A Journey to the Underworld

Character list

A Normal Evening

On a Saturday evening, Tom and Bradley were watching a soccer game broadcasted on TV in their apartment. Bradley, in his early teens, yearned to be a scholar, while Tom, in his late teens, gambled ruthlessly and somehow managed to win all of the major games. Suddenly, a player on the TV scored, and Tom cheered.
“Wow, the game is 20 to none. The blue team is being publicly humiliated right now!” Bradley laughed as one member from the blue team made a face but tripped over the soccer ball.
Tom nodded, “I still can’t understand why they chose the red team. Any fool would know that they couldn’t win.” He filled his mouth with another handful of popcorn so that it looked like a piñata ready to explode.
Just then, there was a banging on the door. Bradley heard it, and nudged Tom in the cheek. Tom’s mouth exploded open and all of the popcorn bits fell out. “What?” he yelled, frustrated and annoyed about having to clean the floor of the apartment again.
“Did you hear a bang?” Bradley asked nervously.
“No.” Tom shrugged, and that was the end of that.
However, not long after, there came a louder bang outside. Even Tom, who was usually unaware of his surroundings, heard it. But before he could stand up, the door collapsed inward on itself, and the silhouette of a burly man with a club contrasted against the moonlit night. The man raised his club and charged into the apartment. Bradley screamed. Then…BANG.

A New Home

Bradley regained consciousness first. He opened his eyes, but his vision was still too blurred by his pain for him to see anything clear. The only thing drifting around in Bradley’s mind was pain. So he fell back into a coma.
After an unknown amount of days, Bradley woke up again. This time, his vision was clearer. He looked around and found himself resting on a chair in the corner of a room. Suddenly, he found himself face to face with the tip of a club. He blinked again, and he saw what he supposed to be the same man who had kidnapped him and his brother. Bradley climbed out of the chair and edged away slowly until he hit into another wall. The mysterious man, still holding his club and smirking, closed in even more slowly until he was a few feet from Bradley.
“Who are you?” asked Bradley, trying to control his emotions.
“The real question is, do you want to live?” The man snickered in a threatening tone, pointing his club at Bradley’s nose. The man was around forty, wore ragged clothes, and had a pierced nose. Bradley also noticed that the man had plenty of scars, both new and old.
The man hit him roughly in the chest and shouted menacingly, “I ASKED, DO YOU WANT TO LIVE?”
Bradley stammered, “y-yes.”
“Then follow me!” The man whisked around and marched outside. Bradley followed him outside and looked around. He was standing on a volcanic island. The sand beneath him was black and charred, but the volcano was apparently dormant, for there were a variety of trees and bushes scattered around the island that could not have grown in the duration of one night. The man stopped before a group of around thirty people and shoved Bradley into the crowd. Bradley watched as that man stalked away and joined another group of five people.
Of the thirty people, one was Tom. Tom had woken up just a few hours earlier, and the same man had also treated him harshly before leading him to the crowd.
Presently, a man stepped onto a high rock, surrounded by his four supporters, including the one Bradley saw earlier. He shouted in a menacing voice, “My name is Derickson, but you will call me Lord Derick. But first of all, do you all want to go free?”
A few feeble calls of yes’s arose here and there in the crowd.
“In your dreams!” Lord Derick cackled wickedly. “But…I will grant you freedom if you follow me on a dreadful journey and survive. Now, you might ask, what is the dreadful journey? It is to a place down below - a place I like to call…hell.” Lord Derick spoke in a frightful half-whisper, and heavily emphasized on the last word.
“Go to hell yourself!” A defiant voice arose.
“Now, now, now.” Lord Derick grinned darkly as two supporters, carrying heavy sticks, beat the life out of the disobedient man and forcefully dragged him into a nearby makeshift grave.
“One casualty already? Wow, we really are going to have fun!” A few low mutters of complaints arose, only to be quieted down immediately with threats from Lord Derick’s supporters. A hand rose.
“Yes?” Lord Derick asked in the same menacingly calm voice.
A timid voice called, “H-how will we go to, uh… the underworld, D-derickson?”
“CALL ME LORD DERICK!” Lord Derick shrieked.
“How will w-we possibly go to the u-underworld, L-lord Derick?”
“Ah - that is a wonderful question. Do you not see that volcano just behind me? Yes? Well, the answer is simple: we travel through one of the side vents.”
A few people gasped.
“B-but I have a wife and children!” the man complained. A few others wailed in agreement.
“What about your life?” Lord Derick asked wickedly in response. The man quieted down, and before any other complaint could be voiced, Lord Derick led his followers away into another cottage.

