Chapter 41
by Warteen

**Inside the dungeon, where our remaining heroes are in grave peril indeed...**

Master: Fool! There is no escape! Don't you know that the bad guys always win?
Bartender: Er...
Master: Now, be so kind as to hand over that boy, and then I'll kill you painfully. HAHAHAHA!!!

**Bartender realizes that the only hope for himself and his companions lies in the unknown expanses that lie beyond the swirling blue portal. Unfortunately, The Master is standing directly between them and the portal, with the now silent Queen Raine at his side, staring through him. He looks around for a way to get past the two villains, and his eyes lock on the trap door off to his left, still hanging open.**

Master: A-hem. The boy?
Bartender: I guess I... have no choice...
Master: Hah! That's more like it!

**Monkey, who has used this opportunity to get behind The Master in the dark dungeon, screeches like a banshee and bites at The Master's right ankle.**

Bartender: Then again, maybe I do!

**The Master turns and, with an angry wave of his hand, sends Monkey flying into the wall of the dungeon, knocking him unconscious.**

Master: Foolish simian!

**However, this sacrifice was not in vain. Bartender quickly crosses himself before throwing all his weight at Queen Raine, who was also distracted by Monkey. Before she can react, he pushes her through the trapdoor into the possibly bottomless pit.**

QR: (thinking) So... this is how it ends.

**Queen Raine closes her eyes as she falls and falls, welcoming the end of her life. Meanwhile, back on level ground, The Master realizes what just happened while Bartender grabs Queen Laine and throws her into the portal.**

Master: NO!!!

**The Master raises his hands in the air and a huge fireball forms above his head, but Bartender isn't one to be discouraged by a deadly ball of flame. He ignores The Master and picks up Warteen.**

Master: (furiously) DON'T... DO... THAT!!!!!
Warteen: Unh...

**Bartender throws Warteen through the portal. The Master's fireball fades. He seems to be royally pissed off. Bartender, knowing that he's worn out his welcome, prepares to jump through the portal, when he remembers Monkey. He dives at Monkey and grabs him. Still, The Master does nothing, too furious to even react. Bartender jumps toward the portal.**

Milady's voice: Not so fast!

**Bartender tiptoes toward the portal.**

Milady's voice: (dryly) Oh, a "not so fast" joke. Very funny. But you know what I meant.
Bartender: Yipe! *jumps toward the portal again*

**A translucent barrier appears in front of the portal. Bartender places a hand on it nervously, then slowly turns to face The Master.**

Master: You have no idea how bad you have it right now.
Bartender: Would it make things any easier if I did?
Master: (yelling) NO!
Bartender: (nervously) Eh heh heh, well, it was worth a shot...
Milady's voice: You couldn't just hand him over and accept a nice painful death, could you?
Master: (snapping) Silence Milady! I shall handle this!!
Milady's voice: (bored) Oh, fine...
Bartender: Well, I can see that you two are very busy here, what with the world to destroy and everything, so I'll just be on my way, heh heh h...
Master: SHUT UP!!! Death is too good for you.
Bartender: Oh, I quite agree.
Master: So you will receive the ultimate in torturing, and I will personally administer it! You will suffer like no other man in the history of the universe!!!
Bartender: Uh, see, that part I'm not so crazy about...
Master: You and... that... *looks at Monkey, held under Bartender's arm* will WISH for death. It will occupy your every thought. You will BEG me for it.
Bartender: See, well, here's the thing...

**Not hesitating, the Bartender throws every bit of his weight at the barrier behind him. It shatters.**

Bartender: (thinking) Wow, I didn't expect that to actually work! *jumps through the portal*


**Meanwhile, someplace completely different, a man sits up in his bed in the smallest hut of a beach village. He has numerous signs of wounds on his arms and head, but they are dry and he is not suffering from them. On his right hand, he wears a ring on which is engraved a gaggle of lions. He looks over himself, amazed.**

Palios: Is this... heaven?

**A beautiful woman runs into the hut, with a small, cute girl of no more than five trailing behind her.**

Woman: Are you all right?
Palios: I don't know how, but I seem to be fine.
Woman: Thank goodness you're well again. We found you and the chocobo an hour ago, and we weren't sure if you'd make it. It looked as though you might die from your horrible wounds.
Palios: Chocobo?
Woman: Yes, the pretty yellow one. He was squawking and protecting your body. We wouldn't have found you if not for him. He's tied up outside.
Palios: Wait... if you found me only an hour ago, how am I healed?
Woman: *smiles* You have Eleanor here to thank for that. *gestures at the young girl hiding behind her* She's gifted with healing magic, and she saved your life.

**The young girl steps out from behind the woman, and looks up at Palios with wide eyes.**

Eleanor: Are you okay, mister?
Palios: *smiles broadly* Thanks to you young lady, yes I am. I'm forever in your debt.


