"Let Sleeping Dragons Lie" by NobodyAtAll

It’s Cal again, and it’s been another busy two weeks since we sent our first drone to Magicca, and it got blown up.

Still talking to people on Earth and in occupied Drakonia, still trying to work out a strategy.

We risked sending a few more drones over the last two weeks, they all got blown up too.

And the village that the last drone was flying over was destroyed later that same day, according to Peter.

People saw it happen, too. They saw the red beam screaming across the kingdom, on a direct course to the village. That’s… happened a few times by now.

Yeah, Dehak isn’t just using it on drones.

Another village got scorched off the map because the mayor pleaded to Dehak to send some guards to defend the village from monsters.

Dehak did him one better: now the village doesn’t need defending ever again.

The message is clear. Dehak won’t tolerate any more drones in Drakonia. We’re postponing Victor’s solo stealth mission to Drakonia, in case he gets targeted.

Even if Victor survives it, extracting all of the little bitty pieces of Victor would be troublesome.

But we’ve already gotten the data we needed from the drones, and Dehak doesn’t even seem to realize that he practically gave it to us.

Data on the Tower of Tyranny, and that gigantic skull’s beam attacks that were doing the drone-destroying. And what, exactly, those skull beams are.

We’re pretty sure it’s some bizarre mishmash of magic and technology. Kinda like alchemy, according to Victor. Umbra’s probably the best ideas guy Dehak could ask for, and it doesn’t really matter how outlandish or unfeasible the ideas are, because the fucking Lamp can still make them happen.

Yeah, and I’ve shared my theory on the Lamp with Cal.

And we’re not telling you, dear readers, because we’re not sure we’re right. We won’t be sure until we get to the Lamp, and we think Dehak has it on him at all times.

Remember, those drones can see through walls. None of them gave us a perfect view of the inside of the Tower before they were destroyed, but Valerie’s working on piecing what we’ve got together. She’s already all but confirmed that Nadia, Lorik and Aurelia are alive and inside the Tower, but we’d need a closer look to pinpoint their location, and, ah, confirm their status.

Which is an euphemism for “find out if they’re being tortured or not”, but putting it like that makes us uneasy.

However, we’re not even going to get close to the Tower if we can’t get past those skull beams. We’ve got, like, part of a plan.

Unfortunately, our plan for shutting the skull beams down requires getting to the Tower, and our plan for getting to the Tower involves shutting the skull beams down.

And there’s the rub.

We’re stuck in another Catch-22.

We think our best bet is to distract the skull with a target, while someone else moves in to attack the Tower.

And we’d need someone fast enough to dodge those beams, or durable enough to tank them, and the problem there is…

I’m not sure that I’m up to that.

Destroying the skull? Oh yeah. At the very least, I could probably knock the Tower over.

If I could get close enough to it.

That last drone was adamantium-plated, and it was still destroyed.

And there’s innocent prisoners inside the Tower, so even if we can topple it, we can’t do so while they’re in there.

So with that, and Dehak having the Lamp, every plan we’re trying to put together has risks.

Because the moment Dehak realizes what we’re up to, if he still has his Lamp, we’re fucked.

If we make one mistake, we pay for it, and we don’t get another go.

And the odds of everything lining up perfectly in our favor are pretty low. Like, close to a million to one.

So we can’t act until we have a complete plan, and we’ve worked out every last kink. We need to be sure that everything is ready before we move out to Drakonia, because we’ll probably be noticed pretty quickly after crossing the slimy green Rubicon, and we’ll have to act fast.

One of the biggest hurdles is figuring out how to deal with that big fuckin’ skull that shoots beams of pure death.

Even with all of my power-ups, I’m not sure that I can stall the skull, and if I am stalling the skull, I won’t be able to get up close to the Tower.

Cal, you’ve got ME for this! I could get to the Tower, while you distract the skull! If there’s a single shadow in there, I can get into the Tower, and you KNOW villains like their rooms poorly lit!

But Dehak has knowledge of the draaks, so he may know of their ability to travel through darkness. And he knows you draw power from the draaks, Niv. So he may be expecting you to slip in.