To Go or Not To Go

There were shouts of, “We shall not go!”
The same man from before, whose name was Arthur, called out, “It is too risky!”
Tom thought for a moment before replying thoughtfully, “It is not too risky unless of course, the volcano erupts. But, believe me, I do not think that monstrous beast should wake up anytime soon. I gambled a bit too much during the past few years, yet I have never tasted a single loss before.”
“I agree with my brother. We shall not fear death, if our reward is freedom. Think of the American Revolution, fellow people!” Bradley put in. This put most back into good spirits.
But before Tom could get too awed by his debate skills, Arthur grunted, “Tom, you say you have never tasted loss before, eh?”
“Not by gambling.”
“Well, today, I’m going to give you a taste of loss. Pass me the cards, Little Timmy!”
An overweight teenager waddled up and handed Arthur a deck of cards. “Now, here is the bet. If I win, we do not go. If I lose, we go. But don’t get overly excited. I have a whole life’s worth of experience on gambling. Deal?”
“Deal!” Tom replied instinctively.
Arthur took the cards and shuffled. However, Tom immediately recognised the shuffling pattern, and the fact that the man was not changing the front of the deck made Tom conclude that he was rigging the deck. He pounced on Arthur and shouted in his ear, “I should’ve known that you were a fraud.”
The man forced himself to look innocent. “I am not cheating, am I, Little Timmy?” The harassed looking teenager swung his chubby face back and forth.
“JUST. ADMIT. IT.” Tom lost his sanity.
“Am I cheating, fellow people?” Arthur pretended to look hurt, then asked his surrounding people. There were mutters of no’s.
For a split second, even the afternoon breeze seemed to stop as Tom dealt a blow on Arthur’s chest. Crack! Arthur fell onto the black sand.
“Help!” Arthur pleaded to his surrounding people. Nobody moved; Everyone was paralyzed by the events flashing before their eyes. Seeing that Tom was about to deal another possibly fatal blow, Arthur begged, “Okay, I admit I was cheating! We will go!”
Tom recovered his sanity at the last moment and stalked away to Bradley.
Arthur glared at him for a moment before standing up and dusting himself off.

To the Mammoth Beast

Standing under the afternoon sun seemed like eternity for Bradley, and everyone seemed to go abnormally silent after that brawl. At last, Lord Derick came out with his and asked threateningly, “You had your time to think. So, would it be a yes or a no?”
Most people spoke, “Yes.” Bradley glanced at Arthur. He was sulking silently, so Bradley convinced himself that even the most angry of men could not cause too big of a trouble. He turned his attention back to Lord Derick.
“…Follow me…” Lord Derick was saying. “If you don’t, you will most likely get lost and die.”
So Bradley, along with the crowd, moved along nervously. They climbed over boulders and hills and crossed narrow streams. Finally, they arrived at the base of a giant volcano. Bradley stared up at the majestic yet deadly beast. A small nudge from one of the people nearby brought his attention to Lord Derick.
Lord Derick was climbing the volcano, and stopped near a middle-sized vent. “Finding a vent to go through is easy. However, you need to be prepared.” At this, Lord Derick stopped and grinned his same dark smile. Two of his supporters, wearing oxygen masks and special suits, brought up an unwilling person from the crowd. Lord Derick stepped aside, and the victim was exposed to the gas in the vents. “AHH” he screamed, then crumbled down into a heap. The others gasped in horror. “Don’t worry, he only fainted,” Lord Derick smirked. He kicked the body out of the way.
A question suddenly arrived in Bradley’s mind: A moment ago, Lord Derick was exposed to the harmful gasses, but why did he not faint or die? Bradley was about to tell Tom about this weird discovery when he saw Lord Derick’s evil eyes stare at him as if to say, “I know what you are thinking, but do not tell anyone, or else you will have an undesirable ending.” Bradley stared into Lord Derick’s dark eyes.
“Enough fooling around! Now, the special suits!” Lord Derick summoned the other two minions, who started to throw oxygen masks and special suits at the crowd. An oxygen mask hit Bradley in the back, and he put it on. A few moments later, he found a suit drifting through the air, and caught it before putting it on too. After everyone prepared themselves, Lord Derick motioned for them to follow him into the vents.

