Gedresial was Mandy's monsster, which made him immune to the necromancer's control, but not to his torture. So coercion could still be used. Fortunately, the necromancer wasn't too bright about his subjects, and so Gedresial spent a fair amount of time pretending to obey without any will. Eventually though, that time came to an end, and he was forced to reveal that he had in fact never been under the necromancer's mind control because it was impossible to control someone who was previously a monster. This infuriated the necromancer, who sent Gedresial back to the dungeon after realizing he wasn't a puppet.

Obviously this meant the dungeon had been restored, but also added were increased dead puppet securities and a fresh wall of stone that sucked the life right out of Gedresial, or at least the very rest of his magic. Monsters had magic of course. That's what they were, beings of magic connected to the force that was not quite the Elva. A sister force. A force of nature, that same natural realm that gave birth to the dragons, the ancient mystical weaponry, and a human's very soul. Rusk could feel it, Mandy had lived in it for a time, and even Iraiah had brushed with the archaic forces in her time.

But none had more connection to those realms than Flow.

She stopped suddenly feeling Gedresial's presence, or some presence she didn't know, wasn't familiar with, and grabbed Iraiah to spin her around.

"What? We're making crappy time already."

"That force. Do you feel it?"

"What force?" But when Iraiah thought hard on it, payed more attention, she indeed felt it too. She drew her knives and only put them away when she recognized the voice of Mandy's monster.

"I have a way to kill King Ehrryn," said Gedresial. "If you'll allow me to suggest it to a certain Sneak."

"Sneak's listening," said Iraiah.

Flow spun around and around herself trying to find the source, the anchor. Because a monster always needed an anchor. Every force of nature was such, or else the world around it shattered, bent to its will without a second thought. But the ground beneath her feet was stable and there was no sense of impending doom and the air even was full of star filled skies and chirping insects awaiting their fate to be eaten by bats. The lava under the earth which she could feel also felt normal. It flowed its course.

So Gedresial revealed his plan to Iraiah, and she agreed with urgency.

It wasn't the same with Rusk.

When Rusk heard the request he thought it was ridiculous, and he heard it because Mandy heard it, not to mention the Dragons Knock.

"Yeah okay except for one problem," said Rusk. "We already tried storming the castle. Look where that got us! I am glad to hear you're alive, but we need surveillance first. That's why we're reanimating this bird corpse."

"You have a bird corpse?" asked Gedresial.

"Well. Yes."

Mandy brought it out of her pack.

"That is glorious! I can possess one who is dead without any remorse. Be there in a moment. Keep the bird from flying off. Sometimes a corpse has a will of its own for some time after death. This King's soldier was like that before his spirit elevated to the dead realm through that portal at the will of the necromancer."

"He what?"

"That is what happens to those who touch the necromancer's staff."

Rusk thought of Elena. Had she ever touched it? She must've. But when? And furthermore, why? Thoughts of Captain Arrolg and his crew surfaced an idea in Rusk. If they weren't truly dead, if they were only working with the necromancer due to a spell or some monetary agreement, then perhaps they'd be willing to help. Or maybe that was a terrible idea. Or maybe it was a terrible idea that was also a brilliant one. Rusk couldn't decide, so he watched in awe and grotesque curiosity as the dead bird sprung into seizures and shook off its feathers.

"Ah," said Gedresial inside the bird. "Not as much space as I'm used to, but it'll do. Hello again, Sir Rusk."

Rusk waved with his fingers, hesitant to get too close. This bird. Gedresial. Whatever. It had the eyes and presence of a monster. A true monster, not the monster that Mandy had conquered. Or made a deal with, or whatever she had done. It unnerved him.

Gedresial in bird form perched on Mandy's arm. A little skeleton fowl ready to be their spy.

"So you'll coordinate the coup from above then?" asked Mandy as if this were a perfectly sound and reasonable idea. To storm the castle again and get past the necromancer and take the King himself hostage.

What a plan. Rusk fought the urge to point out how much it was unreliable. There were too many variables. The Dragons Knock agreed with him, but it said nothing to the other two. And the Dragons Knock told him something else as well. If the necromancer controls the dead, it said in his mind, pontificating along with him on the same train of thought, then what's to prevent the king from being already deceased? He could be the necromancer's puppet as well. A true puppet. As kings often were. It was always those outside the spotlight making the real decisions. The Dragons Knock was old and wise enough to inform Rusk of that.

So they revised the plan.

"We need to regroup. I've got other friends who can help us. Well. If you can call them friends. But they'll need to be persuaded."

"Not a problem," said Mandy. "Iraiah can practically persuade anyone."

"Good," said Rusk, feeling the unease increase in his heart and mind and everywhere else that was still sane and not wanting to go on this ridiculous probably fatal mission. "Because these people I'm talking about… they're really stubborn."

Gedresial flew after Mandy and Rusk as they backtracked once again, and headed away from the capital onto the road to meet up with Iraiah and Flow, hopefully, before they went on a goose chase for pirates.

All the while Rusk hoped Elena would be alright when he got there. Wherever there was.