Brothers | A Phineas & Ferb Story | Update: Epilog & One-Shot 1

Die Insel der Rüstung erwartet euch!

Alle Informationen zum ersten Teil des Erweiterungspasses "Die Insel der Rüstung" findet ihr bei uns auf Bisafans:

Zu den Rüstungsinsel-Infoseiten | Pokédex | Routendex
  • Hallo Sheyffer,

    na, da hast du ja einiges an Familienbanden in diesem Kapitel offenbart. Wobei schon das letzte mit Ferbs Mutter recht überraschend war, sie so mitten auf dem Weg zu finden und in Anbetracht dessen kann man sich nun als Leser wirklich sicher sein, dass es von den Vorstellungen der Charaktere und den alltäglich wirkenden Dialogen langsam weg geht und ernster wird. Liegt ja nicht nur daran, dass sie nun am vermeintlichen Ziel angekommen sind. Praktisch gesehen sind die Offenbarungen, die dort geschehen sind, jetzt nicht so überraschend; dass sowohl Finn als auch Fern noch das ein oder andere Geheimnis horteten, war abzusehen und war ja auch kurzzeitig ein Thema während der Reise, sogar in diesem Kapitel. Insofern war abzusehen, dass noch etwas passieren wird, um die Gruppe von einer erfolgreichen Mission abzuhalten. Aber du hast das schön umschrieben, wie langsam alles klarer wird, sich jeder Zeit für seine Geschichte nimmt und versucht, sie zu erklären und auch die nachfolgenden Gefühle - egal ob nun Enttäuschung, Wut oder einfach Entsetzen - kamen bei mir an. Dass die Gruppe keinen Widerstand geleistet hat, um Phineas zu retten, wundert mich allerdings auch. Die Machtdemonstration machte auf mich einen zu schnellen Eindruck, dass sie so schnell ihre Wirkung entfalten konnte.
    Und eigentlich sind wir nun an einer Stelle, wo es nichts mehr zu verlieren gibt. Ich find's gut, dass du das auch so dargestellt hast und dementsprechend einiges aufs Spiels setzt, um die Spannung zu erhöhen und auch den Ärger in der Gruppe nochmal erwähnst. Immerhin ist so eine Bekanntgabe ohne Absprache sicher nicht förderlich für den Zusammenhalt und jetzt wird sich erst recht auf die Probe stellen, wer den Status als Freund zurecht trägt und mitkämpft. Ich bin gespannt.

    Wir lesen uns!

  • - 13 -
    How Far This Can Go

    Mother… I am sorry. You do not know what I did yet, so I shall confess. I… I was foolish enough to challenge Doonkleberg to a duel. Because of me, this world and ours are both at stake. If I lose, many people’s lives will be destroyed or ended. Is that what King Arthur would have wanted? What Phineas would have done? Yes, he would have done the same for me, but he would not have stood a chance. But… will I?
    How am I supposed to de­feat a man with seemingly unlimited power; without any invention to help me? I wanted to be important for once, and now I am, but is this truly worth it? Will the Duke be defeated like the prophecy foretold; will I pay the price of my recklessness and die?
    ...are you proud of me, Mother? Am I the hero you always wished I would be?
    If this is truly the end, I want to tell you that -

    Instantly, the boy closed his journal in a twinge of pan­ic. Had someone been sneaking up on him? Or worse, ac­tually read what he had just written?
    But he quickly relaxed again. The person stumbling through the dark corridor and into the small amount of light the flashlight was causing was nobody but Bue - who, admittedly, was the last person Ferb had expected to be looking for him.
    »I hope I’m not bothering you«, the chubby boy went on as he sat down on the same enormous windowsill as Ferb. The greenhead had made himself comfortable there; there were no clouds in the sky and the moon shone brightly in the darkness of night. Sure, the glass window and the flashlight he had managed to pick up again during the conversation with the Duke made that almost impossible to see, but he had allowed himself a few moments without the device’s light. He had been sit­ting here for a while before Bue had found him, unable to face his companions after the recent events. In reply to his smaller friend, he shook his head. Maybe he really did need some company.
    »Great!«, the boy smiled. »Bal said he needed some time alone, so I went looking for you guys. Where are the others?«
    Bue has no idea what happened, Ferb realized. He shrugged, which was the truth: he did not know about his friends’ whereabouts.
    »Is something wrong?«, Bue then asked. »You look as upset and frustrated as Bal.«
    Ferb sighed, then nodded. There was no use hiding how he felt. Or why. »The Duke captured Phineas«, he explained bitterly. »And I challenged him to a duel in or­der to save everyone. But I most likely won’t.«
    Bue took a few moments to process his friend’s words, then nudged him; much more gentle than Buford always was. »Well, with that attitude, you won’t! But I believe in you, and I’m sure the others do as well. Especially Phineas! You can’t let him down like that.«
    »That’s easy for you to say. You don’t have the fate of two worlds lying in your hands.«
    »Yeah, I don’t.« Bue sounded unusually frustrated him­self now. It even reminded Ferb of Buford. »But I’m Ivan’s apprentice. And he couldn’t come, so I’m the one that’s got to save people’s lives if they’re in trouble. Without me, Finn would be dead !« He paused for a moment, then continued in a much lower volume. »Bal never wants me to join him on stuff because I’m not a great fighter. And almost everyone else thinks I’m weak and useless, too. But then, eventually, they need me and my strengths after all.« He cracked a smile at Ferb again. »Ivan always believed in me, and that’s why I don’t let myself get brought down by negative stuff. And that’s why you shouldn’t either. I believe in you, Ferb. Phineas does, and your mom… and everyone else! And if you don’t want to believe in yourself, then believe in us, because we believe in you.«
    Now, it was Ferb who smiled. »Phineas used to say that.«
    »See, then it’s extra important!«, Bue insisted. »Look, I don’t know how , but I know that you’re gonna defeat the Duke. And if the others are still doubting that, then we’re gonna convince them.«
    Ferb himself was still a bit in doubt, but Bue’s words had definitely taken effect. The boy had proven to be just as important as everyone else and was a necessary part of their group, with a motivation surpassed by nobody but maybe Phineas. And that very motivation was all Ferb needed. He made a decision. »Before we take care of de­feating the Duke, we need to find the others.«
    »Then what are you waiting for?« Bue jumped off the windowsill and walked back into the corridor he had come from. »Maybe Bal has seen them!«
    He was smarter than Buford, Ferb noticed. The bully would simply have wandered off randomly. We really shouldn’t underestimate him.
    And so, Ferb followed his friend through the hallways, his flashlight illuminating the path for Bue to see better. The greenhead was actually quite surprised how well Bue managed to find his way back to Bal, considering he had found Ferb in corridors completely dark.
    They heard Bal before they saw him. »Get you gone! I am done with you!«
    »Says the guy who’s at fault for the Duke getting his magic.« That was unmistakably Fern. Well, at least they had found their friends.
    »I did not know he was evil! But you knew leaving the castle would cause problems, and you did it anyway. As the prince! And what does that make her? Not your sister, surely?«
    Ferb and Bue came into view now. Their friends had somehow managed to light two of the lamps now illumi­nating this part of the castle, but now they were so busy with arguing, or in the case of Buford and Baljeet, watching that argument, that they did not notice the two boys at all. Only Izzy, impassively sitting nearby with her dog, shot the newcomers a glance, seemingly urging them to put an end to this discussion.
    And Ferb wanted to, but waited until Can was finished with her addition to the talk: »You’re right, I’m not his sister. ‘Wife’ is the correct word.« There was silence for a moment, but she did not let anyone interrupt her. »So yeah, guess what? You know the Duke killed my father, just like he killed the king that came before Fern’s dad. They’re the same person. I’m as royal as Fern, and so is Finn, for that matter - he’s the true heir to the throne here, not Fern. Really, Bal, yell at Fern all the way you want, but you’ll have to say the same things to me.«
    That left Bal completely speechless. Ferb smirked in spite of the commotion. He had already noticed Bal’s crush on Candace’s alternate self the archer was so obviously thinking of right now - not to mention the quite interesting relationship forming between Fern and Izzy. They were not hating each other, but actually trying to cover their true feelings - and because both of them did not want to admit anything, no progress was made. But who was Ferb to interfere?
    While Bal said nothing, Izzy sighed in relief. »Finally someone with common sense. I couldn’t have listened to that ridiculous argument any second longer. Great job, girl.«
    »Still«, Bal spoke up again, determined not to give up like that. »That does not change the fact that you, both of you, acted wrongly by running away from the castle just like Fern’s father did years later. Someone with power could have stopped the Duke, but you were all cowards.«
    »Well, you joined the resistance. Back when you didn’t know about their past. Which means you believed in them.« Ferb had finally decided to speak up and reveal himself to the entire group, slightly altering something Phineas had said once. He knew how effective his brother’s words had often been.
    But that was not convincing enough yet. It was Bue who added what Ferb had lacked the words for: »They’ve been the same people all these years. You can’t just com­pletely change your thoughts on them now just because you know their past!«
    And even Izzy joined them. »Not only that, but regard­less of what they’ve done… what all of us have been through… we’re all still here, aren’t we? Fern and Can ran away, sure, but they formed the resistance, something they certainly wouldn’t have done if they had really abandoned this country. Even I’m here right now, be­cause… okay, I guess I believe in you guys after all. We’ve made it this far, and now really isn’t the time to get mad at each other for trivial things. Talk it out after we’ve saved the world, okay?«
    The group went silent as everyone thought about the words that had just been spoken. They were all right, of course: they were a team and needed to work together - even Izzy agreed on that, after a long time of not wanting anything to do with any of them.
    Only Buford did not seem to be convinced. »That’s all great and stuff, but I dunno. I’m still not fully inspired.«
    Baljeet nodded. »He is right. Normally, we have a song to achieve that.«
    They both looked at Ferb. Were they expecting him to spontaneously start singing? Yes, their words had re­minded him of all the previous times they had used a song to motivate everyone for the difficulties ahead… and maybe that was everything they needed to fully con­vince their team of not giving up hope.
    He transformed his pocket knife, a flashlight at this point, into the banjo-like instrument from earlier once more - and cleared his throat.


    It was dark. So dark, in fact, that Phineas was unable to see anything. It was completely silent, too, but he felt the cold, rough ground touching one side of his face. He re­membered the unbearable pain he had felt, his fear of dy­ing… how his entire body had shaken and hurt.
    Phineas froze for a short moment as he realized some­thing, then put himself into a kneeling position. He couldn’t see, so he slowly moved his fingers, touched his face and arms, and relaxed. Everything about his body was normal - for one second, he had feared that the Duke had turned him into a darkling. But that was not the case: he was still himself.
    Having solved that mystery, the next thing Phineas wanted to find out was where the Duke had taken him. And where were the others? There was no sign of them yet, but maybe they were here after all. On all fours, Phineas crept forward until coming across a rough wall. He turned right, only to find another one only a few feet later. Another right turn, another wall, and finally - bars?
    I’m in the Duke’s prison, he realized. Well, at least there was no imminent danger - it could have hit him a lot harder. Not to mention that his friends were already looking for him and about to save him, right? Especially his friends from Danville wouldn’t abandon him like that. And the Duke wanted only him, he wouldn’t harm the others; Phineas was certain of that.
    But that reminded him: the Duke had mentioned Josh, his father… was he still here? There was only one way to find out.
    »Hello?«, Phineas spoke up into the dark hallway the bars separated him from, his voice eerily breaking the ab­solute silence. »Is anybody there?«
    There was no reply, but that only dimmed his mood slightly. Eventually, someone would come, and Phineas could wait.
    And so he did.
    His current situation reminded Phineas of how much he hated silence. There was no sound at all but what he heard inside his own head. Nobody to talk to, nothing to do - just him and his thoughts. Thoughts that were all about his friends’ fate. Where were they? What had the Duke talked about with them in Phineas’ absence? And most importantly, were they alright? Usually, he wouldn’t find it hard to think about the positive aspects of the situation, but the prison brought an atmosphere that made that nearly impossible for him, so he had no choice but to deal with unnaturally negative thoughts.
    He did not know how many minutes had passed when he finally heard the sound of approaching footsteps. And he had been so keen on finally talking to someone again that he did not even care who it was. He just couldn’t take the silence any longer.
    »Who’s there?«, Phineas asked, and yet again, nobody replied. But the steps came closer, and with them, the panting of a dog. Brain? No, this one was bigger. A dark­ling. He was unable to see the beast, but it sounded like it was right in front of him now.
    Now, it growled, and a similar noise responded. The second being was no darkling though, that much Phineas could hear. And there was only one person that could make such a sound.
    »Finn? Is that you?«
    That made Phineas feel a whole lot better already. »I’m so glad you’re here! This place isn’t all that great all by yourself.«
    »I… I can’t let you out«, the other boy stammered and sounded both upset and scared. »If the M-master finds out, he’ll…«
    »It’s okay«, Phineas interrupted his friend. »I’m just as happy about company.«
    »I-I’m sorry«, Finn started again. »It’s all my fault… that you’re here.«
    »The Duke raised you your entire life. Nobody expected you to turn against him overnight.«
    But that didn’t change Finn’s mind. »You… you trust­ed me. And I led you right to him… even though I… I knew about his plans. All of them. But I was too… too scared of him to say anything. And now you’re here, and he’ll use you to take over everything and… and…« His voice cracked. »We… we were friends, and then... I be­trayed you.«
    Phineas frowned. He completely understood his alter­nate self’s thoughts, and there was an honesty in his words the boy couldn’t say anything against. But he wasn’t just going to accept the negativity. »We’re still friends!«, he countered.
    »I’m not mad at you for what you did. I mean, we’re all still alive, and the Duke hasn’t won yet. And until that’s the case, there’s still hope. We’re not gonna give up just because things didn’t exactly turn out the way we wanted to. Ivan said we’d win, and even though the Duke said the prophecy is a lie… we’ll find a way to defeat him, trust me.«
    Finn didn’t say anything for a moment, until he let out one single word. »«
    »How we’re going to win? I don’t know yet, but -«
    »No, I…« He was nervous again, trying to find the right words to express what he meant. »How… how do you do that? How can you… be so positive the whole time? I-I want to help you, I really do… b-but the M-master terrifies me and… I’m too scared to change sides.« With his voice cracked, he added, whispering: »Why can’t I be like you, Phineas?«
    These words surprised him. He had not expected such a question at all. Sure, some people had occasionally said that to him back in Danville; however, that was nothing he had ever really paid much attention to. And yet, now it was completely different, coming from someone that, technically, was him. But that was when he got an idea. »Can you make some sort of light? I want to show you something.«
    Slightly confused and uncertain, Finn eventually let out a growl. Phineas could hear the darkling’s disappearing footsteps, but it quickly came back, and moments later, Finn had lit the torch the beast was now carrying in its mouth. And Phineas knew the darkling: Melody.
    Still, he flinched. Not only at the sudden brightness he had to adjust to, but also because of what he now saw. Finn had taken off his bandages, and even though his wounds had closed, his missing eye and blemished face were still a horrible sight, especially in the torch’s light.
    Finn looked at him apologetically. »I-I completely for­got… the M-master stopped the b-bleeding and closed the wounds… I didn’t want to scare you!«
    »’s okay«, Phineas replied, pulling himself together and noticing that Finn was wearing a t-shirt. »And I’m glad you got something to wear again.«
    Finn nodded. »He didn’t want me to be in pain, or look weak… but he also didn’t want me to... forget.«
    »We’ll defeat him, you’ll see«, Phineas smiled, remind­ing himself of his friend’s remark. »Speaking of seeing! Your injuries aside… don’t you think we look alike?« If one somehow managed to ignore Finn’s wounds, there really wasn’t much of a difference between them at all. And unlike Bal and Baljeet, they even were equally tall. »And that’s not the only thing we have in common!«, he continued, noticing how Finn seemed to become aware of what he was pointing out. »Ever since we first talked, I knew you were just like me! A dreamer with a sense for what is right. You always knew the Duke wasn’t completely right about everything, you said so yourself. I’m sure your imagination’s as vivid as mine. The only thing you need is the belief in yourself and the courage to make your dreams come true.«
    » really think so?«, Finn asked, and Phineas sensed a spark of hope in his words.
    He nodded, and smiled at his friend and at the darkling he had identified as Melody. »Believing in our own pow­ers can amplify them infinitely.«
    Finn said nothing, thinking about his friend’s words. The three of them actually enjoyed the resulting silence, until Phineas felt an irresistible urge inside. He found himself looking at the torch’s flame - and without think­ing much about it, the words came right out of him.

    »It’s cold outside, light a fire,
    Throw our past mistakes into the flame,
    We can watch them burn.
    Lay down your head, close your eyes,
    Tomorrow’s gonna be a brand new day
    And the tide is gonna turn.«

    Finn seemed confused at first, but it took only mo­ments for him to simply relax and listen to his friend’s calming words. Phineas’ smile widened at that, and he in­stantly put even more emotion and enthusiasm into his words.

    »So hold on and be strong,
    Nothing’s ever gonna bring us down.
    It’s not too late to turn this thing around.«

    And then, he couldn’t help it: what started out as slow and quiet became far more energetic. And yet, Finn wasn’t acting differently at all. He was still absorbing Phineas’ words and fascinated by the boy’s unbroken op­timism.

    »Let’s take it fast or slow, hold our breaths,
    And jump into whatever this is.
    Grab a coat and let it all rain down.
    If we never stop believing, it’s gonna be alright.
    But if we don’t try, we may never know
    How far this can go.«


    Clearing his throat had caught everyone’s attention, and just like his brother, Ferb immediately came up with the right words as he struck his first chords.

    »Start the car, hit the gas,
    Drive forever, never looking back,
    Leave the world behind.
    Fly so high, touch the sun,
    Hurry up, you know life goes so fast.
    We’re running out of time.«

    He was nervous at first, as always, and he realized that most of his words were only truly understandable for those familiar with his dimension’s technology. But when Ferb saw that he had gained even Bal’s interest and his other friends were already moved as well, courage took over his doubts and he continued with more confi­dence.

    »So hold on and be strong,
    Nothing’s ever gonna bring us down.
    It’s not too late to turn this thing around.«

    By now, the others had completely ceased their arguing and came closer, letting Ferb’s music inspire them. Even Izzy seemed to have forgotten her usual need for distance and was standing, Ferb noticed, next to Fern, while Bal had gotten closer to Can. But they were all too distracted to notice.

    »Let’s take it fast or slow, hold our breaths,
    And jump into whatever this is.
    Grab a coat and let it all rain down.
    If we never stop believing, it’s gonna be alright.
    But if we don’t try, we may never know
    How far this can go.«

    During the song, Ferb’s voice had become more and more powerful. He was so occupied with singing that he almost completely forgot the outside world, and his friends were so busy listening to him that they, too, ig­nored the fact that Ferb’s excuse of a guitar definitely did not live up to the otherwise epic song.

    »By the time the curtain's falling
    They'll be standing up and screaming out our names.
    Can’t you hear the future calling?
    We'll go all the way and never be the same, yeah.«


    In the Duke’s prison, Phineas had no instruments to ac­company his voice, but that didn’t matter to him - or to Finn and Melody either.

    »So hold on and be strong,
    Nothing’s ever gonna bring us down.
    It’s not too late to turn this thing around.«


    »Take it fast or slow, hold our breaths,
    And jump into whatever this is.
    Grab a coat and let it all rain down.«


    »If we never stop believing, it’s gonna be alright.
    But if we don’t try, we may never know
    How far this can go.«

    As he sang these last words, Phineas noticed with hap­piness that Finn, though not actually singing along, was mouthing this last refrain. And not only that, but espe­cially when repeating the last, and essential, line, Phineas had the strange yet incredibly great feeling that some­body was singing along indeed. Although it sounded im­possible, it felt like it was Ferb… and the boy took that as confirmation that his brother was alright.
    Phineas looked at the boy in front of him again. Finn was smiling - no, more than that: this was the most joyful Phineas had ever seen him, and quite possibly the happi­est moment in his entire life, too. Once again, Finn seemed to be at a loss for words, but this time, not out of fear, but because of the sheer overwhelming effect the song had had on him. And Phineas gave him the time he needed.
    »...thank you«, Finn eventually managed to say, with a sudden determination in his voice. »I think… I think I know what I’m gonna do today.«
    With that, the boy got on his feet again, leaving the room with Melody by his side.
    Phineas was left in the dark once more, but that didn’t matter to him now. His heart was full of the light of hope.

    @Rusalka: Es freut mich jedes Mal, deine Kommentare zu lesen und vor allem, dass dir die Story auch als Nicht-Fan der Serie so gut gefällt.^^ Und ja, leider ist es eine Angewohnheit von mir, ein paar Dinge zu übereilen bzw dafür Leute leicht OOC handeln zu lassen. Zu dieser bestimmten Szene sei aber dazu gesagt, dass ich Phineas auch in der Serie um ehrlich zu sein nie wirklich leiden konnte und ich diese Stelle daher wahrscheinlich etwas zu sehr genossen habe... :D

    I'm not sitting here watching the world turn
    You know, I'd rather spin it

    Einmal editiert, zuletzt von Sheyffer ()