And we’d probably need the full power version to get this done. You know that full power doubles our stamina drain, Niv.

So could I last long enough stalling the skull for you to get to the Tower?

I’m not sure if we should flip that coin. Especially not if your theory is true, Niv.

I don’t mind making the sacrifice play, but not if it doesn’t actually solve the problem!

Okay, but it’s still an option!

We need the options we can get right now, so I’ll add it to the list.

We might have to do it that way, because we’re having a hard time building a vehicle that is up to the task. The Nerd Squad is having trouble designing a vehicle that is fast enough to dodge the beams, durable enough to tank the beams, and strong enough to damage the skull. And Jack’s not sure that stopping time would work. All Dehak has to do is rub the Lamp, and boom, Tower’s immune to time freezes.

Any vehicle the Nerd Squad can design is either too heavy to dodge a skull beam, or too fragile to tank a skull beam, and even if it’s neither, it doesn’t have enough heavy artillery to finish the job.

So just build some of each! Let them cover each other’s weaknesses! Have 'em swarm the skull!

We’d need a lot of really good pilots for something like that. And remote controlling all of them has its own hurdles.

If this becomes a war of attrition, Dehak can win it. He can wish up a limitless supply of resources, we can’t.

So instead of just throwing all of our resources at him, we need to think smart.

Because that’s the thing: limitations encourage you to think outside the box.

And every time Dehak rubs that Lamp, he becomes more dependent on it. Has he considered what he would do if it was stolen from him again? Has he got a plan to get it back? Has he even considered the possibility that the Lamp could be stolen again?

I mean, Umbra’s right there, watching him make every wish. And I know Umbra.

So we shouldn’t be trying to beat them at their own rigged game.

Really, Dehak could end all of this with one rub, but he likes to drag things out. I know his type. It’s all a game to him. And a game needs a win condition and a lose condition.

Nobody says he has to make it easy for us to win, but if Dehak was smart, he wouldn’t give us any chance, he’d have listened to Umbra, and we’d all be dead now.

I get that he’s a sadist, but still.

The good news is that we do have a vehicle that would fit the bill.

The bad news is that it will only let one person drive it.

And the really bad news is that said driver is too depressed to actually drive it.

So yeah, that way is going to be a coin flip too.


Right now, me and Marley are at the von Drachen house, standing in front of Edward’s bedroom door. It’s around noon right now here.

I already jiggled the knob, it’s locked.

I knock on the door.

knock knock knock

“Eddy? You up, dude? It’s Cal, I’m here with Mar.”

No response, but I can feel that there’s a half-dragon and an ordinary fluffy in there.

I know what a human’s life force feels like, and by now, I’ve met enough dragons to know what their life force feels like too, and Eddy’s is, well, sorta halfway.

“Edward Theodore von Drachen, you and I both know that I can sense you’re in there, and that this door isn’t actually an obstacle to me and Mar. We need to talk to you, Eddy. So are you gonna open the door?”

“Cuz if yu nu opun da doow, we can jus wawk in fwu da doow.”

“Courtesy of Danny and Ghost. On your terms or ours, Eddy.”

We hear someone getting out of bed, the bedsprings creaking briefly, and Edward’s voice speaks up, sounding annoyed.

“Alright, fine, I’m up!”

The lock clicks, and the door opens.

And to be frank, well…

Eddy looks like SHIT.

Niv, please try to have some tact.

Edward’s black hair, one streak of red dyed into it, is a mess, not in his usual fauxhawk. He’s wearing a Dragon Quest T-shirt and sweatpants, there’s a whiff of stale beer about him, and it looks like he hasn’t changed clothes or shaved for at least a week.

And when’s the last time he took a shower, eurgh! Good thing he likes french fries so much, boy’s probably got taters for DAYS growing behind his ears!

Niv, you’re being particularly blunt today.

He looks like he’s been crying, but right now, he’s just glaring at me like a sullen teenager.

“Whaddya want?!?”

