Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories
Rashan the Mighty
"Sit yourself down and listen and I will spin you a tale of Rashan the Mighty."
Now when Rashan was small he turned to his mother the Spolite Queen and spoke, "Mummy,"
"Yes, even Spolite Queens are called mummy by their offspring, now silence yourself. Now, where was I? Oh yes."
"Mummy, when I grow up I want to be a great hero." His mother, the Spolite Queen heard and in her heart, or that space that takes the place of a heart in a Spolite Queen she was troubled by this request for young Rashan was tiny and malformed. No doubt due to the evil of her acts and thoughts for even the innocent suffer from such contact.
"What? Cut the commentary? But that's the ethical core of my tale. Oh all right I will strive to limit my comments. Is that sufficient? Fine then."
She was troubled for she loved her tiny spawn and wished naught but the best for him. But how to overcome his puny frame and sickly disposition? She ruffled his hair and bestowed upon him one of her rare hugs. Smiling she said, "Of course sweetling, anything mummy can do to help I shall do so. Just give me time to thing on it." This satisfied the lad for one so young knows naught but unconditional love for his dam. So the Spolite Queen thought and pondered. There was dark magic she had heard of that could turn a man into one of the dire denizens of the night but this would alter his very nature and appearance and this she could not bear.
So for seven times seven seasons she thought on this matter. During that time the Queen hired the best tutors for the lad and he was instructed in the arts of the hazar. The theoretical he mastered with ease, there was naught wrong with his brains. The physical alas he was hopeless at. He couldn't spar for the weakest opponent was too much for him. He could not climb for the slightest obstacle proved to be too much for him. Swinging on a rope left him with ropeburns and bruises when he fell. But for all that Rashan was and wasn't a quitter was not among them. He had to be watched and even restrained from over exerting himself, or even killing himself. In that puny, twisted frame beat the heart of a hero. All his tutors bore the same message to the Spolite Queen, Rashan was smart enough and the will was there but he would never be the stuff of heroes.
This troubled the Queen and she searched for an answer. And finally in the boy's 15th year on the very brink of manhood she found an answer. An alchemist came forward, for the word had long been spread that the Spolite Queen would bestow great rewards on anyone who could transform her son's weak frame. This alchemist spoke of a secret potion that only he knew the secret of, a dire brew that could transform a person and make them the stuff of heroes.
"No, I don't know what was in it. If I knew that do you think I would be sitting here, a twisted old storyteller? No, I would be off slaying dragons and monsters. Now, shush."
This alchemist sought a rich reward and the Queen promised to cover him with gold and precious gems. She also promised dire retribution should anything bad happen to her son. Her countenance darkened and the alchemist blanched at this. But he was a fool and agreed to proceed. The Queen gave him everything he requested not blinking or flinching at some of the foul ingredients, nor hesitating to sacrifice the innocent for the alchemist's purposes. The brewing of the potion was a mighty endeavour and the Queen assisted by casting dark magics and calling upon foul beasts not of this world. Many a loathsome pact was sworn and many a horrendous bargain made. Together they strove for seven times seven weeks. Finally the potion was nearly finished. The final ingredients were a bull and a lion. The mightiest of the mighty of these two species were required and the Queen arranged for a Great Hunt.
The Great Hunt was a glorious affair indeed. All the greatest huntsmen of the land gathered and swore a mighty oath to deliver up to the Queen the kings of the bull and lion tribes. The huntsmen were divided into two parties each led by one of the Queen's henchmen through whose eyes she could see and through whose lips she could issue commands. Long did they track these mighty beasts, fully seven times seven days. These great beasts vied with all the animal cunning and supernormal intelligence at their commands. But these were as naught compared to the Queen's foul magics and the abilities of the hunters. Finally each of the two parties had managed to corner a king. The kings made as to fight for their lives, the lesser members of their tribes having been scattered and left long behind them. But a fight was not to be, the Queen's agents in each party made a gesture and a magical net was cast which entangled the king. Once entangled the beasts fell strangely docile. The huntsmen cared naught for this end to the hunt. Indeed they had already felt disquiet at the actions of the Queen's men and the use of foul magic. Gold silenced their complaints though. None of them however would speak of that hunt afterwards though.