  • - 14 -
    Our Only Hope

    Ferb let the last note of his song die away, and as soon as he had finished, his friends applauded him.
    »That’s what I was talking about!«, Buford cheered, patting Ferb on the back. »Now we’re all at least twice as motivated.«
    Ferb just nodded. Unbeknownst to his friends, the song itself had not been the only motivational aspect for him: while singing the last couple of lines, he had had the strange feeling that somebody, Phineas, was singing along. Which gave him an even bigger reason to see this through. His brother was counting on him. Everyone was. But even the song could not change the fact that he had absolutely no idea how to win the battle against the Duke.
    »Can, I...«, Fern spoke up, immediately getting her attention. »I have to tell you something.«
    »Yeah, what is it?«, she asked in a confused tone, just as curious as the others. Fern seemed unusually... apologetic.
    »Remember how I got this?«, he continued, touching the scar on his forehead.
    Can shrugged, not knowing how this could be relevant at all. “It was the night we fled from the castle. I went ahead, you got lost in the dark tunnel for some moments, and then you panicked and drew your sword, accidentally injuring yourself before I found you.«
    Fern nodded. »That's what I told you.«
    That took her aback. »What do you mean?«
    »That he is hiding yet another thing from us«, Bal supposed, and this time, Fern did not attempt to object.
    »In a way... but only from you, Can. When I told you that stuff, I was lying. I didn't hurt myself.«
    »Then who did?«
    Can just stared at him. »You're kidding me.«
    Fern returned the expression, not looking away like he normally would have. »No, Can. He was there. He overthrew me and nearly killed me with his dagger, and when he hesitated, I got back on my feet. We just stared at each other, and then he disappeared. I never told you because you wouldn't have believed me anyway. And then, when you said he's your brother... it was me who couldn't believe it. We could have saved him so long ago, taken him with us and everything, but...« He sighed. »I'm sorry I never said a word.« Turning to Bal, he added: »To all of you.«
    »Don't worry about it«, Buford said. »You're basically Ferb, you're supposed to not say stuff.«
    »We can't change what happened«, Can decided. »But we can still help Finn now.«
    »Speaking of him«, Izzy noted, nodding into where the area faded into a dark corridor, and Ferb was not the only one to be surprised at the sight. Standing there was Melody - his mother, he once again reminded himself, for that was still too incredible to be true - and seemingly hiding behind her was Finn, with his wounds uncovered yet already somewhat closed. Was that another ability of the Duke's stone? And was the man at least a little kind – or did he only want Finn to be as useful as possible?
    »What is he doing here?«, Bal remarked unnecessarily, not very fond of the boy’s return.
    »Let him speak«, Fern decided. Ferb noticed how his alternate self was trying to reinforce his authority - after all, he was still the resistance’s leader, no matter how the recent revelations had shattered the trust his friends had had in him.
    »...please don’t hurt me«, Finn eventually whispered af­ter a moment of silence.
    »We won’t break the truce«, Can reassured him, shoot­ing a warning glance at those that seemed likely to forget about that: Bal and Buford, although the latter appeared visibly indignant at the accusation. The bully liked Finn, especially since being the one that saved his life. And Ferb knew that Buford would never attack the small boy, while Can just appeared to focus on his rough side and, of course, making sure her own brother was safe.
    »Tell us what brings you here«, Fern prompted Finn again. From the way their eyes met, Ferb really believed to see how they were both thinking back to the night of their first encounter.
    Finn replied with confidence, as if remembering something else than that. »Phineas.«
    »Where is he?«, Buford immediately wanted to know.
    »Is he alright?«, Baljeet added.
    Finn nodded, really seeming quite happy - at least com­pared to his usual behavior. »He’s fine. And he… he made me realize how I can help you.«
    Bal raised an eyebrow, unimpressed by his words. »What, with defeating the Duke? Why would you? You are nothing but his little henchman.«
    »He’s my brother«, Can reminded him.
    »Which doesn’t excuse anything he’s done«, Izzy put in, then shrugged. »Although it should be obvious that his so-called ‘betrayal’ was not his own doing, but complete­ly influenced by the Duke’s huge impact on his life. You know what Fern just told us. Finn's not a bad guy.«
    »No«, Finn stated, making Ferb realize why he was in such a good mood. Sensing Phineas singing along had not been his imagination, but the truth: his brother must have been singing to Finn, the very song Ferb had sung, giving Finn quite a big confidence boost.
    Bal was still glaring at him, however, so Fern put an end to the talk. »It doesn’t matter. The way I see it, our chances of winning tomorrow are slim, so I, at least, am willing to listen to any idea that might help us increase those chances.« He looked at Finn again. »Go on.«
    The boy bowed his head, and Ferb wondered if he did that anytime someone gave him an order. But he still sounded excited - not as enthusiastic as Phineas when he had an idea, but it was a start. »You’re not as powerful as the Master«, he began, and quickly went on when he saw Bal’s still suspicious eyes on him. »So you… you need to change that.«
    »How?«, Baljeet asked. »Phineas is not here to invent something to aid us, not to mention that we do not have any material to work with.«
    Surprisingly, it was Buford who seemed to be the first to understand what Finn was trying to say. »Then we need to step up our game! We know dinner bell’s great at inventing, but there’s someone even better than him, and that’s exactly what we need.«
    »Phineas’ father!«, Baljeet exclaimed. »Of course! Bu­ford, that is brilliant.«
    »Say that last part again once I’ve got something to record it with«, the bully grinned, then shrugged. »It’s his idea though.«
    Finn nodded, visibly glad someone liked his proposal. »I can lead you to him. He’s not in the dungeons any­more, I… that’s what I got punishment for. I freed him.«
    »I thought the Duke only hurt you to trick us?«, Bal asked, suspicious as ever.
    »I freed him«, Finn insisted. »The... the Master told me to, so I did, and then... then he told me to bring you to the castle, so I went to do that too... and then there were the darklings, I... I had no idea they would...«
    »I still sense a trap«, Bal argued, earning an audible sigh from Can.
    »Would you stop saying that already? Nobody but you cares about that, and even if it turns out to be one, I don’t see you having any more promising suggestions.« She walked over to her brother. »I’m going with him.«
    Ferb nodded and imitated her movement - after all, he was the only one that actually needed to meet Phineas’ father. He put a hand on Finn's shoulder in an attempt to comfort him. The boy really did not deserve Bal's hate, not to mention the horrible things he had been through. And Finn eased up when he was touched, thankful for the people believing in him.
    Fern joined them as well. »I’m still your leader. That’s reason enough to come with you. And as long as we’re gone… Izzy, you’re in charge.«
    She turned her head to him, surprised by his order. »You’re kidding, right?«
    But he shook his head. »I'd rather have you in charge than any of the others staying with you.«
    Buford seemed offended, Bal upset, and Baljeet and Bue did not seem to mind. And Izzy raised an eyebrow. »Are you saying that because you like me as a leader or because you don’t like them in that position?«
    Fern blinked at her in confusion. »We shouldn’t lose time«, he eventually stated, turning away from her. »Let’s go.«
    When Finn and Melody led the small group away, Can gave Fern an ungentle jab as soon as Izzy and the others were unable to hear them.
    »What was that for?«, the boy protested, and she rolled her eyes.
    »Just tell her how you feel, it’s getting ridiculous.«
    »What? Me and Izzy? There’s nothing there.«
    »Obviously«, Can commented, not at all hiding the sar­casm in her voice.
    Ferb hardly listened to their talk. His interest lay in where Finn was leading them: back into the tunnels. In there, Ferb’s flashlight revealed something that made Fern instantly put a hand on his sword, for standing right in front of them were more than five darklings. They seemed irritated by the sudden bright light, so Ferb dimmed it - somehow, he sensed that he wasn’t in any danger.
    »Don’t attack them«, Finn spoke up, slightly worried. »I… brought them to help us.«
    »With finding Phineas’ dad?«, Fern wondered, reluc­tantly letting go of his sword.
    »No, I… I thought we’d be losing too much time with­out them. It’s all the way down the hill and… and more, and it’s dark so you can’t see, and…« He paused, only continuing when Can encouraged him to do so. »...and I thought we should ride.«
    Fern froze - and while Ferb and Can were taken aback as well, the resistance’s leader was the most shocked. »There’s no way I’m riding on such a… thing.«
    »It’s a person«, Can pointed out, but that didn’t change Fern’s mind.
    »That makes it extra weird.«
    »Weird, maybe, but Finn convinced me. We shouldn’t waste hours reaching Josh and returning from him when we can speed it up a bit.«
    »If we don’t try, we may never know how far this can go«, Finn added almost inaudibly.
    Fern turned to him, surprised by his words. After all, Ferb thought himself to be the only one that had sensed Phineas’ voice during the song, the others had no clue about how Finn was able to know the lyrics… and even­tually, they made Fern change his mind. »...alright, fine. But not one word about this to the others.«
    »It’s not like you don’t have any riding experience«, Can reminded the boy who was a prince, after all.
    »Yeah, with horses, and even that was ages ago«, Fern complained. »But alright… which one is mine?«
    Finn only shrugged before he got on the darkling crouching in front of him, and Ferb was slightly jealous when he saw that it was Melody. He’d have loved to be the one using her, but he understood that she knew best how to adapt to Finn’s injuries. So Ferb approached the darkling nearest to him: it was taller than Melody, with brown eyes and a curious, challenging look on its face - but it was nobody Ferb immediately recognized. Fern had chosen a brown-eyed one as well, its dull expression in­dicating that the boy probably wouldn’t be making a fool of himself when riding on it, as it might have happened on a more lively darkling. Can’s selected one was such a case: green-eyed, and definitely looking friendly and not at all intimidating.
    Finn let out several growls, to which the three dark­lings reacted by crouching down just like Melody, allow­ing the friends to sit up. It was an odd feeling, but not stranger than the many other things Ferb had already rid­den - like ostriches, for example. The darkling shifted be­low him, getting used to the minimal additional weight. All other darklings disappeared back into the tunnels, and Melody, with Finn on her back, slowly walked past the three other pairs, both of them making sure that everything was going well. »That’s Denton«, Finn commented when they passed Ferb and his darkling. That way, Ferb found out that Fern’s one was called Sheldon and Can’s was Robbie, and suddenly, he knew exactly who they were: Love Händel, or at least a medieval equivalent thereof, for he was sure they were a band in this dimension as well.
    When they set off, Ferb turned off his flashlight com­pletely since he was too busy holding his balance and didn’t want to irritate the darklings either. They were able to see perfectly in the complete darkness, and he trusted them on the matter of knowing where to go.
    As it quickly turned out, however, Fern had not made much of a good choice when selecting his darkling: de­spite the apathy he had shown earlier, Sheldon was not quite as dull when moving. In fact, he was the fastest of them all, often running ahead and having to wait for the others to catch up. And Fern, well… he soon regretted his choice. »Can I change?«, he complained as soon as the others had caught up with him once more. »I’m not gonna survive the rest of this, I swear.«
    »I think he fits you perfectly«, Can replied, actually sounding amused.
    They still could not see each other, but it was easy to imagine how strained and exhausted Fern was at this point. »...can you at least tell him to slow down? Or to be more steady in his movements… he could use some of that.«
    That made Ferb snort, mainly because of the way it re­minded him of Sherman, Sheldon’s counterpart from Danville. Sounds like he ain’t got rhythm.
    But Finn complied, using the darkling language to say who knew what, and afterward, Fern didn’t complain nearly as much as before, so it must have worked. They let themselves be carried through some more tunnels and unexpected turns, though Ferb’s darkling, Denton, was considerate enough to let out short growls before a bend, allowing Ferb to brace himself. In the end, he decided that this wasn’t all that bad after all, not to mention that the darklings’ speed kept him awake at a time he would normally be sleeping already.
    After who knew how long, the group emerged into the light of the moon and stars - which wasn’t that much brighter, but at least Ferb was able to see something again. It looked like his friends had gotten through the ride well enough, even Fern only seemed a little sick. Can refrained from commenting on his by now quite messy hair, and the rest of the journey happened in si­lence again. Ferb enjoyed observing the moon and the mystical effects its reflected light had on the landscape. They were riding on open ground, allowing him to see the moonlit forest from a distance.
    Eventually, a village came into view: grass had grown over what had once been roads and pathways, different plants were covering the buildings whose wooden com­ponents had weathered, and all in all, one was able to see at first glance that this place had been abandoned many years ago.
    »Charming«, Fern commented when the darklings came to a halt and the friends dismounted. They all felt the depressing atmosphere of the village, so Can decided to get this over with quickly.
    »Okay, Finn. Where is he?«
    The boy pointed at one of the houses that were least af­fected by decomposition. »I’ll wait here, if that’s okay… he doesn’t really… like me, or the darklings.«
    »That’s alright«, Can nodded, expressing slight worry in her voice. Just like Ferb, that had made her wonder about Josh’s nature they didn’t really know anything about. »We’ll be calling you if we need you.«
    Fern was already knocking at the building’s door - which was so brittle that it fell right into the house as soon as he put some force into his action. The interior wasn’t very different, as Ferb’s flashlight revealed: much of the wooden furniture was rotten, the roof had several leaks that had allowed rain to enter the building and moss to grow, and there were spider webs and dust everywhere.
    All three of them stepped inside and looked around. »Hello?«, Can shouted. »Josh?«
    »I don’t think there’s anybody here«, Fern said as he brushed some dust off his jacket.
    Just then, they heard a noise from a nearby room, and they quickly headed there to find out what it was.
    »Hello?«, Can asked again when they didn’t spot any­thing that might have caused the sound.
    »Go away!«
    The unfamiliar voice came from within a cupboard. Ferb was the one who stepped forward to open it, and as soon as he did, a man stumbled out of it and onto the ground. He had a triangular head just like Phineas and the same red hair, but that was already everything they had in common. The man’s hair was unkempt, his pants and plaid shirt ragged and dirty, and it was safe to say that he was as shabby as the house he was in.
    The friends exchanged surprised, even shocked, glances. They had all expected something completely dif­ferent… how was this guy supposed to help them? But maybe, hopefully, it was only his appearance that gave him a bad first impression - he could still be an incredible inventor.
    »Leave me alone!«, the man yelled again, his voice showing hints of him being Phineas’ father. It sounded just like the boy’s, yet more mature, but also without any sign of confidence. Actually, he resembled Finn far more than Phineas. The man covered his eyes because of the bright flashlight and tried to get away, leaving Ferb and the others no choice but to circle him. The greenhead turned the flashlight towards the ground, so its light was still there without blinding anyone.
    »We don’t mean you any harm, Josh«, Can said, gain­ing a stunned look from him.
    »...Candace, is that you? What are you doing here? How did you -? What…«
    »She’s not your daughter«, Fern interrupted him. »Just someone who looks like her.«
    »But -«
    Can helped Fern out. »You came here from another di­mension, remember? Your daughter is still there. I’m not her.«
    »Oh.« Josh’s voice was full of disappointment, of hope that had been taken away as quickly as it had come. Then he seemed to remember something and he freaked out again. »...then how do you know my name? And about that? Did he send you? I’m… I’m not going back there. You can’t force me. I won’t…«
    So that was what Finn had meant. Josh was already scared of them, what would have happened if he had been here?
    »We’re not on the Duke’s side«, Fern told him. »We’re going to defeat him, and we need your help for that.«
    »I’m not going back there«, Josh repeated, standing up again, but without even attempting to get the dust that had covered the ground off him. »Whatever side you’re on. I just… no, I can’t. Not with them everywhere.«
    »The darklings?«, Fern asked, and the man flinched. Can sighed, visibly annoyed about her friend’s tactless­ness.
    »You don’t have to come with us«, she explained. »We just need you to invent something that can help us win.«
    »No!«, Josh cried as if she had just asked him to de­stroy the world. »Are you nuts? You… you can’t make me do that.«
    »What’s wrong with inventing?«, Fern asked. »Isn’t that what you do?«
    »What’s wrong with inventing?«, Josh repeated. »Ev­erything! You have no idea! Those days are over. I’m not gonna invent anything again. Ever.«
    »You have to«, Fern insisted. »You’re our only hope.«
    »Shut up. You don’t know what you’re talking about. I did terrible things. The way this world is, it’s all my fault. The fear and the pain and… no, kids. Count me out.«
    »Your son needs you.« Ferb understood Josh’s behav­ior. He had created the technology behind the stone that gave the Duke his powers and that had ultimately caused the fall of a kingdom… Ferb wasn’t so sure if he’d have dealt with that knowledge any differently. But they need­ed his help to put an end to this. Phineas did.
    »...I don’t have a son.«
    »Oh boy«, Can mumbled, then became louder again. »Phineas. Your son. He was two when you left your di­mension, you must remember him.«
    »No«, Josh countered. »I don’t… I don’t have a son.«
    The group went silent as everyone tried to find some­thing to reply to that. It was Fern who did: »He remem­bers. He’s just trying not to.«
    Just like Fern has never told anyone about his royal past. Yes, that made sense, and when Josh nodded hesi­tantly, they knew Fern was right.
    »Phineas is in trouble«, Can repeated. »You’re the only one who can help us save him and the rest of the world.«
    »Both worlds«, Fern corrected her, but that still hadn’t convinced Josh at all.
    »I’m not going to help you«, he insisted. »You’d under­stand if you knew what I did. I… I was an inventor once, yes, but that was long ago. Before I was foolish enough to come here and the Duke caught me. He told me he’d set me free if I just did what he wanted me to do, and I spent years telling myself that the time for that had al­most come, after just one more invention… I was a fool to believe he’d ever let me go. And one day, he made me create a powerful stone with nearly limitless applications, and instead of letting me go, he… he made me witness its abilities.« He stared at Can with wide, desperate eyes. »Your brother.«
    »...I’m not your daughter«, she repeated.
    »I think he really means Finn«, Fern replied, and Josh nodded.
    »The king’s boy. He’d been there ever since I was… I watched him grow up. He was just like the boy I’d left behind, in every way, and so full of hope in spite of how the Duke was treating him, from what I could tell from the few times I’d actually seen him... but of course, the Duke told me about him often enough, and about his hopes of my own son becoming just like me… and then, I... », he struggled for words, still looking at Can, »...I’m sorry.«
    »...then what?«, she asked, and Ferb wasn’t sure if any of them actually wanted to know the answer. »Josh, what… what did you do?«
    »The stone«, he told them once more. »The stone, kid. I made it, and… he needed to test it. On a human. On him. I tried to stop him, I… I begged him not to, but he forced me to watch. To watch how he turned that innocent boy into a monster… and back again, only to find out that some… abilities were still sticking with him... he screamed in agony as his body slowly transformed, screams and images still haunting me every time I close my eyes… the suffering of that poor boy, my… my son, I…«, his voice grew louder, »...why did you make me re­member? Why
    Can just stared at him in shock, trying to process his words. Just like Ferb. He could only imagine how much the darkling transformation must hurt, especially to such a young boy… with that as punishment, no wonder Finn was so scared of disobeying. And Izzy had known all along. She had told them Finn was able to talk to the darklings because they were people, but only now did he understand what she had really been trying to say. And the reason she had been this indirect... she had known how Can would have reacted. Known that she was his brother. That they were royalty.
    »Because that’s exactly what will happen to every in­habitant of both worlds if we don’t stop the Duke«, Fern said, interrupting Ferb's thoughts, his voice not showing any sign of him sympathizing with Josh. If that was part of him trying to be a leader, he was doing an impressive job. »He’ll force Phineas to work for him like you did, and maybe he’ll hurt him the same way he hurt Finn. We can stop this from happening, all we need is one single invention of yours.«
    »Well…«, everyone stared at Josh in anticipation of his reply; they were all counting on him, after all, »’re forgetting a small detail, kid.«
    »Huh?« Fern raised an eyebrow.
    »Even if I helped you… it wouldn’t be doing any good. I can come up with ideas, yes, but they’re useless without someone to realize them. I’m not a mechanic.«
    Ferb simply held up the pocket knife with who knew how many applications, some of them visible.
    Josh stared at him in disbelief. »...where did you get that?«
    Ferb shrugged. »Phineas and I made it.«
    »At that age… impressive. I was only able to realize my inventions when I was long past being a child, when I met someone with building skills far beyond belief.«
    »Melody«, Ferb nodded, gaining a bewildered look from Josh. »My mother.«
    »Your…« The man was speechless, which Fern took as a chance to take over.
    »She is here, and she’s on our side. She’s counting on you to help us, because it’s her son who’ll have to defeat the Duke tomorrow. And he might hurt him the way he hurt Finn. Don’t make her witness that. She hasn’t given up like you yet, Josh. Don’t let her.«
    Josh went silent, closing his eyes in deep thought. »...what do you need?«
    Ferb literally felt how everyone was incredibly relieved about these words. Now they really had a chance of win­ning after all. »Anything to help me win against him and the stone.«
    The others took a step back, to which Can commented, slightly amused: »We’ll just wait outside, we wouldn’t be able to contribute anything useful to your highly ad­vanced technology.«
    Ferb shrugged and found himself not caring about whether or not the two of them would stay. Can was right, after all: this was something only people from the other dimension could figure out.
    »We don’t have enough parts to build something en­tirely new«, Josh began. »All we have is this rotten place and your knife. But...« Josh suddenly grinned as if having just the perfect idea. »Yes! Perhaps that is all we need. Do you have paper?«
    Ferb nodded, handing him both his journal - open in the last third, where the pages were still blank - and the knife he had transformed into a pen. Josh started sketch­ing immediately, commenting his ideas without taking a breath. Even though he had been reluctant at first, the joy of inventing had taken over him the second he had found a purpose in doing it again, and Ferb watched him curi­ously, nodding at some suggestions and shaking his head at some others, but all in all being incredibly impressed by the many ideas he would never have come up with. Just like when inventing things with Phineas.
    After some time, Ferb disassembled the pocket knife, using some shards he had found as wrenches. He left the flashlight part intact: that had been one of his own addi­tions to the device back when they had created it, for it was quite a plausible thought that they might need anoth­er part of the machine in complete darkness one day. He was glad that this small modification came in handy after all.
    Of course, there was a huge amount of incredibly com­plex technology built into the device, with many parts re­arranging to turn into the desired object. Josh whistled in admiration when he saw the knife’s interior, and Ferb did his best to implement the various ideas the man had had, in the incredibly fast yet effective way he and Phineas always created their inventions.
    After all, the rollercoaster, the rocket, and all the other fantastic creations had only taken them not even half a day to build, so the hour or so Ferb spent working on his secret weapon fit into his usual time frame, especially with the little material he had had. He was tired but con­tent when he eventually left Josh’s refuge and returned to his friends and the darklings. Josh had stated again that he didn’t want to return to the castle under any circum­stances, and Ferb respected that. They’d come back for him once it was over.
    »Well, that was fast«, Fern admitted when Ferb came into view, staring at the knife that was still looking the same as before. »Care to demonstrate?«
    »Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see what it can do«, Can put in. »But we’ve got enough time for that tomor­row. For now, we all need sleep. Tomorrow’s gonna be a big day.«
    As if agreeing, Fern yawned. » got a point there, sis.«
    Finn blinked at him in confusion. He had only memo­rized that Can was his sister, nothing more than that.
    Fern shrugged. »Sorry, habits.« He walked over to the once again apathetic darkling that was Sheldon. »I know this guy’s gonna be fast as heck again, but I’ll be so asleep, I won’t even notice. Just wake me up once it’s to­morrow.« With that, he sat up and immediately leaned against the darkling’s back without making any sound but snoring afterward.
    »And off to sleep he goes«, Can commented, then fol­lowed his example of getting onto a darkling. Ferb and Finn did as well, and after some of the crippled boy’s growls to remind Sheldon of being a bit more careful, they rode back to their friends.
    Ferb soon found himself in the same position as Fern and must have already seemed asleep to Can, but he was still able to hear her words to her brother: »You know, Finn… when this is over, I’ll make sure you get to experience all the great things you missed. I’ll give you your life back, I promise.«
    And I am not going to let Phineas die, Ferb added be­fore dozing off, completely aware of what these words meant for himself. I promise.

    @Rusalka: Für dich hab ich seit letztem Mal etwas Besonderes vorbereitet :)  

  • Na Sheyffer,

    langsam aber sicher spitzt sich die Geschichte zu und nun scheint sich Finn seiner Tat besonnen zu haben und wieder die Gruppe um Ferb zu unterstützen. Ich muss auch ehrlich zugeben, dass ich dazu eigentlich wenig zu sagen habe, weil es so, wie es ist, absolut passt. Jeder verhält sich seinem Charakter entsprechend und im Großen und Ganzen zählt halt wieder mal die Macht der Freundschaft, aber das kennt man ja. Auf den High Noon bin ich daher schon sehr gespannt.
    Was ich aber noch kurz erwähnen möchte: Kapitel 13. Bei dem Lied, das gegen Ende gesungen wurde, entfaltet sich ein wahres Feuerwerk an Emotionen, das umso stärker ist, da nicht nur Ferb singt, sondern gefühlt alle, die sich mit diesem Lied verbunden fühlen. Es ist ein sehr gefühlvoller Akt, den du wunderbar ausgeschmückt hast und dabei auch auf die vielen kleinen Dinge eingegangen bist. Eindrücke, Emotionen und auch die Verszeilen gehen so gut ineinander über, dass man diese Szene einfach mögen muss. Und mich würde gar nicht wundern, wenn du selbst auch am stolzesten auf diese Szene bist, denn die ist dir wirklich gelungen.

    Danke übrigens für die Auflistung der Anspielungen! Ich hab mir aus Interesse mal alles durchgelesen und finde es bemerkenswert, was du bisher alles verarbeitet hast. Wenn man zufällig noch die Dialoge und Situationen aus der Serie kennt, ist das ein Highlight beim Lesen.

    Wir lesen uns!

  • - 15 -
    High Noon

    The next morning arrived for Phineas with someone nudging him gently. »Oh, there you are, Perry«, he smiled, still half asleep. His pet platypus was more or less consciously attempting to wake him up, just like ev­ery morning. Phineas got pushed again and, giving in, the boy opened his eyes. Crouching next to him was no platypus, but a black wolf - and the boy was wide awake instantly, his heart racing in shock before noticing its deep blue eyes. »Oh! Good morning, Melody.«
    He sat up, still yawning. The hard ground had not been nearly as comfortable as his bed back home, but some­how, he had managed to get some sleep regardless. The dungeon was lit, Phineas noticed, and he spotted a burn­ing torch lying on the ground.
    »Hey«, a familiar voice greeted him from near the torch, and Phineas smiled when he saw Finn. »I… brought you some food.«
    He held out an apple which Phineas gladly took. Only then did he notice that Finn and Melody were actually inside his prison cell and not on the other side of the bars.
    »And water too«, Finn added, cracking a smile and holding out a cup. Phineas immediately put the apple aside and drank the entire wa­ter that was in the cup.
    »Man, it’s great to have something to drink again!«, he said with a satisfied laugh. »I’ve been dying of thirst here.« Thinking about it, his last beverage had been in the late afternoon.
    »The Master doesn’t know I did this… he said you shouldn’t get anything to eat or drink.« There was pity in Finn’s voice.
    »Well, I’m glad you helped me out«, Phineas replied, biting into the apple Finn had brought. »I wonder what his plan with me is, anyway. Do you know what exactly he’s gonna do?«
    »He’ll hurt you if you don’t do what he wants you to«, his friend told him immediately. »But… like you said, you shouldn’t give up. The others, they… they’re gonna get you out at noon.«
    »We’ve still got some time, then«, Phineas decided, then realized he had no idea what time it was. But Finn nodded, so it was probably morning. His eyes rested on the burning torch again. »Say… how did you light that? No offense, I’m just curious.«
    »Oh, uh...«, Finn began, not having expected that ques­tion. »It’s… easy, actually. I just need someone to hold it, and then I can use this.« He held up a dark gray piece of rock.
    »Flint?«, Phineas asked, and his friend nodded.
    »There’s a lot of that in the tunnels. It’s what this place is named after, too.«
    Firestone Castle, Phineas remembered. »Why not just call it Castle Flint or so, then?«
    »Because that’s the queen’s name already. The king devised the castle and let his workers build it for her, be­fore he married her and got that name as well.« Finn shrugged. »Maybe they didn’t want it to have the same name as them, I… I don’t know that. I just know what the Master told me.«
    »That king you just mentioned… that’s your dad, right?« He asked that before being able to stop himself. Maybe Finn didn’t know that at all and it would freak him out? But his fear was unfounded.
    »Yeah… the Master said he was a bad king though. That’s why he took me with him. So that he could train me instead. And he killed that king too, so he wouldn’t do bad things anymore.« Finn looked down. »...but that’s not right, is it? The king was good, and… and the Master’s bad.«
    »But that doesn’t make you a bad person«, Phineas countered, sensing where Finn was going with this. »You’re not to blame for anything he did or anything he made you do. You still have a lot of time and a lot of op­portunities to show the world that you’re not on his side!«
    »I would«, Finn whispered. »But once he finds out, he’ll punish me and… and he’ll use his stone and… I can’t help you. Not in his presence. I already betrayed him so many years ago when I didn't kill Fern, but that was different! The Master never found out about that.«
    »What?«, Phineas asked, surprise in his voice. Finn had met Fern before?
    »Yes, I... some years ago, I met him here in the tunnels. I hurt him, of course, because he was an intruder... but I couldn't kill him. I ran away and... at first I thought I had been too weak, and that I should tell the Master to get my punishment... but then I... I understood that I really had not wanted to kill him. And that killing is never a good thing. Or violence in general.«
    Phineas nodded. »See? That's what makes you different from the Duke. You're not a bad guy, Finn. You just need to show everyone exactly that.«
    »Alright, I’ll... try to be as brave as you.«
    »To be scared and keep going any­way, that’s what courage is«, Phineas agreed. »And I believe you can do it.«
    »You do?« Finn sounded genuinely surprised.
    »Of course I do. You're one of the bravest people I know. You can make it through this, trust me!«
    That made Finn remember something. » it true? That there’s a prophe­cy that says you’ll defeat the… the Master?«
    »A friend made it up«, Phineas shrugged, then remem­bered the horrifying contents of it. »I don’t think he’d lie though. Yeah… so far, uh… everything came true.«
    »Is something wrong?« Finn looked at his friend wor­riedly, having heard the fear in his voice. »Does… does it say something bad?«
    Phineas nodded slowly, he felt that he could tell Finn about his worries. »...I’ll die today«, he mumbled, his usual enthusiasm completely gone from his voice. »Or Ferb. And the prophecy was right before.««, Finn decided. »You just told me not to give up. And you sang a song and… and everything. So as long as you don’t give up… you’re not gonna die. Don’t say you will, that’s… that’s not like you.«
    Phineas forced a smile onto his face again. »Guess I’m not used to actually being in danger«, he admitted. »It’s all so different at home.«
    »Can you tell me more?«, his friend asked. »I mean, if you want… you just make everything sound so… won­derful.«
    Everything’s wonderful compared to what he’s been through, Phineas thought, but was filled with happiness once more. If he loved anything other than inventing, it was talking about things he liked - which did include his dimension. »Of course! And that’s a great way to get our minds off bad stuff, too. What do you want to know?«
    »Everything«, Finn replied without hesitation, and Phineas’ forced smile turned into a huge grin.
    »Well, we’ve got plenty of time.«

    »I’d love to visit your dimension someday«, Finn said at last after Phineas had ended his monolog that had lasted for several hours. But he had not run out of breath or topics to talk about, and Finn had looked at him with his eye wide open, intently absorbing every word. The speech had left him completely astounded and fascinated.
    »Don’t worry, boy. You’ll get that chance soon enough… as soon as I have won this little battle.«
    The two boys froze. The Duke had entered the dun­geons without anyone noticing him, but his steps were audible now that he approached the cell that Finn had al­ready unlocked. The crippled boy turned to where the cell met the hallway and lowered his head as the Duke came into view, and Melody, albeit hesitantly, imitated his gesture. Phineas, however, decided not to show his fear of the man and his magic and tried to appear un­moved.
    »G-good morning, Master«, Finn stammered obedient­ly.
    »Hello«, Phineas simply added, but didn’t manage to withstand the Duke’s gaze that clearly showed his creepy interest in the boy.
    Now, the man looked disappointed. »Is that it? I must say, I did expect my trusty servant to teach you how to address me.« He grinned. »But I am sure you will adopt his behavior soon enough.«
    Phineas suppressed a gulp, for he could very well imagine that the Duke would be using his stone to hurt him until he was completely submissive. »Only if my friends lose against you«, the boy replied with as much confidence as possible. »And they won’t.«
    »You’re quite stubborn, aren’t you.«
    Phineas nodded, this time looking the man directly into the eyes, if only just for the time of his statement. »Yes. Yes, I am.«
    »Very well. Luckily, I know exactly how to change that… it’s almost noon. Why don’t you join us in the throne room and watch how I drain the last remnants of hope out of your friends as I defeat them in battle?«
    »I’ll come to see you defeated.«
    The man shrugged. »It will be an interesting duel either way«, the Duke said as he turned away and left the dun­geon again. »Now come, you don’t want to be late to such a historic event.«
    »Duel?«, Phineas repeated as soon as the Duke was gone and Finn raised his head again. But his friend shrugged and seemed equally clueless about that. »Well, let’s find out«, Phineas decided as he stood up, wonder­ing which of his friends would be fighting the Duke… alone. Probably Fern or Can. They’ve got scores to settle with him, after all.