“First of all, dude, that’s no way to talk to one of your friends, and, while I hate to play this card, that’s no way to talk to your boss, either. Well, I’m one of your bosses, at any rate. Look, can we just come in? I’m worried about you, and I need to know if I have to confiscate Dragonbane before you cut yourself with it again.”

“It was just one time, and it wasn’t my idea. Relax, it’s not that bad yet.”

“Oh, good, because I think Vic’s close to another frenzy, so I need to keep the padded room at the School empty for him. He usually has a frenzy around this time of year, and now I think I know why.

“Su can we come in ow nu, Edee?”

He shrugs, walking back into the bedroom, and we follow him.

The room really doesn’t look any better than its occupants.

The curtains are closed, the bed is a mess, Erdrick curled up on it, near the pillow, looking like he hasn’t had a bath in a while, not really paying attention to us as he mopes. He’s looking at a framed photo on the pillow, a recent one, of Edward, Nadia, Erdrick and Aurelia standing outside Dragonheart Palace. I recognize it immediately, because I took that picture, about a week before we moved out to Mount Drakus.

There’s more framed photos of Edward and Cecil at various stages of Eddy’s life hanging on the walls, a few of Edward and Erdrick, a signed poster of our teammate Drake Fuego (who is, if you’ve forgotten, a rapper in his day job) hangs on the wall above the bed, and various pieces of other signed D.F. merch are also adorning the room. Yeah, Drake uses his initials in his rap career too, just to be sure there’s no confusion with the other Drake, the one who only metaphorically spits fire.

I knew Eddy was going to show up on his first day of training with a bunch of stuff for Drake to sign. Drake’s just glad none of it ended up on eBay. And a bit disturbed that all of it ended up in Eddy’s room.

But these days, Eddy’s usually pretty chill around Drake. Usually. Last week, Drake tried coming here with Diablo and Dexter, to talk like me and Marley are doing right now, Eddy slammed the door in their faces.

This really is serious.

On the wall opposite from the bed, a crude drawing of Dehak has been taped to a dartboard, several darts stuck in the paper Dehak’s face.

He’s better at writing than drawing, and, let’s be real, dear readers, how many of you can relate?

A nearly empty bag of Flufftopia’s Überfluff Bestest Nummies fluffy kibble is next to a pair of food and water bowls, and Dragonbane, in its scabbard, is propped up against the desk. Judging by the empty beer bottles and bent bottle caps littering the room, he’s been using Dragonbane as a bottle opener. A stack of dirty dishes and a pile of empty takeout containers are on the desk, next to the Star Bell.

Ringing it after summoning the Star Chariot dismisses the Chariot again, and we don’t know if the Chariot can be summoned on this side of the universe, because Eddy’s been too depressed to try.

The wastepaper basket is full of used tissues, and what appears to be another framed photo. It’s upside down, and cracked. That one seems to be an old picture, baby Eddy being held by a man who must be Cecil, next to a woman who must be Shannon.

Unfortunately, the top half of the photo, as in the part with Cecil and Shannon’s faces, is mostly obscured by tissues, and I’m not the kind of person to rummage around in someone else’s trash, so that’s all I can see of the elusive Shannon Long.

Yeah, for all WE know, he wasn’t just using those tissues to dry his EYES.

Ew, Niv! I wasn’t even thinking about that!

Well, that’s another reason not to touch that rubbish.

“Rubbish”? Oh, right, you spend most of your time in England, relatively speaking, yadda yadda yadda.

I’m happy to see that you remembered that, Niv.

Eddy’s got his own bathroom, and we can smell several-day-old fluffy feces wafting through the open bathroom door, from a full litterbox.

So that’s how they’ve been solving THAT problem.

Edward sarcastically gestures around his room.

“Welcome to my lovely little home, Cal. So whaddya here for?”

“To be honest, Eddy?”

I gesture around too, more sincerely.

“We’re here to do something about all of thiiiiiiiiiis.

Marley sniffs, wrinkling his nose.

“See-wee-us-wee, did sumfin gu foweba sweepies in hewe?”

Edward shrugs again.

