Old Man’s Tales -- Part the Second
Asullus Anguli X ... (Asullus’ Corner)
Old Man’s Tales -- Part the Second
Good day to all Gentle Readers ! ‘Tis Asullus, yer old an’ trusty gray Mule, an’ the steadfast Spritae, Morphia the Scribe, bringin’ to yer the concludin’ part o’ me old Master Silvestrus’ tale.
The Harrowing Adventure of Murlak, the Spotted Troll, the Mermaid, Praesidia, and the Mad Centaur Corigio.
…Murlak, so casually dismissed, paddled back to shore and, with daylight coming, scurried back to his cave to think on how to obtain the spear his beautiful Praesidia required. In the end, he could come up with nothing more artful than simply taking it.
This led to a period of time during which he spied out the Centaur Hamlet, identified the inhabitant, Corigio the Mad — by the spear he carried, of course — and looked for a time when he might catch the man-horse out, unaware and alone.
While true, the centaurs were bold and capable warriors, yet were trolls the stronger and more ferocious fighters, one-on-one. All he had to do was be able to lay his claws into the yielding flesh of the horseman and the spear would be his.
The troll had not long to wait, as it was but a fortnight later when he saw that Corigio was preparing to leave for the Port City on the other side of the Bay, likely to trade with the humans there. To make his journey, the troll knew the Centaur must take the Old Bay Road and it was there, then, that he planned to execute his attack.
Racing ahead to place himself in the tall reeds that lined the ages-old road, he squatted down at an advantageous spot and waited his prey.
Soon enough, the centaur hove into view. Murlak lay in wait, every muscle tensed for the spring. Corigio drew closer, closer, then abreast, then…
Murlak leapt upon him with a great roar, immediately knocking his spear from his hold with one hand while grasping for his throat, thinking to tear it out, with the other. But the Centaur was not a warrior for no reason and grabbed back at the trolls’ clawed hands in reflex. The troll sought to use his weight to knock the centaur to the ground, thereby giving Murlak the advantage, but he was able only to force the man-horse down on his front knees, no further.
And thus matters stood for a number of minutes. Both opponents struggling fiercely, but neither with a clear advantage. Scrabbling for a better hold, Murlak dragged his foot around seeking to somehow knock one of the centaur’s back feet off its stance. Having little luck, he shifted his foot forward for a different position when it came in contact with what he was certain was the spear that he had clawed from Corigio’s hand at first contact.
Murlak quickly grasped the spear with his foot — as with a troll, hands and feet are the same — picked it up and drove it into the Centaur’s body. At once, the man-horse stiffened, then relaxed his hold on the troll and slumped to the ground.
Murlak jumped back in surprise, thinking he had seen a fleeting smile on Corigio’s face as he fell.
The spotted troll stood over the vanquished Centaur, looking for any sign of movement, ready to leap upon the body and shred any part of it with his claws. But there was none.
Twice the passage of the sun’s diameter in the sky, Murlak watched Corigio ever so carefully. But the horseman moved not.
At last the troll let out a long breath he’d been holding, straightened and gave a great bellow of victory.
Now he would take his prize, fairly won, to Praesidia and she would, at last, consider him worthy and yield herself to his desires. Eagerly anticipating his reward, he grabbed the haft of the spear to extract it from the centaur, however it moved not. He pulled, this time, with more force, but with only the same result. He then yanked on the spear, but it moved not.
Both surprised and confused, he grasped the part of the shaft just below the spearhead and wrenched it with all his strength, but only with the same result.
Next he tried breaking the spear, then striking the butt with a stone and, finally, suspending the centaur’s corpse in the hope that it would simply slide off. But all these to no avail.
His attempt at cutting away the horse-man’s flesh from the spear with his sharp basalt blade was equally frustrated, as it appeared the dead centaur meat was impervious to his sharpest tool. It was no fault of the blade, as he ascertained by cutting his thumb while testing.
For a moment, he even considered burning the body away from the spear but abandoned this tactic after reasoning that a fire hot enough to burn the centaur’s flesh would likely consume the spear as well.
Concluding that the centaur’s weapon had, in some way, become lodged in the horse-man’s bones and would not yield, he eventually decided that he must deliver the spear, surrounded by the dead centaur, to Prsaesidia. She could then decide what to do with the horseman’s remains. He would have fulfilled his part of the bargain well enough, however.
