Castlevania: Sharp, eager blades

Louis, LeCarde, and Alucard strode forward to Castlevania. However, in his incarnation, the castle had chosen a devilishly inaccessible place. No trails led upward toward the main castle gate. The only way, it seemed, was to climb the rock face up to the main gate. “That’s tactically unsound,” LeCarde said, looking up at the castle. “That’s about a four hundred foot climb. Louis, I know you know how to climb trees, but this is a lot different. And who knows if some winged thing would pop out of somewhere and knock us off? There’s got to be a better way into the castle.”

“Why’s that? If it was MY castle, I’d make it real hard for people to get in,” said Louis, shading his eyes and looking up.
“The castle is technically not my father’s. It’s merely a tool of Chaos used for his delight. But since it is a thing of Chaos, it can both help and hinder him. Where it hinders him, it helps us.” Alucard looked around. “There might be an entrance somewhere in the rock itself. Let’s spread out and search.” Alucard knelt down to the ground and changed into the form of a bat. He squeaked once and flapped his batwings to launch himself in the air. The Sword Familiar followed Alucard. Louis and LeCarde went in opposite directions and scoured the rock face for any sort of opening they could use to get into the castle.

Louis ran the butt end of his whip along the rock face as he looked for an entrance. He started when the butt end gave into something soft. Carefully, the child rubbed away the dirt screen that covered a small tunnel. It’s not that small for me, though. Maybe there’s a trick to it. He crouched down and scrunched his body inside the constricting space. The pale light of day could barely filter around his body, making the inside of the tunnel very dark. He reached his hands out to pull him into the tunnel.

Then an awful thought, probably due to the darkness, hit him. What if there’s something living in here! Louis could almost picture some horrible monster taking a bite out of his hand. Whimpering, he did a bit of contorsionistic movement in order to reach his throwing dagger. With dagger in hand, he felt a little better and kept on going.

In the dark, it seemed like forever, but it was only a few moments later when his right hand brushed along a lever. That’s what it felt like to the young vampire hunter. Maybe if I fiddle with it… He tried jiggling it all sorts of ways, then managed to push it up. It gave a rusty squeal of protest before moving. Louis felt a loud thud reverberate through the rock. I wonder what that did…

Before he could take that thought any further, a horrible snarling noise issued from deep inside the tunnel and something rushed toward Louis. The child screamed and struck with his dagger. It gave into something soft. He screamed and plunged his dagger again and again into the unknown horror. He felt the fetid stink of the thing’s breath and he could make out some wickedly curved teeth. He felt something wet cover his striking arm when he felt his dagger go right through something. Then the creature stopped breathing.

Whimpering, Louis backed out of the tunnel with alacrity. “Dear God! Louis! Hang on, I’ll help you out!” he heard LeCarde yell. He felt his cousin’s hands grip on his shirt and he pulled backwards until Louis was safe outside. LeCarde held Louis securely while the boy whimpered. Alucard, having heard the noise wasn’t far behind. He changed back to human form while still in the air and landed with a thump on the ground. “What happened? Is he all right?” Alucard asked.
“I…I crawled into a tunnel c-cause I thought there’d be somethin’ in there. I pulled on a switch and something big and huge tried to eat me!” Louis exclaimed.
Alucard crouched and put his weight on the balls of his feet while he peered inside. He narrowed his eyes. Then he stood up. “It was a blood worm. A very large one. But all his brains seem to be splattered all over the place.”
“Well! He scared me!” Louis then noticed his left hand was covered with guts and dropped his dagger with a disgusted sound. Then he began wiping off his arm on the grass. “That’s gross!” he said, trying to scrape every last gobbet of flesh from his arm. He did the same for his dagger and put it back in his belt. He looked up at both of the men. “I guess I’m ready to go now. That was just so messy!”

LeCarde grinned. “It does get like that sometimes. But come on. When you hit that switch, some kind of door opened up in the rock wall. I bet that’d be our secret passage.” He trotted off to scout ahead.
Alucard looked down at Louis. The child looked back up at him. “I’m ready to fight again. It was kinda scary, but I’m glad you taught me how to be a good vampire hunter.” Alucard put a gloved hand on Louis’ shoulder and squeezed gently. “Come. Let’s go see where your secret passage leads.”

