Rusk never got the newcomer's real name. Apparently the guy had given it up in order to appease the monsters. Gedresial said this was a normal occurrence, and that Mandy was the exception. So they had to figure out a nickname for him. Rusk picked "hey you" and pretty much the rest of everyone followed after his footsteps. But eventually the newcomer had had enough of that. As they walked the red sands coming up with a way to get the monster out of him, he threw up his hands at Iraiah.

"I don't remember my name but could you please come up with something better than that? It's dehumanizing."

"Know what else is dehumanizing? Monsters."

The new guy groaned. He kicked the sand. It spewed red salt over everyone. Rusk and Mandy were there as well, but Flow wasn't with them on the beach. She was absent, working at the top of the incline inside the volcano to see if she could quicken their refurbishing progress. The earth gave plenty of resources, she'd said, if only one would ask. So she was up there asking.

"How about we call you by your monster's name then?" asked Rusk.


"Then I guess it's just gonna stay new guy."

The new guy became angry, frustrated, and then finally gave into the teasing. He sloped his shoulders and stopped dragging his feet. "I've decided to trust you. The least you could do is not treat me like some kind of project. There's real stakes on the line here."

"Stakes bigger than saving the entire kingdom?" asked Iraiah.

"Yes. Well. No. But I never cared about that kingdom in the first place. Wait, are we talking about the same thing."

"Pretty sure we are, yeah. Kingdom across the sea. Porttegat's part of it. Evil king. Necromancer idiot we put back into the ground. All that. That kingdom."

"I'm not from that kingdom."



Rusk stopped pacing. He'd been formulating a plan to both get rid of the monster inside the new guy and also figure out whatever it knew. He hadn't thought the monster itself wouldn't be from his home kingdom. The problem could've spread beyond the borders when they got rid of the king. He didn't know how that made him feel. Then again, there were always monsters everywhere, weren't there? The tales of them were as old as mankind itself, at least as far as Rusk knew. He came to a decision. He'd see about Mandy's history with Iraiah and Gedresial. And how they all got the monster out of Mandy in the first place.

"There's a way to get the monster out," said Iraiah. "But you need a sacrifice, and anyway you'd have to have another vessel to put it in. Probably a dead one, for the sake of morality."

New guy raised an eyebrow at her. He was pretty handsome if you didn't count the whole monstrous vessel thing. His jaw was covered in stubble, which meant he was a bit older than Rusk had first thought.

"Of course we could always just kill you and be done with it." Iraiah shrugged. "Either way."

"We're not killing anybody," said Rusk. He widened his arms and gave her an are you serious right now expression. "Obviously."

New guy let out a breath of relief. He for one didn't want to be killed. That's what the monsters had threatened in the first place. It would be terrible to come all the way out here, switch sides, and suffer the same fate he was trying to avoid when he fled the unnatural forces.

"You ever meet a king monster?" asked Rusk. He was thinking of the main one, the one that chased him down as a child, the one he felt at the periphery of everything. The one he wasn't sure they'd been rid of when they defeated the necromancer. The one that probably had hold over the king before they rid the palace of its influence. There was also the possibility that it was part of the dead portal itself and the whole thing had already blown over, but given Rusk's past history he severely doubted it. "As in a monster that commands the others?"

New guy shook his head. If he had, he didn't know the difference between a king monster and a normal one. He was just trying to survive at this point.

Rusk thought.

"I've met one," said Iraiah. "They're immortal. According to legend anyway. Only another monster can kill a king monster. Supposedly. Mandy and I found these old archives once. I translated as much as I could but it was all up in the air as far as interpretation."

"You found old archives?" asked Rusk. "Where?"

"This little town. What was it called? Oh yeah. Rose. Town Rose."

That should've shocked Rusk but it didn't. He knew that Mayor had seedy hands in everything. It was only a matter of time before his name and his town popped up again on their radar. And Rusk knew the older language. There was a chance he and Mandy could translate whatever Iraiah couldn't, given their mutual traveler status.

"Anyway you don't need another king monster, just another monster. And we've got another monster." Iraiah pointed to where Gedresial was circling in the sky high above, awaiting their boarding of Elena's ship at harbor.

"Think he'd agree?" asked Rusk.

"Duh," said Iraiah.

Well that was something.

"You know they also say if you have a king monster get killed off then the rest of the world quells its disputes for a while. That's more legend though, and not from our kingdom."

"How many kingdoms have you even visited?" asked the new guy.

"I come and go, live here and there. Comes with the territory, being a Sneak."

"You're a Sneak. You?"

"Yeah. Got a problem with that? I'll have you know Mandy's the only one to ever catch me red handed."

Rusk thought to himself that that explained a lot. He chuckled and then covered it by clearing his throat. They had a direction now. "Any way of tracking king monsters?"

"That I don't know," said Iraiah. "But you know who's the best tracker ever?"

"Mandy," they both said in unison.