A thunderous roar resounded across the fertile valley as the man on the
black mare watched from under the cover of a large oak tree as the beast
hurled a large rock at the castle wall. The man had traveled far since he
received word of the eight foot beast that terrorized the Kingdom of
Verigo. King Aquila offered a position in the Kingdom along with the
hand of one of his daughter's to anyone capable of destroying the
beast. As the man watched, the soldiers on the ramparts shot
arrows striking the beast only to have them yanked out and cast
aside. He waited until the black furry creature lumbered off in the
direction of the steep, wooded hills to the north, then he rode slowly
up to the castle.
"My name is Orlando from the Kingdom of Drafton," he called out.
"I seek an audience with the King."
He waited some five minutes before the wooden drawbridge was
slowly lowered with squeaks and grinding sounds until it rested
over the moat. He crossed the bridge and rode into the
cobblestone courtyard as squeaks and grinding sounds were
heard behind him.
He dismounted and left the mare in the middle of the courtyard
as he was escorted by soldiers up the steps and down the rock
corridors of the castle interior. He was led to a room where
King Aquila, a grey bearded, long haired, guant man sat alone
in his chamber. The soldiers took up their positions as the door
as Orlando bowed and waited for the King to speak.
"My guess is that you've come with some plan to destroy the
beast that is slowly and steadily destroying my Kingman," the
King said in a weak voice.
"That is indeed why I have come," Orlando replied.
The King studied the blond, bearded young man with shoulder
length hair, his broad shoulders and muscular body. His gaze
moved down to the broadsword and the knife attached to his
"I have no doubt you are a brave and skilled fighter," he said.
"But you are no match for the beast."
"How long has the creature terrorized your Kingdom?"
The King sighed heavily."It began sometime after I expelled
Ackert the Warlock, when I learned that he planned to take
control of my Kingdom." He paused to catch his breath."That
was four years ago, sand during the past two years his magic
has become very powerful." Once a tall man, King Aquila's
body was bent forward as he pushed himself out of his chair
and shuffled to the window and looked toward the steep
wooded hills. "The beast has killed or destroyed a large part
of my Kingdom." He shuffled back to his chair and flopped down
into it. "One day the beast will find a way to breach the castle
wall." He stared at Orlando for a time. "How do you propose to
destroy this creature?"
Orlando scratched his beard. "First, I will seek out it's lair, then
I will try to find it's weakness."
The King shook his head as he rubbed a gnarled hand over his
eyes. "This creature has no weakness."
"Everything and everybody has a weakness," Orlando chuckled
"Where is the Worlock?"
"The King's brow furrowed. "He's up to no good wherever he is."
Orlando snacked his lips. "I will locate the creature's lair, and
see what I can learn, then I will return and draw up a plan."
Orlando left the castle, mounted his horse and rode across the
moat in the direction of the wooded hills. He hadn't gone far before
he came upon the wrecked houses and human skeletal remains
he had encountered on his way to the castle, all victims of the
The son of a carpenter, he worked with his father learning his
craft, but he was an impetuous youth. "I'd like to live foreever
and change into anything I wished to be," he would say. His
Aunt, a Sorceress, having him say this, cast a spell granting
his wish. At first, he tought nothing of it, but as time passed,
and everyone around his aged and died, he came to realize
the gravity of what he had said the the spell his Aunt had
cast upon him.
Four hundred years had passed, and he buried four wives.
Whenever people began to notice that he didn't age, he would
move on. Besides carpentry, he had been a farmer, a
blacksmith, a schoolmaster, a soldier and a brigand. King
Aquila was an aged, broken man, and if he found a way to
destroy the beast, he hoped to add King to his many
He gazed up into the tree covered hills. Even though he
was immortal, if he wasn't careful, the beast could kill him
since he was only immune to illness and aging. As a
shapeshifter, the second part of his Aunt's spell, an ability
he used sparingly since the shape he chose lasted for a
limited time, and it sapped his energy, but it would help him
learn more about how to destroy the beast.
He dismounted, tied the mare to a tree, then stepped back as
his body began to putsate and quaver. At the spot where
he had stood, an eagle spread it's wings and soared
upward over the treetops. It flew across the azure skies until
it spotted the beast sitting on the hillside with it's back
against a tree eating what appeared to be a deer. With the
size of the creature it would have a voratious appitite.
Scattered across the hillside were the bleached bones of
The eagle swooped down toward the black creature which
had a bloody face and claws. It glanced up at the bird with
large yellow eyes and razer sharp teeth. The eagle rose, made
a circle above the treetops, then flew down at the creature
a second time. The beast cxast the bones aside and
climbed up the hill on all fours.
Near the hills summit, the creture came to a large cave and
crawled inside. The eagle flew down for a better look, but saw
only the beast, bleached bones and blackness. It soared
upward, and started to fly down the hill when it sighted a
large tent in a clearing. There were a group of soldiers
milling around outside the tent and in the trees. One man,
dressed in a black tunic with black trousers and knee high
boots appeared to be their leader. He was a tall, muscular
clean shaven man with coal black hair, long angular
features and dark pierving eyes who glanced up at the bird
as it flew overhead then soared on down the hill.
