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Paper

By Kell Inkston All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Paper

Finally, the day of the Hero’s Celebration has come. It’s warm, just as it should be. Ralic gets up next to his wife as usual, but now dawns the garb of “the hero”. It was delivered to him yesterday evening to put on, passed down from generation to generation–and now it is his turn.

It fastens on easily. Ralic’s surprised; the clothing fits him perfectly, as if it were meant for him. In a way, it is meant for him–just as it was meant for his great, great, great, great, great grandfather; each generation of men given the same task. He leans over to his wife, the daughter of the blacksmith, and kisses her lightly on the cheek.

“Good morning,” he says.

Her features clench and she opens restful green eyes and stretches forward her pregnant center.

“Mornin’, Ral’.” She gets out of bed herself, returns the kiss, and prepares for the big day.

Ralic walks up to the mirror, a symbol of his great wealth, and looks himself over. Long, clean, handsome features–he looks just like his father at that age, who looked just like his father, and so on. He smiles the way most handsome men do in front of a mirror, and Tenay notices.

“Must be nice knowing you’ll look like your father, huh?” she nudges him gently with a snide look about her, one of the main reasons he chose her to be his bride, actually.

“Eh, yeah. I gotta’ say, it’s kind of a cool feeling knowing you’ll be handsome until like, eighty.”

She kisses him again on the neck. “Well, I wouldn’t know. So, do you feel any different putting them on?” she glances over to his armored garb, a black chainmail fitted with a brown tunic, all over a thick white padding. Ralic waves his head about in uncertainty and raises his brows.

“Well… well kinda, not really. I’m sure once dad gives me the sword I’ll be feeling it though.” He puts his arm around her and nudges into her neck, causing a quick squeal from his wife.

“Your nose is cold!” she says.

“Should have been ready,” he says.

“Shut up.”

“You shut up,” he says as he pushes her lightly.

“Spoiled hero kid,” Tenay says, pushing him back playfully.

“Angry smith’s girl,” Ralic returns with another nudge.

“Go get ready, gnave!”

“I am ready!”

“Then leave me alone to get ready!”

“Okay smith’s girl.”

“Whatever, wastrel brat.”

This is the extent of their conversation until Ralic gives a loud “goodbye” from the door and takes his leave to the grand plaza.

The grand plaza is a wide place surrounding the great tree the town was built around hundreds of years ago. People have already gathered around the hero’s pedestal, where Ralic’s father, a man that is both the previous hero and now the mayor of the village, waits with the Sword of Destiny in his hands.

A few pleasantries are exchanged, his father gives him a great big hug, and then turns to begin the ceremony just as Tenay arrives.

“People of our town, welcome to the day of the hero!” Ralic’s father begins just as the people uproar in applause and cheering. “The young Ralic the Twelfth,my son, has come of age. Now that he is twenty, he will go off to the forbidden forest of the dark lord and slay him. As you all know, the dark lord returns every twenty years, and as such must be dealt with by the noble line of heroes that live in this very village. I know that times have been hard, and from some recent mistaken experiments the harvest has been lower than ever this year, but with the hero off to destroy the Overlord, let this feast serve as a ringing in of new prosperity. Join me in delivering the Sword of Destiny to him!” Ralic the Eleventh says amidst ear–churning applause.

Ralic embraces the older Ralic. “Thank you, father,” he says, allowing one moment to gaze into his father’s eyes before he takes the sword from the pedestal, “I won’t disappoint you!”

The father gives the son a strange smile and says “You won’t.” Young Ralic returns it with a smile more genuine than any he’s made in his life and he up takes the blade. It positively surges with power, he feels, as though it’s vibrating in his hand–or he could just be nervous. He pulls up the blade from its sheath a moment to inspect it, and the brightness and sharpness are unlike anything else he’s seen. It’s perfect, this day is perfect, his wife is perfect, his life is perfect, heis perfect.

