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Chloe and Zoe

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    Andrew Schmidt
    @andrew

    @nuetrobolt @kari-karast @anne-of-lothlorien @naiya-dyani @e-b-raulands @everyone

    *takes in deep breath*

    Alright, the final climax is written. Feel free to critique. If you think anything in this chapter is a little weird, unnecessary, or that you just disliked, and that might be because of Chloe’s odd POV, you may share your thoughts on them if you’d like.  Well, enjoy!

     

    CHAPTER ELEVEN:

    A gemstone path curved through the garden. Lilies, carnations, and poinsettias multiplied in the castle’s shadow. Drawing a tense breath, Chloe mustered all her strength and marched onward, all the while clutching her golden purse. Waving a strand of hair from her pale brow, she swallowed and chewed on her lips.

    Once Nicholas was exterminated, with the magical stone as her possession, she’d rebuild Eldymartt and fulfill her destiny; therefore, protecting her people―including her sister―and spreading word of the King. All that resulting in peace flourishing throughout the kingdoms…

    She strode forth, raising her chin.

    “Chloe!”

    She froze at the call. Paranoia arose within her. Casting rapid glances in each direction, she protectively gripped her purse closer.

    A seething voice hissed, “You should have remained in your cell…”

    Frantic, Chloe grasped the stone within her magical golden purse. She spun, and then frowned. Figures in dark silk advanced. Distinct, wicked teeth flashed, revealing mischievous grins.

    The wizard’s hideous granddaughters, of course.

    Chloe crinkled her nose and stiffened.

    “Yes?” she snapped. “Have you come to apologize?”

    The Nameless Daughters drew their swords.

    “No.” Little Trouble smirked. “Apologetic behavior is entirely unnecessary. We simply require your head, unattached to your shoulders, of course.”

    “Oh really?” Chloe raised an eyebrow. “Go on then. Face the consequences.”

    “Consequences? What consequences?” Stormy Girl spoke with a scoff. “You’re a mere human. And humans are simply… nothing.”

    “You believe that? Alright, fight me,” Chloe raised her voice. “Fight me and we shall see.”

    The Nameless Daughters cackled at once.

    “Indeed,” their eerie words dripped in venom.

    The callous daughters sprang forth. Surrounding her and moving in, the daughters raised wicked blades.

    Chloe dodged the first strike. She ducked. A blade swept over her head. She glanced about her. Her enemies drew closer, murder gleaming within their eyes.

    The Nameless Daughters bounded her direction. Chloe opened her palm and revealed the stone. Strands of crimson exploded in midair.

    For a mere second, the daughters froze in realization. Flaming crimson strands reached out from the magical explosion, streaking about in the wind before settling on her enemies…

    Each toxic strand then exploded in unison. Brilliant crimson smoke consumed the Nameless Daughters. However, no sound, including a scream, was released. The crimson haze dispersed. Her foes crumbled as bones and rags.

    Chloe raised her chin, observing the daughters’ skeletal corpses. She drew nearer, scrutinizing Drama Queen’s cracked skull and unattached jaw. Her eyebrows arched in surprise. She scanned the other broken and fractured skeletons, and smirked.

    The Nameless Daughters remained no more.

    Chloe spun and glared at the castle. There her following adventure must take place.

    “Teleportation’s a wondrous method of transportation, I suppose.” She frowned, and admired the garden. “However, these flowers are rather gorgeous. What a pity I must depart already.”

    Her fingers clenched tight around the Monster Stone. Glimmers of light surrounded her. Within a matter of seconds, she faded amidst the gentle wind.

     

    Peculiar lanterns adorned an oaken stairs towering in the air. Flaming light illuminated the maroon floor and the pale walls. Somewhere above, strange laughter echoed in the distance. Chloe raised a finger to her lips and narrowed her eyes, tilting her head.

    She straightened, detecting a slight creak from behind.

    “Let me guess who it is…” She glanced over her shoulder and grinned. “Oh, I was correct. We meet once again. Aren’t you the legendary Dark Knight?”

    “Who else might I be?” he spoke. “I am Sir Deandre. Nice meeting again, delinquent.”

    She gazed down on her stone. “Rather nice indeed. But, kind sir, don’t distract me. I have an important errand.”

    He smirked, drawing his sword.

    “An important errand?” he chuckled. “Shouldn’t you be in a cell?”

    Chloe laughed.

    “Uh… well, no. Don’t be an imbecile!” Her expression became steel. “However, you in particular should be elsewhere.”

    Sir Deandre snorted. “And that is…?”

    “Buried alive―or dead, I don’t care―in the grave,” she replied. “The one location perfect for a wicked brute.”

    “A beautiful last words,” he spoke, a violent glint in his eyes.

    The Dark Knight charged and raised his blade. Chloe released a streak of violet light, blasting Sir Deandre. Her malicious foe became stone within an instant.

    “What?! Those are horrible last words!” she laughed. “What an imbecile!”

    She spun around and, upon observing the stairs spiraling over her, frowned. Oh, it was so… tall. She sighed. Well, there was a shortcut! For that she was thankful.

    Chloe snapped her fingers and grinned. She flickered and vanished in a swirl of mist, and reappeared elsewhere. Glancing at the stairs spiraling down beneath her, she glanced over her shoulders.

    Aside from the pale walls and maroon floor, wondrous crystalline chandeliers hung from the ceiling. At the end of the marvelous hall was a grand, massive, golden door.

    Chloe smirked and marched forth. She flung the door open, entering yet the strangest room in the castle. Clocks surrounded her. Hanging from the golden ceiling, in the walls, on crystalline tables, even, littering the white-and-black checkered floor. Odd and antique clocks of all varieties…

    Amidst the chaotic sight was a peculiar wizard in a ridiculous azure costume. He stroked his long white beard, fixing her with a pair of wicked eyes.

    “You have arrived.” Nicholas cackled. “What a despicable child. Abandoning her cell and all.”

    “Hmm,” she said. “You gonna inflict pain upon me? Torture? Death?”

    “Let’s not find out.” Nicholas seized his staff. “You shall do as I command. Now return to your cell. You can at least then rest assured I shall refrain from murdering you.”

    “Good luck with that.” She snorted. “Good luck.”

    Nicholas smirked, raising an eyebrow.

    “Don’t enrage a wizard, child,” he said. “Me in particular.”

    “Why? You enraged me.” She flashed the wondrous stone before his eyes. “Aren’t I the twin in this nefarious prophecy with all the… magic?”

    Nicholas stiffened. His lips curled in a snarl.

    “Yes, I suppose. Although, despite this magic, you shall deliver devastating destruction upon the kingdom. However, Zoe shall fulfill the other role.” He smiled rather strangely. “The darkest and wickedest role of a general. Wholehearted, I believe she’ll win the tournaments.”

    Chloe clenched her fists as burning emotions exploded within her.

    “Lies!” she spoke, glowering with a scoff. “Unlike a sadistic wizard such as you, Zoe ain’t incapable of change.”

    “Ah, insults and accusations…” Nicholas smirked. “You’re a downright inferior little snowflake. You’re also rather emotional and illogical. Perhaps insane as well.”

    He chuckled, sarcastic.

    “Like the insults, eh?” Nicholas questioned. “Ah, I love this conversation. During our chat I even fancied the idea of exterminating you; however, I then realized I mustn’t. You must complete your destructive purpose first.”

    “Look, I might have experienced well, uh, a little mental disturbance,” Chloe paused between her words, “although, such a condition shan’t hinder me. You murdered my mother; Nicholas, don’t steal my sister.”

    He scratched his wild beard, a cruel gleam in his gaze.

    “I see how it is,” he spoke, a dangerous tone in his smooth voice.

    Chloe glared, becoming tenser. She ground her teeth.

    Nicholas smirked and struck the floor, grasping his staff. “Minions!”

    A pale little creature emerged within the disastrous collection of clocks. Unnerving, vibrant blue eyes settled on her.

    Chloe gaped, straightening.

    Another creature, fluffier than the one before, emerged. Next, little heads poked out from behind the clocks. An abrupt glimpse of fuzziness and adorability resulted in her bulging eyes.

    Kittens!

    No. Kittens, she recalled, remained the sweetest and cuddliest pets. Kittens weren’t brutal, vicious monsters. But Nicholas treated his ‘minions’ like such. The fact was disturbing. She remembered her fondness of animals; however, that was long ago. From now on, she ever disliked such beasts―and for great reason.

    Nicholas smirked, an even stranger glint sparkling in his eyes. “Well, I believe this conversation must end. For the fight must begin.”

    “So be it,” Chloe spoke. “Prepare to die.”

    “Aggressive and impulsive, eh?” Nicholas raised a white, bushy eyebrow. “Your attitude resembles that of my granddaughters’. Interesting.”

    “Yes, and I slew the Nameless Daughters!” Chloe declared. “Just as I shall with you!”

    “Bold words from a mere girl…” Nicholas shook his head. “Though, empty threats don’t impress me.”

