Saturday, November 21

Chapter III (Second Book)

A little boy tearfully listened to the voices that were strangely echoing throughout the courtyard; some familiar and some not. He tried to cry out, but after every other gasp, he took, the pain only worsened. Instinctively his body shifted, drawing him closer to the man in black. Faint memories shattered and tear as he passes by scowling faces. 


"Son. Forgive. Me. " A voice spoke with no emotion lingering in the tone. 


The boy's heart ceased to beat when the halberd came down, covering him in a crimson rain. Every sound surrounding him could no longer reach his ears. All he could see is a single beam of light shining through the storm, casting a glow on her sun-kissed hair. Without a second thought, he took his mother’s head into his arms. Gently he brushed his hand across her face to cleanse her from muck and blood. Then he laid his lips upon her forehead, kissing her goodbye.  

Meanwhile, Adam sat there, paralyzed. The only thoughts that seemed to jolt out of his head were, “I’m being kissed by a man.” It lasted a second, but he swore it felt like forever. 

Damus opened his eyes merely to discover he’s swapping spit with Adam. Despite the chance it being a dream or well rather a nightmare. He slugged Adam across the face. The force of the blow almost knocks Adam completely off Mortimer’s hand. 

Adam slowly sat up with the taste of copper in his mouth. Every so often his eyes squinted from the sharp pain which seemed to be hidden behind them. Eventually, his view fell upon Damus; who was watching in disgust. 



“W-w-what was that for!?” His voice cracked. 



“You know what you did!” Damus snapped back at him.



“I DID!?” Adam wailed, “You’re the one who kissed me!”


“Human quarreling. You’re giving me such a headache.” Mortimer sighed happily,  “We're almost there anyway.” 


"Almost where?" Damus asked.


"You're lucky they pulled you out when they did- " Adam began to say. 


“Where!?” He demands to know. 


“There’s an ogre society living deep inside of this mountain." Adam explained, "They're taking us to meet their leader; Zog. However, his appropriate name amongst the ogres is Irongut. Mortimer believes an Ogrekin may know of the incident." 


“Ogrekin?” Damus interrupted, “You can’t possibly mean...” 


“Half-ogre and half human. Pleasant I KNOW.” Mortimer gagged in horror, “Having relations with a human! Just thinking about it gives me beauty marks."


All their attention was quickly diverted to his loud obnoxious brother chanting, “Home, home, home!” at the sight of a massive boulder. 

Mortimer took one hard look at the boulder before deciding it would be in the human’s best interest to be placed at a safe distance. He knows what Malice is capable of and in a worse case scenario; possibly crush to death. 


“Wait here.” Mortimer brought his hand down to the earth, allowing them to climb off. 


Damus stood there watching the two-faced ogre move slow, and in no specific hurry at all.


“You know....” He cleared his throat a bit, “You surprised me back there.” 


“Huh?” Adam turned towards him, “I-I did?” 


“Rather than engage in violence, you managed to cooperate with an ogre of all things. If you spoke more openly, I believe you can accomplish many achievements.” His words gushed out like he had rehearsed them a thousand times. 


Adam was a little shocked, to say the least since Damus is so heavily opposed to diplomatic talk. He’s the type of guy who would rather throw punches first and ask questions later. Sometimes it is a necessary method, but most of the time it can be avoided completely. 


“You sure you won’t regret it?” Adam smiled broadly. 


“Unfortunately.” He replied.


“I been meaning to ask... What kind of nightmares are you having so bad - that you need the assistance of magic to remove them?" Adam questioned.


Damus was quick to say, “Don’t push your luck kid.” 



“Awe come on!” Adam laughed lightly.


Before Damus could open his mouth, the ground trembles beneath the weight of the boulder. Their legs shuffled while they tried to keep themselves balanced. When it all came to an end, they arose to see an impenetrable darkness from across the way. 


“How odd.” Adam quietly thought. 


“Amuse me,” Damus tells him. 


“Don’t you see? A boulder to conceal the entrance....” He continued, “They’re trying so hard to exclude themselves from the world above.” 


“Therefore, no human has ever stepped foot inside of this mountain.” Damus pointed out. 


“There’s a high probability that we may never leave.” Adam nervously swallowed. 


