The Blade of the Princess: Part 1
Her sword cleaved through another one of the giant rodents with ease, severing bone, sinew, and muscle. She wouldn’t stop until she had eradicated them. There were dozens of them, coming from all directions of the dark and misty woods. Her armor saved her, as did a protection spell. She spotted the next assailants in her peripheral vision, and let the power she had inside herself awaken and collect in her left hand, the one without the short sword. As fast as thought, a ball of liquid flame appeared in her upturned palm and she flung it at the half-dozen fanged creatures. Though the ball of fire – that could burn any living thing down to the bone in seconds – was near her, she ignored it. She was raised with magic, and it was a part of her. The creatures that looked like giant rats with equally giant, gnashing teeth, burst into flames and screamed a horrible death.
She again began slashing, tearing, ripping through the hordes with her sword, throwing balls of flame and air so compressed it was as thick as steel and sharp as any blade. Soon the threat was no more than gore and ash. Sweat slicked her body, pushed to its limits. Her breathing was rapid and deep, sucking in thick, cold air and pushing it out with effort. Her bare thighs tingled from a slight breeze sifting through the thick woods, her neckline sharing the same sensation as she sheathed her sword. Pulling back bright auburn hair, the fleeting wind cooled her slightly. Her breast plate was heavy, and the thick leather belt round her waist weighed down by the enchanted blade was chafing. Her boots, that reached to her knees, were sweaty. Adding insult to injury, she was covered in blood and fur from her encounter. She wanted to feel clean again, but the nearest town was a day’s journey in the opposite direction, and she needed to press on.
With an exhausted sigh, K’anda, the princess of Zhu’ul, started down the long path ahead. Mid-morning sun beat heavily down on her little trail. Her mind was put to the task ahead of her: find a king for her land. Men were of short commodity, sold as slaves, as womankind ruled the lands freely. The last great war was waged and many of the men in her land, and the surrounding kingdoms, were destroyed. Though the war happened years before she was born, the tales were heavy with her people. Old, silver-haired females would share them, telling of the fire that fell from the heavens and burned the lands. Of the monuments that stood proud and symbolized so many things, but were now ashes and rubble. Though she was a day’s walk from it, K’anda decided to visit the ‘Lake of a Thousand Eyes,’ something her elders suggested she do before she wed.
The air was sweet with blooming flowers and the rains that had come days before. Her gold eyes scanned the landscape for threats as the trees gave way to an open field with a dirt trail cut through it. She kept her pace steady, not letting the grand and flat nature of the new terrain spook her. Off in the distance she glimpsed huge, yellow glowing eyes in the dusky tree line that belonged to Leviathan Owls. They were the size of a full-grown man, but could sometimes easily double that. They hunted what they wanted, and hunters were quick and full of pride to show off if they’d ever killed one. The afternoon came in heavy with more sunlight and dark clouds on the horizon. It would rain tonight, and she was still a half day’s travel to the Agaden mountain village where she’d choose her mate.
The field she walked in was wide, but the woods bordered it with menacing stature. The forest had been cleared to let people travel without fear of the vicious things lurking behind the giant trees with dark bark. K’anda kept walking, knowing that a wayward house had to be somewhere near. Huts that travelers had set up to stay in for the night were mostly deplorable hovels, but it was better than chancing an encounter with a Moon Wolf. These bloodthirsty creatures bore glowing red eyes, fur as black as coal, and were three times the size of a large dog. Thinking of them made her eyes sweep the waist-tall grass again, coming to rest on a sign that indicated the direction to nearest hut, the Lake of a Thousand Eyes, and the Agaden village. With another, more careful look, she discerned the path to the lake cut through the grass. With quiet resolve, K’anda made the choice to head down it.
The path took the princess through another section of woods, though this time the rodents of unusual size didn’t mar her journey. She ate apples picked off low-hanging branches that were brown and sweet with a cinnamon flavor. Red, green, and yellow peppers wrapped in mint leaves the size of her palm supplemented the apples. Although content with a full stomach, she still stank of sweat and blood from her morning encounter. The sky darkened to a bruised red with streaks of yellow and pink swashed through it, while the sun sank behind distant, snow-capped mountains. As she walked, the air changed from arid and sweet to thick and moist. The lake was not far and she would have to spend the night there, hopefully in an empty shanty of a fisherwoman who had long forgotten it.
Finally the dark trees broke on to white sand, and a lake that seemed to have no end. The stars had just begun to shine by the time she’d reached the Lake of a Thousand Eyes. The still water was like glass, reflecting each of the bright stars above. She looked to the left and right, but saw no land on either side, just more water. Along the shore of the monstrous lake sat simple huts, each with one window glowing orange from a carefully lit fire. Though the lake was more than beautiful as it was now, shining like diamonds strewn across black velvet, it wasn’t the reason for its name. The miracle of the name came from what happened at dawn, and only to those brave enough to swim or row out onto the waters.
Smoke from the fires built white pillars into the darkening sky, and she used them as landmarks to find one without an occupant. The door swung in with little effort, revealing an iron stove with a chimney, a small bed with a straw mat for a mattress and a single window facing east. The door had a latch on the inside, but the window didn’t open. Until then K’anda hadn’t noticed how exhausted she was, so the dirty bed looked more fine and comforting by the moment. She swung the stove door open and discovered still burnable pieces of wood inside. Like flexing a muscle, she brought forth the power residing deep inside her and collected it in her palm, tossing the small ball of flames into the hearth to ignite the wood. It immediately caught and she now had an orange hue around the small shanty to go about her business. Though she wanted to throw herself onto the straw mattress, she knew she’d regret not removing her armor and boots first.
