Tuesday, April 7

Chapter II (Second Book)

Magic, in all its wondrous forms. Beautiful. Mysterious. Deadly. Has all sculpted together to create the land of Rivale. For as long as anyone can remember, and further back than any dusty old tome can recount, there have always been mages in Rivale, but magic was not a gift for all. In fact, most were magic-less in every sense. Those who did have the rare gift considered themselves lords over their countrymen, and there was little the common folk could do to oppose them. But something happened that would change Rivale forever… 

The next Reinfred in line, a prince was unexpectedly born without any magic. This had never occurred, not even once in the Reinfred's bloodline. 

The Queen; Rohesia Reinfred kept it a secret by using her own gift of a silver tongue. Any single word which left her lips, truth or lie was believed without question. She hid the fact for years, that her son was devoid of magic like any other commoner. 

On the very day of Prince Roderick coronation, the very moment the crown’s jewels were placed upon his head, he let his people know who he truly was; A man born without magic. Even as the words escaped his mouth, an outraged mage wounded the king with a bolt of black magic.

Fortunately, the range of the spell had only reached so far up to the throne. It struck the majority of his legs, if any further he no longer would have the ability to make an heir. 

The guards charged, but they were thrown back by a whirling gale which howled with the cries of the undead. 


Unexpectedly a servant shot the mage in the heart with a single arrow then bellowed, “Sneden you, traitor!” 


Sneden’s hood drifted down his shoulders as he fell backward. Before the cloak could ever meet the floor, he turned into a flock of crows that quickly disburse through the windows. 

The king might have gotten away with his life, but his legs were far too charred to be saved. Even if they could have been it would not have mattered, for his flesh had been tainted by black magic. 

Reports of Sneden betrayal poured in from every corner of Rivale. Slowly and quietly, but building in momentum, a new murmur was whispered from the court to every household: Magic is evil. Anti-magic propaganda soon began to decorate every bare wall in every city. Scriptures were rewritten with scenes of god’s law condemning mages to a fiery fate.

While running his daily errands; Adam passes a few commoners who were chattering around a poster. 


"Is magic sinful?" 


“Of course black magic is and if the attempts on the king’s life continue, I fear for the worst of what may happen to those who only practice light – good magic.” 


Adam didn’t pay too much attention because he was already tired out by running all way from the blacksmith to the local alchemist. The distance was somewhat far, but it felt even further due to the weight of his chainmail. 

He stepped in front of a small shop. The windows were tinted and the only thing visible, apart from the door, was the lettering "Alchemist Shop."  

Entering the shop, a bell rang to alert the owner of a customer’s arrival. Various smells; some good and some bad, overwhelmed his nose. It seemed to be in the same condition as usual. Counters, shelves, and tables were littered with books, spices, different varieties of flasks, vials, jars – filled with questionable items such as dead animals, and one even with a severed hand.


“Welcome, welcome! And before you ask, no I cannot turn common metals into gold. Honestly if I could do that do you think I'd work here?" The old man gave wheezing laugh at his own joke.


Adam approached him, “Arcan I’ve come for the sleeping cocktail.” 


Arcan set the pestle aside and muttered out loud, “Tsk, tsk, tsk… he’s still having those awful dreams.” 


It was hard for Adam to believe somebody as strong as Damus could be troubled by something so insufficient.


“You don’t say?” He frowned slightly, “I thought he only had trouble falling to sleep.”


“I’ve said too much – you didn’t hear it from me.” Arcan exclaimed, “Now only if I can remember where I put it.”


With a shaky hand, he rolled back the sleeve of his robe and reached for the very top shelves - aimlessly searching for the right vial.

Adam knew it was going to take a while, considering this was his typical routine. He can never recall where he puts anything ever. Despite that, he knows nothing else about Arcan Tetheron and neither did anyone otherwise. Mostly speculation has circulated around him for over the past two years. Some say he changed after the death of his beloved daughter. How the only way he could cope is by getting lost in the fine arts of alchemy. His wife was left to mourn not only for her daughter, but for a husband who was now overtaken by obsession. 