The hand which downcast them to the soil was now ascending them back to the heavens. However, their graceful sky shortly dissolved into the mouth of a cave. The only source of light emits from a trail of torches perched along the wall. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, except for the pile of junk on the far left side. Oddly enough, most of the miscellaneous items were of human nature. Such as wooden spoons, ladles, tapestries, and necklaces. Noisily the mass of junk began to rise in a metallic clatter. 

Adam’s mouth gaped wide open when he saw a pair of brawny legs sprawled out from beneath the load. A solid oak chest sprouted up to greet them. Below the lid they saw an ogre’s head. His skin appeared to be a puke yellow infested with moles and warts. 


“Scrooge you’ve returned!” He bantered between his half broken tusks. 


“I’ve brought pests,” Mortimer announced.


“Pests? Well, as long as they're not guests.” He replied.


Damus gave Adam a puzzled expression.


Adam tried his best to clarify his confusion, “They find anything remotely pleasant to be revolting.” He whispered to him. 


“This is my lowly servant; Hoarder.” Mortimer introduced. 


“The discomfort is all mine.” Hoarder turned around and bent all the way over to let out a grisly fart.  


“Is - Is he attacking us!?” Adam tearfully cried. 


“Did a skunk just crawl out of that ogre’s ass!?” Damus felt as if he had been sprayed in the face by an overgrown stinker. 


“What the -  he didn’t did - I’m going to be sic-” Adam scrambled over to the edge of Mortimer’s hand to release what felt like his intestines being ripped out of his throat. 


Damus tried mentally blocking out all the noise, but it seemed to be no use. When he no longer could withstand the nausea he joined Adam’s side. 


Gradually Adam lifted his head to remove the remaining residue from his lips. Shortly the corners of his mouth curved upward at the sight of Damus. He leaned over and patted him on the back.


"You know..." He began to say, "The battlefield isn’t for the weak-hearted - nor stomach."


Damus was about to take a swing at him, except he ended up hurling again. The only thing he heard was, “There, there, there.” He knew Adam was secretly enjoying this - a little too much. 


Adam bit his tongue to prevent himself from laughing freely. If there was one commodity in this world he believed in; it would be karma. 

Hoarder led them deeper into the depths of Mount Zog. One tunnel after the other expanding further than the next. Despite little to no light, Damas wasn’t quite sure how anyone could find their way without memorizing the correct passages. Adam claimed ogres rely more on smell than sight. Meaning they’ve must have left behind a distinct scent such as urine or feces. 


Damus shot him a look which could only be deciphered as “Why do you know all of this?”  

Adam of course retaliated by giving him a “Shouldn't you know” face. 

Malice giggled lightly at them with a toothy smile spreading from ear to ear. His reaction made Damus wondered if he did in fact, go about dealing with the ogres wrongfully in the past; bias single-handedly based on appearances. Maybe they weren’t much different. Just like humans, there can always be a rotten one in the pile. And yet its filth can spread to the next by association alone. The very same reason his name has been forever tarnished. 

I’ve become what I’ve hated for so long. When did it happen? Why? I did what I thought was necessary to survive but in the process... I’ve lost who I once was.'


Slowly he turned to Adam who was playfully making faces back at Malice. 


‘Although Adam knows of my reputation - he still treats me with dignity. Perhaps a part of me is ivy of his naive.' 

And to make all matters worse. Zog City reminded Damus of a place he never wanted to visit again; the slums. He spent the majority of his childhood on the streets because the king’s grace could only go so far. Nobody in their right mind would give pity, let alone take in the son of a traitor. The cold is the least of your worries when it comes down to living conditions. Hunger always remains unfading. For years, he survived by eating nothing but garbage, until the day he became of age to enroll as a squire. 

There was something particularly noticeable involving the citizens. One could say they were a house divided by different principles. The ogres surrounded themselves with the luxury of food. Some were completely naked, however their private areas were lost in-between their folds of fat. On the other hand, the oregkin banged out the dents in their swords and shields. Stacks of weapons laid to rest all while the orange glow slowly dies. A thin veil of smoke lingered from the large fireplaces fixed with crucibles of molten slag. 

Disorderly chatter exploded upon entering the filth ridden palace. Oddly enough it seemed to be of poorer quality than everything else they have seen thus far. The light casting over the run-down structures left a pissy yellow impression. Damus can only hope that were the case. 

Massive collections of rocks encircle the colossal king ogre. A bright cherry tongue slobbered out from the corner of his mouth when he half-heartedly greeted them. 


“My sons.” 


Adam shivered upon the realization that he had been conversing with royalty. Nervously he bit at his nail while analyzing all of his previous conversations and actions. 

