Epilogue

"The worst part of a plan, regardless of its success or failure, is rebuilding afterward."

-Overlord Hendrik, The Idiot's Guide to Ruling an Evil Empire

Sven sat propped up against Ajagara on a hill overlooking the construction of the new castle. He had been ordered to take it easy, which was not nearly as hard on him as it was on Rita. Once she no longer had a gaping hole in her stomach, she had wanted to jump right into work—it had taken two executive orders from Sven and a threat from Maeve to tie her to the bed to finally get her to assent to a light workload. As it was, Sven was fairly certain that she was still sneaking down to the construction site to boss the demons around, but until Dante complained or Rita collapsed Sven felt he could overlook it.

As for himself, he was enjoying the break. Besides a few dozen peace talks and the like with Hibernia and the growing worry over what the power vacuum in Antia was going to result in, he had not really been required to do much more than halfheartedly menace the peasants. That said, he was beginning to think that the peasants—or at least the ones who lived in the capitol—were only humoring him anymore. He had a feeling that it had something to do with the fact that Maeve and Aidan had taken to following him around like he was an invalid combined with the fact that he was out in the town more.

Exposure just kind of ruined everything. Yesterday he had seen a couple of kids sneak up to his favored hilltop while he had been there. He had set off a couple sparks to scare them, but instead they had shrieked with laughter before running off. It was kind of distressing, actually.

A shadow fell over him, and he looked up from the paper he had been pretending to read. Aidan stood above him, flanked on either side by the two children that had been spying the day before. Sven raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know that you collected children," he stated blandly. Aidan sighed.

"I don't. They wanted to get a closer look at the dragon, but their parents were afraid you might feed them to it instead. I promised to protect them," he said, sounding more than a little put upon.

Sven snorted and shook his head like the idea was absurd. "Feed them to him? Certainly not. I have no idea where the little gremlins have been. They might make Ajagara sick," he sniffed and rapped on the dragon's side with his knuckles. The great black beast let out a low groan and swung its head around to look back at its master, causing the two children to gasp and squeal in delight. "Oi, Jaja. Entertain the little monkeys. I want to speak with Aidan," he ordered.

The lizard turned its intelligent golden eyes to the two curious children and titled its head to one side. Completely ignorant of any fear that they possibly should have shown, one child eagerly reached out a hand and touched the beast's nose while the other gasped in delight. Agajara snorted out a cloud of steam into the child's face, then stood up and stretched its wings. It jerked its head to one side before walking in the indicated direction. Taking it as the invitation it was, the pair of children let out a whoop of excitement and ran after the great lizard's form, ignoring Aidan's nervous shout for them to be careful.

Sven gave Aidan a look. "I played with him all the time when I was young. He was a lot smaller then, granted, but he knows better than to hurt them," he said dismissively. Aidan did not look entirely convinced, clearly remembering his own first encounter with the scaly creature, but nonetheless sat down where Sven indicated. The overlord regarded him for a moment before he suddenly snapped his fingers, causing the papers in his lap to vanish. All pretext of work gone, he turned his attention fully to the other man. "So, you're planning on going to Antia?" he said, more as a statement than a question.

Aidan started slightly. "How did you-?" he asked, mouth agape. Behind him, Sven watched as Ajagara threw one of the children into the air, only to catch it and once again place it safely on the ground. Wisely, Sven decided not to draw Aidan's attention to the action.

"Maeve told Rita," he stated plainly. "They apparently talk a lot these days."

The swordsman frowned and leaned back, nearly tipping over onto the grass. He was quiet for a moment before speaking. "Yeah," he said quietly, "There is a group of Hibernian mercenaries planning to go into Antia and try and help with the civil war. I was going to go with them. I mean, it's kind of our fault that Antia's in the situation to begin with, right?" he explained, shooting Sven an uncertain look.

The overlord sighed and promptly elbowed Aidan so that he fell back into the grass completely. "Antia has been in a state of civil war of one form or another for hundreds of years. This has nothing to do with you, me, or even Nanette," he sighed and glanced over at where Aidan was sprawled out on the grass, not looking at him. "But I'm never going to convince you of that, am I?"

Aidan grunted in assent and folded his arms up under his head. Sven sighed and fell back into the grass as well. "I won't waste my breath then. I'm sure Maeve will do it for me, anyway," he drawled. "Go, fight, kill a bunch of people in the name of justice, or whatever it is you noble sorts do. But," he paused then, and Aidan looked over, one eyebrow raised in confusion. Sven turned his head to stare up at the sky for a long moment and just listened to Ajagara and the children playing and the sound of the demons rebuilding the castle in the distance. Finally, he sighed heavily and rolled onto his side to look at Aidan's profile.

"Just remember that you'll always be welcome here," he said quietly.

Next to him, Aidan snorted and laid back into the grass again. "Yeah, yeah. I wouldn't want to leave you to your own devices for too long, anyway. Someone needs to keep your ego in check. Speaking of which, try not to harass the people too much while I'm gone. I would hate to have you start your own civil war while I'm busy elsewhere," he drawled.

Sven sniffed and closed his eyes. "Buzzkill," he sighed, "I'll try to behave myself, but I make no promises."

Apparently this was enough for Aidan, and the pair lapsed into a somewhat contented silence listening to Ajagara and the children play behind them. This was not an ending: it was barely a pause between this adventure and the next. In a few days, Aidan would be on his way to the front lines of another battle, and Sven would have to go about securing his kingdom from any further political disasters. Their lives would be a series of disasters and triumphs one after the other until it finally killed them both.

But that could wait until tomorrow.

A small, wicked little smile curled at the corners of Sven's mouth and he conjured up his favorite feathered hat. He slid it low over his eyes and allowed himself to relax and enjoy the sound of his kingdom recovering.