Serafyr Halfdrake stood on the main balcony of the Castle of Anonymous, his eyes wandering from the guards in the front courtyard, to the Castleís gate and to the rooftops of Anonymous beyond the battlements.
Wind blew in his gravity defying, red hair and his cape billowed behind him. Yes, Serafyr remarked to himself, he was the true image of a heroic warrior. No one in the land of Hypnosia could match him in the noble art of outer and inner heroism. And should anyone have the audacity to claim the contrary, Serafyrís mighty blade would strike them in twain.
Suddenly, a high-pitched voice rang out from behind Serafyr, "Hi, Serafyr!"
His serene moment ruined, Serafyr turned around to see Azaril Lamentamagicka, the royal wizard, enter the balcony. The not-yet-of-age magic user was smiling widely as he made his way to the parapet, the hems and sleeves of his oversized robes dragging behind him.
"Well, you are in a particularly chipper mood today, Azaril," Serafyr said and spun back to resume his solemn gazing activities.
"Yep, todayís a special day."
"Why?" Serafyr asked with a distinct air of disinterest. "Is the new issue of Little Slime Beast arriving today?"
"Even better," Azaril chirped. "Mom and Dad sent me an important book and the messengeríll be here soon."
Serafyr rolled his eyes. He had long since stopped viewing anything connected to his own parents as more than a nuisance to be either forgotten or thrown into the nearest waste heap. Only a child like Azaril could actually look forward to a gift from the family, be it a pair of grotesquely colourful socks or a mysterious family heirloom.
As Serafyr sank deeper into the bitter ponderings on his immediate relations, the gates opened and a rider entered the courtyard. At the sight of the banner the rider held, one depicting a bright red question mark on a green background, Serafyr knew instantly that the rider was from Azarilís home region of Nowhere.
Next to him, the wizard delightedly shrieked, "Itís here! Come on, Serafyr!"
In a show of surprising strength, Azaril dragged Serafyr along by the edge of his cape. The enthusiastic wizard and the reluctant warrior walked down a massive stairway, through the antechamber the size of a stadium and out the Castleís main doors, ending up in the courtyard where Azaril finally released Serafyrís cape.
"Ooh, give me, give me, give me!" Azaril rushed to the messenger, jumping in excitement.
Serafyr took note of the messengerís dishevelled appearance. The manís hair was tangled and his clothes sported several tears and dirt stains. The warriorís keen heroic instincts flared; something was amiss. And as with all things deemed as being amiss, this one was likely to explode in his face.
"Lord Azaril..." The messenger scratched the back of his neck. "I... Iím afraid that... I, well...The book was... I should say it..."
"It was what?" Azaril asked.
"Stolen." The messenger cringed and looked at Serafyr, his eyes wide with fear. "My lord, I couldnít stop them."
"Calm yourself, good man. Tell me, who was the fiend that pilfered your cargo?"
"It was Malluastro, the infamous alchemist, my lord. Somehow he knew I was transporting the Lamentamagicka family cookbook and he attacked me. I had no choice, I had to give him the book."
Serafyr arched his brow. "A cookbook! All this excitement and woe over a mere cookbook?"
Immediately realising he had chosen his words poorly, Serafyr glanced down at Azaril. He could see the wizardís huge eyes watering up and soon a mournful mix between a sob and a squeal, that would break most hearts, rang out over the courtyard.
"I want my book!" Azaril said, hiccupping and creating a small pool of tears on the ground.
"Very well, Azaril, I shall retrieve it... Just... Please stop crying."
Previous experiences had taught Serafyr that there were few things more perilous in the world than an upset Azaril. The little wizard could barely contain his unpredictable magical powers as it was, an emotional breakdown was likely to result in tricks of a catastrophic nature. Not to mention what Princess Simiel would do, should she find out that Serafyr had caused her favourite magic user to cry.
"You promise?" Azaril sniffed.