Damus swore he would have laughed over how much it troubled Adam if the circumstances were different. 


“You’ve.... brought surface... dwellers.” He yawned with half-lidded eyes. 


Damus took one hard look at king’s dopey face before speaking, “We “dwellers” are here on official business. The residents of Redhorse claimed an ogre has been terrorizing their village -” 

He discontinued the moment he overheard the sound of rocks crumbling. The first question to come in mind ‘is the tunnel beginning to collapse?’ His eyes redirected to the ceiling right above them. 

The source of sound eventually led him to an ogre who is eating rocks very slowly. It’s as if he’s trying to savor the taste. But what kind do you expect to get from stone? 


“Redhorse heeeeehhhh.” Irongut wheezed, “Flea... Send for Squatter.” 


A scrawny little ogre surfaced from beneath a smaller batch of rocks. The most striking feature is his crazy ginger hair, which seemed to be infested with fleas. Immediately he revealed far too many needle-like teeth when he began chewing away at his hairy arms. A floppy ear hung sideways over the front of his face whilst the other appeared to have been completely nibbled off. Then he scratched at one of his bristly armpits before giving his fingers a long satisfying sniff. 

Adam was grossed out by what he saw, but still he couldn’t stop looking. ‘The variety of ogres is on a grand scale compare to what the archives have written.’ 


Briefly, Flea stopped to mutter, “Squat, squat, squat.” and proceed to annoyingly squat his way out of the palace. 



Damus could think of several meanings behind the name Squatter. And yet he can only hope it meant one. 

Faintly everyone heard a boom. Although the sound wasn’t loud it still made Adam shoulders tense. 

Damus reassured him by saying it's merely the door closing. Expect right after his statement they heard a ‘Wham, slam, and smash.’ Protectively he extended a hand out in front of Adam. 


All that did was make Adam wonder what damage Damus believed he could do at their height. 


Suddenly Flea barged in screaming,“Flee, flee, flee!” 


Trailing behind him is a well-built ogrekin - who by far resembled a human the most. Half the portion of his scalp was bald however the back was filled with long dark wavy hair. In the middle of his face a pair of scars crisscrossed; creating an x. He was bare-chested, bare-footed and wore iron gauntlets that expand clear down to the elbows. His lower body consisted of a leathered loincloth embedded by an iron trim. Between muscular hands, he dragged a maul along the floor. Despite the weapon being large and extremely slow. One hit is strong enough to bust in anybody’s skull. 


Raising the maul high above his head he grunted, “What did I tell you about sending vermin's to my quarters!?” 

Adam shockingly watched the large hammer swing at its intended target; Flea. Despite all the effort Squatter mustered. Flea had scurried behind a pillar just in time. However, the impact made the pillar split in two. Just when Flea thought he had been saved. One of the halves collapsed right on top of him. 

Adam wished he had looked away a lot sooner when Squatter lifted the pillar to check if he’s truly dead. 


“The remains can only be described as a smashed squash... covered in cranberry sauce.” Damus quietly whispers. 


Adam wearily nodded his head in agreement. “Yeah, I kind of see it.”


“The tiny bits of hair look like orange peels.” Damus continued. 


“Okay, now you’re opening up a bit too much.” Adam frowned, “Wait- are you hungry?” 


“Starving.” Damus embarrassedly admitted. 


“I bet after all that puking,” Adam stated. 


“Squatter.” Irongut spoken, “You’ve gone to the surface lately, have you not?”


“Of all things, you’ve brought these humans - from the village to prosecute me!?” Squatter angry snapped, “I may be ill blooded but that does not mean I abide by any of their laws or rulings.” 


“No, no, no!” Malice butts in. 


“Malice, nobody asked you. It’s bad enough I have to deal with all this traditional backward talk.” Squatter muttered. 


“After all this time of being neighbors with Redhorse. Why did you decide now to attack them?” Damus vocalized. 


“Decided? I did not.” Squatter replied rather bluntly. 



“What do you mean? Who did?” Damus demands to know. 



“I had an agreement to roughen up the villagers a little.” Squatter simply put.


“A little?! It was a massacre!” Damus hollered. 


“A couple homes and stables destroyed is considered a massacre? The order wasn’t to kill.” Squatter clarifies, “Only to create enough havoc to scare them.”


“For what reason?” Damus questioned.


Squatter shrugged, “The peacock harpy never said.” 


