18 April 2020

My Hero

A stronger wind picked up outside of the tower, and even with the shutters closed, some draught got through to the already chilly chamber. The maiden, stripped naked and chained to an altar of ancient, runed stone, shivered.

"Oh," the warlock said, snapping back to reality. "Sorry about that... Gilda, was it?" He went over to the vaulted windows and drew the heavy curtains closed. "The nights are getting a bit cold, right?"

Gilda watched him with wide, frightened eyes. She had stopped crying and pleading hours ago.

"I'd give you a blanket or a nice cup of hot tisane, but unfortunately, there are traditions to be upheld and expectations to be met. Magic is just so slow and needlessly complicated. I mean, virgin blood, new moon, bones of three sinful priests? It can be a real bother."

She didn't smile back.

"But don't worry, I won't be taking up your time for much longer. We can more or less begin."

He took a pouch from the table overflowing with open books and boxes of ingredients, then went around the altar, leaving behind a circular line of bone ash while whispering in a language that seemed to contain way too few vowels. As he closed the circle, the outside noises were muffled, as if some oppressive silence has crept into the shadows of the room.

Gilda swallowed a silent sob and half-heartedly tried her bonds once more. They held as tight as ever.

The warlock returned to the table and rummaged for a while, until he found a long, wavy dagger and a bowel made from a human skull. He renewed his chanting, slowly picking up both the pace and volume. The flickering of candles made the shadows on the walls dance, and they all added their own silent theme to the chant.

As the warlock stepped over the circle of ash, a distant thunder rolled. Gilda was sweating and breathing hard, nearly drowning on air. The warlock was shouting now, the dagger raised high above his head. Gilda cried out as he looked down at her, his eyes as black and endless as the night, and-

-the door flew off their hinges, crashing on the floor.

"Stop at once, minion of Evil!" said the newcomer, his voice mighty and pleasant to the ears. Clad in shiny imperial steel, his sword drawn and pointed menacingly at the warlock, he stroke a magnificent pose. He took off his helmet, golden hair spilling out, and revealed his noble, clear-cut face. His brow was furrowed and his sky-blue eyes held a promise of safety and justice.

The warlock put down the bowl with a loud clack. "Do you know how impolite this is? My alarm spells triggered at least ten minutes ago! Were you just waiting in the hallway to-"

"Silence!" The knight advanced towards the altar. "Abolish your fears, my fair dame, for I am here! I am glad I was able to arrive in the nick of time for your rescue from the filthy clutches of this wretch of a man!"

"Milord," Gilda cried out, "beware of his wizardry! He might-"

The knight laughed out loud. "Worry not, my delicate flower. He is toothless and defenceless. His magics may be dark and terrible, but the rituals take time and he has none left in this world. Tonight, warlock, you shall perish by the blade of-"

With a flick of the warlock's wrist, the prince disappeared. A strong scent of brimstone flooded the room.

"Unless you waltz into a mage's tower, where he had years to prepare traps, dumbass," the warlock frowned, then glanced at Gilda. "Pardon my language."

"Anyway, I hope you won't hold this interruption against me. I'm trying to be a professional here, but sometimes the Fates just conspire against you and you have to make do with whatever hand you are dealt, right?"

"Now, if I could have a request," he raised his dagger again, "would you mind screaming for a bit? It'll help rebuild the ambiance."

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for the story - I hope poor Gilda ain't goin' out like that! I can see you ending it here to prove the point, but just for this reader, it would be cool if there were a part II in which Gilda succeeds in being a hero to herself and ventilates that snide murderous mage's hide.

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    1. I have been thinking about doing a follow-up. Maybe. Eventually. ;)

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    2. Maybe a sequel? That would be great!
      Have you ever read "Lost Hearts"? Your urbane mage reminds me of the villain of M.R. James's 1895 short story.

      "To the testing of the truth of this receipt I have devoted the greater part of the last twenty years, selecting as the corpora vilia of my experiment such persons as could conveniently be removed without occasioning a sensible gap in society... The final "victim" to employ a word repugnant in the highest degree to my feelings, must be my cousin, Stephen Elliott. His day must be this March 24, 1812."

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    3. I have not, but it sounds interesting. And it seems to be freely available as an epub.

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  2. But who is the real villain here, a polite murdering bastard, or a rude murdering bastard more intent on his own personal timing?

    Just kidding, clearly Gilda is going to eat both of them once the unholy beast breaks through into our world

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