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The Earl of Zerces: chapter 10
For a moment, Lang’s heart stopped. His breathing ceased. His eyes grew. His lips quivered.
“Wh-what did you say?” Lang had heard perfectly well. But he had to hear her say it again. He couldn’t believe it unless she did.
“Who are you?” Elena was looking scared now. She started to pull away from Lang, but Lang only gripped her tighter. What was going on!?!
“What do you mean Elena!?!” Lang was thrown into the depths of desperation. He hardly noticed that his grip had grown painful, that his eyes had started to gleam madly, that his voice carried with it the little spittle of a lunatic. “It’s me, Lang! Don’t you remember!?!”
“No,” Elena looked at Lang like he was a monster, and Lang felt unnaturally cold. “Please, you’re hurting me.”
Lang looked down at his hands, and realized that he was indeed hurting her. He recoiled, and looked at Elena, who gave him a frightened glance and then turned away. Then he looked around, wondering if the world had suddenly gone mad, or just him. This was, this was-
“Freeze,” the Earl of Zerces drawled in an unfittingly clinical tone; the world and everyone in it, save Lang and the Earl, suddenly ceased to move. Lang looked around in surprise. Now what was going on?
“’Sigh’, let’s see here,” the Earl looked like a blacksmith examining a broken sword and wondering how to fix it. The Earl placed his hands on Elena’s head and muttered “Let’s tweak it a little here, and a little there. Good, good.”
Then the Earl pointed at Lia, and motioned with his finger strangely. “And edit, copy, and paste…blah, blah, blah.”
And finally, the Earl clapped his hands, and a shockwave reverberated throughout the whole land. Lang looked in astonishment at the casualness of the Earl.
“Earl, what’s going on? Why doesn’t Elena remember me?” Lang asked. The Earl gave no response, and only placed his hand on Lang’s shoulder.
“Let’s go,” The Earl snapped his fingers, and the great, howling winds and the column of lightning descended upon the pair. Lang felt himself twisting and turning in every which way, until finally, he felt himself stepping out of a door.
Lang looked around. He was back in Zerces. He saw the distinctive four doors that decorated the otherwise bland, wispy grey that covered everything. Lang looked around, groping with his hands, but he couldn’t find the door to Elena’s world. Why did the Earl take him back!? He had to go to Elena!
“It won’t do you any good,” the Earl stated rather forlornly. “Only people that can see the doors can open them.”
“Why did you take me here!?!” Lang turned on the Earl. “What just happened!?! Answer me!!”
The Earl looked at Lang for about 10 seconds, not blinking or moving in any way. Then, finally the Earl gave a sigh and sat down on a suddenly-appeared throne.
“The reason that Elena doesn’t remember you is that the thing you ran into ate part of her mind,” the Earl began. “It ate her purifying abilities, it ate her magic touch, and it ate her memories, particularly of you.”
“So, so, can’t you fix it?” Lang babbled, at a loss for answers.
“Oh, quite easily,” the Earl waved his hand to acknowledge his point. “With just a snap of my fingers I could make Elena remember everything. I could make her and Lia live happily ever after with you. I could even make you become King, with Elena as your Queen.”
“Then…then why don’t you?” Lang asked.
“Because I don’t want to,” the Earl grinned devilishly. Lang was shocked, but the Earl continued on like he was discussing the weather. “I want you here. I want you to do that special quest I have for you. I want-“
“Shut up!!!” Lang exploded, making the Earl pause. “What do you mean, you don’t want to!?! I don’t care what you want!!! I don’t care about any quest!!! I just want to go back home!!! I just wanted things to work out.”
“I don’t care,” the Earl said matter-of-factly. “And besides, shouldn’t you have outgrown that old tune by now. ‘I wanna go home, daddy.’ You sound like a broken record. Can’t you be a more dynamic character?”
“Oh, so is that all we are to you?” Lang seethed. “Just characters?”
“Yes,” the Earl blinked in surprise. “I thought that was obvious. You all only exist for my entertainment. And right now, I thought that the story with you and Elena had turned boring, so I ended it.”
“What gives you the right to do that!?!” Lang shrieked in exasperation.
The Earl grinned almost evilly, and with a mad gleam in his eye, he cackled. “What right? What are you talking about? Haven’t I made it clear already? I’m God. I can do whatever the hell I please. And right now, I want to play a game with you.”
For the first time since he met the Earl, Lang felt terrified. With sweat on his brow, Lang chanced a glance at the door to his world. He could make a run for it, he could-
“No, you can’t,” the Earl read Lang’s mind casually. “Believe me, if there was any chance at all of you escaping, I’d have destroyed your world long ago.”
Lang’s fear quickly turned to anger. “Destroy a whole world!?! You’d kill every single person there just so that I can play your sick game!?!”
“Yes,” the Earl blinked in surprise. “I’m God after all.”
“You’re no God!!!” Lang pointed at the Earl accusingly. “You’re a Devil!!!”
The Earl paused, and then mulled it over, and then finally, said softly and with genuine remorse “I suppose I am.
“I suppose I am,” the Earl repeated, all his bluster gone, replaced by cool, contemplative thought. The Earl looked up at Lang, and then calmly asked, “Would you like me to tell you what will happen to Elena?”
“Yes,” Lang blurted out immediately. He had to know.
“Alright,” the Earl calmly began to explain. “No one on the planet knows what she once was, except for Lia. As far as I’ve planned, Elena will live motherless and powerless for the rest of her life with Lia, who she now thinks is her younger sister.”
“You said Lia knows what Elena once was,” Lang said. “What did you do to her?”
“Lia? She remembers everything,” the Earl continued. “I erased the bounty on her head. Poor girl, having to run for her life at such a young age. But anyways, I explained everything to her; about how she’ll have to pretend to be Elena’s sister, and about how no one will try to capture her anymore. Lia will live out the rest of her life as a blacksmith, and she’ll go on to forge one of the greatest swords in the history of Oceana. And she’ll never forget that kind young man who helped her.”
“I see,” Lang slowly bowed his head. He would have loved to live out the rest of his life with Elena and Lia at his side. He would have raised Lia up like his own daughter, and perhaps come to love Elena like his own wife. He didn’t know what he felt with Elena, certainly attraction, certainly desire, and perhaps love. But he would have loved to see what those feelings could have grown into, and now he would never get to do that. Elena and Lia were gone, and the Earl would make Lang play his sick game until… An idea struck him.
“Earl!” Lang sharply raised his head, his eyes filled with a desperate hope. “You say you want me to play a game. Is that right?”
“Yes, why?” the Earl asked.
“Games have an end to them, and they also have winners and losers,” Lang continued on. “So then, whatever this game is, I want to make a wager. Once it’s over, if I win, then you to take me to Elena and Lia, for me to live out the rest of my life with them. If I lose, then you can do whatever you want with my life. I’ll provide any sort of entertainment you want. Deal?”
The Earl paused, and then muttered to himself, “Hmmm, yes, yes I suppose so. Character motivation and all that. Yes…yes I just might clinch the nomination for something like this. Brilliant idea, old chap.
“Deal!” the Earl excitedly stretched out his hand to shake and seal the deal. Lang shook his hand, and then, with the determination of a hero in his eyes, Lang asked “So just what is this game that you have in store for me?”
The Earl grinned devilishly, ready to go into a long explanation.