A wrestles sage must go through perils to find a wizard who can heal a plagued kingdom.
|word count: 3,727 prompt: you wander through the ruins of a great city, and there you see an old man staring at you wearing a rusted crown.
The man’s eyes were closed. Slowly he sensed the wet, cold hard stone he was laying on. He felt a pain in his right temple. As he came to, he looked and saw a dimly lit prison with no other prisoners in his cell. He scanned his attire. His disguise did not work.
A lanky tall man with a short beard in a shiny chain mail approached the cell bars. “Terinth is your name correct?”
Terinth sat up painfully and nodded slowly to the guard.
“Your kingdom is at war with Nethaal. Why would you risk your life and venture through here?”
“You’re aware my kingdom of Wrethmire has been struck by a plague?”
”I am,” said the guard with a frown.
Terinth became silent. He looked down and ran his hand over his face. “You wouldn’t believe me about why I’m here.”
“I’m searching for a cure that lay miles away from here. Moreover my sister has the plague and there is not much time left.”
“I see. And where is this cure you know it exists?”
“This is where you would not believe me.” Terinth wobbled to his feet, took a deep breath than looked into the guard’s eyes. “Inside an old book there contains a map to a sorcerer who can do miracles. I have the page with the map with me.”
“Ha, ha, ha! Rubbish! I don’t believe you. Get used to your cell man. You’ll be here for a while. Sorry your little disguise failed. Some of our guards have a keen eye. One of them knew you from long ago. He could tell you were a Wrethmire sage.”
It looked hopeless. Terinth’s quest was over before it barely began. He sat against the rough, coarse stone wall and lowered his head. The sage had failed his people. He cringed at the inevitable death of Wrethmire at the hands of the horrid disease, especially his sister. But he deserved being imprisoned. Terinth thought it was due punishment for coming short.
Forty minutes later, another guard came to the cell bars. “You’ve been released.”
Terinth’s head snapped up. “What? Why?”
“I don’t know. I was instructed to free you at the order of one of the chamberlains.”
The guard put a key into the keyhole and he pulled the prison bars open and there was a loud squeak.
“You’re to be brought to the Chamberlain Herrow,” the guard said flatly. “Follow me.”
The guard led Terinth up a spiraling gray stone staircase. They reached the main gallery where royal individuals walked about. The sage visually perused the grand chamber with wide eyes.
He was led to a silver door. “He awaits you,” the guard said as he motioned for Terinth to go in.
He grabbed the cool smooth handle of the door and pulled it open. Inside was a room with mosaic paintings. It was also filled with bookshelves. Then a plump man in a luxurious silver and gold woven robe came from the corner of one of the shelves.
“Hello Terinth. I’m Chamberlain Herrow.”
“What do you want with me?”
“I heard form one of the guards you’re searching for a wizard.”
“Go ahead and scoff at me. I don’t care.”
“On the contrary. I believe you.”
Terinth reeled back and narrowed his eyes. “Why?”
“I’ve read of the legend of the Wizard King. I believe he lives.”
“Truly? I thought no one else had knowledge of him.”
“Indeed. I read of him in a single book among many. In truth, I stumbled upon it.”
Terinth’s body relaxed from the tension in his stomach. “So what do you want with me?”
“Do you know how he uses his magic?”
“What do you mean?” asked Terinth.
“The Wizard King uses his very verbal commands to make things happen. I will be blunt with you. I seek to be immortal. I will send you on your way if you ask him for my immortality.”
“And why would he do that?”
Chamberlain Herrow went to bookshelf and pulled out a square metal parcel. He opened it and pulled out a small gem that had a mysterious red glow.”
“Is that...the Eye of Fire!”
“The very same. Give the Wizard King the Eye for his blessing.” Herrow gave Terinth the gem inside a satchel.
“Why do you trust me? I could take the Eye for myself and disregard you wish.”
Herrow smiled broadly and stepped closer. “I am an old man. In those years I’ve come to tell the heart of a person. The eyes are the windows to the soul - a very true saying. I see your honest spirit.”
Herrow pointed to a table covering something bulky. He took off the cover to reveal a platter of beef, carrots, and a glass pitcher of red wine and a goblet.
Terinth’s mouth watered at the sight. He looked at the chamberlain from the side of his eye. He was famished and disbelieved Herrow’s kindness. “I come from your ancient foe. If you release me to go on this quest you could be punished.”
“Do not think me a brute without honor. I offer a mutual, fair deal. I will worry about the repercussions.”