With a strong, high wave and a glance to his wife, he turns for the gates. Once the guards open them for him, he is on his way out into the dark forest, feeling ready for anything to come his way. Tenay follows him and looks over the wall while the others go down to enjoy the traditional feast of the hero’s departure. 

But this time, unlike all the other times, there is a small stone in the middle of the road, dug in not even an inch. It trips the mighty hero, and he falls right onto his face, cutting it on another rock further down. Tenay gasps, but knows she cannot let herself be seen by him; his pride would be hurt. As much as she likes to stick it to him, she knows his ego is very delicate when it comes to this, one single day in his life that must go absolutely without error.

Ralic pulls himself up from the dirt, his face bleeding with a long gash across his cheek, a serious, scarring injury–but he continues down the road as if nothing happened. He can’t turn around now.

Hours pass through the dark fir wood, and Ralic finally finds the dark lord’s ruined keep, but something’s off. The matter is, it’s not a ruined keep at all. It’s perfectly maintained and shining with long banners of the colors of burgundy and gold, and etched, artisan stonework. The drawbridge comes down for the scarred Ralic, and once he draws his sword, he enters.

In the hallway, lavished in priceless paintings and statues, he creeps forward with his blade in hand. It’s silent; the bridge has shut behind him, and he can no longer hear nature’s calls around him. He quiets his breath as he starts up the foyer steps, going roundabout and leading up to a large set of doors, carved with images of massive, deadly beasts–this must be where the dark lord is.

He pushes open the doors, and at a small round table there is an old man sipping wine next to a cloaked figure, who in turn is next to a tall tearing of paper, roughly shaped into the silhouette of a person. The ugly old man begins weeping quietly the moment he sees the strapping Ralic step into the room and point his sword forward.

“Dark Overlord, I have come to slay you with this blade and free my people!” he says, repeating precisely what his father had him memorize over the years. The cloaked figure, only its bright, glowing eyes visible underneath the shadowy guise, breaks out into laughter. The figure smashes its fist against the table, swoops the old man’s glass of wine right up and shatters it against the floor. With one final guffaw, the figure rubs its blacker–than–pitch face and sighs.

“Just as I told you,” the gravelly–voiced figure says to the old man, who is now beside himself and sobbing loudly. Ralic readies his sword for the awaited epic battle.

“I suppose you’ve been expecting me, but this is not a good time for you to have invited guests, cur!” Ralic brandishes his blade to invite the Overlord forward. The figure scoffs but keeps its eyes focused on the boy as if there is something Ralic is about to do that interests it.

“Why yes, I have been expecting you. I suppose you’re Ralic the Twelfth, hero of that insignificant speck you call a town down the road about an hour or two’s way. Is that right?”

“That’s right, and now I’m going to slay you and put an end to your dark designs for the next twenty years, when you will then answer to Ralic the Thirteenth, my so–”

“Please, don’t,” the old man says in a raspy voice to the figure. The figure shakes its head.

“Nice scar, Ralic, where did you get it?” The figure says, ignoring the man next to him.

Ralic glances down to the dried up closure of blood on his face. “Got it while walking here actually. I’ll just tell the people of the town that I got it from you!”

The figure shakes its head. “I’m afraid that won’t work, ‘hero’. Each Ralic is supposed to kill me ‘without a scratch’. But it’s okay considering no one saw you get it,” the figure says as it raises its hand and begins gesturing its fingers over the large piling of paper in the shape of a person. Ralic watches in disbelief as a man that looks exactly like himself, minus the scar, manifest over the paper body.

“Wh–what’s that?” Ralic asks, easing into a guard.

Under its cloak, Ralic can see sharp, white teeth shine from under the Overlord’s hood; it’s smiling.

“Why, it’s Ralic the Twelfth–just without the scar, as they would expect. We can’t have the people of the town getting suspicious that the legend could be flawed in some way, can we?” the Overlord says as it squints an eye in humor.

Just as the fake Ralic rises from his chair with a cruel grin, the real Ralic’s heart drops.