Louis’ secret passage went right into the heart of the rock, but the path gradually went up. “Mr. Alucard, was this passage here before the castle or did it come with the castle?”
Alucard frowned, then grimaced. “I had forgotten about this passage. It did connect with the original castle in the time I was born. And since this castle now resides on the very place my father’s castle once stood, it would seem Castlevania is taking on characteristics of my father’s old castle. I can’t believe I didn’t think about that.”
“Well, they do say the memory goes after 50 years or so. You’re over 400, so you should be pleased that you haven’t had too many memory problems thus far,” LeCarde quipped.
Alucard fixed his inhuman eyes on the army man and glared daggers, axes, and any number of sharp pointed objects at him. LeCarde only grinned, his teeth flashing in the gloom of the passage. “You’re also remarkably preserved for one your advanced age…”
“Shut up,” Alucard said softly, but with venom. He was too busy glaring at the older human to notice what was coming ahead. His next footstep hit only air and he fell forward into a large pool of water. Water! his mind wailed. He flailed around in pain as the water surrounded him, crushing him, until he felt a whip crack and wrap around his forearm and a hand grab the back of his cape.

Louis and LeCarde dragged Alucard out of the water pool. LeCarde pounded on the half-breed’s back until he coughed up water. Alucard writhed with pain and changed his form to that of a wolf. He then shook all the water from his purple fur until it stuck out in spikes. He also succeeded in drenching his two companions. He growled softly. “Hey, it’s not my fault you didn’t see that we’ve come into the subterranean region,” LeCarde said.
“Why did the water hurt Mr. Alucard?” Louis asked.
“It’s part of a curse on all those with vampire blood. They can’t swim and the water hurts them unless they have a holy symbol to counter the pain. I think it’s an extension of the pain that holy water can cause them,” the older man answered. (Author’s note: I don’t know why water hurts vampires either. The above seems as good an explanation as any.)
Louis went up to Alucard-wolf and hugged him around his head. “I hope you feel better, Mr. Alucard.”
The wolf whined his thanks and trotted on ahead, picking his way across the now treacherous path. The party was now in a huge cavern system that dwarfed them in size, but was almost cathedral like in its reverence and silence. Absently, Louis made the sign of the cross over his heart.

They met no enemies as they walked for a time. A bit later, Alucard changed back into his human form. He brushed imaginary water drops from his cape. “I shall have to be more careful this time,” he vowed, unsheathing his sword. “Both of you pay attention. There are enemies here. We’ll come upon them soon. They might be easy to defeat, but they rely on large numbers to subdue their prey. Don’t be fooled.” The other two nodded.

It was hard to tell exactly when all three of them knew they were not alone in the caverns. It came as a sudden awareness of the shifting of surroundings that were natural to those created by Chaos. Louis started at the sound of bats rushing for them and flicked at them with his whip. They made a plopping sound as they hit the water. “Very good, Louis,” said Alucard. “Keep your guard up, though.” Louis nodded, his eyes shining with happiness at finally being praised. Alucard had to turn away, not because he didn’t appreciate Louis’ feeling, but because of something else. How do I inspire him? I don’t DO anything special, he thought.

The enemies in the caverns were very minor, as Alucard had said, but did tend to come at them in swarms. It was probably a good thing, in that respect. Louis and LeCarde both got a feel for fighting monsters and Alucard refined his skill until what was long forgotten was once again brought to the fore of his mind. They had a little trouble with one of the Venus Weeds. Louis had been too busy trying not to look at the creature’s naked breasts than to fight the thing. LeCarde ended the problem with a boom from his shotgun and the creature shriveled up. “Momma said I shouldn’t look at things like that ‘cause it’s wrong!” Louis exclaimed, trying to explain himself.
“Well…I think your mother was talking about girls…HUMAN girls, Louis,” LeCarde said, ruffling his hair. “But these things aren’t girls. They’re monsters. I don’t think your mother minds now, since you’re trying to kill the monsters. Think about it. It’s just one of Dracula’s tricks to fool people into not killing his monsters.”
“Oh. That makes sense. But why wouldn’t someone kill the creature ‘cause it’s not wearing clothes?” he asked.
“Ah…I think you’ll find that out in six years or so.”
Alucard rolled his eyes. “If you gentlemen are done with your…discussion…shall we be on our way?”
The caverns divided into different passages. Since the party didn’t have the luxury of making a map, they picked their route carefully. Both of them were startled when Alucard began snuffing out torches and items appeared. Even rounds of bullets appeared one time, which a dubious LeCarde loaded into his gun and was surprised to note they were still effective. In nooks and crannies, they found pieces of armor that helped to defend themselves a bit better. By the time they had reached what looked like an exit from the caverns, Louis wore a pair of metal arm guards, LeCarde wore a breastplate over his army uniform and Alucard wore steel-toed, calf-high, black boots. His shield was strapped to his back when he wasn’t carrying it in his left hand.

