(This image is a recreation of a panel from this comic page I drew)
As he exited Aosoth’s castle, smelling the rotting flesh of almost-heroes near the door, Daryl took a quick look at his home. In a grey, dismal place like this, with its sky blotted by black clouds and dearth of thriving plantlife, Aosoth’s castle should have complimented the surroundings. Yet when he looked at the tower, proudly displaying the flapping eyeball flag, it felt out of place. It didn’t belong. It should be removed.
Then he looked at the face that adorned the front of the castle. It bore a grin that would have resembled Aosoth if it had fangs, but those stone pseudo-gnashers were just as bad. Still, that grin of Aosoth’s always made Daryl’s stomach sink, but not as much as her grimace. Though if Aosoth asked him to make her smile, that was his duty.
Beating his wings, Daryl set off for the mountains. Away from Aosoth’s domain, away to where trees could actually grow and the sky could actually be blue once in a while. When he first left Aosoth’s home, the lighter air calmed him a little, but then he began to remember the villages he burned to the ground, and the smell of roasted entrails and charred wood forced their way into his nostrils.
He swore he felt squirming.
Despite the doubts beginning to form, Daryl tried to fly as quickly as possible to the mountainous range, and yet it still seemed to take quite a while for him to get there. While he didn’t recall much about his childhood, he did remember occasionally flying to the top of mountains, as it would usually clear his head. With that in mind, he rose to the sky, embracing the chill of the range. For just a few minutes, his worries became more slippery and oozed away, and whatever was in his head calmed down.
Just let it all melt away. Ah. There we go.
You can do this.
Down, down, he dove, watching the mighty grey giants turn to blurs as he landed. His foot hit a sharp rock, which instinctively made him holler in pain, complete with a quick blast of fire.
Now you’ve done it.
Clutching his claws over his mouth, Daryl looked for a place to hide. There, that rock looks big enough. Crouching behind it, Daryl peered over slightly. There was nobody approaching, which still made his heart pound quickly. Thankfully, the surprise didn’t create any more lifeforms. Holding the cavity anyway, Daryl crept across the surface, looking for any sign of the heroes.
Look at that big rock. Just the right size for that hole. Maybe that’ll stop the monsters from coming.
No, Aosoth wanted monsters, didn’t she?
Well, perhaps this’ll stop them coming prematurely. Yes. When Coover makes his appearance, it comes off and the boy gets strangled by tentacles. Good plan, good plan.
Daryl placed the rock on his head, but it plopped into the portal, lost forever in that abyss. ‘Ow!’ came a voice, which made Daryl scramble about for a larger rock. Upon finding one that blocked the hole, Daryl no longer crept, but rather strolled casually among the rocks and caves. He suddenly remembered, as he peered upwards, that not too far from this area, was the village where other dragons like him lived. He couldn’t very well pay that place a visit though, not when there was work to be done.
‘Gaze, Gangrene! I believe I may have found the mystical cave!’
This exclamation slowed Daryl’s pace again, as he pushed himself against the rocky walls.
‘No, that’s not the Eye of Shodden. It’s a bat.’
‘Indeed, a bat. A symbol of power, of mystery…’
‘No, just a bat. I can sense that we are still not near the Eye.’
Oh, they haven’t found it yet. That’s good. If it could destroy Aosoth, it could destroy him too. So now that they were defenceless, he could easily…didn’t Aosoth want to know where the Eye was located though? The wizard could sense it or something, so he could aid her with that goal.
From her frustrations with Bob and Gary, feelings Daryl admitted to sharing, Aosoth obviously preferred intelligent minions. Think think think Daryl. If you formulate a scheme, she’ll be proud. Maybe she’ll even eliminate this curse.
‘Wait!’ the wizard cried, ‘I think I hear something!’
Think think think think
Hearing their footsteps, Daryl looked about for another rock to duck under, maybe even a cave to hide in. Turning around, he saw an opening that was as tall as he was, and flew towards it.
‘Stay where you are, beast!’
Hearing that bellow forced Daryl to quickly descend, landing on his belly among the rocks and debris. There stood Coover, leaning on his sword. That weapon was the first thing Daryl saw upon falling, yet his attention diverted itself to the wielder. So this was the mighty Coover, destined to bring peace to Kirkalan. He didn’t seem too different from the usual human, not that Daryl had much contact with that species. With his brown tunic smeared with dirt and soot, and the tattered boots that adorned his feet, Coover made Daryl remember those villagers. All those villagers he looked down upon, those villagers he killed. Those he made scream and burn and die and burn and scream.
Coover was just one of them. If Daryl could stand up and terrify a whole group of them, certainly he could dissuade Coover from continuing the quest.
