Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Sword of Hephaestus: Chapter One

   It had been quite a few days since I had been on this crusade with Clyde. I failed to see why he would want to assist me in my quest with his heart and soul, but I was surely safe with Clyde around, especially with rumours of the snake monster ‘Anguis’ out on the loose. We had been walking in this grassland for quite some time now, and our food supplies were over, and there wasn’t a sign of civilization. Sometimes it made me doubt my pursuit; and filled me with anguish having dragged Clyde into this, though I had the feeling that Clyde had his own interest in this mission.
Clyde was staunch and muscular. The same age my father would’ve been if he were alive. The scars on his face and body told what kind of a life he must’ve led so far. Ironically, when you spoke to him, you found him courteous, thoughtful and humble.
“Ariana, look!” said Clyde pointing at the horizon, “I see a village.” I narrowed my eyes to see it better, through the thick tress that surround it. We walked for a while before reaching the bunch of huts. The sun was up above our heads, but there was a chilly wind that was blowing through the village, as hardly any sunlight reached down with the dense trees around. “Hello! Is there anyone here?” I cried out, but in vain. Though there was no one to answer to us, the houses looked as though there were people living there.
We are almost about to give up looking for people in the village, when a little girl came out of a small house at the far end of the village. Her eyes looked lifeless, and pale. She came to us. Surprisingly, she was not terrified of Clyde, who looked like a scarred giant next to me.
"Have you come to see the priest of the village?" she asked us, in her tiny yet strong tone. “We’re on our way to the great mountain to the north, we stopped here for our food. Can you show us a place where we can buy some food and fresh water?” I asked. Clyde looked in a very displeased way at the child. “There are no shops in the village,” the child replied, “Father and Mother always go to another village to the far east to buy things, and we get food from the crops that we grow.”
“The harvest this time is hardly enough, even for the twenty-three families in the village,” the girl continued, “we couldn’t pay up to the Great Emperor. That is why, he took away everyone from the village as his slaves, yesterday.” The girl burst into tears as she was speaking. I kneeled down to pacify the girl, while Clyde still shot a stern look towards the girl. After I managed to get her to speak again, I asked her “What’s your name?” and gave her a chocolate – the last chocolate that I had in my bag. “Valerie.”, she said and ate it, still sobbing. “It’ll be all fine! My friend Clyde is strong and will fight all the king’s men and defeat them to get your parents back!” I said, and she beamed a smile at me.
We thought of resting that afternoon in the village, and leaving later, though I had no idea what to do with the girl. Clyde went to the nearby river to get fresh, as I was still lying down in the little girl’s hut. It had been a while since Clyde had been gone when Valerie woke me up from my nap. “Come here,” she said in her sweet voice, so uncannily stern, “I want to show you something.” She held my hand as I rose up, still half asleep, to see where she was taking me. I followed her the next few minutes as she took me outside the village, in the opposite way where Clyde had gone.
We went through the woods, deeper into the woods. I asked her where we were going as my curiosity escalated every second because of the ambience. “We’re almost there,” “Just a little more”, were her remarks each time I asked. In a short while, we reached a small well. Still holding my hand, she asked me to look into the well. I walked slowly to the well. Valerie clenched my palm harder than before. I looked into the well.
            I saw a heap of dead bodies in the well. They looked like they were residents from the same village. I was hit by shock. I could hardly speak. There must have been at least sixty of them. I looked at Valerie. She was smiling at me, and would not let go of my hand. My eyes gazed back at the well. Each of the dead bodies had an expression of terror on their faces. Among the bodies, there was one of a child, which was skinned. Valerie’s grip suddenly got stronger. Stronger than any ten-year-old’s grip. I looked at her, and shrieked at the sight of what I saw! She shed her own skin, Valerie’s skin, and what stood at the place of a sweet 10 year old girl was none other than fifteen feet tall serpent monster – Anguis!
Anguis had the torso of a human female, and the rest was the body of a huge scaly snake. Anguis entangled me in it’s grip. I was shouting at the top of my lungs as the monster was drawing me closer to it’s mouth. I was going to die. I was so sure of that as I saw Anguis’ fangs, getting closer to me every instant. It was here. The end of it all. I was never going to be able to finish my mission. I was inside Anguis’ mouth. It closed it shut. Darkness all around. It was over.
Suddenly, I heard unsheathing of sword and a slash to my right, and sunlight flooding in through it. I saw a strong arm barge in through the slashed snake-flesh, and the arm pulled me outside. It was Clyde! “Are you okay?” he asked me, still gripping the sword, with burning eyes fixated at the monster. I couldn’t believe that I was. “Yes,” I replied feebly. The monster threw it’s tail at Clyde. Clyde jumped up high in the air to avoid the monster’s tail and wielded his sword at Anguis’ head. Anguis jumped back and Clyde’s slash was rendered useless. It was a fierce battle. I was watching from a distance. Anguis’ tail whips sent Clyde hurling and crashing on trees. Barely able to stand, Clyde rested himself on his sword that dug itself a few inches deep in the ground. Bleeding profusely, but not defeated, Clyde gathered all what he had and jumped in the air, ready to slash the monster. His slash managed to cut Anguis’ right hand out. Shrilling and trembling in pain, the heavy mass fell to the ground. Clyde didn’t wait for it to get up, and jumped on the monster’s torso and stabbed into it’s heart. The monster’s last blare faded into the air, and Clyde sheathed his sword.
We spent the night in the village. I fixed up Clyde with whatever little potions and bandages I had left. I asked him next morning, “You knew that it wasn’t a child all along? Why didn’t you tell me earlier then?”
“I did not,” Clyde replied, “I just got bad vibes from her.” We started walking again, walking towards the north, with no more clue to get to our goal than we had one day before.

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