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QtE 24, Epilogue

Like any good conclusion, this ties up several loose ends…and introduces a few more ;)

The daggers sliced Ieovus' head clean off.

His decapitated head, look of perfect surprise visible as the helmet's visor flew back, spun high into the air in a long, lazy arc. It hit the floor with a dull “thunk” as his now-lifeless body collapsed upon itself. Strangely, there was no blood; tendrils of light blue fog oozed forth from the god's severed neck, shrouding his enormous corpse.

Sayq – who felt as surprised as Ieovus looked – landed softly on the Waiting Room floor, completely unharmed in the whole exchange. A small scratch in his leggings showed where the god's blade had stopped right before his sudden demise. Luck had, indeed, been on the mortal fighter's side.

A soft whimpering prompted him to turn around. The Judge had somehow dealt with the Creator; she lay curled on the floor in a fetal position, shuddering and crying softly. There were no visible marks on her, though she clearly appeared to be in pain. The Judge noticed Sayq watching and smiled grimly. “A grisly business, all this, but it shall be concluded shortly,” he said with a sigh, placing his plasma wrench into a special holster on his back.

Sayq also put his knives away, staring at them for a long minute before sheathing them. “You promised me a few answers once everything was said and done,” he said, “So start talking…who exactly are you, what with pocket dimensions and bringing the Creator to her knees so easily? How could I kill Ieovus – an immortal diety – with just a pair of honest steel knives? And what happens now that everyone else is dead?”

The Judge nodded slowly. “None of those are unreasonable questions, though none have simple answers. Take a seat; this will take a good amount of explaining.”

With a snap of his fingers, a pair of office chairs rose out of the floor. The Judge sat in one and prompted Sayq to do the same. He did so warily, as though it would attack him at any second. “Your first question happens to have the longest answer,” began the Judge, crossing his legs. “I shall, however, skip the unnecessary details and speed things up.

“Suffice to say, before entering this tournament I was just like you. Fully mortal, confused by this whole situation, and lacking any means to improve my hopes of survival. However, when she dropped me through the hold in this world, everything changed. I died, as you figured out by now. It was surprisingly painless; outside of here is the frozen vacuum of the void, so it was a quick death to say the least. After that, however, my soul lacked anywhere to go. Those you saw fighting alongside Ieovus had all been secretly bound to the diety's influence by William before the fighting even began, allowing him to call their souls to his side in preparation for a Crusade. I too had been chosen. But, before Ieovus could whisk me away, some…thing, for lack of a better word, found me first.”

He leaned back, staring off into space. “It was…timeless. Far older, wiser, just more god-like than Ieovus, than the Creator; compared to this being, we are less than what insects are you to and I. Mere nothings, floating specks of dust in the eternity of the universe. Not just playthings as the Creator would see us or minions as Ieovus would see us. It asked me to preform one task, to see that justice was done and the wrongful deaths of billions be avenged. And so, I became the Judge instead of the Lawyer; I became an impartial bringer of justice instead of just a man arguing for a lost cause. When Ieovus pulled me back from the dead, I already knew what had to be done.”

Pushing his chair back, the Judge rose to his feet and pointed one accusing finger at the headless body of Ieovus. “For brutally destroying an entire world and launching fanatical Crusades against peaceful civilizations, the only penalty for this maddened diety could be death.

“By the way,” continued the Judge, onto a different train of thought, “You were able to kill him because he believed you could kill him. You see, gods thrive on belief; both your beliefs and their own. Ieovus believed that after going through so many trials as you did while coming out alive, you were strong enough to kill a god, Sayq. Vanishing into a pocket dimension only helped further, shielding him from your belief that he could not be killed. It's rather more complicated than that, but I'm afraid that's the simplest explanation I can give.

“As for the Creator,” he said in a pitying tone as he stared at the meek girl on the ground, “The loss of her precious creations undid her sanity. Fortunately, there is a way to give her a second chance, which I shall explain later.”

The Judge took a deep breath, readying himself for one final explanation. “For your last question, what happens next…there are a few things about to happen. The slain fighters, regrettably, cannot be brought back to life; the twice dead can never rise again. They shall be given a proper burial, as it is the least we can do after all these challenges they have faced. Ieovus' remains will also be dealt with accordingly. The Creator shall be sent somewhere else in space and time to recover from her wounds, perhaps even as a mortal; the being I spoke of earlier has the power to make a god mortal and a mere man a god. And finally Sayq, after much thought, we have determined that there is but one reward fitting for you…”

With a loud RIIIIIIIIP noise, a verdant green portal opened. Sayq looked to it, then looked back to the Judge who nodded at him encouragingly. “And what about you?” questioned Sayq. “What will you do?”

The Judge shrugged. “I fulfilled my end of the bargain. My future is no longer entirely in my own hands. Go on Sayq, go on and embrace your destiny.”

With a moment of hesitation, he stepped into the portal which closed with a ZIIIIIIIIP.

The Judge snapped his fingers again. All the bodies and gore – excepting the Creator and Ieovus – vanished. Focusing, he sent out a mental call to some unseen observer. “Well, everything you asked me to do is now done. I ask you Sayq's question for my own future now: What happens next?”

It replied. The Judge grinned.

Part 2: All endings are just new beginnings

Little Timmy Jones was playing outside his house with his favorite red wagon. Of course, right now it was a spaceship and he was zapping brainsucking aliens who hated humanity. Such is the imagination of youth.

