In the midst of their battle, Blessure and Balooda suddenly stopped fighting. Their instincts told them that their mistress was in danger. Zedda’s enemies would be upon her if they didn’t move fast.
Still in their monstrous forms, they dashed back into Balooda’s office through the hole in the wall, and up the hall to the ruined front desk. There they saw the townspeople flowing up the stairways.
With a bound, they both leapt up and landed on the second floor balcony, before any of the townspeople reached the second floor. There they separated, and moved to block both stairways.
As the fearlessly insane citizenry reached the top of the stairs, the two Morrtogs tore into the onrush, ripping them to shreds, not allowing a single one to pass through. The stairs ran red with their blood. Bodies, body parts, and gore began to litter the foyer below.
“They’re not getting through!” Egann shouted.
“At this rate, we’re gonna run out of townspeople real fast.” Ray said, “Then what?”
“Maybe I can help.” a voice said.
Zedda returned from her room.
She did not look happy.
She had always understood that her thrall over Murgent would not last forever; that at some point the status quo would break apart, and she would have to move on to something else. Still, the shock of how after so many years of near omniscience to the goings-on all around her, she had been so easily blinded, chilled her to the marrow.
It was the girl, of course; Mr. Blessure had been right about that all along.
She walked into her divination room, and found Callie waiting for her there, alone.
“Are we finished already?” she asked.
“Yes.” Callie replied, “I think we are quite finished here.”
“It’s over Zedda.” Callie said, “I think you know this.”
“Really?” Zedda said. Her voice was calm, but it was a deceptive calm; Callie could sense the fury and fear bubbling underneath it. “I think I’ll be the judge of that.” she said.
With a gesture from Zedda’s hand, Callie was shot into the air, smashed against the wall, and held there.
Callie felt pressure crushing her lungs. She struggled to breath and couldn’t. Nor could she move a muscle.
“I decide when things are over.” Zedda said.
She pushed Callie slowly up the wall.
Callie began to suffocate.
Egann, Ray, and Edward turned to see Mike, Jon, and some kid sprint towards them. It was the unknown kid who had spoken.
The six met.
“Who are you?” Egann asked the stranger.
“I’m Sparo. I was the monster in the box.”
“Don’t ask.” Mike said to Egann.
“Okay, how can you help?”
“Watch.” Sparo said.
He walked to a position between the stairways and lifted his hands, palms up. Into both appeared a translucent blue glowing sphere; each about the size of a tennis ball.
He hurled one, then the other, at Blessure and Balooda.
Blessure got hit first. The sphere hit him in the chest, and burst on impact with an explosion of force that blew Blessure back and through the wall behind him; into the empty room beyond.
Balooda got his a second later, to the same effect.
This was all the townspeople needed; they pushed forth into the second floor. Blessure and Balooda recuperated quickly, and tore into the mob again, but too many had crowded into the second floor, and many made it past the two.
“How did you do that?!” Egann asked.
“You guys need to get up to the third floor to help Mike’s sister.” Sparo said, ignoring Egann’s question, “There’s not enough townspeople left to keep the Morrtogs busy. I’m gonna have to draw them down here. When they come down, you go up.”
“Shouldn’t they be coming back to life again?” Edward asked, pointing to the bodies and body parts of the townspeople that littered the foyer.
“That spell is over.” Egann said, “The eggs are broken.”
“Then why are YOU guys still alive?”
“I’ve been wondering about that myself.” Egann said.
“Because Zedda herself is the final egg.” Sparo said, “Your life force is tied to hers. While she lives, the children of Murgent live.”
“And when she dies, we die.” Egann nodded, “But to be rid of her, every child of Murgent would gladly die.”
“Not so fast!” Sparo said, “If we’re lucky, there might just be another option. But first things first...”
He raised his hands again; palms down this time. Twin streams of fire sprayed out from them and engulfed both Blessure and Balooda.
“GO NOW! RUN!” he shouted.
Unable to avoid the fire, the two enraged Morrtogs jumped to the ground floor, to meet Sparo head on; as Mike, Jon, Edward, Egann, and Ray bolted up the blood-drenched stairs with the last of the townsfolk.
“Fight me, girl!” Zedda taunted the helpless Callie, “Or have you accumulated nothing?”