The exit appeared as a large manhole above them. Louis stood on LeCarde’s shoulders and picked up the manhole and moved it over. He peeked his head out to see what he could see. “It looks like we’re in the middle of a pasture.”
“Are there any buildings nearby?” Alucard called up to him.
Louis squinted. “It looks like there’s a way into part of the castle across the pasture.”
“All right. Climb on up and we’ll be right behind you.”

The pasture seemed to be draped in a sparkling fog. Louis realized such a fog wasn’t normal, but then again, nothing about Castlevania could be considered “normal.” He looked around and the pasture seemed deserted until he heard a whinny of frustration. He turned around to see a small colt try to reach for an apple on a low- hanging branch. Louis stuck his tongue out in a face screwed up with disgust. The colt seemed to be only half there. From head to mid-barrel, the colt seemed a perfect specimen of an equine. There wasn’t anything to the horse after mid-barrel. The trailing end of the horse’s vertical column switched around like a tail. The thing didn’t drip blood from its missing hind end, but Louis could see some organs working, hence the look on his face. However disgusting looking the creature, it was so earnest in its cries that Louis couldn’t resist. He trotted up to the tree in question and helped to pick off the fruit. He took his dagger and cut the fruit into quarters. He held out his palm with a piece of the fruit in question. The colt trotted over to him, at least it seemed like a trot for only having two legs, and calmly ate the apple from his hand. The colt also surprised the boy by nuzzling his chest. Louis had to smile and he scratched the colt behind his ears, eliciting a sigh of pleasure from the beast.

“Louis, what are you doing?” Alucard asked, walking over to him.
“Well, he needed some fruit from a tree and he couldn’t reach it so I got it for him and now he’s been really polite about it and I think he likes me! Isn’t that great, Mr. Alucard?”
Alucard’s answer was to cover his eyes with a gloved hand and shake his head. He looked sharply at the beast. “That’s the horse of a Valhalla Rider. They wander constantly in search of combat. That beast’s owner might be nearby.”
“How can that thing hold up anybody? It’s only got two legs and besides, it’s not even a full grown horse,” LeCarde pointed out.
“Shall I slay this fiend, master!” the Sword Familiar demanded in its authoritative tone, floating back with the party after wandering off somewhere.
“You can’t hurt it! It’s my friend!” Louis protested.
“Dear God,” Alucard murmured. In a louder voice, he said, “We don’t have time for you to make friends with everything you…what?”
Alucard had ended his sentence with “what” for several older horses circled around and wanted to have some apples. “This is creepy,” the army man said to Alucard. “But they aren’t hurting us, so I guess it wouldn’t hurt to help them out some.” The son of John Morris, being taller than the other two, reached up and picked off a bunch of apples from the tree and split them between the horses. Alucard quietly seethed. “If you’re about finished feeding the horses, shall we be on our way?”
“Hey! What are you doing with my horses! Thieves!” someone yelled. A skeleton with some spiked shoulderpads, torn fatigues, and a long lance came rushing towards them. But just as suddenly, the skeleton stopped and stood smartly at attention. “Sir! Didn’t know you needed horses, sir!”
Alucard and Louis exchanged a glance of puzzlement. LeCarde peered closely at the skeleton. Over his chest was a shiny nameplate. “At ease, solider,” LeCarde said.
The skeleton rested and would have exhaled in relief if it had lungs. “If I’d known someone proper was coming, I’d have made myself presentable. Colonel Morris, do you need my services?”
“Yes I do, Private. Where can we find Lord Dracula? We’re kind of in a hurry.”
“Oh, Lord Dracula? You can go through the kitchen there..” he pointed, “which connects to the lavish rooms. You take a few stairways up and pass by the chapel and the art gallery on that floor and then take another stair up. There’s two ways to reach Lord Dracula’s throne room from there…but I’ve never traveled those ways myself. That’s about all I can tell you, Colonel. Oh, and this is just an aside, but Lord Dracula sure doesn’t know anything about keeping a good defense force. Not precise at all. Very sloppy.” The skeleton sniffed in disdain for the lack of army precision.
“I can well understand, Private. Now, as you were and don’t let anyone follow us.”
“Yes sir! Keep them away, sir!” The skeleton saluted again and walked off, gathering the horses around him. LeCarde shook his head sadly and motioned the others to follow him into the castle proper.
“What was all that about?” Alucard asked him.
“I knew that man. He was a private in my outfit. He died on the beaches of Normandy. Poor soul. It seems as though Dracula's powers are drawing lost souls to his banner…the souls of the men who died in the war.” The army man’s eyes were flints. “I want to stop Dracula even more, for he’s drawing in the lost souls and they won’t be freed until Dracula is gone.”
“I…I’m sorry, LeCarde,” said Louis, his eyes looking tearful.
LeCarde lost his hardness for a moment as he smiled and ruffled his cousin’s hair. “You didn’t do anything to make them like that. But we’re all going to help them, along with all the other people.” Louis nodded, hefting his whip. Alucard managed to look a trifle humbled and he nodded towards Morris. He spared Alucard a glance that said all hardness between them was put off for now. “Let’s get them.”