“Y-you don’t think he means -” Adam began to say. 


“Iris.” Damus wearily assumed. 


“Heeeeh... You’ve gotten your answer.” Irongut coughed, “But now what will you do with it?”


Adam thoughtfully bit a nail while pondering, “Surely a war might break out if this isn’t sorted soon.”


“War with the humans again!?” Mortimer couldn’t believe his ears. 


“And the harpies,” Adam added. 


Damus brows furrowed upon declaring, “Irongut I believe this can be settled quickly, but I require additional help.” 


Squatter suddenly bellowed in response, “How do we not know this isn’t a trick to lower our defenses even further!?” 


Damus didn’t seem as aggressive with his next choice of words. “Adam will remain here until I return.” 


Unfortunately, when Adam uttered the word ‘what’ he saw Damus face. Despite the fact, he had some kind of feelings for Iris. All of it would be set aside in order to avoid a diplomatic disaster. If push comes to shove he might actually kill her. 


Damus softly tells him, “This is the safest place you can be.” 


“I understand.” Adam offered a comforting smile to try to help ease the tensions. 


Damus thought Adam didn’t look like an abandoned pup - no, there was something more meaningful than it appears. However, the thought quickly fades once he felt his heart.


 ----


Outside, Damus remain seated upon Squatter shoulder. Carefully he removed his gauntlets to ensure a firm grip for the ride. He only stood once in consideration of the new colleagues introductions. 


“This is Arms.” 


Squatter motioned towards a dark green ogress covered in yellow liver spots. She was awfully skinny, almost sickly if you will. And white frizzy hair cascaded down due to her slouching posture. Although what stood out the most are the long arms that fall just short of her ankles. Surprisingly they were covered in miscellaneous items of a sharpen nature - such as knives. All sewed together by a leather cowhide which only covers her chest and arms. The lower part of her body consists of the same material. A back skirt laced with tassel in the front; exposing her bare feet. 


“Tubs.” Squatter introduced next. 


He’s a lime green ogrekin that has short stubby legs, but a really large upper body. For whatever reason he didn’t seem to care too much for armor. All he wore was an untied linen shirt to expose his manly chest hair. Additionally, the pants were also made of linen. Oddly, his leather boots intentionally had been sliced out in the front to make room for chubby toes. Around his neck hung an old worn battle horn. The most human feature about him was a large prominent nose. Lastly his weapon of choice is a two sided chained hook.


“And Quickshot.”


He’s an off green ogrekin who carries quite a canning resemblemence to Squatter. Expect he has a heavier jaw set addressed with a pair of tusks. Beneath an elk antler headdress - half of his head is bald while the other is slung in a loosely braided ponytail. An elk hide hung over his chainmail from the left shoulder all the way across to the right hip. A variety of animal furs made up the lower part up his robe. Ankle high boots were decorated with hoof heels. His back carried a pair of crisscrossing quivers. Additionally, he had one long bow and a short bow. If that wasn’t enough - his gauntlets had crossbow attachments. 

Although the craziest thing of all - is the hybrid animal Quickshot rode called; Beast. He’s graceful as a wolf with the width of an overgrown grizzly bear. And yet his behavior was of a domestic dog. Pieces of armor protected his most vulnerable areas that would have been easily opened for attacks. An albino tail swayed happily in reaction to his master’s touch.  


Squatter glanced over at Damus but said absolutely nothing. He didn’t have to because Damus simply searched his eyes and found the question that lingers within them. “Where is their domain?” 


“Through Hogsfeet Woods.” Damus replied. 



Quickshot extended his hand out to Squatter, “Come brother. Let us ride.” 


When Squatter accepted, Quickshot helped him up onto Beast. However, Tubs simply ignored his gesture and climbed onto the side of Beast’s hind leg. He held tightly to the armor plate covering her upper thigh.


“Onward!” Quickshot sternly gave his command. 


Beast sprang forward with a unworldly amount of speed behind her. Off they went trailing down the winding mountain path. Not too far behind, Arms raced like she’s a wild horse galloping after the herd. 

Squatter tilted his head back to take a whiff of air. “The gods are on our side today, for it shall rain!” He smiled, but it was more like bearing teeth. 

Damus knew exactly what he was hinting at. Birds cannot fly very well in the rain, especially if their feathers become too wet. In worse case scenario, they won’t be able to take flight at all. 