Callie tried, but could not loosen herself, nor could she affect Zedda. As her vision began to blur, she caught sight of Zedda’s marble Seer’s Basin, and sent it flying into her as hard as she could.
It hit Zedda on the side and knocked her over.
Zedda shouted in pain and surprise, and Callie fell to the floor, coughing and heaving great amounts of air.
Through glassy eyes she saw Zedda get up. Her dress was all wet with the basin’s luminescent water.
“I must say you disappoint me, Callie.” Zedda said, “You’ve chosen to challenge me much much too early; you must know that. On your first day!? Really? Are you kidding me? Who do you think you are?”
Zedda floated up into the air.
“Fine,” she said, almost sadly, “Let’s do this.”
Callie felt an invisible hand tighten around her throat. She was levitated and brought right up to Zedda; face to face.
“Anymore tricks?” Zedda asked, “Because now is the time.”
She put her hands on Callie’s shoulders.
“No? Too bad. I was hoping you’d be a little more powerful when it came time to do this, but beggars can’t be choosers.” she said, “What a waste. Goodbye, Callie. Enjoy being a vegetable.”
Zedda’s eyes grew large and hypnotic.
She initiated the Malignium.
From below there came a sudden clamor, as the townspeople that had gotten past the Morrtogs bashed and scrabbled against the closed and knobless door; trying to get in.
The noise startled Zedda. Her eyes stopped their trancing effect and the grip around Callie’s neck loosened.
Callie saw her opportunity. She moved her head back and head-butted Zedda as hard as she could.
Both yelped in pain, and both fell screaming to the ground.
Callie wasted no time getting up. She made to run for the door, but Zedda grabbed her ankle and tripped her.
Again came the invisible hand of Zedda’s power. Callie was lifted off the ground. Still on her back, Zedda sent Callie up to the ceiling, and slammed her up against it hard.
The two Conjuuras looked at each other across the vertical span of the room. Callie tried to focus on something to launch at Zedda, but Zedda lowered her a bit, then slammed her against the ceiling again, making her see stars.
Then, the door opened wide, and a contingent of mad townspeople ran into the room, along with Mike, Jon, Egann, Ray, and Edward, who had opened the door for them.
They saw Zedda on the floor, and threw themselves upon her.
Down on the first floor, Sparo faced off with the Morrtogs.
He chucked a blue sphere at Balooda, and struck him in mid-leap; the one in his other hand he grew and thinned out into a shield-like shape that repelled Blessure backward, and sent him crashing into the section of the front desk that had remained standing.
He summoned two more blue power spheres into each hand, but this time he elongated them into two long thin blue cords that coiled, whiplashed, and stretched themselves like living tendrils.
Balooda and Blessure attacked from opposite sides. One cord snapped at Balooda’s face, impaled him in the forehead, and passed through to the other side of his head; while the other one wrapped itself around Blessure’s neck, and tightened mercilessly.
“Now,” said Sparo, as he flattened his cords to a blade-like width, “Let’s see what you two are made of…”
Forgotten by Zedda, Callie began to fall.
She summoned forth all the power she had accumulated from the Malignium and halted her descent about halfway down.
She was levitating.
Wow, I AM a natural! Callie thought.
She looked down and saw the townspeople tearing at Zedda with their bare hands and teeth. Some pulled her hair. Some kicked at her. Two or three had knives and sliced at her most incompetently.
Zedda managed to throw some of them off, but they would only get up and attack again. One of them was sent flying with such force, that he hit Callie in midair and sent both crashing down on one of the tables. The table turned over and spilled the two to the floor with a crash.
Callie got up and recognized the one who hit her; the old man they had run over earlier: Merro Lhaisuber. The fall seemed too much for him; he did not get up again like the others.
Zedda somehow got to her feet.
She was a bloody mess. Her hair had clumps missing, some of her teeth had been knocked out, her dress was in tatters, her nose was crooked, and one of her eyes was sealed shut with blood. She had deep bleeding gashes on her arms, legs, and body, where some of the townspeople had hacked at her; inexpertly perhaps, but with cumulative effect.
Yet she still stood.
The townspeople also got up, and went after her again.
Callie limped over to Mike, Jon, Edward, Egann, and Ray; who were all still standing at the doorway, watching the spectacle.