The process was quick and well-practiced; soon her sword, belt, leather skirt and chest piece sat across from the bed under the window, alongside her boots. Only white underthings that she wore for modesty remained. The night was cooling rapidly, so she was thankful for the small fire and stove to fight off the chill. The straw mat poked her with coarse fibers and rough straw, but it was more comfortable than she could imagine due to her level of exhaustion. With a long sigh, she let sleep take her. K’anda swam through dreams of her childhood, her sisters, and the palace that awaited her return. Her mother’s face, warm and smiling, framed in black hair, and decorated with ice-blue eyes, was the last image she saw before she was jerked awake by screams.
The eyes of the Princess Warrior from Zhu’ul snapped open. She was quickly on her feet and running, undoing the latch and flying out the door onto the wet sand. The moon was high and illuminated the shore perfectly. The ground beneath her feet shook, and the sound of timber cracking and splintering apart filled the air. The shanty two over from hers had been smashed by a giant tentacle. Her gold eyes traced the offender back to its owner and saw the monstrosity: A squid. A squid twice the height of the tallest tree she’d seen today had come ashore to plunder the small, wood shacks. The inhabitants of the shore fled the oncoming attack. It seemed the stories of giants living in the lake were true. K’anda was glad she didn’t try to swim the glassy waters at night.
Her royal ancestry provided her with magic. Her kind were rare, and treasured by their parents. That was why, though she was not the eldest, she would be queen of her land. She clenched her jaw with the effort and her arms followed, calling forth powerful lightning that danced down her tanned skin, from shoulder to clenched fist. Her eyes firmly fixated on the target to receive the lethal dose. This was the opposite of flexing her muscles. She relaxed them, using the well-practiced aim she had to direct the bolts flying from her outstretched fingertips to the creature. With a loud ‘crack’ the night lit up like high noon and her aim proved true. The ground, water, and air shook with the deep bellow of the creature as the white lightning danced from the big burn spot it had just received.
The squid slowly turned its giant, spade-shaped head and body toward the offender, tentacles slamming down on the beach, sending shocks and waves of sparkling sand into the air. Black orbs that were the creature’s eyes saw her, standing alone in her white slip of a shirt and panties. She flexed again, bringing forth more power to lay another bolt into the thing, when she was distracted by the four women running in her direction. Calling out a warning, it came too late. A giant tentacle smashed down upon them, their screams interrupted, and cut short. The white sand that flew up was stained with red, trails of sinew and entrails connected the massive appendage to the beach below as it was retracted.
Fury fed her powers, the lightning dancing across her skin turned from white to red, this time. K’anda screamed as she let fly the lethal power, twice as large as the last. It tore across the light brown skin of the squid, leaving a huge gouge. High-pitched whines emitted from the monster as it accepted its defeat and started to slink back into the lake, its cries and moans carrying across the shore. The princess wondered how many had died. In the middle of the chaos of the people, screams, and darkness, it was impossible to tell.
A moon tired of the violence below slowly began to hide behind heavy clouds, and then the rain came: heavy and hard. The ice cold droplets felt good, but she was still tired, and now more so. She walked slowly back to her cabin to let the rain wash off a little of the muck and grime she was covered in. After hanging her things to dry, she went back to sleep, dreaming of what was to come.
Dawn broke through the tiny window, the fire in the hearth dead. She climbed up to consciousness, fighting to come awake. She had to move fast if she were to witness the miracle. She donned her underthings and tied together the rest of her armor and sword, dragging them down to the dock that stretched deep into the lake. She ignored the red spots of blood on the sand when she left her shack, paid no attention to the smashed shacks that had claimed others while they slept. Instead she concentrated on witnessing the miracle. Giant, dark shapes unidentifiable on the surface swam through the crystal-clear waters below. They sought shelter from the coming sun. It was a dangerous time, but she took a deep breath and plunged off the side, into the frigid waters.
Her long, muscular legs pumped and her arms pushed her down, fish and all other manners of creature moving out of her way as she descended. It would happen soon. Then she saw it. The reason for the name of the lake. A giant stone square, still a ways down from her, but large enough to be easily seen. It was gigantic. The stone turned brown and green from the algae under the water, but still some grey parts shone through. There were countless squares cut into the stone face of the giant, dark and staring at their visitor. Then the rays of the sun caught up and suddenly the squares was shining bright, each one giving the sun back its light and with luster. The sight was truly amazing. She marveled at it, drank it in, memorized the details as best she could. Then she noticed the equally giant letters on a rock bed nearby: O, E, T, L, H. She wondered what the word was, originally.
She broke the surface of the lake, gulping in air and finally feeling clean. After calming her breathing she made her way to the dock where her things were. Squeezing excess water from her hair and underthings, she donned her armor and weapon once again. Her duty as the next queen of her land pressed her on. Agaden waited. Her first steps today started the rest of her life. K’anda of Zhu’ul was now near the end of her journey.
You can find Deadman on Twitter.
Send us shmeckles on our Patreon.