"You have my word of honour as the Grand-Mogul Fighter of The Order of The Unreasonably Majestic Palace Elite Bodyguard-Knights. I shall not rest, apart from the necessary break, until I have united you with your precious cookbook."
"Great!" Azaril smiled, all signs of sadness long gone. "Oh! There was something about the book... Something important..."
"What is it now?" Serafyr rolled his eyes, he was not in need of more worries. "Do not tell me that the book contains dangerous and evil recipes that could potentially destroy the world."
"Uuh." Azaril chuckled, shuffling his feet. "Okay, I wonít say it."
Serafyr groaned. "I thought it only had recipes for cakes and pastries."
"Why would a villain steal a book, if it was normal?" Azaril asked.
"I would not know, as I am not a crazed villainous genius." Serafyr rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Now please regale me as to precisely what kind of recipes we are talking about?"
"Well, thereís the Souffle of Summoning... Zombie Brownies... Maelstrom Meringue and the most evil cake ever created, the Three-Layered Daemon Cake of Gastroul. Jinxil the Cursebreaker, my ancestor, stole the recipe from Gastroulís kitchen and hid it in the Lamentamagicka cookbook."
"If Malluastro were to bake that accursed cake, the consequences would be most dire," Serafyr mused. "Why did your ancestors not destroy the recipe, instead of merely hiding it in the family cookbook?"
"Jinxil didnít want to waste a perfectly good cake recipe just because it was evil," Azaril replied matter-of-factly.
"He must have been plagued by the same lust for sugar as you."
Serafyr knew little of the finer workings of magic, but he had a stalwart belief that royal wizards gained their powers from the vast amounts of sugar they consumed. Only the most effective kind of magic could convert a raging sugar rush to intricate displays of power whilst simultaneously protecting the wizardís teeth from simply melting away.
"Must I save the day everyday? For once, I wish I could just stand still and gaze over the vast lands of Hypnosia without having to foil one evil scheme or other," Serafyr sighed to himself.
"Would you rather I went there alone?" Azaril said, folding his arms.
Serafyrís eyes widened. "Of course not! Simiel would have my head for even thinking that. Besides, quests of this nature are best left in the hands of professionals like myself."
"If you say so." Serafyr thought he could hear a hint of cunningness in Azarilís voice, but he dismissed it as an impossibility.
"That is precisely what I say." Serafyr signalled for the guards. "Saddle my griffin!"
After some frantic scrambling around on the part of the royal guards and the stable staff, a white thoroughbred opinicus griffin was led into the courtyard. Serafyr had met his noble mount, Inciphalus the Third of the Plains of The Mares, on one of his heroic quests. Upon seeing the mighty griffin stallion, Serafyr had decided then and there that a common horse, or any other equestrian creature, would be beneath a warrior of his valour. And since Inciphalus had eaten his former steed, Serafyr needed something to ride on. Heroes did not walk.
"Come, my loyal friend, let us ride to the lair of Malluastro and do battle with him so that we may avoid having to do battle with him later!" Serafyr declared and jumped on Inciphalusí saddle, pulling Azaril to sit in front of him.
The griffin gave him a meaningful look.
"Yes, there shall be minions for you to maul, I am sure of that." Serafyr rolled his eyes.
Inciphalus trotted to one end of the courtyard then sped up to a gallop, flapping his enormous wings until he soared upward.
Soon the great city of Anonymous turned into a spec in the distance as Inciphalus flew over the Plain of Grass towards the edge of Mystique Sylvan, where the mansion of Malluastro stood against the shadows of the forest. By the look of things, the forest was slowly taking over the mansion's surroundings, a clear sign of the estate owner's personal decline.
Malluastro had not always been the evil alchemist he was now. Once he had been among the most sought after cosmetic alchemists in Hypnosia, which allowed him to accumulate a large fortune. That is, until one of his products turned out to be faulty, causing unsightly warts to grow on the faces of numerous women. As a result Malluastro was laughed out of the legitimate alchemy business while the Wicked Witches Union had a record number of new applicants.
