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The Earl of Zerces: chapter 13
The figure before Lang was like nothing he had ever seen. It somewhat resembled a normal human, but it was bald, had no nose, had a giant cranium, and was green all over. The figure, (Willy, wasn’t it?) was dressed in a white and periwinkle garb similar to the one the Earl wore. Lang chanced a glance at the Earl, but the Earl just winked and continued to give orders to “Willy”.
“Oh Willy, if you would,” the Earl whispered in Willy’s ear just loud enough for Lang to hear. “Don’t take away the boy’s amulet. It’s a family heirloom, and he’s sworn never to take it off, even when bathing.”
“Understood,” Willy grunted, and motioned for Lang to follow him. As Lang obeyed this command, the Earl patted Lang on the shoulder goodbye, and suddenly Lang was awash with realization.
Lang suddenly knew. He didn’t know how he knew, but he knew. He knew that Willy was a Martian, the native race of this kingdom, and that this race had never seen a human before. He knew that the amulet the Earl had given him was currently casting an illusion to make it seem like Lang was a Martian, and thus make him blend in more with this strange new environment. As Lang looked down at the amulet, he remembered at how this was the amulet that had led him to Elena, and a bittersweet smile lined his face. But then, a thought crossed Lang’s mind. Why had the amulet brought him to Elena, when the Earl had never intended to let Lang stay with her? The Earl had mentioned a test before throwing him into that world, but what had that test been exactly? It seemed as though Lang’s task had been to prove his mettle, and to save Elena, but then Elena wouldn’t have merited saving unless he had met her and grown attached to her. Had Elena just been a pawn in some larger scheme designed by the Earl? Remembering the Earl’s recent claim to godhood, Lang didn’t think that was a far cry from the truth, and he shuddered.
“We’re here,” Willy interrupted Lang’s thoughts. Lang looked up to see the Martian motioning towards a hot bath, with towels, fresh clothes, and what appeared to be soap nearby. A mirror adorned the wall on one side, and as Lang looked into it, he saw his reflection twisted into that of a Martian. It seemed the amulet really did do more than just give directions.
“I shall leave you to your bath,” Willy drawled in a rather bored voice. “Unless of course you wish to have a valet come in to aid you.”
“Um, no thank you,” Lang waved that idea away.
“Very well. Throw away your dirty clothing into the laundry bin over there,” Willy motioned toward a bin nearby, and walked away in a very straight and stiff posture.
What a strange person, Lang thought, and then remembered that he had thought the same thing about Lia. Was everyone he met going to be strange from now on?
Lang sighed, deposited his dirty clothes, and got into the tub. After a nice bath, Lang got out, changed into the new clothes, and walked out to find the Earl waiting for him.
“My my, Lang, lookin’ spiffy,” the Earl gave Lang a thumbs-up.
“Coming from you, that doesn’t sound very complimentary,” Lang furrowed his brow, and the Earl chuckled.
“Well, anyways, we’d better get going," the Earl pulled out a pocket-watch from thin air. “Thanks to your dilly-dallying, we’re late.”
“But you were the one that told me we had some spare time!” Lang yelled angrily. “Make up your mind!”
“My mind has been made up to torture you for my sheer amusement,” the Earl said nonchalantly and walked out into the bustling street. “Taxi!”
One of the flying carriages suddenly stopped in front of where the Earl was. The Earl waved for Lang to follow him, and, sighing, Lang did just that. The Earl and Lang stepped inside the back part of the carriage and settled themselves in the leathery interior.
“Where to?” another strange, green fellow popped his head out. This one wore a more worn and greasy garb, with a cap on his head. Instead of reigns, the Martian held a wheel of some sort that was attached to the interior of the cart.
“The Olympus Mons please,” the Earl said cheerfully.
“Excuse me?” the Martian asked incredulously. “That’s way out of the way, buddy.”
“What if I gave you a tip?” the Earl pulled out a small card. “Put this into your register, and you can have all the money that shows up.”
The driver seemed skeptical at first, but then he finally put the card in the “register”, which beeped and made numbers appear of their own accord. The Martian let out a strange gasp, and immediately gripped the steering wheel.
“Right away, sir!” the driver seem insanely ecstatic.
“How much money did you give him?” Lang whispered to the Earl.
“Enough to buy…….” The Earl mulled it over for a while, but then finally seemed to come up with an analogy that fit. “…Sealand.”