The Queen's retainers returned with the ensnared bull and lion who were brought into the alchemist's lair never to be seen again. After a final night of foul magics, desperate roaring and blood the potion was finally finished. Despite its mighty magical properties it had the seeming, for the Spolite Queen was of course a mighty illusionist, of a simple cordial such as the Queen was wont to serve her son from time to time.
Despite his puniness and lack of physical prowess the prince was well favoured at the court for his kind spirit and noble nature. There had been much muttering among the court at the Queen's aims in working with the alchemist. All this had come to naught however due to the Queen's spies and the general atmosphere of fear at the court. So no one suspected aught when a young maid brought the prince yet another cordial to drink. The prince always humoured his mother having a peculiarly blind eye when it came to his mother's nature. What happened next is not known. It is known that the prince drank the cordial and that he then screamed as though he was being rended into pieces. The maid then fled in terror also screaming.
The Queen rushed to her son's bedchamber accompanied by the alchemist. There she found a stranger tangled in her son's sheets. Gone forever was the slight youth of unhealth demeanour and lank hair. Instead she found a giant of a man with the grace of a lion and the strength of a bull. He lay still, as though dead but she quickly determined through her magics that he was indeed alive and healthy. She smiled and turned to the alchemist who stood there greedily counting up his promised reward. She smiled at him and the alchemist faltered, not liking her smile at all. "And now for your reward," she said. She made an arcane gesture and the chamber was rocked as though by an earth tremor. The floor split and a dreadful apparition emerged. To describe it is to attempt to describe madness itself. This creature turned to look at the alchemist, and he stood there frozen by terror. He did squeak a protest though saying, "But you promised me a rich reward." "Oh and I intend to keep my promise. This creature will reward you for your greed and stupidity by covering you in gold and precious gems. Molten gold of course. For I have made a bargain with this creature and I always keep my promises to the letter. No one else shall benefit from your potion." The creature moved forward and a familiar but unfamiliar voice spoke. "No, Mother this shall not be."
All parties turned and saw Rashan standing there nude. He locked eyes with the dread creature and it was forced to turn its eyes away. Truly now was he Rashan the Mighty. "I do not know what sort of deal you made with this abomination but it shall not stand. What does this," he paused in disgust, "thing wish instead. It simply has to name it and I shall see it done." The Spolite Queen was furious inside, she hadn't counted on her son possessing a vigorous spirit AND a physical vigor to back it up. She turned to the abomination and questioned it. Her face drained of color as it told her what it would accept in place of the alchemist. She visibly faltered and did not immediately respond. "What mother, what does it wish? I have made a promise and Rashan keeps the letter and the spirit of his vows." She turned to her son and said, "It wishes the heart of the Ogre of Mount Rakshish. "So be it," said Rashan.
Furthermore the vile beast demanded Rashan's life to be forfeit in place of the alchemist's if he failed. Not that Rashan would be returning, it laughed, if he failed. Rashan nodded his agreement to this condition swearing a mighty oath on his life to bring the vile monster the ogre's heart. He decided to leave immediately. Satisfied the vile being departed in a sulferous cloud. Outraged inside but hiding it from her son the Queen began to make preparations for Rashan's departure. The Queen had the alchemist imprisoned without Rashan's knowledge so that she could still inflict her own vengeance on him if her son failed.
The Queen spared no expense in outfitting Rashan. She gave him a long coat of bronze scales washed with gold and protected by mighty spells. A fine pointed helm with phoenix plumes covered his head while a delicate seeming dwarven chain iron camail dangling behind protecting his neck. For weapons she gave him a long hafted curved headed axe, a mighty mace ringed around with spikes, a round shield with a deadly spike in the centre, and a curved sword known as Separator that could be wielded one or two handed. A brace of spears, a fine bow and a quiver of magic arrows were also included. For a mount she gave him a noble hippogriff that had been raised from youth to obey his every wish. After bathing and shriving himself Rashan donned his armour and weapons over a spotless white robe and once he was fully dressed he was a sight that stirred the hearts and minds of men to great deeds and the loins of women to lust.
