Oh, what an arduous journey this had been, walking across vast expanses of land, fighting off several enemies. Yes, Aosoth had brought on more of her fierce minions, and Coover had made sure to vanquish them all. Using her wicked sorcery, she summoned more skeletons and demons from the foulest regions of the underworld to impede upon the noble quest, but Coover had used his mighty sword to smash the skeletons and pierce the stomachs of the devilish creatures.
When they had reached the Plains of Agony, Coover feared not the place, even though it had the most fearsome name. Still, he and Gangrene walked through it proudly, and even when Aosoth summoned a giant fire-breathing beast, Coover never gave in to fear. When the demonic, ghastly monstrosity ululated with fury, Coover leapt into the air raising his sword, and dug the mighty weapon into the beast’s brain. With a final screech of defeat, a harsh noise so loud it almost deafened the two heroes, it fell to the ground.
After his blue eyes looked over the carcass, Coover stood atop it, hands on hips, head upwards. This death, this glorious defeat was a symbol of what would happen to Aosoth. Her vile maliciousness would soon come to an end, thanks to the cunning and wit of the mighty Coover.
‘Yes, my friend?’
‘Get your head out of the clouds, we still have a long way to go.’
‘I was merely reminiscing about my past victories.’
Gangrene released a gruff sigh while his icy eyes looked upward. ‘Yes, because you are the prophesied hero and will save us all. Anyway, we are nearing the mountains.’
Upon hearing that, Coover took a look at the jagged giants reaching for the clouded sky. Not too far from here, he had heard, was the home of the dragons, the fire-breathing beasts. Briefly, he pondered on whether or not he should find their village and fight a dragon to deliver a message to Aosoth and her servant, but finding the Eye of Shodden was the more important task.
The two travellers stopped at a cliff edge, and stared at the mountains for a while before Gangrene spoke. ‘I believe the cave can be found somewhere beneath this cliff, at the foot of one of these mountains. We must be…’
‘Come on!’ said Coover, raising his sword into the air once more, wishing to revel in its majesty constantly. ‘You said we have little time.’
Though the ferocious winds blowing his beard in his face distracted him somewhat, Gangrene cast a spell, conjuring up a staircase that led to the bottom of the mountainous range. Upon laying his eyes on this mystic construct, Coover began his descent. Gangrene could not follow him, as he had to stay still in order to concentrate. Slowly Coover approached the foot of the mountains, letting the wind blow in his face to make his hair and clothes look heroic.
A screech shattered the silence.
As Coover neared the bottom of the cliff, a large black bird, its thin beak lined with fangs, descended like a giant descending bat descending from somewhere to descend from. Coover raised his sword to behead the shrieking beast, snarling as he did so. However, before he could land the blow to defeat the monster, the staircase disappeared. In an instant, he landed on his posterior, losing his grip on the sword in the process. As Gangrene used his magic to float on down, the giant bird had flown away.
‘Sorry,’ said Gangrene, rubbing some debris off his beard, ‘There are some rather irritating insects in these parts.’
‘Do not worry, old friend,’ said Coover, before turning around, ‘Oh no! My sword, my precious weapon, it is lost among these accursed rocks! Now how will I vanquish evil? How…’
‘It’s right here. Still in good nick.’
‘Oh, so it is. But, how could I be so careless to lose it?’ Coover buried his face in his hands, letting the tears flow like waterfalls of misery, ‘What if I fail to complete this quest and all of Kirkalan is lost…oh wait, I’m prophesied, aren’t I?’ His faith renewed, Coover retrieved his weapon from Gangrene and pointed it in the direction of the path he intended to take. ‘Old friend!’ bellowed Coover, ‘Lead the way.’
Lifting himself again to rest his feet, Gangrene went off further between the mountains. ‘As you wish.’
The red bathing the laboratory grew a darker shade as Aosoth viewed her two enemies through her crystal ball. Seeing them quest for the Eye of Shodden, the one artefact that could destroy her, reminded her of the fate that befell her father. Balling her claws into fists, she pondered on how the bird just went and flew away when Coover fell. That bird was another creation from Daryl’s head, formed when Aosoth appeared behind Daryl and said, ‘Boo!’ She sent it to kill Coover, but it didn’t do its job. Pity.
So now what? Should she seal up Daryl’s head if it wasn’t working? No, that would be a nice thing to do, and she couldn’t be nice at a time like this. That was what Father’s problem was; he was far too nice. He had such little killer instinct, it was no wonder he got thwarted by Daniel.
A grin lit Aosoth’s face, and the red in the room became a little brighter. This wasn’t Daniel she was facing against, and she certainly wasn’t her father. This should be, as they call it so often in her profession, child’s play.
Still, she had to make some effort against them. Otherwise, people would think she was losing her touch.
Could Daryl create something better? Maybe she’d finally have an excuse to use that torture chair her cousin got her for her birthday.
Or maybe she could just send Daryl himself to deal with them.
It was tradition for the evil overlords and magicians to send out their best guardians to kill the hero only when the hero reaches their castle, so Aosoth felt a small amount of guilt spring up from this idea. That guilt evaporated though, when she reminded herself of the importance of thinking outside the box, and the fact that most guardians didn’t have monsters coming out of their heads.
Thus, she slithered away from her laboratory, leaving it in inky darkness as she made her way down the halls. She always liked socialising with her workers. Upon reaching the door to Daryl’s room, she slammed it open, sending Daryl scrambling around the room. He shuddered, yet no monster came out. No matter. He’ll be making them soon enough.
‘W-what is it?’ Daryl forced himself to stand upright, wings stretched out. ‘Your evilness?’
Aosoth laughed, taking quick looks at the cranial cavity as she did so. ‘You must be bored, am I right?’
It took a second for Daryl to answer, with him fiddling his claws all the while. ‘N-no, this place is…it’s very interesting! Ne-never a dull mo-moment.’
Aosoth smiled and nodded. ‘Now, Daryl, you are aware of the two questing to destroy us?’
Something about what she said made Daryl firmer, more energetic. ‘Do you want me to make more monsters?’
‘Actually, I would prefer that you go out yourself and deal with those two. They’re in the mountains, searching for the cave where my weakness is held. Roast them to a crisp, rip out their guts, do whatever you want! Just as long as they’re dead.’ Already Daryl had begun to lose his balance. ‘Do you believe you can manage that?’
‘Well, erm,’ Daryl said, still wringing his hands. Despite his obvious reluctance, Aosoth still couldn’t help but smile. ‘Sure! Of course! I’ll get right on it!’
While her mood was still upbeat, Aosoth crumpled her face into a ferocious grimace. ‘You had better. I have been in doubt of you, now that those monsters of yours failed to deliver.’ She neared Daryl, the latter frozen in place, and she stroked the underside of his chin. ‘It would be such a shame if I have to…dispose of you. You have been such a great help,’ she continued, making sure her red glow was as fierce as possible, ‘at times. But I do believe you may be expendable…’
Ducking, Daryl ran past Aosoth and through the halls, down the stairs, and through the doorway. Aosoth then approached her crystal ball, giving the red light to her laboratory once more, and in the spherical glass, saw Daryl flutter away to the mountains.
She didn’t cackle in anticipation of Coover’s death, or grumble at Daryl’s incompetence. Rather, she just sat and waited to see what would happen next.