Darrow saw him approach and lifted his hand. Tenny nodded back. They both stood beside each other, staring at the scenery beyond the hard edge of the roof. One of the hills was still marred by a crater: the dead logs inside it overgrown with new foliage.
After a while, Tenny eyed the box in Darrow’s hands. “What’s that?”
“I just got some clothes for her. You know––when she comes back.”
“Ah,” Tenny said. “My friends told me not to get my hopes up. It’s good to see that I’m not the only one who has faith.”
“Yeah, it’s great,” Darrow coughed, looking around at the empty roof. “So, you’re going to wait around here every day, then?”
“I’m going to wait here as long as it takes,” Tenny replied. He plunked down on the roof, crossing his legs. “Well, as soon as I get off work every afternoon.”
“Work?” Darrow chuckled. “You have work?”
“I took the week of the tournament off,” Tenny explained, folding his arms. “So it’ll be a while before I can take another.”
Darrow grinned. “Don’t worry about it, man––when she gets back, I’ll tell her that you tried.”
Tenny cocked his head. “Really. And what makes you so sure you’ll be the one to see her first?”
With a snap of his fingers, a magnificent lounge chair clattered to the rooftop next to Darrow. A tray carrying his computer appeared next, settling into place at the chair’s side. Darrow plopped down into it, flipping on a rotary fan: basking in the breeze that it provided.
“Tenny,” he said, “you may have me beat in just about every way.” He took a long sip from his mug, savoring the taste. “But when it comes to sitting around waiting for stuff to happen––I’m king.”
Tome slipped in through the carved archway, where rows of pews faced a pulpit and a flower-laden coffin. Scanning the backs of the seated congregation’s heads, he spied the large thorns on Vornis’ neck sticking up a few rows from the front.
“So you’re here, Sing,” Conneld groused, stepping out from behind the arch.
“Oh, good, I was hoping I’d see you again,” Tome greeted. “Have they assigned you to me, or are you just here to pay your respects?”
Conneld lifted his chin, tugging his uniform. “I may not have liked her, but she was a friend to my brother. As for you: no, your crimes were absolved when you were pronounced dead. There’s no procedure for people who come back to life.”
“I wouldn’t resist it if charges were brought against me, you know that, right?” Tome asked. Conneld slanted his eyes.
“That’s the most infuriating part,” he muttered. “Now are you ever going to find your seat, or are you just going to stand here and taunt me?”
Tome swiped a hand over his clean-shaved jaw. “I want to work for you,” he said after a moment. “As a detective.”
Conneld tittered. “You must be joking,” he said. Several people turned in their seats.
“I learned to see patterns as clearly as physical objects,” Tome said. “Minds, thoughts: they’re all I had when I was just a spirt. I can help you.”
“You just want to show me up,” Conneld said. “I know you’re good––you made me look like a fool during the fair.”
“I just want to get some use out of this life I’ve been given;” Tome assured him, “this body should be in that casket over there. And Pinada may be gone, but there’s still the mystery of the intruders: Templetine, the shape in the sky.” He paused, letting a passer-by through before speaking again. “And the pieces of that ship you found in the hills, of course.”
“And what would you know about that,” Conneld said, struggling to keep his face calm.
“Only what you do,” Tome replied. He glanced over at the front rows of the church, where Dark had his arm around Mean as she dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. “But he knows something more about it. Maybe everything. His taunts were enough to worry Pinada, and I think that bears watching.”
Conneld peered over at the two. “I don’t sense anything strange,” he said. “Just concern for the girl.”
“He doesn’t think about what he said to Pinada,” Tome admitted. “He just wants to be happy with her, and I don’t aim to ruin it by trying to dredge painful memories up. I’d just advise that we be careful.”
The first notes of a pipe organ’s song resonated, and two said no more. They walked to the pews and sat down with the rest of the mourners as the hymn played.
Tecker and Mean found a balcony door after the service concluded: they walked out into a view of a bright sky with their other world hanging faint past the clouds. Light chattering came from inside the cathedral, and Tecker held Mean close as they looked out from the rail.
“I’m sorry I can’t stop crying,” Mean said, sniffing. “Just when I think I have it under control it starts up again.”
Tecker brushed her shoulder. “Well it was her funeral,” he said. “I don’t think anyone will blame you.”
Mean gave a weak laugh. “Vornis just told me something,” she said. She fished around in the folds of her dress, bringing a lens with leather straps out. “This is the bracelet he gave me when we first met.” Holding it out, she flipped the metallic lens over in her hands. Tecker bent his head down as she traced a line around the smooth curve. “For my friend, Mean,” is what was engraved there.
“Vornis said that Parlay wanted to give me a present for winning the tournament,” Mean said. “He thinks this is what it was. He didn’t know that when he found it, though. He only gave it to me because he saw my name on it.” She wiped at her cheek and laughed. “I was so silly; back then I thought it was because I was we were the same race. But––”
She sobbed again, and Tecker’s eyes were wet now, too.
