The wind sounded like moaning. It was a cliché he had heard several times before, but it was appropriate. It didn’t sound like the moaning of fairytale ghosts either – rather a certain moan he couldn’t put his finger on. Was it the moans of his many victims? The moan of Aosoth as she met her demise? Or perhaps he was confusing the wind with the sounds in his head.
More head monsters were coming, he just knew it. After what he had done, he was surprised there wasn’t a flurry of them already.
What could he do to keep them at bay? Could he just remind himself that he saved Kirkalan, and brought an end to a reign of terror? He tried to think of the crowds cheering at their freedom, but the image of Aosoth’s disintegrating head would keep appearing in his brain.
The chill of the cave he had relocated to made him breathe a few flames. Doing that had always calmed him in moments of stress, so he followed that up with a huge blast of fire. Ah yes, that brought illumination to this bleak place. It was not what Daryl would call comfortable, but where else could he go? He was a dragon, and dragons were either lurking in evil castles or in dank caves. And with nothing left for him in…
Suddenly he was back in the castle, watching that disintegration replay itself. A murder he wasn’t told to do, one that he did of his own will. Aosoth appeared, as wrathful and malicious as ever, and he just attacked her. He wasn’t being controlled to do it. He wanted to do it.
In an instant, the castle disappeared, and the cave’s return was heralded by a sticky slithering down Daryl’s neck. A black worm, almost the same colour as the cave walls, crawled down his back and plopped down onto the floor. Its eyes on thin stalks, it observed the area for a while before Daryl crushed it in his hand.
He just killed it, didn’t he?
But that doesn’t matter, head monsters aren’t people. They’re just thoughts. Mindless little thoughts that have no purpose.
So where did that dog one go?
The howling winds grew louder, almost sounding like voices. What they were saying, Daryl didn’t understand, but he just knew whatever was talking, it was something he shouldn’t face. Deeper, deeper, he crawled into the cave, trying to let the slow sploosh of the drops calm him.
It was dark here. One could barely see anything. Perfect. He needed darkness. Shrouding, hiding him, safe and secure from the people who were undoubtedly looking for him.
Coover and Gangrene had travelled to the nearest village, with Bob and Gary in tow. The two goblins had spent most of the journey carrying Coover on their shoulders, but he jumped off when they got tired from giving him a lift, and he was tired from how uncomfortable their armour was. When they reached the village, one of the few untouched by Aosoth’s evil, Coover greeted the citizens and they, recognising him from the prophecy, gathered with hopeful smiles. The villagers did gasp when they saw Bob and Gary, but paid firm attention when Gangrene began to speak.
‘Everyone,’ he said, ‘Aosoth is dead.’
The people stood quietly for a while, before jabbering amongst themselves about whether or not it could be true.
‘It’s true!’ cried Gary, holding up the ashes collected in a bag. ‘She’s been disintegrated by the Eye of Shodden!’
The people still looked sceptical.
‘It was me that killed her,’ Coover claimed, with a wide grin. Gangrene shook his head.
‘Well, we can’t argue with a smile like that.’ So the whole village cheered, throwing their hats into the air and dancing in the streets. Once again, Coover found himself carried away in celebration, this time by a group of cheerful peasants, crying his name wildly. Gangrene shook his head and left the scene, leaving Bob and Gary to watch.
‘So, what are we going to do now, Bob?’
‘You know, Gary, I feel a little uneasy about this.’
‘Bob, we’re free now. We can get jobs that actually pay now.’
‘No, it’s just…’ Bob rubbed his head in frustration. ‘This is another failure for us. We failed to protect Aosoth…’
‘Oh, here we go…’
‘Every time we’re told to do something, we screw it up. I’ve wasted my-’
Gary slapped Bob in the face. ‘Get over it. We failed because evil doesn’t win here. Now then,’ he continued, turning to the crowd, ‘Maybe that lot will have a party. I wonder if they’ll let us have some hor d’oeuvres?’
A while later, Gangrene had retired to his home, to have a little rest. He deserved it after having to deal with that little brat, and even though he was not the one who killed her, Aosoth being dead felt like a weight lifted off his gut. After entering his library, filled with tomes of heroism and chivalry, and pulled out his favourite book: The Life and Times of Larry the Gryphon. Oh, that Larry. His failed love life always brought a smile to Gangrene’s wrinkled face.
As he snuggled up by the fireplace, suddenly there came a few knocks on his door. Grumbling from being torn away from his stories, Gangrene walked down the halls and was greeted by the welcome sight of none other than Denise the dragon.
‘Ah, Denise, it’s you,’ said Gangrene, shaking Denise’s hand. ‘How goes the training with Aruff?’
‘I’m progressing fine,’ said Denise, ‘though Aruff does keep some rather unwelcome company.’
‘Ah yes. The barbarians. Wouldn’t want them at a party.’
As Denise entered, Gangrene noticed some smoke emanating from Denise’s nostrils. ‘Gangrene,’ she said, ‘I’m somewhat uncomfortable about Aosoth’s death.’
News travels fast. ‘Yes, yes,’ grumbled Gangrene, ‘you’re sad that you weren’t prophesied.’
‘No, it’s just…’ Denise spluttered as she walked beside Gangrene, ‘your quest seemed to end a little too quickly. It seems a little suspicious.’
‘So you think Aosoth faked her death? I don’t think that would be like her.’
‘Well,’ said Denise, ‘When I heard it, apparently details on how she was killed were rather vague, and she apparently didn’t put up much of a fight.’
As they neared a set of chairs, Denise and Gangrene sat down, the former drumming her fingers on her chair’s arm and the latter sighing. ‘I’ve known Aosoth and her kin longer than you have,’ Gangrene said, ‘They’ve always had a flair for showmanship. If she’s still alive, she’d let us know.’
‘Perhaps you’re right,’ said Denise, leaning back on her chair. ‘And what about the dragon who served her?’
Gangrene looked askance before turning back to Denise. ‘He’s gone. He escaped from my magic and now we don’t know where he is. However,’ he continued, smirking, ‘I doubt he’ll survive very long.’
‘Hmm,’ Denise replied, looking at the ceiling. ‘Villains are a superstitious, cowardly lot. He’ll probably die without his mistress.’
‘May I get you something to drink while you’re here?’
‘No, no.’ Denise leaned forward, straightening herself up. ‘I’m not staying long.’
‘That is fine,’ said Gangrene, ‘Just remember to continue training under Aruff. He will help you grow strong.’ He slumped his shoulders, sighing. ‘It is a shame you could not learn your skills in under a week like Coover.’
A tiny chat later, and Denise departed.