“Hello, Impostor,” the fake Ralic says to the true.

Ralic raises his sword and starts forward. “I’ll end your ruse, magician!”

“Oh, but the rusing is only about to begin. With a single wave of my hand, I’ve prepared this paper body for its many–year performance.

“…Performance?”

“You see, I’ve just made a doppelgänger more perfect than yourself, and after it beats you in a fight and throws you in a cage with the other yous, it will go and take your place, eventually become mayor, and slowly, year by year, push the town into oblivion–this is their punishment for defying me, lifetimes and lifetimes of misery.”

Ralic had always heard from Tenay’s father that the food shortages were worse than ever, and often the adults had to go without food for a day off and on so that he, the hero, could develop into a strong, energetic man. He sees it now. The man he knows as his father, more properly the thing he knows, was made of paper and magic, lying and making mistakes day after day, but still trusted by the people because of what they thought it had done for them.

He runs forward to the fake Ralic, yelling at the top of lungs.



Tenay has been sitting in the center room of her father’s shop, sifting for metal shearing when a gaunt lad rushes in.

“The hero’s made his return!” he says with a yellow–toothed grin. Tenay rises up from dust, brushes the shearings off her apron, and hurries to the gate.

A young man blows the great horn as the gates open way. Standing in the center of the road is Ralic, tall and with the blood–stained cloak of the overlord gained under his arm. Cheers abound and music begins as, like clockwork, the hero returns six hours after he left, just like every previous hero. He looks over the crowd and sees the way Tenay looks at him, the expectation in her eyes.

“I’m back,” he says, radiating strength that Tenay’s never quite seen in him. His shoulders are broader, just a tad, and in his eyes exists not a hint of uncertainty, but truly, she can understand he would be filled with pride–he did just kill the overlord.

She kisses him and wraps around him. “Welcome home,” she says, nudging against his chest as he throws the cloak aside. At that, they all sit down for the great feast, Ralic and his father sharing knowing glances as they sit together at the end of the round honored table. While the others sit in the dirt or stand, only the two Ralics and their wives may take the small table. As the poverty is great–only the hero’s and mayor’s homes consists of more than three rooms.

“What was it like?” is the first thing out from Tenay’s mouth before her first bite. The young Ralic smiles and pats her on the back as he shoves his mouth full of beef. Tenay stares Ralic down a moment with a bland look about her and gently taps down with her heel into just above his right ankle. When she hits that sensitive spot she’s known since childhood, the one that would cause howling of the loudest sort he’s capable, Ralic does not so much as flinch. She leans into her seat and begins looking over Ralic with a weighted stare. Her eyes stop at his perfect, scarless face.

“So…” she takes a breath, “So where did the scar g–”

Ralic spits out his wine, shares a quick glance with his father, and both look at Tenay with pointed, alert gazes. “What scar, dearest?” he says in a tone she’s never heard from him.

“When you…when you were leaving for the wood, I peeked over the wall and saw you trip. You fell onto a rock and gashed your fa–”

“Nonsense!” the older Ralic says with a slap on the table as he nudges his wife, a woman that has no difficulty in displaying her misery every day–Tenay thinks now she sees why. As Ralic delivers a long, eloquent sentence insulting her intelligence Tenay stares at nothing, in particular, wide-eyed and calculating. She knows.

Tenay turns to her husband, “Brat?” she says. The older Ralic’s wife starts shaking her head with a horrified stare, and quickly gets up from her chair and leaves.

The young hero looks to his wife. “Well, that’s rude. No need to call me a brat,” he says with a grin.

She nods to herself and focuses on his eyes. “You’re not really Ralic, are you?”

He shakes his head. “Of course I am, you delusiona–”

“You’re not him. Ralic would have a scar, and you don’t. What did you do to him?” she says with a calm, but pointed tone. The two Ralics exchange knowing glances and turn back to her equipped with belittling grins.

“You won’t be getting him back. You should just play along,” the young hero says to his wife.

