Another numbingly peaceful day had dawned in the town of Backwarden. Birds sang, local drunkards moaned, sheep went "baa". And in the woods surrounding Backwarden, a young shepherd by the name of William Nonsyrnamé wandered around aimlessly.
It is a common misconception that shepherds, like William, watch over flocks of sheep. In fact, shepherds do very little work and are thus free to pursue lives of idleness. Being the callous and unassuming youth he was, William was not one to argue with tradition. So he would spend much of his time walking around the countryside, pondering the many wonders that life had not thrown in his path.
Sure, the beginning of his life had been exciting enough, but sadly William could not recall it. According to his surrogate father, Benthiron, the local hermit and part-time village idiot, William’s mother had left him on Benthiron’s doorstep when William was barely a few days old. How a woman straight out of childbirth had been able to dump her baby on someone’s doorstep and make a hasty retreat was beyond William’s comprehension and that of Benthiron, who was adamant not to disclose anymore information about William’s mysterious origins. Anytime William would bring the subject up Benthiron would start foaming at the mouth or fake a seizure.
Despite this, William was content with his life. Though, as all other young callous men, he would at times yearn for something more. He would often wake up from a daydream of performing heroic deeds and fighting evil. But William knew that he would never be anything special, never a hero...
As he was going through this particular bit of angst, his foot struck something hard. William looked down, there was not supposed to be a rock in this part of the woods. William should know that, he had spent plenty of time there, hiding away from local bullies.
Closer inspection revealed that William’s foot had not hit a rock, but a small chest. William picked the chest up and examined it. It was an elegant piece of work with strange symbols carved upon its golden sides.
Who would leave such an obviously valuable item in a forest, William wondered. Perhaps it was cursed. But then, why leave it in the open?
Curiosity got the best of him and slowly William opened the chest’s lid. The moment the lid was lifted a mass of glittery, pink smoke engulfed the air around him. William gasped and threw the chest away from him fearing that some beast would emerge from it and eat him.
However, once the smoke had cleared, William found himself looking down at one of the oddest individuals he had ever seen. This person, for William was now rather sure it was not a beast, was less than three feet in height and dressed in a voluminous, hooded robe. After a few coughs, the person looked up at William. A pair of huge eyes and a tuff of green hair were the only things visible from the strange, thick darkness that existed within the hood. Two large ears of light green skin stuck out the hood’s side and were currently flattened in a disapproving way.
“Why’d you wake me up?” the person asked in a rather high voice.
“Wake you up?” William repeated.
The stranger sighed. "I was having the nicest dream about juice and you woke me up.”
“But weren't you in...” William pointed at the chest. “How...”
“This is my Napping Box." The stranger picked up the chest and wiped some dirt off of it. "The beds at the inn are so uncomfortable. I came over here to get some decent sleeping done.”
“Oh... Well, I’m sorry for disturbing you.”
“My fault. Should’ve guessed that people in these parts can’t read ancient magical symbols.”
“Magical? You’re you a wizard?” William’s eyes widened.
The stranger eyed William in disbelief. “Isn’t it obvious?”
“I always thought that wizards had beards. Isn't there a law about it or something?"
"I have a beard," the wizard squeaked and produced a bunch of silvery hair from his sleeve and held it up to William. "It's not real, but it's still my beard."
"I see..." William said.
Truth be told, William knew very little about wizards, this one was the first one he had ever seen. He was somewhat disappointed, he had always imagined a wizard to be a tall, old man with a long beard, a hooked nose, and possibly with glasses of some description. Still, meeting an actual wizard, even a small one with a fake beard, was something worth telling the folks over at the tavern.
The wizard walked up to William. “Seeing as you woke me up, you can help me get back to town.”
Without a warning, the wizard leapt towards William and landed in his arms. While William stared down in shock, the wizard slipped the Napping Box into his sleeve, where it seemed to disappear completely.
“You can carry me,” the wizard said cheerily.
“Right.” William shifted his hands, the wizard was surprisingly light. “My name’s William, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you.” The wizard smiled. Just how William knew he was smiling, he could not understand. “I’m Azaril.”
William stopped in his tracks. “THE Azaril?”
“Well, there’s only one in Hypnosia, as far as I know.”
William continued to walk toward Backwarden. He had the honour of carrying none other than Azaril Lamentamagicka, the Royal Court Wizard, in his arms! While the situation was very absurd, William could not help but feel honoured and fortunate. How many people did he know who could boast with something like that?
“What would someone like you be doing in Backwarden?” William asked, hoping he did not sound too nosy. "We don't exactly get a lot of nobility coming here."
“I’m on a super secret mission for Princess Simiel. It’s really important that me and Serafyr get this to Anonymous.” Azaril briefly pulled another box from his sleeve, this one bigger than the Napping Box. “Oh! But don’t tell anyone that I told you. Any meanie would love to get their hands on it.”
