An Ending

by Rune Lai

It was night, the darkest one the face of Lunar had ever seen. There were no clouds, yet only a few stars could be seen, as if the very life had been drained out of the sky. Away from the watchfires of the city of Meribia, there was a smaller flame. And huddled around it were the six who would set their world free.

Mia shivered and moved closer to the fire. She missed her warm bed in Vane, but that city, along with all her possessions on it, were destroyed by Ghaleon's first wave of assault. He had changed so much. And it made her fearful. What could a bunch of kids do against him? Their group consisted of only youths, none older than eighteen nor younger than fifteen.

She looked at Alex, the last hope of the world. He was a Dragonmaster now, despite Ghaleon's efforts to see that one did not emerge. But he was still unsure of his new found powers, and his greatest test was still ahead.

Then there was Kyle. He used to think he was so powerful, yet against the Grindery, Ghaleon's mobile fortress, he was nearly lost to despair. Now he was quiet, something Mia found unusual in him.

Jessica, her best friend, was training to be a priest of Althena. Her healing powers had diminished when they discovered that Ghaleon now controlled the goddess.

And Nash was probably feeling the worst of them. When Vane still existed, he was Ghaleon's foremost apprentice. He was eager to serve since Ghaleon was the most powerful magician alive, or ever was for that matter. He didn't realize he was furthering evil until it was too late. Now he had crossed Ghaleon by giving his friends vital information. If he was ever caught, Ghaleon would have his head for certain.

The last member of their party was Nall, a baby white dragon, the sole offspring of Quark, the white dragon that Ghaleon killed. Since Nall still lived, Ghaleon would not be able to kill the goddess. But in the time since Mia saw Ghaleon, she learned that he was capable to doing much worse than killing the her.

"I can't believe what Ghaleon has done to himself," Mia murmured into the conversation.

Kyle looked up from his discussion with Nash and Alex. They had been talking of their planned attack on the Grindery.

"But Mia, he's a cold-hearted fish! How could you feel any pity towards him?" protested Nash.

She turned away. "No, Ghaleon wasn't always cold. Maybe to everyone else, but not me. He was always nice to me. I remember when he used to take me for walks in the garden, teaching me the different names of the flowers. He was the father I never had. He never smiled, but he was always kind to me."

"Well he certainly isn't nice anymore," scowled Kyle. "Look at all the suffering he's caused. Enslavement at Marke, Cadon, Talon, and Ruid; destruction of Vane, kidnapping singing girls from every town while trying to discover which is the disguised Althena...” Kyle continued to tick off Ghaleon's offenses on his fingers.

"Not the least of which is the enslavement of Althena herself," Jessica whispered hoarsely. "He used her to destroy Vane and to the protect the Grindery. And now he's bringing the destruction of our world. The sky darkens with each passing moment. The sun doesn't seem to rise anymore."

Alex nodded. "Tomorrow, there will be no dawn."

*^*^*^*^*^*

Ghaleon, resplendent in his lavender armor, looked down to the valley below. He had his helmet on, which he felt sometimes affected his thinking. But that wasn't what he worried about. He needed the helmet and armor for his own protection. Xenobia and her Vile Tribe, the demons he had recruited to his cause, were uneasy with an outsider as their leader. True, he had freed them from the imprisonment Althena had set upon them, but if he faltered, they would be at his throat. Despite that, his true worries were found in Alex.

He thought the boy would never become a Dragonmaster, but he had. And what was worse was that Alex had discovered Dyne, alive! How could his friend have survived the battle with the black dragon and not tell him? Ghaleon did not like the thought that his actions were needless. But it was true, Dyne was alive, living under the false name of Laike. He had seen him with his own eyes. It's too late for me, he thought. Maybe if I had known before. But I can't turn back now. It's too late, far too late. I have sealed a blood pact with Xenobia. If I backed out, the combined forces of her demons would kill me. And even if I escaped them, I would find no sanctuary. My people would never welcome me again. Perhaps if I could go back...I would. But it's too late now. Then then the cold steel of his helmet reached him again, and he brushed aside such meaningless thoughts.

Down below he saw Alex and his friends countering the the magic that protected the Grindery. He could have strengthened it, but seeing that the combined magic of Nash, Mia, and Alex would break through in the long run, he decided to save his energy. He felt that he would soon see Alex in his throne room on the highest floor of his palace. Ghaleon sighed. Perhaps he had been doomed from the start.