The kitchen wasn’t nearly so bad, though most of the cooks were of the undead variety and tended to throw knives at them. The Sword Familiar was a big help, managing to hit creatures on target, even several of the stronger knights that had been patrolling the strong kitchen. Louis also managed to steal several large turkey legs that replenished everyone’s strength.

The lavish room was certainly that. A long red carpet trimmed in gold fanciful designs trailed up a pair of stairs and split in two to go up each of the stairways to the next floor. All three of them paused for a moment. LeCarde loaded some rounds in his guns, Louis strapped on some shin guards he had found, and Alucard tested the balance of a sword he had found. His normal sword was sheathed at his side. Their one moment of peace was shattered when a hand scythe buried itself in the ground beside them. “So I see you’re back,” Alucard noted, hefting his new blade.

The cowled figure flew up in the air and rested at the landing on top of the marble staircase. He chuckled. “You think you are so special. I found someone who knew my talents and now I can pay you back for snubbing me!” the figure said, with an obvious smirk in his tone. He materialized a hand scythe and whipped it at the party. All three of them scattered. Alucard’s eyes were wide. No…he couldn’t be that stupid…could he?
“Go get them, pet!” the figure yelled. A dog that would have dwarfed a mastiff bounded down the stairs at terrific speed, green slime dripping from his jowls. “Damn!” LeCarde yelled and unloaded several shots into the creature, but the beast kept on coming.
With his inhuman speed, Alucard leapt right over the dog and went straight for Death’s apprentice, for that indeed was what he seemed like. Alucard’s blade, forged in the light-bright happy laughter of elves and forest kind, was a blade of light and whipped an arc into Death’s follower. “Aaah!” he screamed and staggered backwards.
Meanwhile, LeCarde and Louis were having a hard time with the dog from hell. Louis kept cracking the dog with the whip and LeCarde would sneak in some shots, but the creature’s fur made most of them bounce off. LeCarde accidentally stumbled into a weak spot in the wall and fell into the caved in opening. He grinned when he felt his hand touch a turkey leg. Man, these things are everywhere! he thought. He kicked the onrushing dog in the throat as he backed out of the opening. He quickly stood up and held the turkey leg in his hand. “Are ya hungry? Hunh? Are ya hungry boy?” The dog actually started whining and wagged his tail. “Then go FETCH!” He whipped the turkey leg high into the air. Yowling, the dog leapt up into the air. Louis had a sharpened boomerang primed and ready. With a grunt of emotion, he flung the boomerang at the snarling beast and it whipped across his throat, sending a shower of blood on the expensive carpet. The beast landed with a wet thump.

“Nice work, kid,” LeCarde said, but Louis turned around and looked at the landing. Alucard had ripped a number of slashes into Death-Apprentice’s cowl, but the D-A had ripped a hand-scythe across Alucard’s chest and kicked him down the stairs. The half-breed stumbled and landed in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. The Sword Familiar whistled through the air and created an active screen for Alucard that blocked all the incoming hand scythes.