“…Yeah?”

“Yeah. If you don’t play along I’ll just have you killed–how’s that?” he says, leaning into her. Tenay’s father, the blacksmith, has unusually good hearing, rendered sensitive from all the years listening for his daughter’s voice over the clank of his hammer. He’s never listened in on the conversation at the great table of the hero, but he cannot help himself when she’s up there. He knows too, and his old head starts churning.

“What will you do, kill me in front of everyone?” she asks, her gaze searching for a solution.

“No, I’d just make everyone kill you for me,” Ralic answers, motioning his head towards the crowds surrounding them. “So, what will you do?”

Tenay takes a deep breath, and thrusts the cutting knife in her right hand into Ralic’s side–out of sight from everyone except her father, who as the “bearer of destiny” is held to stand near and to the side of the table. Ralic’s grin widens and he begins shaking his head as if receiving an ignorant answer from a child, waiting to be corrected.

“Looks as though your mind’s made up. So be it.” Ralic takes a gulp of wine, picks himself up, the knife slipping out with a faint tearing sound, and his face instantly becomes grim with terror as he holds the wine–covered knife in his hand.

“How could you?!” he shouts, stumbling from his chair. Everyone’s eyes are on him as Tenay looks over to her father, who spotted the stabbing from the side of his gaze. “This, you evil woman! I have been fooled! How, on this, my greatest day, I should find out your deception. You stabbed me! Overlord worshipper!” Ralic accuses as he holds his side in mock pain. The knife slips from his hand, and the crowd riles the second the blade hits the ground, proving his ruse with weak, but sufficient evidence. The men, women, and children rise to destroy the attacker just when the blacksmith calls out.

“It’s witchery, girl! Remember what your mother said!” he calls as the people scramble up onto the stage. In a single blink of the mind, Tenay remembers the stories of the witch man of the wood, who tricks entire towns and takes their things with his paper people. As quickly as she delivered the knife to Ralic’s side, she takes one of the torches near the table and pushes it into Ralic’s front, too caught up in acting to retaliate.

Just as myriad hands reach for her, they see Ralic burst and curl in painless flame. His body does not offer resistance like the skin of man–but accepts it, ashing away eagerly like paper. He does not realize what is happening until his entire backside is gone. He gets to his feet, a flimsy, lanky abomination of paper and person, and speaks to Tenay.

“You’ll never win,” and he burns away.

Tenay is released just as quickly as the older Ralic is constrained and burnt himself by the townsfolk. There is sorrow, anger, weeping, and talk of vengeance. The men grab for torches, tools and weapons, and the blacksmith points the way off to the wood. Yet, there is something inside Tenay that tells her this is not done; there’s something more to this. She goes by the mayor’s home as the men rush off to the overlord’s keep. Before she gets to the door; however, she is stopped by the wife of Ralic the Eleventh.

“There’s something you must know,” she says, her dark crow’s feet scrunching into themselves.

“Wh–what?” Tenay stops shortly, glancing between the old woman and the sortie of men passing through the gates.

“There was a story my grandmother had told me, and now I can tell it. You must listen.”

Tenay’s the sort to respect her elders, so she stops and listens.



Ralic the Twelfth awakens to find himself in darkness and misery. He’s unsure how that copy of himself beat him so flawlessly, but his defeat was absolute and instant. Now he finds himself chained in darkness, only enough light from above to see across the black–stone floors to the other cell, containing the bearded, ugly man who was at the table with the overlord and his sword of destiny, glinting tauntingly in the middle of the two cells.

“Let me out, you fool! I’m not done with you yet!” Ralic screams in the dark.

The old man across from him sighs with years of sorrow on his breath. “It’ll never answer. Get used to it.”

Ralic jerks in lively frustration, exerting every fiber against his chains. “And who are you to tell me? I bet you’re one of those forest men!”

“I’m definitely no one you’d care about; I didn’t care about the old man in the cell across from me either.”