    »Ferb?« It couldn’t be! But there he was, entering the throne room before anyone else, keeping a straight face. Everyone else, entering behind him, tried to as well, but it was easy to see how they were just as tense as Phineas himself. And for him, it had gotten a whole lot worse now that his own brother seemed to be the one fighting against the man sitting on the throne once more. »Why didn’t you tell me?«, he asked Finn standing next to him. The crippled boy only looked at him apologetically, and Phineas frowned. Finn really had not known about this.
    Ferb shot his brother a surprised glance, and so did some of the others: they had not expected to see Phineas here. But the greenhead quickly focused his attention on the Duke.
    »You’re early«, the man stated without much interest in his voice.
    Ferb ignored his remark. »May I talk to Phineas before we begin?«
    The Duke grinned. »Last words? Suit yourself.«
    The boy nodded and approached his brother - who didn’t let him explain himself.
    »Ferb, what are you doing?«, Phineas asked, both con­fused and angry, but keeping his volume low. Not every­one needed to hear his words. »What made you think you could defeat him? He’s got a magical stone, and you -«
    »- have this«, Ferb ended the sentence, patting the pocket knife sticking out of his trouser pocket. He added in an equally low volume: »Your father and I modified it. Whoever wields it will be unaffected by the stone’s pow­ers. Trust me, I know what I’m doing.«
    »My…« Phineas was speechless again. Ferb had met his father? But he quickly returned to his angry expres­sion. »It’s all about you, isn’t it? You… you could have saved me already! There were no guards in the dungeon, it would have been easy to just walk in and get me out. But I didn’t hear a thing from you guys. Instead, you were all about manners and diplomatically decided on a date with the bad guy just so he’d set me free after a fair and chivalrous duel. And you met my father! You went to him before you even thought about saving me. I was supposed to meet him, not you! You already got to see your mother, but no, you had to take it one step further. Now we’re all in trouble and you might get hurt! Just because you want to be as perfect and heroic as that stupid king you’re named after. It’s a tale, Ferb. King Arthur doesn’t exist.«
    Ferb’s expression turned from hard-to-read into sur­prise - and then into anger as well. But he still was way better at keeping himself together, sounding much calmer than his brother, even though the contents of his words were just as harsh. »It’s not about me«, he replied bitterly. »It never was. It was always about you.«
    »Because I’m not a good fighter, right? I don’t need you to fight for me! I’m not as weak and useless as you think.« With that, Phineas darted forward, snatching the pocket knife from Ferb’s pocket before the greenhead even knew what was going on. Phineas didn’t shoot him an­other glance and turned to the Duke instead, who had been observing the conversation with great interest. »I will fight you, Doonkleberg. The same stakes as his.«
    »Phineas«, Ferb called him sharply, but he paid no at­tention to that or to his other friends that seemed just as shocked.
    The Duke raised an eyebrow, visibly delighted. »Are you sure?«
    »Let Ferb do it«, he heard Baljeet say.
    »Yeah, don’t be ridiculous«, Buford added.
    But that only encouraged him to prove his own abili­ties. »Yes«, Phineas said to the Duke once more. »Yes, I am.«
    »It was always about you«, Ferb repeated, and Phineas turned to him in surprise. He had expected him to move aside, not to continue their talk. »For once, I had the chance to be the great one. The one people would re­member.«
    »What are you talking about?«, Phineas asked. By now, he was far more confused than angry. »You’re the one everyone here likes. The guys from the resistance, they barely took me seriously.«
    »Oh, I see what’s going on«, the Duke stated. »You two are inventors. The one with the imagination and the one with the skill. But nobody ever remembers the silent puller of the strings. They only care about the one that talks. The one with the enthusiasm that can influence the masses. What a good brother you are, not even noticing the oh so obvious.« He looked at Ferb. »I do, though. Fight on my side, and you will be remembered.«
    »As if he’d say yes to that«, Buford replied, even sounding amused. »He’s got enough common sense not to join the dark side.«
    His friend was right, of course. Ferb’s position wouldn’t just change to the opposite like that. Phineas turned to him just like everyone else did, awaiting his re­action to the Duke’s speech.
    Ferb locked eyes with his brother - and drew his sword.
    »Ferb, what… what are you doing?«, Phineas gasped at the sight. Ferb approached him with the sword in both hands, his expression as bitter as before, and Phineas had to take several steps back if he didn’t want to be attacked.
    »Taking back what you took from me«, Ferb said, lash­ing out at Phineas who had no choice but to run from his brother. »The spotlight.«
    The Duke’s words came to his mind, but were they re­ally true? No, he… he’d have noticed if his brother felt left out, he was certain of that. And even if the Duke was right, Ferb would never attack him and change sides. Un­less…
    Phineas risked one second of distraction to turn his head to the Duke, and his suspicion was confirmed: the man was watching them with pleasure, one hand placed on the stone dangling from his neck.
    The redhead tightened his grasp on the pocket knife. »Whoever wields it will be unaffected by the stone’s powers.« By handing it over to Phineas, Ferb had become susceptible to the Duke’s influence.
    »Guys!«, Phineas yelled as he avoided another slash from Ferb’s sword. »The stone! You have to -«
    »I don’t think so«, the Duke cut him off. »Unless you want to break the rules and lose, that is. I never said I’d fight against you myself, did I? I might as well have some truly entertaining sibling rivalry. This is the duel, kid. Just you and your brother, no help from anyone else. Defeat him fair and square, and I’ll leave him alone.«
    »You’re breaking the rules as well«, Can shouted from near the wall she and the others had gathered next to be­cause of the duel’s rules. »By controlling Ferb, you’re helping him win the fight.«
    »I’m not controlling him«, the Duke replied innocently. »He’s fighting all by himself, and the emotions he’s feel­ing are his own. I’m just amplifying them a little… and that’s not against the rules.«
    »I doubt these rules say anything about emotion en­hancement«, Baljeet put in, and the Duke nodded.
    »Exactly. It’s not forbidden, so it’s allowed.«
    »I do not think they believed in emotion enhancement when these rules were created«, Baljeet argued. »They would have forbidden it if -«
    »Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve«, the Duke listed, widening his wicked grin. »Didn’t. Now shut up, I’m watching a duel.«
    His friends had no choice. They had to stay passive without taking part in the duel at all, or it was automati­cally lost. It was easy to see how reluctant they were, helplessly watching Ferb chase his brother. Except for Melody: the darkling’s love for her son overwhelmed her, and she ran towards the Duke to stop him from ma­nipulating Ferb. Before the man could react, Finn got in her way, his small dagger pointing at her. He did not seem determined, but apologetic - he didn’t want to hurt one of his best friends, but in the Duke’s presence, he was on his Master’s side… and maybe he also wanted to make sure she didn’t break the dueling rules. But she was determined, running directly towards Finn. The boy growled something in his desperate voice before they were so close Phineas couldn’t see any details - only that seconds later, she fell to the ground and didn’t get up again.
    The Duke nodded at Finn, pleased by his loyalty, and the boy lowered his head. Not only out of obedience, but out of guilt as well, Phineas realized. But neither he nor anyone else dared to get near the darkling, and Ferb didn’t seem to notice what had happened to his mother at all. Was she dead or only unconscious? Phineas hoped for the latter, but he had other problems at this point.
    If the Duke had been telling the truth, Ferb must really be thinking all the things he had said. But why would he? Phineas’ own thoughts raced just like he was running. »Ferb, listen, you… I know you can hear me! Just… just tell me what I did wrong. I don’t want to fight you!« And running soon wasn’t an option anymore either, he already felt exhausted.
    Ferb finally stood still, probably sensing that he wasn’t in any danger. »I already told you«, he said. »And so did Doonkleberg. But you never listen. I am tired of repeat­ing, Phineas.«
    »...just one more time«, he replied, catching his breath as he came to a halt as well. »Please, Ferb. I’m sure we can solve this without fighting.«
    »I never got as much recognition as you«, Ferb began. »I used to ignore this, but after some time, it’s hard not to let it affect you.«
    »I named things after you«, Phineas argued. »The F-Games, Ferb Latin, Ferb -...«
    »That’s different«, Ferb cut him off. »Remember the Beak? The crowd cheered when we saved Danville, but only at you. Even you left me standing behind.«
    Phineas opened his mouth to reply, but Ferb didn’t give him the chance.
    »You never even noticed. But here, in this world, the people finally appreciate me. I had the chance to save the day, but you made it all about yourself again. Like you al­ways do.«
    »You just had to tell me!«, the redhead finally managed to say. »You can’t expect me to understand all of your signs. And did you think I wanted you to die? You know what the prophecy says, Ferb. I’m not letting you die in front of your mother. Or Fern, you know he’d die too. He’s got an important role. But my dad’s not here, and I don’t even know him, and Isabella’s not here either, so if one of us has to die, let it be me, okay?«
    »So be it, then.« Ferb prepared another strike, and Phineas stepped backward again. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Or ears, for that matter. You’ve got to be kid­ding me. But he had not given up yet. Finn was counting on him, and everyone else was, too. There had to be a way to bring his brother back down to earth, to stop the Duke’s influence. The stone wasn’t an option, Finn had already shown them what would happen if they attempt­ed to take it.
    I need to give him what he wants. But what does he want? Most of all, Ferb wanted him to listen. Which he had just done. Ferb wanted to be noticed, he had under­stood as much. But didn’t Ferb realize he already was no­ticed? His friends, his family, they all cared about him!
    Or did they? Phineas thought back to some of their in­ventions they had shared with their friends. 'That was great, Phineas!', voices echoed inside his head. 'Thanks, Phineas!' Isabella, Baljeet, Candace… they had all said that at some point. But where was Ferb in these words? 'Phineas, that was awesome!' Could it be? Had they really never paid any attention to how important Ferb was to all of their inventions?
    'You did it, Ferb!', Irving’s voice echoed, back from the time they had built a shrinking device. As far as Phineas could remember, the self-proclaimed biggest fan of the brothers was the only one who had ever thought of in­cluding Ferb as well. And suddenly, the boy felt incredi­bly guilty. They had done so many things, and only on few occasions had anyone paid any attention to his broth­er. When Ferb had given a speech about the chameleon Steve without Phineas saying anything, the crowd had cheered at only him, but that was about it.
    Two more steps, and he found his back touching a wide pillar. Ferb was only a few feet away from him now, his sword ready to come down. Phineas drew the pocket knife, hastily flipping through its applications to find something, anything, to help him defend himself against his brother. But weapon or not, Ferb was a much better fighter than him; he needed to get him back to his usual self if he didn’t want to die. Doesn’t he know that I care about him?
    Then it hit him. What if the only thing I have to do… is tell him that?
    When he only narrowly avoided Ferb’s next strike, he knew he had no other choice anyway.
    »It must have been cold there in my shadow, to never have sunlight in your face.« Ferb froze for a short mo­ment. He had not expected Phineas to break the silence only interrupted by the clanking of his sword. He was lis­tening. »You were content to let me shine... you always walked a step behind.«
    Phineas felt confident again. He didn’t know if it worked, but Ferb had stopped attacking him. Soon enough, though, the redhead found himself yet again only inches away from where Ferb’s sword had hit the pillar, having gotten away just in time. He needed to go on. »I was the one with all the glory, while you were the one with all the strength. Only a face without a name, I never once heard you complain.« That was the truth, but it seemed to have angered Ferb again, for he put more force into his incredibly precise strike once more. Phineas fell to the ground at the last second, and Ferb was standing over him with his sword. His plan needed to work now - or he’d be dead.
    »Did you ever know that you're my hero, and every­thing I would like to be?« Phineas looked his brother di­rectly into the eyes. He knew that Ferb, his Ferb, was in there somewhere. »I can fly higher than an eagle, ‘cause you are the wind beneath my wings.«
    Ferb had lifted his sword, its point half a foot above his brother. If he pushed it down, it would directly cut through Phineas’ heart, the redhead was all too well aware. »Ferb«, he attempted one last time, his voice shak­ing. There was no point in hiding how terrified he was. »I want you to know the truth. I do. I…« The despair in his eyes directly met Ferb’s still unmoved stare. »I would be nothing without you.«
    Ferb’s anger turned into shock the moment he pushed the sword down.
    Panic as he attempted to stop its motion.
    And utter horror as the screams of his brother filled the room.

  • hass mich für die Passivität der anderen

    Kann ich gar nicht, weil sie ja auch genau wussten, worum es geht und wie es ausgemacht war. Dafür stand Ferb ein und der Duke hätte sicher noch ein Ass im Ärmel gehabt, hätte sich doch jemand eingemischt. Aber das trat ja nun nicht ein.

    Hallo Sheyffer! Endlich ist das große Duell da. Die Erfüllung der Prophezeihung, die schon lange im Raum stand und für Furcht und Schrecken sorgte, da sie so vage formuliert war. Und dass einer der beiden Brüder sterben wird (oder zumindest der Versuch unternommen wird), ist auf diese Weise, dass sich Phineas und Ferb nun gegenüberstehen und um Leben und Tod kämpfen, geschickt eingefädelt. Es passt auch zum Charakter des Dukes, dass er sich selbst nicht einmischt und lieber auf die Streitigkeiten anderer baut, um sich lästige Feinde vom Leib zu halten. Oder wie hier eben darauf, dass Ferb immer im Schatten von Phineas agierte und sich deswegen Wut angestaut hat, die nun frei wird. Es könnte in dieser Situation eigentlich kaum banaler sein, dass diese Sache nun angesprochen und ausgefochten wird, aber auf der anderen Seite ist es der eine Schritt, den die beiden auf sich zugehen müssen, um ihren Zusammenhalt unter Beweis stellen zu können. Dass sie zusammen stark sind und alles erreichen können.
    Was ich sagen möchte: Du hast den Aufbau des Kapitels wirklich perfekt umgesetzt. So, wie es ist, könnte es kaum noch besser gemacht werden und es wechseln sich die Emotionen ab. Verzweiflung, Wut, aber auch nachdenkliche und entschuldigende Worte gegen Ende hin. Es kommt so viel zusammen und, man möchte schon sagen, im letzten Moment folgt schließlich auch die Besinnung, um die weitere Entwicklung offen zu lassen. Der Cliffhanger an sich ist ja kein Cliffhanger, wenn man weiß, wie solche Geschichten in der Regel ausgehen. Aber ich bin schon sehr auf das nächste Kapitel und die Reaktionen gespannt. Vielleicht ist ja doch noch eine Überraschung dabei.

    Wir lesen uns!

  • - 16 -
    To Be A King

    There was nothing else on Ferb’s mind. Blood on his sword, on the floor… on Phineas.
    »Congratulations, you’ve won!«, he heard the Duke’s cackle, but only faintly. He was petrified; unable to move. To accept what he had just done.
    He had tried to stop himself. He had tried to stop his blade. But he had been too late. It had not pierced his brother’s heart; that he had been able to prevent. And yet, it had still hit Phineas. Right through his left shoulder, and his t-shirt was turning red from the blood spilling out of the large wound. Phineas had passed out only moments after his pained scream had died away, and now he was lying almost lifelessly in front of the culprit. Ferb.
    »Phineas!«, he eventually yelled, his initial shock sup­pressed by desperation. Fear. Panic. He knelt down, pushing his sword away, unable to wield it any longer. Not after this. Tears filled his eyes. »...can you hear me? PhineasDon’t die. You can’t. Not now. Not be­cause of me. Please.
    He felt someone’s presence next to him. »He’s still alive.« For one moment, the words went past him. But then they got through. »Let me help him. I’ll save him.« It was then Ferb realized that it was Bue talking to him. The only one that could help Phineas now.
    »Please«, Ferb nodded, his words barely a whisper.
    »One of the brothers has to die«, Bal stated as if he had already expected this turn of events.
    Ferb turned to him, his fists balled, his face flushed with anger. »He’s not my brother!«, he snarled at the boy. »The Duke’s right. Your stupid prophecy is a fake. We’re not related. We don’t have the same parents at all. We’re not the ones you’ve been waiting for. He’s not my broth­er. He’s not going to die.« He was saying that to convince himself most of all, he knew that.
    Ferb’s friends fell silent, all of them. Baljeet and Bu­ford above all the others; they knew him and Phineas bet­ter than anyone else in the room.
    »We haven’t lost yet«, Fern announced at last, ignoring Ferb’s words. At least it seemed like he did, because Ferb knew that the accusation of Ivan lying had been troubling Fern all night. He had needed the prophecy to keep going, as a confirmation that everything would turn out fine. But now that it actually seemed to come true, Ferb refused to accept it. Just like Fern refused to accept what his look-alike had just said. »As long as I’m still standing, we won’t give up.« He took several steps towards the Duke, unsheathing his own sword, stainless and glorious. »I de­mand a rematch, and I will personally fight for our side if I have to.«
    »Master«, Finn raised his voice, and even the Duke himself was surprised at hearing the boy speak. »...may I propose something?«
    »Permission granted«, the Duke nodded, leaning for­ward. In his opinion, Ferb understood with disgust, this was all just a little game.
    Finn bowed his head, then continued with as much confidence as he could bring up after the shocking turns of events. »You… you have trained me well for many years. I want to right my wrongs and… fight in a second round of this battle.«
    We should never have trusted him, Ferb realized. I thought we could. But he’s the enemy. He was all along. And now we’ll pay an even bigger price for being so… so foolish.
    Fern opened his mouth, but was cut off by Can. »In that case, I’ll fight you.« It took a lot for her to say that, it was easy to hear. »Let it stay in the family.«
    But Finn shook his head. »Master… allow me to choose my opponent.«
    »Very well«, the Duke accepted with great interest. Ev­eryone was holding their breath now - what would Finn do? Choose someone as easy to defeat as Baljeet, or someone challenging like Can? Or would he even dare to pick Ferb again? Finn shut his eye tightly, just like he was clutching his dagger. He was shaking, and whatever name he was about to say, it clearly was taking him a lot of effort. Eventually, he turned to his master and opened his eye with a sudden determination.
    Nobody said a word, completely speechless. Even Bue stopped taking care of Phineas’ wound for a brief mo­ment. Ferb knew he should be happy that Finn was on their side, amazed that he had found the courage to stand up against the Duke… but all he felt was fear. Finn was a skilled fighter, but would he stand a chance against the stone’s abilities?
    The man rose from his seat, tearing the necklace with the stone from his neck and tightly clutching it with one hand. He was furious.
    »Traitor!«, he hissed, throwing Finn across the room with what seemed to be a shock wave. The boy crashed against a pillar, and the Duke approached him with large steps. »After all I’ve done for you! Is this how you thank the man that took you in and raised you? That taught you to fight?«
    »All you did was teach me to hate«, Finn replied, shaki­ly getting up again and gritting his teeth as he pushed aside the pain from the damage he had just taken, bracing himself for the Duke’s next attack. »How to be your… your pawn.«
    »Oh, but you always complied«, the man reminded him. »What made you turn against me?« He prepared to punch Finn with his stone-wielding hand, but the boy ducked just in time. The Duke hit the pillar instead and grimaced in pain - and yet, he did not let go of the stone.
    Finn was already on his feet again and right behind the Duke who was still shaking his hand that was surely bro­ken by now. »Knowing that I have a real family. People who like me for what I am. People who care about me.« With that, the boy jumped to kick the man and pin him to the ground, but the Duke turned around at an immense speed, wedged Finn’s leg with his healthy arm, and threw him onto the floor himself.
    The boy screamed in pain as he hit the ground with his injured side and something, a bone perhaps, cracked au­dibly. And yet, he did not beg for mercy at all, nor did he let out a single whimper after the scream from during the impact. He was looking at the Duke, terrified but not giving in. That was true courage.
    But it did not help him at all, for the Duke was merciless now as he stood over his former servant and cast his shadow over him. »Now look where disobedience got you. I had plans with you, boy. Alas, you leave me no choice.«
    Finn widened his eye. He knew what was coming now - and it only took seconds for Ferb to realize it as well. »The stone, kid.«, Josh’s words echoed. »...I’m sorry.« But he, too, was forced to stand by helplessly as the Duke activated the stone, furiously glar­ing at the boy at his feet. Finn’s body twisted, trans­formed, and he screamed once more. It lasted longer this time, turned more and more inhuman… and they all just stood there, eyes wide open in horror, unable to turn away. This isn’t a duel anymore, Ferb thought bitterly. Every inch of him urged him to help Finn, to attack the Duke from behind and snatch his stone. But he was as petrified as after his own fight, a fight that should never have happened. And this shouldn’t be happening either.
    From the corner of his eye, he sensed a movement. Like a black flash of lightning, Melody darted across the room, leaping onto the Duke who had no chance to react. She’s not hurt at all. That moment Finn stabbed her… it was a trick!, Ferb realized. He had been too focused on Phineas to take care of her, but he had noticed what she had done minutes ago. It had all gone way too fast for him to help her, so he was even more relieved that his mother was alright.
    Now she pushed her sharp claws into his arm, forcing the Duke to let go of the stone at last. She picked it up with her mouth, crushing it to pieces, and spit out its re­mains, remnants of the technology that had been so pow­erful once, but was now nothing but shards and little pieces of metal.
    And just like that, the stone’s effects wore off. Slowly but surely, Melody and Finn’s transformations rewound, from pure darkling and mid-transformation back to their human selves. Finn was still wearing his clothes that were now slightly torn thanks to his changing body, but, understandably, Melody was not wearing anything at all. There she was, naked - lying on the ground and breathing heavily, incredibly worn out after regaining her human form after so many years.
    Ferb completely ignored everything else that was going on and hurried to her. »Mother«, he whispered. «It’s okay. It’s me. Arthur. I’m here.«
    She turned her head to face him; slowly, and with her last remaining strength. Her deep blue eyes met his, and her strained expression turned into a weary but elated smile… and she passed out. But she was breathing steadily, and Ferb had no doubts that she would survive.
    »No!«, the Duke yelled as he witnessed the extinction of his creations, falling to his knees and desperately trying to put his most important item back together - but of course, all of his attempts were useless. The point of a blade was pricking his chin as someone’s shadow loomed over him, and the man froze.
    »It’s over, Doonkleberg«, Fern announced. He was the one wielding the weapon. »Surrender or feel the conse­quences.«
    »Never«, the Duke replied. »But sure, go ahead and kill me. You wouldn’t dare anyway. You’re as much of a coward as your father. Unlike him, you actually tried to defeat me, I’ll give you that. But just like him, you can’t follow this through to the end.«
    »Look at me.« The man had avoided doing exactly that, but Fern didn’t back down. »Look at me.« Reluctantly, the Duke obliged. His eyes met those of the boy, and he gulped.
    For they weren’t the eyes of a boy that had run away from responsibility, no. They were the eyes of a prince. A king. And there was silence as Fern’s gaze pierced through the once so intimidating facade of the Duke. He was judging him, the man sensed in visible shock. He would kill him if he wanted to. But he didn’t. And the Duke realized why.
    With the stone and its abilities, he had done so many horrible things; and yet, here and now, he was nothing but a helpless, powerless man forced to the ground by a prince, a king even - a boy he had underestimated as much as the one that had turned against him. And he was aware of it, for there was fear in his eyes now, fear that was growing with every passing second of this judging silence. This silence that was finally broken by Fern low­ering his sword.
    The Duke stared at him bewilderedly and didn’t move at all.
    »I will spare your life«, Fern continued. »I have enough dignity not to bring myself down to your level of sense­less cruelty. Leave, Doonkleberg, and never return.« His words were almost without emotion, allowing no objec­tion. A king through and through.
    And the Duke knew better than to protest. He scram­bled onto his feet and fled the throne room without an­other word.
    All at once, it was over. The Duke had lost, his stone was shattered, the darklings back in their human form. And yet, there was no applause. No cheering at all. At the moment, it seemed more like a defeat than anything else.
    Fern took an audible breath. »Alright. We may have won against the Duke, but we still have work to do. First, we need to take care of the injured.«
    The injured?, Ferb wondered. There was Phineas, cur­rently being attended to by Bue. His mother was weak, but unharmed… oh no.
    He risked a glance at Finn who had not gotten up again after the Duke had thrown him to the ground. As he had already feared, the boy’s wounds had opened again from the forceful attack, and the cracking noise from that mo­ment could not mean anything good either. But he was still breathing, albeit stertorously - if he stopped doing so, it would mean the death of both Finn and Phineas, Ferb was all too well aware. And so was Fern.
    »Bue«, he called the boy that had been busy trying to help Phineas the entire time despite all the commotion around him.
    Bue quickly spotted what was the matter and hurried to his leader, but not before talking to Baljeet and Buford, his serious voice completely different from his usual cheerful self. »Talk to Phineas. Let him know you’re there.« The two boys nodded and ran to their friend while Bue started inspecting Finn, putting pressure on some parts of his body. When he had reached the boy’s left shoulder, Finn winced in pain, yet Bue continued touch­ing the area.
    »What’s wrong with him?«, Can asked, then remem­bered what Bue had said to Baljeet and Buford. She knelt down beside her brother. »Finn, can you hear me? I’m here. Everything’s going to be fine.«
    »...I wouldn’t say that«, Bue whispered, facing the girl with an utterly sorrowful face. »Can, I… I can’t help him. I’d only make it worse.«
    »You can’t let him die!«, she cried. »You helped Phineas. So go ahead and help Finn too. Save him. Please.«
    »I would!«, Bue protested, desperate. »But his wounds… and the way he landed… something broke within him, and then his body changed and it all came back wrong!«
    »He would not let anybody die if he could prevent it«, Bal came to his aid. »He has always done his very best to help the people around him… if he says it is hopeless, it is. My apologies.«
    »But he -« There were tears in Can’s eyes. »He can’t die yet! He’s… he’s too young. He’s got his whole life in front of him, I… I wanted to give it back to him, and now he’s dying? Please, there… there has to be some­thing we can do.«
    »Yeah, I’m not letting him die!«, Buford agreed, mean­ing Phineas. »I bet his wounds aren’t even lethal, he can’t just die because of some random universe energy crap.«
    »But Buford, science clearly proves that -«, Baljeet ar­gued.
    »Shut up, nerd! You don’t even have proof. You can’t tell me God’s some kind of math-loving nerd keeping the energy of the universe in balance with a little calculator or whatever. That’s nonsense. In fact, it’s probably as fake as that dumb prophecy.«
    »We’re not going to push our luck just because Phineas might not be influenced by Finn’s fate«, Fern declared. »But either way, there is no way we could save him. You can’t cheat death.«
    »Sisyphus could«, Ferb remarked. »Twice.«
    »How are Greek legends supposed to help us with this?«, Baljeet asked him, then widened his eyes. »And how are we supposed to explain this to Candace?«
    Candace, Ferb realized in shock. I completely forgot about her. Baljeet was right. »We can’t let him die.«
    »Well, what do you want to do?«, Bal wondered, quite annoyed. He didn’t want to let anyone die either, of course, but for him, it was clear that there was nothing they could do against it. »You cannot simply prevent this apparent law of nature.«
    »You can«, Izzy spoke up. She had stayed out of the discussion until now, which was why her statement sur­prised the others even more. Especially because of her tone that sounded like she was absolutely certain. »Ferb, when did your mother disappear?«
    How does this have anything to do with saving Phineas? But he didn’t argue with her; he’d do anything to save Phineas’ life. »Shortly before I turned four.«
    »And Fern, when did your mother die?«
    »How is that going to help us?« Unlike his counterpart, Fern didn’t give her such a private information this readi­ly.
    »When?«, she insisted, ignoring his complaints.
    »...some days before my fourth birthday.«
    »Exactly. As we all know, Can’s father, the king, died ten years ago. Which, as the Duke told us, is also when he met Josh.«
    The others just stared at her, not getting where she was hinting at. And in this tense situation, it took Ferb a while to find out as well. He just couldn’t think under such con­ditions.
    »Don’t you see?«, Izzy asked, frustrated at their lack of understanding. »Melody and Josh must have crossed di­mensions just as their counterparts from this world died.«
    »Of course!«, Baljeet exclaimed. »Them not being in either of the dimensions for a split second exempted them from dying because of their counterpart. All we need to do is get Phineas into the interdimensional rift the mo­ment Finn...«, he hesitated for a moment, »...dies... and he will be saved.«
    »There’s just one problem«, Fern pointed out. »You don’t have a portal.«
    But to Ferb, the solution was obvious. »Josh can help us.«
    »And even if not, he… he deserves to see his son«, Can nodded.
    »Alright«, Fern declared. »Ferb, you stay with Phineas and your mother. Can, Bue: with Finn. Bal, Izzy, you look for the darkling lair. Take care of the people. Baljeet and Buford - you get Josh’s help as fast as possible. We’ve got no time to lose.«
    When everybody had their orders, they all set off to do their assigned task. Izzy was gone much faster than Bal: many of her friends were among the erstwhile darklings, while for the boy, they included a lot of people he was not very fond of. Can and Bue were trying to keep Finn’s condition as stable as possible; if he died, all was lost. Ferb was torn between staying with his mother and look­ing after Phineas, they were lying so far apart.
    »Here«, Fern suddenly offered as he walked over to his look-alike. He had taken off his jacket, and his face was strained with the burdens of leadership. But he still cracked a forced smile.
    Ferb shot him a grateful glance, carefully putting Fern’s jacket on his mother. It didn’t fit her exactly, but it was far better than staying naked on the cold floor. Together, the two boys dragged her over to Phineas where Ferb was able to watch over both of them.
    »It’s okay«, he told them, comforting himself more than anything. »Josh will be here soon.«
    He could only hope he was right with that.