“Okay... This Serafyr you mentioned, is he Serafyr Halfdrake?”
“I would love to meet him! I’ve heard much about his heroic exploits.”
“I’m sure you’ll meet him. In fact, I bet he’s in town right now starting a tavern brawl with anyone dumb enough to pick a fight with him.”
William could barely contain his excitement. This may just have been shaping up to be the best day in his life. Not only did he get to meet Azaril, a real live wizard and celebrity, but also Serafyr Halfdrake, an even bigger celebrity and personal idol.
It did not take William long to reach the northern end of the road that went through Backwarden. People were going about their business as usual and very few paid any attention to the shepherd carrying an odd creature in his arms.
"You know, you can let me down now." Azaril fidgeted.
William bent down to let Azaril jump off. The tiny wizard wiggled his way down. As he was about to hit ground, Azaril halted and placed his hands on William's right arm.
“Oh, that?” William shrugged. “It’s just a birthmark.”
Azaril looked at the red shape on William’s arm pensively. “Looks sort of familiar, but I can’t quite place it... I better ask if Serafyr knows anything about this.”
"About my birthmark? Why would someone like him be concerned with it?“ William asked.
“Birthmarks are always important, especially when they're as weird as that one.”
“It’s not that weird.” William clasped his left hand over his birthmark defensively. “Anyway, how do we find Serafyr?”
"Easy," Azaril said. "Follow the shouts."
William lifted his head. Indeed, ahead of them a crowd had gathered in front of the Filthy Glass Tavern. People were shouting both encouragements and insults at whatever it was that had engaged their attention.
As he and Azaril walked over to the crowd, William found one of the local drunkards, Scabby, holding himself up with the help of the tavern wall.
"Scabby, what's going on?"
"Some fancy-pants city slicker came in and started to pick a fight. Burly's in there giving him a right good beating."
At that very moment an extremely large man came flying out of the tavern and across the road.
"That would be Burly, right?" Azaril asked, pointing to the now unconscious man.
The crowd parted as something red came out of the tavern. William pushed his way through the people and saw the second strangest individual he had ever seen in his life. This man was dressed head to toe in red. A red, scaly tail moved beneath his long cape and two fiery eyes stared at Burly underneath a mass of red hair that was sticking out in all directions. A sword nearly five feet in length was strapped on the man's back, its hilt decorated with two large rubies. One could easily describe the man as simply being "red".
"That should teach you some decorum, you foul over-consumer of ales and moonshine! Never show your wart-infested face in my presence again!" the man declared.
The flamboyant appearance and manners of the man made it clear; William was looking at the legendary Lord Serafyr Halfdrake, the Grand-Mogul Fighter of the Order of the Unreasonably-Majestic Palace-Elite-Body-Guard Knights and the right-hand half-breed to Princess Simiel Buduar.
Azaril walked next to Serafyr. ”You just couldn’t help but beat up some of the locals, could you?”
”Well, what point is there to visit places such as this, if I cannot practice my skills in the noble art of tavern brawls?” Serafyr glanced down at Azaril. ”You are back early.”
”He woke me up.” Azaril nudged his head at William, who froze in terror.
Serafyr raised an eyebrow and sauntered up to William. “Are you aware that now I will be subject to that pesky magician’s whining for a whole day?”
“I... I’m...” William swallowed. “Terribly sorry... I...”
“Don’t be mad at him, Serafyr.”
Serafyr snorted. “I cannot maul you, you are far too scrawny for that.”
William sighed in relief, he had no ambitions to be on the wrong end of Serafyr’s Sword of Might.
“Hey, Serafyr, take a look at this.” Azaril pulled William’s right arm in Serafyr’s direction. “Does that look familiar to you?”
Serafyr’s brow shot up. “By the great volcanoes of Draakoa, from whence came the sacred salamander Fuagra! That is the fabled sign of the Chosen One!”
“So that’s where I know it from. Why didn’t I think of that?”
“Perhaps it is because you lack the capacity to form a coherent thought.” Serafyr smirked.
Azaril tilted his head. "Huh?"
“Um...” William raised his hand slightly. “What’s the sign of the Chosen One?”
“It’s the sign by which the prophesied saviour of the world can be recognized, or something like that. I think Nostradorkus made that prediction.” Azaril waved his hand absentmindedly.
“It would appear to be so.” Serafyr rubbed his finely chiselled jaw. “Though the Chosen One is said to be of royal blood... Still you bear the symbol of saviourship in the form of the letter P, so you must be the Chosen One.”
“But,” William protested. “What does the letter P have to do with being a Chosen One?”
“I have not the faintest of ideas. But Nostradorkus said so, therefore it must be true.”
“Unless you believe the rumours that Nostradorkus liked to smoke Funnyweed,” Azaril said.
“I can’t be the Chosen One! I’m just an unassuming, poor shepherd!”