Mike saw her, and the two hugged.
Though the last several hours had not been the longest the two had ever been separated; in a way it was.
“You okay?” Mike asked.
“I’m okay.” Callie said, her voice hoarse.
“It seems Zedda’s goose is cooked.” Jon said, sidling up to give Callie a hug as well.
“Oh how I wish I could believe that.” Callie replied.
No sooner had Callie spoken, when Zedda lifted all her remaining attackers into the air…and tore them all in half.
The bloody halves fell to the floor with gruesome thuds.
Zedda turned and faced Callie and the others.
“Is that it?” she asked mockingly, “Is that all? Was that the extent of your rebellion?”
“You haven’t reckoned with me yet, Zedda.” a soft voice spoke.
Sparo Ivinic entered the room.
Fear crept into Zedda’s face.
“Your Morrtogs are dead, Conjuura.” Sparo said, “I left them in pieces.”
“Are you sure you’re up to fighting me, Nurrek?” Zedda asked, “You are so very young, and have developed only a fraction of your powers. It must have taken much effort to kill my Morrtogs. You must be so tired.”
“You’re not fooling anyone, Zedda.” Sparo replied, “It is you who are tired. Your spells are broken, your protectors are dead, and you’re bleeding out all over the floor. How long do you think you can last this way?”
“I still have POWER!!” Zedda shouted.
She lifted her hands high and every table, every sculpture, every large object in the room, floated up into the air and was sent hurling towards Sparo and the others.
Sparo instantly created a shield, as he had before, in his fight with the Morrtogs; only now, the shield grew large and covered him and the whole group standing around him.
The projectiles smashed against the shield, and were repelled violently enough to smash them to pieces. Zedda even had to deflect some large pieces of shrapnel that flew back at her. And with every contact between object and shield, Sparo grimaced with exertion.
“Were you trying to piss her off?!” Jon asked.
“Actually, yes.” Sparo replied through gritted teeth.
At last the barrage stopped, as Zedda had nothing more to throw at them. Sparo wasted no time; his shield disconnected from his hand, flew at Zedda, and was upon her faster than she could react. Still connected to Sparo’s hand through a blue cord, the shield encircled her and encapsulated her, like an oblong bubble; trapping her within.
Zedda began to scream as the bubble changed color from blue, to a sinister red.
“What are you doing to her?!” Edward asked.
“Don’t worry, I’m not killing her.” Sparo said, “I’m just draining her of power. A suitable punishment, I’d say; though not as gentle a procedure as the Malignium.”
When he was finished, the bubble dissipated away into nothing, and Zedda was revealed; on her knees and hunched over, with her head in her hands. She looked up at Sparo; defeated.
“What will you do with me now, Nurrek?” she asked him, “I know you won’t kill me. The children of Murgent will all die if you do that. But a living Conjuura, even powerless, is not without recourse; and still quite dangerous.”
“Give her to me, I’ll kill her myself!” Ray said, “I die, but with a smile on my face.”
“No one need die today,” Sparo said, “For there is another option; one you created yourself, Zedda.”
Zedda’s eyes widened.
“Ah, you know what I’m talking about! The very cage you constructed to hold me will hold a Conjuura as well; easily. There, the children of Murgent will make sure you live a very…long…time.”
“I should have killed you when I first saw you.” Zedda said, “I see that now. I could’ve, you know. You were powerless then.”
“I was,” Sparo said, “Then.”
“Sooo sorry, though…” a thin voice added; and suddenly all eyes fell on a figure that had somehow crept behind Zedda unnoticed.
It was Merro Lhaisuber, who had not been killed by his fall after all, but merely stunned. In his upraised, upswinging hands was a butcher knife that had been dropped by one of the now-dead townspeople.
“NOOO!” they all screamed, as he plunged the knife with surprising force, deep into the small of Zedda’s back.
Zedda turned, grabbed Merro by the neck, and snapped it with a powerful squeeze.
She released Merro, and he dropped like a sack. She turned back to the assembled company, gurgled something unintelligible (yet still somehow mocking) then fell forward and facedown with a horrid THUMP.
Upon that instant, Egann, Ray, and Mike, along with all the other children of Murgent scattered throughout the hotel (most of them hiding from the chaos), fell to the floor...dead.