Appendix A: Chapter 27

[Editor's note: Chapter 27 of my 2008 NaNoWriMo entry.]

“You can’t be serious,” Anna said, staring at Roland in disbelief. “The Demon King has been dead for decades.”

“But can you guarantee that it’s impossible for Derek to summon him anyway?” Roland asked.

Anna looked away. “Technically, no.”

“Well then,” Roland said, beginning to walk towards Doomhammer Hall, “I need to make sure he doesn’t. Or at least warn the nobles what’s happening.”

After a few seconds, Roland heard Anna’s footsteps as she ran to catch up. “Then I’m coming with you,” she said.

“It’s too dangerous. Maybe even too dangerous to stay in Doomhammer.”

“I don’t care,” she countered. “He’s my brother. I’m not leaving without him, and you can’t stop me.”

Roland knew continuing to argue was pointless. He stopped halfway down the street, removed his cloak, and flipped it back around so the emblem of the Order was once again visible.

“What are you doing?” Anna asked.

“They’re not going to listen to some random guy off the street,” Roland said.

“But if they find out what you did in Blackstone–”

“They’re going to find out one way or another. I knew going into this I couldn’t hide from the consequences forever. If that’s the cost of saving the world, I can accept that.” He hesitated, then added, “And even if the only one I save is your brother, I can accept that too. Come on, we don’t have any time to waste.”

Roland strode confidently down the rest of the street towards Doomhammer Hall, where he knew his fate, Derek’s fate, and maybe everyone’s fate too, awaited. With Anna following closely behind, he marched up the steps to the main entrance of the building and shoved the doors open.

Almost immediately, he found four swords pointed at him. The guards wore chain mail similar to Roland’s, but under them were uniforms Roland didn’t recognize. Two of the uniforms were dark blue, the other two dark red.

“Halt, intruders!” one of the guards barked at Roland and Anna.

“Step aside,” Roland ordered. “I am Roland, paladin of the Order of Yssindria. I come to deliver an urgent warning to the nobles inside.”

“Surrender your weapons!” another guard shouted.

Roland considered the situation. He thought he could handle a four-on-one fight, but Anna had nothing to protect herself with.

“Only on the condition that you allow me to deliver my message. After that you may do with me as you wish.”

“And the girl?”

Before Roland could respond, Anna said, “I’m going in with him.”

Two of the guards looked at each other, then shrugged. “Works for us,” the first guard said.

Roland dropped his pack to the ground. He then unfastened his sword’s scabbard from his belt and held it in front of him with both hands. If he had already resigned himself to his fate, what use did he have for a sword anyway?

One of the guards took the sword from him. Then two guards grabbed him by the arm, one on each side. He looked behind him to see the same being done to Anna.

“This way,” the guard to his left said as Roland was marched briskly through the inner set of doors into the main chamber of Doomhammer Hall.

They entered an impossibly large hall. Only after a couple seconds did Roland realize that the left and right walls were covered in floor-to-ceiling mirrors. The room itself was empty, save for a long table in the center of the room and a few ladders strewn about in the periphery, the latter of which were presumably there for the on-going repairs. Seated at the table were six men, three on each side. Roland recognized the clothes the men on the left side wore as the royal purple formal uniform of Telerand nobility. He was less sure of those on the other side, but they matched the description he had heard of how Lantarian nobility dressed. At the head of the table sat a man wearing a tailored beige outfit.

One of the Telerand nobles was speaking as Roland and Anna were escorted in. “–the boundary all the way back to the Elysium River is out of the question. There’s no way His Highness would ever agree to — What is the meaning of this?” he demanded as he noticed their entrance.

“Sirs,” the guard to Roland’s left replied, “these two say they have a message to deliver.”

“And you believe them?” one of the Lantarian nobles said.

“We hired you to be guards, not couriers,” added another of the Telerand nobles.

A second Lantarian noble stared at Roland, then pointed an accusatory finger towards him. “That man is one of your soldiers! What is it that you’re trying to pull, Arundel?”

“This is none of our doing,” countered Lord Arundel.

“The agreement was for each side to bring four guards and four guards alone,” the third Lantarian noble said. “Am I not mistaken that this new arrival now makes five from Telerand?”

“I’m surprised you can even count that high, Caldwell,” retorted one of the Telerand nobles.

“Gentlemen, please,” the man at the head of the table interjected. “I’m noticing that there’s a lot of negative language being used right now. I’m concerned that we may lose some of the progress we’ve been making since yesterday. May I ask that we all please continue to follow the behavioral norms we all agreed to yesterday morning?”

“We see now how well these ‘nobles’ are able to follow rules,” muttered one of the other Lantarian nobles.

“Lord Girardeau, please, we agreed to refrain from such language. Now, I believe Lord Calvert may have something productive he wishes to say?” the man at the head of the table said, nodding toward one of the Telerand nobles.

“I believe that we should at least listen to what they have to say,” Lord Calvert suggested.