“Just my spirit, my hopes and dreams, and my chances of ever returning to Drakonia, seeing Nadia again, or finding my mom. But enough about me, how have you guys been–”

“Don’t try to change the subject, Eddy. Because we might have a way to mount an offence on the Tower of Tyranny, but we need you to do something real quick first.”

“Oh yeah, what?”

I get up close to Eddy, gesturing that I want to whisper into his ear.

So he leans in close too.

“What we need you to do is… GET YOUR FUCKING SHIT TOGETHER, EDWARD VON DRACHEN!!!”

Edward and Erdrick both jump in shock.

“Jesus fuck my ear Christ!”

“Eep!”

frrrt

“Oh nu, Ewdwick am sowwy, daddeh! Ewdwick am now-maw-wee bettah den dat…”

“It’s alright, Erdrick, those sheets needed changing anyway. But seriously, not cool, Cal!”

“You wanna know what’s really not cool?”

I point at Edward.

You spending all of your time in bed and feeling sorry for yourself, while Nadia is stuck in a cell! Eddy, you might have the one thing that can save her, and you’re doing nothing with it!”

Marley nods.

“Wut did Gwenn say? Ebiw twai-umfs wen gud mistahs du nuffin?”

“Damn right, Mar! I told you, Eddy, we’re not leaving Nadia to rot! We just wanted Dehak and Umbra to think they’d already won! If they think they’ve won, they’ll lower their guard, and practically allow us in! Maybe your mom knew something like this would happen, and that’s why she wanted you to get the Star Chariot!”

Edward folds his arms, rolling his eyes as he huffs.

“I think Mom was just screwing with us now.”

Cal, do you mind if I take the wheel? I think I know what to say to light a fire under their asses.

Alright, as long as you don’t literally light a fire under their asses.

You have my word.

Don’t make me regret this, Niv.

Fi, you wanna shoot some pool? I never really get the chance to play imaginary pool with you guys.

That would be lovely, yes.

Yes, dear readers, there is a way to do that at will. I asked Deston about it, after our first mission in Drakonia. He lent me a book, with meditation techniques and whatnot, and I had already learned a thing or two about meditation.

Anyway…

I hand the wheel to Nivlac.

And I pick up right where Cal left off.

“Sup, Eddy. Yeah, I’m taking it from here, deal with it. Look, you KNOW Cal is right. Maybe not about your mom, I dunno, we’ll have to ask her when we FIND her. But about everything else, he’s absolutely right. We need a way to get to that fucking Tower, YOU have the way, and that Star Chariot won’t let anyone ELSE drive it!”

“Unless I give you the Bell. And honestly, you should just take it.”

Eddy walks over to the desk, grabs the Star Bell, and offers it to me.

“You and Cal could make more use of it than a failure like me.

But I refuse it, knowing I’ll hate myself for saying no later.

That Chariot is just so cool.

“Sorry, but YOU’RE the one who jumped off a tower for it, and a taller tower than the one Cal jumped off of. Plus, we’ve already GOT a bike. It’s in the shop, we might have to Old Yeller it if it turns out to be rabid, but we HAVE a bike. For now. If we DO have to scrap it, you may regret leaving this offer on the table.”

“So what? I don’t even deserve my moped anymore.”

“Daddeh sowd da moh-ped.”

“Really? To who?”

“Some guy called William Arthur. Fat balding middle-aged accountant, said he wanted to buy it for a young friend of his.”

“Oh, that was Vic in disguise, and YOU’RE the young friend.”

“What?”

“Wut?”

“Nu-buddy towd Mawwey abowt dat.”

“Yeah, see, he KNEW you were going to do that, so he wanted to keep your moped safe for you until you realize how stupid you’re being and want it back. It’s in his cabin, and he’ll even let you keep the money he paid you for it.”

“Well, it was a wasted effort. I don’t deserve the moped, and I definitely don’t deserve the Star Chariot now. You sure you don’t want it, Niv? You were practically drooling over it at the Fes… when you first saw it.”

I wink at Eddy.

“I’ll make you a deal: help us save Nadia, and if you still don’t want the Star Chariot afterwards, me and Cal will take it off your hands, no charge.”

Mar cracks a grin up at Eddy.

