Ken stood at the edge of the cliff overlooking the glaciers and mountains that lay before him. He breathed easier. The hardest part of the journey was over. He had made it. And he was still alive.
All he had to do now was find the one named Kalypso.
“Hey, Kalypso!” he yelled at the top of his lungs.
“Kalypso. Lypso. Ypso. So. So. Oh,” his voice echoed back mockingly.
The man stood there in the silence of ice and snow. Waiting for an answer.
But no answers came from the mountain.
It was growing darker. The giant crescent moonrock peaked out through the sides of the melting glacier glowed softly in the twilight. The sun would be setting soon. He needed to find shelter.
A colony of bats flew up from a cave into the grey sky. Their winged bodies silhouetted in the golden-yellow glow that emanated from the moonrock.
Ken glanced nervously over at the giant skull keeping guard over the mountain. He had heard the legends of these mighty beings who once ruled the land and roamed freely before being exiled to Rikdax.
His mother had once told him the stories of the Rikdax giants and how their fearless leader, Clagwor The Great, son of Morym The Fierce fought alongside the children of men in days long gone by. But then they had been betrayed and forced to live here in these icy, barren mountains.
“What ails you, human?”
Ken spun around. His heart racing.
A large, white horse came walking in his direction. Picking its steps carefully across the stones. Ken could see that it was lame. It limped badly. And yet still managed to move silently across the rocky area.
“Um. Were you talking to me?” Ken asked dumbly.
“Uh, yes! Do you see any other humans around?”
Ken shook his head.
“Are you Kalypso?” Ken asked.
The horse snorted, “Of course not. Kalypso was a giant. Not a horse.”
“Was? Is he not here?”
“These are his bones, human. The last of the great giants. He stood watch over that moonrock. Hoping that its light would someday attract more of his kind. Or at those who could become as he.”
“What happened to him?” Ken asked.
“What happens to us all, human? Age. It beats the best of us. More than a hundred winters have passed since Kalypso took his final breath. As you can see, the ice and snow have built up between the mountains and the moonrock. Soon, it will be all but buried. Gone forever. Swallowed up by the mountains.”
Ken sat down on a stone. He sighed deeply and shook his head silently.
“Why did you seek him, human?”
“I came for his blood,” Ken replied.
The horse backed away and snorted loudly, “Crazy humans. You came alone to fight a giant. Well, too late for that now. There is no revenge among the dead.”
Ken looked up and burst out laughing. “No, silly mule. Not for revenge. I’m a researcher. A scientist. I wanted blood samples from a giant.”
“Great moonrocks on fire! I should kick your teeth in for calling me a mule. I haven’t been insulted like that Kalypso was alive. Of course, I couldn’t kick him though. He was a giant. He would have squashed me like I swat a fly.”
The horse stomped one of its good feet angrily and pawed the ground. Ken chuckled heartily.
“We best be getting somewhere safe before it gets completely dark,” the horse said.
“Why?” Ken asked.
“There are strange things that happen in the darkness,” the horse replied in a hushed voice.
“Like what?” the human asked.
The horse lowered and shook its head as if shrugging, “It happens in the dark, and we are all in hiding. So, no one knows. But we hear strange noises. Those we are acquainted with are never seen again. Kalypso protected us from the darkness. But after he passed, we were left to fend for ourselves.”
“Like monsters?” Ken asked, sitting up and looking around.
The horse shrugged again, “Some say that certain beings and creatures are affected by the moonrock. It causes them to grow forever. Some say that the giants were once normal humans like you who were affected by the moonrock. That is why they grew so large.”
Ken sat up straighter. A broad grin on his face.
“Maybe my trip wasn’t in vain after all. I must get closer to this moonrock.”
“First, you have to survive the night, silly human. Let us find a safe place before the sun disappears completely. Tomorrow is a new day, and you may continue your journey.”
“Come, NightWind. Let us enter before it returns,” Kaito urged in a hushed voice
The dark, grey unicorn refused to move forward. The man flicked the reins and dug his heels into her side. She snorted and only took a step backward. Kaito scanned the black skies overhead nervously.
The portal before them glowed softly with a blue hue. The edges of the opening looked as if they had been created from ancient technology that his people had once used to create boards for the purpose of storing information. Something they had called computers. Kaito had seen them once in a museum in his hometown of Yugahama.
But that had been a long time ago, and he was a very long way from home. He hadn’t been back in over twenty years. A long, arduous journey as he scoured the earth on this seemingly impossible mission.
Finding the portal hadn’t been that difficult. Kaito had located it within the first five years. In the end, all he had to do was follow the Eastern star Slax into the Desolate Hinterlands.
The hard part, though, had been locating the artifacts that he needed to face these firey creatures that guarded and dwelt within these portals.
First, he had located FlameWard, his shield hidden deep within the firey caves of the Fergborg volcano.
Then he had tracked down Fire Casque, the helmet he had taken from the head of a troll at the summit of Basroy Mountains. It was said to protect its wearer from the most influential forms of mind control, including that of a dragon.
Along the way, he had captured NightWind in Eleychester. Well, more like stolen her from a farmer who had been raising her. But, Kaito didn’t think of himself as a thief. He simply freed it to live an adventurous life on the road with him.