    “Well, it seems the conversation hasn’t ended!” a thunderous voice boomed. “Neither has the fight begun!”

    Chloe craned her neck and scowled.

    Merubalos de Albiro shoved aside a golden clock, expression blank and robotic.

    “Nicholas, enough of these crafty plots,” he commanded. “I should have done this earlier; however, at least your death might prevent a certain, rather terrible, prophecy from coming true.”

    Nicholas cast a glance at his minions. The little critters meowed, licking their paws and sitting patiently. Chloe might have labeled the kittens adorable, but she refused; the little minions, however sweet their appearance, submitted to Nicholas as their master.

    “I sense betrayal.” Nicholas smirked. “Although, I don’t believe I should be surprised.”

    Chloe glanced from Nicholas to Merubalos. Her brow furrowed in concentration.

    “You claimed to be the most intelligent being upon earth,” the Monster King stated. “Such a ‘genius’ should have known I never desired an alliance in the first place. I merely intended on spying. These monsters you believe have allied with you, I must state, fight against you. Nevertheless, as this ‘mere girl’ declared, prepare to die.”

    “Whatever!” Nicholas bellowed.

    He struck a finger at his minions.

    “Well, don’t meow about!” he commanded. “Dispose of the traitor. But save the girl alive.”

    Little bloodcurdling meows rose in acknowledgement. And then within a matter of second, the critters altogether, appearing as a mass of vibrant fluff, swarmed across the clocked-scattered surface.

    Chloe straightened. She clapped a hand over her mouth.

    The kittens enveloped the Monster King. Fear cracked across his stoic expression.

    “Nicholas, remember this! Remember this! You shall never―”

    His final scream was lost amidst the bustling swarm of kittens. Merubalos vanished at once.

    The miniature creatures dispersed. Along with shredded clothing and a bloodied crowned, was gore and bones.

    Chloe clenched her stone white-knuckled. The view was sickening and morbid.

    “Ah,” Nicholas said. “How soothing this ill sight.”

    Chloe gnashed her teeth and snarled. “You sadistic clown!”

    She unleashed a violet blast with a flourish of her fingers. Nicholas dodged the strike, smirking with an eerie calmness. The little kittens cast her rotten glares.

    “Fighting with a Juancarlos, I must state, I find rather amusing!” he spoke, chuckling. “A mere parasite believes she can defeat me―I, the wizard of the beasts, the most powerful Shadow Reaper humankind has ever known? Ha! You dare challenge me?”

    Her mouth shriveled in a frown. A wild combination of rage and impulsiveness flared within her.

    “I dare, imbecile.”

    She delivered a wave of bright green mist billowing in the air. At the slightest contact, the wizard’s minions crumbled in a terrific slumber.

    Nicholas grinned. “Well, I accept this challenge.”

    He extended his fingers, awakening the once slumbering kittens. Hundreds of freakish little eyes settled on her. She swallowed hard, taking a step back. Then at once, the agile little critters charged. Several tore at her dress. One sunk its teeth into her skin. Blood trickled down her legs. She gasped at the excruciating pain and stumbled, crashing against a solid object.

    A vibrant glass clock shattered against the surface. She snarled down at the little devilish beasts, clenching the Monster Stone. Magical flames consumed the kittens. A last bunch of terrible meows rang in the air. With the smoke’s dispersion, she glanced at the little dead bodies littering the disastrous surface.

    Her scowl vanished. She released a pitiful sigh. Oh, those kittens! What a dreadful person she was… but what other choice was there?

    The view triggered a spark of hate that ignited her rage. Chloe shot a glare at Nicholas. Forming a gigantic spike using her magic, she released the metallic weapon. It flung through the air. Nicholas deflected the strike with a clever motion of his staff. He approached, lips drawn in a crooked grin. A wicked glint of ancient corruption gleamed in his unblinking gaze.

    “Arise, dead minions!” Nicholas bellowed, fingers outstretched in a strange manner. “Arise!”

    The freakish critters arose. Their fluffiness burnt and their tender skin scorched, the kittens appeared more zombielike than cute―disturbing, in fact.

    She blinked at her tears, glaring at Nicholas all the while. A crimson spark flickered from her fingertips.

    With a staff’s clever swing, Nicholas struck the little magical substance as it exploded; a failed attempt that proved Nicholas was more powerful than his granddaughters.

    The zombielike beasts scampered and leapt over the clocks in their path. Chloe gasped, clenching white-knuckled fists.

    “Forever, be gone!” she screamed, blasting the atrocious creatures with a fatal blow.

    A bright white illumination, combined with an intense gust of wind, flung the kittens backwards. However, Nicholas’s dark silhouette remained visible.

    “Child, legends claimed the stone’s monstrous and unpredictable powers resulted in its name,” Nicholas stated. “Ages in the past, the Monster Stone was considered the most dangerous source of magic. However, remember this. Regardless the power that stone might possess, I shall be declared most powerful in the end.”

    The blinding illumination faded.

    She gnashed her teeth. Dark tendrils ascended from the stone and twisted through the air. Nicholas deflected the strike, tearing the magical toxic strands apart with his staff.

    “You are unskilled, child. The art of wild magic requires practice,” he hissed. “Nevertheless, I am a master of chaos and dominance.”

    He struck the checkered floor.

    On the ceiling, a vision materialized from thin air. Chloe froze, her attention captured. The sight revealed the marvelous white and gold palace of the grand kingdom amidst a raging battle. Dark soldiers marched across the battlefield. Wild beasts sprang forth. Terrible monsters clambered over the walls, attacking the palace guards.

    Chloe averted her gaze at the horrific view.

    “I murdered Merubalos de Albiro. Now, these monsters serve me.” Nicholas smirked. “When humankind reaches extermination, when I begin a glorious reign in a perfect kingdom, I shall experience final satisfaction.”

    She scowled as he gestured to the clocks.

    “Child, observe this marvelous collection. Each clock represents a human soul ticking from life to death.” Nicholas cracked his knuckles. “Meanwhile, as these clocks tick, I encourage and support a certain role that belongs unto Zoe. I admire the fact that she doesn’t hesitate eliminating other humans. Unlike her sister, she isn’t an overemotional, crazed disaster.”

    Chloe clenched her fists. Her nose crinkled in disgust. The most uncontrollable, explosive anger erupted within her. She scrutinized the magical vision, beholding the destruction and chaos within the battle. Each brave knight that perished. Each soul that ticked from life to death…

    “You’re absolutely correct, Nicholas. I am an overemotional, crazed disaster.”  She crossed her arms. “But should I care? No. All I desire, that from Zoe Juancarlos, is a change of heart.”

    Power surged forth. Vibrant multicolored tendrils of magic strangled the wizard’s vision. She smirked, fingers outstretched in concentration. Hail, lightning, and fire descended from the clouds, striking the wicked soldiers. Falling stones crashed against the monsters. Poisonous gas sprung from the soil, paralyzing the beasts.

    Blood littered the grass. She clenched her fingers into fists, massacring all her enemies.

    Pale, scarlet-tipped arrows darted from above, piercing countless victims. A notorious tornado, combined with an outrageous earthquake, devoured more than a dozen soldiers. Burning lava exploded from a massive volcano…

    Chloe gasped, eyes widening. Her fingers clenched tighter. The Monster Stone flashed with a marvelous brightness. The magic increased, wearing on her mental strength. Strangling her from the inside, grasping her shoulders and whispering at her―its great power controlling and absorbing.

    A violent burst of water sprang from the ground, crashing against the palace. Drowning the enemies and all that in the land therewith.

    The stone’s bright shimmer vanished. A warm tear splattered her cheek as a fresh wave of pain seared her heart.

    “This I can’t believe,” she spoke, a hand over her heart. “I’m a monster.”

    She blinked. Her intention was bent on delivering the palace from destruction, but her attempt had ended in an opposite result.

    “How dare you! This was your entire fault!” a biting voice, once a mere whisper, screamed inside her head. “The world would be better off without you!”

    She clutched her temples, walking backwards.

    “You bloodcurdling killer!” the voice became shriller. “You loathsome monster!”

    She stumbled over an oaken clock and collapsed.

    “You should be burnt at the stake!”

    Chloe thrashed, pulling at her hair. She froze, the Monster Stone capturing her attention.

    “How reckless and impulsive,” the voice spoke. “You shall regret this moment forever!”

    Chloe swallowed hard, her fingers shaking. That voice in her mind… perhaps, well, that was the stone communicating with her, expressing its utter hatred. Although, the motives behind its hatred, that she lacked a clear answer on.

    Nicholas cackled, clapping his hands. “That was melodramatic.”

    His lips twisted in a smirk.

    “All this time I was correct.” He directed his staff at her. “Despite this spectacular magic you possess, the palace’s destruction was a result of your foolish actions. Your sister was a heartless thorn, and though she never devastated a palace, she was evil. Evil until her death at last. I was kinda disappointed about her, although now that your destructive purpose has reached fulfillment, I find pleasure in this beautiful prophecy.”