Adam continued to browse around the shop. The moment he stopped near a dark spot, he encountered what could only be described as a horrid sensation. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and he could feel the presence of somebody near – watching. 

Then he saw it. A pair of orange eyes looming from the corner of the ceiling. The sight itself evoked something deep within his chest. Before he could see the optic’s possessor, a sticky web engulfed his face.

Temporarily blinded, he stumbled in a daze and tripped over a bag filled with sulfur. After ripping through the silk, he witnessed a shadow spreading across the floor. As it drew closer and closer, it resembled something awfully similar to… a chicken.

Frightfully looking up, he saw a ghastly sight of a chicken hanging down by its own thread. He’s never particularly had a problem with chickens in the past, but this is downright disturbing on all levels.

Adam scrambled to his feet and hid himself behind the nearest potion rack.


 “Am I going batshit crazy?” He demanded to know. 


 “Hmmm?” Arcan casually lifted his head to answer, “Oh you’ve met Herbert.” 


“Clearly it’s a chicken - actin’ like a spider! How can you be so -” Adam panicky spoken right before he contemplated something, “Wait… Herbert? Sir, chickens are female and roosters are male.”


“Well, she looks like a Herbert to me.” Arcan protested. 


Adam gave the chicken one hard look and said, “Y-yeah... I kind of can see it."


“It’s not every day you get traded enchanted animals for one poison elixir.” Arcan boasted.  


“Animal(s)?” Adam’s eyes darted around the shop. 


Arcan finger trailed along the vials, “No, no, no, ahh yes! There it is!” He nabbed the cloudy filled vial off the shelf and handed it to him. 


“Tell him not to consume this one too fast. There has been a shortage in my supplies ever since this whole magic fiasco. That bloodily Norman Church is scaring everybody with their lies.” 


“Why would they lie sir?” Adam asked, “They’ve taken a solemn oath after all.” 


“Solemn oath!” He let's out a long wheezing laugh, “Fear is power - don’t you ever forget that boy.”


“But it teaches us about salvation –“


Arcan quickly cuts him off by saying, “If Father Tristian convinces the king to enforce Christianity. The churches will be able to suppress anything that they considered to be apostasy or heresy. Meaning the study of magic will be condemned. Soon followed by alchemy as well. I do not know how they can compare the arts of science to sorcery, but I’ve heard the madness they preached. If King Roderick does pass this law, I'm afraid the churches will one day become even more powerful than the king himself. But you didn't hear it from me.”


“Urkkk!” 


Adam nearly jumped out of his skin. 


“Yackk!”


Almost immediately, he found the source of the gagging. Hidden beneath a pile of parchments, there laid a white cat making a distinctive sharp percussive sound. Followed by a prolonged ‘cluuuckiiiksss.’ Then he propelled a slimy liquid; which splattered all over the counter, coating it with a dirty yellow finish. Just when they thought it was all over, he hacked up another hair - wait no an egg! 


“Ahhh finally breakfast has arrived!” Arcan cooed in delight. 


“Breakfast!?” Adam repulsively exclaimed, “You surely 
aren’t-”


The cat made a loud satisfied smacking with his lips as if he too was intrigued by the sound of a meal.


“Oh how rude of me!” Arcan interrupted, “Would you care to stay for some brunch?”


The way he keeps disrupting is already rude, but Adam doubts he’s even aware of it himself. 


"Sorry sir, but I must decline." 


Although he wouldn’t ever admit Arcan is always the last stop on his errands, because he spends too much time diddle dawdling.


“Oh?” Arcan scratched at his head a bit, “More for me I suppose.” 


During their exchange of farewells, a dark spider came purring out of Acran white unkempt hair. 


“Herbert, right?” Adam startlingly asked. 


“No that’s awful! You've lost your marbles youngster. What on middle earth gave you such an idea...? How ridiculous!” Acran threw his hands up in dismay, “Can't you tell by looking at her?! Look closely! She’s Herbert the Second!” 


Adam quietly laughed before he excused himself from the shop. The next thing he did was doubled checked the list to make sure he retrieved everything. 