Louis quickly reached into his belt and pulled out a vial of holy water. He sprinkled the vial on the length of his whip and stoppered the vial. He gazed hatefully up at the D-A who had hurt his beloved Alucard. He ran a little up the stairs and cracked his whip with a loud cry. The D-A had caught the whip on his forearm and he laughed. “That was pitif…..ARGH!” The holy water burned a bright blue along the whip. The D-A screamed at the pain coursing through him. Louis held on to the whip tightly, clenching his teeth. “Oh…you fooled me…there…but how do you like this!” The D-A overcame the holy water and sent a wave of black lightning down the length of the whip. Louis screamed loudly and fell to the ground. The D-A made a ball of dark lightning with his fist, but it dissipated with the boom of a shotgun to his stomach. The D-A let the whip go slack on his forearm and shook it off. Holding his other hand to his belly, he jumped up into the air and vanished.

Alucard blinked back into consciousness to see LeCarde kneeling over Louis. A stab of concern hit Alucard right in the heart. He shook off his disorientation and ran over to the other two. “What happened? Is…is he all right?”
“He got hit with some dark power…but maybe this might help.” The older man took the vial of holy water Louis had used and spilled the remaining amount on Louis’ face. The boy spluttered and opened his eyes. Alucard sighed in relief. “That REALLY hurt,” Louis said, rubbing his bruised head.
“It’s a good thing you weren’t hurt any more than you were,” his cousin answered, helping him sit up.
“Do you think you can move?” Alucard asked.
“Give me a minute. I’m not hurt bad. But…but…Mr. Alucard…that sounded like…”
“I know. I fear what he has done.”
“You two know who that guy was?”
Alucard stood up and brushed dust off his cape. “He was the black sheep of the Belmont family, it appears. He’s thrown in his lot with evil. This is not good. It means the only remnants of the Belmont family are the two of you.” Alucard scowled. “I hope we find him again.”
“So you can spank him for being so capricious, right, Mr. Alucard?”
Alucard had to think about that for a moment before he actually chuckled. “Something like that, yes.”

All three of them ran up the stairs and made their way past the chapel and the art gallery. But it wasn’t as simple as all that. The way was plagued with all sorts of monsters and the simple journey took hours and hours. They took a side trip into the chapel because Louis had been entranced by the statues of saints and had been sure there would be a holy relic to fight Dracula. They didn’t find any holy relic, but it primed everyone for the main fight. By the time they made it where the path divided in two, LeCarde had picked up a relic for speed and some special magical rounds of ammo; Louis had found a helmet with a high crest and a strange piece of armor that only covered the heart; (Author’s note: Think of Alundra, if you’ve played it) and Alucard had gained some throwing stars and a pair of tonfas. The Sword Familiar still floated nearby, muttering to itself.

“Two ways…which way shall we go?” Alucard wondered aloud.
LeCarde took a peek into the passage on the left. He quickly pulled his head back when a large werewolf clawed the frame where his head had been. Before Alucard or Louis could get their weapons ready, LeCarde let a shot rip from his shotgun. Instantly, the werewolf stiffened up and died. Alucard blinked. “How…how is that possible?”
The army man grinned and patted his gun. “Silver bullets. It’ll be a breeze for me to kill these guys. Maybe instead of being in one group, we should split up. That way, at least someone will make it to Dracula’s throne room and take him out.”
Alucard nodded. Louis ran to his cousin and gave him a hug. “G-good luck, okay?”
LeCarde smiled. “I’ll be fine, kid. Don’t you worry.”
Alucard turned his head. “Sword Familiar!”
“What do you desire of me, master?”
“Go and follow this man. Protect him well.”
“I shall do this thing, master!” The Sword Familiar floated by LeCarde.
“Just so you’re not all alone. Good luck to you.”
“You too!” Man and sword ran down the left path.