------


High above Hogfeet Woods, laid the Harpies sanctuary. A giant nest that has been layered stick by stick to create a spiraling castle. From one glance, many would think the structure is weak, but it’s far from it. The majority of the weight is supported by overlapping leaves and branches from the canopy.

Inside the king’s chambers, Lord Humming is seen sleeping on a fresh bed of green leaves. Due to the rarity of a male childbirth, he’s prohibited from participating in any battle. With his life highly guarded by the flock. One would presume living in pampering and luxury wouldn’t be so bad, but he’s merely a vessel for pleasure. Although he gets everything he desires with the exception of one thing he yearns for the most; freedom. 

A pair of charcoal black eyes opened wide upon being startled awake. Iris had seductively crawled up along his body. He quickly moved from her, unfortunately only to be tugged back by his chained collar. 


A look of exhaustion had spread across his face when he asked, “What do you want of me now?” 


With pleading eyes, Iris stroked his dark lavender wings and said, “I was chosen.”


He simply looked away, “That doesn’t even imply to you anymore and you know it. If only I had hands...” 


“Why on earth would you want hands for?” She pried. 


“To slap, you with.” He sneered, “Should’ve been done quite some time ago.” 


"I can think..."Slowly the words rolled right off her tongue, “Of a place that could use a slapping.” 


“I must admit you’re the best lover I’ve ever.” He sighed, “At least that’s what you led me to believe. But that facade can only last for so long.” 


“Says who?” Her gentle touch becomes out righteously possessive and vicious. 


“You can only fool men who dream with their eyes wide open.”  He gave the statement with complete nonchalance. Then his very own were drawn away to the yellow daffodils scattered throughout the room. 


“You know what will make you feel better? Silk - there never can be enough.” Passionately she began kissing his bare chest. 


“Why dress me in the finest silk...when you’re going to just tear it off of me?” He inquiry, however, he continued on, “You have got the ability to set me free... and you chose not to.” 


Iris stopped and she looked up at him for a very long moment in silence. Then a familiar sound caught their attention. The wind carried a soft melody that warns of a stranger approaching. Although most enemies would pay no mind to what sounded like an ordinary bird call, but this one was different. 


“I’ll handle this.”


Below Damus watched hundreds of blue butterflies scatter as Iris climbed her way down. An astounded sight which left him with nothing more than whispers in his mind. Like echoes revisiting past memories and events that have a tendency of embedding itself in one’s subconsciousness. Unexpectedly, all of those feelings had shattered the second he caught eye of her necklace. A grape-vine hoop decorated with tiny bells, glass beads and lastly Lord Humming’s feathers. 


After descending to the ground, Iris calmly approached him, “Now you decide to pay me a visit? How inconvenient...” 


Damus sucked in a deep breath before he said, “I’m only here to tell you to stop bullying Redhorse or you will have to face the consequences.” 


“Me - muah?” She couldn’t help but roll her eyes, “They were the ones who broke our deal in the first place.” 


“You’ve been making them pay for protection all along, but eventually, it wasn’t from the ogres, was it?” He asked.


“Yes, after the ogres were no longer a threat, I tried creating one. Who knew Redhorse villagers would be so stubborn.” She sighed, “It wouldn’t have come down to this - if only they kept selling us more horses. Sadly, they stopped after realizing we've been eating them.”


“Horses are one of the most valuable properties to possess.” He explained, “Don’t you know of the crimes a man faces for stealing one alone?”


“They’re mine, it’s my coin. What does it matter what I do with them? They’re quite a delicious delicacy. When we didn’t have anymore... we craved and craved. So we ate the next best thing.” Iris smiled. 



“Humans.” Damus declared. 


“You didn’t bring the boy, did you?” She mentioned suddenly, “You actually care about him, don’t you? What? Do you think you can be a father to him - like the one you’ve never had? Or is there something more to it?” 


Damus noticed her hand had found its way to one of the feathers, dangling from around her neck. He knows very well what the significance of the necklace retains meant; chosen to mate with their king.


 “Iris.” He began to say. 


“If I can't have you then he won't either!” She screamed when the clouds swirled above their heads, and thunder roared across the now dimming sky. 


Damus has always been bluntly honest to everyone he crosses and today would be no different, “Jealousy will be the death of you.”


The realization of Damus words was starting to settle inside Iris mind. All those quirks she had waved away as a child. All those lingering feelings of inadequacy which she could never find a source for. Maybe... just maybe this is it. But in the end, none of it mattered. Despite all her efforts, she’s never been anybody’s first choice. Well, until she used hypnosis on her entire clan. Although she knows - the more you hypnotize an individual the less effects it'll have overtime. 