“Wut mowe du yu haf tu wose hewe?”

“Eddy, I’m just going to come right out and say it: how do you think Nadia would feel if SHE saw you right now? She’s rotting in a cell, her people-- who we ALL know might be YOUR people one day-- are FUCKING DYING, and what are YOU doing about it? NOTHING!!! An entire kingdom is suffering, people are dying, woollies are being driven into hiding and massacred, it’s only getting WORSE, Cal is busting his ass to get you back there, and you’re wallowing in self-pity and your own filth! I’m sorry, but I thought that the von Drachens had more class than that! Do you think her reaction to this would be better or worse than her finding out about all the fluffy porn you’ve written?”

“Mawwey nu can fank yu enuff fow dat.”

“You think CAL would be moping in bed if JUDY was stuck in a cell? Hell no! He’d be on the FUCKING WARPATH!!! And honestly, Judy might have already gotten HERSELF out of the cell by the time he shows up, she HATES the idea of being a neutral female, or a damsel in distress! Cal didn’t give up when he was throwing down with Omega-powered killer robots and Stone of Octavo-wielding megalomaniacs! And YOU shouldn’t give up on throwing down with that Lamp-stroking undead son of a bitch! You’re almost as strong as Cal! Really, if we’re not counting the other Omegas, it’s either you or Konba who takes the silver medal. You’re a fucking von Drachen! You’ve got the blood of nobles and dragons running through your veins! You’ve got a dragon-killing sword and a flying motorbike made of goddamn STARLIGHT!”

“That sword won’t do much against Dehak, he’s not a dragon.”

“Eddy, come ON. You and I BOTH know that there’s like a 75% chance, AT LEAST, that he’ll transform himself into a dragon. I mean…”

I gesture at his T-shirt.

“Remind me how most of those games end?”

Eddy manages a laugh, and he clearly sees my point.

“If he doesn’t turn himself into a dragon, he’d definitely want one as a pet.

“Ee-fuw way, daddeh gut da bas-tuwd come-in an guin.”

“Well, yeah.”

I smile at both of them, keeping my mouth closed because the big yellow teeth tend to make people feel a LITTLE uncomfortable.

"So are ya done being a whiny little bitch, and ready to be Edward FUCKING von Drachen again? Are you gonna clean this shit up, clean YOURSELF up, and help US clean shit up in Drakonia?’

He nods.

“Fuck it. I don’t have anything else to lose but my life.”

“And you’re gonna wanna hold on to THAT, because it won’t do anyone much good if Nadia is freed but you die in the process. Takes TWO to make an heir, Eddy, and she’s yearning for YOUR wyrm. Ha, see what I did there?”

“I saw what you did there, but why does everyone keep blurting it out like that?”

“Because we all think you’d make a cute couple.”

Mar giggles.

“An yu am takin yu dam time. See-wee-us-wee, jus fuk awweady, git it oba wif.”

“Well, they can’t fuck right now, but we’re gonna DO something about that, aren’t we?”

Eddy blushes.

“Let’s just… y’know… focus on saving her first before you start lighting candles and put some Barry White on, okay?”

I laugh.

“Actually, I was thinking Marvin Gaye. Okay, Cal, I got him on board, take it from here!”


Meanwhile, on the magical side of the universe, a strange, otherworldly vehicle flies over the deserts of T’almin, far away from the darkened Drakonia, to a region visited by very few.

It’s a black, skull-shaped vehicle, steered by God-King Dehak, Archmage Umbra riding shotgun. Not unlike the Ei-Mobil Hans Stahlberg used on Devil Island.

Yes, of course they can pass through the barrier sealing Drakonia in. It’s there to keep their subjects trapped, not them. Go on, guess how they managed that.

They’re flying into a sandstorm, but the vehicle and its occupants are protected by an octarine bubble.

“I’ve got to hand it to you, Umbra: you are an endless well of good ideas.”

Archmage Umbra smiles happily.

“I used to have my own Sky Skull, back when I ran the Order. Hans built it for me, he was always better at mechanics than genetics. Never really got the chance to show Korkea, though.”