“Be silent!" Serafyr hissed. "Lest you would wish for the minions of evil to come after you.”
“They most likely will anyway.” Azaril shrugged. “News about this kind of stuff has a way of traveling pretty fast.”
“William! What are you up to, boy?” a voice called.
William turned to see Benthiron tramping along the road, his trusty cane making holes in the dirt.
But before the old man could reach William and put his cane to good use, or what he deemed as good use, a cloud of pitch-black smoke came out of nowhere. People instantly scattered, their instincts telling them that random, mysterious smoke phenomena was most likely not a good thing. By the time the smoke began to dissipate, only William, Azaril, Serafyr and a very irritated and confused Benthiron were left on the road.
A laughter, the likes of which William had never heard before, came from within the smoke. The smoke dispersed and on the spot where it had been stood a man dressed in a black cloak. The skin on his face seemed like it was pulled back and about to tear apart, should the man change his expression. His eyes were cold, devoid of any emotion. He had been the source of the inhuman laughter.
Next to the man stood a young woman, inspecting her nails with rapt fascination. Her hair was like the finest black silk, with curls framing her delicate face. Despite the inappropriately revealing outfit she was wearing, she had the poise of a noble lady. William felt a very peculiar feeling grab his stomach at the sight of her.
“Falcrion!” Serafyr unsheathed his sword. “I knew you would seek us out, you knave.”
“You did not,” the man said indignantly. “Now, I shall steal your precious cargo and use it in my evil plans to destroy the world!”
“I thought you wanted to rule the world, not destroy it,” Azaril said.
“Do not point out my inconsistencies, you annoying little creature! I do as I wish, for I am evil. And to show you how evil I am-” Falcrion grabbed Benthiron, who had been stumbling nearby. “-I shall kill this senior citizen for no apparent reason!”
“Uncle Benthiron!” William was paralysed with fear, but not too paralysed to shout out in shock.
“You fiend, leave that geezer alone!”
“Of course I will, right after I kill him and prove to all that I am evil.” With that Falcrion sunk his hand into Benthiron’s chest and pulled out his heart. “And to prove that I am not only evil, but also mad, I shall-”
“Can we go already?” the girl next to Falcrion whined.
“Fri'Ishal, honey, daddy is trying to strike fear in the hearts of his enemies,” Falcrion cooed.
“Whatever, I’m going home.” Fri'Ishal snapped her fingers and disappeared.
Falcrion shook his head. “Where was I?”
“You were about to prove to us how mad you truly are.”
“Oh, yes...” Falcrion cleared his throat and held up Benthiron’s heart. “To prove how insane I am, I shall consume this heart.”
“Ew! I'm not going to watch this." Azaril hid his face behind his sleeves.
Falcrion laughed maniacally and stuffed the heart into his mouth. For a while he attempted to eat the raw organ, but eventually he spat it out into his hand.
"Great... I shall take this heart to my evil kitchen, cook it and then eat it, using my Utensils of Doom!" Falcrion slipped Benthiron's heart somewhere within his cloak. "Now then, give me the Box!"
"This one?" Azaril held up his Napping Box.
Falcrion let out a shuddering sigh. "No! I want the box you are taking to Simiel."
"You shall not have it, Falcrion! No ex-royal-advisor-turned-villain shall have the Box! We have discovered the Chosen One and verily, he shall put an end to your evil ways." Serafyr motioned at William.
William whimpered as Falcrion turned his eyes to look at him. The day had started so well and now he was facing the greatest villain in the country, who had just killed his surrogate father and tried to eat his heart. William was glad of the fact that he had not drank much that day. For surely, the hatred in Falcrion's eyes was enough to ruin anyone's pantaloons.
"You think this is the Chosen One?" Falcrion threw his head back and laughed. "This child cannot stop me!"
"Want to take the risk?" Azaril reached within his sleeve and pulled out the large box he had shown William earlier on. "Cause you have to face him to get this."
"Very well." Falcrion moved his cloak over his shoulders, uncovering a curved blade made of black metal. "Make your move, boy."
"Huh?" William yelped.
Serafyr handed the Sword of Might to William. "Smite Falcrion down and protect the Box."
William tried to lift the enormous sword, but only managed to shift it a few feet. How could Serafyr handle the weapon so lightly? It made absolutely no sense to have something that big as a weapon to begin with.
Falcrion shook his head. "That has to be the most pathetic thing I have ever seen. And I have seen a lot."
Falcrion moved towards Azaril. The wizard's eyes darted around as he backed away.
"Give me the Box, Azaril," Falcrion said. "I have things to do, minions to randomly kill..."
"Okay." Azaril tossed the box to Falcrion.
"Well, that was somewhat easier than I expected. You are not trying to fool me, are you?"
Falcrion took a quick look inside the box. For a brief moment William saw a glow emitting from whatever was within it.