*^*^*^*^*^*

"C'mon, hurry! We've got to save Luna!" shouted Alex as he and his friends raced through the lower levels of the Grindery.

Nash paused a moment, and then jammed his quarterstaff into one of the huge gears that moved the Grindery. This ought to slow Ghaleon. We mustn't let him reach Meribia. Enough lives have been lost already.

Slowly, the mismatched group of heroes worked their way up past the great steam machines that moved Ghaleon's forces. Members of the Vile Tribe and mobile cannons tried to stop them, but none could withstand the awesome power of the Dragonmaster. Even the fire elementals that powered the massive steam engines perished.

"C'mon everyone," said Jessica strongly with a resolve she could barely feel. "Now that Ghaleon's Grindery isn't going anywhere, we're bound to see the Magic Emperor himself soon enough. Just up that staircase behind the furnace."

A loud shout arose from behind the party.

"Alex! Let's move! Ghaleon's forces are hot on our trail!" yelpped Nall.

"I bet they weren't too happy we trashed their furnace," Kyle commenced dourly.

Several lagoon goons rushed around through the door and down and stairs, surrounding the six of them.

"We can't let them stop us! We've got to hurry and get to Luna!" shouted Nash. He concentrated, harnessing the power of the weather around him. "Thunder Shot!"

Eight of them died from the effects of the lightning, but more were pushing themselves forward to take their place. One of the newt-like creature swung his spear dangerous close to Mia who bit back a scream.

"This isn't working!" cried Nall from his perch on Alex's shoulder. "Alex! This fortress is just too strong!"

"No, we can't afford to think like that," growled Alex, swinging Althena's Sword in from of him. We've got to keep fighting."

"I exhausted most of my magic with the fire elementals," shouted Mia.

"Even if we live through this mess, I'm not sure if we'll be in any shape to face Ghaleon," grumbled Kyle.

As the Dragonmaster impaled a couple more of the goons upon his blade, he saw his friends were being worn how as well. It wasn't that the monsters themselves were difficult to fight so much as their numbers.

"Alex, I think we're going to need reinforcements to advance any further!" Nall piped into his ear.

"You're right, Nall," he agreed. "But it's not like we're currently in a position to call for any!"

"Landquake!" Mia's spell took down another group of lagoon goons.

"There are so many soldiers. We've got to try harder!" As if to emphasize his words, the little white dragon dove off of Alex's shulder and madly began flying around the head of one of the guards, providing as much of a distraction as he could.

"I don't see much use in this," shouted Nash. "There are just too many of them! At this rate I won't have any magic left."

"Yeah, I don't mean to complain, but my sword arm's getting tired," said Kyle.

"Care for some help then?" cried a voice.

A long whip snaked out, catching one of the Vile Tribe members around the throat. The lagoon goon staggered back as the whip snapped his neck. The figures of two of the plainsdwellers stepped into view.

"Tempest! Fresca!" Jessica gasped with relief.

"Whew! I finally caught up with you guys," Tempest smirked. "You don't know what it's like chasing you guys through that maze of pipes!"

"Of course, the trail of bodies certainly helped us quite a bit," Fresca smiled.

"We'll take care of these soldiers and cover for you so you can get through," Tempest offered, already pulling over another lagoon goon.

Alex began to stammer his thanks but Tempest shook his head. "Go on Alex. You've got to get to Ghaleon and save our world!"

*^*^*^*^*^*

"A garden! A garden in this place!" said Kyle incredulously. "Those goons were preventing us from entering a garden?!"

"Ghaleon always liked plants," murmured Mia. "When I was a child, Master Ghaleon used to take me for garden walks. ...He used to even pick flowers for me... And now look! He's become this hideous monster than I don't even know."

Together they walked through the garden that had been carefully prepared and taken care of. In the center of the shrubs arose a beautiful palace. And through the hedges they could see tiny pixies flitting about on gossamer wings. Strangely enough, there weren't any of the demons they had battled previously.

One of the pixies flitted over to them, and to their surprise, spoke to them in an almost cheerful voice.

"You people look like death warmed over," she commented. The pixie cocked her head and peered inquisitively at the group.

"Pixie, can you tell us where Ghaleon is?" asked Alex forcefully before the pixie could flitter away.

"He's in the palace of course. Top floor no doubt," she replied.

"C'mon," urged Alex. "Ghaleon's hold over Althena grows with ever passing moment."

As the group turned to leave, the sprite called, "Hey, we pixies don't like Ghaleon either! If you ever get worn down, you can always come back to me and I'll heal you."