“OK, we have a suggestion to set aside the issue of the border through the Elysium Hills for the time being and instead turn to our unexpected guests. Let’s go around the table with that. Lord Stoddard, do you accept the proposal?”

“I think that it’s inconceivable we can trust any agreement we come to here given how Arundel, Calvert, and Kent can’t seem to keep to their word,” the Lantarian noble said. “I knew this whole meeting was a waste of time.”

“Gentlemen, I’m afraid that if you are going to continue behaving in this manner, there is little I can do to help you come to a mutually acceptable proposal for resolving the Doomhammer issue,” the man at the head of the table said as he stood up. “When you decide to stop this sort of behavior which we all agreed yesterday was unacceptable and counterproductive, you can find me in the next room.” He walked out through the doors at the other end of the hall.

“Well done, Stoddard,” Lord Kent said, clapping sarcastically. “I knew you wouldn’t miss a chance to sabotage these talks.”

“Bold words from someone who sent his lackey here to threaten us,” Lord Stoddard retorted, pointing at Roland.

The two sets of nobles continued shouting at one another across the table. The commotion brought the other four guards into the chamber through the far doors. Roland guessed they had been guarding the side entrance.

“I think I see why your two kingdoms were never able to get along,” Anna muttered. “They’re both run by children.”

“Technically they’re run by kings,” Roland corrected. “The nobles generally have limited authority.”

“No wonder.”

“Silence!” a voice thundered from the far end of the hall. The bickering at the table stopped as a person wearing a long dark blue robe and pointed hat, both covered with arcane-looking sigils embroidered in gold, stormed into the room.

“You have the gall to say we violated the agreement, and now we see you send in one of your wizards?” Lord Arundel shouted across the table.

“He’s not one of ours,” Lord Caldwell retorted.

“Somehow I doubt that,” Lord Calvert said.

“He’s a walking stereotype, is what he is,” Anna muttered.

“Enough!” the wizard shouted. “I serve no mere mortal, and your petty disputes do not interest me.”

“Guards, apprehend that man,” Lord Kent ordered, pointing towards the wizard.

“Finally, something we can agree on,” Lord Girardeau added.

The wizard waved his hand, and the guards remained motionless. “Your words hold no sway over them; they are under my power now,” he said. “You sit here thinking you can redraw your insignificant little map. Instead, you shall be the first to witness the rebirth of the one true world order. Enter!”

Derek entered through the doors behind the wizard, holding a small hammer, a look of grim determination on his face.

“Derek!” Anna shouted.

Derek turned towards her and gave her a forlorn look. He then walked under a ladder and towards the wall of mirrors on the right side of the room. He began striking each mirror with the hammer, sending cracks spreading through the surface of each.

“Derek, stop this!” Anna screamed.

“What’s he doing?” Roland asked Anna.

“You thought your puny little weapons could stop him,” the wizard intoned as Derek continued breaking mirrors. “But all you could do was forestall your inevitable destruction.”

“Bad luck,” Anna said grimly.

“Breaking mirrors? That’s just a superstition,” Roland replied.

“He has been biding his time, growing ever stronger, waiting for his moment,” the wizard continued.

“You don’t understand,” Anna said.

“Understand what?” Roland asked.

“Summoning is powered by bad luck,” she replied.

“And now is that moment!” the wizard shouted as Derek struck the last mirror. “Witness the rebirth of the Demon King!”

Derek turned to face the room and closed his eyes. “I don’t see why anyone would want to bring the Demon King back anyway,” he said. “He’s a failure. Everyone knows what happened to him. The one time someone got close to him, he got killed in seconds. He didn’t even put up a fight! We’ve all heard the stories. He just laid on the ground and did nothing. And that’s when he was surrounded by his army. What’s he going to do here, alone? He’ll probably get mugged walking down the street, and that’ll be it.”

Roland was confused. “What’s he doing?” he asked Anna.

“He’s doing it,” she said, her eyes wide with fear. “He’s actually doing it.”

Even despite everything Anna had been through in her search for Derek, this is the only time Roland could remember her showing fear.

“And what kind of name is ‘Demon King’ anyway?” Derek continued. “It sounds like something out of a cut-rate novel. How long did he spend trying to come up with that, anyway? You’d think with all the decades it took for him to creep his armies forward, he’d have a chance to come up with something better.”

Roland thought he saw some kind of black mist or smoke beginning to take shape behind Derek.

“The worst part is,” Derek continued, “it’s still better than his real name. Will of Valfeas. It’s true. Didn’t people stop using ‘of’ in their name centuries ago? No one’s even heard of Valfeas these days. An incompetent poseur from some no-name town, that’s the Demon King for you…. He’s standing right behind me, isn’t he?”

Derek turned around to face the formless black shape that had grown behind him. It reared back and lunged into him.

Chapter word count: 1,906 (according to wc)
Total word count: 49,498 / 50,000 (98.996% complete)