Falcrion closed the box and shrugged. "Then, I shall be taking my leave. Farewell, foolish heroes!" With that Falcrion disappeared.
Serafyr retrieved his sword from a panting William and glared at Azaril. "Why did you not stop him from taking the Box?"
"What was I supposed to do? Besides, I didn't see you bursting into action yourself."
"I was waiting for the Chosen One to make his move." Serafyr directed his glare at William.
"I said I wasn't the Chosen One."
"Yes you are, the birthmark proves it. But it is obvious that you are in need of some help. It is your destiny to travel across long distances, face unearthly perils, and recover the Box. And I shall accompany you on this quest!"
"I thought I was destined to save the world."
"Save the world, recover the Box, they are in essence the same thing."
"Yeah, if Simiel doesn't get that box, you'll wish the world would end."
"For great is the wrath of a princess, who is denied her most valued possessions," Serafyr said solemnly.
"Hardly. The skin of Simiel is without blemish. She does not use lotions in the manner of mere mortals. Her elven heritage makes her beautiful to behold. The only woman who could match her in beauty is Falcrion's daughter Fri'Ishal. But she is wicked and therefore not as attractive as Simiel."
"We should get going." Azaril walked ahead of William and Serafyr. "Screaming Girl Mountain is pretty far away."
"Are we just going to walk there?" William asked.
Seeing as his only family was now lying in a bloody puddle on the road, William had no real reason to stay in Backwarden. Strange, William remarked to himself, you would think that seeing anyone, let alone a family member, have their heart torn out of their chest would cause some major traumas on a person. But William felt no traumas forming in his mind. There was a feeling of sorrow and loss which added a nice touch to his already existing angst, but no traumas.
"With my tiny legs? Don't think so. In any case this is a short story, so we have to invoke a bit of Deus ex Machina to move things along." Azaril produced an orb of light from his hand and tossed it into the sky.
William watched in amazement as the light grew in the sky and then vanished. "That must be some very powerful magic."
"It's not magic," Azaril said. "It's a dragon-flare."
No sooner had Azaril spoken those words than a huge gust of wind swept across the road. William gasped as a magnificent golden dragon came into view. It was bigger than a house, with enormous wings and scales that gleamed in the sunlight.
The dragon turned its head to face Azaril and a voice spoke. "What is it now?"
"Goldy, we need a ride."
The dragon rolled her eyes. "You called me over here from Smokehead, so I could give you a ride? Do I look like a taxi?"
"No," Azaril admitted. "But we're in a hurry to get to Screaming Girl and we still need to make William here into a hero."
"I guess I could fly you to the Woods of Destiny..."
"Great! Lets get going."
Azaril levitated off the ground and landed on Goldy's back. Serafyr jumped after him and then helped William scramble up the dragon's side.
Once all were seated, Goldy's spoke in a monotonous voice, "welcome to the DragonAir flight from Backwarden to the Woods of Destiny. This is your captain Goldershelingreshbootdadrhel, but seeing as most people have limited attention spans, you can call me Goldy. There will be no dinner served on this flight and if you do eat something, please, avoid getting stains on the scales. Pray to the gods that your bladders last and that we don't get attacked, for there are no restrooms or safety procedures on the dragon."
Goldy's wings flapped up and down and with each flap the dragon arose higher into the sky. Finally she had reached proper altitudes and glided northward, towards the Woods of Destiny.
An astonishing variety of landscapes went by. Goldy's flight path followed the River Eek, until the mighty stream divided. The journey continued across the Plains of Wideness and the Cheery Fields. The cities of Anonymous and Metonym passed by, as well as the majestic Indifferent Mountains. Beyond the lake region of Pond were the Swamps of Stinky and the Woods of Destiny.
"I don't see how going to a forest is going to help me be the Chosen One" William said.
"You shall see the relevance of this journey soon enough. For within the woods, in the middle of the Clearing of Bravery, lays the Stone of Heroism. Stuck in the stone is the Sword of Ye One Whom Is Plucked From Among The Numerous Masses."
"That's ancient language for the Chosen One," Azaril said.
"It is said in the songs of bards that only the true Chosen One may pull the great blade from the Stone of Heroism. Once you have acquired the sword, we shall set forth to retrieve the Box from Falcrion's clutches."
"If I pull the sword out. I never said I wanted to do this." William folded his hands.
"Come on, you can't honestly say that you never yearned for more than your normal rural life."
"I knew it!" Azaril giggled. "Serafyr, pay up."
Serafyr sighed and tossed a velvet pouch to Azaril. "Very well. But I still doubt this proves that all farmhands yearn for more. There has to be at least one farmhand out there who is content with his life."
"Haven't met one yet."
"I think my friend Darnon is pretty content," William said.
Azaril quickly turned around to look at Serafyr. "Don't even think about it. We haven't met this Darnon, so I still win the bet."