    Chloe glared, rising to her feet.

    “What have you done to her?!” she shrieked.

    “What have I done to her?” Nicholas gestured to the vision. “That’s a question you should ask yourself.”

    Amidst the vast waters floated multiple corpses. Nicholas smirked and, upon snapping his fingers, the magical vision zoomed up close; providing a particularly detailed sight, albeit a dreadful one.

    Her unfortunate sister.

    Startling blue eyes revealed a lifeless stare. A dagger of a scarlet blade pierced her heart. Blood and water streaked across her pale neck and soaked her azure dress. Her dark hair, once braided in a graceful pattern, drifted aimlessly in the water.

    “Zoe,” she whispered.

    The Monster Stone clattered against the surface. She blinked at her own tears, balling her hands into fists.

    S-she… she… killed her sister.

    “No!” she cried out in anger and sorrow. “No, it can’t be!”

    She was a monster for what she had done.

    “You are rather emotional, little child,” Nicholas spoke with a chuckle. “Ah, I love it when random prophecies become random realities.”

    Chloe froze, shooting Nicholas a seething glare. Grasping the stone at her feet, she met Nicholas’s stare once again, and clenched her fists.

    “C’mon,” Nicholas chided. “C’mon. You gonna fight?”

    Chloe managed a callous smile. “Quite certainly, imbecile.”

    She cast a flaming streak twirling at the Shadow Reaper.

    “C’mon!” Nicholas laughed, dejecting the strike. “Do impress me!”

    Fierce rage burned within her soul. She snarled, clenching the stone tighter. Forming a dozen needles within midair, she raised her fists as she positioned the metallic objects, targeting her foe. She snapped a finger at Nicholas.

    The needles sprang through the air in unison. But Nicholas evaded and dejected each attack, twisting his staff about in an insane series of movements.

    “You exterminated a little palace from the earth.” Nicholas smirked. “However, I shall never be defeated. For I am invincible.”

    “No!” she cried. “You shall perish!”

    Chloe unleashed a burning, golden liquid substance streaking across the room, drenching Nicholas in toxic fluid.

    “Oh!” he bellowed, stumbling upon the floor. “Oh, it burns!”

    “Correct,” she said with an arch of her eyebrows. “Feel the pain I have experienced.”

    Chloe strode across, shoving aside multiple various clocks blocking her path. She ignored the shattering glass, the terrible burnt stench, and the once breathing kittens littering the surface. Her complete focus remained on Nicholas, and he alone.

    Her mouth curled in a bitter smirk. She admitted the fact. She was rather thrilled at the sight. Nicholas’s wrinkled old face was burned, blistering bright red and boiling hot. Each silken white hair on his little head was utterly disintegrated. His ridiculous hat, burnt and ruined, lay on the checkered floor.

    He met her gaze, venom swirling in his startling, bright emerald-colored eyes. She stared the wizard down, a golden-bladed sword forming from thin air. She gripped the weapon’s elegant crystalline hilt, cold blood rushing through her veins.

    “Don’t.” Nicholas raised a withered hand. “Please, don’t.”

    Chloe raised an eyebrow. “You expect mercy?”

    Nicholas managed a sickening grin.

    Rather than answering the question, he stated, “You aren’t alone, Chloe. We have both lost an individual we loved.”

    His words surprised her. She paused, raising her chin and glaring.

    “You only love yourself.”

    “Incorrect.” Nicholas smirked. “Have I ever mentioned a friend of mine? Have I ever mentioned that peculiar… fox?”

    “No, though someone else had.” Chloe snorted. “Your opinion on animals versus people remains an unrealistic comparison.”

    “Unrealistic? Humans are the illogical ones. You claim that illusions are truths.” Nicholas groaned, a stern, even dangerous, glint flashing within his gaze. “You lack a teacher, child. You ought to therefore accept me. I shall reveal the stone’s secrets. You shall become powerful as a result. Join me, child. I shall change and repair this broken life you have.”

    “Eloquent words shall not save the wicked from fate,” she spoke, her voice firm as steel. “You offer a life bent on corruption. I would rather die. Label me an illogical freak. Label me insane. I am not fooled so easily. I shall fulfill that destiny my mother began―I shall protect my people and direct them to their Creator… I reject this offer.”

    “Ah, I see.” His mouth twisted in a crooked grin. “You shall regret serving that King. He claims to be loving and gentle, but I more think of Him as a Slave Master. He wouldn’t grant me freedom. When I attempted gaining such, I was banished. I recommend abandoning that Slave Master, child.”

    “No. I serve the King―and His name shan’t be taken in vain!” She declared, looming over Nicholas. “Prepare to die!”

    She drove the blade downward.

    Metal pierced flesh. Blood soaked azure silk.  She twisted her blade before withdrawing her weapon. Nicholas gasped. His pained expression became a thin smile.

    “I find the fact amusing,” he paused between his words, “that you believe a simple metallic object can end the life of a Shadow Reaper.”

    A flashing brightness swirled and encircled the wizard. When the magical illumination disappeared, Nicholas lacked a human’s appearance.

    With his new transformation, Chloe distanced herself.

    For the monster the wizard became was a rather grotesque nightmare.

    Nicholas was a golden lion possessing more than a hundred heads consisting of multiple varieties. A lion’s head and a snake’s head combined were awful. But a bear’s head in addition, not to mention a goat’s head, and that added with a bloodcurdling arachnid’s and numerous others, was a foul combination.

    Although, within the writhing cluster of the multi-headed mess, was a much nastier sight. Located in the middle was Nicholas’s head, crinkled and blistering red as a burnt tomato; which, in addition, appeared to be three times normal size. The color revealed in his malevolent eyes, once a solid green, gleamed cold and blue as ice.

    The monster’s tail was a whip of flames. His bloodstained claws proved to be extra ginormous as well. Despite all this, a lingering poisonous vapor, appearing as fluorescent green, surrounded the hideous beast.

    “Intimidated? You should be. A mere blade can’t obliterate one powerful as I.” Nicholas laughed, sounding rather triumphant. “Oh well, I attempted persuasion and offered you, child, a final chance. You have proven to be unlike your sister. Well then, should you lack use, I must exterminate this soul you possess.”

    With those words, Nicholas trampled her direction. Fragile materials snapped. Delicate glass shattered. Chloe darted aside, plunging her raised sword downward. Metal sliced through dark fur.

    A canine’s head plummeted downward. Green blood oozed at her feet. She scowled, distancing herself farther as various monstrous sounds rang within the air. Nicholas, along with his other multiple heads, spun her direction.

    Chloe straightened. Erratic anger flooded her soul. Nicholas stole her sister and mother. He deserved eternal punishment.

    She cast her blade aside. Nicholas trampled her direction once more. She advanced and raised the stone, delivering a vibrant orange blast. The monster dodged and then proceeded, charging. Nicholas cackled, striking her shoulder.

    The monster’s gigantic claws tore at her flesh, ripping the elegant fabric along her bleeding arm. Nicholas clenched her shoulders and cast her about the air. She cried out as she crashed against the golden wall.

    Chloe crumbled against the checkered surface. Dazed, she glanced about and froze. The Monster Stone flared a brilliant gleam. She stretched out her hand, fingers extended.

    A shadow loomed over her. Nicholas laughed, placing a golden limb on her wrist. She cried out, enraged, under the immense pressure.

    “Don’t bother wriggling about.” Nicholas cackled. “This is the end.”

    The foul vapor surrounding her foe entered her lungs. She coughed and grimaced, tears forming within eyes. She glanced once again at the stone.

    Nicholas followed her stare. He flashed a wicked grin.

    “Ah, child,” Nicholas spoke, “what a grand stone there. You cling unto hope even now?”

    From the cluster of grotesque heads, the golden-furred face of a maned lion extended downward. Upon locating the stone, greed flashed within the lion’s gaze. With a mere swallowing, the lion gulped down the magical object.

    Chloe gaped, shocked.

    “Oops!” Nicholas laughed. “You are doomed! You shall die and I shall―”

    He froze. A wild and maddened glint formed within his once victorious gaze.

    Chloe managed a broad smile, despite the tears on her reddened cheeks. “I don’t believe what you ate was edible, imbecile.”

    Nicholas became silent and unmoving. His dark blue eyes remained wide open. Then all at once, the most terrific, and most particularly most disturbing, thing occurred.

    The wizard exploded.

    Green liquid, along with goo and chunks, splattered the elegant walls, checkered floor, and much of the clocks―as well as Chloe. She was enveloped in the disgusting remains. Gagging at the nauseating stench, she arose and rubbed the green substance from her brow.

    As gross and repulsive as the terrible mess was, Chloe was glad Nicholas at least received his fate.