Ralic squints at the man as a chill runs down his young spine. “What do you mean? Who are you?”

“Ralic’s my name. I suppose you’re the Twelfth. I left before you were even born.” The old man stares forward into his son, relishing the moment. Ralic the Twelfth stares upon his father, the Eleventh and realizes his situation fully. He’s silent, wide–eyed and tearing.

“…Father?”

“Yes.”

Here, the young man begins to weep just as a group of twenty men reach the front gates, Tenay not far behind.

“Search the place! Find the real Ralic and kill the overlord!” the great blacksmith cries, his beard drenched with the dark rain as they press into the fortress. They find the great door with great beasts and burst into the large room.

In the middle of the extravagantly–carved room is a long table with the overlord sitting in the middle sipping its tea, and ten rather imposing paper figures on both sides of it.

The dark lord takes a stand and applauds the men armed with swords, bows, tools, and torches.

“Well! I must say this has been an eventful day. No one’s figured it out in roughly one hundred years. Oh, but of course you will all kill me easily, why, how could I beat twenty men? Oh! And look, you thought to make and bring torches! The last time they didn’t even think to do that. I suppose only during a festival you’re allowed to make those, aren’t you? As per command of your Mayor. How very lucky–and what’s better, once you all kill me and free the prisoners, you’ll return to town, victorious, heroes in your own rights; stronger, smarter, kinder, more handsome–” as the overlord goes down the list, it begins moving its right hand through the air, causing each of the twenty paper figures to take a slow, defiant stand, and take on features identical to the armed men, but slightly better in every way.

The men exchange glances and gasps of disbelief as the doppelgängers take to their feet.

“Why, my chances are so low it brings me to ask myself: ‘whatever shall I do?’” the Overlord says in a tone of mock concern, taunting the men as it sends the paper soldiers forward.

Below, a sharp–browed Tenay finally reaches the steps to the keep, the burden of her child to arrive in five months slowing her progress considerably. She enters the keep with a charcoal ember–match, capable of striking a flame in but a second. She rises the steps to the great door, hears the battle inside, and passes by. She searches long halls and lavish rooms until she notes the sound of weeping down a long spiral staircase. Tenay follows the sound into the dungeon, dimly lit by a skylight above. She finds the sword, and two miserable, chained up men.

“T–…No, you’re not her, don’t lie to me, Overlord!”

“It’s me, Ralic,” she says, picking up the broadsword and tucking it under her right arm.

Ralic the Twelfth shakes his head wildly. “No, I’ll never see her again. The fake me’s probably back at the town…and the two…no, I beg of you, it isn’t fair!”

Tenay nods sarcastically. “Life’s hard, hero brat. It’s me, your wife. I spotted you get cut on that rock, so I figured the Ralic that returned wasn’t the real you.”

Ralic’s eyes flash with hope just as the older Ralic’s brow furrows.

“You…You saw th–”

“Truly, if you are her, then surely you can withstand a flame, and prove you are not of paper,” the older Ralic cuts in.

Tenay pauses, and then from its protective jar, she presses the red ember into her hand for several seconds. She doesn’t so much as flinch as the ember does nothing to her hand and the older Ralic nods.

“Boy, this is your wife, she has come to save us,” he says with a certain nod. She grasps the ember and by pressing it against the bars they light into fire long enough for its papery illusion to blaze away allowing her to open the cells; she then uses the ember to ignite their chains, showing away their illusion as well.

“Alright, let’s get out of here!” Ralic shouts, turning to the stairway.

“Can’t yet, we gotta kill the Overlord.”

Ralic draws back. “Wh–what?”

“I talked with the fake mayor’s wife.”

“Mom?”

“Yeah, she told me to melt the Sword of Destiny.”

“Are you serious? We can’t melt our only defense against the Overlord!”

Tenay squints. “We don’t have time. Please, Brat, trust me.”

“No!” Ralic stands resolute.