Into the Underworld

Inside, it was blurry with gas. Tom couldn’t see anything outside, as it was blocked by Lord Derick’s four supporters. The person in front of Tom tripped on a loose rock, and he stumbled to the ground. To everyone’s horror and surprise, his oxygen mask cracked! Although his scream was muffled by the thick stream of gasses, Tom could imagine how much agony that person felt. From then on, he walked more carefully, as if his life depended on it - because his life depended on it.
The group walked on for hours. A man stumbled, but luckily, he didn’t break his suit or oxygen mask. Still, it was a grim journey. No one talked, not even Lord Derick. Tom stared at Lord Derick. He was muttering something to himself. Tom wasn’t sure what to make of that, so he pretended nothing had happened, after all, nothing big did happen, and nothing big will happen for seemingly the next decade.
But wait - was the narrow tunnel widening? Then, an exhausted Tom saw a streak of dancing red light on the cave wall. Another streak appeared. And so did another. As he took another step forward, he found himself glimpsing at a seemingly endless cave, with an ocean of lava in the middle. He and the others walked out of the tunnel and into the cave.

The Bridge

“At last!” Lord Derick cheered with a short laugh. As he neared the cave, Bradley noticed a basalt bridge emerge from the lava. Lord Derick crossed the bridge. As everyone walked out into the cave, the tunnel behind them suddenly sealed itself with a huge, towering boulder.
“Welcome.” Lord Derick stretched his hand out, as if to embrace the cave. “For you, this would be called a magma chamber. Big, isn’t it?”
Arthur was staring at the boulder. “How will we get out?” he asked angrily. “You scammed us!”
“Be careful of your words, or else…you will pay with your life,” Lord Derick said with a smile. “But…I feel nice right now, so I don’t mind telling you: the bridge ahead of you will judge your cruelty. If you are not cruel enough, the bridge will collapse and you will die a burning death. So who is going first?”
A boy in the crowd hesitantly stepped onto the bridge. Seeing that the bridge had, unexpectedly, not collapsed yet, the boy gathered up his courage and ran as fast as he could. He had not run far when the bridge suddenly collapsed, and within moments, the boy disappeared into the eagerly awaiting lava below.
Then, Lord Derick pointed at Arthur. Arthur, though timid, walked up to the bridge. Slowly, he crossed it, and surprisingly, he actually made it to the other side!
Suddenly, Bradley had a thought. Taking chances, he sneaked to Tom unnoticed and whispered, “I believe that Arthur may have been planning for revenge.”
“I would guess that, but how do you know for sure?”
“Lord Derick said that only the cruelest could cross the bridge safely. And I am guessing that he might have been dwelling on thoughts of revenge, which were cruel enough to let him pass.”
“True enough-”
“I get it now! To cross the bridge safely, you will have to dwell on bad thoughts. I am a genius!” Bradley clapped his hands in excitement.
Suddenly, he was spotted by the evil eyes of Lord Derick. Lord Derick immediately asked suspiciously, “Why and what were you whispering to each other?”
Bradley stammered, “We w-were just-”
“You! Go onto the bridge now!”
“M-me?” Bradley asked.
“Yes, you!”
Bradley slowly walked to the bridge. Remembering what he had said before, Bradley focused his thoughts on bad memories - the night when it had all happened.
In an instant, he was across the bridge and in the center of the cave.
He watched as person after person crossed the bridge. Most people who overheard Bradley’s conversation crossed the bridge safely. Unfortunately, many did not survive. Finally, it was Tom’s turn.
Tom thought of his brawl with Arthur, and tried crossing the bridge. The bridge wavered, and Tom heard cracking noises. So he fixed his thoughts on the people who fell into the lava. Still, the bridge continued to produce cracking noises. Is Lord Derick purposefully making this harder? A voice, seemingly inside the bridge, whispered, just give up, just give up! Tom, after hearing this, grew angry, and he, not caring about his life, landed his fists onto the bridge. The bridge, who could not endure public humiliation and Tom’s fury at the same time, pleaded, okay, I will let you pass! So Tom walked across the island unscathed. Lord Derick looked furious.