“Did the boy never wonder how you and Number Two got up onto that roof? You could hardly walk in through the front doors and take the elly-vattor up, after all!”

“Apparently not, and it’s pronounced elevator. My Sky Skull was invisibly parked on the corner of the roof the entire time, and Korkea never noticed it. Of course, he wasn’t up there for very long. And neither was I. Had he chosen to run in the opposite direction after grabbing me, he would have run right into it. Bertie recovered it while he was retrieving Number Two’s soul, but I couldn’t fit inside it as Umbra Two, so, if I’m not mistaken, it was in the Couronne at the time of the throneship’s destruction.”

“Ah. Maybe I should wish for a spaceship. I’ve never really gotten the chance to explore the universe beyond Magicca. So many more lands to conquer up there!”

“I dare say you’ll have plenty of time for that once the plan is complete. Speaking of which, are we almost there?”

“Almost. Don’t forget, generations of cultists have been trying to find the place for centuries, and those who didn’t give up and go home died in this desert.”

“Of course, with your fancy new toy, finding it is a snap. Any piece of knowledge is one rub away.”

God-King Dehak chuckles.

“True. But I’m glad you talked me out of wishing for omniscience.

“We both know by now that there is knowledge not meant for mortal minds. Our employer has a lot of that.”

“Yes, and while we’re still mortal, it’s best not to grasp for it. We have time to take it slow. I think this is it.”

God-King Dehak parks the Sky Skull in midair, the duo looking down.

They can just barely see their quarry through the scratchy, dry blizzard, poking out of the sea of sand below.

Bones.

Dragon bones.

Very, very big dragon bones.

And they look like they’ve been buried in the desert for a very long time.

God-King Dehak smiles smugly.

“Finally. With these, two becomes three.

Archmage Umbra smiles just as smugly.

“And that’s not the end, yes? Our employer is not called the Sender of Three, after all. Can’t believe you talked them into this kind of investment. What did you have to promise them?”

“The destruction of a group called the Intergalactic Patrol. Apparently, they’re safeguarding something our employer wants. My apologies, I know it’s a breach of our boundaries, since it’s on your side.”

Archmage Umbra shrugs.

“Oh, it’s quite alright. I was planning on destroying the Patrol anyway, you’ll save me the effort. And our employer can help themself to whatever shiny trinkets are inside that gaudy place. I just want to eliminate challengers to my rule.”

“Thank you. Now, without further ado…”

God-King Dehak reaches for the Lamp of Desire, still chained around his neck.

“Let’s light this candle, and see who comes a-knocking.”

He rubs the Lamp, addressing it in the tone another man would use to address his lover while whispering sweet nothings into her ear.

“Dear, precious Lamp of Desire… grant my wish… bring life back into these sand-blasted bones…”

Octarine smoke starts spewing out of the lamp, lots and lots of smoke, all flowing down, surrounding the colossal draconic skeleton.

“Snatch this beautiful beast’s soul from the gaping maw of darkness beyond darkness, and return it into this discarded vessel…”

The smoke thickens, obscuring the skeleton, and octarine lightning crackles.

“Restore the beast’s flesh and blood and ebony scales! Undo the damage the fool Drakus inflicted upon this champion of all things dark and terrible! LET THERE BE… LIIIIIIIIIFE!!!

Archmage Umbra chuckles.

“Really enjoying this, aren’t you?”

Shush, Archmage Umbra! It’s happening!

The lich and fluffy watch, as life stirs in the storm below.

A deep, gutteral, bellowing roar of jubilance rings out, powerful enough to dispel the sandstorm, leaving a massive crater.

And when the skies and smoke are both cleared, God-King Dehak and Archmage Umbra see a dragon curled up, in the exact location and position of the the bones.

The same size, too.

Scales black as night. Yellow eyes like a cat, slowly opening. Sharp spines all over the body. Each tooth the size of a greatsword at least.

The dragon gets his bearings, and takes flight, unfurling a truly massive pair of wings, his eyes fixated on the Sky Skull as he speaks in his deep, gutteral voice, beating his wings to stay aloft.