Orlando was troubled. Was the man he had seen Ackert,
the Worlock? He was an excellent swordsman, but he had
mever fought a man who possessed magical powers. He
considered leaving Verigo, leaving the Kingdom to be
taken over by Ackert and his followers, but his own desire
to rule the Kingdom outweighed the fear of the Worlock.
Orlando retured to the castle and told King Aquila what he
had seen. Upon hearing the news, and learning that the
Worlock was in his Kingdom, the Monarch suddenly looked
much older, his body more bent.
"Ackert is being aiding by the soldiers who deserted when
it became apparant the beast would one day breach the
castle wall," the King said in a rasping voice. He sighed
heavily. "You might as well leave. You are one man and you
can't fight Ackert, the beast and the soldiers."
Orlando laid his hand on the hilt of his broadsword. "I believe
that if the Worlock was killed, the beast would be unable to
'Ackert has become too powerful for you to kill," the King
Two woman, whom the King introduced as his daughter's,
entered the chamber bringing their father a drink and a plate
of food which they sat on the bench near their father's chair.
The older girl had dark flowing hair that cascaded to her
waist. She had a pleasant round face with dark eyes, a
pinched nose, a large mouth and a long neck. The younger
girl had her dark hair in a briad. She had dark eyes, a
straight nose, high cheekbones, pursed lips and a
voluptous body. Orlando stared at the girl who reminded
him of his second wife who had bore him eight children.
When and if he disabled Ackert, he would return and claim
her as his bride.
"I have another daughter who is married to my Gereral,"
the King said. "One by one, my five son's went out to face
the beast and never returned."
Orlando left the King and his daughter's with the promise
he would return, then he guided his mare back toward the
At the base of the hills, he unsaddled the mare and turned
it loose so the beast wouldn't find it and kill it. He carried
his saddle, his bow and quiver alomg with his other
belongings to a clump of brush beneath a pine tree. A
packet slide out of his saddle bag. He opened it and
thumbed through the yellowed sketchs of his wives, some
of his children and parents. He placed them carefully back
in the packet and covered everything with leaves. He put
the quiver over his shoulder, then with bow in hand, he
climbed the hill.
He didn't remember the exact location where he had
located the Worlock"s tent. Being a shapeshifter, his
trek up the steep hill would have been easier as a winged
creature, but he wanted to conserve his energy for his
encounter with Ackert and the soldiers. The roar of the
beast sounded to his left, and he knew it was on it's way
back to the castle.
After an extensive search, he located the tent. A group of
soldiers stood outside the tent while a larger number stood
on the edge of the treeline talking and laughing. Orlando
ducked behind a tree, drew an arrow from his quiver, took
aim and shot a soldier in the chest. then he darted away
to his left before his position could be pinpointed.
Hidden behind a fallen tree, he heard the soldiers approach.
When they were close enough, he stepped out and fired,
bringing down a second soldier.
A hushed silence fell over the the hills as the soldiers
spread out in their search for their elusive prey. Suddenly
a soldier screams and falls to the ground yelling that he had
been bitten by a serpent. The soldiers rushed to their fallen
comrade as he goes into convulsions. A few yards away.
another soldier is also bitten, falls and goes into convulsions.
They begin an extensive search for the serpent, and a
soldier a few yards from the others is attacked by a
leopard that leaped out of a tree, mauled the man and
disappeared into the trees. The soldiers, unnerved, return
to the tent and Worlock.
The Worlock stared with sullen anger into the trees. "What
the hell are you. a Magician?" he shouts across the wooded
hills. He waited for a reply, but the only sound was the
gentle breeze that blew across the hills. "If King Aquila has
sent you, you should know that you will be defeated." High
overhead, an eagle glided in circles over the Worlock and
the frightened soldiers. "We could rule the Kingdom
together." He paused. "Show yourself, or are you a coward?"
He turned to the soldiers. "Find this fool and bring him to me."
The soldiers reluctantly moved back into the trees. Ackert
drew his sword from its scabboard and held it over his head.
"I gave you a chance and now you will pay with your life." He
shouted as he returned the sword to it's scaboard. He glanced
around him and saw the eagle decend from the sky and
disappear into the canapy of the trees.
The frightened soldiers moved slowly through the trees not
knowing who or what they were searching for.when a large
bat like creature with large, orange glowing eyes, carrying a
sword in each hand, swooped down out of the treetops
Unable to fight the entity, they scattered and some found
themselves in the path of the beast on it's return from it's
assault on the castle. The beast roared, grabbed a screaming
soldier in each of it's clawed hands and flung them to the
ground. The surviving soldiers fled as the beast continued
up the hill to it's lair.
Mind and body feeling the effects of fatigue, Orlando started
down the hill when he found himself face to face with a
soldier. The soldier drew his sword and charged, and the
crashing sounds of metal against metal echoed through
the trees. Orlando stumbled over a rock, lost his balance
and dropped his sword. The soldier charged again, but
Orlando regained his footing and sword and stepped aside
and lashewd out striking the soldier's arm bringing him to
his knees. He drove the sword into the soldier's chest,
stood over him for a few seconds, then withdrew the
sword, picked up the soldier's sword and shield and
continued on down the hill.
Locating the brush pile where he had hidden his belongings,
he ate a portion of deer jerky and bread and some water,
then he lay down, covered himself with leaves and quickly
Part 2 will follow in a few days.