The group of them hurried into the palace. Unknown to them was the fact that Ghaleon was watching them from his lofty retreat. They are coming, and the Vile Tribe can not stop them. Shall I face them now? No, there still may be no need of that. Xenobia will take care of them. She must take care of them, or die trying. They halted the Grindery's advance by breaking the engines and destroying its furnace, but if they fall, even that loss is of no consequence. I'm so close to achieving dominion! The goddess is almost irrevocably under my control. I must see to it that I strengthen my hold before they reach me. There's not much time.

*^*^*^*^*^*

"Alex, are you sure that Luna is the human form of the goddess?" asked Nash.

"He's positive," Nall answered for his friend. The baby dragon flitted around Alex's head before coming to a comfortable stop on the Dragonmaster's shoulder. "Didn't you see the picture of her in the Goddess Tower? Or were you too busy hiding behind Mia the whole time?"

"Hey! I was not hiding behind her!" Nash spat back. "That walking statue just nearly killed me that one time and she got in the way!"

"Suuuurrre, I believe you," grinned Nall.

"I've always known that Luna was the best singer I've ever heard," said Alex, ignoring his friends' fight. "But I never thought she'd be the goddess...until now."

*^*^*^*^*^*

And Ghaleon watched them, toying with his helmet in his hands. There is a time for thought, and a time for action. Apparently I have done neither right. I should have acted and tried to find Dyne instead of plotting revenge. I should have considered my actions before attacking Vane. Too much I should have done, and not enough done right. "Cat!" he shouted from his throne room.

A giant saber-toothed feline padded into the room. Ghaleon laid his hand on the great cat's head and affectionately scratched it behind the ears.

"Listen," he said. "I may soon die, and I want you to do me a favor." Ghaleon picked up a small brown book from the arm of his throne. He gazed longingly at it, realizing that he hadn't written in it since Quark's death. "Here is my journal. Give it to no one while I am alive. Should I die, you are to take it to Mia. It will then be her's to do with as she will." Ghaleon knelt beside his friend. "If I don't survive" -- he choked -- "you are to stay with Mia and protect her. I'll miss you." He gave his cat a swift hug and then the feline bounded off.

My final preparations are finished. Alex's true test as a Dragonmaster is coming. A Dragonmaster must be the most powerful mortal in the world. To prove his supremacy, he must kill me.

The six of them were near.

And Ghaleon put his helmet on, allowing its blackness to envelope him.

*^*^*^*^*^*

"Xenobia's dead. Finally," panted Alex, black blood dripping from his sword.

"This is the last floor before Ghaleon's throne room," said Nash. "That teleporter Xenobia was guarding will take us there. Luna, I mean Althena, will probably held either there or out on the walk."

Jessica healed what wounds she could, and then they all stepped on the square tile Nash had designated as the transporter. A brilliant light flared, and they vanished.

*^*^*^*^*^*

"Hey... look!" Nall exclaimed upon seeing the heavily armored figure.

"Good lord! Ghaleon has changed so much!" said Mia.

"Now that he's turned to evil his transformation is nearly complete," muttered Nash.

"Well folks...this looks like the final battle," sighed Jessica. "Now we've got to make sure this counts!"

"Let's move in! Ghaleon and his minions are history," boasted Kyle.

"Ghaleon!" Alex's voice rang out in the near empty chamber. "Free the goddess and we may spare your life."

But his words had no affect on the solid figure before them. They could see nothing of the person beneath the metal. But the Magic Emperor knew even if they spared his life, he would have hell to pay for what he had done. Human nature was not so forgiving. It would be far better to hold fast to his planned course. There was nothing else left for him! Deep and tremulous words came from far within the darkness of the helmeted figure. The words flared with a biting laugh that rippled through them. "So, little Alex has become a Dragonmaster. How endearing. You've come to fight for the soul of your dear Luna, but you're too late. I'm already in control the goddess. Face it, you don't stand a chance, Dragonboy."

Kyle tried muscling his way in front of Alex, but the Dragonmaster's arm stopped him.

"No, Kyle."

"What? Alex, I can take more hits than you. Ghaleon's the Magic Emperor. You need our help now more than ever."

Alex shook his head. "To prove myself worthy of being Dragonmaster, I must defeat him alone." Alex's eyes shifted over to the waiting Ghaleon. "He knows that."

Jessica firmly gripped Alex's arm. "May Althena's blessing go with you."

Mia stared numbly ahead at Ghaleon. She couldn't tell what he was thinking.