“Dagger… check, sleeping cocktail…check.” Then his voice quaver the second he remembered, “I forgot to clean out the stables!”


As he ran through the market, he passed a group of children who were gathered around an old man named; Eustace. Often he astonishes them by placing his hands through the steam which arises from a cooking pot. With a quick motion, he drew an outline of Manticore. A creature who has a head of a man, the body of a lion, and a tail of a poisonous scorpion. After the final touch-ups, it comes charging to life. 

-------

Nearly out of breath, Adam rushed through the barn and into the stables. The scent of iron was hanging in the air, noticeable within the midst of leather, horses and hay. 

At the stall, he unexpectedly met Damus who seemed rather preoccupied with glaring down at Sampson. He’s in charge of coordinating all of the stable hands that feed the horses. Part of this duty requires assisting all the riders, including any visitors. Once a knight is given a squire, the responsibility is passed onto them. However, if a horse is left unattended, even under the squires care. Sampson will still be held accountable.


“Sorry, I’m running late,” Adam sincerely apologizes, “It won’t happen again-“ 


“Yes, it won’t happen again because I won’t allow it!” Sampson yelled, “I thought you we’re different, but perhaps I made a misjudgment. You’re just like the rest of the squires, neglecting their stable duty!” 


Adam expression was oddly calming; there was no retaliation in him at all. 


“You need to get all your priorities in line!” He continued, “Do you realize the situation you’re putting me in!?”


“Enough!” Damus stepped in, “You said that all the other squires are being negligence, and yet you’re still criticizing mine!” 


Without any hesitation, he snatched the saddle right out of Sampson’s grasp and gave it to Adam. 


“I am no longer in need of your services.” 


Sampson didn’t even need to contemplate whether or not it’s worth going up against a knight. So he used every bit of his willpower to remain silent while walking away. 


“He’s not wrong...” Adam mentioned once Sampson had disappeared from sight.  


The horse inhaled and bloated his belly in response to being saddled. 


“The only person who gets to belittle you is me.” Damus lips pulled into a smile, “Understood?” 


Although Adam didn’t say anything in return. Damus saw the minor shifts in his expression which signified appreciation. 


Damus patted his horse down then said, “Grab another saddle.” 


“What for?” Adam frowned. 


“You’re coming with me.” Damus replied. 


-----


From down the dirt road and onto the outskirts Rivale, they rode towards the Valley of Redhorse. It's a small village which resides just at the foot of the mountains. Every night the townfolks sleep in fear that the ogre will come down from the hills to spirit them away. Men, women, even children aren't safe from the ogre rampages and kidnappings. Those who are taken have never made the journey back home.  


“Shouldn’t the royal knights be handling this?” Adam questioned. 


“The royal knights? Don’t make me laugh. They only handle the aspect of the law.” Damus explained, “The lower ranks deal with the welfare of the people. And me on the other hand I take tasks that all the other knights are unwillingly to do.” 


“Which are?” Adam curiously probe. 


“The ones that have no rewards.” Damus simply put.


Adam knew he was right. If there’s nothing to gain, nobody would think it’s worth the effort, especially if does end up being dangerous. 

The surrounding sky eventually soaked itself into an intense rich orange. As the sun went down over the horizon, the two of them prepared camp for the night. 

All was quiet, except the crackling of the fire, along with the thumping of a ladle Adam used to stir his stew.

Damus crossed his arms over his chest while he watched. However after a minute or two, he began to wonder if Adam had always been this quiet, even before joining the army. Perhaps maybe it’s just in Adam’s nature. Not that he’s bashing him or anything when he, in fact, prefers things this way. Usually, he pretends to be interested in the person he’s conversing with. Considering most of the time, folks chirp mindless chatter to fill the awkward silence between individuals; who obviously despise one another. At least with Adam he didn’t have to.

Once the stew was done, Adam scooped not only one, but two bowls. Damus was taken back by surprise, and even more so when he tasted it. 

Instead of quenching his thirst from a water pouch that been had offered to him, Damus took a swig of Acran’s sleeping cocktail.