He tried to roar, let loose a torrent of fire that would reduce the boy to a pile of ashes. Opening his mouth, he revealed his many fangs. It made Coover back away a little, good, good. Closing his eyes tightly, he then tried to summon up his famous flame, yet his throat began to ache as much as his head.
‘Too frightened to attack?’
Blinking open his eyes, Daryl saw Coover’s sword in front of his face. The boy himself smiled, lowering the weapon to Daryl’s neck. Still on the ground, Daryl backed away, gibbering to himself all the while. Still smiling, Coover raised the sword, which was Daryl’s cue to rise into the air once again, the atmosphere doing little to calm his nerves.
‘Coward!’ cried Coover. Upon hearing that yell, Daryl immediately imagined it being said in Aosoth’s voice. Slowly he descended, and yet his feet did not touch the ground. Aosoth wanted him to think, and he thought that staying up would give him an advantage. He told his throat to breathe fire again, and yet it remained ever-dry, ever-non-co-operative.
Then came a blast of magic.
Bursts of blue energy flourished from the wizard’s hand, trapping Daryl before grounding him once more. It created a cage, a rather small one, repressing Daryl’s arms and legs as he lay before the two heroes.
‘W-what,’ Daryl said, suddenly getting the urge to speak. ‘What are you going to do with me?’
The wizard put his hand on Coover’s shoulder before turning to Daryl. ‘Are you going to co-operate with us?’
‘Y-you mean,’ Daryl forced a smile. ‘You’re not going to kill me?’
‘We can’t make guarantees,’ Gangrene replied, shaking his head. Upon hearing this, Daryl still kept his pseudo-smile, but shuddered. ‘Now…’
What should he say? What would Aosoth want? Would she break out of this cage? Of course she would, she’s magic. Daryl didn’t have magic though so he had an excuse, oh wait, why didn’t he move out of the way when the wizard blasted him?
For that matter, why didn’t he move out of the way that time Bob blasted him?
All of a sudden it flashed before his eyes. Bob and Gary, not outside Aosoth’s castle, but in the mountains, in front of a roaring fire. In Bob’s hand, a special sword, looking not too different from Coover’s, only this weapon could unleash electrical currents of magic. Both Daryl and…
‘Listen to me!’ The village disappeared, replaced with the icy eyes of the wizard. ‘Now, tell me everything you know about Aosoth!’
‘I hate her!’
Daryl’s last cry did not echo through the area, but it might as well have, as it sent Daryl in a foetal position, looking about the rocky walls and caves rapidly.
‘Are you going to tell us about your mistress or not?’ said Coover, shoving his sword near Daryl’s left ear.
‘I-I don’t know,’ came Daryl’s weak reply.
Coover’s hand began to shake, but his companion pulled him away, eyes still fixed on Daryl. ‘Ah yes, you fear her.’
‘You work for her only because you do not want punishment.’
‘No no no!’ Shaking his head quickly, Daryl feigned a smile. ‘I like her I like her.’ At that moment, Daryl saw a small white leg on top of his snout. Down hopped a monster that resembled an egg, only with hollow eyes that almost took up its entire form. No longer smiling, Daryl watched it hop on his lap and slowly tried to touch it.
An ear-shattering screech, sounding like a hawk’s cry mixed with the war chant of a barbarian. It, having broken Gangrene’s concentration, also made the magic cage disappear, so there was something. With a little more freedom to move, Daryl tried to grab the creature, only to have it run off. A chase ensued, but it ended with Daryl tripping over a rock, and Gangrene using his magic to stop the little bugger.
‘Is this Aosoth’s doing?’
While his claws reached for his snout, Daryl still couldn’t help but speak. ‘Yes, yes. S-she said it would m-make more minions, or something or maybe…’ No longer able to talk, Daryl looked around, his legs growing weaker.
‘Oh, so that’s the witch’s game, is it?’ In a second, Coover had plunged his beloved sword into Daryl’s cranium, and despite the helm touching the ridge, Daryl felt no pain.
‘Coover,’ said Gangrene as Coover pulled the sword from the pit, ‘This is powerful magic indeed. I’ll try to reverse it, but I doubt it’ll do any good.’ As quickly as Coover shoved the sword into Daryl’s cavity, more blue energy sprung from Gangrene’s fingers, until it resulted in a miniature explosion. Daryl, still with the hole in his head, lay shuddering.
‘Oh no,’ said Daryl, ‘Oh no, oh no, oh no.’
Coover folded his arms. ‘I daresay you deserve such a thing.’
Daryl’s voice turned into a croak. ‘I know.’