The Chamberlain put a hand on Terinth’s shoulder. “Also I know you hold the map to the Wizard King.”
“The guard! He told you!” Terinth exclaimed.
Herrow nodded slightly. “Like I said, I am a reasonable man. I trust you to keep our agreement.”
Terinth was beside himself. Such a thing would be unheard of. How much could he hold to this man’s words? Nevertheless, it was the only option.
The chamberlain motioned to the table of food. “Well, help yourself.”
The hungry sage rushed to the platter and ate voraciously then gulped and down the wine right from the glass ewer.
He wiped his mouth and wobbled, leaning on the table from tiredness. “Could I rest?”
“Yes. But if someone sees you walking the castle alone, news will spread to the king. Even I couldn’t help you then. I have given a guard a reasonable amount of gold pieces to act as if you were his prisoner. He’ll lead you to a room to retire.”
Terinth followed the plan and soon he was fast asleep on a large bed.
At day break, the sage awoke at the sound of a knock on his door. A slim young man cracked it open and stuck his head in. “Sir, I’ve been ordered to wake you so you may start your journey and to give you clean clothes.” The servant brought Terinth a folded tunic on top of a rolled up cloak.
He sat up and yawned then took the clothes from the servant who then left. Terinth dressed quickly and another servant led him to the stables. He was given a hose named Twilight – the swiftest steed in Nethaal.
Terinth hopped on immediately flicked the reigns without saying a word to the stable hand.
Twenty minutes later, the fortunate man looked at his map and followed it to travel northeast. Hours past and he saw a town in the distance. When he neared it, a sign said Esper. He tied Twilight to a post near the town gate.
Tired and hungry, the sage went to an inn. It was boisterous and loud. Terinth paid for food and lodging. He enjoyed a small cooked hen and broccoli. After his meal he went upstairs to bed.
As the first rays of early dawn came through a window to his left wall, he rose and stretched. He hastily went to the base floor. Eager to begin, he rushed towards the doorway. Suddenly, a fat drunkard with a putrid smell collided with Terinth, knocking him on the floor. The satchel struck the ground and the Eye of Fire rolled out.
All eyes were wide and every mouth was gaping.
“Is that…the Eye of Fire?” asked an old lady. “I’ve only heard descriptions of the glowing stone.”
“It must be. But doesn’t it belong to Nethaal?” uttered another.
“This man must be a thief! Grab him!” shouted the innkeeper.
Terinth plucked up the Eye and dashed out the doorway. A handful of men raced after him as he sprinted to the town gate. He untied his horse, jumped on and dashed out.
Terinth pushed Twilight to his full speed. It did not take long until he had put a good distance between the town and himself. He stopped to rest his horse. The sage looked at the map on the page and saw a line that led to a marker with Forest of Thourn written under it. It was situated to the west. Terinth rode at a steady pace. Eventually, he met a line of trees then took a deep breath.
“It looks kind of eerie doesn’t it Twilight? But we have to brave through it.” Terinth entered the forest. He rode at a normal pace. The first thing that was noticed was the lack of animals. Not see a single bird or squirrel was in sight. Moreover, no insects were there. At least he expected a cricket or an ant hill. It gave a chill down Terinth’s spine. It was like a place of death and evil. He could feel it. He continued on and it became darker. His whole body jolted as he heard a loud gargling roar. It came from his right. He faced the direction of the sound. An echoing thump was nearing him as well.
Terinth tightened his grip on the reigns with white knuckles. His breathing was short and sporadic and his heart began to thud. Terinth wished he had brought sword. Soon he heard the sound of breaking branches that were nearing him too. Through the trees he saw a large blue shape coming at him.
Then, he came out of his fearful paralysis and fled on Twilight farther up the path indicated on the map. Thirty seconds later the thumping stopped. Terinth came to a halt and looked behind him. Nothing.
Suddenly, something monstrous and large landed on the ground right in front of him. He gasped and froze. A behemoth of a blue dragon with wings was before him.
Then it spoke. “I sense you have the Eye of Fire.”
“You are fortunate. Humans don’t know it prevents harm from magical beings like me.” The dragon’s voice was deep but not menacing in any way. It was calm and fluent.
“I did not know that.”
“Why are you in this cursed place?”
“I seek the Wizard King. His magic can cure a plague that afflicts my kingdom.”