And of course, she made his life more comfortable since he could get around faster. He reckoned that she had shaved at least three years off his journey while he searched for Blood Venom, the legendary spear that Shirō Shin Matsushita had used a few centuries earlier to kill Acidtooth, Destroyer Of Men.
What a story that was, Kaito thought to himself. And now to think that I will soon join the ranks of such legendary men. My people will sing names about me. When I return with a dragon’s egg and the king gives me the princess’ hand in marriage. I shall be the happiest man alive.
“I’ll show them all,” Kaito whispered through clenched teeth. “Then they’ll have to make me knight. I will prove that I am an honorable warrior.”
“Silly human,” the unicorn chuckled. “You don’t even know if there is a dragon’s egg. I bet you can’t even tell if that dragon is male or female.”
“Then, I’ll kill the dragon and take its head. I’ll prove that I am a valiant warrior.”
“Please,” the unicorn whinnied. “You haven’t trained or fought at all these years. You stole the things you have, betrayed those you took them from and killed anyone who stood in your way at night while they were fast asleep. Where is the honor in that?”
“Shut up, you stupid horse with a silly horn,” Kaito said has slammed the side of his fist into the back of her head. “Remember why you let me ride you.”
“Yes, I wish you would just complete your curse and kill me. Sometimes I’d rather be dead than to have to listen to all the baloney you spout off day and night.”
“I really do hate you too, stupid unicorn. I should have just left you back on that farm to plow that farmer’s fields instead of bringing you on the adventure of a lifetime. But we can’t undo the past, so let’s just keep moving forward.”
Night Wind threw her head down and took another step backward. Kaito angrily grabbed onto her mane with both hands and prepared for her to trying bucking him off as she usually did at least once a week. But she didn’t attempt to throw him this time.
Kaito sighed in silent frustration and slid down. He couldn’t wait till he was back in the city. A famous dragon egg hunter who had won the princess’ hand in marriage. Heir to the throne. And then he could own and ride normal horses that couldn’t argue with him nor talk back.
“Stay here then, but be ready to run if that dragon returns,” he growled.
The man tip-toed quietly forward to the portal, still scanning the skies for any sign of the giant, winged creatures return. He had been watching it for several weeks now.
The giant, black dragon typically stayed out for several hours before returning from its hunts. So, he wasn’t too worried yet. He should have another couple of hours to search for the eggs and make his escape. Kaito hoped to be long gone before it returned.
The glowing blue portal hummed softly as he walked toward it, but it began to pulse softly at a higher frequency when he passed through the entrance. The sound made him nervous, but he wasn’t about to turn back now.
Kaito found himself in a large, dark cave. The glow from the portal behind him reflected eerily on the walls surrounding him. As his eyes adjusted to the low light, he could see where a cave tunnel led upward out of this main hall.
He was worried about getting lost in here before finding any dragon eggs. Kaito knew he needed to hurry because he definitely didn’t want to have to come back here a second time.
A glitter of light caught his eye. He looked closer and caught his breath. Piles of gold and silver that the dragon had stolen from his people. Even he didn’t find any eggs, he could still fill his backpack with treasure and live like a king for the rest of his life.
Kaito had had enough adventure and traveling for a lifetime. And besides, it had been years since he had seen the princess. She had probably grown old and fat and ugly by now. He wouldn’t need to be heir to the throne if he had his own wealth.
He slid his backpack down and emptied the contents on the cave floor. Then began to stuff it full of gold and silver treasure. When it was full, he closed the bag carefully and tried to lift it. But it was too heavy. He could barely get it off the ground, and part of the seam started to pull away. It was an old bag that he had been using for years.
The man emptied about half of it and tried again. But it was still too heavy. So, he angrily pulled out more of the golden goodies. He would definitely be coming back with a better bag for carrying more of these riches out of here.
Kaito stood back up and struggled to get the backpack over his shoulders. He considered pulling out a bit more, just in case he had to make a run for it. But greed spoke louder than prudence and convinced him to keep what he had.
As he turned to leave, he caught sight of something else in a far corner of the cave. His eyes had adjusted better to the darkness, and even though he wasn’t a hundred percent sure, the forms he saw looked like eggs.
Kaito stepped forward and almost tripped over a pile of large bones. He had to pick his way through larger and higher piles until he made it back to the corner. He sucked in his breath with delight.
Four large dragon eggs lay before him on a soft pile of grass and leaves. He stepped forward and took just one.
It’s all I need to be rich and happy, he thought to himself. No need to be greedy. Leave the rest for the mother. Maybe the dumb, flying lizard won’t even notice one is missing. He bounced around in a gleeful dance. Then stepped on a bone and tripped.
Kaito almost dropped the egg but managed to keep his hold on it. He breathed a sigh of relief and quickly made his way to the portal door. When he stepped outside, Kaito had to blink several times for his eyes to adjust again to the light.
He looked around for Night Wind but didn’t see her. He looked behind him and saw her running for the forest.
“Hey, you stupid horse. Get back here!” Kaito yelled.
If he hadn’t been so angry, he would have laughed. He took great delight in humiliating the unicorn by comparing the creature to distant, dumber cousins.