A Trivial Brawl

On the island where the shaggy survivors stood, there was a town. In the center of town there was a castle. Due to the foggy heat waves, even Lord Derick could not see much other than that. However, anyone could also see that Lord Derick was not happy with Tom for surviving the bridge. 21 people? Damn. But the more people, the better, I guess. And that Tom… he’s really strong. Well, so is that Arthur. They will make excellent generals for his majesty. The group walked to the entrance of the town, where two guards wielding heavy swords blocked the entrance. Seeing the ragged group of strangers, they flashed their swords out.
“Halt!” they shouted. “Or else, hehe…”
“I am Lord Derick! Let us in, or else you will meet a fatal ending.”
Realizing that the stranger was no other than Lord Derick, they bowed solemnly and let the group in. A man chuckled, “At least we won’t get pushed around by other people.” He was met by the tip of a sword.
“What did you say?” One guard asked grimly. They advanced upon the person, who instantly regretted his life. Suddenly, the first guard jumped up and swung his sword at the man. Lord Derick, spotting action behind him, whipped out his sword and with a light swing, he knocked out the first guard. The first guard fell with an “oof”. The second guard, a bit nervous, backed away, only to be blown right next to the first guard. A third guard came out of a house near the entrance.
“Who is this underdeveloped soldier, I may ask?” He mocked.
Lord Derick swung his sword at him, only to be blocked with a “ching” by the guard’s spear. Then the guard charged toward Lord Derick with his spear. Lord Derick blocked with his sword. At first, Lord Derick was pretty confident. However, his confidence faded instantly as he recognised the pattern on the spear - like his own sword, that spear was one of the few divine weapons in the entirety of the underworld! A second later, his sword broke in half. Fortunately, the guard was also stung, and seeing the opportunity, Lord Derick knocked him out with the handle of his sword. “This thing will take a long time to heal,” Lord Derick sighed to what was left of his sword.
However, the guards didn’t give up that easily. The first guard woke up silently, and seeing that Lord Derick was distracted, picked up his sword and silently charged toward him. However, Lord Derick noticed and kicked him in the chest, but the sword pierced him. Both stumbled back, and the guard fell with a grunt. The fight was over.

To the Castle

“The fun is over. Now let us hurry.” Lord Derick grunted, plucking the sword out. His wound instantly healed, but his bad mood did not. The group walked silently. Arthur glanced around. He was still sulking over his fight with Tom, but presently he stuffed it in the back of his mind, for what was in front of him was more to his interest. On both sides, two story buildings were neatly arranged, with narrow alleys littered with garbage in between. Those buildings, though tall, were seriously lacking repair, and looked as if they would collapse at any moment.
Everywhere, Arthur could see people. People fighting, people screaming, people on fire, people dying, and people drinking others’ blood due to thirst. To the right, two men were fighting with kitchen knives, and as they spotted the group, they paused and stared at the people, their eyes full of loath and hatred. Arthur stared at them. One of them gave a Chesire-Cat smile and pointed his knife at Arthur. The other did the same. As they advanced toward Arthur, the two suddenly howled with pain and flinched back. After continuous attempts and howls of pain, they resigned and resumed their eternal fighting.
One minute later, another man also attempted vainly to attack the group, and received a similar fate. Like the last two, he was constantly bounced back. Is this a curse? Wow. To Arthur’s surprise, the group suddenly halted, and Arthur crashed into the teenager in front.
“Ow!” The teenager shouted, and Arthur could tell that he was tired and depressed. However, despite that, Arthur had a very high self esteem, and shouted back, “Who cares about you?”
“Be quiet, will you?”
“No, and I never will until you apologize.”
As soon as the teenager muttered that, Arthur dealt a deft blow on the teenager’s forehead, unbalancing him and knocking him down.
“Now, now, now. What do we have here? Fools who can’t learn to respect the king’s castle?” Arthur turned around to see Lord Derick looking at him.
“I…was… …. fighting a kid? Teaching him a lesson?” Arthur expected to be met with a face of hatred. Instead, Lord Derick looked at him curiously.
“Hmm… you would definitely make a great general for his majesty…” Lord Derick turned around. Arthur did not know what to make of that, but he thought it was a good thing, and decided that he would work hard to become a general for his majesty.
Suddenly, the teenager kicked at Arthur. Arthur blocked it and was about to retaliate when Lord Derick flung the teenager onto the roof of a random building, where he was met by an angry mob of roof-dwellers. The teenager, scared out of his wits, jumped down the building, broke a leg, and limped back to join the crowd.
“Welcome to the entrance of the Kingdom of the Underworld, home of our Lord. Unfortunately, some people cannot learn to respect him,” Lord Derick paused to glare at the teenager. “Anyways, this is where your actual test begins. Twenty people against twenty zombies. The key is to learn that killing is normal. Don’t be afraid. I expect only ten of you to survive. NOW!”