“I think I know what you mean about this crying being hard to stop,” he said, forcing a smile. “Quite a nuisance, now that I don’t have the helmet to hide it.”
She reached up and wiped one of his tears, touched his lips, then stretched up to kiss him. They lingered together a moment, kissed again, and parted. She pulled the bracelet on over her wrist.
“I’ll wear it. And I’ll miss her,” she said. “But I won’t be sad.”
She set her elbows up on the rail. With the sky at her back, she gazed past Tecker––at the people inside the cathedral. Through the balcony doors a buffet bar could be seen, with Jelk at the front piling his plate high. King and his brother Conneld were next, then Vornis with a few others giving him a wide berth in the line. Tome was picking out pieces of dried fruit from a bowl, while Darrow stood next to him, frowning, with an empty platter. Kello came up behind him with a plate of her own, and she began talking to him.
“Parlay got what she wanted;” Mean said with a smile, “her dream came true, Dark.” She tightened the strap on her wrist, took his hand, and walked in. “The world is alive again.”
“But now that I know how she used to be, I think that Parlay came back at the end. She saved her friend and even complete strangers. Just like she wanted––”
You want to know why I decided that bringing everyone back WASN’T sappy? Because of Parlay. Or rather, the tragedy of Parlay. Her death isn’t the tragic part; it’s the part where she buried herself. She forgot what she was and became another person. If she hadn’t done that she would have recognized Mean in the first book. She would have seen her friend again. She would have had a way to deal with the pain.
But she didn’t do that; she spent the entire time fighting against Mean and her friends. She gave in to bitterness. And what’s worse is that Mean fought back. And by the time they realized that they weren’t enemies, events had already spiraled out of control.
That. That is tragedy enough for everyone. ::points a finger and looks all serious::
“Tome––ah, Sing––told me that Pinada didn’t have any special power for the early part of his life. It was only later that he was able to….
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. For crying out LOUD we don’t need his whole life story. And this goes on for like two pages! This is terrible; I need to shorten it up. There are only a few things I need to make clear–I mean, you just READ the rest two chapters ago. Here’s what I need to try to explain:
Pinada goes through life. “Older” Pinada possesses him at a certain point. Younger Pinada goes to the fair, releases the virus, et cetera with the older one inside him. Then we get to the scene at the cave. Younger Pinada takes the time virus, planning to go back. Then the rory wipe occurs. At this point The Older one comes out and possesses Mean since he’s the one with magic. He goes back to Pinada’s body and becomes the “dominate” one while younger Pinada is suppressed.
During the fight the virus activates, taking the younger Pinada’s mind back in time since that’s the mind that the virus bonded to. Now he is “Older” Pinada, and possesses his younger body. He goes through the timeline again–mostly dormant–until we reach the event at the cave. He swaps places, becomes the active mind, and is finally killed.
There is only one Pinada; he just overlaps with himself on the timeline.
Man! That still looks like it will take two pages to explain. At least it will be more interesting than that mess in the first draft.
“My friends told me not to get my hopes up. It’s good to see that I’m not the only one who has faith.”
Wow, Tenny, bowing your head at monuments and talking about faith. Who knew you were so spiritual? And will Trisk come back? I just don’t know, man!
“I took the week of the tournament off,” Tenny explained, folding his arms.
What, you thought Tenny just trained in his dojo every day!? This is real life; people have jobs. He works at Burger King, bravely paving the way for future Abandonment Party endorsement deals.
He took a long sip from his mug, savoring the taste. “But when it comes to sitting around waiting for stuff to happen––I’m king.”
Ha,ha,ha you tell him, Darrow. When Trisk re-appears you’ll be waiting there with your Double Whopper™ and extra-large Satisfries™.
“And the pieces of that ship you found in the hills, of course.”
Templetine flew away in his ship so there shouldn’t be one left behind. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be jettisoned stages of a rocket or what. Oh! It must be from the Deep Space Nine crossover I had planned! Quark crash-lands in a runabout, and, well, I don’t want to spoil it. Let’s just say Odo will have one heck of a mess to clean up when he finally catches up to our Ferengi friend in book four!
Through the balcony doors a buffet bar could be seen, with Jelk at the front piling his plate high. King and his brother Conneld were next, then Vornis with a few others giving him a wide berth in the line.
Aw, look, everyone’s all friends and it’s happy and wonderful. If only I could put in the music that plays at the end of every Final Fantasy game. Oh! Wait! I totally can.
Kello came up behind him with a plate of her own, and she began talking to him.
What is Kello doing at Parlay’s funeral!? If she’s here I might as well let Eon come too. And heck! Even Kay Kary! It’s like some kind of large, social event for those that have been forsaken and misunderstood!
“Parlay got what she wanted;” Mean said with a smile, “her dream came true, Dark.” She tightened the strap on her wrist, took his hand, and walked in. “The world is alive again.”
What a nice ending. There is an epilogue, but I’m sure it’s not too sinister or anything.