Tenay shakes her head, her brows raised and her expression bland with disappointment, “Then I’m going myself, see ya, hero,” she says, turning away to the stairs but going further down the hall to find the forge. The younger Ralic grits his teeth watching her leave, and takes a deep breath.

“Okay, I’m coming with you!” He catches up, and Tenay smiles the moment they are shoulder to shoulder. The older Ralic shows more hesitance at first but is elated to walk out from the dungeon on his own accord, the first time in roughly twenty years–he follows them.

They start down the halls, and Ralic the Eleventh speaks. “So, what do we do?”

Tenay peeks into doorway after doorway. “She told me to find the forge that made the sword. She said it was here,” she says over the sounds of men fighting and steel clashing rooms away.

“The Overlord made the sword? That doesn’t make any sense,” Ralic the Twelfth says, just as the three spot a large, black furnace in a long room.

“This must be it,” Tenay says just as footsteps rage down the hall. Ralic steps back to the door.

“Smith’s girl.”

“Brat.”

“I’m off to be the hero. See ya,” he says, ready to defend her and the sword.

“Don’t get killed, dork,” Tenay says before the two Ralics turn to meet precise paper copies of the three of them. The Ralics slam the door to the forge shut behind them, leaving Tenay to her work.

The matter is simple enough. As outlandish a character the Overlord is, its forge is still intuitive to a smith’s daughter like Tenay. She uses the charcoal and ignites the forge, billowing it to a hellish heat as the sword leans near, awaiting its destruction. Just as the two Ralics meet hands with their paper superiors, Tenay plunges the blade into the heat of the forge, her skin and hair singeing from the bellowing heat, but the temperature doesn’t hurt her, just as it doesn’t hurt anyone from the village–they can feel fire, but not be hurt by it.

Elsewhere, she can hear a deep, powerful voice screaming in agony as if burning to death. With a vindictive, pleased smile, she tosses the blade into the forge entirely. The sword, composed of a magic paper, blazes away with the dying screams of the Overlord, its tricks finally put to naught centuries since their conception. The Overlord had bonded its soul to an eternal object, something prized and treasured by everyone who saw it–something that not a soul would dare meltdown in a forge. Tenay nods stoically; the Overlord was pretty smart, but she knows all tricks have their end eventually. Gradually, she hears the Overlord’s screams turn into laughs.

“YOU FOOLS HAVE SEALED YOUR OWN FATE!” are his last words amidst his dark, ear–splitting laughter.

She hears a banging on the locked doors, and her husband calls out.

“Tenay! Something’s wrong!” Ralic says.

She reaches for the knob and then stops. “Oh? What’s that?”

“Open the door, Tenay! The castle’s burning!

“…Really? I don’t hear any fire. What if this is some trick?”

“Of all the times for you to be stubborn. I swear!”

Tenay smirks. “Just have to be sure. What’s my favorite frui–”

“Bananas, can we go now?”

She scoffs, pleased with the answer, and opens the door. There’s a fire creeping along the castle rock, an impossible sight for stone, but this is not stone, it’s paper–everything that was fake is being undone by the sword’s destruction. The three rush to the main entrance, meet up with the group of men, most of them unconscious and piled out of the burning keep or severely beaten, and they all get a safe distance away from the castle.

Turning to the castle, they can still hear the laughing of the Overlord as its body melts away with the sword. Tenay takes a moment to catch her breath, but before she speaks, she sees the singing fire burn away not just the castle, but the ground around it, and then the grass, and then the trees, and then right to them–revealing nothing but the deep, dark ocean beneath. Her father points the way to town.

“This way!” he shouts, carrying two men in his great arms.

They run all the way to town, a great toll on everyone carrying people, and get to the gates.

“Open up!” Ralic shouts to the guards. They get through to the town square in the early morning, everyone’s faces of joy tarnished to fear the moment they see the returning group’s expressions.

“What’s the matter?” a prominent farmer asks.

“The Overlord’s dead, but its magic is destroying the island!” Ralic sputters, “It’s going to sink!”