    She glanced about her surroundings. A strange list of objects littered the surface: broken clocks, little minion corpses, and the foulest remains of the “most powerful individual” upon the earth… However, amidst the monster’s remains, the stone wasn’t to be found.

    Disappointed, she sighed and clasped liquid-covered hands against each other.

    “Well,” she spoke, her lips revealing a little smirk, “the deed has been done. Now, I must believe, an unfinished prophecy demands my complete attention.”

    Chloe laughed, striding from the strange room. Entering the grand hall, she then proceeded before casting a triumphant glance about. Green fluid oozed down along her dress, dripping on the elegant floor. She halted at the tall stairs spiraling down beneath her. Her mouth slid downward.

    A short cut would be awesome. Unfortunately, the stone was obliterated within the process of the wizard’s death.

    “Well, I can endure another epic adventure!” Chloe laughed. “Complex and unusual stairs don’t intimidate me!”

    Although within her first step, she stumbled on her dress’s hem and tumbled down the horrific stairs; screaming and thrashing all the while. She clutched the stair railing, resulting in an immediate jerk. At the abrupt impact, fluid was flung from her moist, wild hair.

    Chloe released a sigh, before mumbling, “Ain’t even a bone fractured…”

    She inhaled, observing the extreme height. Nervous, she proceeded down the tallest, longest stairs within the castle.

    Oh, look at all this, she mused on. Who created this excessive structure?

    She straightened her shoulders.

    “Chloe, shut it,” she spoke aloud. “You murdered a powerful and dangerous wizard. This ain’t nothin’ compared!”

    And odd though it was, as she was speaking, she slid upon the polished, smooth oaken surface. Gasping and grasping the railing, she was glad she prevented yet another ridiculous tumble. She might have bashed her skull.

    However, then again, Chloe trod on her dress’s ever long, once extravagant hem. She ground her teeth.

    “Of all the spectacular dresses ever designed this one I claim must be the worst! I-I can’t explain this infuriating―!” She froze, blood seeping through her foul-smelling, green-stained sleeves. “Ouch. I feel weird. Grrrhhh! I, Chloe Juancarlos, am a complete mess!”

    She stormed down the stairs unstable, stumbling several times within the process. She squinted and raised several fingers to her brow, experiencing a fatigued lightheadedness.

    “Whatever!” she laughed with a shrug. “Doesn’t bother me! Doesn’t bother me! Now does it, Chloe?”

    Chloe proceeded once more down the stairs. She grimaced between each move. But she endured. Until at last, miraculous she admitted it was, the stairs ended. She had reached her destination.

    She smirked and jutted out her chin.

    “Yes, this deed I have accomplished!” Chloe declared. “I have slain Nicholas! I have traveled these grand… stairs!”

    She sighed, raising a hand over her heart. Her adventure was complete. All was now fine.

    However, then a couple figures darted her direction. One crashed into her. She collapsed with a grunt.

    “Uh, watch it.” She staggered to her feet and crossed her arms. “Chloe ain’t in the mood!”

    The figures froze, and then glanced over their shoulders.

    “Chloe?” one spoke, gaping. “Eric, look who it is! It’s Chloe!”

    Eric laughed and pushed a golden curl of hair from his sparkling blue eyes.

    “A pleasure to meet again, miss,” he said.

    Chloe swallowed, staring at her old friends; each dressed in glorious white silk, which must have been stolen from more ‘spectacular and important’ royal imbeciles. Drenched in green fluid with blood along one arm and on her leg as well, she felt like a slob standing in their presence.

    Despite all this, Sarah attempted hugging her.

    Chloe withdrew from her embrace. “Don’t touch me…”

    “But we’re friends!” Sarah spoke, glancing down at her wound. “Oh, I’m sorry. I hadn’t noticed the bleeding.”

    “Well, now you have,” Chloe stated.

    “You must have engaged another individual in a fight,” Eric said. “Please explain who that was.”

    “Well, I engaged in more than one fight.” Chloe managed a smile. “The Nameless Daughters I transformed to eerie skeletons. I created a stone figure from the Dark Knight as well.”

    She gestured at the lone statue in the distance.

    “Although, these wounds I received elsewhere,” she stated with a shrug. “The fight between Nicholas and I was downright epic. The malevolent figure exploded, forming a putrid mess.”

    She extended her hands. Green droplets descended from her fingertips.

    “Uh, Chloe, are you alright?” Sarah asked, squinting with her blue eyes.

    “Nope!” Chloe replied with a shake of her head. “I’m perfectly un-alright. I appreciate your concern, but don’t interrogate me. I’m kinda ain’t in the mood.”

    “Well, I know where the closest hospital is located,” Eric said.

    “A hospital?! All I require are several bandages…” Chloe paused and narrowed her eyes. “Or have you a mental asylum in mind? You think I might be crazy?”

    “No, I don’t think that,” Eric replied. “I hadn’t a mental asylum in mind either and―”

    “Don’t lie.” Chloe arched her eyebrows. “You think I’m insane. Well, that’s a correct assumption. I am insane, although I’m rather proud of that.”

    Sarah blew a wave of silver hair from her brow. “Please, Chloe, listen to Eric. After the hospital―”

    “What then?” Chloe snapped. “Where shall we visit after the hospital? A horrid mental asylum? I don’t believe I shall be visiting home. Along with the destruction of Elydmartt, all that belonged to my family, including my sister, are dead. After all, I have a new destiny.”

    Concern marked Eric’s expression.

    Sarah forced a gentle smile. “Well, then what location have you in mind?”

    Chloe paused at the question. “A garden of peace and isolation. I don’t mean the garden outside this garden, but a garden elsewhere… a garden thriving within a beautiful forest.”

    “Well, there’s a garden outside a certain hospital,” Eric stated. “Although that specific garden isn’t one of isolation, it’s one of peace nonetheless.”

    “I don’t like that idea,” Chloe said, folding her arms. “I desire an isolated location; that is, a place where I can organize my chaotic mind. I feel so fatigued, so twisted.”

    “Well, there’s a cure for that condition.” Sarah smirked. “What about the counseling center?”

    “You mean a mental asylum?” Chloe raised her voice. “That isn’t a garden!”

    “Chloe,” Eric pressed, “don’t be like this.”

    “Don’t be like this?!” she bellowed. “Leave me alone!”

    Sarah sighed. “Chloe, please listen―”

    “No!” she shouted with clenched fists. “Don’t prevent me from accomplishing this noble destiny of mine. I shall never visit a cell again; a cell at the mental asylum in particular! I desire an isolated garden; such would remind of happier times. Now would you excuse me, I must abandon this castle. Farewell.”

    Chloe shoved past her friends, ignoring their rather horrified expressions. She flickered her eyes shut, clutching her temples at the ocean raging within her mind. Pain and sorrow welled up inside her. Her sister and parents were dead. Her town was burned. Her life was… destroyed.

    She glanced about before dashing across the grand maroon surface. Each thought that entered her mind was bent on escaping the accursed castle; each was wild and frantic, almost uncontrollable. At the moment nothing she cared about aside from abandoning the awful place.

    Within her chaotic mind voices disrupted her mental clarity. She recalled the voice within her mind before, that of the stone’s confusing, unclear hatred. Except now, multiple voices screamed at her. It was like there were tiny people inside her head fighting for control over her mind.

    Vibrant blotches and colorful images obscured her vision. A golden lion standing on its feet, draped in marvelous crimson, whipped a wounded clown. At the room’s opposite end, violet sparkles descended from the ceiling and settled on the maroon surface, forming vibrant caterpillars wearing stylish various hats.

    The caterpillars sipped tea and chatted, much happier than the clown. But the caterpillars began screaming once a dark gigantic toad with multiple eyes, upon stalking the odd larvae, with its grotesque tongue began devouring its victims.

    Once the sadistic lion was done torturing the clown, he danced over and began whipping the toad. However, the toad being much larger swallowed the lion whole. That, and multiple other peculiar images, such as a blue orangutan shredding an enormous moth’s wings for a poisonous soup, flashed across her vision.

    She wasn’t sure whether the ridiculous sight was a hallucination, complete magic, or neither. Perhaps the Monster Stone damaged her mind. Nevertheless, she fled the castle and the outlandish creatures.

    But her vision became more unclear and obscured, the voices shriller, and the images more bizarre.

    A dark form loomed over her. She crashed against stone. Blood streaked across her brow. At the impact, the voices silenced, the images vanished, and she regained her sight.

    Chloe gasped upon recognizing the statue of Sir Deandre and collapsed. Darkness flooded her vision. For a moment, all was silent and numb. Then a voice whispered, “You are remarkably insane.”

    And that was a fact.

     

    Random Stranger: "What do you want to do when you grow up?"
    Me: "Write every inch of your future."

    #114697
    Anne of Lothlorien
    @anne-of-lothlorien

    @andrew

    Oh. My. Gosh.

    This…

    This…

    Was not what I expected and so much more. Andrew, this is awesome! The ending… wow. Just wow. You absolutely killed ‘the prophecy’ trope. I don’t even like stories with unhappy endings, and this was amazing. Good job. Fabulously good job.

