"Perhaps. But my guess is that he/she doesn't want to deal with the heartache of having his/her heart poked. And for you to let him/her die proves that you care more about your evil ways than you do about him/her."
"Shut up and die," said Grysh, throwing a bolt of lightning at Randall. Her aim was a bit off, and the bolt struck Scar, turning her into a pile of dust that got all over Randall's clothes. "Drat," said the witch. "That's the sixth time I've done that today. No, wait, the seventh."
Another bolt of lightning formed in her hand. "Say goodbye to your need for oxygen," she said.
"You don't want to do that!" Randall told her.
"Yes I do."
"No, really, you don't. Because if you fry me, my ashes will get mixed up with Scar's, and then when you return us to the flesh the s.e.xual ident.i.ty problems will be even more more complicated!" complicated!"
The lightning bolt in her hand vanished. "You have a point. I hate that."
"All right, time for yet another renegotiation. Bring the princess back to life..." he held his arm up to his mouth, "...and I won't lick up these ashes."
Grysh glared at him. "Very well. You've won this round. I will return her to life, thus completing your quest. Give me the toenail. Berserker, I'm going to need you to stare slack-jawed at the floor for a moment. Where's the maiden breath?"
Yvonne stepped forward. "Where should I breathe?"
"Oh, just breathing in general is good enough. That's all the materials ... let's get started." She used her impressive magical abilities to bring the Princess Janice ashes into a pile in front of her, then stared into the crystal. "Oh, great Crystal of Powerfulness, I bid thee ... unfry this woman and I won't ask for anything else for a while!"
A beam of white light shot from the crystal, striking the ashes. The ashes began to swirl around, making some neat patterns, soon moving into the shape of a body. There was a blinding flash of light, and then Princess Janice lay on the floor, her body restored. Still dead, but restored.
The onlookers applauded.
"Now, bring her back to life," said Randall.
Grysh snapped her fingers. Princess Janice opened her eyes, just as Sir William rolled over and muttered something incomprehensible. Princess Janice also babbled something, and then both of them lost consciousness again.
"They might act a bit funny," said Grysh. "That's to be expected. They also might have found religion."
She used the crystal again, and the ashes on Randall's clothing swirled around to form a body. After the flash of light, Romeoo lay on the floor. A snap of Grysh's fingers, and he sat up, then rolled his eyes into the back of his head and fell back down.
"I don't know how to thank you!" said Randall.
"Say 'thank you.'"
"Thank you." Randall put his arms around Yvonne. "I can't believe it. Everything worked out in the end!"
"Well," said Jack, "the princess never did get to Rainey kingdom, so really we could look at this as one big failure."
"But I defeated the Dark One, which cancels out the fact that we failed in the princess escort. And I've found the bravery and leadership skills hidden deep within myself."
"And we found each other," said Yvonne.
"Okay, the new romance adds some points on the success side," said Jack, "but the town of Warfield burned down, which is a negative, and the guard never did get his pony."
"You're right," said Randall, "but the wise man at the top of the cliff became a better person because of me."
"Where is he, anyway?" asked Jack. "I kind of expected him to show up again at some point."
"Ah, he wasn't that important," said Randall. "Overall, I think this whole adventure can be said to have a happy ending. And now I'm going to make it happier." He got down on one knee. "Yvonne, will you marry me?"
"Oh, I don't know ... do you really think our love can stand the trials and tribulations that result from such a brief courtship? We haven't even goosed each other yet."
"We can make it work," said Randall. "We'll seek counseling if we need to, but we'll make it work."
"I love you so much. Of course I'll marry you."
Romeoo sat up again. "Grysh, will you marry me as well?"
"No, but I'll live with you."
"Good enough." Romeoo managed to get to his feet, and they shared a kiss of pure pa.s.sion.
"Wanna watch a jousting match sometime?" Jack asked Toby.
"Sure. Why not?"
"I love everybody!" said Bug.
The flames of the forest died out, and the trees sprouted back up, green and covered with flowers in full bloom. The rabbit bounced back into the clearing, unharmed. The zombies shambled off, free at last.
It was a truly wonderful moment.
You Can Relax, It's Almost Over AS YVONNE entered the courtyard in her wedding gown, the band struck up a blues version of "Here Comes the Bride." She walked down the aisle, whispering "Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot," to keep herself on track. One of the guests stood up and began throwing rice.
"Not yet, you idiot!" snapped his wife, pulling him down.
Yvonne took her place next to Randall, and they exchanged smiles. Jack stood in his position as Best Man, wearing a shirt that read "Marriage Sucks."
The reverend cleared his throat, and addressed the gatherers. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the union of these fine people. They have decided to get married. How long they'll stay that way is anyone's guess, since in these permissive times it seems like you get married, stick with it until you get a little bored, then hop over to the next spouse in line. Well, that just makes me sick!"
He cracked his knuckles, then continued. "Whatever happened to morals? Whatever happened to marrying people you liked? Whatever happened to the days when somebody caught carrying around a scroll with s.m.u.tty pictures on it would feel ashamed? What's the matter with you people? Perverts, all of you! Shaaaaaaame on you!"
The wedding guests murmured agreement amongst themselves.
The reverend smiled at Yvonne. "I understand the bride would like to read a poem to her love."
Yvonne nodded and pulled a piece of paper out of her bodice. "Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you."
Everyone sighed at the beauty of her words. Randall knew that this was a love that would survive for all eternity.