He sighed and began to walk after her. Eventually, she would stop, and he would catch up to her. It was true that he had cursed her, but not in the way she thought. He wouldn’t ever do anything to kill or harm her.
It only caused her to feel more disoriented and nauseous the farther she got from him. But if she persisted far enough, that bond would be broken, and she really would be free. But since she didn’t know that, she always gave up and came back to him.
A loud roar erupted behind him, breaking through his thoughts. Kaito turned to see a dark speck in the sky, flying in his direction. His heart froze. He held on to the egg with one hand and slid the backpack off with the other. He tossed it to the ground and broke into a dead run.
The dragon roared again louder this time. Rapidly gaining on him. He turned for another look, and she was closing in on him with jaws wide open.
He swung Blood Venom from his shoulder and spun around to face her. She was close. Coming fast. She almost impaled herself on it but flung her massive body away at the last second.
Dakiderth, the Lady of Fire, was her name. At least that was what Night Wind had told him. But in the midst of this chaos, a strange thought crossed his mind. How did the unicorn know the dragon’s name? But he had no time to think of these things now. He would ask her later when the beast’s head was hanging on the wall of his royal bedroom back at the castle.
The dragon landed close, but just out of reach. She reared her head and hissed loudly. Kaito struck out at her with Blood Venom, his dragon-slaying spear. But it was a clumsy attempt with only one hand. He refused to set the egg down. It was his, and he wasn’t going to set it down.
She blocked it with her wing and knocked it to the side. Kaito pulled back and struck again. This time, the dragon blocked it and grabbed it away from him. She tried to snap it, but it was too well made. The giant, slithering reptile threw it to the ground and stepped over it.
Kaito held the egg in front of him like a hostage. FlameWard, his shield, had fallen off his back when he removed the backpack.
“Breathe fire at the peril of your own young, foul creature of darkness,” he screamed in anger and terror.
So, close and yet so far. Twenty years of searching. Here it was, right in front of him. Kaito couldn’t give up or quit now.
“Stand back, or else I’ll throw the egg to the ground. I’ll smash it to smithereens,” he screamed.
The dragon sat back on its haunches and watched him.
“That’s right, Mama! You better be scared. I’ll kill this little creep and make scrambled eggs for breakfast.”
The dragon hissed, and sparks flew out of its mouth and nostrils. Kaito jumped back and smashed into something. He stumbled and almost fell. When he caught himself and turned around, Night Wind was standing there.
“Yes! That’s what I’m talking about. When you’re on the winning team, everyone wants to be with you. Even your horse.” Kaito yelled gleefully.
“Where are you taking my egg?” the dragon asked softly.
“Like I’m really going to tell you, dummy. Do you think I’m that stupid.” Kaito screamed mockingly.
“We’re taking the egg back to the Reya Kingdom. King Gorō Yuuta has promised the princess’ hand in marriage to the human brave enough or stupid enough to bring him a dragon egg.”
The giant, black dragon hissed again as sparks mixed with flames flared with each breath.
“What?” Kaito asked dumbly, turning to look at the unicorn.
Her eyes were blank. She stared at Kaito unblinkingly. His heart sank. Night Wind wasn’t wearing a FireCasque like himself. She had no protection for her mind. The dragon was controlling her.
“Fine, I’ll give you the egg. You let us go.” Kaito whined.
The dragon didn’t say a word. He didn’t like the look in her eye. He didn’t have much hope of getting away. He needed to distract her.
Kaito wound up and threw the egg as far as he could off to the side. Then he turned and made a run for it across the field.
The egg was heavy and didn’t go far. The dragon caught it easily with her wings in midflight. It didn’t even break her mind control over the unicorn.
Night Wind turned around and wound up herself. Her back legs lashed out as Kaito ran past her. The unicorns sharp hooves caught him in the side. Cracking ribs that punctured his lungs. The man fell to the ground screaming in pain and misery. Coughing blood that filled his airways.
Dakiderth dragged Kaito back into her cave with one clawed hand while clutching her precious egg with the other.
“Sorry, to hurt your human, cousin,” the dragon growled to the unicorn.
Kaito leaned his head back for a final look at the unicorn as the dragon pulled him through the portal.
“Cousin? What? Was that why he had seen small scales on the unicorn’s body. Were dragons and unicorns somehow related?”
The Fire Casque slipped off his head as he went through the portal. Numbness and darkness soon overtook his mind.
Night Wind shook her head as the sense of sickness and nausea slipped away. She felt great for the first time in years. Not attached to this sick human. The unicorn was finally free. Well, for now anyway. At least until someone else tried to catch her.
She considered sticking around the Desolate Hinterlands where humans rarely came. But then decided against it. Who knew when a hungry mother dragon or young dragonling might pop out looking for a fat and sassy unicorn meal.
Nope. An elegant unicorn like herself could find another desolate place to live without creepy, mind-controlling dragons around.
Night Wind galloped off into the Forest of Hypnotic Flowers. She wondered if such flowers existed, or if humans under the dragon’s mind control had blamed some strange flower. She wished she had such power. It would be fun to play around with them when they were being cruel.
She stopped at the edge of the woods to get her bearings, then headed off to the West to get as far away from old King Gorō Yuuta and the Lyonhall Fortress. The unicorn didn’t want to be anywhere in that direction when Dakiderth flew out again to exact his revenge against the human who threatened her life and the life of her children.