"Just so I may accurately prepare myself, should the worst of scenarios occur, what are the dark powers possessed by the Daemon Cake?" Serafyr asked after Inciphalus landed on the unkempt lawn of the mansion.
"Whoever eats the cake will get demonic powers for as long as it takes for it to come out the other end," Azaril said, jumping down from the saddle.
"What an unpleasant image. Let us hope it does not come to that."
Before Serafyr could advance on the mansion, he felt a sharp poke at his shoulder. Inciphalus was glaring at him and scraping at the ground with his front claws.
"I know that I said there would be henchmen for your mauling pleasure, I was expecting to be attacked upon landing myself. But I am certain that you can discover ways to entertain yourself while we see this gallant quest to an end." Serafyr followed Azaril to the front steps of the mansion, but then paused and looked back at Inciphalus. "Though I would prefer that you would not sire anymore offspring with any nearby mares. I do not wish to deal with complaints from horse breeders on account of your libido."
Inciphalus flared his nostrils and trotted away, his tail lashing behind him.
"The price I pay for having such a noble steed," Serafyr sighed and turned to the mansion's door.
"What about the price the royal stables pay?" Azaril said. "Inciphalus needs a marble stall and only eats tenderloin steaks. He costs more to feed and care for than any horse. Not to mention he bites people."
"Yes, yes, Azaril, I get your gist. However I cannot help the habits of a griffin. Perhaps we could now focus on more pressing matters?" Serafyr motioned at the door.
"Oh! Sure, go ahead."
"Good. Open this door, or I shall break it at the hinges, you knaves!" Serafyr shouted, banging his fist on the door.
Slowly, the door was opened by what looked like a refined version of a troll, complete with a suit and a pair of glasses on his lumpy nose.
"Yes?" the apparent lovechild of a troll and an elf said with a dry voice.
"Step aside, foul personal assistant! I am here to see your master and to put an end to his evil plot of bakery related doom," Serafyr declared.
"Do you have an appointment?" the assistant asked, peering at a clipboard he was holding.
"Righteousness and justice never make appointments! They always come unannounced to wreck the party of villainy!"
"Mister Malluastro is a busy man. If you donít have an appointment, youíll have to leave."
The assistant moved to close the door, but Serafyr stuck his boot in the door and kicked it open. With one fluid move, the warrior unsheathed the five-foot sword strapped to his back and held it out.
"I do believe that I may be accounted as a priority case compared to whatever shady engagements your master had prior to my arrival." Serafyr stepped inside, followed closely by Azaril.
The assistant scrambled down a hallway. "Security!"
The sound of echoing feet rang through the hallway and soon a group of trolls, pureblooded judging by the stench, stampeded into sight.
"The minions have arrived, oh Sword of Might. Now it is time for you to cleave through bodies like so much warmed butter."
The security trolls raised their assorted blunt objects and roared at the intruders.
"You best get behind me, Azaril, while I partake of some heroic bloodshed."
"They're all yours," Azaril said and hid his face beneath the hood of his robes.
"Come forth, ye filthy cave dwellers! Feel the deadly sting of my blade!" Serafyr shouted and plunged amidst the trolls.
With practiced, and nigh inconceivable, skill the Sword of Might hacked its way through the trolls' bodies. Green blood fell on the floor and splattered on the walls, as Serafyr swung his weapon around like a metallic windmill. The trolls had barely enough time to scream in agony before being pierced through their hearts or decapitated.
While Serafyr, like any true hero, acknowledged that fighting should only be used as a final option in solving a conflict, he knew that things had a way of ending up in a fight no matter what peaceful methods were implemented. Luckily, his opponents rarely survived, and other people present to witness his acts of violence were happy about the fact that they were not doing any of the fighting and killing themselves, and as such they refrained from spreading slanderous rumours of the illustrious hero. Serafyr did not think of himself as a foolish idealist; he knew that countless gallons of evil blood had to spilled on the altar of good, despite what the bystanders said.