"So, Randall," said the reverend, "do you take Yvonne, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, in good moods and in PMS, 'till death do you part?"
"Yep," said Randall.
"Great, that makes things move much more smoothly. And Yvonne, do you take Randall, to have and to hold, even when he's sick and whining like a baby, even when he leaves the cap off the toothpaste so that a hardened blob forms on the top and you have to pull it off and it sticks to your fingers, 'till death do you part?"
"All right, two for two. Now, is there anyone out there who has a reason why these two should not be wed?"
A man thought about it for a moment, then raised his hand. "I dunno, maybe something like he really doesn't understand her true feelings or something like that."
"Yes, that's certainly a good reason. Any others?"
"She could be marrying him for his money," said a woman.
"Yes, yes," said the reverend.
"He could snore all night!" said Toby.
"And he could practice human sacrifice!" another woman declared.
"Good reasons, everybody," said the reverend. "So ... I guess that's about it. Pucker up and suck face."
Randall started to lean towards his bride, then froze as a sudden realization hit him. He faced the audience and pointed where Sir William and Princess Janice were seated.
"It just became clear to me," he said, strolling down the aisle towards them. "The whole thing about escorting the princess to the Kingdom of Rainey, that was just a set-up! You weren't going there on a mission of goodwill, you were going there as a spies for the Dark One!"
"I don't know what you're talking about," said Sir William.
"He's accusing you of espionage," said Yvonne, helpfully.
"That's absurd. I'm the most respected knight in the king's army! Everyone loves me! I make balloon animals at all the children's birthday parties!"
"But that, like the rest of your deeds, is an exaggeration! I was at the last birthday party, and all you made were balloon snakes snakes, which, as we all know, require virtually no skill to create!"
Sir William stood up. "But that doesn't make me a spy!"
"Yes it does!" shouted Jack. "Let's get him!"
"No, it doesn't," said Randall. "But this does. I'd been suspicious of the whole mission ever since you said it was only going to be you and I doing a royalty escort, which is unheard of. But what clinched it was the gibberish you mumbled after you were cured of your stone affliction. Now, I a.s.sumed at the time that it was only the typical gibberish one would mumble upon returning to flesh and blood, but a long-ago lesson in the language of the Inter-Generic Fantasy Land Spy Council just flashed before my brain! What you said, roughly translated, was 'Boy, I hope that being turned into a statue for so long doesn't affect my plans to act as a spy for the Dark One!'"
There was a collective gasp from the wedding guests. Princess Janice shoved Sir William away from her. "You traitor!"
"Not so fast, Princess," said Randall. "Because when you returned from the dead, you said something in the very same language! 'Don't worry, my secret lover, we'll have plenty of time to do it after we a.s.sa.s.sinate my father!'"
"You're lying!" shouted the princess. "Daddy, he's lying!"
King Waldo of Mosiman stood up. "Randall, do you have any proof to back up these accusations?"
"As a matter of fact, I do. Princess, would you care to explain to everyone why you're wearing that turtleneck gown?"
Princess Janice looked nervous. "Symbolic reasons. It's plaid-the texture of Union."
"I see. Would you mind exposing your neck?"
"Randall, where is this leading?" the king demanded.
"Your highness, if you'd quit asking dim-witted questions this would be over much more quickly. Princess, please uncover your neck for the rest of us."
"I'll do it!" said a man seated directly behind her. He reached forward and pulled down the collar of the gown, revealing an enormous hickey. There was another collective gasp.
"Noooooooooooo!" the princess shrieked.
"Only one man in this kingdom is capable of producing hickeys of that magnitude!" said Randall. "Sir William!"
Sir William pulled the king to his feet, then took out a dagger and pressed it against his neck. "n.o.body move!" he shouted. "Anybody tries anything and the king dies!"
The guests were all out of collective gasps. Princess Janice slapped her forehead in frustration. "You ignorant b.o.o.b! Proof of a dalliance between us wasn't proof that we were spies!"
"Would everyone please move your feet out of the way?" Princess Janice asked the people in their row. "Pardon me, coming through ... coming through..."
Princess Janice, Sir William, and the hostage king stepped out into the center aisle. "You're right," said the princess. "We were spies! We were going to steal information regarding the extremely effective torture techniques that went on in the Rainey dungeons and pa.s.s them onto the Dark One so he might better discipline his followers!"
"Ow!" said the king. "You're poking me!"
"It's a shame that you had to confront us," the princess told Randall. "With the Dark One dead, we were just going to lay low until the next insane dictator wanna-be rose to power! But now we're going into hiding, taking my father with us! If anyone tries to follow, we'll kill him!"
"Meaning him as in the king, or him as in the follower?"
"Both!" They hurried up the aisle and out of the courtyard, disappearing from sight.
"Somebody do something!" shouted the reverend, flapping his arms up and down in panic.
"I'll go after them!" said Randall. "It's my duty!"
"No!" said Yvonne, putting her hands on his shoulders. "Because this adventure is over. You will go after them and perform a daring rescue, but save it for next time."
"She's right," said Jack. "You've done well, and inspired us all. And someday, when we want to hear another tale of the exploits of the mighty Randall, perhaps we shall listen to the story of how you saved the king from a certain death at the hands of his own daughter. But for now, kiss Yvonne."
Randall and Yvonne locked eyes. "I love you," said Randall.
"And I love you," said Yvonne.
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