It would be a long and bitter war between the dragon and humans. They would hunt her and her young ones down. She would attack their cities and plunder their treasures. But eventually, they would find her and win. It was just what humans did.
Nightwind finally came to a peaceful valley that teamed with life. She would settle down here. In time, she might eventually head out to find others of her kind. But for now, she just wanted to be alone and enjoy her freedom.
“No! Please. Help! Somebody stop that thing before it kills us all,” Shivali Mneme screamed.
Atticus Perun spun around to see what all the fuss was about. His eyes scanned the crowded marketplace. The man’s sharp eyes spotted the queen on a small balcony in the Parandor Palace overlooking the entrance to the marketplace on Kings Street.
The queen was dressed to kill as always in a light-blue, silk dress that perfectly complemented her creamy skin and long, golden tresses.
She was young and beautiful. Too young for the king to have chosen for a second wife after he poisoned his first wife. It was common knowledge that there had been foul play involved in her death.
But he was the king, and he had no heirs to rule in his stead. He wanted a younger woman, even though none of his counselors approved. Not even Atticus. They didn’t approve of someone young. And especially not of Shivali.
The general consensus was that he should have chosen someone wiser and less frivolous to help him rule the land.
But he was the king, and sometimes it was good to be the king.
Atticus sighed and wondered what it was this time. The young queen was always full of drama. Throwing fits and tantrums. It was draining on everyone in the royal court. It was draining on Atticus. Always having to explain why she couldn’t do something or have her way.
The king’s counselors knew it was especially draining on the king. Which wasn’t good for his nerves, especially in such trying times as these. There were so many important things to deal with.
Threats from the Yunnavion to the south. War between Muilaris and Obonait Empires to the east. Hunger to the west as the smaller rivers of the Clinlam Tributary
dried up. Rumors of dragon attacks coming from the Arnwich Mountains to the north.
And yet, half of their meetings were spent dealing with queen’s latest antics. Trying to figure out ways to help the king smooth things over. Not that Atticus thought the king should.
If it were up to Atticus, he would have invoked the Law of the Line on her. But King Silvius was too much of a pushover. He let the queen get away with murder. Which was really weird because the king wasn’t like that in any other area of ruling his kingdom.
He didn’t have any problems laying down the law. Killing a disobedient or sloppy servent before breakfast never curbed his appetite. But when it came to the queen, King Silvius acted like a silly schoolboy who had just fallen in love.
Some whispered that it was because the king felt guilty over his first wife’s death. Others thought the queen had placed a spell on him.
Atticus pushed his way through the swarming crowds who began to gather in small groups. He finally made his way to the entrance and rounded the corner of Pearl Avenue. And what he saw made his blood run cold.
“A devil of crows,” someone whispered in awe.
It was a lay person’s description, of the large skeletal face and hands that floated up Pearl Avenue in their direction. And it was surrounded by thousands of crows that formed the monster’s body. Hundreds more circled around it as it moved toward them.
“Wraalic Cthiuciu,” Atticus whispered hoarsely.
He had only heard the stories from his grandmother as a child. His mother tried to dissuade her from telling the boy those tales. But every once in awhile, when he was alone with Granny Venere, Atticus would beg her to tell him more.
“Stand your ground and fight! For tonight we feast on crow!” Atticus heard Cicero Pericles, the captain of the king’s guard shouting over the screams of the crowd that was beginning to flee in terror.
Atticus turned to flee himself. There was no way mere mortals could defeat this foul creature with sword and spears if his grandmother’s stories were true. And up till now, he thought this monster was a thing of fairy tales.
Suddenly, he caught a glimpse of a lone figure standing between himself and the Wraalic. Atticus hadn’t even seen where the person came from. At first he thought it was a man wearing a long, flowing black cape that swirled out and around his body in the wind. But then Atticus saw a single, long braid snapping and whipping in the wind.
Was it a woman?
She had a long staff in her hands that she stretched out to the side. As she waved the staff in the wind, a long light blue hue began to leak off the end of the staff. Atticus watched in fascination as stood calmly in the Wraalic’s path to give her power time to grow.
And then finally, she released the ball of light-blue energy from the end of the staff. It arced up out towards the Wraalic’s raven chest. But the shot didn’t even phase the creature. If anything, it only angered it because a flock of raven’s shot out in her direction. Attacking her mercilessly from all sides.
The Wraalic continued coming up the street as if it were oblivious to the birds below it. It passed right over the lone person who tried to stop it.
Atticus looked back where he had last seen Cicreo and his band of brave warriors. But they were nowhere to be seen. Had they fled or been carried off by a band of crows. It wasn’t like the King’s Guard to flee from a good fight, even when the odds were stacked against them.
When he looked up, he was shocked to see the queen still standing on the balcony watching the Wraalic progress up the street. The king was screaming at her and trying to pull her back inside the castle. But he was old and frail. She was young and strong.
Something didn’t seem quite right about this scene. It just seemed off somehow. Atticus couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He backed away down the street he had come and slid into a small alley out of sight where he could still keep an eye on the queen.