Everyone roars into a panic. The thought of the mysterious Overlord, a nasty troublemaker that is said to trick young children into the forest and make them work on its paper crafts forever, has had one last trick up its sleeve. Some of the townspeople begin to tear down the village to make boats, but realize that the fire would burn this away as well as it was fake trees that made these fake houses–all that is fake will be burnt away. The boats thrown into water immediately go limp and take on water like paper– they’re trapped. Time counts down as they try one failed idea after another; each time the looming flames of the Overlord’s fury burning closer and closer. The blacksmith is the only one not running about in a panic, as he reflects on all that he’s seen and heard over his years from the fake mayor and his miserable wife. It is then that the blacksmith comes to a conclusion.

“Tenay!” he shouts across the chaos of people rushing from the town to get to the island’s edge with their crude makeshift vessels. She doesn’t hear him. He draws more into his old lungs. “Tenay!” She hears him this time, and he meets her across the square as the two Ralics flail about leading the people to evacuate.

“Han?” Tenay says, her eyes wide with fear.

“Come with me. I know what to do. We must go to the only place with books!”

The two smiths turn to the mayor’s home and dive in. As the colors of autumn through flame approach the windows, the two find the library. Han grasps a book, shoves it out the window, and sees it repel the flame, like magic. He grins, seeing his hunch was right, and the two go from the library and start shouting.

Han and Tenay call out to the others. “It’s safe in here!” They don’t believe them until Han displays the properties of the book in his hands–when he runs into the flames and the townspeople see them wrap near, but not around the blacksmith.

Just in time, every soul is turned around and huddled into the large library. The flames pass, as the wood, metal, and everything else in their town burns away. After the passing, the entire town is sitting in the library, even the ground around it protected by the book’s magic. They are now floating out on the ocean, and far, very far off, they see the great, verdant landmass that their ancestors were moved from by the Overlord–something they will only discover once they’ve reached it. Everyone takes a few moments of silence to realize their new, rather ridiculous, situation and then some of them start crafting survival essentials–hopefully something to row and catch fish with as well.

Tenay just stares out at the island in thought as she sits in exhaustion and picks up one of the library’s books.

“Ralic?” She asks, turning to her husband.

“Yeah?” he says, peeling off his hero’s garb.

“Why was it paper, the very thing that the Overlord used to deceive us, that saved us in the end?”

Ralic moves his head from side to side as his father greets his wife after all this time. “How should I know? That’s not my job,” he says with a smile.

Tenay kisses his cheek just as Han sits next to them. “Well, kids, I think it’s because the Overlord used ignorance to fool us.” The two youths turn to the great–bearded man. “Words and learning is repulsive to deceptions, because what is fake cannot also be true. The Overlord’s last trick was to make us hate paper, and see it as something made for crafting lies. Once we killed the Overlord, it would make sure that everything on the island, including the boats we made and the metal we wrought, would burn away from its magic. As its illusions burned away, the books were the only real thing on the island, and thus the only thing that could save us. It was not the paper that saved us, but the words upon the paper,” Han smiles and embraces the two kids.

“So, how will we prevent this from happening again?” Ralic says, staring into the distance.

Han frowns. “If only we could read, perhaps the books might hold the answer.”

“Um, excuse me,” a weak voice calls from the side of the library, stepping over. It is the wife of Ralic the Eleventh–she looks much happier now, Tenay thinks. “I can read,” she says, “The paper Ralic did his best to keep me from the library, but he had to leave the house sometime,” she says with a laugh. “I’d love to teach you how to read!”

…And there you have it, kid, that’s why the pen is mightier than the sword, how we rediscovered our island, and how we outwitted the overlord. Now get to bed. You have a day filled with reading tomorrow…Yeah, and for the record, don’t hold books up to fire, the Overlord’s illusionary fire’s different from the kind we use now in case it wasn’t obvious–it actually burns real things, my little Ralic the Thirteenth.

~Fin~ 
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