The Entrance Exam

Suddenly, the entrance was blocked by a huge boulder, similar to the one that blocked the tunnel. Three huge walls appeared out of nowhere, and a red mist appeared in the center. Within seconds, it expanded and solidified into a horde of ragged people, like those earlier seen in the town. However, Arthur soon noticed that those people were broken from their curse. They moved around freely and attacked the stragglers.
Arthur, seeing a zombie advance on him, kicked his chest. The zombie grabbed his foot at the last moment. Seeing his disadvantageous situation, Arthur barely managed to control his overwhelming thoughts of the ways he could die. However, he decided to continue living, so with a sudden jerk, Arthur put his whole weight onto his captive leg, which knocked the zombie back. Then, with a smash, Arthur hit the zombie’s head off. Arthur looked around. People were screaming in agony all around him as zombies bit into their flesh or tore their fingers off. Then, Arthur saw Tom. Tom was fighting bravely, crashing zombies together, smashing zombies into walls, and saving Bradley’s life. Arthur had a sudden evil thought. What if I could sabotage Bradley? I would surely become his majesty’s right hand man!
Arthur waited until Tom faced away from Bradley. Then, he snuck behind Bradley and pushed him so that he was inches away from a zombie. He watched as Bradley struggled with the zombie for a moment, then snuck away. Unfortunately, Tom noticed Bradley, and immediately swooped to the rescue. However, after Tom finished off the zombie, he noticed that Bradley made no signs of movement.
Touch. No movement. Shake. No movement. Tom felt Bradley’s pulse. No, he didn’t faint - Bradley had died. And Tom knew that even if he cried that entire day, reality is reality. Tom laid the blame on the zombies, and fought them hard until every last zombie collapsed.
Finally, as every zombie died, Arthur glanced around. Everywhere, he could see survivors huddling together. All of them were cheering except for Tom, who was silently making a prayer. There were fourteen left, including Arthur. For them, their common thought was to get rid of Lord Derick and to escape as quickly as possible. But for Arthur, his thought was to become an excellent general to his majesty, whoever he was. As the boulder blocking the castle’s entrance rolled away, Arthur thought to himself, this is my one and only chance.