    »Can’t you hurry up? I swear, if dinner bell dies, it’s your fault.«
    »I… am not… an athlete«, Baljeet panted. They were on their quest to find and recruit Josh, but so far, they were far from reaching either of those goals. Only be­cause Baljeet had fallen behind horribly.
    »Yeah, because you’re caring too much about brainy stuff. We wouldn’t be having this problem if you were a little more like me.« As for Buford, he was still not out of breath when reaching the castle’s exit, the fate of his friend fueling him. But he stopped so that Baljeet could catch up.
    »How are you not exhausted, anyway? You weigh far more than I do.«
    »Are you calling me fat?«
    »I am not calling you thin.«
    Normally, Buford would have given his nerd a wedgie at this point, but Phineas’ life was at stake. »Well, I’m not the problem here!«, he exclaimed. Sure, without his t-shirt, it was even more obvious that he clearly was overweight, but that didn’t hinder him at all. »We definitely need to get to dinner bell’s dad faster. He’s on the bottom of this hill, isn’t he?«
    »That is what Fern told us, yes«, Baljeet nodded, not liking his friend’s sudden grin. »Buford, what -«
    »Hang on«, the bully cut him off. Something near the castle wall had caught his attention, and, not caring about the nerd, he ran off to fetch it. Only seconds later, he was back at the gate they had found already open, pulling a small and simple wooden carriage. It had four wheels, room enough for both of them to sit on, and while most of the part that was used to drag and steer it had some­how fallen off, there was still enough of it left to make the front wheels change direction while sitting on the vehicle. And Buford grinned, proud of his idea. »What do you say?«
    »I do not think this… thing is safe«, Baljeet told him.
    »Maybe not, but it’s fast!« And before the nerd could object, Buford had already grabbed him and thrown him onto the carriage. He gave it a final push and jumped onto it as well, getting a hold of the steering handle just in time. Baljeet screamed as the carriage rolled down the hill and even more as Buford only narrowly managed not to get off the road - and the hill - in the bends. It was a jolty ride as well, with short moments in midair after some particular bumps, but the bully grinned with satis­faction. His plan was working, and thanks to the open ground that followed after the steep ride down the hill, they were able to cover a big distance and only had to travel on foot for a short time when the carriage had slowed down at last, but at that point, their destined vil­lage was already in sight.
    For the last part of their journey, Buford was pulling the carriage while Baljeet was still sitting on it; a far more effective method than walking, judging by how slow the nerd would have been otherwise. And minutes later, they had arrived at the house Josh was supposed to live in, which was reason enough for Baljeet to get off again.
    »You’d think an inhabited house would look more, you know, inhabited«, Buford commented while stepping through the door frame - for reasons he didn’t even want to know, the door itself was lying on the ground in front of him.
    Baljeet paid no attention to his friend. »Hello? Mr. Fly­nn?«
    »...who’s there?«, a man’s voice replied from another room.
    »We are friends of Phineas and Ferb. We need your help!«
    »I already told you«, the man continued without reveal­ing himself. »One invention, and you leave me alone. I already helped you... so go away.«
    Buford huffed, hitting the palm of one hand with the fist of the other. His friend was in trouble! Dinner bell was counting on them. Without them, they’d lose him. And Buford was not going to let that happen.
    »Do not do anything imprudent!«, Baljeet warned him, but by then, Buford had already entered the other room, seized the guy that looked like an adult dinner bell with an audible yelp by said man, and dragged him over to Baljeet.
    »Listen, smart guy«, the bully said to Josh, his voice getting more angry and frustrated with every word. »I don’t care what you agreed on with Ferb and the others! We’ve already defeated the bad guy, we don’t need you to make a killing machine or whatever. Our friends are hurt, they’re about to die, damn it, and if you don’t want your own son to bite the dust, I’d suggest you get your butt over to the castle and help us build a portal back to home.«
    »Phineas is in critical condition«, Baljeet nodded at the speechless Josh. »And so is Finn, his counterpart from this dimension. We… we are unable to save the latter, but with your help, the life of your son can be saved.«
    »Don’t forget Ferb’s mom«, Buford added. »She could use a hospital too.«
    Josh still stared at them, probably not even wondering where Buford’s t-shirt was. »The darklings…«
    »Have returned to their human form«, the nerd ex­plained.
    The man nodded, trying to comprehend their informa­tion. »And Melody and Phineas…«
    »Are in trouble«, Buford stated impatiently. »Now would you please come with us?«
    »Do not rush him, Buford«, Baljeet reminded his friend.
    »Oh, and why not? Didn’t you get the news? Dinner bell’s about to die
    That made Josh flinch and stare at Buford with wide eyes.
    »What?«, the bully snapped, completely impatient by now.
    Josh was unmoved by Buford’s harsh reaction. »...din­ner bell?«
    »Yeah. Your son. Who’s. about. to. die
    »And... your name is Buford?«
    Buford rolled his eyes and sighed. »Duh. Now could we please
    »Buford«, the man repeated. »Buford Van Stomm, son of Biffany and Bernard Van Stomm?«
    That actually left the boy stunned for a moment, taken aback by that question.
    »Yes«, Baljeet replied for him, and Josh nodded.
    »Dinner bell was my nickname«, he said. »Back when... when I was still inventing things with Mel and Bernie. Our Team Improbable.«
    That reminded Buford. »I promised my dad to get you back home and I’ll keep that promise. Just like I’m not gonna let my dinner bell die. A Van Stomm doesn’t leave anyone behind.«
    »...and neither will I«, Josh decided. »Especially not family… or friends as close as her.«
    »But how are we supposed to build a portal?«, Baljeet wondered.
    Josh’s face was full of determination now. »You know what they say. Necessity’s the mother of invention!« He looked outside the window near him. »You brought a ve­hicle, good. We need to get to the castle, and quickly.«
    »Leave that to me!«, Buford declared, shooing the oth­ers outside. He knew exactly what to do.
    And so it happened that Baljeet and Josh found them­selves sitting on the carriage that was now being pulled by Buford once again: he had already dragged a sleigh with Candace on it to the top of a snowy mountain - com­pared to that, the wooden carriage and the evenly ascend­ing hill were a piece of cake. That, too, was fueling him: he was hungry, and the sooner they saved Phineas, the sooner he’d get to eat something.
    Soon enough, they were virtually breaking through the throne room’s entrance. Baljeet and Josh were running beside the carriage that was loaded with all kinds of ob­jects and materials Josh had told them to pick up along their way.
    Everyone in the room looked up as the small group re­turned, and Josh froze in shock when he saw the bodies of both Phineas and Melody lying beside Ferb and Fern. It took him a moment to gather himself again, but Buford took care of that by nudging his side.
    »Ferb«, Josh called the boy as he came to. That was un­necessary, however: Ferb had already stopped watching over the unconscious and was on his way. Fern’s nod suggested that everything was fine, and judging by how Can had not yet stopped talking to her brother, there was still hope - for now, anyway. But Buford was convinced they’d make it. They had to.
    »We’ve already built portals before, both of us«, Josh said to Ferb. »We know what it’s supposed to be like. All we have to do is make it happen with this stuff we’ve got here.«
    The carriage and its contents didn’t look like anything to make a portal of, Buford thought. They were mostly made of wood and bricks, and sometimes iron; nothing compared to the highly advanced technology of the 21st century. Still, he and Baljeet helped their friends as much as they could, handing them the parts they needed and doing whatever else was asked of them.
    »We don't have enough wires«, Josh noticed as he stared into the machine's interior. »And air doesn't conduct electricity. If only we had some water...«
    »We do!«, Baljeet gasped, taking out his bottle of distilled water. It was almost empty since they had all drunk from it since last afternoon, but there was still some water left.
    Josh grinned. »Perfect!« Baljeet handed him the bottle and the man made some adjustments to the machine.
    »I told you we'd need that water sooner or later«, Buford said to his nerd.
    When the small battery previously included in Ferb’s pocket knife was inserted in the portal and the machine opened in a swirl of colors, Buford was far beyond impressed, and he could see the same emotion on Baljeet’s face.
    »Never underestimate a Flynn or a Fletcher«, the bully noted.
    »Or a Van Stomm«, Josh added. »It still needs to be calibrated.«
    Buford grinned. Time to make Dad proud, he said to himself as he adjusted the part of the device that actually had to do with coding; a tiny computer that had already been integrated into the pocket knife. »Gimme some coor­dinates, nerd«, he told nobody in particular, but it was ob­vious who felt addressed: the only person he had actually wanted, and expected, to answer him.
    So Baljeet gave him some numbers that meant nothing to Buford at all, but he trusted his friend on the matter. Who knew what kind of geography courses the nerd had already been to.
    »There we go«, the bully announced at last when the portal flickered for a short moment before returning to its previous state. »Now let’s go and save our friends.«
    »Wait«, Baljeet spoke up. »How… how are we going to know when the exact moment of Finn’s... death will be?«
    »Leave that to me.«
    Fern had risen from his position and was now walking over to where Finn was lying. Can and Bue looked up at him for a moment and moved aside, Can nodding at the resistance’s leader still with tears in her eyes, silently agreeing to whatever he was about to do.
    Baljeet gasped audibly and Buford gulped as well when Fern unsheathed his sword once again as he stood over Finn. Ferb looked away and, with Josh’s help, set to the task of putting Phineas into a comfortable position on his back - the sight of Fern and Finn resembling his own situation from not long ago was simply too much for him to handle. Buford decided to follow his example and picked Melody up: fitting, he thought, for the two of them were the most naked people around.
    Nobody said a word in this terribly depressing situation - but it was their moment of departure, and who knew if they’d ever see each other again. Which was the reason for Bue to break the silence at last. »Thanks for every­thing, guys«, he said with a weary smile. »And… good luck.«
    Ferb simply nodded, and Buford didn’t really know what to say either. Nothing seemed to fit, so he imitated Ferb’s gesture before watching the greenhead step through the portal with Phineas on his back.
    The very moment Ferb disappeared, Buford cringed at the sound of Fern’s sword meeting flesh. He followed Ferb and the others, unable to bring himself to turn around one last time.
    If he had, he would have seen that Fern was, for once, allowing himself to drop the unmoved facade of leader­ship. For even a king could not prevent tears from falling and melancholy from conquering his heart as he drew his sword from Finn’s now lifeless body.

    @Rusalka: Da hast du deine Überraschung! >:D
    Ansonsten wie immer danke für deinen Kommentar, hat mich sehr gefreut zu lesen, aber das sag ich ja eh jedes Mal.^^
    Man sieht sich in Danville!

  • Wow, was für ein großes Kino! Gerade, als du wieder die alte Prophezeiung angesprochen hast und Finn neben dem angeschlagenen Phineas ins Rampenlicht trat, dachte ich mir schon, dass es darauf hinaus laufen würde. Dass eigentlich diese beiden Brüder gemeint sind. Diese Erkenntnis, die tatsächlich erst mit der Zeit kommt, wenn mehr von der Geschichte da ist; es ist genau das, was ich liebe. Wenn man als Leser nicht mehr weiß als die Charaktere und selbst dann auch zu diesem Aha-Effekt kommt, ist das einfach nur befriedigend - natürlich auch für dich als Schreiber, weil du dann genau weißt, dass du alles richtig gemacht hast.

    Und es ist gar nicht so verwunderlich. Finn hatte es nach dem Lied schlussendlich darauf abgesehen, dem Duke zu schaden und ihn zu entmachten. Dass dieser dann auch einen so schnellen Abgang hinlegt, hätte ich zwar nicht gedacht - das Böse kommt ja öfters mal wieder zu Kräften und kann sich dann doch behaupten -, aber das soll angesichts der Situation nicht weiter schlimm sein. Jedenfalls kommen wieder die Gedankenspiele um die Paralleldimensionen hervor, die nun relativ lange geruht haben und es wirkt schon recht konstruiert, dass sie gemeinsam so schnell auf eine Lösung gekommen sind, Phineas zu retten. Auch wenn sie bereits darüber gesprochen haben. Darunter litten dann die weitere Entwicklung und am Ende auch die Verabschiedung, da alles schnell gehen musste und so wirkt der Part gehetzt.
    Im Gegenzug war das Ende allerdings wieder phänomenal gelöst. Zwischendurch hast du es bereits angesprochen und hier zeigt sich nun, dass selbst der größte Anführer, oder eben der König, nicht Halt vor seinen Emotionen machen kann. Die Situation bedurfte keiner weiteren Worte; man wusste einfach, dass das keine leichte Entscheidung sein würde und es lässt einen wirklich nachdenklich zurück. Besonders nach den Ereignissen, die sie alle machen mussten und schließlich dazu geführt haben, dass es so weit kam. Deswegen: Ganz großes Kino und schauen wir mal, wie die Reaktion in der eigenen Welt ausfallen wird.

    Wir lesen uns!

  • - 17 -

    »He is alive!«
    Baljeet’s announcement made all of his friends breathe a sigh of relief. The Indian boy had been right with his assumption: they had been able to stop Finn’s death from affecting Phineas as well. His left shoulder area was still heavily damaged, but he would make it.
    After all, they were back home.
    »We need to get him to the hospital as quickly as possi­ble«, Baljeet decided.
    »And that’d be much easier if you had managed to make the teleporter drop us right there«, Buford argued. »Instead, we’re just at…« The bully looked around.
    »My house«, his friend nodded, frustrated. »I am sorry I do not know the coordinates of every place in the city!«
    »You should be«, Buford agreed, but was quickly cut off.
    »Boys.« That was Josh. For the last couple of seconds, ever since arriving on the street of Baljeet’s house, he had just stood there, looking around in both confusion and awe. And Baljeet could not blame him: ten years had passed since the man had last been in this dimension. Now, he was reminded of their situation - about that of his son, most notably. And he had reminded Baljeet as well.
    »Right.« The boy gathered himself. »All of you, wait here. I will return home and call an ambulance.«
    »And be quick!«, he heard Buford say, but ignored that remark. He was already on the doorstep, searching his pockets for his keys. However, they were not there, and the boy sighed. He must have dropped them in the other dimension, and now he would have to face his mother. But there was no way of avoiding it; he needed the phone. So he rang.
    »Baljeet?« His mother arrived at the door almost in­stantly. Here comes the scolding. »How was it?«
    »How was what?«
    »The sleepover, of course«, she continued. »But next time, tell me before I have to call the Flynn-Fletchers about your whereabouts, alright?«
    »Right, the… sleepover. It was… great!« That must be Candace’s doing. She found excuses for everything! I only need to play along. »Can I use the telephone, please? I… forgot some things at their house.«
    His mother nodded, not even seeming to notice the oth­er people on the sidewalk several feet away. »Of course.«
    »Thank you!« With that, Baljeet hurried past her and to the telephone, calling 911 while walking into his room and closing the door. The last thing he needed was his mother finding out what had actually happened.
    For several seconds, nobody picked up, and in the re­sulting silence, he heard his heart race. What if nobody replied? Or what if he forgot what to say?
    When someone eventually, finally, answered the call, the many times of practicing what to do when calling 911 did pay off instantly.
    »Hello, yes, my name is Baljeet Tjinder. I am calling from 2718 Hazel Street, Danville. There is a medical emergency on the sidewalk in front of the house, easily visible from the street. Two people, a boy and a woman, are injured; the boy severely. He has a large, bleeding wound in his left shoulder area, and both of them are un­conscious. But their condition is stable and their lives do not appear to be at risk.« He took a small break to catch his breath, which the man on the other end used to reply.
    »Alright. An ambulance will be there shortly. Don’t panic, everything will be fine.« Baljeet’s voice must have risen several pitches again, it seemed. Who knew how young the man thought him to be.
    The man hung up right after Baljeet thanked him, po­lite as the boy was. He left his room and put the phone back where it belonged, then returned to his friends out­side, quickly telling his mother he was going back to Phineas and Ferb. Which was no lie, after all.
    »And?«, Buford asked when Baljeet had joined them again.
    »An ambulance is on its way«, he explained, taking a glance at Phineas again. »How is he?«
    Buford made an indifferent face. »Same as five minutes ago. He’ll make it.«
    »Hopefully«, Baljeet nodded, then held up a black piece of clothing. »You had left this at my house the oth­er day. As soon as Melody is being taken care of, you can put it on.«
    The bully grinned when he realized what exactly Bal­jeet was holding. »Nerd, you’re amazing.«
    »Say that last part again once I have got something to record it with«, Baljeet replied, copying his friend’s own words from last night, which made Buford snort.
    They spent another five minutes or so waiting for the ambulance until it finally arrived. Two men in black uni­forms stepped out of its back, so there was at least one other person in it, the driver. Baljeet had never seen ei­ther of them before - then again, when had he ever met a paramedic?
    »You must be Baljeet Tjinder«, one of them, a mid­dle-aged man with a rather likable expression and voice, spoke up.
    »Isn’t that Phineas Flynn?«, the other one, younger than the first man but just as likable, wondered as he set to the task of loading Phineas into the ambulance, thereby cutting Baljeet off.
    Baljeet opened his mouth again, but the older para­medic was faster. »And isn’t that Josh Flynn?« He sound­ed beyond astonished while doing his job - loading Melody into the vehicle with Buford’s help - without cease, which Baljeet found quite impressive. He had nev­er been that great at multitasking.
    Josh himself seemed surprised that somebody still rec­ognized him after all those years. »You remember me?«
    »Everyone does«, the younger paramedic shrugged, gesturing everyone to follow them into the ambulance, which gave Buford the chance to put on the t-shirt that Baljeet handed him. »It’s just that people stopped talking about you some time after you disappeared.«
    »Can’t blame them«, Josh muttered, and everyone went silent again as the ambulance started moving. They were even able to hear the now activated sirens from here.
    During the drive, the two men checked on Phineas and Melody again, making sure they were alright. They did not say a word this time, but Baljeet and his friends were not exactly in the mood for talking either. They were all still worried about their friends and processing the reali­zation that Finn was dead. That was especially hard for Buford, Baljeet knew. His best friend had been quite fond of the boy whose life he had saved. And Ferb, too, was silent - but this time, he even seemed unusually distant. He had been like this ever since returning to Danville, and Baljeet had no idea how to help him. He knew Ferb was blaming himself for Phineas’ injury, Finn’s death even, but what could he do? He had never been good at cheering people up, he would just say something wrong and unhelpful. So he simply kept silent.
    The only distraction from the rather unspectacular drive appeared when one of the paramedics handed Josh some forms to fill out about Phineas and Melody, in the, apparently, quite likely case that they would have to stay for a longer while in the hospital, which did not exactly lift Baljeet’s mood. Josh was visibly clueless when he read through the papers, so Baljeet and Buford spent the next couple of minutes helping him fill out the informa­tion about Phineas whom he did not actually know at all. It was far easier for him when it came to Melody’s paper - Josh had known her far longer than he had known Phineas, after all. Soon enough, the paramedics collected the forms again, and the ride returned to being quite bor­ing.
    »Well, here we are.« Eventually, the ambulance came to a permanent halt and the older paramedic opened the back door. »There is nothing you can do to help them now - we’ll have to examine them, and who knows what else… we don’t allow unauthorized people in those rooms, so please stay in the waiting room until we can give you information on their condition.«
    There was nothing they could do but to follow those orders - which just meant more waiting. And more star­ing: nearly everyone they encountered immediately turned to Josh. All of them were talking with or at least about him, some louder than others, but either way made the man feel visibly uncomfortable. Buford did his best to keep curious people off, and as much as Baljeet want­ed to suggest moving into another room, he knew they had to stay here until the doctors had new information. The Indian boy passed the time by watching the clock on the other side of the room; he did not like staring at the other waiting people.
    Hours passed, during which Buford introduced Josh to some magazines lying around, all of them featuring more or less important news concerning the city of Danville and its inhabitants, something Josh was rather far behind on. Ferb, on the other hand, did not seem to move at all as he seemed to count the minutes the same way Baljeet did. Nurses came and went, taking people with them, and Baljeet’s imagination became increasingly vivid as he wondered why it took the doctors so long to tell them about Phineas.
    In fact, it took them exactly three hours, fourteen min­utes, and fifteen seconds.
    »Mr. Flynn, the doctor will see you now.«
    Finally! Baljeet, much like his three companions, was both relieved and worried as he followed the nurse to the doctor’s office.
    The doctor greeted all of them with a handshake, which reminded Baljeet of how shabby Josh was still looking. But the rather old yet seemingly friendly doctor did not seem to mind. The name badge on his coat read Dr. Scott, so Baljeet greeted him like that as well before tak­ing a seat like his friends.
    »Yours were the cases of Phineas Flynn and Melody Fletcher, correct?«, Dr. Scott asked unnecessarily, and Josh nodded.
    »Are they alright?«
    »Well, good news first, no? Both of them will undoubt­edly survive, although they are still weak and will need to stay in the hospital for a while. Mrs. Fletcher is only slightly injured, but in a very weak state nevertheless. She will be able to leave the hospital as soon as she is strong enough for it, which should take no longer than a week or maybe two.«
    »And what about dinner bell?«, Buford put in. »I mean, Phineas.«
    »That would be the bad news«, Dr. Scott said, keeping his voice as neutral as possible. But that could not pre­vent Baljeet and his companions from becoming visibly shocked.
    »What’s the matter?«
    »Will he make it?«
    »He is not permanently injured, is he?«
    Only Ferb kept silent, as usual, yet Baljeet knew he was just as worried as his friends, if not more. After all, whatever was the matter with Phineas… to some extent, it was all Ferb’s fault. At least that was what Ferb was thinking, everyone else did not blame him at all. They all knew he would never have hurt his own brother inten­tionally.
    »Something; yes; and… yes, he is.«
    »What’s that supposed to mean?«, Buford asked, sounding just as shocked as all of them were.
    »We had no choice«, the doctor explained. »His shoul­der joint was heavily damaged. We had to amputate his arm.«
    Nobody dared to say a word, processing what the doc­tor had just said. Ferb grasped the edge of his seat tightly, trying incredibly hard not to overreact. Buford did quite the opposite.
    »You’re a doctor!«, he pretty much yelled at Dr. Scott. »You just had to put a cast on it. That’s what you do with broken bones.«
    The doctor stayed calm. He was most likely already used to such strong reactions whenever he had to deliver bad news. Instead of replying, he ripped a piece of paper off a stack on his desk, then tore it into two halves of dif­ferent size. »Imagine that this is a broken bone. You are right, in such a case, it is easy for us to fix it.« He put the pieces together so they formed a square again.
    »See, then what’s the problem?«, Buford asked, skepti­cal. But he was visibly glad Dr. Scott did not try to ex­plain things to him on a more academic level.
    »This.« Dr. Scott took the two halves again and ripped them into many tiny pieces, scattering them on his desk. »As you can see, it is impossible to repair this - especial­ly when it comes to an intersection of two bones. They would only grow back together in a wrong way, not to mention that there is no chance of the joint ever operating the same way it did before.«
    That made Buford reconsider his opinion, and it was Josh who eventually asked the question on everyone’s mind. »Can we see him?«
    But Dr. Scott shook his head. »It will take a couple of hours until we can let anyone visit him. Until then, I sug­gest informing the rest of his family about the recent de­velopments. Should I do that for you?«
    Baljeet immediately declined. »You can leave that to us. We have a lot to tell them anyway.«


    When Candace’s cellphone rang, she did not bother picking up. She was, simply stated, not in the mood at all.
    Her parents had returned from the museum long before she had received any sign of Buford, Baljeet, or her brothers. In fact, they were still gone, and who knew how long they’d continue to be? For all she knew, they would nev­er return. Because the moment her mother had taken only a small glance at the backyard, the teleporting device had disappeared. And Candace knew from experience that it was not going to come back.
    So there she was, sitting under the tree in the backyard, staring at where the teleporter had stood until last after­noon. Maybe it would come back after all? It had to. They had to. For now, she had been able to trick the mothers of Baljeet and Buford into believing their sons were having a sleepover with her brothers, and as for Mom and Dad… they thought the boys were visiting their grandparents some miles away from Danville. But she could only pretend that for so long.
    And she had to admit that her phone was definitely in­terrupting her thinking process on how to get out of this mess.
    So she picked up, although it was an Unknown Number calling her and it was probably just someone try­ing to sell her something.
    There was silence on the other end, even though she clearly heard someone breathing. Just a prank call, then.
    She was about to hang up when someone actually said something after all: »Just talk to her already, man!«
    »Buford?« She knew that voice! The boys were alive.
    »Oh hey, Candace!«
    »Where are you guys? Are you alright? Did you find my brothers?« Candace knew she was supposed to get angry at him, but she couldn’t help it. At this point, she was simply too relieved about a sign of life.
    »We are fine, yes.« That was Baljeet. »To be precise, we have returned to Danville.«
    »How - never mind, I can guess how you did that. My brothers.«
    »Actually, we -«
    »Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just get over here, alright?«
    »Candace, wait. There is someone who wants to talk to you.«
    Somebody so mysterious they could not say his name? »Okay? Go ahead.«
    There was silence for a moment once again. »You… you really are Candace Flynn?«
    »Uh, yeah.« But she hesitated. This voice was familiar to her, and not just because this person sounded some­what like Phineas. She had heard this voice already, but she could not connect it to a name. »And you are?«
    »Josh. Josh Flynn.«
    Candace dropped her phone. Josh Flynn. The Josh Flynn. Her father. She took a deep breath to gather herself and after some seconds, she picked up her phone once again.
    »Dad?« How was she supposed to re­act? She had banished him from her mind ever since he had mysteriously disappeared a decade ago. She had quickly come to terms with it, and her mom marrying Lawrence had only accelerated the process of forgetting this man. She had never expected to hear from him again. Ever.
    »...yeah. Look, Candace, I know it’s hard to explain, and I’m sorry about what happened, but…« He paused, then seemed to reconsider. »...Candace, you and Linda… come to the hospital. Please.«
    She froze, but quickly gathered herself. »The hospital? What -« But Josh had already hung up.
    He meant Phineas. He had to. Why else would her brother not have said hello? But how was she supposed to tell her mother? »Mom, the boys just called. Phineas is hurt. They’re at the hospital. We need to go there, quick­ly.«
    She ended up telling her exactly that.
    Minutes later, Candace found herself in the backseat of the family car, with Lawrence driving and Linda urging him to be faster. The girl had no idea how Lawrence and Josh would react upon meeting each other, nor what her mother would say. All she knew was that they all were in­credibly worried as for what had happened to Phineas.
    »Don’t worry«, Lawrence attempted to reassure his family. »I’m absolutely positive it will all turn out fine.«
    And he was completely wrong.

    »What are you doing here?« That was the first thing Linda said when she saw Josh. No hello or anything - only this incredibly surprised and most of all... an­gry question.
    »Linda, I can explain…«, Josh began quietly, visibly intimidated, and painfully aware of what a bad impres­sion he must be making with his shabby appearance.
    She shook her head. »I don’t need an explanation, Josh. We both know what happened. Unless you want to tell me why you came back. To such a place! You’re making fun of me.«
    »Mom, what’s going on?«, Candace asked, not under­standing why she was this furious. Wasn't she at least a little happy to see the man she had once been married to again after so many years?
    Lawrence and the three boys - Baljeet, Buford, and an unusually deadpan Ferb - had more or less intentionally gathered together, all of them withdrawing from the heated argument.
    »What did I tell you ten years ago?«, Linda asked Josh, still far from being calm.
    The man looked down. »That I shouldn’t invent any­thing big and dangerous while our kids are still little.«
    Linda nodded. »And what did you do only days afterward?«
    Josh sighed. »...I built a teleporter and disappeared without ever returning. But listen...«
    »No, you listen! I don’t care what happened to you wherever you ended up. I spent days staring at that ma­chine, waiting for you to come back. You never did. I had two small children to take care of! And now you dare to show up again, only with the message that one of these very children is in hospital, just like I always feared. Only because you had to invent in spite of all my warn­ings.«
    »I’m pretty sure it was the boys this time«, Candace put in. She felt like she had to defend that man she barely knew; only a few people stood a chance against an angry Linda. Sarcastically, she added: »They tend to invent stuff too, you know.«
    »As if I didn’t know that«, Linda replied just as sarcas­tically, leaving Candace stunned, and angry, as well.
    »What? All this time I made a fool of myself about busting the boys and you already knew?«
    »I have not always seen what they did, but I always be­lieved you, that’s right.«
    »You have got to be kidding me!«, Candace exclaimed. »Did you never get the idea of telling me? You were messing with me the whole time!«
    »Do you think I was happy when Phineas turned out as inventive as Josh? I didn’t want to lose him as well, and I thought pretending his inventions didn’t exist would help me.« Linda sighed. »But apparently, I was wrong.«
    »Why don’t you tell us what happened?«, Lawrence proposed to Josh and the boys, trying to bring this argu­ment to an end. »I’m sure that will make us find a com­promise.«
    Linda only reluctantly agreed and crossed her arms, waiting for her erstwhile husband to explain himself.
    He hesitated as well, but then began retelling his story. »So I… yes, I built a teleporter ten years ago. But I had never intended on staying in the other dimension! An evil man kidnapped me and forced me to create things for him, terrible things… I destroyed half a country… and people, Linda. I’d stopped inventing after finally es­caping after an entire decade of doing horrible deeds, and I...»
    »Saved dinner bell’s life!«, Buford put in. »Without him, Phineas would be dead.«
    »And we would still be trapped in the other dimension«, Baljeet added.
    Josh nodded. He seemed to have gained confidence from these statements. »Look, Linda, I understand if you hate me for what I did back then. I can’t blame you. You’ve moved on, and… and that’s great. I just want you to know that I care about this family. I always did. Phineas is my son as well as yours. What happened to him isn’t my fault. Hate me for leaving you back then, you have every right to do so. Just… don’t blame me for the recent developments. And forgive me for my reck­lessness in the past. The last ten years… they’ve been punishment enough.«
    Linda fell silent for a moment, and Candace took the chance to ask a question. The question that was on her mind as well as on those of Linda and Lawrence. »What happened to Phineas?«
    Ferb flinched at that, and the other boys, as well as Josh, hesitated with replying as well.
    »It is a long story«, Baljeet eventually managed to say. »He was hurt in the other dimension.«
    »We can’t see him yet«, Buford went on. »We’re sup­posed to give him some hours of rest or something.«
    »Well, these few hours are over now.« Candace turned her head at the new voice. A friendly-looking adult man, seemingly ignoring the still existing tension between Lin­da and Josh. »My name is Doctor Scott«, he introduced himself, shaking the hands of the three quite bewildered newcomers. »I am here to inform you that Phineas is re­covering incredibly well - quite a fighter, isn’t he? He is on the verge of waking up.« His smile and voice became incredibly cheerful. »I can let you visit him now.«
    Linda shot Josh another angry glance before nodding and following the doctor to the room Phineas was in, ev­eryone else trailing behind her.
    When they were just outside that very room, the ten­sion between Candace’s biological parents seemed to rise again, and she sighed. Couldn’t her mother let it be for a little while? »Mom«, she said. »Forget about your back­story for a moment, alright? You don’t want the first thing Phineas sees to be you getting mad as his father he hasn’t even properly met yet.«
    Linda stared at her for a moment, then nodded at last. »For Phineas.«
    And Doctor Scott opened the door.