**In another time and place, Bob the Ninja picks himself up from the dusty ground and surveys his surroundings. He seems to be in a vast place, with plantlife everywhere and lots of animals... but something doesn't seem to be right about those animals. As Bob's eyes come into focus, he realizes that the giant beast he's looking at in the distance seems to be a brachiosaurus.**

BtN: Hmm.

**Just as Bob begins to formulate a plan of action to get himself back within striking distance of that fiend The Master, he hears a rustling from the trees behind him. He quickly turns and draws two katana blades.**

BtN: Show yourself!
Alpha Werewolf: *steps from behind trees* GRRR... if you insist...
Ha-Kee: *steps from behind trees* If it's a battle you want, we're happy to help you...
TGC: *steps from behind trees* Taa-daa! HAHAHA!!! Bob, I think it's about time that you jumped off this mortal coil...
BtN: Chad, thank goodness you're all right! Come on, with our combined strength we can defeat these evildoers!
Alpha Werewolf: Wow. Talk about thick.
TGC: You just don't get it, do you Bob? I'm on their side now! I'm here to kill you!
BtN: (finally understanding) I see..... Well, in that case, I challenge you to a fight to the death! One on one! We shall at last see who is the finer warrior among us!!!
TGC: (loudly) HAHAHAHA!!! You'll never be able to defeat me, you fool! Alpha Werewolf, Ha-Kee, stay back as I thrash this idiot!
Ha-Kee: Um, are you sure that's a good idea?
TGC: (loudly) YES! Stay back! This fight will be one-on-one! I don't need any help to dispatch him! (quietly, so Bob can't hear) If it looks like I'm in trouble, don't hesitate to jump in there.
Ha-Kee: Understood.


**Back in the dungeon...**

Milady's voice: Well, they just don't make 'em like they used to, do they?
Master: NOOOOO!!! My torture victims!!!
Milady's voice: It looks like for once, you might just have to go after them personally. Your forces are too spread out to do you any good.
Master: (calmer) And if you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself... Very well, I have decided to pursue them myself. *takes a step toward the portal*
Milady's voice: Aren't you forgetting something?
Master: Hmm? Oh, yes, the witch.

**The Master calmly walks over to the trapdoor, where he reaches an arm inside and pulls out Queen Raine, who's still under the illusion that she's falling forever.**

Queen Raine: (surprised) What?
Master: Raine! You betrayed me once, but I'm willing to look past that if you pledge your services to me. Permanently, this time.
QR: ...
Master: Of course, your alternative is death. Not a pleasant one, might I add.
QR: Fine. I choose death.
Master: (taken aback) What? Since when did you go all noble? It doesn't suit you.
QR: It has nothing to do with nobility. I have no reason to go on.
Master: Well, this poses something of a problem. You're too valuable to dispose of without a good reason...
QR: (angrily) Fine, then I'll give you a reason! *raises her hands to fire a nasty spell at The Master*
Master: Ha ha ha, I don't think so... PARALYZE!

**Queen Raine's body goes completely numb and she falls to the floor with her eyes open and fixed on The Master.**

Master: *leans down next to QR* Now now, my dear, don't worry yourself, that spell will wear off in a while... but of course, you won't be able to go anywhere. There's a dampening field in effect for any teleportation spells except for mine or My Lady's in this dungeon. Now, you just sit tight here and think about my offer. I await a favorable response...
Milady's voice: (sounding annoyed) Are you quite through? Why don't you just explain our entire plan to her while you're at it?
Master: (diplomatically) Relax, Lenore, this one is no threat to the plan... Now, where was I? Ah yes, to the portal...
Milady's voice: Wait!
Master: What is it this time?
Milady's voice: You know very well that even under my control, that portal is somewhat unstable. You'll need a device to keep control of it and jump from portal to portal, not to mention to FIND all of those who you're after...
Master: Ah, how silly of me to forget about getting a key. Without that, I might end up anywhere in time and space, hard-pressed just to get back here.
Milady's voice: Sometimes I wonder where you would be without me. Naturally, I sent your three underlings after The Ninja, but I didn't have control when the rest of those fools escaped. The only way you'll be able to get to where any of them went is with a key.
Master: Fine, fine. Make me one, then.
Milady's voice: Certainly.

**Milady chants an incantation and a keylike object appears out of thin air in the dungeon, dropping into The Master's waiting hand.**

Master: (to the key, enunciating carefully) Take me to Warteen.
Milady's voice: Hey! Aren't you even going to thank me? You know, I'm the only one who knows how to make those things!
Master: (smirking) I don't have to. I'm the bad guy. *steps through the portal*
Milady's voice: Oh, by the way dearie, don't think I've forgotten about you. I'm making that portal a one-way now, so there's no way you can go through it. I suggest you take my Master up on his offer... ha ha ha!

**The portal goes from blue to red.**

QR: !

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