"Curse my ill luck!"
"This is your captain speaking. I will be landing soon on the Clearing of Bravery. You may move only once the dragon has come to a full stop. DragonAir thanks you for selecting this particular plot device."
Goldy moved into a downward spiral and landed on a large clearing of long, soft grass. Serafyr jumped down, ending up in a very photographic crouching position. Azaril levitated behind the semi-reptilian warrior and then turned to look up to where William was glancing down with a great deal of hesitation.
"Just jump down!"
"I'm not... It's a bit..."
Goldy shook her head. She arched her head and picked William up by the back of his shirt and dropped him on the grass unceremoniously.
William sat on the ground for a while, trying to collect himself. He looked around. For some inexplicable reason, night had fallen. All around him arose a wall of trees and shadows. Wolves howled in the distance and a small flock of crows flew up from the treetops. The more William looked at the forest, the more he thought that it was alive in itself.
"Are you planning on just sitting there, speculating and getting more agitated by the minute, or are you going to fulfil your destiny?" Serafyr hauled William to his feet.
Azaril was already heading through the grass which was nearly half his height. "The stone's right ahead."
When William looked to the direction they were headed he could see moonlight illuminating a specific spot in the clearing. Blue light streamed down from a crack in the clouds and lit up a roughly triangular stone, which in turn was within a circle of smooth monoliths. Sticking out on the side of the stone was the grip of a sword. Runes of silver shone from the golden grip. The pommel was a white stone the size of an egg and dragons were carved on the crossguard.
Serafyr dropped on one knee before the stone. "There it is, the mighty Sword of Ye One Whom Is Plucked From Among The Numerous Masses."
Both Serafyr and Azaril turned to William, who raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"You're supposed to pull it out. We don't have all day."
"I thought it's night."
"It's always night here, makes things more dramatic."
William carefully laid his hands on the hilt, fully expecting a lightning bolt to come down and fry him. He took one deep breath and pulled. At first nothing happened and a small spark of hope lit up in William's mind. Maybe this would prove to Serafyr and Azaril that he was not the Chosen One. But just as William was about to step away from the Stone of Heroism, the sword slipped out of the stone, nearly falling on William's toes.
As William held the sword, the blade glowed with a divine light. Disembodied voices sang around the stone circle. And suddenly a ball of light appeared in the sky and shot down on top of the Stone of Heroism.
William gasped as the light took on the form of a person and before him stood a blond woman with golden eyes, dressed in a shimmering, flowing robe of red and white. A soft halo illuminated the woman and the darkness of the woods seemed to disappear in her presence.
"What now?" the woman said in a voice that seemed like several voices layered together.
"Hi, Haande!" Azaril waved his hands happily.
The Supreme Goddess looked at the wizard and then at Serafyr. "Not you two again. What did you do this time?"
"Wasn't us, William pulled out the sword."
Haande turned Her golden eyes on William. "You couldn't have waited a while? I'm going to miss my favourite show on the Worldpool."
William was speechless in front of the single most powerful entity in existence.
"Let's just get this done." Haande rolled Her eyes and cleared Her throat. "Lo! The Sword of Ye One Whom Is Plucked From Among The Numerous Masses has been claimed by the foretold Chosen One! Take heed, young one, and keep thy heart pure and fulfil thy destiny. May the Sword lead thee to many victories over the servants of my sister Annyigrade, that little piece of.... Oh well... May the Power be with you. Live a long and rich life. Eat your greens... Blaa blaa. Now get lost and fight some evil."
With those mighty words of godly wisdom, Haande became the ball of light once more and flew into the sky.
"You heard Her," Azaril said. "Let's go to Screaming Girl."
"A blessing..." William felt light-headed. "A blessing from the Highest One..."
"Yes, it is all very impressive the first time around. But once one has met the gods several times, it loses much of its effect." Serafyr spun around on his heels and returned to where Goldy was scraping dead insects off her teeth.
William stumbled behind Azaril. He no longer knew what to make of this day.
Goldy headed southwest, now following the River of Muck. She flew over the Plateaus of Mysteries and the town of Hick-upon-Muck. The Ruins of Ages-Ago went by. Somewhere in the distance ahead, William could see the Desert of Desolation, in the middle of this wasteland arose Screaming Girl Mountain. William had heard that it had taken a thousand workers a hundred years to carve the mountain into its present shape of a screaming girl. The work had been commissioned by the infamous arc-fiend Glaroprick, who had been subsequently bankrupt by the cost of the work and never heard of again.
Goldy landed behind a hill close to the mountain. "This is as far as I will go. DragonAir thanks you and hopes your quest goes well."
After William and his self proclaimed companions had climbed off the dragon, Goldy spread her wings and departed. William stared up at the center of all evil in the land of Hypnosia.
"We must discover a way to enter the mountain." Serafyr looked around. "There must be a way..."
