In this tale, a nameless sword slinger journeys toward a mysterious castle. Inside he expects to find a Baron who preys on the nearby village. This is part 4 of the story. Read part 3
In this tale, a nameless sword slinger journeys toward a mysterious castle. Inside he expects to find a Baron who preys on the nearby village. This is part 4 of the story. Read part 3 here, part 2 here, and part 1 here.
Inside the tower, a spiraling staircase rises into darkness. Icey air blows down to mix with the wind outside. Anything could await around the curve of the stone column shooting up the tower. With my sword already drawn, I start into the midnight void above.
A torch spurts to life around the first bend. A rotten wooden door greets my gaze. The stairs continue upward, where more flambeaus appear along the walls. I’d give up my sword and all my possessions for a good shield. Continuing around another bend without one could be suicide. Although, I suspect the Baron wants me to find him. He could have killed me several times already. Still, I’d rather not go with his script.
I kick the door open, sword ready to slash whoever resides inside.
A woman with hair as bright as the sun stands amid a crowded room in a green satin dress. “Well, you don’t have to make all that fuss.”
People in ornate clothing fill the chamber. They are eating from tables filled with grapes, cakes, and creamy confections. Only the woman in green notices my entrance. The rest remain fixated on their conversations and company.
“Why don’t you come join us?” The woman beckons me to enter and gestures to a couple on a couch inside the door.
A handsome man and a frizzy-haired woman are intertwined at the start of lovemaking. They tear at each other’s robes lusting to reveal bare skin. I smile.
“Cute trick, Baron.” I step inside the door.
The woman in green smiles and approaches me. Her expression vanishes as I plunge my blade into her copulating friends. They explode in a puff of dust, and the woman in green vanishes just like her expression a moment before. The rest of the frivolity dissolves in the same manner, revealing a pile of rotted wooden shelves, skeletons, and, fortuitously for me, a shield. I reach into the debris and remove the dented, rusted tool. It’s better than nothing.
The final flight of stairs passes by in a blur as I charge up with the newly found shield ready to take any unexpected blows. My breath appears in front of me as the air grows colder. Without realizing, I barrel through the door at the top of the tower. It falls to pieces from age.
The Baron sits at the end of a long table filled with food. “Welcome.”
The smell of succulent meat rises from ahead. A huge cooked pig, with an apple in its mouth, takes up most of the dining space. Around it, there are links of sausage, bowls of jam, and cups filled with various kinds of juice. In the center of the table, there stands a single candle.
“Please, dine with me. It’s been ages since I’ve had a guest,” says the Baron.
I survey the man I’ve traveled so far to kill. His robes are a plum purple, accentuated with an emerald sash. His face looks no older than twenty-five, with only the smallest hints of a beard. A recent coating of some greasy substance keeps his midnight hair flat against his head. Only his hands hinted at anything unusual as they seemed to carry the withered quality of age.
I sheath my sword and set the shield down. “I can’t deny a condemned man his last meal.”
The Baron laughs deeply. “Well, there are plenty more of you in the village. I don’t think this will be my last.”
There’s an oddly soothing quality to his voice, and the food smells irresistible. I sit opposite the Baron at his long table. Despite the food looking well cooked, no warmth radiates from it. My breath still gusts out as clearly as fog.
“Another trick?” I swing my hand at the nearest cup of wine only for it to pass through without making contact.
“You’re a clever one. The townspeople usually dive right in for the food. Sometimes I can suck them so deep into the illusion that they rave about how great it tastes.” The Baron waves his hand, and the table is revealed to be empty and stained with old blood.
“I’m not a farmer or a herder. Not like your usual prey.”
“Oh no. Obviously, you’ve traveled the world. I can tell by your Gibraltan Insignia. I thought that the entire country was wiped off the map?”
I look down at my weathered tatters of clothing and spot the faded, torn patch. Anger floods into me. My hand tucks it back into the folds of my coat. “I’m the last representative.”
“Oh, indeed? Then that makes you something of a delicacy.” The Baron shoots up from his chair. “Time to dine.”
“Your…voice,” I manage as my eyes shut on their own, “enchanted.”
Everything is dark. Silent. Peaceful.
A scream of revulsion awakens me. The Baron stands over me with his jaw hideously elongated and his right hand going for a dagger. His youthful face crumbles apart to reveal a wrinkled, white-bearded face. The clothing ages too, but there remains a trace of emerald in the sash.
I scramble away and out of my chair.
“What are you?” The Baron asks. “You’ve got no…no—”
“Soul,” I answer while drawing my sword.
“How is that possible?”
“Vengeance wills my body on.”
The Baron’s jaw returns to normal, but he remains in his frail, true form. “And here I thought you were interesting. I wondered why a learned man journeyed so far out here to meet me. Surely the King doesn’t even remember I exist.”
“I don’t have the slightest clue what the King does or doesn’t remember.”
“But wasn’t his ancestor far more involved in the slaughter of Gibraltan then I? Shouldn’t he be your target? I only supplied troops. And that was centuries ago. You need to let go of grudges. They’re bad for the soul.”
His enchanted voice had started to lull my muscles, but I swing my sword toward him to wake up. The Baron tumbles backward, and something cracks inside him. The dagger clatters cross the stones. I step forward to finish my task. Letting him talk further is a recipe for disaster.
The Baron screams in terror and brandishes a hand toward where he’d been sitting. “Help me! You’ve got to help me.”
A doorway appears in the space behind the table. Its wooden frame is decrepit, but I can make out runes carved into it. A sickly yellow glow emanates from within. Through it, I watch a gigantic, crimson eye open. The pupil adjusts to take in the scene before it.
A voice speaks, and the tower shakes. “We’ve helped you enough. You’ve squandered our gifts on the orgasmic delight of devouring souls when you could’ve let us turn your world into a paradise.”
I raise my sword to deliver the killing blow.
The Baron yells out a final plea. “If you save me, I’ll let you cross the threshold!”
A flash of light momentarily blinds me as a roar of thunder rules my ears. The stones around me crack apart as I fall out into the rainy night. The green of the hedge maze flashes past as I tumble in the air before landing hard.
Now it’s my turn to crack, my arm is bending the wrong way from the elbow. The Baron leers down at me from the tower above. The ground shakes as something massive approaches from the depths of the overgrown hedge maze.
To Be Continued…