The sun, that giant blazing orb that brought illumination and hope, was the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes on that day, beaming over the land of Kirkalan. It sat proudly atop its throne, reminding the citizens of this land that Aosoth, that vile mistress of evil, would soon be vanquished. Its striking and powerful symbolism injected within Coover an abundant energy that caused him to leap to his feet, and stand proudly above the hilltop, overlooking an innocent village, untouched by Aosoth’s wickedness. His hand clutching his sword, he thought on how the people below would no longer have to live in fear. They would be free, and all because of the ways of Coover, the prophesied hero.
As Coover looked over the serene village beneath the majestic hill, he heard a slight mumbling behind him. Turning around, he saw his new mentor, the wizard Gangrene, awakening from his slumber underneath the proud oak tree. Placing a hand on his back, he growled, ‘Well, it’s cheaper than the inn.’ Reminded of monetary concerns, Gangrene counted his gold coins before turning to Coover. ‘Oh, posing again are we? I assume you got a good night’s sleep?’
‘Yes,’ proclaimed Coover, looking down at the elderly magic-practitioner. ‘But how could I not stay awake when we still have a quest to complete?’
‘Indeed,’ said Gangrene, ‘but we aren’t going to get any further by merely waxing poetic.’
‘I am merely trying to build morale,’ stated Coover, twirling his sword in the air, making the glorious sunshine reflect off the blade, ‘We need all the confidence we can get in these unsure times.’
‘Yes.’ Gangrene pulled out the coins again. ‘But I think we need some breakfast first. Hopefully, the food down there will be somewhat cheap…’
Laughing boisterously, Coover closed the wrinkled fingers of his tutor, hiding the shining pieces. ‘We don’t need to buy breakfast. After all, I am an expert hunter.’
‘Of course we need to hunt,’ replied Gangrene, ‘but not when there is a better alternative available.’ He gestured to the village.
‘Oh, you.’ Coover chuckled again, his face filled with a hopeful joy.
Gangrene sighed. ‘And the people down there are sure to be better hunters, too. As in, they wouldn’t let a stag kick them in the face.’
Reminded of this horrible failure from this harsh criticism, a single tear dripped from Coover’s eye. But no. He would not let that failure consume him. He would continue to battle the nefarious forces of Aosoth and would destroy her. Yes! He raised his sword into the beaming sunlight once more, embracing the sounds of nature surrounding him.
Gangrene sighed. ‘Well, if we’re going to skip breakfast, at least we’ll have more time to complete this quest. Come along.’ He walked away, twirling his finger in Coover’s direction. ‘We still have a long way to go, and many obstacles to face, and…’ Another sigh, complete with a palm to the forehead. ‘I have more to teach you too.’
‘As much as I admire your wisdom, my friend,’ Coover exclaimed, marching alongside his companion, ‘I don’t feel I need to learn any more. I, after all, have mastered swordplay in a week!’ To remind the stoic conjurer of his abilities, Coover twirled his weapon, and unfortunately caused it to descend upon his foot.
Gangrene rose his wrinkled face, and covered it with his ancient palm. ‘Teenagers.’
The red in her room grew deeper as Aosoth surveyed Coover and Gangrene through her crystal ball. That wizard had been another old enemy of her father’s, and the two had pitted their magic against each other on several occasions. It was not Gangrene that had led her father to his destiny, but Aosoth still cringed when she had to look at that smug face once again.
As she stood by her crystal ball, fingers forming a pyramid, she ended up being joined by her minions. Bob and Gary, holding Daryl by the arms. A grin lit her face as they entered – she was in the company of people she surpassed in strength and intelligence – and it grew wider when she saw what was fluttering out of Daryl’s head. An array of tiny bats, which increased in number when Bob punched Daryl in the stomach.
‘See,’ said Aosoth, hands behind back, ‘I knew that experiment would be a good thing. Now Bob and Gary have something to keep themselves occupied with.’
Daryl laughed angrily under his breath. ‘These two,’ he said, releasing himself from their grasp, ‘told me you were up to something.’
‘Oh yes,’ she said, trying to keep up her good mood, ‘I’ve been watching Coover. He’s been prophesized to stop me, apparently.’ She laughed shrilly, turning back to her crystal ball. ‘A lot of gunk, those prophecies are.’
‘I don’t know,’ said Gary. Aosoth turned to him as the red strengthened. ‘My horoscope said I’d meet a really nice girl, and…’ He paused, shuddering. ‘I met…you.’
Aosoth nodded. ‘I think we can do away with our little problem quickly.’ With that, Bob and Gary struck a pose, and Daryl shrank beneath them. ‘We send out the skeletons!’ As Daryl brushed his forehead, Bob and Gary returned to their normal stillness. ‘Now, off, off. I’ll call you when I need you again.’ So off toddled Bob, Gary and Daryl, with the dragon flapping back to his bedroom. The former two lingered outside though, where Aosoth could hear their conversation.
‘It’s always the skeletons, isn’t it, Gary?’
‘They cost less to feed.’
‘We never get to do anything exciting.’
Aosoth’s fingers began to itch, and the temptation to curse the two sparked, but she restrained herself. They did like to work, after all. Floating away from the door, she turned towards the crystal ball. Coover and Gangrene were still going about their little quest. Wasn’t Gangrene too old for such things anyway? Maybe he should retire.
Putting thoughts about age aside, Aosoth grabbed the book of necro-sorcery from the shelf and began to read. ‘Bones of the dead, rise once more, attack these fools, and make them sore!’ The customary flash of lightning punctuated the spell.
Aosoth stuck her face close to the crystal ball, which caused the red in the room to diminish. In the orb, she could see bony claws burst from the ground, causing the heroic duo to topple over backwards. The ground cracked open, steam erupting, and ten skeletons emerged, covered with dust and debris, armed with swords and shields bearing the eyeball symbol of Aosoth. Despite their lack of lungs and vocal chords, rasp breathing emanated from their jaws.
‘Minions of darkness!’ cried Coover, unleashing his sword again. ‘Leave this place immediately, before I am forced to eliminate you!’
The skeletons all let loose a hoarse laugh, and their mistress in her castle laughed with them. Snarling at this mockery, Coover swung his sword at a skeleton, knocking its head off. He watched the skull tumble about, only to have his own head whacked at. Another bout of laughter from the skeletons as Coover fell to the ground.
‘Vile beasts!’ exclaimed Coover as he attempted to get up, before being pressed down upon by a skeleton’s foot. More laughter, but this time, only from that one skeleton. The others watched in glee.
A torrent of magic hit them all.
With the skeletons reduced to dust, Coover looked up to see Gangrene rubbing his fingers. ‘Thank you, oh friend.’
‘Yes…’ Gangrene walked over to a decimated skeleton. ‘But this is the last time.’