"Come, Azaril, let us penetrate the insides of this nefarious lair like a dragon's flame penetrates ice cream."
"I don't think dragons eat ice cream." Azaril said as he manoeuvred around the corpses to follow Serafyr down the corridor.
"I was saying that in a purely metaphorical way," Serafyr moaned.
Azaril's foot landed in a puddle of blood. "Ew! The Royal Publicist isn't going to be happy about this."
Serafyr's heroic battles had grown so frequent that the Royal Office of Public Relations was quite used to claiming that the piles of cadavers left behind by Serafyr's adventures were the remains of zombies. The general populace, excluding the zombientists, were all too pleased to be rid of the walking dead. However, should anyone actually look into the statements of zombie exterminations, they would probably think that all of the residents of the underworld were clawing their way to the land of the living and getting employed as evil minions.
"The royal publicist is paid to take care of messes such as this. Besides, it is not stated anywhere that heroism has to be clean, though a hero must be clean at all times." Serafyr smiled.
Azaril rolled his eyes. "I know... Clean is good, dirty is evil."
"Correct, my vertically challenged companion. As it is written in the Clichť Law, good shall overpower evil even in the field of personal hygiene."
The pair rounded a corner and stood before a large door. A small lantern above the door burned with a red flame, signifying that the room's occupant did not want to be disturbed.
"Hah!" Serafyr sheathed his sword and placed his hand on his hips. "No warning light shall stand in the way of my quest! And no door shall stand in the way of my boot!"
Giving the door a kick that would make most mules envious, Serafyr eliminated the oaken obstacle from his path. Beyond the door was a textbook example of a potion laboratory, complete with shelves full of shoddily labelled bottles, copper pots, delicate crystal test tubes and strange malodorous vapours.
In the back of the room, shielding a table with his broad torso, stood Malluastro. He was clothed in several layers of velvet robes, making Serafyr wonder how the man did not sweat into oblivion. Behind his back, Serafyr could see a blue plastic bowl with a spoon handle sticking out of it.
Malluastro's brow was raised in a combination of surprise and disapproval while his eyes darted from Serafyr to Azaril nervously. "What are you doing here? How dare you interrupt my work? And where're my security guards?"
"We are here to put an end to your wretched acts of cake making. We dare to do so, for we are courageous. And your guards have been slain by my hand," Serafyr said.
"You killed them?" Malluastro moaned. "Do you have any idea, how hard it is to train and hire trolls? You have to go to their caverns-- getting a visa there is next to impossible-- then you have to negotiate: there are rituals involving carnivorous fungi-"
"I care not for your employment related woes!" Serafyr pointed an accusatory finger at Malluastro. "You have purloined the Lamentamagicka cookbook and I am here to repossess it. Now, hand it over, or face my wrath!"
"And mine!" Azaril added.
"I do not have your cookbook, fools!"
"Yeah you do, it's right there." Azaril's sleeve covered hand was directed at the table where a large book, with green, embossed leather covers, was propped up on a bookstand.
"That... is my... Tome of the Moon book." Malluastro inched towards the book.
"Is that so?" Serafyr raised his brow, an altogether triumphant smile on his face. "Then why is there a note stuck on the book with Azaril's name on it?"
"Obviously the Tome Club made a mistake in their delivery and I ended up with your wizard's copy," Malluastro said.
"I'm not in the Tome of the Moon Club. Their books don't have pictures in them." Azaril pouted.
"That proves it! Relinquish the book and discontinue your mixing pursuits."
"Never!" Malluastro declared, rediscovering his inner villain. "I will complete the ultimate cake of evil and gain demonic strength. Then I will take my revenge on the alchemy market that had the nerve to mock me!"
"There shall be no revenging while I am here to uphold justice and all things good!"
"Let us see how you will uphold justice, when I do this!"