-----

In the middle of the night, Adam is awoken by a thief carrying away Damus rucksack. His first instinct was to wake him but, unfortunately, he was too deeply sedated when he tried. 

Adam knew he would have to act on his own if he didn’t want the thief to escape. Immediately he took off while keeping a hand securely above his concealed sword.


“Madam!” He called out, “If you give back what you’ve stolen, no harm done!”  


The eeriness of the surrounding trees taunted him as he chased the culprit through the entrance of Hogsfeet Woods.

Adam’s heart leaped into his throat after he nearly fell face first into a wild raspberry bush. And the further he went on, the worse the shrubbery had gotten. In the end, it was the least of his worries when he whimsy tripped over a dead rabbit. Then next thing he knows is, he’s being launched high up into the air by a net.

Momentarily the burglar looked back; revealing a pallid scaled face beneath a fillet cap, worn with a wimple and a veil. Her golden silted eyes pierced back at him across the darkness.


“A Firekin….” Adam softly spoken. 


Suddenly his train of thought is interrupted by the snarling of an overly large boar with four ferocious eyes, four large prominent tusks and two spiked tails. A watery snout snorted up at him, almost like he was expecting something in return. That’s when Adam realized the dead cottontail was bait; left to lure something or someone eagerly hungry enough. 

Slowly but surely he rotated himself around in order to grab the rodent. Right after, he forcibly snapped the rabbit’s back in half, so he can shove it out from in between one of the diamond-shaped holes. 

Once the hog delightfully squealed. He tried to relax a bit by allowing himself to readjust into a hammock position. Not that it actually helped much anyway. Since Damus wellbeing weighed heavily on his mind. Somebody could easily hurt him or for worse; kill him.

Despite everything, Adam wasn’t completely frighten, because the hog could at least keep other predators at bay while scuffling down a free meal. 


-----

At first light, Adam is startled awake by a beautiful and yet steely voice. Straight away, he wiped the sleep from his eyes before taking one hard look. 

There stood a feather-haired woman, wearing an over the shoulder lime green cape. A blue leather corset; made from dragon hide, along with a set of matching leather bottomless chaps, which also exposed her magnificent peacock tail. But most importantly, she had a pair of eyes stained with ocellus behind a loaded crossbow. 


“I didn’t expect to catch you this morning.” 


Dual chained sickles rattled from each of her hips when she approached closer. 


“Who are you?” 


Adam didn't say anything.  


She stared even more intensely.


“Who. Are. You?” 


Adam struggled to divert his gaze from hers, but it was already too late. His pupils were beginning to dilate as the words forcibly escaped, “I-I’m an s-squire from Rivale.” 


She cocked her head from one side to another while batting her feathered eyelashes at him.


“Do you mind?” Damus interrupted, “You’re integrating my squire so early in the morning.” 


“Don’t look directly!” Adam warned, “It’s a Peacock Harpy, she’ll hypnotize you!” 


“Rude.” She fluttered her feathers out of irritation, “I have a name you know, it’s Iris.” 


Iris lowered her crossbow then redirected her attention back to Damus, “Your squire? And since when did this happen?”


Adam was quite surprised that the two of them knew each other. 


“Seven weeks ago.” Damus said after he untied the rope to release the net, which sent Adam plummeting to the ground.

Adam fought to get out of the net while the two of them indulge themselves in a conversation. 


“You developed a heart without me knowing?” Iris teased. 


“It’s complicated...” Damus answered. 


“Of course all hearts are.” She sincerely laughed, “You should keep a tighter leash on him then.”


“Don’t give me any ideas.” He sneered.


“So…” She grinned, “What brings you to my neck of the woods?” 


“I'm here to kill an Ogre.” He made clear. 


“And here I am thinkin’ you’ve come for a good time.” She pouted rather disappointedly, “How selfish of you.” 


“You’re one of Englestone best hunters. Why haven’t you handled it yet?” He asked. 


“It’s out of my hands.” She clarify, “The chief put his foot down after they quit providing us with livestock in exchange for protection.”