The wise counselor watched as King Silvius screamed for his servants to come help them. He swore up a blue streak and threatened to have them all decapitated for abandoning him. The king begged and pleaded for the queen to come with him. But she didn’t budge.
The giant Wraalic floated up to the edge of the balcony. It reached out its hand toward them. Ravens and crows descended around the king and queen.
It was a dark blur, and Atticus couldn’t be one hundred percent sure, but it looked like the queen pushed the king over the edge of the balcony in the confusion.
Atticus watched in horror as the king toppled over the edge of the parapet and tumbled through the crows till he hit the ground. It felt good to see some of the Wraalic’s crows getting squashed in the fall. But it was a small win. The horror of watching King Silvius’ body hit the ground was gutwrenching.
Suddenly, a blue light streaked out of the surrounding chaos of crows and burst on the Wraalic’s back before it could pick up the queen.
He looked, but Atticus couldn’t tell where they were coming from. The mass of swirling crows blocked his view. Then there was another blast and then another. Each blast knocked dozens of crows out of the air.
Atticus couldn’t tell if they were dead or just stunned, but it was a small victory none the less. The blasts came stronger and faster. Each blast knocked more crows out of the sky. After half-a-dozen blasts, the remaining crows scattered and flew off. The Wraalic stood silent and unmoving as if it had lost its power.
One final blast aimed at its ugly, bony head found its mark. And the entire creature disappeared into thin air. All that remained to remind that that what they had seen was real, were the carcasses of blackbirds scattered along the road.
The crowds roared to life and rushed back out into the street to crush the life out of any foul fowl that still happened to be fluttering or even breathing.
They cheered as they gathered around the mage with the staff that shot blue energy to destroy the Wraalic. They held her up over their heads and carried her victoriously through the city and held a great feast in her honor.
Zrele Ghelli was her name. She was given great honor by the queen.
Everyone honored the king with a great funeral procession. They mourned him like they did any royalty they were obliged to. But not because they missed him terribly. Even Atticus didn’t miss him much.
The king’s brother was a much more sensible man. And they no longer had to spend half their meetings discussing how to deal with the queen. They were able to focus their attention on much more important matters.
Well, there was one last thing they had to deal with. That was the fit that the queen threw when she found out that she wasn’t going to inherit the throne after King Silvius’ death.
It was easy for Atticus to convince the board to change a few laws. The Council of the Chosen were only too happy to pass a law that would keep Shivali away from themselves.
And the people, of course, didn’t really care one way or the other who sat on the throne as long as they had food to eat and plenty of entertainment to keep them occupied.
Shivali, of course, had a few choice words for Atticus when she found out that he was responsible for her losing the crown. She issued a few not-so subtle threats.
“I saw you push the king over the edge of the balcony,” he said.
“You can’t prove it,” she replied.
“I also don’t think there ever really was a Wraalic. You only created an illusion to get what you wanted.”
She smiled wanly and shrugged, “Magic is only an illusion. It’s in the trickery of making others see what you want. Then there is no need for a direct confrontation.”
“I always thought that the king killed his first wife to be with you, but I’m beginning to think that this was all your doing. Part of your plan all along.”
“You can’t prove it,” she replied with another shrug.
“Well, I’ve got my eye on you, Shivali. I’ll be watching you closely.”
“Well, then watch me closely because my plan is still in motion. I will yet be queen and sit on that throne whether you like it or not. Even if it means that I have to get rid of you to bring it to pass.”
Now it was Atticus’ turn to smile. She was much smarter than any of them ever gave her credit for in spite of her young age. If she was that formidable of a foe, he might have to recommend that she sit in on some of their Council Meetings. She might just be able to provide some valuable insight and creative solutions to the problems the kingdom was facing.
Thank you for reading this short story. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know if you want me to write more of this story. If so, tell me which characters or ideas intrigued you in the comments below. If you are an English student, feel free to ask about any vocabulary words or expressions that you didn’t understand.
Jenkins slowed his pace when he reached the flames licking up from the floor. Even through the thick protection of his gear, the heat was almost unbearable. He held up his hand for the rest of the team to slow down.
“You’re up, Blakely,” he whispered into the mic.
Another figure stepped up beside him. He couldn’t see her beautiful face through the mask, but he could sense the violent chemist’s determination to capture Garfield Cook in each quick sure movement. Dead or alive. This was it. The closest they had ever come. They almost had him this time.
He checked the safety on his gun and scanned the room for any sign of his nemesis. His red laser cut through the smoke and flames while he covered Blakely so she could do her thing and put out the flames.
She had been preparing for this confrontation for years. Ever since the mad, fire monger had assassinated her family back in Tulsa. It had been easy to convince her to join them in their hunt for Cook.
They had been chasing him for the past two years unsuccessfully. Frustrated as their rival always seemed to stay two steps ahead of them. But not today. They had him. And soon, they would unmask him and put an end to his charade.
Blakely finished her preparations and tossed her weapons into the flames. She called them flame suppressors. It was something she had invented to put out the violent fires that Cook started.
They had almost caught him two other times. The flame suppressors had saved their lives both times. This time they had been more prepared and were farther along than ever. This could be it. Third times a charm, Jenkins thought to himself.
“Turn on your oxygen, boys. Flames are gone in three, two, one.” Blakely crooned into their earpieces.