  • - 18 -
    The Days After

    Ferb was the last person to enter the hospital room, staying in the background after that as well. Maybe no­body would pay any attention to him this way. That was the last thing he needed: he wasn’t even sure if he really wanted to meet Phineas again, after all that had hap­pened. What if his brother was scared of him now?
    But now they were here together, so Ferb took the time to muster his surroundings before even thinking about look­ing at Phineas.
    There were two beds in this room; Phineas’ one was the one closer to the door. The bed near the window was occupied by Melody, and Ferb felt incredibly relieved when there were no wires or devices of any sort connect­ed to her. That could only mean that there really was nothing to worry about.
    The room itself was not all too fancy: a sterile white was covering the walls and scarce furniture, and there was a TV on the wall facing the pa­tients, but it was turned off.
    Ferb noticed the shocked sounds and expressions his friends and family were making upon seeing Phineas, so he brought himself to look at his brother as well. And he, too, gulped when he saw that Phineas’ left arm was but a stump, the entire area of his left shoulder still covered in bandages. He was still unconscious, but not in pain, by the looks of it. And yet, the way he was lying there, in­jured like this… Ferb could not help but think of Finn. But Finn is dead and Phineas isn’t, Ferb reminded himself, once again feeling a pain in his heart. Finn is dead. If we had brought him into this dimension… maybe we could have saved him. He could’ve been still alive. But it was too late for him now. They had to focus on other things. Phineas was alive, and that was what mattered.
    »The operation went well«, Dr. Scott now informed the group. »He will be back on his feet in no time.«
    As if having waited for that very sentence, Phineas started opening his eyes, letting out some tired and con­fused groans.
    »See?«, Dr. Scott cheered, then was by the boy’s side instantly. »Hello, Phineas. How do you feel?«
    Still a bit dizzy, Phineas replied with his usual smile. »...take a guess.«
    But that only made Linda more worried about her son, and she knelt beside him. »Phineas, are you alright?«
    »Oh, hey, Mom«, the boy grinned, then let his eyes wander across the room. »And hey, Candace! And Ferb, and Baljeet, and Buford, and Dad, and Dad…« He blinked in confusion when he realized what he had just said, and stared at Josh - who had no idea what to say ei­ther.
    »...hello, Phineas. Nice… nice to meet you.« The con­ditions the two of them finally met under weren’t at all what anyone had expected, Ferb knew. Phineas had looked forward to meeting Josh so much, but the excite­ment was strongly dimmed by the current situation.
    Phineas wanted to reply, but noticed that nobody was looking directly at him. He followed their gaze to his in­jury - and only then did he seem to become aware of his missing arm. He, too, stared at his shoulder for a mo­ment. »Huh.«
    »I… I am sorry this happened«, Baljeet told him, visi­bly uncomfortable and still unable to look away from the injury.
    Phineas shrugged, grimacing at what seemed to be a sudden twinge of pain. But he quickly recovered from that. »It’s okay, really. After all, I’m back here with all of you guys, so we must have saved the day, right?«
    »Er, mostly the guys from the other dimension«, Bu­ford said truthfully, earning an ungentle jab from Baljeet. »Okay, and your dad. And Ferb’s mom, too!«
    »What did you say?«, Lawrence asked, both surprised and confused. So before anyone could reply, Ferb decid­ed to simply walk over to the mentioned woman.
    He took her hand that was so much more fragile than his own. The rest of Melody’s body was just as weak, but he noticed with relief that the doctors already seemed to have given her a bath of some sort - her hygiene was visi­bly better than right after the transformation back into a human.
    Ferb used one of his fingers to trace the palm of her hand, becoming lost in thought as he looked at the face he had not seen for eight years. Her blue eyes were closed, and she seemed quite peaceful as she slept, her long hair - black at first sight, but shimmering in a dark green whenever light touched it - falling onto her shoul­ders and the typical hospital clothing she was wearing now. She was beautiful, to say the least.
    »How… how can it be? This… how…« Lawrence was speechless when he saw the woman that had been his wife several years ago. Unlike Linda before, he was not angry at all, and Ferb doubted that his father would have been even if Melody had been as fit as Josh. That was just not in Lawrence’s nature.
    And yet, he made no attempt of getting closer; he only stood there, trying to process the scene. »How?«, he mumbled to himself over and over. Back when she had disappeared, Lawrence had been searching for her, of course, but to Ferb, it had always seemed like he had giv­en up on her far too quickly. Was it coming back to him now? Was he asking himself how, and why, she was here now, after all this time?
    Josh cleared his throat awkwardly. »The man that im­prisoned me… you know, in the other dimension… he had found her too. She… she hasn’t been human for six years.«
    Lawrence’s face turned to utter shock, looking at Melody as if she could turn into a monster any second now. »But she is past that, isn’t she?«
    »Technically, yes«, Dr. Scott spoke up, frowning. »She is the first of our patients with such a record, of course, but there have been comparable cases nevertheless. For some of them, it took several months or even years to re­gain their motor skills and other human-specific compe­tences, such as language or everyday life in general.«
    Ferb froze. It had never occurred to him that she would not be able to immediately return to how he had known her. But they would not take her from him another time. He would teach her everything she needed to learn again all by himself if he had to.
    »She’ll be fine«, Phineas stated, and Ferb could not help but be impressed by his unbroken optimism. »After all, I’ll be keeping her company for a while!« For one second, his brother locked eyes with him, his smile not fading at all. »And you guys will be visiting us, too.« Ferb turned away in his inability to keep it up any longer, and it was then Linda made an announcement.
    »I think it would be best if we all went home for today. I can’t be the only one that needs to process everything… and tomorrow, we can all come back here. Catch up with the rest of your unbelievable journey.«
    Ferb found himself nodding at the proposal, and so did the others. The ones having been to the other dimension were all worn out by the last two days, and those only having heard about it today were overwhelmed by the turns of events.
    And so it was decided. They all said their goodbyes to Phineas and Dr. Scott - minus Ferb, who still was not in the mood for talking at all. Buford called his mother to drive him and Baljeet home, much to the Indian boy’s horror for whatever reason. As for Ferb, he was sharing the backseat of the Flynn-Fletcher car with Candace and Josh, and during the entire drive, nobody said a word.
    This continued during dinner as well, and Linda was visibly angry when Lawrence offered Josh to share the brothers’ room with Ferb for the time being, considering Phineas would not be returning home for some time. But she seemed too exhausted to say anything against it, so Ferb eventually took Josh with him.
    The man was astonished by how much the Fly­nn-Fletcher house had changed since he had last been there, rambling about how it had been ten years ago on their entire way to the boys’ room. Ferb hardly paid any attention to him, and suddenly related to Linda’s frustra­tion from earlier the moment Josh sat down on Phineas’ bed. It just felt so wrong… and so empty, even with Josh being there. And it’s all my fault, he thought bitterly, sit­ting down on his own bed and staring at the wall.
    »This has always been Phineas’ room, ever since back then. It’s so different now, of course; after all, he’s grown a lot…« Josh chuckled as he continued rambling. »You know, Ferb, thinking about it: maybe it was good that I left. Not what I did in the other dimension, of course… but if I hadn’t disappeared, and Melody neither, you’d still be in Britain, and you’d never have met Phineas and all your friends here. Your dad’s a better husband than I ever was, and… really, Ferb, my son is lucky to have someone like you as a brother.«
    The boy froze, clutching his sheets.
    »You okay, Ferb?«, Josh asked, confusion in his voice. He doesn’t know what I have done, the greenhead realized.
    His voice was just as bitter as his thoughts when he spoke up for the first time since returning to his home di­mension. »It’s my fault.«
    »I attacked Phineas. I made him lose his arm. I… I nearly killed him.«
    »The Duke is to blame«, Josh countered immediately. »You would never hurt Phineas intentionally, Ferb. Not that I’d have known either one of you for too long, but I know I’d never hurt your mother. And the bond between you two… that’s even stronger than that.« Ferb heard him stand up, and seconds later, Josh sat down right beside the boy. »Look, kid. I’ve done horrible things. Things I… I don’t even want to remember. But I do. And I’ll be hon­est and tell you that whatever you did… it’s gonna haunt you for years. I know it does, no matter how much you try to forget… but you kids made me realize one thing. Bad stuff happens, stuff you just can’t prevent. Do you think I’d have created the stone if I’d known what the Duke would be using it for? Of course not. But I did it anyway, and bad things happened, and I couldn’t do any­thing about it. I was scared of ever inventing again, but you guys… you made me realize that people need me. I saw you at the hospital, Ferb. Phineas needs you. It’s not much of a stretch to say that you’re the best that’s ever happened to him.« Josh sighed. »Okay, honestly, I’ve got no idea where I’m going with this. But the gist is: you’re important, kid. Don’t forget that, okay?«
    Ferb let the man’s words sink in, unable to move or re­ply. Josh didn’t know it, but those things he had just said… they were everything Ferb had ever wanted to hear. Something he had never quite believed in before, which had ultimately led him to succumb to the Duke’s powers. To injure Phineas.
    But now he realized that he had to accept what he had done. And most of all, he had to understand things were not his fault.
    Phineas needs me, he repeated in his head. He’s my brother.
    He found no words to express how thankful he was for Josh’s speech, so Ferb simply rested his head on the man’s shoulder. The two of them remained like that for a long while, not saying anything at all. But eventually, Josh called it a day and decided to go to sleep. Ferb fol­lowed his example and helped him in the bathroom - af­ter all, Josh had spent ten years with almost no hygiene; it was about time.
    It was only about eight in the evening when they went to bed, but they didn’t care. Last night had been an event­ful one with only a few hours of sleep, not to mention the battle and the events after it that had all happened today. Ferb looked forward to finally being able to have a good night’s rest and was asleep just as quickly.

    After sleeping in, Ferb and Candace did their best to reintroduce Josh to household matters. Unlike her daugh­ter, who had soon become fascinated by her father and his stories as well as helping him whenever needed, Lin­da still had a hard time warming up to Josh’s presence. Lawrence, however, befriended the other man easily. The two of them got along incredibly well, leaving Linda frustrated. She was not yet ready to have her former hus­band back in her life.
    »How can it be that your last name is Flynn as well?«, Lawrence currently asked Josh as they were hanging out in the living room. »And don’t tell me it’s a coincidence and you just happen to share this name with Linda.«
    »Actually«, Josh replied, »When we married, I adopted her name. Trust me, nobody’d want to have mine.«
    Ferb raised an eyebrow, and Candace probed her father as well, grinning. »Well, you have to tell us now!«
    »It’s nothing, really«, Josh said in an attempt of getting himself out of answering the question, but that proved useless when Linda showed up.
    »Baconmayer«, she stated, not without a teasing smile on her face. »Josh Baconmayer, and I’d suggest you let your name change back. I’ve remarried, you know.«
    Josh went silent at that, ignoring everyone who had chuckled at the revelation of his name. It was Lawrence who saved him from the awkward situation: »Why don’t we find out how Phineas is doing? We promised him we’d come by.«
    Don’t forget Mother, Ferb added, but still nodded in agreement - just like Josh, who was visibly thankful for dropping the topic of his name.
    During the drive to the hospital, Ferb noticed that the atmosphere was much less awkward than the day before: Phineas’ absence had been felt at home, of course, but they had all become used to Josh by now. Only Linda re­frained from showing much sympathy for her erstwhile husband, but that didn’t change the fact that she still en­joyed his presence after all those years. Ferb knew that as much as Candace, and he could not help but crack an amused smile when Candace rolled her eyes at her mother’s distant behavior.

    »Can I talk to Phineas alone for a moment?« Ferb’s question took especially Linda by surprise, but one didn’t have to be Josh to understand that Ferb had more to talk about with Phineas than anyone else. So his family agreed, and now he had half an hour all for himself.
    Phineas needs me, Ferb reminded himself as he was about to enter the hospital room his brother and mother were in. So he pushed down the door handle - and walked in.
    »Ferb!«, his brother immediately greeted him. »It’s great to see you.«
    Ferb simply nodded, taking a glance at his still sleeping mother before eventually turning to Phineas. He seemed happy and not in pain at all, but his missing arm still un­settled Ferb.
    »I know what you’re thinking«, Phineas spoke up, noticing that Ferb was staring at his shoulder again. »But I don’t hate you for, you know… yesterday. When it hap­pened, I was really afraid, but not of you! Only of what the Duke had done to you.« His smile became more forced as he remembered their fight. »I know you, and I know you’ll be blaming yourself for like forever. But no matter what you think about what happened, I don’t hate you. I’m… really sorry we never noticed you were feel­ing left out when we did stuff, really! I promise I’ll be paying more attention to that in the future.« Now, Phineas’ smile widened again. »And whatever else is gonna happen, you’ll always be the best brother in the world.«
    And for the first time in quite a while, Ferb returned the expression, even though his own smile was only a cracked one. »...same to you. And… I’m sorry«, he said. »For how things turned out.«
    »Well«, Phineas countered, »The two dimensions have been saved and we’re all back home, so I don’t see why you’d be sorry! Speaking of which… you could tell me how you defeated the Duke in the end. I missed out on all of that!«
    »Of course«, Ferb replied, and he gladly told Phineas what had happened, more than once exaggerating on how heroic everyone, especially Finn, had been. The only thing he concealed from his brother was Finn’s death: al­beit heroic, he didn’t want Phineas to feel upset about the loss of someone he had been this close to. »Whatever he’s doing now, he’s most certainly happy.«
    »I hope so«, Phineas agreed, and then in turn told Ferb about how boring the hospital was. That was taken care of when the rest of their family joined them after some more minutes. Josh was looking far less shabby today, af­ter a long bath and new clothes.
    The brothers then told them about their journey across the other dimension, as they had already decided yester­day. They left out the parts about their prophesied deaths and fighting against each other, of course, and their tale fascinated and shocked the rest of their family in equal measure.
    The only news for Ferb presented itself when Linda asked Phineas about any update on his recovery. Phineas shrugged, stating that he’d have to remain in hospital for at least another week - and that then, the doctors would start developing a prosthesis for him.
    That information didn’t get out of Ferb’s mind for the next couple of days. During this time, he and his family, as well as Baljeet and Buford, often visited Phineas in the hospital. His brother was doing great, that was easy to tell, but it didn’t take long for Ferb to tell Josh about his worries.
    »They’ll never find the right one for him«, he stated. »And he will have to spend the rest of his life with it, too.«
    But Josh didn’t seem to mind too much. »I don’t see why that should be a problem«, he explained, excited. »I mean, all we need to do is to… well, take part in creating his artificial arm.«
    That thought was tempting… too tempting. »They wouldn’t allow that.«
    Josh shook his head. »I’m pretty sure that at least half of your previous inventions weren’t exactly allowed by the state. And think of the possibilities! I’ve seen what your pocket knife can do. Now take that, only as an artifi­cial limb.«
    Ferb didn’t need Josh’s ideas to get a mental image of their plan. With technology like that implemented in the pocket knife, the applications were almost limitless, espe­cially with some further adjustments. And most impor­tantly: Phineas would love it.
    So at last, he nodded. »Let’s do it.«

    They had a plan now. An actual goal to work towards - and that was something Ferb really appreciated. The days came and went, and they all were the same: in hospital, they would visit Phineas, and Melody as well, for she had woken up eventually; and although Dr. Scott told Ferb she didn’t remember much of the English language yet, the boy still spent a lot of time talking to her… just like in the old days. And she smiled at him, for she did re­member her son. When Josh wasn’t busy asking the doc­tors about how prostheses worked, he joined the two of them, and Melody enjoyed his company just as much.
    At home, everyone had mostly returned to everyday life, even though one could still feel Phineas’ absence. But even Linda had stopped her passive-aggressive behavior towards Josh, and in general, the man had managed to in­tegrate quite well. He and Ferb never told anyone about the reason they sometimes disappeared into their room for hours; not even Candace found out about it. Of course, they were spending all this time working on Phineas’ new arm: they wanted it to be perfect, after all.
    And so, the days flew by: chatting with Phineas and talking to Melody and the doctors at the hospital, secretly working on the artificial limb at home. And their deter­mination never vanished; on day ten, they were just as motivated as on day one.
    After two weeks of working hand in hand with the doctors and some improvements and readjust­ments by Ferb, their invention was finally something the greenhead was one hundred percent content with. Or, well, ninety-nine percent, for he probably only needed to look closely to find that something was off.
    »Ferb«, Josh called him. »You’ve been double-check­ing this thing far more often than the word ‘double’ even means.«
    That didn’t stop the boy from frowning at the device.
    »You’ll always find something you’re not satisfied with«, the man said. »But if I’ve learned one thing in life, it’s that we’ve done our best, and that’s always good enough.« Josh patted Ferb on the back. »Come on, kid. Let’s show him.«
    Ferb still wasn’t completely convinced. He wanted it to be absolutely perfect - what if his brother didn’t like it? But he had to admit there was nothing he could do about that at the moment, and that Phineas hardly ever disliked something anyway.
    When the two of them entered Phineas’ hospital room together with Dr. Scott as well as their invention hidden under a sheet, the rest of the family was already there, just like Baljeet and Buford. Phineas was wide awake, curiously eyeing the sheet. Melody was conscious as well, smiling at Ferb and watching whatever was about to happen.
    »I believe we all know why we are here today«, Dr. Scott began. »Phineas has recovered incredibly well from his injury. It is time for him to get his prosthesis.« His smile widened as he turned to the boy. »It is often hard for the patients to adjust to such a new part of their body, but I am absolutely positive you won’t be having any problems at all. You see, for the first time, we had the as­sistance of two of the best inventors in the world when we created your prosthesis.«
    Ferb couldn’t help but blush at that, but to his relief, Josh did the same. When Phineas noticed this, he started grinning more widely than probably ever before, and the others smiled as well.
    Only Linda expressed her shocked disbelief. »You did what?«
    »A wonderful job is what they did«, Dr. Scott coun­tered.
    And Phineas, too, was eager to finally try it out. »Show me already!«
    Josh nodded, so Ferb unveiled what was hidden under the sheet: a mechanical arm completely made of metal - something from a science fiction movie at best, but noth­ing anyone would want to be seen in public with. There was a surprised silence as everyone was overwhelmed, or rather underwhelmed, by the device.
    Only Phineas showed a teasing grin. »And?« He knew from experience that there was more to it than met the eye.
    He likes it so far, Ferb thought with relief. I hope he’ll still like it after we’ve shown him the rest.
    »You should try it on first«, Josh told him, and Dr. Scott, more experienced with that, picked the prosthesis up and went over to Phineas, who was already sitting on the edge of his bed without any bandages around his shoulder area anymore. The wound had closed well, which made it far easier, and possible in the first place, to take this one step further. So the doctor put the artificial limb into place, and Ferb could see in the faces of the group that even those who were familiar with Phineas and Ferb’s inventions were impressed by how perfectly it fit.
    Even when Dr. Scott let go of it, the prosthesis didn’t fall off - and before anyone could ask questions about that, the artificial arm suddenly started moving just like a normal arm would. Phineas grinned as he flexed his new fingers and all other joints, their movement hardly distin­guishable from a natural arm.
    »The arm recognizes what movement he’s imagining«, Josh explained, just as proud of his invention as Ferb. »It makes no robotic sounds at all, and we balanced it in a way that it’s just as heavy as a natural arm, so there’s not much of a difference to get used to.«
    »Well, it looks different«, Candace pointed out.
    Buford snorted. »I thought you’d know your brothers better than that. I bet you five bucks they’re not done yet.«
    But Candace was smart enough not to agree to his offer and looked questioningly at Ferb instead. »Go ahead, then.«
    It was Josh who followed her request. With his right in­dex finger, he touched his own left shoulder, and Phineas immediately imitated him. In that spot, there was a senso­ry pad located on his artificial arm, and a small green lamp lit up after a moment. »Fingerprint scanner«, Josh told nobody in particular. »To avoid accidental command activation by something, or someone, else than Phineas himself.«
    »Command activation?«, Baljeet repeated. That seemed to fascinate him more than anything else so far. »What can it do?«
    »Think of a texture«, Josh said to his son. »And say it.«
    Phineas didn’t take long to come up with one. »Skin«, he announced, and within seconds, the mechanical arm’s texture changed right before everyone’s eyes. Visibly im­pressed, Phineas touched it. »How did you do that? Don’t tell me that’s actual skin.«
    Ferb shrugged. »Polyvinyl chloride.«
    »This texture will stay until you change to another one«, Josh added. »It’s also completely water- and chemi­cal-proof, at least when it comes to everyday stuff like taking a shower.« He took a pause before remember­ing something. »Oh, and we’ve included some gadgets you might find useful.«
    The boy tried it out instantly, once again putting his finger on the sensory pad that was the only thing still hinting at the arm not being natural. »Flashlight!«
    The fingertips of the prosthesis changed into little lamps. Phineas flexed his fingers again for a moment, then changed them back to a normal hand, grinning all the while.
    »We can show you how to take it off in case you wish to do that at some point«, Ferb told his brother, who shook his head.
    »Are you kidding? This thing is amazing! You guys are the best.«
    He likes it, Ferb thought, still a little surprised.
    You really thought he wouldn’t? His eyes met those of his mother, who was smiling proudly at him.
    And now he, too, found it hard to conceal a happy expression.

    Two days later, Phineas’ family visited him once again, everyone being far more cheerful than on the many days before. The boy was already waiting for them, wearing one of the t-shirts Linda had brought him which was also conveniently covering the sensory pad. Melody was awake as well; there was almost no sign of her not having been human for six years - other than still not saying much. But they all knew Ferb; the fact that his mother was not very talkative either was something most of them simply shrugged off.
    »Well, it is time«, Dr. Scott announced. »...oh, who am I kidding, you’ll come back for Mrs. Fletcher anyway. No need for permanent goodbyes yet.« He chuckled. »And Josh, you definitely have to send me your notes on the prosthesis you built. Leaving out some of the things I’m sure not all patients would need, this invention could change lives!«
    Josh blushed slightly. »Er, it’s what I do.«
    »We’ll send the files your way«, Lawrence replied for him.
    They all said their - temporary - goodbyes to Dr. Scott and Melody, and Ferb could tell that Candace was somewhat looking forward to the boys’ big ideas again, after several weeks of not having had any of those - although she had yet to find out whether it would still be the same, now that she knew Linda was aware of those inventions anyway. Still, she was glad to have her brother back.
    She patted Phineas on the back. »Let’s go home.«

  • - 19 -
    Return to Firestone Castle

    At last, everything had returned to normal.
    That thought surprised Candace. After all, things couldn’t be more different from the way they had been in the beginning of summer: Phineas had an artificial arm, their mother knew about their inventions, and the Flynn-Fletcher house was inhabited by two more people than usual, no one less than Candace’s own biological father and her stepfather’s former wife. Melody had left the hospital only three days after Phineas had returned home, and just like Josh, she had integrated so well that it all seemed perfectly normal at this point.
    Sure, she still needed help doing a lot of things, and she still didn’t speak at all - even though Ferb assured Can­dace that she had a beautiful voice -, but the boys and Josh built all kinds of contraptions to help her perform various tasks and Candace contributed as much as possi­ble as well. She enjoyed living with a female that wasn’t her mother, and she could tell that Melody liked spending time with her too. The girl had three inventors to look af­ter now, but things were much less exhausting now that she knew that her mother was aware of everything.
    Mom had accepted Josh back in her life as well, and all kinds of fear that she and Josh, or Dad and Melody, would end up back together were unfounded. They were just one big happy family. And with two people like Josh and Melody around, no one could tell what the next day might be having in store.
    Apparently, the ringing of the doorbell.
    »I’ll go«, Candace volunteered, being closest to the door anyway. Who might it be? Maybe it was Jeremy, and he wanted to surprise her! With a new song just for her, or with a romantic date… yeah, she hadn’t heard of him in a while. It had to be him. So she opened the door, trying to hide her more than happy grin under a casu­al »Oh, hi, Jeremy! What are you doing here?« expres­sion.
    But standing in front of her... was Baljeet.
    »Oh, hi, Baljeet. What are you doing here?« Well, at least she did sound casual now. And audibly disappoint­ed.
    But the boy didn’t seem to care. »I need to talk to your brothers. It is very important.«
    »Suit yourself«, she shrugged, leading Baljeet into the living room where Linda was currently teaching Melody several different yoga positions to train her motor skills and balance. Upon seeing Baljeet, the women quickly re­turned to a standing position, and Melody smiled at the newcomer. The boy seemed visibly flustered, and Can­dace couldn’t blame him: it was the first time he saw Melody outside the hospital, and the woman truly had a gorgeous smile.
    »Hey, Baljeet!« Phineas had noticed his friend through the glass door connecting the room with the backyard and was now coming inside with Ferb and Josh. »What’s up?«
    »Well«, Baljeet began. »Five minutes and forty-eight seconds ago, I found this outside my house.« He revealed a letter made of yellowed paper, reading 'To Phineas and Ferb' on its back. It did not seem to have a sender, but it had been sealed - literally, with a red seal bearing the em­blem of an eagle wielding a sword in its talons.
    Phineas was already about to open the letter, but Lawrence entered the room just in time. »Don’t!« He hur­ried over to the others, getting a hold of the paper. As an antiques dealer, he was especially interested in the letter itself. »This letter appears to be from the Middle Ages, judging by its appearance - that is, of course, putting aside the fact that the seal has only been impressed re­cently. It’s made of red wax, so the letter is of royal ori­gin… but no coat of arms I’m familiar with.«
    Phineas exchanged a knowing look with his brother, the exact kind of expression Candace used to despise. But by now, she had taken a more relaxed approach on the matter of the boys’ shenanigans. »I think we know who it’s from«, the redhead grinned, taking the letter back and breaking the seal, much to Lawrence’s dismay.
    »Read it out!«, Candace demanded, curious about the letter’s contents but unable to see anything thanks to the many people all wanting to know what it read.
    Lawrence retrieved the letter again, adjusted his glass­es, and cleared his throat.

    »Dear Phineas, dear Ferb,
    I hope you and your friends and family are doing well. Over here, life has returned to normal, if one can call it that. There has been no sign of Doonkleberg ever since you left, and we continue doing our best in integrating all the former darklings into normal life again. It’s hard, of course, but I think we’re doing a pretty good job.
    But the reason for writing you is another. It has been a long time since we last saw each other, and we have not yet had a proper celebration of our victory. Hence, we invite you to return to Firestone Castle in order to have a proper finale of our great adventure. Of course, you are more than welcome to bring everyone that has contrib­uted to our achievements - our sincere thanks are in or­der for all of you. I would also love to meet the Me from your world, Candace, if that is possible. Either way, we are planning on hosting quite an event this afternoon and would love to see you there.
    Yours sincerely,

    P.S. Sorry it’s not Fern writing you. Let’s just say he’s busy with other things right now.
    P.P.S. I know this letter must seem pretty old-fashioned to the standards of your dimension. Still, I hope you liked the royal seal I put on it. Not needed, of course, but hey. It looks nice.«

    »Sounds like I know what we’re gonna do today!«, Phineas exclaimed excitedly. »It’s been ages since our adventure, I can’t wait to meet our friends again.«
    »Yeah, and I can’t wait to meet them in the first place«, Candace nodded, still surprised by the fact that Can, the other Her, actually wanted to get to know her.
    »I will call Buford«, Baljeet offered. »We should not leave him out of this.«
    »Definitely not«, Josh agreed. He liked the bully, espe­cially because of their first encounter which he had de­scribed to the family when the boys had been retelling their story almost a month ago. »And boys, we should start building a new teleporter immediately. We don’t want to be late!«
    So everyone began doing what they had said they’d do, and Candace was left wondering whether she should dress up for the ‘proper finale’. She was merely staring at her wardrobe when somebody else entered the room.
    »Looking good.«
    Candace froze. She didn’t know this voice. It was soft, a little timid, and female. The girl turned her head: it was Melody, standing in the door, wearing a smile that only made her all the more beautiful. And she had actually said something! That was reason enough to leave Can­dace taken aback for some moments.
    »I’m wearing my normal clothes«, she eventually replied skeptically, gathering herself. That’s easy for her to say. She’s gorgeous no matter what.
    Melody only shrugged, still smiling, and left the room again.
    She’s even as vague as her son. Candace sighed. But she couldn’t just go in her normal clothes, could she?
    Then again, who was she trying to impress, anyway? Her brothers? Her dad? Herself from the other dimen­sion? No, only herself. The others all wouldn’t mind if she’d just go in her normal clothes, so why should she mind?
    Melody’s right, she realized. I just have to be myself.
    So she only put on some fresh makeup before returning downstairs where the others were already waiting.
    »We’ll skip lunch«, Phineas explained, and Buford, who had arrived by now, nodded, grinning.
    »Who knows what a big buffet they’ve prepared for us!«
    »Don’t go on any more life-threatening adventures, okay?«, Linda reminded them with a hint of worry in her voice, ignoring Buford’s comment that was rather unlike­ly to happen. »I’m looking at you, Josh.«
    »Actually…«, the man spoke up, scratching his neck awkwardly. »I’m leaving.«
    »Wait, what?« That surprised Candace as much as her mother. More than that: she had really come to like her biological father, he couldn’t just go!
    »I’m leaving«, he repeated, still visibly uncomfortable. »Melody as well.«
    Ferb froze and widened his eyes - not even he seemed to have known about this plan.
    »We didn’t want you to make a big fuss about it«, Josh went on. »That’s… that’s why we didn’t tell anyone. And don’t get me wrong, you’ve been great and all, really, I loved hanging out with my kids again. But… Melody and I, we’ve been thinking of leaving the entire time, honestly. We’re not needed here.«
    Phineas opened his mouth in response, and even Ferb wanted to say something against Josh’s last statement. But the man shook his head.
    »No, kids. It’s been fun, of course, but we haven’t been here for ages. You’re asking too much of Melody. She’s not yet ready to cope with this complex world again, she told me so herself.«
    »...thank you, all of you«, the woman nodded now that everyone was looking at her. She was sitting on a chair; longer periods of standing or walking still exhausted her. »I mean it! But I… I need a place where…«
    »Where she’s no burden, but an enrichment«, Josh completed the sentence for her. »You got along without us for years, we’re not contributing much to this world at this point. That’s why we’ve decided to return to the oth­er dimension. Their world is in ruins… they need us there.«
    »They could really use some good inventors over there«, Phineas realized. »And it’s not like we couldn’t visit each other.«
    »Yeah, that’s not much of a problem with those tele­porters«, Buford agreed.
    »I promise we’ll come visit you from time to time«, Josh quickly said before walking towards the newly built teleporter in the backyard - with a bag he must have al­ready packed. Candace assumed that the few belongings of himself and Melody were in there, they didn’t need two bags with the little luggage they had. »I’ll be back sooner than last time«, he told Linda in particular, look­ing back at everyone else. »Come on, guys. Let’s go.«
    Way to get out of an awkward situation, dad.
    »Thank you… for everything«, Melody said once more, smiling her gorgeous smile at Lawrence who then gained a quite jealous glare from Linda after bidding his farewell to his former wife with a courtly and totally British kiss on her hand.
    For the kids, it wasn’t time for goodbyes yet, so Can­dace only waved at Linda and Lawrence before following the others through the portal.