"How about the front door?" Azaril said.
"Why can't you just teleport us inside?" William asked Azaril.
At this, both Azaril and Serafyr doubled over in laugher.
"Have you ever heard of a wizard doing something that useful with his powers?" Serafyr said amidst gasps.
"Yeah. It's against the Cliché Law for a wizard to use his full powers on a quest."
"And just between you, me and this little moron, you do not want Azaril to teleport you anywhere. That is a sure way to mess up your stomach."
"It's true, you non-magical types aren't built for teleportation."
"If I remember correctly, the main entrance should be somewhere in that direction." Serafyr pointed to the left.
"I don't see why we can't just sneak in some other way."
"It would be cowardly of us too do so. A true hero goes in through the front door. Onward!"
The heroic trio walked along the mountain's side. At one point they crept their way under a balcony where they could see Falcrion shooting at unicorns with a crossbow and committing other acts of random violence and evil. Soon they came upon a large pair of doors, guarded by two of Falcrion's nightmare-creatures.
William shrank behind the tall rocks that he, Serafyr and Azaril were currently standing by. The nightmare-creatures were beings of dark grey, hairy skin, small eyes and mouths filled with drool and dirty teeth. Both of the guards were nearly six feet tall and their slouching poses did nothing to diminish their savage appearance. An overpowering stench of sweat, blood and possibly bacon grease reached William's nose and he fought hard to keep himself from vomiting.
"Truly, Falcrion is a fool!" Serafyr declared. "He has only left two guards out."
"Only two?" William shivered. "Even one of those things is too much."
"Fear not, Oh Chosen One. While the nightmare-creatures may seem vicious, and they are just that, they are also highly dispensable. You will hack your way through scores of them before this quest is over."
William let out a small moan and shook his head. "Great."
"Now watch and take heed." Serafyr jumped on top of the nearest rock. "This is how a hero makes an entrance."
The semi-reptilian warrior roared and leapt towards the nightmare-creatures, pulling the Sword of Might out of its sheath in mid-jump.
"I knew this day was going to end badly," one of the guards muttered as Serafyr's blade went through his chest.
Before William had the time to properly get away from the rocks and to the doors, Serafyr had killed both of the guards and was wiping green blood off his sword. The warrior turned to the door and gave it a powerful kick with his boot.
"Ouch!" Serafyr bent down and held his leg. "Why did it not open?"
"Maybe Falcrion finally got sick of you always breaking down his doors." Azaril examined the door. "Thought so. He put a spell on it."
"Blast it all to the lowest Pits! I think I broke a toe."
"How do we get in? Maybe we could-"
"We just have to say the magic word and the doors will open." Azaril spread his hands and yelled at the door, "ikurpzz hyongug spreebk, shworr fhal kluiiipepcki!"
There was an enormous creek as the doors slid open.
William looked down at Azaril in amazement. "How did you know the right words?"
"Lucky guess. It's Falcrion's family-motto, Nonsencian for: 'check out this cool gibberish, bet you have no idea what this means!' I figured he would be egotistical enough to use it."
Serafyr set his foot down gingerly. "Well done, little buddy. Now William, you must lead us into the depths of Screaming Girl."
"It is your quest. We are merely your loyal companions."
"But you guys obviously know the place. It would make sense, if you were my guides."
"Nay! The Cliché Laws forbid one from taking on multiple roles and creating undue complexity."
William sighed and stepped in.
A long, dark corridor stretched out in front of him. The walls were thirty feet high and made of a black stone. Flags, depicting Falcrion holding a severed head, hung from the ceiling. Once William had walked a few feet away from the door, it closed with a loud slam.
William turned around. "What was that?"
"The door slamming shut, “ Azaril said.
"Which usually heralds a trap." Serafyr glanced around with and air of nonchalance.
Right on queue, a horde of nightmare-creatures stormed the corridor, wielding curved swords and spears. Serafyr let out an enthusiastic battle cry and ran at the horde, blade held high. William watched the carnage as Serafyr's red shape moved through the ranks of nightmare-creatures.
"You know," Azaril said. "You really should think about using that sword now."
A group of nightmare-creatures had broken away from the fight against Serafyr and were closing in on William and Azaril.
"But... But I don't know how to use a sword!"
"Try it. It's just fencing, how hard can it be? You swing the sword around and stab people with the pointy end."
William swallowed and unsheathed the Sword of the Chosen One. Once more the blade glowed and a foreign sensation of confidence overcame William. He raised his sword against the nightmare-creatures and slashed through the air. A beam of pure energy pierced the bodies of every attacking nightmare-creature.
William blinked, his hair was standing up. "Wow."
Serafyr smirked at William. "Now you have felt the power of the Chosen One."
"Too bad he won't live to enjoy it!"
The three heroes looked towards this new voice. William saw a woman coming out of the shadows. She was clad in a bikini made of chainmail and a fur-trimmed, black cape. Beneath the cape moved a black tail.