Alex motioned the others behind him and drew his sword, the sword he had won upon gaining the title of Dragonmaster. Ghaleon's eyes flashed from beneath his helmet. Alex raised his blade in a salute, and to everyone's surprise, Ghaleon seemingly took a staff of blazing light out of the air and returned the salute. The battle commenced.

Alex shot a blast of holy light against Ghaleon, and the Magic Emperor retaliated with a tremendous bolt of lightning. Sword clashed against staff. The very air crackled with magical energy. Ghaleon's lavender and Alex's gray whirled around the room in a deadly dance.

Alex could feel himself weakening, while his opponent seemed ever impassive. Each blow he had to parry seemed just as calculated as before. How much could a man bleed? He knew he was inflicting more damage on Ghaleon, than Ghaleon was on him. "Althena help me, please," he groaned. And then, whether by luck or the goddess's will, Alex spotted a gap in Ghaleon's armor just below the breastplate. Alex steeled himself and rammed his sword into Ghaleon's bowels.

Ghaleon slumped across the front of his throne, iron gauntlet clawing at the sword stuck in his gut. Alex coldly withdrew his sword, knowing that Ghaleon was still alive. He poised his sword above Ghaleon's heart and was driving it down when something crashed into him, bowling him over. Alex felt the sword slide into flesh, but he couldn't understand the pink blur on top of him.

"Ghaleon!" came a sob.

He understood. It was Mia sitting on him. The pink was from her robes.

"You killed him!" she sobbed.

Alex looked. His sword had apparently driven true. It was sticking out of the middle of Ghaleon's chest. The Magic Emperor wasn't moving. The whole air around him smelled thickly of blood.

Nash pulled the distraught Mia off of Alex and gathered her in his arms. "It's all right, Mia. It's going to be all right. But we've got to find Luna now. She's probably free from Ghaleon's control now."

"Nash is right," Alex morosely agreed. "There's this doorway behind his throne. It seems to lead out to a walkway on the outside of the Grindery."

The companions followed through the doorway. A nearly pitch black sky greeted them, with only a few stars blinking in the distance. Alex approached a long jagged pathway that extended far from the rest of Ghaleon's palace and hung thousands of feet above the ground. At the end of it on a silver platform was Luna. And yet it wasn't her.

Luna turned towards them, her eyes blazing red. "Infidels! How dare you invade my inner sanctum! Prepare to die!"

"Nall..." began Alex.

"Alex, you must try to save Luna! She's that direction!" The small white dragon pointed at the end of the pathway as if Alex hadn't been paying attention.

But the young Dragonmaster's eyes began following two pinpoints of light as they enlarged and came closer. They were the Dragon Angels; Thought and Memory. The two angels floated before Alex and his friends.

"Well done, Dragonmaster. You have proven yourself worthy of your title," they said together. "Ghaleon has been destroyed, but Althena's soul remains lost in a spell of darkness. But fear not, we will use our power to raise her back into the light."

"Alex! We did it! After this, Luna will be with us again, right?" asked Nall, his young dragon face hopeful.

"Oh Nall, never loose your vigor for life. But I'm afraid you do't fully understand yet. Luna is merely the temporary human form of the goddess Althena. Once we awaken Althena from the spell of darkness, her memory of life on your world as Luna will cease to exist. I wish there were some other way, for your sake. Now Althena, wake fr-"

Their voices were cut short as two streaming white fireballs crashed into them like blazing comets, reducing the angels once again to two gems of brilliant light.

"This can't be!" the angels shrieked. "It's too strong... too evil! Ghaleon is..."

The party whirled to meet their challenger, and stared.

"The dragon angels were..." Nash stammered unable to find words, "...with just one hit!"

"I've never seen such power!" gasped Jessica.

"Geez, he sure is stubborn, ain't he," said Kyle. "Just won't stay dead."

"Here he comes. Alex, everyone, look out," warned Mia.

Ghaleon lurched in the doorway, blood flowing from his armor, helmet in his hands. He coughed and spat up blood. His face was wrenched in pain. "I'm not finished with you yet. You'll never...make it...out of here...alive, Dragonboy. Cower...in fear...as I demonstrate my true power!"

Alex watched in mute horror as he watch a foul blue liquid well up from beneath Ghaleon's eyes. Ghaleon dropped his helmet and clutched his gut in pain, groaning as they watched his armor meld into him and wither into blackened limbs. His face emaciated and lengthened, horns emerging from the back of his head. When the towering thing that was Ghaleon stood up before them, Alex knew that anything human about Ghaleon that might have been left after his corruption was gone. The demon before him would only know that it must kill him.