His Majesty

Tom was devastated by the loss. He had lost his brother when he could possibly have avoided the situation by listening to Bradley at the beginning of the story. Tom was also angry at Lord Derick. He, Tom thought, was the key to my devastation. Little did he know, this thought was going to change.
Inside the castle, the first thing Tom walked onto was another bridge. Like before, it was sitting above lava. However it was also like a main street. Connected to the bridge were smaller sub-bridges that led to towers and black houses sitting on charred islands bulging atop a vast lava lake. After a bit of walking, the tired and exhausted group stopped. Before them the “main street” stopped. It was replaced by a drawbridge. Below the drawbridge was what seemed to be a hollowed out island. What was interesting was that the lava in the island was considerably more active than the lava seen elsewhere inside the castle, as if it had a conscience of its own. The drawbridge connected to the king’s temple, which was black. In the temple was a charred throne surrounded by statues and piles of gold and diamond. As decoration, there were holes constantly pouring lava. And then there was the king himself.
His majesty, also called Nomed, was a muscular man with a black cloak and wore a basalt crown. His staff was also made of compressed basalt, which was a few dozen times stronger than normal basalt, and had a giant ruby resting on top. He had a pale, expressionless face with a pair of red, unforgiving eyes.
Presently, Lord Derick stepped forward and walked up to the drawbridge, which was lowered, and bowed, “Your majesty, I will present to you fourteen captives. Of course, the rest is all up to you, your high lord.”
“You have served me well, Derickson.”
Suddenly, the drawbridge collapsed, and Lord Derick shrieked, “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” shortly before he fell into the fiery pit below.
“Do you think I would not know that you were pretending to be me, Lord Derick? Try to pretend now! Hahaha… anyways, do any of you know why you guys are here and not in your pathetic little cities?”
No one answered; everyone was dazed at how quickly Lord Derick was finished off by a random stranger. Finally, Arthur said, “No, your majesty.” Tom glared at him. Was he trying to be the king’s pet?
“Yes, he is.” Nomed replied in a courteous fashion.
Tom stumbled. Can he read my mind?
“Who is what, your majesty?” Arthur asked politely.
“I can tell that you are trying to be my pet, and I could grant it to you, but…” Nomed pretended to think.
Arthur stumbled too. “Y-you… can r-read…?”
“Yes, of course I could read minds, or else why would I be king, and not that Derick?”
Just as Nomed finished speaking, a sword knocked Nomed out from his throne. Nomed fell onto the temple floor with a grunt. A familiar face appeared from behind. “Still remember me?” He mocked.
Nomed rolled out of the temple, then got up. “Derickson? How are you here?”
“When the drawbridge collapsed, I fell close to a stalactite. So I made my way up stealthily,” Derick spoke proudly.
“Huh,” Nomed puffed. Suddenly, he whistled, and a ghostly horse appeared out of thin air. “If you want a fight, here it is.” Nomed sat on his horse, and, with his staff out, he charged toward Derick. Derick dodged to the side. Nomed charged again. This time, Derick was not as lucky. He barely missed the point of the spear, and the horse tripped him. As he rose, he noticed Nomed charging for the third time. Thinking that it was too late to dodge, Derick took out his fully healed sword and pointed it at the horse. Both were knocked back by the impact, and Nomed’s horse disappeared at the cost of one broken leg.
Derick limped back and decided to go on the offensive. He swung at Nomed, only to be received with one random swing of his staff that sent him and his sword flying back. From then, he fully devoted himself to playing defensive. He saw Nomed charge at him. He blocked it. Nomed charged again. He blocked it. Nomed, realizing, threw the staff like a boomerang. Derick bent his waist and dodged it. As he got back up though, he was assaulted by the staff from behind and fell down unconscious. Nomed dragged Derick to the cliff and threw his limp body down the pit.
“No more clutches this time! Anyways, the reason I have you here is for the purpose of intelligence. I want you to tell me what is going on up there.” Nomed pointed up towards the ceiling.
“Why should we tell you?” Tom asked.
“Ah. Good question. You see, I am preparing a full-scale invasion on the world above me to avenge my lost brothers. Long ago, there was a war between us and a group of barbarians who call themselves heaven. We had plans for dragons, seas of lava, and fifty-headed creatures to dominate this planet. Wonderful plan, right? Unfortunately, the cruel heaven-people wanted something different. So we waged ten years of war. The opposite army won by a landslide, killing both my brothers in the process. Tomorrow, I shall avenge them. That is, if you would cooperate in giving me information. If not, expect yourselves to meet the same fate as that Lord Derick.”
The group huddled together. A few people muttered, “What should we tell Nomed?”
“Everything!” came a shout. The crowd looked to see Arthur, cautiously stepping onto the raised drawbridge. “Your majesty, first you shall know that our world above is weak from two world wars. Second, many people are poor and homeless and would do everything to serve you. Lastly, there is something called global warming outside, which will make the climate above similar to the climate below.”
The crowd hissed at Arthur.
“Why did you tell Nomed about us?” whispered Tom threateningly.
There was agreement in the crowd. However, they were hushed by Nomed’s loud voice. “Excellent! Tomorrow, I shall have my revenge. But tonight, you shall rest.” To the crowd’s horror, Nomed suddenly grew a pair of shining black wings and flew down. “Follow me.” The crowd was assigned a roomy bedroom next to the temple. As Tom settled down, he thought over what had happened that day. After exhausting most of his brain cells, he came to the conclusion: Nomed was the main villain.