The sound of chopping filled the air, ‘Thwack-thwock-thwack-thwock.’ 

Iris turned around only to witness a large portion of the sanctuary collapse right before her eyes. Cries of kin pierced her ears, along with the blaring of a battle horn. She wasn’t scared yet, she was terrified. 

“What’ve you done!?” The tears she shed went from sadness to anger then a blind out righteous rage, “You’ll pay for this!” 


Damus could feel the tension riveting off Iris when she charged. Surprisingly, in mid strife, an arrow punctured her left shoulder, but she kept coming. Truly for a moment, he has forgotten how to breathe.  Because he knew... she was running straight towards her own death. 

A small part of Iris didn’t want to endure this anymore, but destroying her home drove her to the brink of no return. She felt heartbreak as the arrows hit one after the other. Nearing closer, she unsheathed a dagger - the very one he had given once upon a time. Her body sprung forward, ramming Damus down. 

Air finally escaped from Damus lips when he hit the ground. Above him, he saw the rain beginning to fall from the sky. And within those gray clouds, the harpies fought against the ogres. Then all he could see is the dagger rushing towards his face. Instinctively he braced against the steel with bare hands. Painfully the metal tore all the way through not only one hand but two. Fortunately, it’s enough to stop the assault from her primary target; his neck. 

There was only one way he was going to get out of this alive. Quickly he reached up and grabbed a hold of her corset. Wounded or not, he gripped until his knuckles had turned white. Iris didn’t even get a chance to react when she was forcefully pulled downward while he hurls the crown of his head right into her face. The impact of the blow had rendered her senseless. Without one second thought, Damus tossed her aside and raised the dagger mouth high. Clenching the hilt in between his teeth, he jerked his head back at the same time his hands heaved forward. Despite being muffled, his anguish squall is clearly overheard. Tears swelled as he grimaces in misery. For some reason, it felt way worse going out than it did in. Now all that remains is blood simmering down like rich red wine. If only he could have a few glasses worth to help ease the pain. 

Coldly, Damus eyes found their way over to Iris who laid there like a beautiful pile of nothingness. The soft features of her face would soon be forgotten by him. And Iris name will no longer reside on his tongue because he knows what must be done. This very moment he took the dagger and drove it straight into the heart. Her death wrapped around him like a scarf, but yet he felt numb. His entire being felt calm and each breath seemed to take an eon to complete. There was no telling how long he stood there, for all he knew, it could have been a day or even a thousand years. 

Abruptly an “SCREEEEE” deafen him temporarily, however, it's the very least of his problems. He had been captured by a harpy who resembled the characteristic's of an eagle. Her razor sharp talons would have ripped through flesh if he hadn’t been protected by armor. Except his head had been left open for the taking. Although he couldn’t remember exactly how his helmet had disappeared in the first place. Did it simply fall off when he fell or did Iris remove - no he wasn’t going to dwell on it any further.  Now wasn’t the time for such thoughts. 

The higher they reached, the less he wanted to break free. Who knows how much damage could be sustained or if he would even survive the drop at all. Shredded pieces of hair scattered about because luckily for him that's only far as her curved teeth could reach. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a white streak of pure brilliance flashed the sky. The funny thing is he couldn’t ever recall hearing the boom. But it felt similar to an incident from his childhood. When he had accidently bumped into a wasp nest. Instead of being stung by just a handful, this felt beyond an infinite of stings at once; from the inside out.  

Through blurry vision, he descended in between the balance of existing and not. His body must have fallen asleep for it did not respond to any command. And every heartbeat felt reminiscent of a hammer banging on an anvil. Questions circled continuously through Damus subconscious, always the same one without an answer. ‘Has my time finally come?’ Slowly the darkness fell when he heard his mother’s lullaby through the silence. 


“~ Ahh - Oooooo ~
~ Ahh a - a -a - Ooooo - Ooooo. ~
~ Na - la - na - la - la - la ~


Did you fall from heaven to find me? 
My angel, the smallest I ever did see. 
Stole my heart with the warmest smile. 
~ Forever be my golden light. ~
You won’t ever leave my side, even if you push me away. 
I will always love you, and you’ll always be mine. 