"Still aim to keep us out?" asked Kyle.

"No." Alex shook his head. "Ghaleon's no mortal now. Let's attack."

Nash cast the most powerful lightning spell Ghaleon had ever taught him. And Mia, tearfully, hurled her wind spells as Kyle and Alex dashed forward with their swords. Jessica cast protection spells over them and Nall flew forward, raking his tiny claws against the beast.

The new Ghaleon teleported behind Alex, rending at the Dragon Armor with his wicked claws. Unearthly heat surrounded him, and the Dragonmaster could feel its fire trying to consume him.

Alex swung his sword in a blow that would have decapitated a man. But the creature teleported with little more than a scratch. Mia uttered a few words and Ghaleon seemed to be moving in slow motion. Kyle, grateful for the magical intervention, slammed his sword full force into the demon. Alex also took several swings. Ghaleon screamed with rage. Nash threw another lightning bolt. And then Kyle bashed the demon to the ground. Alex swung his sword skyward and called down a rain of holy light. It pounded the shrieking demon, and they saw it wither and shrink before their eyes. As the thrashing ceased and the light diminished, they saw the battered body of Ghaleon laying on the ground. He was dead. For good this time.

"How can this be...?" asked the gems of light that were all that remained of the dragon angels. "Althena's power is now out of control. And yet we are powerless to stop her. For you see, if we put her to death, your world would die too, for your souls are intertwined. As gods of compassion, we cannot execute that act. But you, Alex... You might be able to cut through the dark spell and connect with her. At this point you are neitehr Dragonmaster nor she a goddess, but two souls reaching through the darkness to find solace in each other. Alex, you must try to reach to girl locked within the spell. It's the only chance to break the spell and free the goddess. Use all your inelligence and might to find a way to reach her!"

But bolts of lightning were suddenly being hurled down from the skies. Alex looked up and saw that the goddess was control of them, hurling them across the fragile pathway linking her to Ghaleon's palace.

"Luna has lost all memory of us, Alex," chirped Nall. "You're the only one she has a chance of remembering because you two were close. You must try to use the memories of the times you shared to reach her."

Alex took a tentative step on to the jagged walkway, hurriedly ducking a lightning bolt that nearly swept him off the path. Realizing he couldn't continue like this, he looked back at his friends for help. Nash mouthed, "Think of something."

He looked back to Luna. He almost could hear her voice. "What is this? Where am I?" He took a step forward. "It's so dark... Alex? Are you there?" He was hearing her voice! "I'm so frightened! Is anybody out there? Alex... Aaalll...eexxx! Please, I'm so scared. Where am I?" Alex took another cautious step forward, ready to dodge any future bolts of lightning. "Alex? Are you there? Please don't give up on me! Alex, help me remember! Why can't I remember? I'm so frightened!"

A sudden flickering of a memory nearly forgotten came back to him. He took out his harp and began to play. It was a nostalgic song, written to revere the goddess at her yearly festival. He and Luna were practicing it so hard for the festival. She loved that song.

"Where is the light?" her voice cried. "Lead me to the light, Alex!"

Alex walked fearlessly down the path. "Please, Alex! Help me remember... our song..." The lightning sprayed around him, but never touched him, and he did not stop playing his harp. In his mind he could still hear Luna singing of a time before he had taken up adventuring and they sat by the springs talking. The melody wrapped itself around him, shielding him from the storm. Finally, Alex arrived at Althena's platform.

"Who are you?" she demanded. "Your power shields you from my spells! Don't come any closer! Stay there! No! Get away! One more step and you die!"

"Luna!" Alex cried.

She gasped, and the red disappeared from her eyes. She screamed, but that was only in her mind. A light filled her and she closed her eyes. When she opened them, she was resting in Alex’s arms.

"Alex? It's really you! I was so cold and alone. But I never gave up hope that you would come for me. I'm so glad you're here."

*^*^*^*^*^*

As the others watched the reunion of Alex and Luna, Mia turned around at a soft growl behind her. Upon seeing Ghaleon's cat, she petted it and gently took the small brown book it was offering her. She calmly opened the book and read the first entry she saw. "As anyone reading this journal shall know, I am Ghaleon. Just for the record, I have the current status of Premier of Vane..."

Back to the Library of Vane.

Back to the Shrine to Ghaleon.