“It’s not like you to abide any rules.” He slyly remarked. 


“Only if they’re rules of the master’s bedroom.” She wholeheartedly laughed, “The chief has been particularly strict on where I can and cannot go. Ever since our last crusade.  If I were you I wouldn't bother with those pathetic Redhorse villagers. It’s their fault for living –“Her voice trailed off the second she realized Damus was looking elsewhere. 

He finally had become impatient and detangled Adam from the net himself. 


“What exactly are you doing out here?” Damus questionably eyed him. 


Adam dusted his armor off then said, “A thief took off with your sleep- I mean personal possessions. I chased after her but –“


Iris cut him off with, “Perhaps two leashes.” 


Adam leaned in closer to whisper, “The thief was a Firekin.”


Damus was quick to say, “You're greatly mistaken.”


Adam raised his voice, “I know what I saw!” 


Damus was caught off guard by his tone, but he wasn't exactly offended by it, especially when Adam looked like he felt bad afterward; knowing it’s not his place to criticize his mentor. 


“You wouldn't even be standing here if you did.” He explained, “Firekin only run in packs so they can overpower their prey in order to feast on them while they're still breathing. Either way... you didn’t need to go through all this trouble. You can just get another one from Arcan.”


“Well about that…” Adam hesitated, "There's been a shortage in Arcan supplies."


“What?!” Damus blurted out, “I didn’t want anyone to see –“ 


He paused only to raise a thoughtful hand to his chin.


“We’ll worry about it later.” 


Iris slid in between the two of them, pushing Adam aside. Her face that had been lit with a bright smile was now quivering in lust.

Damus expression crept higher as he smirked wickedly while caressing one of her cheeks.


 “You’ve missed me, haven’t you? You can weep for me sometime again. It entertains me so greatly.” He whispered, knowing what her response would be. 


Iris threatened to crush any who approached him with a mischievous wink. Then without further ado, she leaned in close for a playful kiss. 

Adam looked the other way when their lips interlocked. 


It wasn’t long before Damus tried calming her down, “Not in front of the kid.”


Iris turned to Adam with eyes that shot out like daggers, “He should be old enough to know what’s going on.”


No one was sure if the remark bothered Adam or not. He just simply walked away. 


“We'll catch up soon...” Damus promised. 


After goodbyes were exchanged, He met up with Adam who was now attending to the horses. 

Damus sighed to himself as he felt tendrils of his mind slowly form the connections to formulate a sentence. 


“About that –" He began to say, but Adam handed him the reins. 


Clearing his throat.


 “Right…”


He managed to regain his composure. 


“Let’s be on our way.” 

-----

At high noon, they approached Redhorse Village. From one glance, you can see stone cottages with thatch roofs stacked around the bottom of Mount. Zog. Most would think that’s an odd name for a mountain, but Adam knew it was named after the Ogre that terrorizes the villagers. 

Some structures appeared to be heavy damage. Only one stable remained left, but it’s twice the size of any cottage. It does provide their livestock with warmth during the harshest of winters, however, it’s not exactly much protection. Even if you explained this to them, they wouldn't bother to listen. For they no longer care for the world outside of their humble village. And yet when something bad occurs they're the first ones that come running for help. 

An ongoing of cold stares overlooked them while they rode through the village. Damus knows they don’t intend to come across as harsh or cold, but they’ve seen too much death and destruction already, leaving hope helplessly swaying out of balance. The thought of it was enough to harden the corners of his eyes. 


“I cannot let you go any further.” 


The horses suddenly came to a halt as Damus vision met the voice of a man who was now blocking their path.


“What business do you have here?”


Before he could even open his mouth, Adam tugged his white cape to one side to reveal the symbol of a red cross. 


The aggression in the man’s tone subsided when he spoken once more, “It’s about damn time.” 


The chieftain appeared to be wrapped up in bandages from head to toe. 

Damus knew he shouldn’t have been able to move in his condition, let alone produce enough strength to fight. For a man, being defeated was a blow against pride, which hurt far worse than any wound he sustained.