    I'm short, I like words, and I love people.
    No, I didn't draw my profile pic.

    #114763
    Andrew Schmidt
    @andrew

    @anne-of-lothlorien

    Well thank you! 😀 Thank you so much!

    I just have one last chapter and a epilogue to write after this!

    Random Stranger: "What do you want to do when you grow up?"
    Me: "Write every inch of your future."

    #115704
    Andrew Schmidt
    @andrew

    @anne-of-lothlorien @nuetrobolt @kari-karast @e-b-raulands @naiya-dyani

     

    CHAPTER TWELVE:

    A splinter of light pierced the utter dark.

    Chloe bolted upright and glanced upon her cream-shaded bed. Pale walls decorated with vibrant flowers surrounded her. Dazzling, golden light descended through her window upon the multicolored floor. A wreath of flowers hung on her bright pink door.

    She glanced downward at her white gown. Bandages covered each wound. Squinting, she cocked her head.

    Oh, I’m in a hospital, she thought, glancing at the flowers. Well, at least someone decorated my room.

    A knock came from the door.

    She froze. I wonder who that might be.

    Another knock came.

    Chloe sighed, and then bellowed, “Come in, random person!”

    At her words, the door creaked forward. A woman dressed in fine silver entered her room. Curls of gray hair flowed over her shoulders.

    “Hi there, I’m Elizabeth Beatrix,” she spoke with a warm smile. “You must be Chloe. You have awoken at last.”

    She moved over to the side of her bed.

    Chloe crinkled her brow. “I have awoken at last? How long have I slept?”

    “Three days, to be exact,” Elizabeth replied. “During that time, much has happened. We managed injecting you with various medicines; that is, for helping wounds heal as well as numb excessive amounts of physical pain. Anyway, you’re probably hungry. This morning, Chloe, you shall have breakfast… in bed.”

    Breakfast?! What?! Chloe gaped with a blink. How long ago was her last breakfast?

    Her ravenous stomach growled.

    “But a moment, please.”

    Elizabeth rose and strode out the door. Within mere seconds, she returned.

    On her hand she balanced a delicate glass plate. The sight made her mouth water. Upon the plate glistened a glass of water, wonderful biscuits, and most scrumptious of all a perfect steak. Her mind whirled in a hundred questions, although those must wait. Right now she must begin a delightful breakfast.

    “Eat up, eat up,” Elizabeth spoke. “Perhaps we shall speak then.”

    Chloe nodded with gratefulness. Once the plate was on her lap, she clenched both hands around the glass. It was cool and smooth. Perfect.

    She raised the glass to her lips. Refreshing water rushed down her throat, quenching her horrible thirst. Setting her drink down, she glanced at the biscuits.

    Chloe snatched one and bit down on the crunchy, warm delight. She closed her eyes, relishing the overwhelming and delicious flavor. She glanced at the steak and grinned.

    Placing down her biscuit, she snatched her fork and knife. Once her steak was sliced up, with her fork she raised a cube of sizzling meat to her lips. She bit down, chewed, and swallowed. Woah, that was amazing! It looked, smelled, and tasted delicious.

    She glanced at Elizabeth, who smiled and gestured at her remaining food.

    Chloe returned her smile, turning back to her breakfast. Within minutes, her biscuits and steak, as well as her entire glass of water, were consumed. She attempted having good manners, but when she was ravenous, she couldn’t restrain herself.

    She dabbed at her lips with a napkin, setting the plate aside.

    “Chloe, I’ll take that.”

    Elizabeth grasped the breakfast dish, exiting out the door. Within seconds she returned, a gentle smile on her round face.

    “Alright, now since breakfast is done, I have certain questions.” Elizabeth seated herself upon an elegant golden chair near her bed. “Physically, you are recovering well. However, that surprises me. The majority of patients severely deprived of both food and water for extended periods of time have experienced starvation and death. Although, what about mental wellness? How are you feeling?”

    Chloe froze, crinkling her brow. She recalled her fight with Nicholas, her outrageous murder, and oddest of all the bizarre creatures, whether hallucinations or magic. Her mind was less unstable and clearer, but a little scattered nonetheless.

    “I feel better,” Chloe replied, “but dreadful. I can’t believe what I had done.”

    Elizabeth sighed, hands folded together. “Well, I’m a psychologist and doctor, and I believe you are recovering from your mental, perhaps temporary, condition; which, I’m glad to discover, appears less severe than before. Although, I suspect magic, combined with a strange erraticism resulting from trauma, at the moment damaged that brain inside your head. I hope the medicines we gave you helped.” She paused before speaking again. “Miss Chloe, have you been in contact with a magical source of a kind, resulting in the magic affecting your mental wellbeing?”

    Chloe met Elizabeth’s kind silver-eyed gaze. She glanced at the ceiling, swallowing hard.

    The Monster Stone wasn’t an exception. She recalled how its wicked, extravagant magic enticed her soul. How she obliterated the Palace of Arizokaland. She wanted to keep all that a secret, but at the same time… well, another part of her mind urged her to be honest.

    “Yes,” she blurted out the answer. “Believing a magical source might solve all these problems within me, I stole the Monster Stone―but I was mistaken. Sure, I defeated Nicholas, but the stone also created horrific destruction. At the moment I remained quite desperate and confused. But ever since I have awoken, it appears that my entire personality has… shifted. Just a little, that is.” She raised a hand to the bandage on her forehead, and froze. “So ah, I don’t have permanent damage here resulting from this wound? That’s correct, isn’t?”

    “Oh, that minor problem? No permanent damage. The bleeding ceased, so all is well. A scar might be visible―but nothing more, nothing less. Your friends claim you banged your head on a statue when dashing across the castle, resulting in sudden unconsciousness. But I believe this recent unconsciousness was the result of magical interference with the brain. However, surprising this might sound, that magic might have enabled you to endure throughout this difficult time lacking both food and water all the while and, to awake physically well.” Elizabeth reached out, stroking Chloe’s dark hair. “It’s alright, Chloe. Magic is a real source―however, a source one might use for evil. Although the King’s magic remains pure and glorious, most other magic dark beings have corrupted. Unless the King directs a particular individual to have magic, under no circumstances should you attempt stealing a magical source. Don’t feel bad. Just move on. So, if you don’t mind answering, I have another question. Your friends claim you engaged another in a fight. Can you explain briefly what happened?”

    “Yes, I can. When I―” Chloe arched her eyebrows, cocking her head.

    Wait. Her friends told on her? A spark of anger flickered inside her. She clenched her fists, extinguishing the flame burning within her heart. She mustn’t be like that. Should a fellow act as she acted within the past, particularly unstable and extremely confused, she’d be concerned as well and report the crazed individual.

    But she was alright now. She was more stable, more focused, more… balanced. Wasn’t she?

    “Uh, it was terrible,” Chloe admitted. “My sister was under Nicholas’s magical spell, I think. Either that or she was corrupted resulting from another source. I intended on rescuing her, and changing her heart. However, I challenged the dark lord to a murderous fight. He was defeated. But… during the fight, I ended my sister’s life―and even worse, that of multiple others. The scene was like a nightmare.” She sucked in a deep breath. “It was like a figment of imagination, I recall. I can’t describe it better! Speaking of nightmares, I must mention the strange dreams I dreamed during this prolonged sleep of mine.”

    “Strange dreams?” Elizabeth paused before speaking again, “Chloe, how strange, exactly? Might you provide further detail?”

    Chloe clenched her eyes shut.

    “Well, each dream I recall was rather strange,” she answered, a hand on her temple. “This might sound odd, but I haven’t forgotten a single dream while I remained asleep. One dream I was locked inside a dungeon underground writhing in clusters of snakes… and I banged and banged on the wall, fearing that I might die. Within another dream, all the teeth I once possessed clattered upon glass floor. Trust me, what I dreamed was particularly random, but it terrified me. However, towards the end of this sleep, the dreams became less and less frequent until at once the nightmares vanished. Perhaps that was the result of this ‘medicine’ you gave me.”

    “Odd,” Elizabeth spoke. “Must be another magical effect. Well, at least the medicines proved efficient. I’m glad you have regained a sense of clarity.”

    Chloe sighed. She was glad as well.

    “What now, Elizabeth?” she asked. “Have more questions? Should the answer be no, then I have a question. For what I have done I feel dreadful. Should someone, would you think, once discovering this outrageous scene I have created, might believe I should remain contained within a cell?”

    “What? No, I wouldn’t think you should be locked up. Although I believe one should be careful rather than slaughtering multiple individuals, from what I have heard this appears you have been under horrible distress and that your choices remained under influence of a magical source, in this case the Monster Stone. This ‘outrageous action’ was an entire accident. That I don’t mean as excuse, however.” Wariness marked Elizabeth’s expression. “Although for sheer information, should you like avoiding a cell, I’d keep that odd tale as a little secret. Don’t be deceitful, Chloe; just be cautious concerning this horrible ‘nightmare.’ There are particular men never to be trusted.”