    She definitely hadn’t expected her journey to the other dimension to start with a hike up a huge hill.
    »We should’ve taken the tunnels«, Buford complained. »They’re not as steep.«
    »We’re not in danger anymore«, Phineas shrugged, leading the way. »There’s no reason for not taking the obvious path - and it’s not that hard.«
    »And we are almost there«, Baljeet agreed.
    Right after saying this, Candace and the others flinched as an excited squeal broke the silence of their surround­ings. It was coming from a small and chubby boy running right toward them, and at his speed, he definitely wouldn’t be able to come to a halt in time.
    Buford took care of that, catching the boy who really had problems slowing down after coming close enough. The boy with curly brown hair giggled, and Buford had a grin spreading across his entire face.
    »Heeey!«, the bully exclaimed. »You got stronger since last time, didn’t you?«
    The other boy ignored his question. »You’re back! You actually came!«
    »Of course we did, what did you expect?« Buford tou­sled the boy’s hair. »There’s no way I’m missing out on seeing Little Me again.«
    Candace blinked. Now that Buford mentioned it, the small boy did have some similarities to the bully’s ap­pearance. She had already heard about his look-alike, Bue or something, not being as tough as Buford, but ac­tually meeting this boy still was pretty unexpected.
    Now, the boy seemed to have realized that he should greet the others as well. »Phineas, you’re alright! I’m so glad your arm’s fine after all.«
    »Er, more or less«, Phineas teased. »I’ll tell you later. Right now, meet my sister, Candace.«
    The girl actually found herself blushing at the mention of her name, then just waved at the small boy staring at her in… awe? »Um, hey.«
    »That’s so cool!« was the reply she received. »The oth­ers told me about you already!«
    »Oh, did they?« She glared at Phineas, who only shrugged innocently, although she just knew he was be­hind that. »Well, that’s… great, I guess?«
    The small boy nodded. »We should go to the others, they’ll love seeing all of you again! Come on!« And with that, he already ran back up the hill.
    Buford actually sounded quite proud. »And he hasn’t changed a bit.«
    Phineas chuckled. »That was Bue, by the way«, he told his sister. »Now let’s do what he said and meet the oth­ers!«
    Including Can, Candace thought. If she’s as great as they described her…
    But meeting her counterpart from this world had to wait for now: Candace couldn’t help but make some fas­cinated sounds as she walked through the giant gate of Firestone Castle, a place like straight from a fairy-tale. Okay, a bit less sparkly and without knights to swoon over, but it was a start.
    »They’re back!«, she heard Bue’s excited shouts. »Bal, they’re back!«
    »Hold your horses, I am coming.« The new voice was deep, with an accent much like Baljeet’s. It belonged to a dark-skinned boy looking more mature than he actually was, jumping down from an elevated area of the castle’s inner ward as if it was nothing. He wasn’t ugly, Candace had to admit, but distant and mysterious foreigners weren’t her type anyway. She was more into handsome blond guitar players like Jeremy - her boyfriend, after all.
    Now, the stranger had arrived in front of them, muster­ing the group. He bowed his head. »I am glad to find all of you in good condition, just like it is a pleasure to cross paths with you once again.«
    »Well, he got even more manner-y since last time«, Bu­ford stated, but Baljeet immediately defended the strange boy he bore almost no resemblance to - yet ironically, he was supposed to be that guy’s look-alike.
    »At least he has some manners, unlike you.« He turned to the stranger. »It is nice to see you as well, Bal.«
    »Yeah, how are things over here?«, Josh asked.
    »Complicated«, Bal merely stated, quickly dropping the topic. »You must be Candace. Call me Bal. It is a pleasure, I have heard many great things of you.«
    »Same to you«, the girl replied, quite astonished by how this boy managed to be even more unnecessarily for­mal than Baljeet. Well, at least he didn’t attempt to kiss her hand or something.
    »Sounds like someone wasn't all that successful«, Buford grinned. Bal glared at him, but seemed more embarrassed than anything else.
    »Huh?« Candace turned to the bully, not getting what was going on.
    He just shrugged. »Bal's been having a serious crush on this world's You. Told him to finally admit it and stuff. If she returned his feelings, he'd have acted differently around you, I'm pretty sure of that.«
    Bal sighed. »Can we not talk about this in public, please? It is true that it... did not go that well, but not everyone needs to know the details.«
    »Where’s Finn?«, Phineas changed the topic in an attempt to get Bal out of the embarrassing situation. »I’d love to see him again!«
    There was an awkward silence after that, as if that topic made Bal, and the others as well, just as uncomfortable.
    Josh went on, sounding just as forced. » can lead us to him, surely?«
    Reluctantly, Bal nodded. »Bue, tell Can they have ar­rived. The others, follow me.«
    Bue didn’t seem to mind that. »See you later!«, he said, running off into the castle.
    The group then followed Baljeet’s look-alike, and the silence between them made Candace just as uncomfort­able as the others seemed to be. Only Phineas appeared simply confused, and Candace could relate. Had he said something wrong? Sure, they had told her of the bad life Finn had had, about his injuries… but that was nothing to be this awkward about.
    It turned even more suspicious when Bal led them through a hidden passage seemingly leading into the hill itself. He didn’t bother lighting a candle. »It is only a short distance. Hold onto each other if necessary, but it really will not take long.«
    And he was right: after only a couple of steps and a bend they passed by feeling their way along the stony wall, there was light in front of them. Coming closer, they saw the silhouette of a bench. Two people were sit­ting on it, an adult and a child, by the looks of it. But even from a distance, they seemed oddly… stiff.
    Once near enough, Candace froze. The two figures on the bench weren’t people - but statues. Incredibly lifelike ones… of a man almost identical to Josh, and a boy al­most identical to Phineas if one ignored the large wound covering his face and his missing arm and eye.
    »What…«, Phineas spoke up, his voice but a whisper, unable to comprehend what was going on.
    »This was the favorite place of Can’s father when he was alive«, Bal explained. »His memorial has been here ever since shortly after his death. Can thought it fitting to bury her brother here as well.«
    »« Phineas’ eyes widened even more before he turned to his own brother. »Why didn’t you tell me? That… that he’s dead
    »We did not want to upset you«, Baljeet told him, but Phineas didn’t seem to care.
    »He’s dead!«, he repeated, tears in his eyes now. »He’s dead, and I’m alive, and…«
    »And we cheated nature for that to happen, you should be grateful«, Buford replied. »Really, man, we saved your life.«
    »I was supposed to die!«, Phineas insisted. »I should’ve died with Finn, this… this is just unfair.«
    »Don’t say that!«, Candace immediately exclaimed. »Phineas, that’s nonsense. Look, I've never met Finn, and I'm sorry about that, but do you think he’d ap­prove of you saying that? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t.«
    Ferb nodded. »He didn’t know he would die, but I would still consider it a heroic sacrifice.«
    »He got everything he had always wanted«, Phineas said. »Friends and courage and fun and life and…«
    »A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.« Ferb smiled sadly at where his friend had been buried.
    »Whoever made this still didn’t have to include his wounds«, Candace put in. The statue of Finn was smil­ing; in her opinion, the wounds completely ruined the im­age.
    But Phineas shook his head. »Actually... I think that’s what he’d have wanted.«
    »Yeah«, Buford agreed. »He was bearing them like a man.«
    »And what a lovely view.« That was Melody. She had sat down in front of the bench, looking ahead. One could see forests from here, a river, a distant mountain… the whole world at one’s feet. »All the places he had always wanted to visit.« Melody knew Finn better than all of them, Candace was aware of that. Her brothers had told her how the erstwhile darkling had developed a close bond to the boy after spending many years with him - so they let her have this private moment with her good friend. Had she known about his death before this? Probably not.
    »What kind of material is this?«, Baljeet now asked his look-alike. »And who made this? It is a very detailed and high-quality sculpture.«
    »Flint«, Bal explained, looking down. He actually seemed quite embarrassed. »And… I did.«
    »You’re kidding me«, Buford replied, and he was not the only surprised one. Candace, too, had expected some kind of craftsman to have created such a thing, not a twelve-year-old boy. Not one that wasn’t Phineas or Ferb, anyway.
    »No, I… I have always enjoyed carving and sculptur­ing, although this… was my biggest project so far, of course.« He frowned. »I spent nearly a month working on this… I had the feeling I needed to make amends for... well, not always having been very nice to him.«
    »He forgives you, I’m sure«, Phineas smiled, having gathered himself again by now. »This whole thing here… it’s absolutely amazing. You did great.«
    Bal nodded, still not liking the spotlight. And for some minutes, they stood there without another word, silently having agreed on paying their fallen friend respect and commemorating him. Candace felt bad for not having been as close to this boy as the others, but still - he was, to some extent, her own brother, mourning him felt only natural to her.
    After a while, Bal broke the silence at last. »We should return to the others, Can must already be waiting for you.«
    They all nodded, and so, they made their way back to the actual castle. Bal had been right with his assumption: standing near the pathway they now appeared from was a girl just as tall as Candace, her orange hair tied up in a ponytail, and wearing black clothes that made her far more attractive and pretty than Candace herself, she de­cided, frowning. Still, she could not help but be absolute­ly impressed by this incredibly badass-looking girl that was supposed to be... her.
    »Phineas, Ferb! It’s great to see you. And the rest of you too. Especially you, Candace.«
    »Yeah, um. Hope I’m not crushing your expectations.«
    »Relax«, her counterpart smiled. »You seem pretty al­right to me. And speaking of alright - your arm’s looking good, Phineas.«
    »Thanks!«, the boy grinned back. »But it wouldn’t be like that without Ferb and Josh. They made me this sweet replacement.«
    Bal raised an eyebrow. »What is that supposed to mean?«
    Phineas shrugged, as if this past event was nothing to him. But he couldn’t be serious about that, could he? He had lost an entire arm. Then again, it was Phineas. She should be used to his optimism by now. »Actually, the doctors had to amputate the arm«, he explained. »And Ferb and Josh built a replacement that’s so great you barely notice a difference.«
    »True that.« Can eyed the arm that was supposed to be, well. Not natural. »The only reason I believe you on that is that I know what you guys are capable of.«
    »Agreed«, Candace added, and for a moment, the two girls smiled at each other. They had something in com­mon after all.
    »Well, how are things over here?«, Phineas asked. They had not gotten a very informative reply from Bal before.
    Can shrugged, frowning slightly. »It was hard getting used to living here again. And reintroducing the people to, you know, human stuff. But on the bright side, this place is big enough for everyone to stay here for the time being.«
    »Then what’s the problem?« Candace knew herself well enough to understand that Can wasn’t telling them everything. Her frown had other reasons than resocializ­ing former darklings.
    Can’s expression turned more strained the second she realized she had been caught. »It’s about Fern«, she sighed. »The last month’s been pretty hard on him. He’s not used to that much responsibility«, she paused for a moment, »and not to mention to getting over what he had done right when you left.«
    »What do you mean?«, Phineas, just like Candace, had no idea what she was talking about. The others had not mentioned anything like that when telling them about the events of that day.
    Bal hesitated. »It was Fern who killed Finn to ensure your survival.«
    »But he’s like... twelve!« Candace couldn’t contain herself. They couldn't be serious! Fern was the same age as her brothers, and he had killed someone, another child even, on purpose?
    »That’s the problem«, Can nodded, still visibly upset about the topic. »I tried talking to him, but whenever I mentioned any of those issues, he yelled at me and stopped listening. And aside from that, he’s talking even less than you, Ferb. No offense.«
    Not haven taken any, Ferb was as calm as always. »Where is he?«
    »You want to talk to him?« Phineas wasn’t skeptical. Just curious.
    Ferb nodded.
    »I guess if there’s anyone able to talk some sense into him, it’s another him«, Can agreed. »And try to convince him quickly… he’s got a speech to give. We’ll meet in the throne room.« She waited until Bal was setting to the task of leading Ferb away. »The rest of you, let’s go there now. There are some people I’m sure you’d like to see again - though I can’t say the same about all of them.«
    »What?« Why would she want to meet someone that didn’t want to see her?
    But Phineas’ face lit up as he seemed to understand. »Ivan is here too?«
    Can shrugged. »So are Jared and Colin and the rest of the resistance. There was no point in having them stay in the caves now that we’ve got an entire castle.«
    »Phineas, who’s Ivan?«, Candace asked. Had they told her about him before? Probably. But she was quick to forget such things.
    »He was the first to tell me about Dad«, Phineas replied, shooting a glance at Josh. »And about some other things that could really use some explaining.«
    »You’re thinking about the prophecy, huh? Yeah, we haven’t really brought it up to him yet«, Can agreed. »You’re right, we should talk to him about it.«
    »What prophecy?« What were her brothers hiding from her?
    Buford shrugged. »Trust me, you don’t even want to know.«
    When nobody else added anything, Candace decided to leave it at that. Knowing her brothers, sometimes it really was better not to ask.

  • Na Sheyffer,

    endlich geht es weiter! Wobei man weiter ja nun eher so auffassen kann, dass es einfach nochmal ein Wiedersehen mit allen gibt, ein paar neue Bekanntschaften gemacht werden können und schließlich der letzte Part der Geschichte eingeleitet werden kann. Ich frage mich ja, wie dieser Brief überhaupt die Dimensionen wechseln konnte und er genau vor ihrem Haus gelandet ist, aber das soll wohl ein kleines Geheimnis bleiben.
    Interessante Dinge, die mir aufgefallen sind: Die Leute aus der anderen Welt wollen wieder zurück. Es ist quasi dieses typische Phänomen, neue Charaktere einzuführen, aber diese nicht im Cast zu behalten, um den eigentlichen Canon der Serie zu bewahren. Zwar muss ich zugeben, dass das so, wie es vermittelt wurde, genau diesen Eindruck erweckt und nicht, dass sie sich nicht in dieser Welt willkommen fühlen, aber schlussendlich kann ich es nachvollziehen. Man kennt es ja beispielsweise durch Heimweh, dass man sich dort, wo man sich die längste Zeit befand, auch am liebsten aufhält.
    Viele der bisher ungelösten Dinge werden aufgeklärt. Vor allem hat mich ja gewundert, dass Phineas überhaupt über den Tod seines Doppelgängers aufgeklärt wurde; wie erwartet macht er sich aber Vorwürfe. Ich find's jedenfalls gut ausgeführt, wie du die Emotionen vermittelst, weil hier eben viele Erinnerungen mitwirken. Und man kann auch als Leser diese Szene ausnutzen, indem man einfach über den bisherigen Verlauf der Geschichte noch einmal nachdenkt und sie auf sich wirken lässt.

    Wir werden sehen, was nun mit Fern ist. In diesem Sinn: Wir lesen uns!

  • - 20 -
    Prophecies and Promises

    »Look who’s here, Colin!«
    »Well, if it isn’t the kid that saved the world.«
    The two teenagers grinned at each other as they ap­proached the group that had just arrived. They did not seem to have changed at all since Phineas had last seen them, neither in personality nor in appearance.
    »Hey, guys!«, Phineas greeted them. »It’s great to see you again!«
    »Same to you«, Colin replied, only to be interrupted by Jared.
    »Hey, where did you leave Ferb?«
    »He’s talking to Fern«, Can explained. »Maybe he’ll have some more luck than we did.«
    »Oh, yeah.« The teen’s smile dropped. »I don’t like how he’s been acting lately. He can’t be our leader if he stays like that.«
    But Phineas remained confident. »Ferb always knows what to say. He’ll help Fern, I’m sure of that.«
    »Yes, he still has a prophecy to fulfill.«
    »Ivan!« Phineas was still not prepared for meeting the resistance’s healer again, but he was more than happy now that the blind boy was coming closer with Bue by his side.
    »Wait, that’s Irving?« Buford sounded quite surprised. Was it because he had not expected Ivan to be so much calmer than his counterpart or because he had not known him to be blind? Either way, Phineas didn’t mind and simply introduced Ivan to his friends and family.
    When it was Josh’s turn, Phineas added: »He’s the guy your mom told you about, remember?«
    »I do«, Ivan nodded, and even Josh confirmed the state­ment.
    »Yeah, I… I think I do remember that. It was a really nice village with wonderfully hospitable people… unfor­tunately, the Duke had convinced me to come with him on that very day, so I did not see much of it.«
    »He convinced you?« That wasn’t how Phineas remem­bered Ivan’s narration! »I thought the darklings attacked you?«
    Josh blinked in confusion. »What? No. The darklings only came to be years later. Who told you that?«
    »Ivan did.«
    Now, all eyes were on the blind boy - who could not see that, of course, but still seemed to be aware of the situ­ation he was in. »I… may have exaggerated here and there.«
    Buford crossed his arms. »Just like in the prophecy, huh? We beat you there - the two brothers made it out alive. How do you explain that?«
    Ivan did not pay much attention to Buford’s challeng­ing tone. With his patient smile, he merely asked: »Are you sure?«
    That was something Buford had not expected. Not knowing how to reply, he left that to Baljeet.
    »Yes, we are. Phineas and Ferb are still alive and well.«
    Ivan gazed at him with his pale eyes. »Does it matter?«
    Phineas was speechless. How could he say that and still be this calm?
    His sister seemed to be thinking the same. »Um, it does to me.«
    »But not to the prophecy, does it?«
    Colin was on the brothers’ side by now as well, even though Phineas knew how respected Ivan was in the re­sistance. »I’m pretty sure it literally says that ‘two war­ring brothers will unite’ our two worlds, Ivan.«
    »And they did.«
    »They’re still alive«, Jared put in.
    »But they aren’t brothers.«
    The group’s attention turned from Ivan to Bue, and the sudden spotlight made the small boy hesitate for a mo­ment. So Phineas prompted him to go on.
    »They aren’t brothers«, Bue repeated. »Ferb said so himself! They’re not related biologically.«
    That actually left Phineas stunned. It had never come to his mind even though it was such an obvious fact… he had always been thinking of Ferb as his brother, he had just assumed the prophecy to be about them. Had they re­ally been wrong all along?
    »But what’s with the line about the hair?«, the redhead asked. »Green and red - that can only be us.«
    Can shook her head as she realized something. »You’re not the only ones.«
    »Finn and Fern?«, Baljeet replied, but Buford immedi­ately dismissed that.
    »Nah, they’re even less related that dinner bell and Ferb.«
    The Indian boy ignored him. »What exactly did the prophecy say?«
    »‘As green as grass, as red as blood’«, Ivan answered him. Phineas could tell from the way he sounded that he knew exactly what his prophecy had ended up meaning, or meant all along, but Ivan rather let the others figure it out.
    »Okay, the second one is definitely Finn«, Buford de­cided. »I mean, have you looked at him? It wasn’t just his hair being red like that.«
    »...and fern is a type of grass«, Baljeet added. »Yes, that makes sense… so that really does mean that Phineas and Ferb were not the ones the prophecy was about.«
    »What did I miss?« Right at the mention of his name, Ferb showed up. But his question remained unanswered - everyone was far more interested in how his talk with Fern had gone. When Can asked him about it, Ferb mere­ly shrugged - and nodded to a side entrance of the throne room.
    Arriving from there, careful not to draw any attention to himself, was Fern. Even he was not dressed up for the occasion at all except for the sword he was once again carrying on his back.
    Before anyone, especially Can, was able to reach him and talk to him, he came to a halt in front of the throne. »Silence!«, he called out, and yet, hardly anyone but the group of his friends was following the order. It was easy to see how this disrespect of his au­thority was still bothering Fern.
    It was then Melody walked away from the group, stepped beside Fern, and let out a shrill, inhuman howl that, at last, made the room go completely silent.
    Fern nodded at the woman, for once not getting verbal­ly frustrated about someone else assuming control. He took a step toward her and told her something Phineas was unable to understand, then returned to his position.
    Meanwhile, Can had decided to take a seat in the first row of benches that had been brought into the throne room for whatever event the girl had mentioned in her letter. Bue and the other resistance members followed her example, and so did the people from Danville. Phineas noticed that behind them, the other benches were being occupied by more and more people, most of which the boy could easily identify as the look-alikes of people he knew: the Fireside Girls were there, Love Händel, the parents of many of his friends - and a tall person whose face was completely hidden under the hood of a cloak.
    »Who’s that?«, he asked Can sitting next to him, but she paid no attention.
    Fern was speaking.
    »People of Tristadtia! Members of the resistance, erst­while darklings… we have gathered here today because, after five long years, the Duke’s reign is over at last. The source of his powers has been destroyed and he will nev­er return - it is time to celebrate. Of course, the battle is far from over, and returning to how life used to be will take time. But if we all work together, we will become as glorious as we used to be. King John has long been dead, and I know many of you are still mourning the loss, but this country needs a king. A leader. King John’s son - Finn, the boy many of you certainly remember - died fighting the Duke, which is why I claim his fate of Tris­tadtia’s future king.«
    Melody’s darkling translation of his words echoed through the room. Her knowledge of the English language had quickly returned to her, but most of the former darklings were still having trouble processing it. Now that they could understand what Fern was saying, Phineas saw many angry expres­sions among them - how dared a simple boy do that? -, surprised ones among the resistance mem­bers - Fern was their leader, sure, but even they had not expected this turn of events -, and a content smile on Ivan’s face. Those who knew the lines of the prophecy all turned to the boy now, for they remembered what he had said: ‘The foe is gone, one brother slain, the other one his fate will claim.’ Which were the very words Fern had just used. Did he know about his role in the prophecy? About what it actually meant?
    Ivan nodded, as if having read Phineas’ thoughts. »He found out while contemplating about his recent actions.«
    »And told me«, Ferb agreed. »Which made it easy to convince him of following these words after all.«
    Many different voices drowned them out. »You can’t be king!«, they all yelled, »You’re just a boy.«
    »I am a prince«, Fern countered, his determined voice allowing no doubts. »Fernando Alexander Fleming, son of the king that has ruled this country after King John’s death.« There was still slight nervousness in his words as he mentioned his name - he knew of the shocked and an­gry responses that especially the resistance could - and did - give him.
    Fern did not interrupt them, so the room was soon filled with a mixture of dozens of voices, lots of negative emotions, accusations about Fern being like his father, the same words Bal had said… and it was Bal who rose from his seat and stood in front of Fern, protectively even, facing the crowd. He looked at nobody in particu­lar, rather past the audience, for he had never been fond of making eye contact. He sounded nervous too, even more so than Fern; Baljeet hated talking to huge crowds, it was only natural that Bal did as well.
    And still, he raised his voice.
    »I cannot believe what I am hearing. You call your­selves members of the resistance? Fern is your leader. Now, you might be angry about his revelation - so was I when he told me. I felt betrayed, because after all, I hated the king as much as many of you. But I realized, and I am here to remind you, that he is our leader. You all respected him and followed his orders, accepted him as the head of the resistance… why does your attitude towards him change now just because of his blood? He saved your lives, gave you a place to live in, and this is how you repay him?« He paused, letting his words sink in, only before continuing with much more courage in his voice. He was fully behind his words, that was easy to hear. »Ask yourselves: what is a good king to you? Someone who cares about your needs? Someone who does not put himself above you, but even fights alongside you in battle? Fern is all of that, and many of you know it. He is only twelve, yes, and he is by no means perfect. But I dare to say that he is the person in this room that is most worthy of being our king, and I want him to know that I will always stand behind him, no matter what happens. And you, all of you that have experienced his leadership in the last couple of years, should too.«
    The moment he ended his speech, Bal turned to Fern. And Fern smiled at him, grateful and moved by his friend’s words. He could always count on Bal, that much was certain.
    And indeed, Bal’s speech had taken effect: Jared and Colin were the first to cheer out of the resistance mem­bers that had only now learned about Fern’s heritage, but Phineas doubted they had ever been against their leader. They were just too good friends with him.
    It only took moments before the rest of the resistance members joined them, shouting Fern’s name and express­ing their loyalty. Those that had been darklings before simply went along; they did not know Fern and any change was welcome to them. Of course, there were still some with doubts about the green-haired boy in front of them, but they were drowned out by the many approving voices, or did not say anything in the first place.
    »Thank you«, Fern said at last, making everyone quiet down, and gesturing Bal that he could go back to his seat. »It makes me proud to see my friends supporting me like this. I know I will never reach the greatness King John had brought to this country, but I will do my very best. I promise.« He let his eyes wander across the room. »If there is anyone against me assuming this position, speak now.«
    Many people looked around as well now, curious if someone would actually speak up. And indeed, one per­son rose from their seat: the hooded stranger Phineas had wondered about.
    »This is no objection«, they spoke up, and now Phineas could tell it was a man, with an odd accent he could not quite identify. »Only a reminder.«
    Had the Duke returned after all? The accent was strange enough, but then again, Phineas would have rec­ognized the voice, wouldn’t he? Yet Fern’s tone was as dry as if talking to the Duke when he prompted the man to continue: »Go on.«
    The man gladly obliged. »To become king, you must be crowned by your predecessor in the case of him being still alive.«
    Near Phineas, Bal muttered, loud enough for the stranger to hear: »The previous king has not set a foot into this country for years.«
    »Let him speak, Bal«, Fern told his friend, then turned to the hooded man again. »I’m sure you are aware that the former king of this country has not been here for a while. Or do you object to that?« There was an almost challenging tone in his voice now - as if he knew exactly who he was talking to. It couldn’t be the Duke, that much Phineas was sure of by now. But if it wasn’t him, then who was it?
    The stranger replied by taking off his hood, and audible gasps came from different people in the room. Fern stared at the man with an expressionless gaze, his voice as cold as his eyes. »Hello, father.«
    Nobody said a word as the man replied, sounding far less tense than Fern: »Hello, son.«
    So that man really was Fern’s dad. The cowardly king Phineas had heard so much about - and he didn’t even seem to have any regrets. As if he was not even aware of what had happened in his absence.
    »It took you some years to come back, didn’t it?« Fern still showed no sign of having any emotional bond with his father. Thinking about it, the boy had never men­tioned his relationship to his parents at all, other than his mother having been dead for many years… Phineas could only assume how Fern’s life after that event must not have been too great.
    »Indeed it did. But I am glad to see how you have as­sumed control over these people, just like I expected you to. You have grown as a person and learned many quali­ties of leadership. You have passed the test - I will gladly give you the reward of crowning you.«
    »You know as well as I do that I left before you did. Don’t try to validate your actions with such lies, father; my respect for you is long gone. Leave before you make an even bigger fool of yourself.«
    By now, the room had turned completely silent. Fern’s cold bluntness had shocked them all - and his father was just as baffled. And Phineas could tell from Ferb’s frowning face that not even a prince was supposed to talk to a king with such disrespect.
    But Fern did not care. He remained calm and even seemed to take pleasure in showing his father who was in charge of this place. »Your bad deeds weigh too heavy to be forgotten or forgiven. I will not let myself get crowned by you, for I do not wish to follow in your footsteps. And neither do I take you being proud of me as a compli­ment.« He narrowed his eyes, staring at his father with a strict tone in his voice that made it clear how serious he was. »In fact, I do not wish to be affiliated with you in any way. I must ask you to leave.« He paused for a sec­ond, seeing that the king had made no move. »Now.«
    His father’s face turned into complete disbelief. He was at a loss for words, and when he did find some, he spoke them with far less confidence than Fern. »You… you have no right.« He straightened up, trying to appear as powerful as possible. »I am still the king of this country. It is me who gives orders.«
    The crowd’s eyes moved between Fern and the king as they were speaking, and Phineas could easily feel the suspense in the room. As someone from Danville, he himself did not know much about monarchies, but his brother seemed visibly tense - and Ferb sure knew his Middle Ages.
    Fern still showed no sign of backing down. »You are the king, yes. The king of nothing. There is nobody in this country who would still follow you - you have lost their respect when you completely abandoned your king­dom many years ago. There is no reason to obey or re­spect you, just like there is nobody who will.«
    »A very bold statement, don’t you think? I have many supporters in this room.«
    »Prove it.« Once again, Fern’s eyes trailed across the room. »Anyone supporting him and his actions, stand up now.«
    People were talking to one another now, their voices hushed so none of the two royals could hear them. Phineas looked around again, and Fern was waiting pa­tiently.
    One second. Two seconds. Ten seconds.
    And nobody had moved.
    Fern actually cracked a smile at that, but still remained stern as he raised his voice again. »You have lost, father. Just accept that... like a proper king would.«
    The man hesitated, but nodded at last. »Very well. Still, son, you need to be crowned if you wish to be king.«
    It was easy to tell from Fern’s face how relieved he was about not having to discuss the matter any longer, al­though he made sure to only show this for a brief mo­ment. »I know«, he continued. »And it would be an honor to have one of my closest and most trustworthy friends be the one to crown me - if you would do that for me, Ivan.«
    »Gladly, my friend.« With that, the blind boy rose, al­though that made little difference at his height. Still, a murmur went through the crowd. Then, the resistance members cheered once again, and many others were just completely stunned - including Fern’s father.
    »Son, this boy…«, he began, sounding more than just offended.
    »Is a blind peasant with nothing to his name except for much more honor than you could ever have, exactly.« Ivan turned to where the King’s voice had come from and was wearing his usual smile; as if he had always wanted to say such words to someone this superior to him. He was even more blunt than Fern had been as he continued speaking, with a slightly amused ring to it. »Now, would you rather leave already or witness your son's coronation so he can officially banish you from this country forever?«
    The King stared at him, opened his mouth in reply, then shut it again. There was nothing left to say, and he knew it. Without another word, he pushed himself past the people sitting near him, thrust the crown he had kept under his cloak into Ivan’s hands without caring about his blindness at all, and pulled up his hood as he left the room with big strides.
    «I actually would have enjoyed hearing you banish him«, Ivan remarked after Fern’s father was gone, facing his friend again. »But this will be memorable enough re­gardless.« He was tracing the crown with his fingers to get a mental picture of it - and Phineas, being able to see the object, found it quite magnificent indeed.
    The crown was of a shining silver, beautifully engraved with different ornaments. On top of that, emeralds of dif­ferent size had been embedded into the material. The crown resembled Fern’s sword, Phineas realized, and he had no doubt the two objects had been crafted by the same person.
    Now Ivan made his way toward Fern; with the crown in both hands and Jared and Colin by his side. One of them would have sufficed, of course, but it was no secret that they were always doing everything together. They could not refrain from grinning at Fern now that they were standing in front of him.
    At this point, Fern had turned his back on the audience while Ivan and the other two boys were facing it, just like it was common for coronations - that was what Phineas believed, anyway, because Ferb had nodded approvingly the moment the boys had taken position.
    »Kneel«, Ivan said now, and Fern followed his order. He staggered slightly, but quickly caught himself again. Jared snorted at that, which made Ivan almost unnoticeably elbow him before continuing the ceremony. »Are you willing to take the oath?«
    »I am«, Fern replied, his voice loud and confident. He was determined not to mess up after almost having em­barrassed himself only seconds ago already.
    »Do you promise to protect the kingdom of Tristadtia with all your power, to be fair and just in your laws and governance, and to be truthful and righteous in all your actions?«
    »I do.«
    »And do you promise to keep in mind that you, as you are still young, have a lot to learn in order to become the best king you can be? That you can, and should, ask for help if need be, for no king will ever do his work alone?«
    Phineas smiled. The message of these words was clear: Fern could always count on his friends, no matter what happened - something the boy had occasionally forgot­ten during their journey.
    »I do«, Fern repeated, and Can rolled her eyes. Phineas could well imagine what she was thinking right now: Let’s see for how long he’ll be keeping that prom­ise.
    Content, Ivan nodded, lifting the crown above his head with Jared and Colin making sure he did not fall. »Then, by the power invested in me, I pronounce you, Fernando Alexander Fleming, King of Tristadtia.« With that, and with the help of his assistants, he put the crown on Fern’s head.
    Phineas wanted to cheer, but stopped himself when he noticed that nobody else did. Ferb seemed ready, howev­er; as if just waiting for a specific signal. So Phineas waited with him.
    Fern returned into a standing position - and the crowd erupted with cheers. Phineas and his friends gladly joined them now, and Fern, now facing the audience again, could not help but smile.
    Only Ferb was not shouting his look-alike’s name or cheering otherwise. Instead, he merely stood up… and bowed.
    Of course , Phineas realized as he watched his broth­er. Nobody would have been this loud in medieval times. And while he still thought it fitting for their current situation to cheer like they were doing now, he decided to imitate Ferb’s gesture. They were attending a coronation, after all.