The Spolite Queen stood before her son and the sight of him filled her empty heart with pride and something passing for love. She could not embrace him in front of her court but she did give him her blessing, "My son, I know that you shall make me proud. Go forth and slay the ogre and return to me safe. Take this as a symbol of my love." She pressed a black cloth into his hand. He took the cloth and tied it around his upper arm. Rashan nodded and bowed to his mother and the assembled multitudes. Then he sprang to the sandle on the back of the hippogriff, saluted his mother and the assembled court and made the beast spring into the air.
As learned as he was in geography he had no trouble locating Mount Rakshish. As he neared the mountain he needed no extra help to locate its lair. There was a terrible swath of devastation all around the mountain where the ogre had been wrecking havoc. This Ogre of Mount Rakshish was infamous in its time. It had defeated all the forces sent against it and its appetites, both for human flesh and the bodies of young women were far feared. Many a hero had been slain by it and no army could approach its mountain lair. Somehow it was even proof to the darkest magics sent by the Spolite Queen and she had known herself helpless to defeat it. Rashan spotted a large cavern mouth that had to be the lair of the beast and made his hippogriff alight just outside its mouth.
Rashan tied his mount to a rock outcropping. After readying his weapons he bellowed a challenge to the ogre. "Show yourself foul monster. I, Rashan, have come to slay you." He waited but there was no answer from within the cave. Retrieving and lighting a torch from his well-stocked saddle bags Rashan cautiously entered the cavern. The torch light illimunated a dank cavern descending down into the earth. Rashan made his was downward, glad that there was only the one route to follow. The route descended, ever steeper until Rashan was forced to sheath his sword and clamber his way downwards.
Finally he came upon a great chamber and there he was faced with a grisly sight. The bones and possessions of countless warriors and other victims of the monster were strewn all over the chamber. This would have given a lesser man cause to pause. But Rashan was made of sterner stuff and he continuted on unflinchingly. As he crossed the chamber he noticed that the air became colder and he heard the sounds of breathing. There, across the chamber he espied a large mishappen lump! Was this the ogre? Knowing no other way Rashan bellowed another challenge to the monster. "Awaken foul beast, I Rashan have come to slay you." The mound stirred and bespoke himself. "Begone puny human, I have just eaten two heroes and a princess and I am no longer hungry. Come back tomorrow and I shall eat you."
"There will be no delaying your fate foul monster," said Rashan, "today is the day you are fated to die. So defend yourself or die where you sprawl!" "Tiresome insect," grumbled the ogre standing and stretching, "And here I was just having the most marvellous dream about eating a dragon." Once the ogre was up and standing a lesser hero would have blanched for its head scraped the top of the cavern and even its eyeballs had bulgy muscles on them. But not Rashan, grasping his shield in one hand and his sword Separator in the other he prepared himself for battle. The ogre slowly reached over for a huge tree trunk that it used as a club while secretly palming a large rock in its other hand. It brandished the club at Rashan saying, "I hate to utter tired old sayings but I shall grind your bones to make my bread little insect." With that utterance he flung the stone he held at Rashan who just managed to get his shield between his head and the rock before his brains were dashed all over the cavern. The impact knocked him off his feet and sent him tumbling to the ground.
The ogre laughed saying, "Already you are defeated little insect. You should have come back tomorrow and at least experienced one more pathetic day of life." Rashan stood up shaking his head somewhat unsteadily, "You surprised me ogre, it won't happen again. And my name is Rashan, not little insect. You should know the name of your slayer." The ogre looked disappointed that Rashan was still alive but he hefted his club and ran at Rashan roaring. He brought the mighty weapon down where Rashan had been standing but he had not only leapt out the way but he had left a deep slash in the ogre's leg with his sword. So first blood was Rashan's.