Jenkins felt more than heard a low thump deep in his bones when the flame suppressors went off. Sucking up the air in the room, the fire died down almost immediately.
Some of the hotter sections caught fire again as oxygen seeped back into the room. Flames licked up once again around them, but it wasn’t even one-tenth as hot it had been just a few seconds previously.
Jenkins could see the outlines of his other team members pressing in around him from the light of the flames that were rising once again. There was a crash to their right that made them all jump. Jenkins spun around. His red laser beam cutting through the smoke. But it was merely one of the overhead walkways that twisted and bent in the extreme heat and had fallen.
He turned back and continued to press through the flames. He could see several of his soldiers surrounding someone. As he came closer and his eyes adjusted to the darkness and flickering flames, Jenkins realized it was a couple.
He couldn’t see the man’s face because he wore a mask as they did, but the woman did not.
“Garfield Cook! You’re surrounded. Let the woman go and come peacefully with us.”
The man and woman looked at each other for a long moment. Then the woman stretched out her hand toward them. Her hand burst into flame and grew brighter.
“Stand down, woman,” Jenkins yelled over the comm and held up his hand for his men not to shoot.
“Blakely, prepare to suppress the flames. Cole, can you contain her?”
“Working on it, sir,” Cole replied.
Jenkins didn’t know where Cole had come from, but he definitely wasn’t normal at all. His file was classified, and Jenkins hadn’t been allowed to access it. All he had been told was that Cole could suppress most mutant abilities.
The woman’s eyes blazed, and she screamed as she held out her hand in their direction. But the flame on her hand didn’t increase in size or heat as she seemed to expect. Slowly, it diminished and flickered out. She screamed in anger and fury once again.
“I’m sorry, love. I can’t do anything. I guess this is it. I love you.”
She reached out and took his hand lovingly. Tears streamed down her face.
Jenkins nodded for the men to move in and make the arrest. The men were nervous about it, but Captain had given strict orders for them to be brought in alive if at all possible.
“Go,” Cook whispered to the woman, “I’ll cover you.”
“No, love. Please, don’t do this,” she whispered back.
The soldiers paused.
“Take them down, boys,” Jenkins hissed. “Cole, contain him.”
“I got ’em, boss.”
The soldiers pressed in. But it was too late. A bright blue ball of light burst up in front of Cook. Jenkins glanced over at Cole to see if he could stop it.
Cole was shaking like a leaf. His outstretched arms trembled wildly.
His rival, Cook, vibrated as well, but the blue ball of light didn’t stop growing. He pulled the woman by the arm toward him and shoved her violently into the blue ball.
Jenkins realized that Cole was unable to stop Cook from doing his thing.
“Fire,” Jenkins ordered.
Bullets blazed around the room. Lighting up everyone’s uniform. Jenkins could see his men’s eyes in the reflections of muzzle fire from the weapons.
Cook’s body trembled and jerked wildly as the bullets riddled his body. The soldiers stopped firing when he fell to his knees and slumped forward.
The ball of blue light disappeared. Darkness consumed them once again. It took a moment for Jenkin’s eyes to adjust to the darkness once again. The only light came from the pale flames that still flickered around them.
It took a second for him to get over his blindness from the flash of the guns. But when he did, the woman was nowhere to be seen. Only Cook lay there gasping for his final breath.
“Where’s the woman. She must have slipped off in the darkness. Find her.” Jenkins barked into the comm.
“She’s gone, sir,” Cole replied. “He created a portal for her to escape.”
“What are you talking about?” Jenkins growled. “A portal to where?”
“Only he knows the answer to that. But I don’t think he was ever our Fire Monger in the first place.”
“He’s the one that killed my family,” Blakely yelled.
Cole shook his head. “He didn’t have that power. He had no fire essence in him. The only ability he has is to open portals to other places.”
“I saw him on the tapes before everything went up in flames,” she screamed.
“Uh, hmmm. Most likely, Cook became the face of the attacks to protect her from ever being seen. We just happened to get lucky and see them here together. Otherwise, we would have killed him thought it was over. And she would still be out there carrying on her attacks.”
Blakely stormed off. Jenkins angrily kicked a bit of burning debris that happened to be in front of him. It smacked into Cook, still lying on the floor. He groaned raspily.
Jenkins realized he was still alive and kneeled down beside him. Pulled off his mask and grabbed him by the lapels.
“Where did you send the woman? And what was the point of all this?”
“We came to protect humanity from the Vioth’ito,” he wheezed “Melantha and I were the only ones who stood in their way. Unless you convince her to continue the fight, you’re on your own.”
“Where did you send her?” Cole roared as he dropped to his knees beside Jenkins and shook the dying man violently.
“All that remains of me are blood and bones,” Cook whispered with his final, gasping breath.
But it was no use. Cook no longer breathed. Jenkins pushed Cole away.
“It’s no use, man. He’s gone.” Jenkins said softly. “Who are the Vioth’ito?”
Cole didn’t answer. Jenkins asked again.
“Death incarnate,” Cole finally replied. “I’ve heard of them but thought they were only a myth. But if Cook is right and the stories are true, then we are all doomed.”
Cole stood up and walked away. He refused to talk about it any more as if speaking of this great evil would somehow attract them.