Lang did not have any idea as to what Sealand was and much less how much it was worth, but he assumed “That must be worth quite a lot.”
“It will be, once it becomes the leading superpower in Zucleon Energy,” the Earl smiled. “I rather liked doing that.”
Lang did not know what Zucleon Energy was or even if the Earl was talking about this world or another, and eventually he decided that since he did not know very much of what the Earl said, it was best to simply ignore the man.
“Bad idea,” the Earl read Lang’s mind. “About 1/10 of what I tell you is incredibly useful, or at least it will be soon enough.”
Lang decided to ignore that as well.
“Dang, you’re good,” the Earl smiled and settled back into his seat.
After several hours of driving, amongst some of the most breathtaking desert scenery Lang had ever seen before, the carriage arrived at the top of a very tall mountain. The Earl thanked the driver, told him to wait awhile, and pulled Lang by the shirt-collar out of the cart. Lang and the Earl walked up to the highest summit of the mountain, and the Earl pulled out the pin.
“If y’would?” the Earl gave the pin to Lang. “I’d like you to place the pin into the ground.”
“Alright,” Lang didn’t know what the Earl had planned, but he did as he was told. The pin beeped once as it was place in the ground, and then didn’t do anything else.
“Perfect!” the Earl clapped his hands gleefully. “Now we’re done.”
“That’s it?” Lang asked. “That was simple.”
“Yes, but the thing has a time-limit that’s going to go off in a few hours, and if we’re not gone by then, whooooooo,” the Earl made a strange noise, of which Lang didn’t understand in the least.
Lang sighed, and walked back to the carriage with the Earl, who was skipping gleefully.
“Was that it?” the driver looked at the pair questioningly as they got back inside.
“Don’t ask questions Willy, just drive us back,” the Earl smiled and pointed at the card in the register.
The Martian looked at the pair for a minute, then shrugged and started to drive.
“Is everyone here named Willy?” Lang whispered to the Earl.
“Oh no, I just call them Willy because…” the Earl paused, and then chuckled. “Well, you wouldn’t understand even if I told you.”
Lang sighed (he seemed to be doing an awful lot of that) and rested his head on the seat. The cart drove back to the city that it came from, and deposited the Earl and Lang right in front of the building where they had entered this world from.
“Have a nice day,” the driver waved them goodbye as he drove off.
Lang and the Earl stood there for a moment, waving goodbye, then the Earl pulled out his pocket watch.
“Goodness me!” the Earl exclaimed. “We’re almost out of time! Quickly Lang, let’s go.”
Lang felt his arm being grabbed by the Earl and then suddenly thrust upward as the Earl scaled the building in a single jump. Lang looked around and saw that they were back on the balcony.
“Aren’t you worried someone might see?” Lang looked at the Earl questioningly.
“It doesn’t matter anyways,” the Earl had suddenly changed his clothing yet again, this time to a nice suit, tie, and fedora. “Okay, okay, just watch me. I’m gonna get it right on time, just you see.”
“Huh?” Lang didn’t understand, but the Earl was suddenly limbering up, as though getting ready for something.
Then, the Earl started counting “Three…two…and…one!!!!”
Immediately the Earl turned in a sort of smooth slide, and with one hand on his fedora and the other hand snapping its fingers in the air, the Earl’s snap matched perfectly with the enormous explosion Lang saw in the horizon.
The explosion was, to be blunt, quite large. The mushroom cloud reached out into the upper atmosphere, and then fell down into a cataclysmic boom that shook the whole land. Lang was rocked off his feet, and suddenly felt as though the Earth (no, wait, Mars) would swallow him whole. The Earl meanwhile, was jumping up and down like a joyful child.
“Yes, yes, yes!!!” the Earl exclaimed. “I did it! It matched perfectly. Yay, yay, yay!”
“What’s going on!?!” Lang screeched.
“I told you Lang, we were going to destroy this entire world, and we did it!” the Earl turned coyly to Lang. “We’ve blown up Mars!”
A wave of ash and fire washed over the entire city, and Lang smelled charred flesh and heard ungodly screams of agony. The Earl wasn’t affected by this in the least, however, and had a mad gleam in his eyes.
“One down, eleven to go,” the Earl grinned. “Come Lang.”
The Earl grabbed Lang and pulled him through the door just as the wave was about to hit them, and Lang suddenly felt sick to his stomach. What had he just done?