    Chloe swallowed, blinking at the tears forming within her eyes. “W-w-well… I appreciate this hospitality, Mistress Beatrix. But this kind treatment I don’t deserve.”

    Elizabeth smiled, pressing a warm hand on her shoulder. “Don’t be like that. You are a wonderful young lady.”

    Chloe was about to object, but Elizabeth silenced her as she raised a finger to her lips.

    “Now, now, I believe visitors await this room.” Elizabeth smiled bigger.

    “Visitors?” Chloe asked as her brow crinkled forming an expression of confusion.

    Elizabeth never replied. She strode forth and halted at the entrance, flinging the door open. A delighted squeal disrupted the silence. Allison, her dress displaying multiple shades of maroon, entered the room. She glanced over and bolted around the bed. An enthusiastic grin cracked across her wrinkled face. Dominic arrived then, his black tuxedo fine and shining. His graying hair was well combed forming a wave.

    “Are you well?” Allison clutched Chloe’s wrist, shoving aside silver hair from her darker blue eyes. “I was informed our horrible neighbor, Nicholas, commanded that you participate within that dreaded arena. How dare that foul soul! But all remains alright this moment, correct?”

    She inspected Chloe’s bandages and froze.

    “Where have you received these wounds?” Allison paused, and repeated her recent question, “Are you well?”

    “Yes, I’m alright,” Chloe answered, slightly clenching her teeth.

    But was she alright?  She sighed at her own self-doubt. Glancing from Allison to Dominic, Chloe forced a smile upon her lips. Despite her sadness, the sight of her foster parents ignited a spark of excitement within her.

    “I shall leave you alone in peace.” Elizabeth smiled as she exited the bright room, closing the door behind her.

    Dominic nodded with a smile. A gentle glint sparkled within his appreciative, particularly green eyes. Allison smiled as well.

    “You had us worried, Chloe,” she said. “I recall believing that our sweet little girl was dead!”

    “Calm down, Allison.” Dominic sighed, scratching his chin. “All turned out right in the end. For that we have the King to thank. Chloe, those friends, Eric and Sarah, must be quite loyal and trustworthy friends. You’re quite lucky for their company. Once having snuck past the guards, Eric and Sarah released us from the dungeon.”

    “Oh, Dominic, but that’s not all,” Allison’s voice took on an excited tone. “Stealing several of Old Nicholas’s majestic and prized horses, as well as a couple sacks of gold, we traveled here where you remained in the hospital’s care. Meanwhile, during this slumber I recall you experienced, Dominic and I along with Eric and Sarah ventured elsewhere, announcing Nicholas’s treachery and his location to several near towns―what happened was a surprise.”

    Chloe straightened her shoulders, her lips curling in a smile. She cocked her head a little to one side.

    “Please, make known this tale unto me,” she said. “How this ends I’d like to hear.”

    Allison shared a glance with Dominic.

    “Well, then making known unto you this tale we shall!” Allison spoke, facing Chloe. “We managed gathering what might be considered a ‘little army.’ The weapons varied, from farm pitchforks to carved wooden sticks and more. Since I stole a sword from Nicholas’s castle, I was considered one the several luckiest ones wielding a splendid weapon created specifically for battle. However, during the middle of our march to the wicked castle, a strange kind met us.”

    Chloe leaned closer.

    Allison drew nearer, and whispered in her ear, “Monsters.”

    Chloe pulled back. Her eyebrows arched in surprise.

    “Oh, but I recall the monsters acting with friendliness.” Allison nudged Dominic on the shoulder. “Isn’t that right, Mr. Chase? At the ferocious look on their faces, I was pale with fear. However, those monsters joined us. Never have I known such creatures ever existed. But the King has provided much for us, in this case the addition of monsters.”

    What? Those horrible nightmarish monsters helped them? Chloe squinted, scrunching her brow. She recalled the monsters remaining under the wizard’s control. Well, perhaps when Nicholas was destroyed, the “magic spell” was broken and the monsters set free. It was a strange thought, but she couldn’t ignore it.

    “And together we marched to the castle. Then WHAM!” Allison’s hand formed a fist. “The castle was overtook, the captives released, and our enemies imprisoned. Among our foes imprisoned was Grandpa Phoenix, the so-called ‘guardian’ of Miss Zoe. However, Nicholas wasn’t to be found within the castle.”

    Dominic shrugged. “Don’t fear, Chloe. That rascal shall be executed.”

    Chloe smirked, glancing at the ceiling. “Don’t fear? Who, Nicholas? Look, Nicholas is dead.”

    Allison and Dominic alike froze.

    “Nicholas is dead?” Allison sounded a little skeptical. “Was he murdered at the castle? Because Nicholas’s corpse was absent. When the spoils had been taken, all was searched. When Nicholas perished where had his death taken place?”

    “Uh, within the castle,” Chloe replied. “Unlike the monsters I hear you encountered, the monster Nicholas became was malevolent. Nicholas was a terrible looking creature, and when he perished he became a horrible fluidal mess. In fact, I was drenched in the foul liquid. Yes, the details are rather gruesome and outrageous. And I don’t wish that this particular matter be discussed further.”

    Chloe shuddered and fluttered her eyes. She was struggling banishing the horrid memories, all the grotesque and morbid images, from her mind; the bloodcurdling death of Merubalos de Albiro, the devastating and murderous kittens, the daughters’ fractured skeletons, all the blood, all the violence…

    “Well then, no more questions shall I ask. I believe you, Chloe. That’s the past and this’s the present. You’re all well! Don’t dwell on the morbid side. Just move on.” Allison grinned. “Also, I’m glad that I have the privilege of announcing that the townsfolk are celebrating. People are dancing, and children are… children are chasing each other―”

    “Allison, it’s called tag,” Dominic interrupted. “Look, they’re children. It’s just what children do!”

    “Whatever.” Allison shrugged. “Chloe, Eric’s celebrating as well. You are invited to another of his parties!”

    What? Another! Chloe pressed her lips tight against each other. She glanced at the door then returned her gaze upon Dominic and Allison.

    “Look, be honest. Is that for real?” Chloe asked.

    “Absolutely, I would never lie!” Allison assured her. “Just as before, have fun! Relax and enjoy the party, snack on scrumptious delights, socialize, participate in games, and so on and so forth! Also, we shall dine at the same table―and we’ll be just like a family again!”

    The word “family” sparked mixed emotions.

    Chloe gulped, blinking. Despite the horrible fact her sister and parents remained dead, she was glad for her Allison, Dominic, and all her other friends. She drew a breath and smiled. Tears sparkled within her eyes.

    Chloe dove at Allison, embracing her.

    “Thanks.” She withdrew, glancing at Dominic. “And thanks too.”

    Dominic smiled. “You’re most welcome.”

    Allison rose from the golden chair.

    “You are welcome as well, Chloe.” She paused before uttering another word. “But this room is boring. I have the most spectacular dress that you must wear at the party. Now, let’s go! Eric and the others are waiting!”

    Chloe cocked her head and grinned. “Well, I must state a party would be quite grand and fine indeed.”

     

    Allison was correct.

    The dress, white as snow with tinges of pale gold and a dash of scarlet, embedded with dazzling pearls was elegant and fitting. Allison had done her hair forming a braid and added a little blush on her cheeks. Chloe never understood the purpose of blush, but Allison claimed it had to do with “fashion.”

    The bandage removal process, however, wasn’t the most pleasant.

    As Chloe wandered the streets, a sense of calm arose within her. The town sparked in her mind the image of Eldymartt. Children bustling about, the conversations of boisterous neighbors, the distant sound of domesticated animals, all the unique shops, and the like. As well as the spectacular gardens. Except this wasn’t the burnt town she once called home. This was Valdemaro.

    Within the azure brilliance above, the sun blazed golden amongst the billowing clouds. She smiled and moved on, traveling the dull soil beneath her scarlet boots. Houses, displaying multiple shapes and colors, passed her.

    But none were as bright as the multicolored striped tent before her gaze. The vibrant floor within her hospital room was no exception.

    Chloe flicked her eyes shut. She drew a tense breath. Then exhaled, forcing her eyes open. She attempted a nice smile, yet her lips quivered. Upon reaching her destination, she halted at the entrance.

    A figure appeared. He wore a rich green tuxedo, his silver shirt and trousers fine and sharp.

    “I’m sorry, Eric,” Chloe apologized. “Back at the castle, it wasn’t right for me to act like that.”

    His mouth formed a faint smile. “That’s alright. From what I understand, Nicholas was twisting your heart around his gnarled fingers. I suspect that sadistic neighbor remains the cause behind this.”

    “But was he?” Chloe asked. “No. I’m the one that should be blamed. I committed a horrible deed. You don’t have a clue what I had done.”