"Hi, Sera." The woman tilted her hip and gave the warrior a crooked smile.
"Ooh, this could get interesting." Azaril pulled a small sack of candies out of his sleeve.
"Who is she?"
Azaril glanced at the two semi-reptilians, who were locked in a staring match with each other. "That's Terrin Halfdrake, Serafyr's evil twin sister."
"Terrin, how could you side with the likes of Falcrion? How can you betray the noble blood of Draakoa?"
Terrin shrugged. "Mostly to tick you off."
"Does mother know of this? I am sure that she would not approve."
"I'm a freaking rebel. You think I care about what mom says? Not everyone is a wussy hero like you."
"Do not mock me!"
"Oh shut up, scalebrain. It's time to face your doom." Terrin unsheathed a sword, which was an exact copy of the Sword of Might.
"You depraved woman of the night! Do not think that I will hold back merely because your my sister, my own blood, my-"
"That's enough!" Terrin launched herself at Serafyr.
The two warriors became a blur of red and black, their moves too fast for the untrained eye to see. Sudden clashes of metal on metal rang out. The duel went on for several minutes and William was growing dizzy from the effort of distinguishing who was doing what.
"How long will this go on?"
"Until one of them wins. Or until I do this." Azaril drew something furry out of his surprisingly well stocked sleeve and set it down on the floor.
William saw a heap of grey fur zip its way between Serafyr and Terrin. As the thing came before the female warrior, she shrieked and moved back.
"Ew! Get it away! Get it away!" She turned and fled down the corridor. "Just wait till next time, scalebrain, I'll get you!"
Azaril chuckled and retrieved the small furry thing. "Works every time."
"What is it?"
"A toy mouse. Powerful female warriors are afraid of only one thing; mice. I can't believe she hasn't figured out that it's not real."
"I would almost pity my sister, if I did not have a vendetta against her. One day she shall pay for all the torment she put me through as a child!" Serafyr shook his fist at the ceiling.
Azaril gave William an amused look and gestured for him to head forward along the corridor. "We better let him finish his rant while walking."
"...I shall have vengeance! No one will lock me up in an outhouse and..."
"How do we find that box of yours?"
"I think your supposed to follow your heroic instinct. Serafyr always follows his and somehow he makes it through all sorts of quests."
"How does one follow their heroic instinct?"
"How should I know? I'm just the irritating and cute sidekick. Serafyr tends to stand around looking pensive."
"I'll try that." William halted and burrowed his brow.
The youth's mind swam in a sea of questions and apprehension. Then something flickered in a corner of his mind. There was something behind the second door on the right. What that something was, William did not know, but it was something important.
"I think we need to go through that door."
"...coloring my cape pink..."
"Serafyr, you can stop having traumatic flashbacks now. William found something."
William laid his hands on the door's handle and pushed the door inward. Slowly he stepped in. To his surprise William saw a four poster bed, draped with black silk. The room's walls were covered with images of male elves in very suggestive positions.
"What in the Pits!"
William turned to see the girl he had seen with Falcrion earlier on, walk into the room from what seemed to be a bathroom. A bathrobe was wrapped around her figure and she was giving William an undoubtably suggestive look.
William gasped and turned his back to her. "I'm terribly sorry! I didn't know..."
"Hey, you're that guy from the village."
"What are you doing here?"
"William, have you discovered anything?" Serafyr called from the corridor.
"I'm sort of on a quest, I guess."
"It's about that box dad stole, right?"
"Yes. And he killed my surrogate father."
"Sorry about that. He likes killing innocent bystanders. You can look at me again, I'm dressed now."
William glanced over his shoulder. Fri'Ishal was dressed in a black bustier, skirt and knee high boots. She was looking at William with what he could only discern as an intrigue of sorts.
"You know, you're one of the better looking heroes to come bursting into the mountain in a while."
"Thanks. You're... not going to call the guards or something?"
"I could, but then you wouldn't have a chance to have your way with me."
"I don't want to have my way with you."
"Really? You'd be the first to say no to me."
"Sorry about that."
"No, no. I'm impressed. You're obvious a very sensitive and deep guy. Pretty much what I've been searching for."
"You're searching for someone?"
"I suppose so." William faced Fri'Ishal and looked into her eyes. "You're so beautiful. I feel like writing a poem about you."
"Let's skip that." Fri'Ishal pulled William in for a passionate kiss.
William's whole body was shivering with excitement. The force of Fri'Ishal's kiss almost tore his head off. This had to be love, no doubt about it. But it was not the dirty kind of love William had read about in Benthiron's "secret" stash of lewd books. This love was pure, it was perfect.
Just as William and Fri'Ishal let go of each other's mouths, Serafyr and Azaril entered the room.
"This is pretty weird."
"Hi, guys," William said, his voice slurred by passion.