With astonishing speed Malluastro grabbed a bottle and tossed it at Serafyr's feet. A thick, lavender scented, cloud engulfed Serafyr who proceeded to furiously wave his hands to clear the smoke. By the time his manually powered fanning had provided him with enough translucent air, Serafyr saw, much to his horror, that his clothes had been turned pink.
"I really should consider labelling my potions. I was trying to kill you," Malluastro said in a somewhat embarrassed tone.
Azaril doubled over, laughing uproariously.
Serafyr let out an indignant yelp, his voice rising to the unnerving pitch of a castrato, "You offspring of a gutter wench! How dare you sully my garb in such manner?"
"You know," Azaril snorted. "Your clothes turning pink is becoming a bad habit, Serafyr."
"It is no fault of mine, if every rogue with a wand is bent on the defilement of my wardrobe. Now, hand over the book, Malluastro."
"No! You cannot stop me!"
"My fist would like to make a statement to the contrary." With that, Serafyr hit Malluastroís stomach and sent the alchemist flying into the closest wall.
Malluastro fell to the floor like a dead fish and seemed to flop around for a while to get his limbs beneath his body.
"Your fist? How primalÖ" Malluastro coughed, glaring at Serafyr from beneath his brow.
"Would you rather I use my sword?"
"No! I just was not expecting that move." Malluastro raised himself to his knees.
"I enjoy keeping my opponents guessing." Serafyr shrugged.
While Serafyr was feeling accomplished, Azaril walked over to the table and picked up the blue plastic bowl. He sniffed the contents and appeared to regard it critically.
"Is there something amiss, Azaril?" Serafyr turned to look at his companion.
Azaril stuck his finger into the bowl, sucked it clean and then looked up at Serafyr. "Looks like we had nothing to worry to about. He used regular sugar instead of powdered. The cake wonít work with the wrong kind of sugar."
Serafyr glanced at Malluastro, his eyes narrowed. "You despicable piece of scum, you did not even have the consideration to journey to the store to obtain the correct form of sugar. All the more cause for me to lay waste to your miserable self."
Malluastro sighed. "I have never claimed to be a good chef. Now do you mind? My lair needs repairing after this and I myself may be in the need of a doctor."
"Very well," Serafyr said, stopping briefly to deliver one more kick to Malluastroís ribs. "But meddle in the dark arts of alchemic cookery again, and I shall render your lair and your person beyond repair. Come, Azaril, let us be off."
"Okay." Azaril dropped the bowl, splattering the contents across the floor, and picked up the book before following Serafyr outside.
Stepping out onto the lawn, Serafyr whistled for Inciphalus, who was currently tearing away at an unrecognisable cadaver some distance away. The griffin swallowed a chunk of flesh and trotted to where Serafyr and Azaril were waiting for him.
"I see you went hunting for random bystanders," Serafyr said.
Inciphalus let out a confirmatory caw while Serafyr and Azaril climbed on his saddled back.
"You do know that it does not reflect well on my heroic reputation to have my noble steed devouring innocent people?" Serafyr sighed. "We shall mark this one up as another zombie then."
Inciphalus gave no indication that he would give any consideration to Serafyrís concerns, instead he opened his wings and ascended to the sky. Despite his grand appearance and bravery, having a griffin for a mount had its definite drawbacks.
"Maybe chef Colestros can bake a Fruticious Puff Cake for us when we get back to the Castle," Azaril called over the flapping of Inciphalusí wings and the wind rushing past them.
"I would rather desire that he would make something which would not incite suspicions about my venereal preferences," Serafyr said.
"Huh?" Azaril turned around to look at Serafyr. "What does a cake have to do with being venerable?"
"Not venerable, I said venereal... Oh, forget the whole matter." Serafyr grimaced. "Until my attire is switched from pink to crimson, I suppose such speculations are bound to come up."
Thus it was that Serafyr saved the world, and himself, from a whole deal of cream covered worries.
Stories and artwork Copyright 2009-2010 by Mette Pesonen. Copying in whole or in part is prohibited. However, you may link to this page.
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