ꐔꊿꌈ… ꐔꊿꌈ ꏳꁲ꒒꒒ꑀꀷ?

He is, of course, using his inside voice, even though he’s not actually inside.

God-King Dehak beams up at the dragon.

“Erebus the Dark Dragon… welcome back to the land of the living.”

Archmage Umbra is just as happy as his God-King.

“My, you may be the biggest dragon I’ve ever seen. And they say that a dragon’s size increases with their strength, so I like the implications.”

“You can’t speak the modern Drakonian tongue, can you?”

Erebus slowly shakes his head, so God-King Dehak rubs the Lamp again.

“Then I wish that you can speak it.”

When the flame burns octarine, Erebus smiles.

“Thank you, Dehak. Dragontongue is so hard for feeble not-dragons to understand, after all. Where to?”

God-King Dehak points north.

“To Drakonia! Or, as I’ll be announcing soon, Dehakonia!

Archmage Umbra nods.

“We really just need to finish designing the new flag, and finish writing the new national anthem. It’s hard to find a good rhyme for we’ll be ruling the whole damn cosmos in six months. Nothing rhymes with month!”

God-King Dehak shrugs.

“Auldryn was always better at the creative arts than I was, and I don’t mind letting him have that. Do you think he’s told Korkea yet?”

“He was certainly worried when he figured it out. I don’t know if he’s even told the Faucheuse brothers. So you and Auldryn go back further than he thought. Very interesting. And he never tried using that staff to–”

Erebus interrupts.

“I feel like I’m missing some context, and there’s nothing to burn here but sand, which isn’t fun to burn at all. And I’ve got an appointment at Dragon Roost Mountain. Can we fly and talk?”

God-King Dehak nods, taking the wheel of his Sky Skull.

“Of course we can, Erebus. Don’t worry, if we can’t keep up with you, I can make this thing as fast as it needs to be. Oh, and I’ll need to wish for you to be able to pass through the Great Octarine Wall, too.”

Yes, that is how they got through it, and yes, that is what they’re calling it now.

It’s catching on in Drakonia, but only because God-King Dehak has demonstrated what happens to people who don’t call it that.

He isn’t a fan of the name, it was Archmage Umbra’s idea, but God-King Dehak doesn’t really need an excuse to ruin someone’s life.

Archmage Umbra nudges his god-king with a marshmallow hoof.

“Or you could just wish us home.”

“I could. But I want everyone to see us returning, and who’s coming back with us. They think things are bad in Drakonia now? We haven’t even gotten serious. I care nothing for that kingdom, I care only for the opportunities and resources it offers me. Every other kingdom on this rock is exactly the same. They’ll all fall under our rule in time. So I want to send a message: nobody can stop God-King Dehak and Archmage Umbra. There is nothing we cannot do, nobody we cannot overcome, nowhere we cannot conquer. And what better way to do that than with a gigantic black dragon following us home?”

Erebus grins.

“You know, I’m completely on board with that plan, but don’t forget: I’m an equal partner in this.”

As the trio departs, the Sky Skull following Erebus north, God-King Dehak nods in agreement.

“Oh, sure. Just as the other five members of our group will be.”

Archmage Umbra gives God-King Dehak a cautious look.

“But you’re getting ahead of yourself, Dehak. They’re not even here yet.”

God-King Dehak carefully strokes the Lamp with a finger, his other hand on the wheel.

“I can call them at any time, Umbra. But let’s finish this bunch of grapes before we start another one. Erebus here needs to get settled in.”

“On Earth, we say candy bar instead of bunch of grapes.

“Those khandi-bahrs aren’t really a thing here. And I already banned those frenched fries just to rub salt in the dragon-boy’s wounds–”

“Ha, nice one. French fries. Salt.”

“That wasn’t even on purpose, Umbra. Point is, if you want some Earth food, I’ll gladly wish it up for you, but the peasantry should be grateful that they have anything to eat right now. Because, let me tell you two…”

God-King Dehak jerks a thumb in Erebus’s direction with a malicious laugh.

“They won’t be complaining about not having anything for dinner when they are dinner.”

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