The battle raged back and forth with the ogre swinging at Rashan with his club and Rashan leaping out of the way. Rashan left many a scratch on the ogre's body but it didn't look like the monster was weakening. Finally with a mighty leap Rashan got high enough to cut the ogre's head off with one might blow of his sword. The head landed on the ground with a might thud and Rashan landed beyond the ogre's body waving his sword exulting in his triumph. He was stopped short when the ogre laughed. Rashan turned around in disbelief to face his foe and was startled to be addressed by his opponent. "Fool, you think you have defeated me? Look again for I have another head." And out popped a second head from the ogre's bloody trunk. "No matter ogre I still have my sword." And so again battle was engaged.
The ogre flailed again at Rashan, trying to strike him and every time he missed. This was good for if he had struck Rashan that would have been the end of him. Again and again the ogre swung at him and finally Rashan got close enough to strike again. Swish, once more head and ogre parted ways. Rashan stopped to catch his breath and was appalled to see the ogre turn to face him as yet headless. From inside the trunk its voice spoke, "Fool, I have as yet another head." Rashan shook his head, "Let us battle then for I still have my sword." Out popped the ogre's head and again they battled.
A third head was severed, then a fourth, a fifth, and a sixth. So that the floor of the cavern was littered with ogre's heads and blood. Finally as Rashan was reaching the limits of his strength a mighty blow severed the seventh head from the ogre's body. The ogre let out an unnatural wail and both head and body fell to the floor. Rashan stood panting, not letting down his guard, waiting for the beast to stand once more. He waited and managed to catch his breath as the ogre lay there not moving. Finally he cautiously approached the dead beast and poked it with his sword. No reaction, finally the beast was slain. He set to his bloody work of cutting the beast's heart out. As he cut he heard a tiny voice speaking. At first fearing it was the ogre again he leapt back but then after listenting to the voice a while he realized that it was the ogre's heart addressing him. He crept forward and crouched down listenting to the voice. Finally he nodded and resumed his work.
Meanwhile the Spolite Queen paced and fretted. All the court avoided her for fear of losing their lives. her magic had proven useless to observe her son's actions so she was restricted to pacing. Finally a great cry went up from the watchers who had been set and she heard the news that Rashan had been sighted. She awaited him in the great courtyard at the heart of the castle. The great hippogriff swooped in for a landing and her son alit. Her heart sank as she saw him drenched in the ogre's blood. But it leapt up when she saw him smile wearily and lift a small pouch to the sky. "I have the heart," he said. At these words the floor of the courtyard cracked open to the screams of the court. Most of them fled leaving Rashan and the Queen almost alone to face the nameless monstrosity with which Rashan had made his bargain.
Cackling the creature held out its taloned paw for the heart. Rashan walked over and placed the pouch in its hand. The creature roared in triumph, laughing diabolically. "Now power is mine," it said clearly so Rashan could understand. It continued, "With this heart inside me I shall be made near invulnerable. If it does for me what it did for that pathetic ogre I shall rule the world!" The Spolite Queen blanched and cowered wailing. Only Rashan seemed unmoved by the demon's words. He smiled then suddenly leapt towards the demon. With one sudden blow he sliced the demon's hand off and the pouch fell to the ground. The demon roared in pain and shock and made to grab the heart with his other hand. It was quick but Rashan was quicker, he grabbed the bag, took out the heart and quickly swallowed it. "I promised to bring you the heart, monster," he said, "Not to let you keep it."
Suddenly a bright glow could be seen coming from within Rashan and it quickly grew so bright that the demon and the Queen were forced to avert their faces from the light. The demon reared to its full height and pointing its remaining hand at Rashan said, "We shall meet again mortal. You may be sure of that and you shall die then!" With that said there was a thunderclap and the monster disappeared. The glow within Rashan subsided enough so that it no longer pained his mother. He looked at her with pity in his heart and made her promise to let the alchemist go as she had promised. She glanced at him and said, "Why do you make me swear this oath? Will you not be here to see me do so?" He shook his head, "No, mother our paths diverge here. I can no longer shelter in the darkness. From now on I must stand in the light." Saying so he mounted his steed and sent it flying off into the sky.
The Queen kept her word and sent the alchemist on his way burdened down with gold and jewels. And what is it to us if he soon ended his days at the hands of some foul thieves who hadn't even sent after him by the Queen?
September 12, 2003.
Last updated October 07, 2016
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