Just as he was about to vaporize their mothership and save the Earth, a verdant green portal suddenly opened in front of him with a loud RIIIIIIIIP. It spat out a huge skull, covered with a golden metal helmet, which promptly smashed into the house and brought it crashing to the ground. Timmy watched, paralyzed with shock. “…Mama?” he said softly when his tongue could move again.

Then a voice spoke to him and all thoughts of his maternal guardian vanished from his young mind. From the very depths of the portal, a smooth hypnotic voice said a single word right in the center of his brain.

Come…

Timmy grabbed his pirate-fighting stick and his newspaper captain's hat. Towing the red wagon spaceship behind him, he walked through the portal like a man possessed. It vanished with a ZIIIIIIIIP just as the first sirens began rushing towards the rubble.

* * *

The graves had always been there; everyone knew that. 17 blank white crosses of simple wood on top of the hill. Sure, there were no names so no one could be sure of who was buried there, but the graves were still well-tended by the kindly gravedigger who lived in the shack nearby. Sometimes, people even left flowers in reverence for the souls who passed long before their time. A tall oak tree protected the vigilant crosses from the elements, keeping both burning sun and pouring rain off the nondescrepit wood. Overlooking a peaceful meadow, it was clearly an idyllic setting; a million dollar location all for the sake of laying one's tired bones. Whoever lay there clearly had been put there by careful planning as the scene was nothing short of perfect.

Yes, the graves had always been there. But yesterday, they didn't exist yet.

* * *

Another time, another place.

The man walked down the road, light pack slung over one shoulder as he whistled a merry tune. The walk to town always made him cheerful, especially on a Spring day like this. With a light heart and a bag full of food, Sayq could hardly wait to get home to his beloved wife and children.

Hearing a knocking of wood on wood, he turned and saw his eldest son practicing his swordplay against a wooden post as his two daughters watched. He shook his head with a soft smile; there hadn't been a war in years and, considering the way things were going, there wouldn't be for a long time. Walking around the final bend in the road, he reached the secluded cottage. His wife, with their newest born son in her arms, opened the door. He smiled, perfectly content with the world.

Sayq's son put down the wooden sword, taking a break from his practice. Stretching his arms, he took a short walk down the road to their neighbor's farm. Whispering and giggling to one another, his sisters followed behind at a safe distance.

Reaching the farm, he saw her; his dream girl. She was hard at work, using a long-handled scythe to cut the golden wheat in the field. Her black hooded robe had been left at home in favor of lighter clothes for the hot work. He couldn't help but stare. Perhaps sensing him, she turned around, looking him straight in the eye. For what seemed an eternity, neither of them moved. Finally, she raised a hand and waved timidly at him. He smiled and waved back. She walked over to the fence, abandoning her chores in the field to go talk to the young man.

Well hidden behind a tree, his two sisters giggled and ooooooooed.

* * *

“…And THAT'S the story of how me gran'parents met!” crowed the old sailor triumphantly as he finished his extraordinarily long-winded story, lopsided grin on his face growing even wider. Dead silence greeted him; everyone sitting at the bar around him either rolled his eyes or made tipping-back motions indicating the storyteller clearly had too much to drink already.

A cuckoo clock broke the silence, informing all present that it was 9 o'clock. Who says gods don't have a sense of humor?

“O'course, it were many more years till her pa let'er marry gran'pa. An' then it took 'em another tree till they had me pa n' moved over to the seashore. But after that, I tell yer, the rest is history!” He tipped his mug back, finishing the dregs and signaling for another one.

Even Squinty Ernie, the barman, was clearly unimpressed; sure, the old sailor man had saved his life once and had a lifelong tab in Squinty's Sailor Pub, but that didn't give him a right to waste everyone else's time with such long-winded far-fetched tales. He pushed the full glass over then started polishing a new mug in a desperate attempt to avoid eye contact with anyone.

A loud RIIIIIIIIP at the back of the room caused the alcohol-sodden patrons to turn around. They all sobered up instantly as they saw the verdant green portal at the back corner of the room. As they watched, jaws hanging open dumbly, ole' One-Armed Dave stood up and slowly walked into the portal like a man possessed. The portal vanished with a ZIIIIIIIIP, leaving no evidence it was there.

For the second time in as many minutes, the pub was dead quiet. The only audible sound was the old storyteller finishing his new mug of ale, clearly too engrossed in the booze to have paid attention to what was going on around him. The sailors quickly excused themselves, muttering about shore leaves being up, needing to find a place to sleep, or just numbly falling over backwards on the bar stools. Ernie himself was nowhere to be seen, having gone out back for an urgent smoke break. It took two packs for the shakes to stop for good.

As the sailors cleared the pub, a new figure walked in. Clearly an out-of-towner, the young man gingerly picked his way around the unconscious patrons and sat down at the bar with one stool between him and the old man. Finally finishing his drink, the geezer gasped and smacked his lips in appreciation. Turning and seeing the newcomer, his grin grew even wider. “Well ahoy there landlubber!” cheerily wheezed the old timer. “Ye're new 'round these parts ain'tcha? Well ye'v come ter the right place if'n yer lookin' ta get e-quainted with the locals; ev'ryone in Portsdale more'r less comes inter Ernie's once a week'r more. 'Ere, have a pint on me!” he grunted as he leaned over the counter, grabbed a (mostly) clean mug, and filled it to the brim with Ernie's finest.

“Oh, an' one other thing,” he said with a twinkle in his eye as he handed over the booze. “Wouldja care ta hear one of ole Barnacle Ed's sailor stories?”

FIN

Thanks for reading!


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