A Sudden Shift in Power

As Nomed flew back to his temple, he sensed that something was off. There was movement…below him. Looking around, Nomed double checked to see that no one was spying on him.
“Good, all of those chickens are asleep.” Nomed lightly touched the throne with the ruby on the staff. Immediately, the throne disappeared into a red mist, revealing a secret tunnel. Nomed went through, and the throne immediately sealed the entrance. As the tunnel went deeper, the air became hotter and mistier. Suddenly, Nomed heard quick footsteps. Before he could react, a sword flew straight through his chest, leaving a large, bleeding gap. Nomed banged his staff onto the ground, and the wound instantly healed.
“Who dares to attack the king?” he asked in the cave.
A voice answered, “It is me, Lord Derick the third.”
“How did you survive? AGAIN?”
“How I survived is not your problem. The problem is that YOU won’t survive tonight.” Lord Derick’s sword returned to him to deal another blow. Nomed tried to attack back with his staff, but realized that the tunnel was too small to use it.
“Ha! You fell for my trap. Now, hand over your power and we will all be unhurt, or I will take it by force.”
“Never!” Nomed hissed. However, he himself knew that he was in a very risky situation. As Nomed backed away tactfully, Lord Derick aimed his sword at Nomed’s staff. To Nomed’s surprise, the staff actually broke!
“After the fight last time, I realized your weakness. You are basically useless without your staff.”
“Well, you underestimated me.”
“Then let’s see what you can do against this!” Lord Derick, picking up his sword, charged at Nomed. Nomed quickly bent his waist, and seeing the opportunity, he grasped the handle of Lord Derick’s sword and gave him a strong kick. This left Nomed with the sword.
“Now who is vulnerable?”
“Not me!” Lord Derick punched Nomed hard, knocking the sword from his hands. In a split second, the sword flew through the air, out of reach from both pairs of hands. Then, Nomed ran towards the sword, and instead of grabbing it, he punched it with his palm so that it sliced through Lord Derick’s outreached arms and plunged deep into Lord Derick’s heart. Lord Derick stumbled, tried to curse, but fell onto his knees. Then, his knees gave up, and he was on all fours. After a few moments, Lord Derick finally collapsed.
Nomed, thinking he won, half walked, half stumbled out of the tunnel with the remnants of his staff. Although he had won, he knew he could not live long, especially after his staff broke. So he came up with a plan. He flew down quietly to where the people were sleeping and tapped on Arthur with the ruby of his staff. Then, he flew back to his temple and tapped the ruby on the hard stone. Arthur instantly teleported there, confused and sleepy.
“Y-your majesty, w-why am I h-here?”
“I have an important mission for you. I had a fight with a terrible monster, and now I am weakened. So, in conclusion, do you want to be my heir and finish the job of having revenge on the people above?”
“Hmm… okay…”
“Is that a yes or a no?”
“Y-yes, your majesty.”
“Now take the ruby on my staff. Take it, and hold it high.” Nomed started to cough.
Arthur tried to take the ruby off, but it didn’t budge. Nomed muttered something and the ruby instantly popped off so easily that Arthur almost fell over. Balancing himself again, Arthur held the ruby high in his hands. The ruby wiggled, like an egg about to hatch. It wiggled again. Then, it happened. The ruby suddenly grew into a staff. However, Arthur noticed that it seemed different from Nomed’s. It looked…more to Arthur’s style. Arthur clapped his hands in joy and banged the staff onto the ground. Instantly, a pair of wings unfolded behind him.
“Wow! This is cool!”
Nomed coughed even harder. “Hold on. Before I die, you must promise me one thing. That is to have revenge on the people above. Do you promise to fulfill this mission?”
“Yes, and I will promise to send fear into all of their hearts, and most importantly, Tom’s.” A seemingly new Arthur spoke as a new day came to being.

To Be Continued