~ Ahh - Oooooo ~
~ Ahh a - a - a - Ooooo - Ooooo. ~
~ Na - la - na - la - la - la ~ 


On the very last note, his landing is cushioned by a blanket of pristine white. The sense of serenity from the atmosphere allowed momentarily rest. Although he wanted to stay in this winter wonderland a bit longer, the dream came to an end. The sound of reality which had been drained from his ears has returned. What he thought was snow turned out to be the coarse fur on Beast’s back. He sat up without much use of his bloody hands because the pain was demanding for a solution that cannot be provided.

Above them, he’s met with a pair of eyes, colored with the shade of an acorn. The harpy was intentionally hovering overhead without directly attacking. He wasn’t sure why until he saw the bottle clutching between her claws. The content inside shines like a subdued rose bud about to bloom. The first crack was small, almost a measly length of a pin. Then without no impact or sound, the glass finally breaks completely. Only fragments of shards fell behind an eerie flushed red that dances its way through the air. The intensity of the smoke's color brightens while spreading around Quickshot and Beast. 


“What sorcery is this!?” Quickshot eyes helplessly followed the twisting mist which ridiculously kept getting further away each time he blinked. Little by little, he realized the world he once overlooked is now flying towards his face. What appeared to be bushes have transcended to an evergreen of trees towering above him. The rounded leaves glared back with a fluctuating judgment. But it wasn’t enough to distract him from the painful shifts of bones reassembling their measurements. And worst of all his organs were squeezed in tight like butter being churned. Sensations from unfamiliar smells lingered over him before everything had turned black. The next thing he saw was Damus sitting there as plain as day. Which can only mean one thing, he has been shrunk down to the height of a regular human being. 


After the last remnants of the potion cleared, Quickshot discovers his comrades have met the same fate. “Damn it, they’ve even the odds of this battlefield.” He growled.


“What was that?” Damus asked him. 


 “A mystical blood potion.” Quickshot quickly replied. Although he knew the situation could have been worse if the rain hadn’t deluded some of the concoction. 


‘That explains Arcane supplies shortage.’ Damus thought to himself. 


Now the size of an average grizzly bear, Beast is unable to withstand as much damage as he once did. Quickshot tries to redirect him to avoid more incoming attacks but there aren’t enough eyes for everything. It wasn’t long before Beast topples over after being entangled like a turtle caught in a fishermen’s net. He opened his muzzle, revealing yellow stained teeth that were larger than any domestic dog Damus had ever seen before. Raspy breaths of desperation depleted from Beast while he struggled to break free. For they were now road kill waiting to be peck alive. 

Damus didn’t want to give up expect he couldn’t reach for his sword. It’s doubtful he would have enough swinging room even if he did. Quickshot only managed to tear a couple of the net’s fibers away by using his teeth.

Tubs oversees their predicament from afar and lets out a jolly good chuckle, “Quickshot thinks he can have all the fun himself!”

“HOOK!”  He immediately attached a hook to the belt of his pants. “LINE!”  He spun the other end until it created a half circle above his head. “SINKER!”  He roped the chain around the legs of an harpy in midflight and flung himself across the battlefield. He enjoyed the ride while it lasted, but eventually he had to let go. 


“Tubs!” Damus stole the words right off Quickshot’s tongue. 


Despite being surprised he still had the rationality to embrace for the collision. Fortunately, it ended up being slight because Tubs landed more directly on Quickshot than anyone else. 

"I'll have you out in a jiffy!” Tubs declared while reaching inside his pants. Before anyone could question his intentions he removed a concealed dagger. Although it appeared to be more of a short sword in his hands. 

In spite of Quickshot tightening a section for Tubs to easily cut clean. Damus noticed his steel was too dull and it would take twice the effort. “Who brings an un-sharpened weapon into battle?” He asked him. 


“Would you put something so sharp right next to your biscuits and gravy!?” Tubs protested. 

Damus understood what he had meant but he couldn’t figure out the reference for gravy. Before he could give anymore thought on the matter. A spear impaled Tubs skull by entering straight through his socket. The other eye remained opened, staring blankly back at them in disbelief. His head drooped forward only to coat his white linen shirt with red. Instinctively Damus tried reaching out to him when his body began to fall like a lifeless doll. 

Through Quickshot’s wide eyes the wrath built until it ignites to the surface. With bare hands he burst through the slit Tubs had created. He cried in rage which came pouring out faster than magma itself. 