    Eric sighed. He drew closer, an attentive expression on his face.

    “Look, I’m aware you have a wounded heart. But there are others who have suffered as well. When Eldymartt’s destruction happened, multiple townsfolk lost their homes and loved ones.” Seriousness was evident in his blue eyes. “I was building a little house. Remember that project I showed you? Well, once that project was complete, I would have created a card shop. Oh, and I would have each kind of card-related game available. And that project, along with all Eldymartt, was burned. But I salvaged what remained and created this tent instead. Life isn’t all bad. In fact, Nicholas remains defeated.”

    Chloe averted her gaze.

    “Now c’mon. You don’t wanna miss out!”

    Without another word, Eric gripped her wrist and spun her into the tent. A cheer rose within the air. Chloe scanned all the faces and stopped when her gaze met her friend’s. Sarah Janson laughed, her finger directed toward an elegant scarlet-frosted cake.

    “I baked that cake!” Sarah declared. “And it’s both strawberry-flavored and as tall as five layers!”

    Chloe arched her eyebrows in surprise. Ah, strawberries. Sarah remained as creative a baker since Chloe first met her.

    She observed her vibrant surroundings within the tent. Wooden tables for eating and elegant marble tables stacked with various foods were spread out across the tent. The aroma smelled delicious. Despite that earlier meal, she remained ever more ravenous.

    But that wasn’t all. Several brilliant chests, carved from redwood, were crammed full and, almost overflowing with cards. Located within the center was a round table enveloped with a velvet crimson cloth. And upon such towered an exceptional stack of cards. Chloe recognized the game at once.

    The Monster King!

    She was excited at first, but dread shattered the fragile peace within her. She recalled the Monster King, Merubalos de Albiro, and she disliked the robotic, unemotional monarch. He claimed she was a serpent, and that venomous look in his eyes when he spoke it, sent a chill down her spine. She blinked, shrugging the feeling off.

    Chloe stared ahead at the card stack. Eric smiled when he noticed what she was looking at.

    “Would you like to play that game?” Eric asked.

    Chloe returned her smile. “Well… I suppose. Yes.”

    Eric nodded enthusiastically. “Awesome choice there.”

    He turned and cleared his throat.

    Upon capturing the guests’ attention, he declared, “All who wish to participate in this unique game, The Monster King, are absolutely welcome to join!”

    Sarah Janson froze. Her cheeks became as red as the cherries she was snacking on.

    “I love that game so much!” Sarah hollered. “Eric, I shall most definitely participate!”

    Several men advanced.

    One with red hair and wearing fine azure velvet spoke for his companions, “Yes, I recall our earlier game being much fun. We shall gladly join.”

    Chloe recognized the man as Richard, Eric’s friend. The man on his right was Ian, dressed in solid brown. The other was Xavier, his long dark hair with violet streaks. He also wore a strange feathered costume, a distinct pink and yellow combination.

    A bearded man approached. His orange suit was patched and old. He wore checkered trousers and a dark brown shirt. His hair was whitish-silver, and his distinct eyes each another color. One was blue and one was brown. Chloe never met this man, but he looked interesting.

    “Hmm, I’ve never seen this game,” spoke the stranger. “But I’ll give it a try!”

    “Me too!” said a random person.

    Chloe craned her neck, narrowing her eyes. Another man, this one dark-haired, was dressed in complete black. However, she never met that one either.

    Eric and Chloe glanced at each other. At once their gazes settled upon the stack of cards.

    “Well,” Chloe then spoke, smiling, “let us begin the game.”

     

    “Oh Richard, I must declare that ye are eliminated!” Xavier’s voice was dramatic and musical―rather distinct, in fact. “Your mother would be disappointed!”

    Richard rolled his eyes, shaking his head. A frown spread across his face.

    “Whatever. I don’t care.” He cast aside the remaining cards. “At least I endured to the second round, unlike our earlier game.”

    The man dressed all in black, whom Chloe secretly labeled Mr. Random, chuckled, “Hey, don’t complain. I was eliminated in the first round.”

    “Silence!” Xavier dealt new cards. “Alright, Eric begins the third round!”

    Eric’s card, which he placed down, boasted 53 points. However, the image upon the card displayed a familiar horrible figure: the Dark Knight. Chloe froze. Her brow crinkled. She glared at the mere image, her hands forming subtle fists.

    Eric almost noticed her anger, but Chloe hid the unpleasant emotion with a smile.

    The bearded man’s turn was next. The card he revealed pictured a dark-feathered owl grasping a bloodied wretched-looking pitchfork, and bore a total of 27 points.

    However, Sarah’s card reached 77 points. The monster displayed was an enormous, multi-legged, cephalopod-like sea creature. But Ian’s card pictured a bright scarlet dragon. Like the Dark Knight card, Chloe recognized the dragon from their earlier game.

    And from encountering such monsters, she disliked those particular cards.

    “Oh Ian, what terrible cards and low points you have there,” Xavier commented with a snort. “Whatever, I shall win this round!”

    He slapped a card upon the table, boasting a grand 98 points.

    “Ha!” Xavier cackled.

    Chloe leaned closer, scrutinizing the picture upon the card. It was a slender figure robed in dark silk, several daggers glinting within each hand. The face was concealed under a dark hood, but chilling blood streaked down the figure’s pale chin.

    The image reminded Chloe of her twin sister. That she most disliked.

    “Your turn, Chloe,” Xavier said with a grin. “Whatever card ye shall lie down, remember this. Ye cannot beat me no matter what. I shall win.”

    Chloe raised one eyebrow higher than the other. She glanced at her cards and smirked. Before she was thinking about placing down a card picturing a giant, but at Xavier’s boasting words, she placed down another card instead.

    The card revealed an ultimate 100 points. The Monster King displayed, although majestic and beautiful as depicted, wasn’t as grand as she once believed when she met the monster. Her score this time was 100 points, but in order to win the third round she must build up to 4oo points.

    Richard chuckled. He scratched down numbers on a board.

    “Well Xavier, perhaps you should have saved that card for another turn,” Richard said.

    Xavier became red in the face. But Chloe hadn’t pitied the weirdo. He was acting like a child, simple and true.

    And so the game proceeded. Within all the cards displayed, she noticed a couple other monsters she disliked. One was a multi-headed beast, like the monster Nicholas became. The other was an outlandish lion swinging a whip around, which Chloe recalled viewing before her prolonged sleep.

    Chloe won the third round, but Ian was eliminated. The bearded stranger was eliminated next. Sarah was eliminated in the fifth round. And Xavier, boasting he was, was eliminated as well.

    Once more, Xavier fled with a melodramatic sorrow. Oh, but whatever!

    Again, Chloe and Eric challenged each other within the final round. She loved The Monster King and was great at it, despite the fact this was just her second time playing the game.

    However, this was her first time winning!

    “Excellent game,” Eric spoke as he shook her hand. He faced the crowd. “Guests, I declare Chloe the game winner!”

    At his words, cheers and the clapping of hands rang in the air.

    “Yes, Chloe’s awesome at The Monster King,” Sarah stated. “Now, would someone like a piece of cake?”

    The room became silent. An old man stepped from the crowd, a wooden cane in his wrinkled hands. He was grinning.

    “I would like cake,” he replied. “As does everyone else, isn’t that correct?”

    A particularly loud “aye!” split the silence. Within the next moment, the cake was nothing but crumbs.

    Along with her cake, Chloe added various foods upon her glass plate. Finding a seat amidst the others, Chloe settled down. Eric was seated across from her, cake on his own plate.

    Chloe handled a purple grape and bit down. Stunning flavor exploded inside her mouth. She sighed, glancing at her chicken leg. That she found was downright scrumptious as well. She attempted having table manners, but she was a little too much ravenous to truly care.

    Eric glanced at her, a curious gleam in his eyes. “You have changed, but a little that is. Chloe, I’ve realized you have an exceptional craving for delighting foods.”

    “Well, I was imprisoned, and during such deprived of meals.” Chloe laughed. “What are you expecting? I almost starved; death might have taken me. Of course, I have an exceptional craving for delighting foods. No offence intended.”

    “No offense taken.” Eric smirked, digging into his cake with a silver fork. “You have quirks and, I was simply noticing one of them.”

    “Quirks?” Her mouth was crammed with cake. She chewed then swallowed. “Like an odd or hilarious characteristic about me, eh?”

    “Ah well, both.” Eric cocked his head. “But I’ve also noticed something else. The changes I noticed were related to mood. Like one moment, for example, you are either depressed, fearful, or angry―perhaps a mixture of the three mentioned. Then, all the sudden, you are a happy girl.  You are laughing and eating, like there ain’t nothin’ wrong with this entire world.”

    “Oh, there’s a lot about this world that’s wrong.” Chloe sighed. “If what I stated was untrue, this life of mine wouldn’t be like this at all. I mean, I’m glad I have you and the others… I’m glad I have Allison and Dominic as well. But nothing shall change the fact that what remained of the family I once had are now dead.”