Jenkins gathered up his men and prepared for extraction with Cook’s body. He needed answers, and he wasn’t going to find them here. He needed a higher level of security access to find the answers he needed.
Who was Cook? Who was Cole? And who were the Vioth’ito?
He wouldn’t stop until he got his answers.
“Where did Cole go?” Jenkins asked Blakely.
“He said something about going out to look for someone named Melantha.”
Thanks for reading this short story. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know in the comments belove if this is a story that you would like me to write more about. Which characters interest you the most? What concepts or ideas intrigue you?
This is a short story that ties in with the Thorgaut of NorthWorld series. Book 1 is up on my Amazon Author page already. This story is written ahead in the storyline as I play around with some ideas for who the Villains are and what they want. In this story specifically, we focus on Steingrimer, King of the NightWalkers.
A howl echoed off the clouds hanging low in the sky. Rainer could smell the foul stench of the creature before he heard or saw it. His heart pounded.
Suddenly, the putrid figure of ash and heat materialized out of the darkness before him. Steingrimer. King of the NightWalkers. The imposing figure seemingly floating before him. A long, tattered red cape whipping and snapping hauntingly in the wind.
Rainer’s legs felt like jelly. Only a few nights ago, he had laughed when the old crone told him the stories about this foul creature. And now, here he stood. Face to face with the king of the undead armies now sweeping through NorthWorld.
Two empty eyes stared back at him with a wicked furor, and a low, deep growl rumbled in pleasure as it looked around at the evil army that surrounded them.
A shock of black hair struck a stark contrast on the silvery pale skull that sat atop its tall, sinewy body. With each breath, a plume of smoky shadow escaped the creature’s hollow nostrils set within its burly bone head.
Runes and emblems, glowing brightly, covered parts of its torso, but Rainer didn’t want to look closer to inspect this thing any further. He closed his eyes for a moment, hoping that he would wake up from this dream. Hoping that Steingrimer would no longer be there. Rainer could still feel the warm stench of its breath though.
When he opened his eyes again, the creature continued to gaze at him from the dull, piercing blackness of the cadaverous hollows where its eyes had once shined.
The NightWalker moved closer to him, its long legs seemed to be floating over the ground as it walked fluidly carrying its harrowing energy. It looked upon him with a horrible grimace on its face.
Steingrimer took several floating steps forward until it stood just before Rainer. It reached out a long bony finger and touched his cheek gently. Almost lovingly, as if caressing a loved one that it hadn’t seen in a long time.
“Welcome, human,” Steingrimer rasped hoarsely. “I have heard much of your exploits here in NorthWorld. It has been many years since anyone has heard such amazing tales of valor from a human. Fear not. I will not harm you. You will feel no pain. By the time of the next full moon, you will be as one of us. Then, with your new strength and abilities, you will do even greater exploits than these. And one day, you will lead this army in my stead.”
Rainer cocked his head to the side like he had no idea what the King of the NightWalkers was talking about.
“Sorry, pal. I think you’re confusing me with somebody else. I just got here. I was at home in my bed, fast asleep. And one of those things there opened a portal into my room, grabbed me by the leg, and dragged me here against my will.”
Steingrimer hissed angrily. His hair bristled straight out in all directions. The dark hollows of what were now his eyes silently bore into the human before him. Both beings remained completely still. Frozen in time. Watching each other. The only thing that continued to move in the night was its dark red cape.
The undead king floated in a step closer. The stench of his rotting body was overpowering. Rainer took a deep breath and held it as long as he could before letting it out slowly. That wasn’t very smart because then he felt out of breath and had to take a gulp of air to replace it. It was all he could do not to gag.
Steingrimer’s nose was close enough for him to touch. It was the only thing that made the undead monster still look human. Although it protruded up from his face at an angle. But it was nice because Steingrimer didn’t have a hole in the middle of his skull like most of the walking dead cadavers around here.
Rainer wanted to reach out and squeeze it to find out if his nose was real or if it was some sort of prosthetic. But the human held his arms stiffly at his side and turned his face away slightly from Steingrimer.
He waited for the giant corpse to take another step forward. His legs felt weak as the monster siphoned off his energy. Rainer could almost see the aura leaving his body in faint whisps. An overwhelming urge to puke overcame Rainer, but he had to control himself.
“Fear not human. Your flesh is weak. Soon you will be powerful like me because you will not depend on strength that comes from your flesh. Your strength will come from deep within. It will come from an eternal core that I will give you.”
Rainer couldn’t hold back the laughter in spite of his weakness and in spite of the creature’s proximity. Steingrimer floated back a step and demanded to know what was so funny.
“You miss having flesh. Don’t you. You touched my cheeks earlier because you still wish you had it yourself. You don’t fool me. I know that you would trade your power in a heartbeat to have your flesh back. Well, if you had a heartbeat, that is.”
The darkness in the empty hollows of the Nightwalker’s skull narrowed and intensified in fury. The rasp in his breathing deepened, and a rumble rose up in his throat.
“Take care what you say, human. There are worse things that I could do to you than to allow you to become as we are and join our ranks in battle.”
Steingrimer took a step forward. The runes and emblems on his chest began to intensify and glow brighter. Rainer felt his body growing weaker. The NightWalker reached out and took Rainer’s face in his hands to pull him forward.