    Their behavior caught Baljeet’s attention, and then Bu­ford’s - and soon enough, the bow spread like a wave through the entire crowd, until, at last, everyone was bowing to the newly-crowned king.

  • Hallo Sheyffer,

    das Kapitel ist ja tatsächlich schon etwas älter, aber ich hab leicht wieder reingefunden. Mir hat es gefallen, wie du die einzig logische Konsequenz nach Abtritt des Dukes durchgeführt hast und Fern sich quasi selbst zum König krönt. Dass das nicht so feierlich aufgenommen wurde, war zu erwarten, aber besser als die bisherigen Regentschaften sollte es ja allemal sein, weil er sich auch Gedanken um die Zukunft macht und gerecht ist. Die Szene hat mir auch deswegen gefallen, weil seine Freunde auch für ihn eingesprungen sind und diesen Umstand aufgezeigt haben. Ob das nun jeder verstanden hat, ist eine andere Sache, aber es ist ja nicht selten so, dass man sich erst mal über Neues pikiert und einige Tage später kein Problem mehr damit hat. Oder wie hier einige Minuten. Besonders, wo noch kritische Stimmen herrschten, war dieser Umstand etwas zu flott abgehandelt und auch mit der entsprechenden Krönung wirkt das alles sehr verhalten.
    Seinen Vater, den verschwundenen König, wieder zu finden, hättest du ja tatsächlich für eine gelungene Wiedervereinigung nutzen können. Das aktuelle Ergebnis gefällt mir aber schon besser, weil es berechtigte Zweifel an seiner Anwesenheit gibt. Es zeigt schlussendlich auch, dass er auch mit einer Rückkehr keine Unterstützung mehr erhalten würde und trotz seines kurzen Spotlights hat das für Eindruck gesorgt.

    Zum Abschluss noch ein kleines Zitat.

    The source of his powers

    Entschuldige, ich musste einfach an Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged denken.

    Wir lesen uns!

  • - 21 -
    Band of Heroes

    They’re bowing. They’re all bowing… to me.
    Fern still couldn’t believe his eyes. The room was filled with complete silence as hundreds of people were facing the ground in awe of him.
    Of course, he had given speeches to the resistance before; he knew what the respect of many people felt like. Then again, it had never been even half as many people as now, and they had never bowed to him the way they were currently honoring their new king. Him.
    That thought was still too overwhelming to bear. It was something he had never wanted to happen, something he had never wanted to be - but he knew as well as his friends that leading this country had always been his destiny, whether one believed in the prophecy or not. And the fact that he was one of the brothers mentioned in it… well, Fern had always been having a lingering feeling that he would be playing a bigger role in it than just that of a companion. He was one of the Brothers, and Finn was the other one. Their encounter from so many years ago had shaped the lives of both of them, and in the end, influenced the entire quest of saving their world. They had discovered that the first impression could be misleading and that their pasts did not define them. So while not actually being related, they really were, in a sense, brothers.
    »Thank you«, he spoke up at last, realizing that he had been lost in thought for enough time now. The crowd took that as a sign of returning to a sitting position, and Fern was actually pretty sure he wouldn’t have been able to endure their bows for much longer. That was just… too much. »I cannot put into words how grateful I am for your loyalty. But even, or especially, after my coronation, we should remember that this would never have come to be without the help of those who have joined me on this journey. It was me who banished the Duke in the end, yes, but I would never have come that far without my friends. They deserve your thanks as much as I do, perhaps even more than that. That is why I would like to ask them to come here with me, to give them the respect they should receive.«
    His friends gladly followed his order. Most of them - especially Phineas and Bue - were grinning widely, and the others were smiling, at least. Only Bal did not enjoy the sudden spotlight, and Izzy, who had been watching from the side, still needed an inviting gesture from Fern to join the group. Jared, Colin, and Ivan simply took some steps forward since they had not returned to their seats earlier, and Fern did not ask them to. They deserved as much recognition as the others.
    Without having to remind them, the people in the audience started bowing again, and Fern’s friends exchanged glances that showed that they were just as overwhelmed as Fern had been, although they seemed to enjoy it - everyone but Bal and Izzy, that is. And the remaining person sitting in the first row, looking quite a lot like Can, visibly found bowing to her own family and friends more than awkward, but did so anyway, if only to avoid being the only person not to bow.
    »You may rise«, Fern announced, only partly hiding his amusement about Phineas’ sister. As usual, Can rolled her eyes at him, this time with a hint of »You’re a king now, how about acting like one?« But he shrugged at her. There were just some things that would never change.
    As soon as he had everyone’s attention again, he continued: »These people have all contributed to our victory over the Duke. I would like to thank each of them individually… starting with Melody and Josh.«
    Melody abruptly stopped her translation of his words for a moment when she heard her own name, then walked over to Josh. The rest of the group had taken a step back, and without having any idea how personal his speeches were going to be, Fern began.
    »These two deserve my utmost respect. The Duke had kept them prisoner for years, made them create the force that could turn people into darklings, and had them witness that transformation many times. Melody was even transformed into a darkling herself. It is no secret that the scars of those years, more mental than physical, will need a long time to heal - for both of them. And yet, in spite of how much it took them to do it, they have helped us win against the Duke, and I cannot say how much respect I have for their emotional strength.« Fern looked at them, seeing how flattered they both were. But he had told the truth; he knew how many dark thoughts especially Josh had had to overcome before helping the group. »I owe you something. If there is anything I can do for you, let me know.«
    »There is something, yes«, Josh replied, scratching his neck awkwardly. »We want to return to this world, to use our talents to rebuild this country - with your permission, of course, Your Majesty.«
    »Don’t call me that«, Fern immediately said, then froze. He was the king now. People had to address him like that; that was part of being royalty. Which meant that he had to take that sentence back before it was too late and people stopped seeing him as the king he was supposed to be. But then again, he had never liked formalities, and especially not the thought of his friends being inferior to him. There was no way he would continue to tolerate that.
    »The same goes for everyone standing behind me right now. Everyone I am not as close with, however, is asked to use the formal address.« Yes, that was a good compromise, he decided.
    And as for Melody and Josh… »Of course I will allow you to stay in the castle with us«, he stated, not at all hiding his relief as he was looking at Melody in particular. »We could really use your help.« Fern didn’t see why he shouldn’t admit that; everyone in the room agreed with him, after all.
    Melody responded with a hug, and Fern had to try hard to hold back tears. To him, it felt like his mother, the one from his world, was hugging him - the woman that had died far too soon. And now Melody would be staying in the castle... yet another person that would be by his side in times of trouble.
    She pulled away at last, smiling at him – and with a quick nod, Fern allowed her and Josh to sit down again. Melody seemed to have realized now that with the speeches most likely going to be more personal than of interest for the audience, there was no reason to translate them, so she took a seat next to Josh. Which gave Fern enough reason to continue.
    He called the names of Jared and Colin, and thanked them for the loyalty they had been expressing ever since their first encounter. They really were some of his closest friends, even though they could get quite annoying from time to time. At least they knew better than to crack some kind of joke in front of this huge audience.
    After they had returned to their seats as well, it was Ivan’s turn. By now, Fern had completely discarded talking about his friends in third person; he was talking to them now. »Ivan.« He smiled at his old friend. »The entire resistance highly values your wisdom, as you are well aware. Your knowledge of herbs is unsurpassed, and your advice is something everyone asks for in times of trouble. I did as well, many times… and while I could not possibly say whether or not the prophecy was just a spawn of your imagination; or if, or how, you could possibly have known its outcome… thank you. For giving us, the resistance, and the small group that went on this journey, something to hold onto. For making us believe that we would win, in a way far more convincing than I could have ever been. I may be King now, but I hope I can continue to count on you as my advisor.«
    Ivan lowered his head. »It would be an honor, Your Majesty.«
    Fern wanted to protest, but kept silent. He had noticed Ivan’s teasing smirk, and realized that his friend was just testing him. I guess I’ll have to get used to that, he sighed in silence. So he simply thanked Ivan once again and watched him go back to his seat.
    The chubby boy couldn’t contain his excitement and grinned from ear to ear as he took his position in front of Fern. Bue looked up to him, more so than anyone else; Fern knew that. He was his hero.
    »I know you have always wanted to be like me, or at least like many others in the resistance. You were upset that we never took you on adventures, and when we finally did a month ago, many of us doubted that bringing you along would be a good idea. It’s not much of a secret that you aren’t as good at fighting, or as athletic, as the others.« Fern’s voice turned more cheerful as he spoke. »But that doesn’t matter! You showed us all that you are as brave as many of us. You saved Finn from certain death with the skills Ivan has taught you, and even though it… didn’t work a second time… it wasn’t your fault. You did your best, and more importantly: you proved that one doesn’t have to be strong to be useful. You were an essential part of our group, and Ivan and I agree that you do not have to carry the title of apprentice any longer. At least in terms of ranks, you and Ivan are equal now.«
    Bue gasped, then stormed over to Fern and hugged him, completely ignoring the etiquette. But Fern didn’t mind and let it happen, until Bal was the one to clear his throat and remind Bue of the situation. The small boy shrugged, apologized with a »Whoops, sorry!«, and quickly walked to Ivan instead, waiting for Fern to continue.
    And he did - with the person that meant more to him than anyone else in the room.
    Can just looked at him with her usual teasing smirk. She was proud of him, of course, but skeptical as always when it came to any action Fern was about to do.
    »Can.« He countered with the same expression. »You have been with me for most of my life, and I’m more than glad that you were. You know me better than anyone else, and you always help me make the best decisions. You’re more rational than I could ever be, and I wouldn’t have been a half as great leader without you. Thanks for that.«
    She shrugged, and the message in her expression was clear: »Well, someone’s got to do it.« But she didn’t mean that in a bad way, of course. She was just as glad to have him.
    »You know as well as I do that a certain… arrangement from many years ago wasn’t exactly a great thing. I’d never consider you my wife, that’s just ridiculous. You’re a sister to me, Can, and a great one, too. And that’s why I, as the king, hereby revoke our marriage.« Fern took a relieved sigh the moment he had finished. It truly felt liberating - not that he had ever thought of her as his wife, but now, it was completely out of the way.
    And Can, in turn, hugged him, if only for a second or two. »Thanks, bro«, she smiled, just as glad as the boy. After letting go, she took a seat next to her counterpart from the first dimension, Candace, who immediately asked her about the marriage in a hushed, stunned tone. Fern did not bother listening to that, so he continued with his acknowledgments.
    His heart was racing when he called for Izzy to come to him, and she only reluctantly left her spot in the back. But when she was facing him, he noticed again just how gorgeous she was with her ebony hair and her confident charisma. It took him a moment to find his words, determined not to make a fool of himself. »Izzy«, he said at last, »I know it wasn’t easy for you to join us, especially with all the things you’ve been through. But despite your bad experiences in the past, you still chose to help us, even though we’ve hardly done anything for you to give you a good reason to do it. We would have had a pretty big problem without you and Brain -«, the dog was sitting near the benches, and Fern glanced at him for a moment, »- and I really can’t thank you enough. I’ve also got a… present for you, and I know you’re not thinking too highly of me, so if you don’t like it, feel free to slap me across the face or whatever.«
    Izzy raised an eyebrow at that, both skeptical and, even more so, confused. But she didn’t say anything in reply, which Fern took as a good sign.
    »Okay, well, close your eyes.«
    »Is that a trick?«, she asked now, still skeptical. But Fern shook his head.
    »Do you trust me?«
    »What’s that even supposed to mean?«
    »Do you?«, he insisted, and she gathered herself as she closed her eyes.
    »...yeah. Okay, yeah… I do.«
    »Good.« There was not much else to say. So Fern leaned forward, took her into his arms, and kissed her before she had any chance of protesting.
    It was true, he had felt some strange kind of affection for her ever since their first encounter. She had been distant ever since, yes, and he had been quite a fool around her. Can had sensed what was going on soon enough, and he had no doubt that she wasn’t the only one. Izzy made him feel something he had been supposed to feel for Can because of their marriage and all, and what better time to admit his feelings than now? This was the only suitable way of thanking her, and it wasn’t hard for Fern to ignore the surprised gasps of the crowd. He had never kissed a girl before - well, other than the awkward kiss with Can at their wedding when he had been but a child -, but still, this wasn’t feeling so bad. Quite the contrary, in fact. He was pretty sure that this was the best moment of his life.
    The reason for that quickly dawned on him the second he pulled away at last: Izzy drew him closer again, she kissed him back, and the audience erupted into cheers once again. His friends in particular: Jared and Colin, of course, and all the others that had known of their feelings for each other.
    After what had felt like an eternity, a wonderful eternity, Izzy let go of him. Their eyes locked for a second, and Fern could see happiness in her beautiful eyes - and the shock of the realization of what had just happened. She struggled for words, then turned away… and stormed out of the room, her confused dog running after her.
    Fern watched her leave, at a loss for words himself. With a pat on the back, it was Buford who brought him back down to earth. »Great job, man. She’s totally into you.«
    The greenhead was still too perplexed to reply and decided to stop thinking about Izzy for now. He had more important things to do at this point. So he nodded. »Buford, Baljeet.« Buford was already standing beside him; he might as well continue with these two. »Nobody had expected you to join us on our quest, but you did it anyway. You have taken great risks, both by joining us and by entering this unknown world in the first place. And most remarkably, you did all of this for Phineas and Ferb. You are two of the best friends anyone could ever hope to have, and I am certain they are aware of that.« Fern looked at Baljeet, and then at Buford, as he spoke. »The combination of your intellect and your strength make you a great team, but I’m sure you know that already. I have a present for you as well, especially for you, Buford.«
    »Food?«, the boy immediately asked, which made Baljeet roll his eyes. A common situation for the two of them, apparently.
    »No, not food. Something better than that.« From his jacket’s pocket - he had not bothered dressing up for the occasion, mostly since his more festive clothing was too small and/or too moth-eaten at this point, and Ferb had been considerate enough to return the jacket after taking it to the first dimension when Melody had needed something to wear -, Fern took a letter, almost identical to the one Baljeet had shown his friends earlier today, with the same red seal on it. He handed it to Buford. »Don’t open it«, he warned when Buford was about to do just that. »It needs to stay unopened if you want it to work.«
    The bully paused, suspiciously eyeing the letter. »Then tell me what’s in it, at least.«
    »You see, Baljeet told me about your father -«, Fern began, knowing very well what the Indian boy had said: that this was a very touchy subject for Buford.
    And indeed, Buford balled his fist, thankfully only with the hand not holding the letter. He glared at Baljeet, furious and betrayed.
    »Wait, Buford, hear me out«, Fern interrupted him before he could get mad at Baljeet.
    The bully stopped moving, at least, staring at Fern as if saying »You better have a good thing to tell me.«
    Fern nodded. »It's not his fault that I know. I overheard you mentioning your father that one afternoon and got curious, so later, I asked Baljeet about what happened. He told me that your father has been in there for many years now, too many; and I believe him on that. Now, I don’t know much about your dimension’s judicial system, but I am almost completely certain they have to follow the demands of a king, especially the one of an alternate Danville.« He smiled as he noticed how, slowly but surely, Buford started realizing what Fern was telling him. »Yes, Buford; this letter contains my request of releasing your father from prison.«
    Buford’s reaction was the fourth hug Fern received that day, and it lasted far longer than the other ones. The bully was crying, too, thanking his friend over and over. It took Baljeet’s entire convincibility to make him let go, and for the rest of the event, Buford held Fern’s letter as if it was the most sacred thing in the universe.
    Of course, there was a small chance of the request not being carried out, but Buford was so happy at this point that Fern thought it best not to remind him of that.
    Instead, he went on with the next person - there weren’t that many left, and Fern was actually quite happy about that, for it had been a long time since had last talked this much. It was Phineas’ turn now, and Fern found himself staring at the boy’s left arm. Ferb had told him about what had happened, and yet, it was hard to believe. There was no indication of the arm not being natural, and Fern was incredibly glad that Phineas had made it through his injuries so well. Unlike Finn…
    Fern quickly let go of that thought. This wasn’t the time to think about that. Not now. He took a deep breath.
    »Phineas. Most of the things I said to Bue apply to you as well: it is true that some of us might have looked down on you because of your lack of fighting skills and everything. But you didn’t need those to be an essential part of our team, because you provided us with something else: hope. You believed in us when the rest of us did not, and things would have taken quite a different turn if it had not been for your words to Finn. You made him believe in himself, in the good side of things; and most of all, you made him happy . Because of you, he found something worth fighting for and… thank you. On his behalf.« He turned quieter as he spoke; the image of Finn’s lifeless body still on his mind. I had to kill him , he reminded himself. To save Phineas. ...right?
    »It was for the best«, Phineas said just as quietly. »You did the right thing. He’d have wanted you to do it.«
    Fern brushed it off. »...I guess.«
    Ferb stepped beside Phineas, locking eyes with Fern. The message was clear: »Think of him later. Go on with your speech.«
    Yeah. I need to go on. For Finn. He acknowledged the words with a nod, allowed Phineas to sit down again, and continued with Ferb.
    »Ferb - I’ll be honest with you. Ever since hearing of you, and especially since seeing you, I had great respect for you. I mean, you were me, in a sense. And not only that, but a Me who actually had it all together. I’ve learned a lot from you during our journey, and I have no doubt that you, too, would make a great king. Of course, we will never find out about that, but I will strive to incorporate everything I have learned from you into my rule, your reserve in particular. Thank you for that.«
    Ferb nodded in reply, not saying anything. He was a boy of few words, yet with all the more power to them. That too was something Fern decided to remember.
    »I have a gift for you as well«, Fern continued, gesturing Ferb to wait as he left the room for a moment, returning with a sheath containing a sword. One could tell from its handle that it was not Fern’s royal sword of shining silver, but rather the simple and not at all decorated one that Ferb had used on their journey. »I have no use for it at this point, and I know you won’t need it in your dimension either, but I think it is a nice way to remember our journey in spite of what this weapon was used for.«
    Once again, Ferb nodded as Fern handed him the sword. In his often not very revealing eyes, Fern could see that his friend knew all too well what he was talking about. The day he had hurt Phineas. But Ferb accepted the gift – to keep it as a reminder of that fight, to make him remember how much his friends truly cared about him. Just like Fern had taken his royal sword with him when he and Can had left the castle, as a constant reminder of his duty to protect those he cared about.
    Ferb was already about to return to his seat when his look-alike stopped him.
    »Wait, there is one more thing.« He waited until he had Ferb’s attention again. »I doubt that it will ever be of use to you, in this dimension or yours, but I know how much you value what you call medieval traditions. They are still common here in Tristadtia, as you might have figured - and in regard to your actions on our journey, everything you have done for us and your family… kneel down.«
    In the audience, Phineas, Baljeet, Candace, and Josh all exchanged confused glances. But Buford and Melody seemed to have figured out what was about to happen: the bully was grinning like an idiot, and Ferb’s mother was watching her son as he carried out Fern’s order, proud of him in every way.
    Fern noticed with a hint of envy how Ferb knelt down much more gracefully than his look-alike during his coronation, not trembling at all. He lowered his head, waiting for Fern to continue - only for the young king to realize that he had literally no idea what to say. So he stood there in silence for a brief moment - until a voice from at his feet relieved him of the necessary words.
    «King Fernando Alexander Fleming of Tristadtia - I, Ferdinand Arthur Fletcher, am kneeling down before you today to take an oath of utmost loyalty. I hereby swear that, for the rest of my lifetime, I will protect you with my life and follow your every command. I will also forever be loyal to my family and friends, and guard them just as well as I will guard you. Shall it ever occur to you that I am willingly breaking this oath, I will accept your choice of punishment without complaint.«
    The room went silent as he spoke, his friends staring at him in stunned disbelief. Fern, too, was astonished by the words that he knew to be an exaggeration - but then again, Ferb sounded completely sincere, and after their adventure together, they all knew that he really was. He took his traditions seriously, just like Fern had said.
    There was no way for Fern to even reach his look-alike’s level of epic formality, so he decided to make the best out of his own abilities, trying to remember the knighting ceremonies he had attended back when he had still been a child. Not that it would be any help whatsoever. Still, he drew his own sword, its emerald, the eye of the pommel's eagle, shimmering in the light that the sun was casting through the windows. That thing’s more royal than I’ll ever be , Fern thought. Hopefully that’s going to be the last knighting I’ll be doing for a while.
    But as he spoke, he noticed how somewhere lost in the depths of his mind, there really was some faint memory guiding his words. »Then having sworn these solemn oaths, I, Fernando Alexander Fleming, King of Tristadtia, shall dub you with my sword, Eagleheart, and by all that you hold sacred, true, and holy. Once for honor, twice for duty, thrice for chivalry.« He placed the flat side of his sword’s blade on Fern’s shoulders and head, respectively. And, just for the sake of it, and because it would not feel complete otherwise, he concluded, becoming louder one final time: »Arise, Sir Ferb, Knight of Danville.«
    And the boy did, accompanied by the cheers of the audience. Phineas was the most prominent voice, of course, with Buford being a close second. Melody would undoubtedly have cheered as well, but she was too busy weeping with joy - after all, she had been the one to give Ferb the name of Arthur in the first place. She was the reason this very moment was so important to him that he, too, shed more than one tear of happy disbelief.
    And Fern smiled as well, knowing that he had just made his friend’s day, or most likely more than that, just like he had made Buford, Izzy, and all the others indescribably happy.
    But wait, there was one person left. Still standing behind Fern and near the wall, careful not to draw any attention to himself, looking quite abandoned and, most of all, uncomfortable.
    The boy seemed genuinely surprised at the mention of his name, as if he had already come to terms with having been forgotten. While Ferb sat down with his sword at his feet and being celebrated by his family and friends, Bal took his place in front of Fern, wary as ever.
    »Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you. The only reason you are last is because I have the most things to say to you.«
    Bal widened his eyes, his expression shocked. He didn’t think too highly of himself, Fern knew that all too well.
    »Some of you might know this boy as Balavan Tinley«, Fern began, ignoring his friend and talking to the audience instead. »The boy responsible for the destruction of an entire village. And not only that, he did it willingly, giving up his family and every other citizen for the sake of saving the life of one unimportant boy. All of that is true, and he would undoubtedly do it again.« He knew that not only people from Bal’s old village were present right now, but also his parents, nodding at Fern’s words with stern faces. Bal’s probably the only person in this room hating their parents as much as I do. And he could hear hushed voices now, talking badly about Bal, for they felt affirmed by the king’s words.
    Bal, facing Fern with his back to the audience, flinched at every hurtful word reaching his ears, and he was on the verge of tearing up. Talking like this about his longtime friend pained Fern as much as Bal himself, and yet there was no lie in his words, they both knew that. But there was a reason for Fern’s harsh words - a reason he unveiled now.
    »But when he joined the resistance, he proved every single day that he was willing to put all of this, all his previous mistakes, behind - just like many of you I have met over the years, I'm sure. He's been running from his past as much as I did, and maybe more of you as well, and just like me, he's done his very best to prove that these past actions do not define him, that he has many qualities I more than merely respect him for. He would give up his own life just to save mine or that of someone he loves, and you might call that stupid, but he's saved my life far more often than I did such a thing for him, and I am very lucky to call him one of the people I will forever and always trust the most. I'm not saying that you are wrong for blaming him for all that has happened back then, quite the contrary, but you are most definitely wrong for believing he is a lawless, ruthless, self-centered villain - for without him, we would never have gotten this far on our journey, and we would have never been able to save all of you.«
    And since he had only talked to the audience up to now, Fern turned to his friend, genuinely smiling at him like Bal had only ever known it from Bue.
    »I know you're thinking you don't deserve any of the things I just said... but you do. All of it is true, Bal - I don't know what I would have done without you in all those years. You are my best and most loyal, most trustworthy friend, someone I can always count on in times of trouble to provide me with both a rational point of view and the best archery skills I have ever seen in my life. And I know you don't hear this enough, from anyone, but... thank you, Bal. For everything. If it means anything to you: I'm proud of you.«
    It was Bue who started shouting his best friend’s name now, and many others joined in. Even Jared and Colin, who had never considered Bal a great companion, took part in the celebration of the boy that deserved far more than he thought he did.
    And Bal… he was just standing there, trembling once again, and tearing up indeed - not out of sadness, but out of joy. He could not believe what was happening, could not fathom the thought of the people cheering for him at all, but it was true.
    »That’s your applause, Bal.« Fern looked his friend into the watery eyes. »Yours alone.«
    Bal nodded, still trying to process the situation. His eyes trailed to one of the room’s exits, and Fern approved with a nod. This was all too much for his friend to take.
    And so, Bal left the throne room, still in tears - but his friends let him.
    »Well, time for the after show party, isn’t it«, Fern decided, louder than he had wanted to be. His proposal was well-received, probably with the most enthusiastic cheers he had heard that day, and he discarded actually concluding his speeches. Instead, he shrugged it off - he felt exhausted after the event as well, and he could use some relaxation. So he gave the sign for bringing in the long-anticipated buffet, which actually caused Buford to squeal in excitement. Fern snorted at that and found himself hungry as well.
    Fern was still not fond of acting like a distant and noble king, so he quickly let his crown disappear in some inner pocket of his beloved jacket and joined his friends at long last.
    »Isn’t it great how everyone got exactly what they wanted?«, Buford asked his group of friends just as he was filling his stomach with some roasted meat. He was eating with one hand, still careful not to damage the letter he had received in any way.
    »It is indeed«, Baljeet nodded, frowning as he was racking his brains about who knew what.
    »What’s wrong?«, Phineas asked. Fern had not been the only one to notice Baljeet’s expression.
    The Indian boy sighed. »It is just that it feels like something is missing, but I cannot wrap my mind around what it is.«
    They all pondered about that for a moment, and it was Bue who figured it out. »A song?«
    Yes, that was right, Fern agreed. Phineas had told them in the beginning of their journey how much he loved singing, and with the two songs Fern had heard from his friends by now, he felt like another one would be a great way to round off the festivity.
    »Can we help?« Fern did not recognize the voice, and neither the person behind it: a tall man with long brown hair who was accompanied by a bald one and one with gray-brown hair. The latter had a quite apathetic stare that was focused on Fern in particular, while the man that had spoken up gave Ferb a high-five. They were all carrying medieval instruments, too.
    »Who is that?«, Baljeet asked, and it was Can who told him.
    »Some guys that helped us find Josh«, she explained, her eyes resting on the bald man. »Denton, Robbie, and Sheldon.«
    I rode on him, Fern realized as he returned Sheldon's stare. I knew this would be incredibly awkward someday.
    »We're a little out of practice, but we're still musicians!«, Denton continued.
    But Phineas shook his head, even though he must have recognized who these men were in his dimension. »That's nice of you, guys, but it's time to bring some technology into this place.« He smiled at Ferb as they revealed two instruments: electric guitars, he said, leaving the Tristadtians quite amazed by this modern invention. Not to mention by how the boys had been able to store these two instruments in the first place. »Would you do us the honor, Your Majesty?«, Phineas grinned.
    »What?« They couldn’t possibly want him to…
    »You know, sing for us.«
    »No!«, Fern immediately replied. »You’ve got to be kidding me. I can’t sing. Not at all.«
    »I’ve never heard you sing«, Can pointed out. »And I refuse to believe that you’re telling the truth.«
    Buford agreed as well, teasing his friend. »You only need to sound half as great as the other You to absolutely rock this place.«
    Ferb blushed at that, but nodded.
    There was no way around it, it seemed. They all wanted to hear him sing. But there was one last chance to get out of this. »Well, I’ve got nothing prepared. There’s no way I can just improvise an entire song. Sorry, guys.«
    But Phineas waved his hand dismissively. »Nah, we’re doing that all the time. Now come on!«
    And so, Buford shoved Fern back to where he had stood before, and Ferb handed him the pocket knife he recognized from their journey. This time, though, it had been turned into a device Fern had not seen before.
    »That’s a microphone«, Phineas explained as he and Ferb took position on the right and left side of Fern, respectively. »Sing into it, it adds to the atmosphere.« It was then that Fern noticed two boxes beside the boys, but Phineas just gave him a sign to begin.
    Fern cleared his throat, and the sound echoed from the two boxes behind him. It made everyone in the room turn their heads, and now there really was no way around it. He had everyone’s attention.
    Phineas and Ferb started playing their guitars that were plugged into the boxes as well, and the sound was amplified once again. It was a nice, slow beat, easy for Fern to get into. His words were more talking than actually singing, for he still had absolutely no idea how to do this.