Damus couldn’t help but watch the rampage. Quickshot was killing anyone or anything that crosses his path. Alley or foe - it made no difference for all he could see now is blood. Enemies one after another fell to his demise. And worst of all, what sounded like a tree limbs being torn off was Quickshot gruesomely splitting a pair wings away from a harpy torso. 

Damus knew he wouldn’t be able to stop Quickshot even if there was a some sort of chance out of hell. The condition of his body became more apparent after losing an adrenaline rush. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t keep up the pace any longer. The most he could do now is take refuge behind fallen debris. Although he didn’t expect to encounter company, especially one that’s of royalty.


“A human.” Lord Humming said rather intrigued by his presence. 


Damus paid no mind and slouched back from exhaustion. He felt his eyelids starting to get heavier, but Lord Humming’s voice refused to let him rest. 


“You’re injured.” He observed, “Release me and I shall aid you.” 


Damus remained unhinged.


“Do not fret. I despise these harpies as much as you.” He declared, “Perhaps even more.”


Damus face scrunched up out of irritation. 


“Wait - you’re Damus aren't you? Iris spoke dearly-” He stopped in mid sentence after being caught in a fierce stare. 


Dreadfully, Damus locked his teeth tightly together when he said, “Never - say - that - name - ever - again.” 


“Guilt is an invisible entity which sits heavy upon the shoulders. And yet it’s written all over your face. If it hadn’t been you, I would have.” Lord Humming tells him, “At least the deed was done by the hands of someone who truly loved her. For in this world you must change or die trying.” 



Damus slowly but surely made his way over. At first Lord Humming thought he was about to be strangled to death. However, instead he gets the taste of freedom. Although the collar remained his chain did not. 


Lord Humming caught him just a moment before he swayed and lowered him to the ground. Their eyes met briefly after Damus asked if he knew the location of Mount. Zog. 


“No I am afraid not. For I have not ever had the privilege of leaving these quarters.” He replied.


“There...” Damus pointed to the mountain in the distance. “At the top - find a large set of boulders. It’s - It’s the entrance to the ogre’s lair. Tell them I’ve sent you - tell them we need reinforcements.”


“Why would they listen -” He paused after Damus hand had fell. 


For a split second his restlessness was suspended by a long sleek silhouette. Instinctively he flexed his wings to appear as a bigger threat to whoever oppose him. Boldly he turned around and faced the long limb ogre.


“Do what must be done Lord Humming!” Arms declared. 



“My birth name is Syloris Hephinis Hellaene and I will do far more than that.” Swiftly he started to move away before deciding to look back with an expression which simply read, “Watch over him, please.” 


Arms acknowledged Syloris with an appeasing grunt and nod. 


Syloris knows when it comes to warfare that there is no honor among the harpies. Many lives are taken for granted and for what? All that matters is the outcome. In the end is a precious life worth everything? We must do what we must to guarantee survival? Following the orders of another or creating your own path. Perhaps it's my turn. Caustically he walked along the soil that has been marked by those who had fallen already in battle.


Looking to the charcoal sky he says a prayer. “Ancestors guide me!” 



In that very moment the standoff between the ogre's and harpies came to a stand still. No more clanking mauls, swords or talons. Their unreadable faces strayed from the conflict to his very presence. For the wind surrounding him has become wild enough to spread the pungent odor of the deceased. 


Squatter took this opportunity to catch his enemy off guard. However she reacted just in time to embrace against the hammer’s strike, but her claws shivered underneath the brutality of his compelling strength.  


“Quit struggling!” He throatily crooned after lobbing her right in the dome. The smooth skin which protected the skull now lie open and raw. Blood ran freely at his feet in thick scarlet rivers. Although there’s a little chance of survival, he would only stop once he achieves zero percent. He kept smashing until she became an enmeshed of pink flesh matted with shattered bone fragments. 

Gradually his head lifted to encounter the wind that's tearing bark straight from the trees. “Retreat!” He ordered once the giant column of gust branched off two offspring's. Violently they twisted the air and began rotating around each other in rhythm.  


Arms hair whipped about her face while she watched a perfect swirl of white carry out an onslaught. There was no telling which was louder, the howling wind or the screaming harpy's. She held Damus closer to protect him from the rain which seemed to pummel their skin from every direction. 


Quickshot approached Arms from behind and asked, “Why is he doing this?”


Arms looked back only to say, “He’s earning his freedom.” 




















  




















© Tiffany Ann Adkins 2015 - 2019