"What do you think you are doing, young man? Cavorting around with your enemies daughter is not acceptable!"
"But we're in love."
Serafyr's eyes widened slightly. "Oh? Well, that changes everything."
"I could help you guys get the box, if you want," Fri'Ishal said.
"You'd do that?"
"For you, beloved, anything."
"That's helpful." Azaril smiled at Fri'Ishal. "Is Falcrion's Base of Evil in the same room as before?"
"No, dad's having that room painted. I think he splattered some minions all over the walls. I'll take you to the new Base of Evil."
Fri'Ishal led William and his two companions further along the corridor. Despite the imminent danger ahead, William felt happy. His head was buzzing with the insanity of newfound love.
After climbing up a flight of stairs the company entered a large hall through a pair of heavy doors. Notes played on an organ were echoing across the air, their source being hidden by shadows in the back of the hall.
Serafyr shoved William forward. "Falcrion is there. We must find the Box and you must see your quest to its conclusion."
Meanwhile Fri'Ishal and Azaril had moved to the left. William looked as Falcrion's daughter and the wizard let out muffled cheers and returned to him and Serafyr's side, the coveted box clutched in Azaril's hands.
"That's half of the job done."
William went forward. He could see a dark shape swaying from left to right, seated before a huge organ that dominated the back wall of the hall. William cleared his throat and the shape stopped moving. William could now make out a cape pooling on the floor around a small stool and a pair of hunched shoulders shaking with fury.
"Who dares to disturb my organ-lesson?"
"Falcrion... I... I challenge you."
Falcrion turned around. "Oh, the boy from the village."
"I'm not a boy! My name is William Nonsyrnamé! You killed my sort-of-father, prepare to die!" William revealed his sword.
"Your name is William?" Falcrion smiled. "I doubt you really want to kill me."
"Yes I do," William said and raised his sword. "I've had a really weird day so far, I might as well end it by killing you."
"You will not kill me. Not after you hear a shocking revelation. William... I am your father."
William let out a gasp. "Impossible! How can you be my father?"
"Quite simply, I had an affair during a royal celebration, back when I worked as the Royal Advisor. Both I and your mother had drunk a little too much, one thing let to another, and nine months later you were born."
"But... You can't be my father... You're the bad guy!"
"If I had had my way, you would be a villain too. Instead, your mother went into hiding and later on she hid you away from me. I got extremely depressed, moved here and adopted Fri'Ishal to be my evil heir."
"If you truly are William's father," Serafyr said. "Then who is his mother?"
"You cannot honestly tell me, that you have yet to realize the truth! The Chosen One must be of royal blood..."
Azaril's eyes widened. "Oh my gods! You were the one who slept with Simiel's mom! It was all over the tabloids!"
"Indeed. The old queen has always been a lady of very loose morals and a bad drinking habit."
"So I'm a prince?"
"Yes, so it would seem. This is all very astonishing." Serafyr sheathed the Sword of Might. "William, you have to kill your father."
"I can't do that!"
"You most certainly will not." Falcrion waved his hand and black smoke surrounded him. "If you killed me now, what would become of the sequel?"
Once Falcrion had disappeared, the heroes stood around in awkward silence.
Finally William spoke, "well, what do we do now?"
"We have the Box back. We might as well head to Anonymous, Simiel needs to get her shoes."
"Shoes?" William looked at the wizard.
"Yeah." Azaril opened the box and pulled out a pair of eloquent, high heeled pumps. "Simiel had these made for the Annual Fantasy Symposium. She's really going to show it to all those other princesses this year."
"I went through all this for a pair of shoes?" William broke down in hysterical tears.
"Look on the bright side," Fri'Ishal said. "You found out who your family is, got some new friends, a great sword, saved the day and got the girl."
William sniffed. "I guess that's pretty good."
Fri'Ishal chuckled and rubbed herself against William. "Just wait till the heroic victory party, you'll see just how good it can be."
"But how would Falcrion be able to destroy the world with those shoes?" William tilted his head, missing Fri'Ishal's innuendo completely.
"Have you ever seen an old man in drag?" Serafyr raised an eyebrow.
Fri'Ishal nodded. "Dad was going to dress up and walk around the country. His theory was that people's brain's would explode at the sight of him and eventually he would make the whole world blow up."
"I never knew that cross-dressing could be so dangerous."
"In the wrong hands, it's the most dangerous thing in the universe," Azaril said. "Most villains wouldn't dare to even try it."
"Enough explanations! Let us ride to Anonymous and celebrate the victory of good over evil!"
And so it was, that William Nonsyrnamé, the unassuming shepherd, discovered his origins, battled against evil, fulfilled his destiny, got lucky later that night and woke up with a bad case of hangover the following morning.
Stories and artwork Copyright 2009 by Mette Pesonen. Copying in whole or in part is prohibited. However, you may link to this page.
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