Appendix A: Chapter 29

[Editor's note: Chapter 29 of my 2008 NaNoWriMo entry.]

“You will not–” Roland yelled as he turned around, until something slammed into his side and fell on top of him. He shut his eyes and winced as he landed painfully on his back. He felt the weight of whatever hit him pressing down on his chest.

Disoriented, Roland slowly opened his eyes and saw Anna leaning over him. “Are you OK?” she asked.

“What happened?” Roland struggled to say. His head throbbed and his back ached.

Anna’s hand ran through Roland’s hair and came to rest under the back of his head. “That was incredibly brave thing you did back there, challenging the Demon King all by yourself just to save Derek. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to thank you.”

“I–” Roland started to say.

Anna leaned closer and whispered into Roland’s ear, “Actually, I do have a couple ideas, but they’ll have to wait until later, when we can be alone. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.”

Anna lifted her head slightly and stared into Roland’s eyes and smiled. Roland tried to piece together what was happening, but was now having even more trouble thinking clearly.

Suddenly, Anna lifted herself off of Roland and stood up. She turned her head to the side and shouted to someone Roland couldn’t see, “He’s clean!” She then turned back to Roland and stretched her hand toward him. “Do you think you can get up?”

“Huh?” Roland asked, his mind starting to clear.

“Sorry about that just now, but I needed to make sure it was just you in there,” Anna said, looking slightly flustered. “You remember how my ability works, right? I mean, not that I wouldn’t want to, um, I mean, it’s not like I wouldn’t be willing if you, er–”

“I think I can move,” Roland interrupted. Anna looked relieved. He took Anna’s hand and slowly rose to his feet with her help. Roland looked around and saw he was standing in the street outside. “How did I get out here?” he asked.

“That was me,” Derek said as he ran up next to Anna.

“He summoned you out here just before they started,” Anna explained.

“Started what?” Roland asked.

“That,” Anna said, pointing towards Doomhammer Hall.

Roland looked where Anna was pointing and saw Doomhammer Hall engulfed in flames. A tower of black smoke rose straight up from it and climbed high into the sky. Somehow, the fire seemed not to be spreading to any of the nearby buildings.

“I’m sorry about all those things I was saying about you,” Derek said.

“What things?” Roland asked.

“About how you were a failure, and were going to lose to the Demon King, and all that.”

“So that was you I heard when I was in there?”

Derek shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t know what it feels like myself. I just know how it happens, and that whoever I summon is usually really angry by the time it’s over.”

“Which is why I kind of, well, slammed you into the ground before you did anything to Derek before you realized what was happening,” Anna added.

“So why did you summon the Demon King in the first place?” Roland asked.

“It seemed like a good idea,” Derek said. “After everything that happened, I didn’t know who else to turn to for help except Mattias. I’m glad I was wrong, though,” he smiled.

Roland watched the fire as it consumed Doomhammer Hall.

“Do you think that’ll be the end of it?” Anna asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I don’t even know if the Demon King is something that can be killed. And even if it is, I don’t know if that’s going to do it.”

“But wasn’t the Demon King killed back during the war?”

Roland shook his head. “From what I saw of its mind when I was in there, I think it got summoned here just before its host was killed. In a way, it might’ve been Derek who ended the Demon War. I think. It’s all still pretty jumbled up.”

By this time, a crowd had formed to watch Doomhammer Hall burn. Roland saw that remarkably, the fire still hadn’t spread to any of the surrounding buildings. Looking more closely, he thought he saw something swirling around the building.

“Why isn’t the fire spreading to the rest of the town?” Roland asked.

“That would be Tateweil,” a voice said to Roland’s left. He turned and saw Lord Caldwell standing there with the other nobles.

“What?” Roland asked.

“Who,” Lord Caldwell corrected. “He’s an elemental mage we brought with us in case something happened.”

“Against the agreement,” said Lord Kent.

“Yes, yes, but I’m willing to call it even,” Lord Caldwell conceded. “Besides, it’s a good thing we did. None of us wanted to see anything to happen to Doomhammer. That’s why we came here, after all: to try to work something out before our kings did something foolish. Look, you can see Tateweil over there.”

