Legend of the Last King


Far away, at the very edge of the world, somewhere in the motley grass fields or maybe among the palm trees or emerald firs, there stood a great castle.

Mighty nifons gazed from the tops of its tall towers; a fire-breathing dragon patrolled the sky above it; uncounted razorbacks and brushwoodmen flocked to its moat, the only watering place around, at the high noon. Seasons changed, years passed, so quiet, so peaceful…

For a long time, no one saw humans in those lands. It wasn’t because the Edge was impossible to reach, it was because there were no more humans left in the world. They left the Sphere and no one knew where they were now.

Sanario, the current lord of the castle, got used to people telling him how he resembled a human. Every time he heard someone say so, he commented, with a sneer, “All troposes do.”

Yes, troposes, just like humans, were a legend now. Only the oldest monsters remembered them. But those who remembered knew the difference well…

The tropos race had a prophecy… or was it a curse of their kind? They were to remain in the Sphere, away from their underwater home, until the last human left the Sphere forever. No wonder they hated humans so much and did everything they could to destroy humankind. The two races, so similar in appearance, could never be at peace with each other. Troposes fought for their right to return home; humans fought for their right to stay in this land.

But then humans left the world as suddenly as they had invaded it centuries ago. The war was over. Troposes were finally free to return to the depths of the endless ocean the Spherian continents float above, enveloped in magical mists. Only Sanario stayed behind…

“Sanario!” a gentle voice woke the lord up from his dreamlike contemplation that often engulfed him when he recalled his past.

Sanario turned his horns-crowned head to face Ely, a beautiful young menada. Her cheeks were rosy, she wore a flowery dress and smelled of raspberries. Oh, the great Weaver! What on earth did this charming girl find in an old austere tropos? Sanario often asked himself that question; the lack of answers didn’t stop him from enjoying her company, though. Ely was the light of the castle lord’s life.

“Good morning, Ely!” Sanario stood up and walked toward the girl.
“It’s midday already!” she giggled. A big butterfly took wing from her shoulder.
“Nevermind,” said the tropos, confused. “I’ve just woke up, so it’s still morning”.
“Then invite me to breakfast, my lord,” Ely smiled playfully.

No one troubled them during breakfast and half the day after that. The world itself was especially quiet and serene: no rain, no howling winds, just clear blue sky and gentle sun. Even birds sang differently… “It’s either I’m falling in love or something special is about to happen,” thought Sanario.

“What a good day!” he said. “In days like this, it seems that…”

“...that the world will never end and we will never die and everything will be fine,” he wanted to say but he got rudely interrupted mid-sentence.

“My lord!!!” a terrified shriek broke the tranquillity of the day. One of the dogheads, a royal guard, was running toward them, his armour clanking, the hair on the scruff of his neck standing on end.
“What happened?” asked Sanario, getting back to his austere mood again.
“My soldiers found…” the dog-headed guard made a profound face and announced: “...a HUMAN!” Then his speech turned to whine, “He looks just like you, my lord, only he’s not purple and has no horns… My lads say he’s a noob, the very last noob, my lord!”

Sanario listened no further. He stood up to his full height and looked around, taking it all in: the beautiful world beyond the windows with its islands floating in the magical mist above the endless ocean, the spacious hall where every stained glass window and every tapestry told a story, and finally, his eyes met Ely’s…
“I’m glad she has no idea what’s going on,” he thought.

“My lord! What do we do? What do we do now?” the old guard kept whining miserably.
“We do what we must?” replied Sanario in a cold, distant voice. “Lead the human to the throne room…”

That day, the strange ceremony gathered all the inhabitants of the castle. Even the niphons who left their watchtowers to attend it and the dragon who was too big to enter the throne room so he had to look into the windows while clinging to the castle walls.

The gloomy lord of the castle looked around the room. For the first time in centuries, it was full of laughter, excitement, and happy faces. He thought it would be better this way…

A horn sounded announcing the arrival of the important guest. The monsters hushed up, all eyes now looking at the tall doors that opened without a creak and let a little procession in. Escorted by royal guards - five veteran dogheads clad in gilded armour and immensely proud of themselves - a human entered the throne room. A human child, to be precise. In old times, monsters called such creatures “noobs”. Sanario was the only one here who witnessed those “old times” with his own eyes. Troposes are that long-lived.