“I’ve sent my greatest hunters after the Ogre, but none of them have yet returned."


His eyes never swayed, and neither did Damus when he said, 


“If I’ve come across any of your men. I’ll be sure to put them out of their misery.” 


Adam’s gaze fixated solely on the sky, and nothing else. He closed his eyes for a second, before reopening them. Sometimes if he imagined hard enough, it’d feel like he was home, surrounded by friendly breezes - dancing with the strands of his hair. But this time it wasn’t enough. 

Cautiously they trend the worn path which is stained with bloody pieces of entrails. Not only the sight was ghastly, but the smell seemed far worse than anything according to Adam.

Damus snatched the horses reins right out from beneath Adam after he started to sickly slouch over.

“The battlefield isn’t for the weak-hearted – nor stomach,” He warned, however, his words might as well have fallen upon deaf ears.


Adam felt even queasier when the terrain became jagged. He knew there would be some unsteadiness up a mountain, except this felt different.


“Rock’s don’t crack –“


Quickly he looked downward, only to realize they haven’t been trekking on rocks.


“Bones…”


Not too far up ahead, a little girl was hanging by her arms like some kind of prized deer or a piece of meat left out to dry in the sun.


“Help me~!” The girl utters with a wheeze.


Damus notice right away that half of her body is missing. Her organs were quite visible, especially her intestines, which were dangling just inches away from the bloody ground. Other parts seemed to be absent as well, an ear, fingers… her skin appeared to be flayed or perhaps peeled. Clearly someone or something has been sampling her. It’s truly a miracle she’s still alive.

Without any further hesitation, he lowered himself down from his horse.


“Stay put.” He sternly commands Adam, “No matter what.”


Approaching closer, he shook his head a little, saddened at the fact that there’s only one thing he can do for her. He was about to draw his sword when Adam came running.


“Oh my god…" Adam helmet slipped through his fingers, "She’s still alive?” He asked – his voice cracking. 


“Adam…” Damus sighed, “What did I tell you?”


He knows it’s probably one the hardest things for somebody to witness at his age. Seeing the sight of a little girl whose lower torso had been savagely torn away. All those intimate parts of a human being’s insides exposed. There’s nothing in those books of his that could mentally prepare him for this.


“I-I can’t feel my legs.” A pained sob departed from her lips.


Damus could feel Adam’s emotions rolling off him in waves as he yanked the cape from his shoulders. Even though he’s barely keeping himself together, he still rushes to her aid.


“Help - help me…”  She choked with blood trickling out from the corners of her mouth.  


“It’s – it's okay!” Adam reassures her, “Everything is okay.” 


“Mama…” She cried, “Mama…? Are –are you here to take me home? I wanna go home.” 


Adam tearfully tried to stop the bleeding by soaking up what he could with his cape, but despite his effort, all he did was make a scream erupt from her tiny, frail body.

Damus stared at him apathetically. How was he supposed to explain this? It was obvious what had to be done, wasn’t it? Whether he does or not, it’s still the humane thing to do. 

When Adam saw him coming, he instantly took a wide defensive stance that reminded Damus of a mother trying to protect her children.


The next choice of words which came rolling off Damus’ tongue was, “You’re being an idiot – letting your feelings interfere with a rational decision that must be made.” 

“Don’t - there has to be another way!” Adam's lips moved uselessly, trying to plead with him, but Damus had already made up his mind. At least this way she'll finally know peace.



Damus shoved him aside and unsheathed his sword.

Adam frantically climbed back to his feet once the steel reflected brightly back in his eyes. He tried to say something, but couldn’t. His mouth hung open in a silent cry as he watched Damus put the girl out her misery. 


“Be free of torment...” He whispered after prying the sword from her skull. 


Damus looked back and saw Adam standing there, completely at a loss for words. He knows grief comes in different shapes and forms, however, it also never ends.

Out of nowhere, he heard something. What was it? Where did it come from? That’s when he felt the ground tremble beneath his feet.


“Prepare yourself!” His voice breathed life into Adam’s vacant husk. 