“I see,” rumbled the dragon. “Your quest is a noble one. I would not aid those who seek the Wizard King who want riches, immortality or glory from him.” The beast lowered its head and Terinth made out a blue diamond embedded in its forehead. “Take this jewel. It will help to reveal the Wizard King’s stronghold. You’ll need two more implements from two more magical creatures. I wish you success.”
The blue dragon spread his wings and flew off.
Terinth shook himself. “Let’s not waste any time.”
Terinth rode at a faster pace. He was leery of meeting more beasts like the dragon. A few moments after the thought past by him, a large beast leapt in form of him. It was a horrid creature with man’s head, the body of a lion and razor sharp teeth. And hanging over it, was a scorpion’s tail with the stinger the size of a lance.
“A manticore!” exclaimed Terinth. Then he recalled that the dragon said the Eye of Fire protects from magical beasts. It seemed to be true. The manticore simply stood there- just observing Terinth with dark eyes as big as saucers. “I sense the Eye of Fire. I assume you realize the magic of it. You do not flee or freeze up in fear as all humans do.”
The sage took a deep breath and poised himself. He hunched his shoulders and spoke in a stern tone. “Pleas step aside. I must keep moving.” Terinth did not know that the blue diamond slightly protruded from his satchel.
“I see you have the blue diamond that belongs to the dragon.”
“He gave it to me that I might find the Wizard King.”
The beast was silent a few moments. “Then you must have a worthy cause. Take this.” The creature opened its mouth and a small crystal orb rolled out.
Terinth dismounted and walked to the orb and picked it up. “The dragon said I need three implements to find the Wizard’s stronghold.”
“Indeed. The last creature with the last object dwells where there is an oasis. It is not far from here.”
“Goodbye human.” The manticore disappeared into a large thicket and Terinth was alone with Twilight. As he rode on, it struck him: would the Wizard King grant Herrow’s selfish wish even with the Eye? He didn’t think why it did not strike him before. Nevertheless in exchange for Chamberlain Herrow releasing him, he would present the Chamberlain’s request.
It did not take long until Terinth made out a clearing in the trees. When he was several yards closer, he saw a pool of water. There he looked upon the dead body of a giant snake-like creature dead with its head sprawled on the ground.
Terinth’s eyes widened. He breathed heavier as his eyes scanned around him sporadically. What had happened?
Suddenly a huge splash of water burst through the surface. A large seven headed monster rose up. “Ahh, fresh meat!” the heads said at the same time. “Now that I’ve killed this pathetic magic creature, I will fill my belly with you carcass!”
An explosion of tight anxiety filled his gullet. The beast was not magical. It was impervious to the effect of the Eye of Fire!
Just as the beast lunged forward with a single mouth to devour him, a quick, large blue figure slammed into all the heads, pushing the whole body of the hydra out of the water and onto the ground. The blue dragon had come to aid Terinth!
The two beasts rolled around as the dragon had its jaws clamped onto his enemy’s chest. Two heads from the hydra bit into the dragon’s shoulders and flipped him over. The hydra pounced on the dragon.
“Take the green gem embedded in the dead serpent’s forehead and run!” yelled the dragon as his voice rumbled through the ground.
Terinth approached the Dead Sea Serpent and took a green gem from its forehead. Then he flicked the reigns and Twilight sprinted out of the oasis and back through the forest trees. He heard the growling and roaring behind him. Then he heard a mind splitting cry. It was high-pitched and a little gargled – not quite like the roar of the blue dragon. Then there was silence. It must have been a death cry from the hydra. The dragon won!
With all three objects Terinth now had, he was unsure of what to do next. Then he saw something between two trees. It was covered in vines. Amidst the vines, Terinth made out grey stonework beneath the vines. He neared it. He dismounted and walked around. It had a square base that rose into the air. Then the sage noticed an opening in the vine work, exposing bare stone. Three indentions were carved in it. It only took a few moments to realize what the sage had to do.
Terinth placed the blue diamond, the crystal orb and the green gem into the holes. There was a flash of white illumination that blinded the sage causing him to stumble back. A portal of light the shape of a door shined before him. It was mesmerizing.
Terinth jumped to his feet. He stepped forward. A strange curiosity overtook him. Could this be the way to the Wizard King? It had to be. Terinth walked closer. He stuck his hand through the portal. A warm, tingling feeling went from his arm to his spine and to his head. He took in a deep breath and passed through.
The sage found himself in front of a ruinous castle. It looked deserted. Nevertheless, he still believed the Wizard King was there. Besides the main gate, on either side, were cracked statues of winged angels. In the middle of him and the gate, was a cracked fountain with a spout the shape of a rose. Terinth entered. The ceiling towered and was held up by broad columns. Dusty stain glass windows with mythical beasts like dragons, griffins, phoenixes and more were portrayed on the windows.