Noob. Child. Little boy…

He couldn’t just walk; one second he was running in circles, the other second he was jumping with joy or hitting one of the guards with his wooden sword, laughing at every loud “clank!” the puny weapon made. To make a long story short, the kid was full of energy and enjoyed every second of being here.

He fell silent when he met Sanario, though.

“Well, kid,” the old tropos thought, “you’ve noticed how we look alike, haven’t you?”

The human looked at him, unblinking, not daring to utter a sound.

“Greetings, sire!” Sanario made a polite bow.
“Hi…” the noob answered shyly.
“Proceed to the throne, sire,” the tropos continued. “There, I will bestow a crown on your noble brow and proclaim you a lawful king of the Sphere.”

The boy beamed. The next moment he ran to the throne, climbed it and sat there, his little feet dangling high above the floor.

Sanario cut the formalities short; soon, he put a heavy, spiked crown onto the little noob’s shaggy head and announced: “Long live the King!!!” The monsters echoed his voice in a joyous roaring choir. Then, It was time for the ball to begin.

“Will you dance with me, my lady?” asked Sanario, bowing to Ely.
“Of course, my lord!” she answered with a smile.

And the dance whirled them around, all the world forgotten for a while, replaced by music, the pounding of hears, the rustle of the leafy dress, and the gentle raspberry smell…

“You are smiling, Sanario, yet your eyes are sad,” said Ely. No more “my lord”, no more giggling…
“Oh, the great Weaver…” Sanario gave a deep sigh. “I hoped you wouldn’t understand.”
“But I do understand,” retorted the young menada. “We both wore our masks like our duty told us but I think we can stop now and finally talk face to face.”
“Don’t hurry, Ely, please,” pleaded the old lord. “Let us enjoy those moments.”

One dance followed the other; new dishes were brought in, round after round; the music never stopped, it were only songs and musicians that changed. The wonderful day turned into gorgeous evening; all the stars were out in the dark-blue sky. It was time for fireworks.

Never before had Sanario felt so happy, even as a little child dreaming of the endless ocean. But everything ends.

Someone uttered a horrified cry that broke the happiness spell… Both music and laughter died along with the last firework in the sky. The fiery curtain, thrown sideways by the explosion, quietly fell into the mists beyond the Edge.

“The King is unwell! Someone do something!!!”

Sanario approached the throne, the crowd stepping aside in front of him, Ely, quiet and sad, walking by his side.

The human boy was dying on the throne. A mask of pain and horror on his face, he gasped for air like a little fish thrown out of the water.

“What do we do, what do we do, my lord!!!” someone wailed behind Sanario’s back.
“Nothing,” said the old tropos gravely. “It had been foretold ages ago…”

With his last moan, the boy collapsed on the throne. The Spherian crown fell from his head and rolled down the stairs making a clinking sound every time it touched the stone, the sound as loud and foreboding as death knell in the complete silence of the hall. All eyes were on Sanario now.

“It times of old,” he said, “there was a prophecy of the Spherian King. Here it is. The last human will become the King of the Sphere and the last tropos will stay on land to crown him. There will be a feast afterwards where everyone will be happy. The King’s rule will be short. In the height of his power, he will die and his death will knell the end of the Game, the death of the world.”

Some doghead howled miserably in the crowd; one of the manadas burst into tears. The other monsters still stood silent, too shocked to even move.

“And then,” continued Sanario in a steady voice, “with the last human dead, the sun, the moon, and the stars of Sphere will go out; the continents will fall into the ocean, and the Great Game Servers made to keep the world going, will stop forever.”

The tropos lowered his horned head. There was nothing more to say.

Ely took his hand into hers. Sanario, the cold-blooded creature, loved her warm little palms so much…

“We won’t just disappear after we die, right?” Ely asked. The question was so naive, so pure, so hopeful.
“Right. I truly believe we won’t…” Sanario lied to her, doing his very best to sound genuine.

Behind the windows, the Darkness was swallowing stars and galaxies whole and the mists beyond the edge grew thinner with every passing second, revealing the abyss of the endless ocean below.

(December 12, 2006)

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English is not my native language.
If you see an error or a typo, please, tell me. I will fix it.