Roland looked where Lord Caldwell was pointing and saw a man bracing himself against a corner where two buildings met near Doomhammer Hall. He seemed to be focusing intently on the winds swirling around the hall.

“Some kind of air mage?” Roland asked.

“Nitrogen,” Lord Girardeau corrected.

“If you’ll excuse us,” Lord Arundel said, “we must be off. Once the immediate threat of the fire subsides, people will want to know what happened. We need to figure out what to tell them without sending them into a panic about the return of you-know-what.”

“Thank you for your service, sir…?” Lord Calvert said.

“Roland,” said Roland.

“Sir Roland. We shall be sure the King is aware of what you have done for us when we return to Telerand.”

“By the way,” Lord Stoddard asked, “what was it you wanted to warn us about?”

“That,” Roland said simply.

“Ah. Very well, then.”

The Telerand nobles briefly bowed their heads towards Roland, then walked off with the Lantarian nobles.

“So I guess everything is going to work out after all,” Anna said happily.

Roland shook his head. “I’m still going to have to answer for what I did back in Blackstone, regardless of what happened here. And we have no way of knowing if the Demon King is going to survive that. If he does, the worst may still be ahead of us.”

“But at least you got the nobles to stop bickering with each other and start working together,” a voice behind him said. “At least for now, but it’s a start. Things might work out after all.”

Roland looked behind him and saw a crowd of villagers behind him, but no sign of who had spoken. Roland turned back to watch the fire.

“Plus,” the voice continued, “seeing the true form of the Demon King confirmed a few of the translations I wasn’t so sure about, so I ought to thank you for that as well.”

Roland spun around immediate, but didn’t see Mattias anywhere.

“Come now,” he heard Mattias say, “you think you’re going to pick me out of a crowd when you didn’t even recognize me at the meeting?”

Roland reluctantly turned back to face the fire. “You’re awfully glib about what just happened,” he muttered.

“It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but it could have been worse. The nobles know a threat may still exist, and that might be enough to keep at least some kind of truce in place.”

“At the cost of nearly getting everybody killed.”

“For your information, this was Plan B.”

“And what was Plan A?”

“To let them have their meeting! Which was going reasonably well until you showed up and wrecked the little bit of trust I had managed to help them establish with each other, thank you very much. I was doing just as well as the person they actually hired to run the meeting would have done.”

“And when it didn’t, you went ahead with the summoning.”

“In my defense, I didn’t think it was actually going to work. That’s why Plan C was for me to come out and pretend to be him. It’s not like anyone there knew anything about what he looked like other than the stories people tell.”

“And what about their guards?”

“The great thing about mercenaries is that they work for the highest bidder. They’d throw the battle if I showed up, let me laugh maniacally for a bit, then I’d leave threatening doom and destruction.”

“And what if they actually bought it and came after you.”

“I hadn’t quite worked that part out yet. Look, the situation was escalating quickly. I didn’t have years to put a good plan together, so I did what I could with the opportunity that presented itself. The meeting was the best chance I was going to get.”

Roland remained silent, watching as the fire began to die down. He tried looking for a black shape escaping what was left of Doomhammer Hall, but even if it were there, it would be impossible to see against the black smoke.

“Anyway,” Mattias continued, “if I were you, I’d get out of here before word catches up with you about what happened down at Blackstone. I suggest the two of them head someplace where they can just fade in with the rest of the population. It’d be a shame if someone nefarious tried to take advantage of the boy, after all.”

“So I’ve noticed,” Roland spat.

“Well, you’re free to stay if you like, but I’m getting out of here. With any luck, we’ll never see each other again. Though I suppose you were never going to see me anyway.”

Roland didn’t hear anything else from Mattias after that.

“He’s probably right, you know,” Roland said to Anna, “about you and Derek not sticking around here. The two of you have been through more than enough.”

“And what about you?” Anna asked.

“The plan I had ever since we left Blackstone,” he answered. “Await here for whatever my fate might be.”

Chapter word count: 1,675 (according to wc)
Total word count: 53,022 / 50,000 (106.044% complete)

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