The human waited until the last possible second to reach under his shirt for NightBlade. He could feel the grip of the weapon wrapped in dull, black deerskin. He wrapped his fingers just below the curved cross-guard that led to the short, narrow, straight blade made of black crystal for such an occasion as this.
NightBlade had one sharp edge to cut and slice. The other was thick and solid. Perfect for defending oncoming attacks. But tonight, Rainer knew he wouldn’t be strong enough or fast enough to stand up to the NightWalker.
His attack had to be quick and sure. A single strike was all he would have time for. Rainer was careful to keep his fingers away from the blade. Careful not to slice himself. A single cut was all that was needed to bleed his energy completely and utterly.
Rainer squeezed his hand tighter. He could feel the deer’s head etched into the pommel. A reminder of Halldora’s assurance that this was the right tool for the right job. The one thing that could kill a monster like Steingirmer.
If he failed to defeat the undead king, Rainer knew he would have to kill himself to avoid being transformed into one of these monsters himself. He most likely would anyway since Steingrimer was already beginning the process of sucking out his soul and replacing his soon empty vessel with whatever it was that fueled these mad NightWalkers.
Rainer swiped NightBlade from under his shirt and pushed it behind Steingrimer to try and keep it out of his peripheral vision till it was too late. The human flipped the knife up and around so that the blade was pointed in. Then brought it up towards the Nightwalker’s exposed neck just above the protection of his armor.
But just before the tip of the knife struck its skin, Steingrimer’s hand stopped Rainer’s wrist. A wicked smile crossed his face, exposing his large, bony teeth. He twisted the blade from the human’s grasp and threw his body back across the grass.
Rainer landed on his back in the grass and skidded to a stop. He scrambled weakly to his feet and tried to stand before Steingrimer reached him. Rainer’s heart sank. He had failed to kill the NightWalker and failed to kill himself before he was transformed.
“Sneaky trick, human. One that would make any NightWalker proud. If I had any doubts that you would make a fine member of our ranks, this has removed them all.”
Just as Steingrimer stepped forward to float in his direction, there was a flash of light. A portal burst open beside Rainer, and a familiar figure leaped out in his direction with fire in her hands.
Halldora launched a fistful of sparks and flames in Steingrimer’s direction. But he easily dodged it by flipping backward and floating out of the way. Thorgaut leaped through the portal behind her and launched fistfuls of fireballs at the hoards of NightWalkers that rushed them.
The disgusting monsters quickly burst into flaming balls of fire that ran madly around in circles lighting their fellow NightWalkers. Steingrimer began screaming for them to back away before the whole army burst into flame. He separated the packs of NightWalkers that could get away while sacrificing the ones that he knew were already lost.
Thorgaut and Halldora took advantage of the confusion to race to Rainer’s side and help him hobble through the portal. After pushing Rainer through, they turned back and launched fireball after fireball in Steingrimer’s direction. A few came close, but none of the blows were solid enough to stick. Unlike the others of his kind, the NightWalker king didn’t burst into flame.
They kept it up as long as they could, but soon grew weaker. It was impossible to hit Steingrimer, and the other NightWalkers stayed out of the reach of their fireballs.
Halldora closed the portal down after they leaped through, while Thorgaut helped Rainer to his feet. He realized that they were back in the safety of the castle for now, but it wouldn’t be long before Steingrimer came up with a way to protect the NightWalkers from fire. Then it would be game over for all of them.
“I’m sorry,” Rainer whispered hoarsely. “I wasn’t fast enough to even nick his skin.”
Halldora sponged his face off with a crisp, soothing mix of water and herbs. She smiled knowingly and glanced up at Thorgaut.
“We never expected you to actually kill him with that knife. Especially not with that new armored protection covered in runes that he wears. It would have held his energy in and healed him immediately even if you had managed to cut him.” Thorgaut rumbled in his deep voice from across the room where he was pouring a goblet of scented wine.
Rainer sat up, angrily, “What? You sent me in there knowing it was pointless?”
Thorgaut walked across the room and handed him the goblet.
“We need him to think that was the reason we sent you and make him believe that was the NightBlade. Now, he’ll wear it, and we can track him wherever he goes. And when we’re ready to really attack, we’ll have a direct connection to portal in right where he is at.”
Rainer scowled but drank the wine anyway. Then lay back down. He didn’t like feeling that he was a pawn in their game, but everyone around here seemed to be a pawn in someone else’s game. He didn’t know where one game started and another ended.
“So, what’s going to happen to me? Am I going to be a full-blooded NightWalker by time the next full moon comes around?”
“Steingrimer did a real number on you, but I’ll do my best to stop it,” Halldora said confidently.
“Yeah, and all we have to do is kill Steingrimer before then. You should be fine.” Thorgaut said.
“Just kill Steingrimer,” Rainer mumbled. “That’s easier said than done. But right now, I’m happy to still be alive. Thank you for pulling me out of there in time.”
This was the end of this short story because I don’t want to give away too much. I’m playing around with the Thorgaut storyline to see where we can take the upcoming series. If you like the concept, let me know in the comments. Your feedback lets me know which stories to invest more time on. Thanks for reading.