Alucard looked down to Louis. “Are you ready?” Louis nodded. Both of them ran on the right path. It was not an easy thing. The path seemed to be some sort of observatory. Crows and other birds came through the windows to harass the two. Several demons made of glass wounded them, but they could be broken from behind their glassy shields. Louis had an ingenious, if a little dangerous, way of defeating enemies by running and sliding underneath them and rolled to a crouch with whip ready to flail them. The half-breed used all of his powers to overcome their enemies. A large enemy blocked the end of their path that spit fire. It was a long and tricky battle, for the fireballs would follow them unless they were blocked first. After long last, Alucard changed into a bat and spat fire to counter the enemy’s own flames and Louis timed his jump between the blasts to sink his dagger in the creature’s eye. After that, it was over.

Alucard poured lotion on a large burn covering Louis’ shoulder. “Louis?”
“Forgive me for not believing in you sooner.”
Louis smiled, his eyes full of the quiet faith that never seemed to waver. “It’s all right. I know I’m not as strong as someone older, but I try really hard.”
“I know you do.” Alucard felt something he couldn’t quite put a name to. It had something to do with Louis, with the way Louis seemed to look past all the half-breed’s coldness. Alucard shook his head. He’d figure it out later if they won this fight.
The wind whipped hard when they reached the final stairway. Louis’ lower lip seemed to tremble, but Alucard could see the jaw muscles tightening and the child bravely began to climb the stairs that began the end of the dance between Belmont and Dracula. Alucard suddenly knew what the strange feeling was from before: it was pride. Not for himself, but for Louis. And there was something else attached to that feeling, but Alucard didn’t have time to psychoanalyze his feelings.

Both of them ran into the foyer of the throne room, checking their equipment and eating the last turkey legs on that journey. Both of them nodded. Alucard kicked open the door and they both rushed in, their weapons out and ready to fight.
“Alucard, my dear son, you insult me by sending in the rabble first.” The lord of the night, the demon of fears, and the drinker of blood, Dracula, dressed in all gothic finery, turned his head to smirk at his son. With one black gloved hand, the lord of the night held LeCarde’s neck. The army man panted with exertion, his breastplate ripped off and large gashes covering his chest. Alucard and Louis stopped short. The child had his heart in his eyes and he fought the trembling in his lip.

Beyond them the D-A was fighting with the Sword Familiar. It seemed they had been fighting for some time, for the D-A’s cowl had been ripped off in several places and Crispin’s face was exposed, cruel and proud. The sword succeeded in bashing Crispin’s face several times and blackening an eye. In a desperate move, Crispin grabbed the hilt and the blade edge and breathed black lighting on the sword. It seemed to waver each way and Alucard could sense the sword was truly fighting the power, but it was no use. Crispin howled triumphantly and his power broke the Sword Familiar in two. The thing howled in agony. “Master! Forgive me! I cannot fight any…more…” it said before its presence left and the inanimate sword fell to the ground. The D-A did his teleportation trick and alighted at Dracula’s side.

“Very droll,” said Dracula. “You seem to collect all manner of allies, but they all tragically waste their lives. You seemed to have picked a good one here,” and Dracula squeezed his hold on the man’s neck. “He sent Death back to wander the fields of Chaos! With a shotgun! But it’s a shame your friend was so wounded from that attack that he could hardly stay on his own two feet. I wonder where you picked him up?”

“Pompous bastard! My father defeated you! I will defeat you! And my grandfather killed you with a bowie knife even as you killed him,” LeCarde snarled.
THAT brought Dracula up short, along with Alucard. I didn’t realize it! He’s the grandson of Quincy Morris. No wonder he wanted to make this his fight!
“So…the family line continues to try to kill me? I’m impressed. You rank up there with Belmonts. You’re no rabble then, but just a dead hero…unless your friends would like to bargain with me?” Dracula turned to Alucard and Louis. “How about it? I’ll spare his life if you, Alucard, will come with me.”
“I don’t trust your word, father!”
“I don’t think you have any choice. You’ve tried running for so long. Now it’s time for you to put aside your hatred of me and join my side. Let us not argue and fight anymore. The power calls you, does it not?”
Alucard clenched his fists. He could sense power and he did want it. Hiding in a hill and sleeping for centuries was not his ideal lifestyle. He wanted power. It washed over him, like a lover’s touch, to think of all the power he could have. It was his true reason for avoiding anything of his father’s design. It was his tragic flaw. He was no different from his father; he just hadn’t succumbed to the allure of the power to rule the weak mortals. He trembled with the knowledge he could stop running and stop fighting and put an end to his pain. I want….I want…

To be definitely continued…and you’re not gonna believe how this is gonna end!