Adam’s fear-glazed eyes now took in the sight of a giant, two-headed Ogre enclosing the distance. It was quite a disproportionate creature. The left head was much larger than the right. And the skin was a green hideous – puke yellow which overlapped a bloated physique. Although the most horrifying feature wasn’t the beast itself, but the necklace filled with a collection of his victims skulls; unfortunately some of them were rather fresh.

The Ogre rampaged through the trees, destroying everything and anything that crosses his path.  

Their horses made an unstifled whine before frightfully taking off in the opposite direction. 


“Get out of here kid!” Damus bellowed, knowing it’s unwise to engage an outrage, Ogre.


“What about you!?” Adam shouted back. 


“We’ve disrupted his feeding grounds. Unless you want to end up like her – you best be on your way.” Damus reported, “I’ll spar you what time I can.” 


Adam wasn’t sure what caused the Ogre to spasm into a frenzy of madness, but whatever it was, he sure didn’t want to find out. Although at the same time he doesn’t want Damus death weighing down on his conscious. 


“Why are you still standing –“ Damus’ voice trailed off at the sight of a lit arrow penetrating the girl’s corpse. In the matter of a blink, she exploded into pieces, creating a downpour of heavy rain. 


As warmth bloomed and flourished; coating him in red. His face remained expressionless yet his mind raced with thoughts. ‘Someone is making their presence known - perhaps lending aid.’ 


WOOSH! 


If Damus eyes could have caught the arrow, they would have because he charged right in and tackled Adam out of the way. 


THUNK! 


BOOM! 


An explosion of bark combined with wood spat all over them. At this moment he realized his hunch was wrong. Whoever shot the arrow had simply missed its first target; him. 


“Get up!” Damus tried helping him to his feet, but Adam just slouched. 


“What’s wrong with you kid!?” 


Despite the fact his eyes were open, he wasn’t coherent. 


“We don’t have time for this!” 


Damus placed both of Adam’s arms over his shoulders. Then he crossed the arms before grasping the opposite wrist - pulling them closer to his chest. Squatting slightly, he drove his hips into Adam’s while bending at the waist. Eventually, he readjusted by balancing himself with the support of his legs. With shaky breaths coupled with even shakier steps, Damus scurried along.


The light he once favored began to fade after a shadow cast upon him and his surroundings. He looked up only to see the last piece of the sun has been eclipsed by a –Surprisingly he fell forward, landing harshly into a muddy trench. Fortunately, he took most of the impact for Adam. 


His abdominal muscles strained from what he assumed could be a fracture or a bruised rib. Gradually he rose from the muck to witness a gigantic hand looming above them. Damus watched, knowing its mighty blow is capable of killing him with a single strike. When that thought left his mind, he felt the weight on his shoulders lifted. 


It’s strange how unpredictable life intended to be. One minute you’re running errands in the market place. Then next thing you know - you’re dangling upside down, above the mouth of a ferocious Ogre! 


The Ogre exhaled, washing his breath all over Adam as if he was suspended in front of a flaming forge. 


“Chocolate humanes!” 


Adam swore his life would have flashed before his eyes, but the thought of being mistaken for a sugary treat clouded every other thought. 


“Brother, brother. We’ve gone over this… how many times now?” 


Although Adam heard the voice, he did not see the Ogre mouthed a single syllable. Frightfully his eyes followed the source, which led him to a second head. 


“Two-two heads!” Frantically he blurted out.


“How observant of you.” He sarcastically laughed.


“According to my studies; it’s a rare condition which traditionally has been considered unlucky. Various of explanations don’t thoroughly explain exactly why.” Adam nervously rambled, “I believe it might stem off the fact that traits and skills get split up. Sometimes resulting with one getting more than the other.”


The right head seemed rather intrigued by his statement and said, “Malice hand him over.”


“No! Me no share with Mortimer! Mine – mine!” Malice exclaimed while lowering Adam even closer to his razor sharp teeth.


Adam didn’t know whether he should stay still or squirm in this situation. All he could do is stare into the bundle of muscles extending from the salivary floor.