At the far end of the immense hall, was a golden door. Terinth ran to it. If anywhere, the Wizard King must be there. He ran. After stopping once to catching his breath, he kept going. At last he made it to the door. He touched the cold golden handle and pulled. It moved an inch. With a few heaving pulls, the door opened wide enough to slip through.
When he entered he was perplexed. Before him was an old man in a faded, torn mantle and a rusted golden crown on his head. He stared at Terinth. “How did you overcome the three guardians?” His voice was low and raspy and the sage barely heard him.
“I told the blue dragon I seek the Wizard King to heal my plague stricken kingdom called Wrethmire.”
“I am he.”
“How do I know your claim to be true?”
The old man smiled as he clapped his hands. A glowing azure sphere appeared over him. It hovered in the air until the Wizard King clapped again and the sphere exploded into pieces like glistening moon dust.
Terinth ran to the old man who sat on a throne and bowed to him. “Please grant my request! My whole kingdom will die in one month at the rate of the illness!” he said with sobs.
The wizard looked down. “I cannot – at least not on my own. You see, my power comes from my life force. In the days of old, when this ruined stronghold stood in all its glory, I used all my life-force to grant men wishes.” He looked up. “But there is a way but you will not like it.”
“I’ll do anything!”
“I can use your life-force. It may kill you or even destroy your soul.”
The sage was silent a moment that looked into the wizard King’s eyes. “Very well.”
“Come here,” said the wizard.
Terinth neared the man. He put his hand on the sage’s forehead. He expected to feel some pain or a draining feeling or at least some sensation but nothing happened. The wizard smiled and lowered is hand.
“Well done. You’ve past the final test.”
“I told part of the truth. I have power enough for one more wish. Forfeiting your vey life and even your soul is the best expression of love and honor.”
“Does this mean you’ll help me?”
“Indeed. But after this last act I will have only enough life-force to sustain my one existence.”
Terinth felt he owed Chamberlain Merrow. But the sage’s wish was more important.
The Wizard King lifted his arms and raised his voice with a loud cry. “By the power invested in me, I rebuke the great plague that afflicts the kingdom of Wrethmire! I hereby cleans the kingdom of its great destroyer and bringer of suffering! So be it.”
“Thank you so much great wizard!”
The old man looked up and nodded. Terinth peered where the wizard did. The blue dragon flew down from a large crack in the high ceiling and land in front of Terinth.
“My winged servant here will fly you out of the forest.”
“Do all the creatures I met serve you?”
“All but the hydra.”
“So what will become of you?”
“My time of demise will come. I have lived for centuries but I am not immortal. I surmise I will perish in this lonely place. It may be a few more hundred years to come.”
“Why don’t you leave?”
“These ruins are a beacon of my magic and longevity. I cannot leave.”
“Nevertheless, it is good so that I may heal you land.” The wizard smile done last time. “Now you must go.
The dragon lowered its head and Terinth climbed onto its back. The sage waved and made a deep bow. Then the beast shot up through the crack and over the ruins and eventually above the dense trees.
The flying feeling was invigorating. Terinth held on to a spike that come from the dragon’s back. They were travelling at great speed and climbed into the clouds to avoid being seen. “We should be well out of range of Nethaal. I’ll set you on the side of the Gray Mountains. You can walk the rest of the way to Wrethmire.” The beast landed and Terinth slid off his dragon’s wing.”
“Thanks for saving me,” said Terinth.
“It was an honor.” Then the dragon exploded into the air leaving the sage bellow.
Terinth’s heart pounded as he smiled breathing heavily. His mind was racing with images of people celebrating and laughing over the sudden healing. When he met the base of the mountain it was just as he thought.
People were crying with joy. Many were embracing each other. The king of Wrethmire decreed a regular celebration that would be a holiday of that time when the plague lifted. As for the sage Terinth, he immediately went into the castle to a room where his own sister was sitting up in bed, completely well.
“I’m whole! Praise the gods!” she said.
Terinth was sure he could never tell why the kingdom was cured. But it didn’t matter. Things were how it should be. All the people of Wrethmire would owe a great debt and thanks to Wizard King. Terinth wished he could repay him for his kindness. But the sage knew he could never return to the old wizard who would live out his days in solitude. Terinth sighed at the fact but was thankful for the last wish granted by the great Wizard King.