    At her words, she drew several glances from other guests.

    Chloe lowered her voice. “Should this world be perfect, Eldymartt wouldn’t be ashes either. I don’t mean to complain, but I can’t ignore it.”

    “Ah,” Eric said. “Perhaps if you share with me what happened exactly, I might be able to offer a little advice.”

    Chloe sipped her pink lemonade. “Like what that happened? How Nicholas perished? The dark imprisonment I loathed?”

    “Whatever that be you wouldn’t mind sharing,” Eric replied.

    “I… I don’t think this would be the proper location to discuss this matter.” Chloe drew nearer. “Perhaps another place where there aren’t as much ears around.”

    “What about the beach?” Eric asked. “That’d be a more proper location, eh?”

    “Sure.” Chloe smiled. “You and I shall meet there at evening time.”

    She resumed her dinner. Eric nodded, glancing elsewhere.

    Laughter rang in the background. Chloe sighed and leaned on her forehead. She recalled all the lives stolen and the palace’s destruction. And that moment in particular, when her sister perished. It was a devastating scar.

    And realizing that it was all her fault was even worse. Oh, and what about her friends? Perhaps she might lose control again, or murder someone. She hated to think that she might hurt someone she loved, like the fate her twin received…

    Chloe swiped at the tear that dared roll down her cheek. Her motion was subtle, that Eric mightn’t notice. Like he mentioned earlier about her mood changes and emotions, she remained at the moment what one might consider “depressed.”

    Chloe glanced about her vibrant surroundings. Casually, she sipped her lemonade. Little children laughed, lurking around an elegant table where rested the sweetest desserts. Sarah, mere crumbs remaining upon her glass plate and icing smeared across her lips, entertained a mini audience about a most epic tale.

    “And that’s when I escaped Old Nicholas Goldstone’s most horrible dungeon!” Sarah laughed. “While the guard slumbered, imbecile he must be, I stole the idiotic man’s secret key!”

    Oh, Sarah. Interesting tale there, Chloe mused on, shaking her head. She rested her chin on her hand and sighed.

     

    Seated on the beach, Chloe watched alone as waves rippled across the azure sea under the golden sun. The breeze washed over her, sending tendrils of hair over her brow. Shaking them back into place, she smiled as seagulls traveled here and there, scavenging for remaining foods that other visitors had littered the sand with.

    Her fingers sliced into the hot sand. She raised her fist, and white sand poured from between her fingers. Staring into the distant sea, she attempted refreshing her mind, contemplating her life. No matter what, she couldn’t erase her sorrow.

    Chloe drew a shaking breath. Perhaps she should move on. This pain was downright unpleasant, but taught a valuable lesson: one must control their emotions and behave sensibly, lest their actions result in consequences.

    She clenched her fists. Perhaps now she might have a chance at this “destiny” she wished fulfilled. Perhaps now she might heal, and her life would serve a clear purpose.

    “This weather is grand.” Eric approached from behind. “I’m surprised we have the entire beach to ourselves.”

    Chloe glanced over her shoulder. Eric sat near her, his distinct tuxedo rather fine.

    “What matter shall we discuss?” Eric asked. “It can be anything you wish.”

    Chloe shrugged.

    “Does this concern Nicholas and that fight?” Eric studied her facial expression. “You claim Nicholas became a grotesque mess. How did this all happen? I’m here to help you, Chloe.”

    She hesitated then began, “Well, I stole a magic stone.”

    Eric didn’t laugh. He listened, serious. Nonjudgmental.

    “I just wanted my sister back,” Chloe said. “I lost control and became reckless. Enraged. Nicholas… that snake created a vision, and what I beheld was a battle scene at the palace. I attempted stopping Nicholas. But, I lost control. The magic was a little overwhelming, and I caused the palace’s destruction. Zoe was there, which along with more than a hundred others, I massacred.”

    Chloe looked down with quivering lips.

    “At the end Nicholas believed he was the victor. He even devoured the magic stone. But that was a mistake. Nicholas exploded. The entire scene was horrible,” her voice was shaking. “A little while following that incident, I experienced hallucinations, I think. And then I entered a state of horrible slumber, and during so afflicted with outrageous nightmares. The entire process was so intense, so dramatic. I feel awful.”

    “Well, all that’s over.”

    “Yes, but I dread what my future might hold,” she calmed her voice. “What I shall become at last remains beyond my knowledge. Shall the life before me flourish and reward me with grand fortunes, or die and wither like an unremarkable weed?”

    “You shouldn’t fear,” Eric said. “Trust the King. He’s the Maker that created all, and the One that controls your life. I don’t mean to lecture you, Chloe, but also… admit the wrongs deeds you have done and ask that such be forgiven. Understood?”

    Chloe nodded. “Yes.”

    “Well then, awesome.” Eric smiled enthusiastically. “Alright, I have a question. This remains unrelated to this topic, but I wondering, would you be interested in joining a business I began where card-related games are created and sold? Sarah’s in the business now. It would be thrilling, without a doubt, for us all to venture across the kingdoms, and while at it, selling games. Remember that bright tent where the party had taken place? Well, that tent can be taken down, set back up, moved about―providing for both a splendid home and a shop for cards and games. You are most welcome to enter the card business, Chloe.”

    It sounded fun, but Chloe was reluctant. Despite the irrational feelings whirling inside her, she acknowledged what Eric claimed was true. She must trust the King. She mustn’t fear what her future might hold or what might happen. Ignoring such an extreme fear was hard, almost impossible, but the King was in control nonetheless.

    “Let me think about this offer,” Chloe said. “Next time we meet again, I’ll have a decision.”

    “Sounds perfect.” Eric rose to his feet. “I must be going now. You enjoy the beach.”

    He trod back the direction he’d came, but hadn’t before waving goodbye. Chloe returned her wave. Letting her gaze wander, she admired the rippling sea from a wondrous view. She sighed.

    Despite the multiple obstacles―fear, regret, anger, and the like―blocking her path, trusting and relying completely on the King rather than other sources, whether magical or not, would change a life. Perhaps it might be a grand and adventurous life, or not at all. What her future held she’d never know until it came, but should the King be merciful upon her, she wouldn’t remain miserable and in constant despair.

    Perhaps she would partake in Eric’s business.

    A smile formed across her face. Indeed, the world she would travel with Eric and the others. While at it, she would declare word of the King, that her “destiny” might be accomplished.

    Chloe arose, the sun in the distance drawing her attention. About the billowing clouds, the horizon primarily consisted of red, pink, and orange shades. She clasped her hands against each other, quite enjoying the gentle breeze.

    She was glad she awoke from her slumber. She was glad she remained well, despite her wounds. She was glad she wasn’t insane, in fact. The Monster Stone’s effects, which might have remained lethal, she was glad vanquished.

    Chloe observed the rippling waves, rather satisfied indeed, alone on the beach.

    Random Stranger: "What do you want to do when you grow up?"
    Me: "Write every inch of your future."

    #115708
    Andrew Schmidt
    @andrew

    @anne-of-lothlorien @nuetrobolt @kari-karast @e-b-raulands @naiya-dyani

    And this is the final piece of the story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😀

     

    EPILOGUE:

    The magnificent life of Chloe Juancarlos was a unique one.

    When she accepted Eric Diego’s card-making business, along with her friends Chloe ventured across the realm. From Arizokaland towns to the Jungles of Rathria and to the Gemstone Mountains, Eric’s large abundance of gold allowed him to create multiple cards. When sold, the cards created even more gold.

    The business was grand indeed. Chloe even designed one game, named The Creator’s World, in which she hoped would spark remembrance of the King. It was a particularly complex and interesting game, with beautiful designs and epic challenges.

    Chloe also married Eric, and a marvelous wedding was done. Allison and Dominic, with all her friends, celebrated their marriage. In fact, Sarah Janson baked their golden-frosted wedding cake.

    The longer Chloe roamed the earth, the wiser and more experienced she became. She became a mother of three children: Adrian, Mia, and Julian. Despite her past heartache, her future was a blessing. She had drawn vast crowds, and taught about the King.

    This was her destiny!

    On several occasions, Chloe encountered Shadow Reapers. The wicked tempted her. In fact, one almost murdered her. But she arose victorious, and with the King’s power, she remained firm in their dark presence. A shadow heart was corrupt and evil, but with strong willpower she overcame their deceit and mischief.

    Eric and she designed and created the most spectacular games, and together became famous. Then Eric died at age ninety-eight. Chloe was an awesome old grandma, and entertained her nineteen grandchildren with the most adventurous tales.

    But at last, Chloe died at the marvelous age of one hundred and nine. As a respected woman, she was buried in the gorgeous Gemstone Mountains with her husband. For Chloe impacted the realm with such a remarkable greatness unlike most.

    Random Stranger: "What do you want to do when you grow up?"
    Me: "Write every inch of your future."

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