    »Have you ever been so far below
    You could only see light using a telescope?
    Point it up to the sky and wonder why does hope
    Feel so far but look so close.«

    Phineas was right. The words came right out of him without him having to think much about them. They were coming from his heart, memories of the journey they had embarked on together. And most of all, his own personal journey.

    »Will you wander with me to the edge?
    Take a breath, tell the world that we're not finished yet.
    Cast a net to the stars and see if we can get
    Closer to the light at the end.«

    Having heard the music, both Bal and Izzy had reappeared from outside the room, and Fern looked at both of them as he sang these words. They were dedicated to them more than to anyone else - other than Can, of course, but she was already aware of that. The two near the exit, however, were always quick to forget his message.

    »Let our eyes show the fire in our hearts tonight,
    Yeah, our eyes show the fire in our hearts tonight.
    Let our eyes show the fire in our hearts tonight,
    Cause you can’t stop the fire, you can’t stop the fire.«

    That was the chorus, Fern realized, and it was meant for everyone. The future was coming, and it was coming for them all.

    »Maybe I’m crazy, yeah, a little naive,
    But the light at the end is brighter than it used to be.
    Got a long way to go, but I know, I believe
    That the light at the end is brighter than it used to be.«

    As he was singing, Fern had to admit that it wasn’t all that bad. Quite the contrary, really - he was more than just enjoying it, and Phineas and Ferb were doing some quite amazing musical accompaniment.

    »You don't have to hide, you know we've all got scars.
    The broken we were becoming who we are.
    The proof that it doesn't matter how we start –
    We can be more than a spark.«

    Most of all, this song made him remember how he had to be brave. How he was in charge of this country now, and how he needed to stay strong. It didn’t matter what people thought him to be - his past, his blood, his father did not define him, it was what he made of his own abilities. He was a natural leader, that much was certain, and why should a king be cold and distant? Fern loved being a part of the adventures he sent his people on, and he would never give that up.

    »Let our eyes show the fire in our hearts tonight,
    Yeah, our eyes show the fire in our hearts tonight.
    Let our eyes show the fire in our hearts tonight
    Cause you can’t stop the fire, you can’t stop the fire.«

    Not even the Duke. No, he had been the one to bring them all together. All his plans had backfired on him, and now they were stronger than ever before.

    »Maybe I’m crazy, yeah, a little naive,
    But the light at the end is brighter than it used to be.
    Got a long way to go, but I know, I believe
    That the light at the end is brighter than it used to be.«

    Fern locked eyes with Phineas as he sang this second chorus. Once he was done, he kept quiet, for it was Phineas’ turn now. The redhead loved singing, so Fern was not going to keep that from him. Not when he had something so important to say.

    »There's a thin line between hoping and believing,
    A thin line between sleeping and dreaming,
    A thin line between paying dues
    And losing everything that ever mattered to you.
    Well, this is our time, this is our life,
    This is our song, this is our night.
    And if the world gives up, we'll carry on,
    Turn the volume up and we'll sing along!«

    Following Phineas’ words, Buford broke into a »Whoa-oh-oh-oh«, something that was soon imitated by Bue, Jared, Colin, and all the other people enjoying the song. Between each repetition of these backup voices, it was Ferb who continued with one line of the song, his deep voice outshining Fern’s completely. At least it sounded like it; there was no way for Fern to sound even half as good as that.

    »You've got a home,
    And you've got a song.
    No, you're not alone,
    Just sing along.
    Through the ups and downs,
    When the road gets long,
    Know you're not alone.«

    But outshone voice or not, Fern took over for one last chorus - and judging by the crowd’s singing along and really enjoying the song, he couldn’t sound that bad, could he?

    »Maybe I’m crazy, yeah, a little naive,
    But the light at the end is brighter than it used to be.
    Got a long way to go, but I know, I believe
    That the light at the end is brighter than it used to be.«

    Fern repeated these lines one more time, and by then, he had decided that it didn’t matter whether he sounded great or not. It was the message that counted, and he was certain he had made it clear to everyone.
    The music died away, and just as it was gone, Ferb, as usual, had the last word:

    »Got a long way to go, but I know, I believe
    That the light at the end is brighter than it used to be.«

    And deep in his heart, Fern knew that his friend was right.

  • Hallo Sheyffer,

    Band of Heroes passt ja perfekt zu dem Abschlusslied und generell löst du mit diesem Ende alles auf, was noch irgendwie offen stand oder bisher keine Erwähnung erhalten hat. Die Dankesrede mit persönlichen Worten (und teilweise auch Gesten) ist schließlich relativ lang geworden, gibt aber tatsächlich noch mal jedem Charakter die Chance, sich zu zeigen und die bisherigen Geschehnisse Revue passieren zu lassen. Das ist insofern wichtig, da noch einmal erwähnt wird, wie sehr jeder zu diesem ganzen Abenteuer beigetragen hat und auch formell von Fern als neuem König eine angemessene Rede darstellt. Immerhin muss er sich ja selbst auch damit zurechtfinden können und Übung schadet da nicht. Jedenfalls mochte ich an diesem Kapitel besonders die Dialoge, die durch Details strotzen und einem würdigen Abschluss gleich kommen.
    Fast noch besser war das Lied, dessen Text wiederum gut zum Inhalt passt (wie hätte es auch anders sein sollen?). Selbiges gilt hier wie bei den Gesprächen, dass dieser Zusammenhalt untereinander und vor allem die Lockerheit, die auch Fern zu gewinnen scheint, indem er einfach singt, schön zu lesen ist.

    In diesem Sinn ein Danke an dich für die Geschichte, die sehr unterhaltsam zu lesen war und dank der ich mir auch schon überlegt habe, mal in die Serie reinzusehen. Englisch war ebenfalls eine gute Abwechslung und es ist schön zu sehen, dass du selbst viel Spaß daran hattest. Bleiben also nur noch die Sidestorys, bei denen mich die des Dukes tatsächlich am meisten interessiert.

    Bis dahin: Wir lesen uns!

  • - Epilogue -

    She was about to go to bed when it happened.
    A loud noise cut through the quiet evening air. Crying.
    Her little brother.
    He was only two; keeping the entire castle awake at night was nothing unusual.
    But when he didn’t stop for several minutes, she decid­ed to look after him. Why hadn’t a handmaid tended to him by now? Or his mother?
    Something was wrong. Incredibly wrong.
    Instinctively, she reached for her staff, the weapon she enjoyed practicing with even though her mother, the queen, didn’t approve of that at all. Unlike her father - King John loved a good adventure and the rebellious spirit of his daughter. And she, in turn, was fully con­vinced that he was the best dad in the entire world. At least someone to have fun with… I can’t wait until Finn’s old enough for our stuff.
    With her staff in hand, she scurried through the castle’s dark hallways. She didn’t need a candle; she knew the entire place by heart, including all the secret passages leading all the way through the whole mountain.
    The place was completely deserted, which was odd… hadn’t anyone heard Finn crying? This was getting stranger with every step she took, and scarier as well. His voice was getting louder the closer she came to his room, and after the one turn that was between their two rooms, she noticed that the door to his one was open and that someone had turned the light on in there - or not off, whichever was the case.
    There was another noise that added to her crying broth­er now: the clash of metal against metal - and as she peeked past the door frame, she saw her father, dressed in his nightwear. Fighting a man in a dark robe whose cack­le sent shivers down her spine.
    She let out a scream when the stranger came danger­ously close to seriously injuring her father, and surprised by the noise, King John turned to her, panic in his face. Get out of here, his eyes urged her.
    The stranger cackled again just as the king turned his head, and she realized her mistake as well: for one sec­ond, her father was distracted. But this second was one second too long.
    »Long live the King«, the stranger announced in a high, raspy, and utterly terrifying voice.
    His sword went right through her father’s chest, and as he fell, the king’s face became younger - until it wasn’t King John anymore, but Finn.
    The stranger turned his grinning face to the girl, and he wasn’t a stranger anymore either.
    It was Fern.


    Can awoke with a start. Drenched in sweat and with her heart racing, she sat up, breathing deeply in an attempt to calm herself.
    »Just a dream«, she reminded herself. But she knew that wasn’t true. She had been having this nightmare for years - of course, the final seconds had only been appear­ing like this ever since Fern had killed Finn, but still. Ev­erything prior to that was real; not a dream, but a memo­ry.
    Which made it even harder for her to go back to sleep.
    Wide awake as she was, there was no point in even at­tempting that, so she got up instead.
    Minutes later, Can found herself wandering through the same hallways she had passed in her dream, with one change: this time, there was no crying. But she was not heading for her brother’s room - in fact, she had no idea where she was going. Still, she confidently made her way through the darkness without any candle to guide her, and she only knew her destination once she was there.
    The memorial, and grave, of her father and brother.
    With a pain in her chest and her memories haunting her, Can sat down on the bench next to the statues of her relatives. There wasn't much space for her, but enough.
    The stars were still shining in the sky in front of her, but fading already. In less than an hour, they would be gone completely, outshone by the dawning sun. She could very well stay here for a while.
    It only took seconds for Can to break the silence en­gulfing the place.
    »I’m sorry«, she whispered, allowing herself to weep since nobody was around to see her. »I should have saved you. Both of you.«
    »It wasn’t your destiny.«
    »Or ours.«
    Can froze and turned her head to the two statues next to her. Was she still dreaming? No, the stone was as lifeless as ever… but she had heard their voices, as clearly as if the statues had actually spoken to her.
    »Finn?«, she asked, still baffled. »Dad?« She eyed the statues, knowing how ridiculous it was. After all, rocks couldn’t talk.
    »That’s us.« The voice of her little brother was so clear, so real, that Can refused to believe she was still dreaming.
    She cracked a forced smile. »You sound… happy.« Was he really? Even though…
    Although his statue didn’t move, Finn’s voice ex­pressed his frustration. He knew what she was think­ing. »Even though I’m dead? Yeah… but it’s not because the time I spent with you wasn’t great. No, that one day I was with all of you... that was the best day of my life.«
    And she felt sad all over again. »That’s why I should have saved you.«
    »Sometimes we have to leave to make way for some­thing new.« That was her father, King John, as cheerful yet wise as he had always been. The best king, and the best dad, in the world.
    »What?« He made it sound like he and his son had wanted to die.
    »Of course, neither of us knew that we would die that day«, the man agreed. »But in the end, my death changed the lives of so many people… a lot of suffering came from it, yes, but take yourself, for example. You’d have stayed in the castle and yes, maybe you would still have married Fern…«
    »...but I’d never have met the others«, Can realized. »None of them.«
    »And I died a hero«, Finn added with a hint of melan­choly. »I miss all of you, I really do! But I just wasn’t supposed to stay.«
    »Just like it was Fern’s destiny to become king?«, Can asked, and her father confirmed that.
    »Having this much power is hard, I know. You and your friends, you have to be there for him, especially now. Help him as much as you can. He has tough deci­sions to make.«
    »Tell him to come here if he ever needs to talk to one of us« , Finn said. »Maybe he... needs to talk things out.«
    Can knew all too well what he meant by that. »I’ll let him know.«
    »The same goes for you«, King John reminded his daughter. »We’ll always be right here.«
    Just then, she started feeling a strange kind of warmth right where her heart was; and still in tears, she nodded. »Always.«
    Her father and brother didn't say anything afterwards, but Can could still feel their presence. Knowing them to be beside her comforted her, and so, she kept silent as well, watching as dawn set in.
    There was not a single cloud in the sky that was still in a shade of golden red at this early hour. The first birds were filling the air with their music, and the morning sun arose and bathed the country of Tristadtia in a warm light. It was a great country, marked by long years of tyranny, now led by a young king and his allies. But would they bring it back to its former glory?
    For Can, there was only one answer.
    Yes, they would.

  • - One-Shot 01 -
    Promise Keeper

    Everyone knows that it was Hans Doonkleberg - the Duke, as he was commonly called - who had killed the king that one fateful night.
    Fewer people know that he had also taken the king's son with him, alive and well.
    And not a single person knows of the promise he'd made that night. A promise he never thought could be this hard to keep.

    Tonight was the night the world would change. No, he corrected himself. Tonight was the night he would change the world.
    He strode through the halls of Firestone Castle with long, confident steps, but made no sound. He knew what he was looking for - who he was looking for - and where. His carefully selected spies had told him. He knew the guards’ schedules, he knew they wouldn’t be in this part of the castle. The smirk on his face widened to a grin. Not tonight, anyway.
    He hadn’t even placed a hand on his sword’s handle, that’s how certain he was of his plan working out. It had up to now, it’d continue to. He would make it happen, and nobody would stop him. The next few minutes would change everything.
    It wasn’t even his sword. It was his brother’s - Robert’s. On any other day or night, the mere thought of his existence would drive him mad. Make him want to travel all the way back to his hometown in a kingdom far far away just to kill him in his sleep. But he knew that wouldn’t do him any good.
    No, this was a far better plan. And this wasn’t any other night. Tonight, he would take his first step in showing his brother, his parents, the world that he was tired of being in his brother’s shadow. It was always the oh-so-perfect Robert Doonkleberg who got the fame and glory. The knight in shining armor who had single-handedly defeated the mystical hirschhorn, a beast with a stag’s antler and a bull’s horn, and gifted its head to their father. He was the younger brother, yes, but he was also the handsome one. The one the people looked up to and loved.
    Compared to him, Hans was hideous. Useless. And he was always compared to him. He wasn’t bad at swordfighting, he wasn’t bad at hunting, he wasn’t bad at reciting all the kings and queens in the world. He just wasn’t as good as Robert.
    But one thing he knew: he was more creative. He could come up with the most convoluted plans to get what he wanted, and it’d work out. He was the one who’d devised the hirschhorn’s trap, who read the hunting trails for Robert to follow. But did anyone care? Of course not. Nobody thanked him, not even his brother. Especially not his brother. Even though Robert was well aware that his success had fully depended on him.
    Leaving the country - with Robert's sword, too - would expose his brother to the truth. But that wasn't enough. No, Hans would show them all what he was capable of. Tonight. Now.
    The room wasn't locked. Not that he was surprised, but at least he was able to rely on his spies. Not many could say that. He lit a few lamps, not that it mattered. Nobody was here to stop him, apart from the man he was waiting for.
    And then he saw it. The cradle he'd been meaning to find. In it, a boy, not older than two years, and already a perfect likeness of his father, the king. The second Hans touched him, however, the boy woke up, staring at him for a short moment before he started to cry.
    Hans left him lying there for the time being. As much at the boy's cries broke his heart - he had a daughter, and as bad as their relationship was now, it hadn't always been - he needed them for his plan. He needed the boy, Finn, to cry, the louder the better. Only his father would come to save him now. His father, the king.
    He heard footsteps outside, rushed as if running, and he laughed as the man appeared in the door. Apparently, the king would die in his nightwear and still half asleep.
    He did have a sword, but that wasn't going to help him. He looked more worried than angry. This was going to be easy.
    “Who are you?”, the king asked over his son’s cries. “Step away from my son.”
    Hans did as told, placing a hand on his brother's sword. “My name is Hans Doonkleberg”, he grinned. “The last face you'll ever see.”
    “We don't have to fight. Tell me what you want, money, land, anything. We can solve this without violence.”
    “Oh, but I want your death. That's why I'm here. So unless you do me the favor of jumping out the window…”
    He could feel the king’s fear. Hans was the one in charge of the conversation, and the king was all too well aware.
    “I'm not scared of fighting you.” They both knew he was lying. “But whatever happens… even if you win.” When I win, you mean. “You aren't going to hurt my son. Promise me that you won't.”
    Hans nodded. He was a little evil, perhaps, but he wasn't a monster. “I’m not here to hurt him”, he said truthfully. “I promise no harm will come to him.”
    The king was visibly relieved. “Let's get this over with, then.”
    Hans didn't let him finish. He drew his brother's sword and attacked immediately. The king blocked his move, but only narrowly. After that, though, he wasn't half as bad as Hans had thought he would be. He cackled, covering up the sudden realization that he might lose this fight after all. He needed a miracle.
    It came.
    It was the scream of a young girl that distracted the two of them for a moment. The king stared at her - at his daughter, Hans knew - and his eyes urged her to leave. But there she stood, eyes wide open in horror, and Hans knew that he should take his chance. Now or never.
    “Long live the king”, he grinned as he pierced the king right through the heart, and drew his sword from the body to accelerate the bleeding. The king sank to his knees, then hit the floor with the rest of his body, the blood beginning to cover the ground beneath and around him.
    The girl screamed again, tears in her eyes, and Hans tried to suppress the realization that he had just killed a little girl’s father right in front of her.
    “Go!”, he snarled, and she immediately followed the order. He stared at the now lifeless face of the king, and he felt… guilt? No, it couldn’t be. He was a bad king, he told himself, knowing that this was all but true. I did everyone a favor by killing him.
    His gaze shifted to Finn who had turned silent again - was he scared? Of him? Not that he could blame him, but still... Hans walked over to the boy and picked him up, this tiny human being that continued staring at him with wide, scared eyes but didn’t move.
    “Don’t hate me”, he whispered, fighting his own emotions. “Please don’t. This had to happen. You’ll see why.” He made his way back to the hidden tunnel he’d come from, terribly glad Finn still kept silent. He’d raise the boy now. Finn had a right to the throne, and if he was loyal to him by the time he was an adult… as his advisor, it’d be Hans to rule the kingdom.
    And then, of course, there was his ex-wife who had insisted on taking their daughter with her when she’d left. He missed his little girl - and if he couldn’t have her, he could at least be a father to this boy.
    He had a promise to keep.


    “Good morning, master!”
    “Good morning, Finn.” Hans smiled down at the boy. He was six years old now, and everything had gone according to plan. He hadn’t hurt him, not once, and in spite of his cheerful and curious attitude, Finn had never disobeyed him, aside from some minor setbacks. He looked up to him, Hans knew, and he himself had not regretted a single moment of the past four years.
    “Can we go outside?” Finn asked, and Hans shook his head, just like all the other times the boy had asked for the very same thing.
    “The other people can’t know you’re still alive”, he said. “Not yet. But one day, we’ll get out of hiding, don’t worry about that.” Soon, I hope. He rose from his seat.
    “You’re going to visit our guests, right?”
    He raised a brow. “Why do you ask?”
    Finn went silent for a moment. “You said their latest invention would be done soon. I was hoping that you’d show me.” He bowed his head. “Master.”
    How could he turn down that request? It couldn’t hurt to have Finn know what it was capable of. “Come, then.”
    The boy knew the way to the caves they kept their ‘guests’ in - they were, of course, prisoners, but Finn was too young to know or care. For him, the bars they were stuck behind were nothing more than a replacement for the rooms he couldn’t provide, Hans supposed.
    “Good morning”, he greeted one of them upon entering a particular cave. He only had two prisoners, but he couldn’t risk them talking to each other apart from the things he sent Finn to deliver between them. Only now did he notice in what a good mood he really was - in Finn’s presence, it was hard not to be. “How’s the project, Josh?”
    “Finished”, the man replied, holding up a small, altogether unspectacular stone. Hans didn’t miss his side glance at Finn, but paid no mind. “Of course, we haven’t tested it yet, so we can’t say whether it works for sure, but…”
    “No but.” Hans shook his head, snatching the stone from the other man’s hand. “How can I… unleash it to the world if I can’t be certain about its workings?”
    “Then test it”, Josh said. “Just let us leave. We did everything you wanted.”
    “Not yet”, Hans replied absent-mindedly. He couldn’t test it on his prisoners, he needed them. He couldn’t kidnap a stranger, it was too risky.
    “Master?”, he heard Finn ask.
    Still pondering, he replied: “What is it?”
    “Can I do it?”
    Hans froze. Of course not, he wanted to say. “You don’t know what we’re talking about. And it’s far too dangerous for someone like you.”
    “But I want to help you!”, Finn insisted. “You want me to rule one day. I’ll be king. I need to be brave.”
    Hans glanced over to Josh, and found that the man carried the same expression as the king so many years ago. Utter panic.
    He didn’t feel so certain either. Who knew what would happen… and yet, they had nobody else, and if even Finn himself wanted to do it…
    “Alright”, he said, clutching the stone tightly. Resting his gaze on Finn.
    And the boy screamed.
    It wasn’t a scream of fear like four years ago. It was a scream of pain.
    Hans felt his hand grasping the stone so tightly that his nails dug back into his palm as he watched Finn’s body transform. The boy’s clothes were ripped apart as his shape shifted; his fingers and toes became claws as he fell to his knees, but even the arms that were now front legs couldn’t support him as he shook and cried out his pain. These cries soon transitioned into howls as his head took the shape of a wolf’s, and black fur spread all across his body.
    Then, all at once, his howls, too, died away, and what once was Finn sunk powerless to the ground.
    Hans’s thoughts raced, a chaotic loop of What have I done? and It actually worked!. The stone really did give him the power to turn people into canine beasts. “Excellent work”, he said to Josh, but quickly noticed that the man was shaking just like Finn earlier, staring at what he had created without giving a single hint that he had heard Hans in the first place.
    “This shouldn’t be”, was all Josh mumbled. “This… this darkling…”
    “Darkling”, Hans repeated. He could get used to that term. But he quickly focused back on Finn, it was time to prove that the process worked the other way around as well.
    He sighed in relief when it did reverse the transformation, the claws and fur disappearing until Finn, the human Finn, was lying naked on the ground before him. But he knew something was terribly wrong: this time, Finn hadn’t made a single sound.
    Hans ran over to the boy, taking off his cloak. Finn seemed so fragile now, so small… and he really needed the cloak before Hans could get him something new to wear. “I’m here now”, he whispered. “You were brave, okay? You did great.”
    As he attempted to wrap the cloak around him, Finn opened his eyes. But they weren’t the eyes of a boy who’d just done something remarkable and was now proud of his achievement. They were the eyes of a boy who was utterly terrified, a boy who scrambled away from the stone as fast as his weakened limbs could carry him. Away from Hans.
    He wanted to yell at himself for what he’d just done. He wanted to cry at the sight of the boy. His boy. The boy he’d promised not to harm.
    And now he’d broken that promise.


    The transformation had changed Finn in more than the literal sense. There was nothing left of the once so cheerful boy. During the first couple of days, Finn hadn't listened to him once, too scared of him to move an inch. That only changed when Hans couldn't take it anymore.
    “Do what I say”, he'd yelled at the boy. “I'll turn you back into a darkling if you disobey.”
    Since then nothing had been the same. He had developed other methods of training the boy, as frustrated as he had often been. Finn feared him now, he knew, and he hated that fact. It didn't get in the way of his eventual plan of taking over the kingdom, but he'd completely broken the boy that, as reluctant as he was to admit it, wasn't so much of a son to him anymore. Now he was nothing more than a servant.
    Sometimes, on rare occasions, Hans tried to change that. He'd talk to Finn about what had happened, even though he never made it past his truthful "You asked for it!" before Finn stopped listening. The boy took this sentence as just another confirmation that he'd done something wrong and had merely been punished, that it was all his fault and he needed to behave better. Finn's voice had cracked often enough during these times, to the point where Hans eventually decided to let it be, as much as it pained him to do so.
    Josh, too, had changed after what he'd witnessed. He didn't even dare touch a pen at this point, too scared of what horrible invention he'd come up with next. He was absolutely useless now, but unlike the other prisoner, the woman, Hans couldn't turn him into a darkling. He looked too much like the king he'd once made a promise to.
    A promise he'd failed to keep.


    By the time he turned twelve, Finn was an entirely different person - and so was Hans. Finn had stopped crying and cowering in fear, but he was still scared of Hans. The man had decided to accept the role Finn had pushed him into and lived the lie the boy believed: the darkling transformation had been a punishment for Finn's disobedience, just like every other hurtful thing he'd ever say or do to the boy. Finn should be eternally grateful for his mercy, and everything Hans had ever done was for his and Finn’s own good. He didn't tolerate disobedience anymore, and didn't let Finn ask questions. If the old Finn was gone, Hans couldn't allow any traces of him.
    It was easier that way.
    He ruled the kingdom now, only a single boy standing between him and the other world: Josh's son. Hans knew he had already arrived… and when he realized he'd need to hurt Finn again, to the point of permanently crippling him, only to make this plan work… he didn't care. It didn't matter.
    The boy he'd promised not to hurt was long gone.


    “Dummkopf”, Hans mumbled as he stepped through the dark corridor. “Dummkopf, Dummkopf, Dummkopf!”
    He didn't care if people heard him. It didn't matter. Nothing did.
    Finn was dead. Killed by the boy who now ruled the kingdom.
    It wasn't that kid's doing. Only his own. He'd been the one to break Finn's bones and then turn him into a darkling so his insides would be scrambled beyond repair. The boy king had only relieved him from the pain.
    He felt the urge to punch the wall beside him, but one of his hands was still recovering from his fight against Finn.
    The fight that had killed the boy.
    Finn had been right with every word he had said to him then. Fern had been right with everything. He was a monster. A heartless, cruel monster that harmed innocent children for his own good. For proving his own stupid brother wrong. That wasn't a reason, that was a sorry excuse for his miserable personality.
    He wanted to cry when he stepped into the light. Months had passed since Finn's death, and only now did he dare visit the place he'd never actually been to before. He should have been, he knew it, but he’d never found the courage to talk to the man he'd killed.
    He felt only two emotions when he stepped up to the grave of Finn and his father: respect and fear. He knelt down before their statues, forcing himself to look at their faces. They were smiling, but deep inside he knew they hated him with every fiber of their being. And Finn… Finn hadn't smiled for six years, not since before the darkling incident. Or maybe he had - when Josh's son had been there. The boy had changed him - no, he'd revealed that the old Finn had been in there all along.
    “I’m sorry”, he whispered, but then he decided that his volume didn't matter, so he allowed himself to cry. To mutter - to scream - his hate against himself in the language of his ancestors. Dummkopf was the lightest of curses he uttered. He knew what Finn had told him: All you did was teach me to hate.
    He was right. He was so very right. Hans should have done better. In every godforsaken way.
    He should never have listened to Finn’s plea of trying out the stone. He should have tried harder to make up for it. He should have been a father, not a master.
    He should have kept his promise.