“This is the most unintellectual conversation I’ve had in years. How could I possibly pass this up?” Impatiently Mortimer held his palm out to him. 


Adam uttered a yelp as he free fall from one hand to another. Surprisingly the Ogre's appendix was soft enough to cushion his landing. When he arose to his feet, he tried his best to stay balanced, especially when Mortimer brought him up to eye level for a better look. 

Adam had always been aware that he was short; it was hard not to notice growing up around Rivale and his family, but it wasn’t up until now he had ever considered being small enough to squash. 


“Unfascinating…you seem ordinary and yet you’re knowledgeable. What is your name?” Mortimer requested.


“My name is Adam –"


Tension flowed from his body as he swallowed with a dry throat. 


"A squire from - from Rivale."


He felt his heart beat faster and his neck began to throb painfully. 


"I've come here to - " 


Instinctively he bit his tongue upon realization of exactly what he was about to say. 


"To vanquish me." Mortimer finished the sentence for him.


Below; Damus couldn’t believe what he was hearing, let alone seeing. Although it did make him wonder if all ogres were capable of speaking so fluidly. In the past, he has removed so many from this world without a second thought. For it is much wiser to lay a fatal blow upon an ogre while they're distracted than to face one head on. This made him believe whoever shot those arrows had fled the scene because they thought the Ogre would have been the death of them. 


“Then why did you attack the village?” Adam asked. 


Mortimer forcefully exhaled through his nose. 

Adam watched as his nostril hairs wavered like the wind passing through the leaves of a willow tree. 


“Excuse me?” Mortimer glared at him. 


Adam weary said, “Ogres are well known to consume a large amount of meat.” 


“How preposterous! Don’t look at me, I’m a vegetarian!” Mortimer exclaimed.


“Doesn’t it all go in the same place?” Adam gave him a questionable look. 


Malice eyes spotted a muddy figure darting from one end of the trench to another. 



“More chocolates!” He cried excitedly while stepping forward, only to be brought back by Mortimer strong footing. 


From what Adam gathered, each limb of the ogre is controlled with the corresponding head. Such as the left head controls the left limbs and the right controls the right limbs. Each side’s limbs are linked due to its brain. 


“Pipe down! I am speaking to my pest!” Mortimer harshly bumped heads.  


Malice tried his hardest to hold back the tears that threaten to escape. 


“That hurts!” 


Clear watery snot streaked from his flaring nostrils.


“I only wanted - hic - the yum yums...hic”


His tears began to fall, but they might as well had been a waterfall gushing into the trench. Because presently Damus wasn’t only trying to keep himself hidden - he’s now struggling to survive. And the only way he could do that is by making his body lighter. Instinctively he reached for the gauntlets since they’re the easiest pieces which can simply be slipped off. Then he reached around the back of his helmet to find the leather straps and buckles that attach a metal piece in the front; to the armlet. Next - his main objective is one of the heaviest pieces; the chest plate. The second his fingertips touched the straps on the right side. A vicious wave pushes him down, dragging the air out of his lungs. 


Malice face seemed to sink deeper into sadness. And he cried, oh boy did he. He sounded like an infant needing his mother’s teet. 

Just when Adam thought he wouldn’t stop, there was silence. Slowly he unclenched his ears and looked up to see a butterfly had landed upon Malice’s nose. 

At first Malice was taken back by surprise from this new visitor. He wasn't sure what it's intentions were. However when one of the butterfly's six legs brushed up against him. A tint of red shined through his cheeks. He couldn't help himself and started to smile.

Although Adam found it amusing. He's still confused by what Malice was doing with his hand. He was opening and closing it in some sort of rhythmic mannerism. The longer he thought about it, the more he realized Malice is actually clapping. 


“We’ve found them that way.” Mortimer spoken over Malice childish giggling, “He simply collected the leftovers.” 


His eyes followed every movement the human made in front of him. Adam approached the edge of his palm with cautious steps, only to stop and peer out into the distance, wondering what did. 












































© Tiffany Ann Adkins 2015 - 2019