Chapter 39:

Endgame

Slashers


The caves weren’t hard to find. The Little Green Men weren’t hard to kill. Men, women, children, and babies; Jack got them all in one night. Bookmark here

In the morning, he carried Marilyn’s body back to the boulder, where the Voice of the Masquerade and his Dungeon Gate were waiting for him. Bookmark here

‘We can bring her back, right?’ said Jack. ‘“The Dungeon Universe is our collective subconscious, a means of interdimensional travel, and an afterlife for souls forsaken by their gods.” That’s what the Ringmaster said. Girl Scout came back from the dead after making a deal with Cthulu in the Dungeon Universe, and Pigskin must have came back after making a deal with that demon, so Marilyn can come back too, right?’Bookmark here

The Voice of the Masquerade shook his head. ‘SOULS FORSAKEN BY THEIR GODS GO TO THE DUNGEON UNIVERSE, YES, AND THEY CAN OCASIONALLY RETURN FROM DEATH IF THEY FORM A CONTRACT WITH A POWERFUL ENOUGH ENTITY. AS FOR THE SOULS OF THE GODS THEMSELVES, THOUGH, NO ONE KNOWS WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM.’Bookmark here

Jack felt his knees go weak. ‘But the prophesy.... Marilyn’s destiny to become the Monarch of the Multiverse.... It still has to come true, right?’Bookmark here

The Voice of the Masquerade went still. Bookmark here

He slowly took off his moon mask. Bookmark here

He was a beautiful Red Martian man with a long grey beard. Bookmark here

‘I AM THE ARCHMAGE WHO MADE THAT PROPHESY…. IT WAS A LIE…. CTHULU PROMISED ME THE DAGGER OF LIFE AND DEATH IF I HELPED HIM GET HIS REVENGE ON THE MARTIAN ROYAL FAMILY, SO I DID. THEY GOT WHAT WAS COMING TO THEM. YOU SHOULD NEVER TRIFLE WITH AN OLD GOD. I WAS GOING TO BIDE MY TIME AND WAIT FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO KILL SANDRAUDIGA AND TAKE THE DAGGER, BUT IT SEEMS FATE HAS SMILED UPON ME THIS DAY.... ZONE: SANDSTORM.’ Bookmark here

Red sand rose up from the desert around the Archmage and coiled about his body. Bookmark here

In the time it took Jack to put down Marilyn's body, activate his Zone, and unsheathe the Dagger of Life and Death, the Archmage had already floated a hundred feet in the air. Bookmark here

The Archmage placed his outstretched hands together. 'ZONE TECHNIQUE: DUST DEVIL.' He shot down a stream of red sand. Bookmark here

The burning heat of it melted Jack’s flesh. Bookmark here

Agony.Bookmark here

He roared and collapsed.Bookmark here

Yet as quickly as his body was destroyed, it reconstructed itself, bones, muscles, skin, and all.Bookmark here

‘TRUE IMMORTALITY....’ said the Archmage. ‘WONDERFUL.... YOU CAN’T CUT ME FROM DOWN THERE, LUMBERJACK. LET GO OF THE DAGGER AND I’LL GIVE YOU A QUICK AND PAINFUL DEATH. IF YOU DON’T, I’LL TORTURE YOU UNTIL YOU GO MAD.’Bookmark here

Jack tightened his grip on the dagger. There was no way in hell he was going to give it to this scum. The only problem was the possibility of him blacking out because of the pain.Bookmark here

Another stream of burning red sand.Bookmark here

Torture.Bookmark here

The world darkened around him.Bookmark here

Damn it! I can't black out now!Bookmark here

The Dungeon Gate on the boulder opened. Bookmark here

Puck, Sam, and Lobo emerged.Bookmark here

‘Jack!’ said Sam. ‘Lobo opened a new Dungeon Gate on Earth for us! We thought she couldn’t use the Zone, but she must have picked up a thing or two from the Ringmaster in the Devil’s Circus!’Bookmark here

Lobo barked happily.Bookmark here

‘Wait!’ said Puck. ‘What are you doing on the ground, you hoser?! Why are you so messed up?!’Bookmark here

Jack’s voice was weak. ‘Run…. He’s too powerful.’Bookmark here

Puck and Sam spoke simultaneously. ‘Huh?’Bookmark here

The Archmage hit them both with a stream of red sand before they knew what was happening.Bookmark here

They screamed and fell.Bookmark here

Lobo rolled out of the way, bounded behind the boulder, and started growling.Bookmark here

‘THERE IS NO USE IN HIDING,’ said the Archmage. ‘YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE HERE. I WILL TAKE THE DAGGER OF LIFE AND DEATH AND BECOME THE MOST POWERFUL MAGE IN THE MULTIVERSE.’Bookmark here

Lobo's growl transformed into a crude voice. ‘Zone Special: Chimera Chaos!’Bookmark here

A giant Tyrannosaurus rex-sabretooth tiger flew out of the Dungeon Gate, took a bite out the Archmage’s middle, and flew back in. Bookmark here

The Archmage dropped out of the air.Bookmark here

After Jack had healed enough, he limped over to where the Archmage had landed. The Red Martian was gurgling blood.Bookmark here

‘You want the Dagger of Life and Death?' said Jack. 'Have it.’ Bookmark here

He slit the Archmage's throat.Bookmark here

Panting and cursing, Puck and Sam healed themselves with Zone Technique: Healing Touch before getting back up.Bookmark here

‘Damn it,’ said Puck. 'Hoser got the drop on us.'Bookmark here

Sam shrugged. ‘Endgame bosses in Dungeons & Drakes are always unpredictable.' Lobo bounded over and started licking Sam's face. 'Good job, girl.' Sam looked around. 'Where’s Marilyn?’Bookmark here

Jack looked at the body.Bookmark here

Puck, Sam, and Lobo frowned.Bookmark here

‘Let’s just go home,’ said Jack.Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

Jack carried Marilyn’s body across the land bridge that snaked through the Dungeon Universe. Puck, Sam, and Lobo followed behind him.Bookmark here

‘It was Cthulu, wasn’t it?’ said Sam. ‘He planned all of this.’Bookmark here

‘Yeah,’ said Jack.Bookmark here

‘We should hunt him down!’ said Puck, ‘Make him pay! Gods don’t seem too hard to kill! If we just—’Bookmark here

‘No,’ said Jack. ‘It won’t bring Marilyn back. There's no point. I’m tired of killing anyway. I want peace.’ He unsheathed the Dagger of Life and Death. ‘Cthulu’s had his revenge. The dagger has brought nothing but misery.... Let it end.’ Bookmark here

He tossed the Dagger of Life and Death into the storm of dreams.Bookmark here

Suddenly, the storm of dreams became an underwater kingdom of impossible geometry. A titan with the head of an octopus, the wings of a dragon, and the body of a man rose up and caught the hilt of the dagger between its index finger and thumb. Then the vision disappeared.Bookmark here

Rumbling laughter echoed all around them.Bookmark here

‘You’ll get yours one day,’ said Jack. ‘There’s always a bigger monster.’Bookmark here

He and the girls walked through the Dungeon Gate back to Earth.Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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