So thinking, Murlak hoisted the centaur’s body, with the spear protruding out of it, onto his shoulder and made his way down to his crude raft, which sank rather low in the water during the transit, given the weight of both creatures. He paddled slowly and carefully to the Wheel, finding Praesidia there waiting for him.
“I saw you struggling and was curious,” she said. “But why have you brought the warrior Corigio’s body here, with a spear stuck in him. Did you kill him? Is this the Spear of Portion? Why not just bring the spear, itself, o spotted one?”
Grunting and straining to speak, Murlak acknowledged killing the horseman then, embarrassed, also acknowledged that he could not remove the weapon from the centaur’s corpse.
“That is because you have no magic, dense one. Here, let me show you how it is done,” said the Mermaid with confidence.
Pushing the troll aside, Praesidia pulled herself over to Corigio’s body, braced her back against a nearby boulder, laid hold of the spear’s shaft with both hands and pulled. To Murlak’s astonishment, the spear slid out easily out until the Mermaid held the four-stride’s-long weapon free of its sheath. She hoisted it in the air in triumph and laughed.
“There, you see, dull one, I have the spear and you have…the body.” With a sly glance at the spotted troll, she continued. “Since I was the one to bring it forth, then our agreement is void, old troll. And, by the way, since I also now have, by my own effort, I would add, the final treasure which I crave, your future efforts are no longer necessary and you may go. Do not think to trouble me further here, Murlak. Now be off and return no more. Your company was always tedious in any case and your demeanor rather detestable, truth be told.”
If Murlak was stunned by the Mermaid’s unlooked for perfidy, he was even more stunned when, of a sudden, the dead centaur rose gracefully from his position on the rock, and with a flick of his tail reached out an arm and, with ease, snatched his spear back from the hands of the sitting Mer woman.
“Ah, I will have that now, Praesidia. I was wondering how this was to end. It is always helpful to have a powerful magic item, do you not think, and, especially, to know how to use it.”
With that, the Centaur leaned back then, tightly gripping the spear’s shaft, thrust forward its point penetrating the spotted troll’s skull through the left eye socket. Breaking through, the spear’s blade exploded out the back of the creature’s head sending gobbets of brain and blue blood spraying upon the Wheel’s black rock.
Startled, the mermaid lurched back. “Corigio! How is it you live? And, how is it you have killed Murlak? Trolls are said, by most, to be deathless?”
The Centaur placed a front hoof on the dead troll’s neck and yanked back his spear from the creature’s head. He turned to the mermaid, grim-visaged.
“As I said, Mermaid, if you’re going to use Magick’s, you’d best know what you’re about and why. Otherwise, the fault of what occurs is yours.”
Corigio’s eyes grew more wild as he advanced upon the fish-woman, who shrank from him.
“And, the fault is yours, Praesidia. Through your own doing, you would have accounted for the deaths of two, innocent of any crime, but for your carelessness and lack of regard. My death, for one, had I not had the spear’s protection — a facet you could not have foreseen — and the poor troll’s, here, likely dying from pining for you after you had led him on, only to take his advantage.”
Corigio brandished the spear, his eyes bulging and spittle foaming at his lips. “And now I, Corigio, called the Mad, pronounce that you, for your falsities, shall die, joining your troll, this very day, in death’s gray halls.” With this, he thrust his spear forward piercing the mermaid’s heart, her shriek abruptly cut off as the spear head strove through her back. Praesidia grabbed weakly at the glowing wooden shaft, but after only a moment both hands fell away and she lay back, eyes staring wide, dead upon her rock.
Corigio roughly withdrew the Spear of Portion and critically regarded the two bodies that lay sprawled at his feet—one with a fist-sized hole in its head, the other with a spear-thrust through its heart. He sighed. Then, the mad centaur, stiff-spined and red of eye, spoke in a low voice.
“Now, perhaps, at last, shall ye knoweth the price of trifling with another’s treasure—and the cost of taking that which to thee ne’er belongeth, nor to any other save the owner, himself, whether object or feeling it be.”
So saying, he turned and made his way back to the crude raft that had born him to the Wheel, and paddled back to the bay’s peaceful shore. Achieving this, he returned to the Hamlet, placed his spear upon the Gods’ altar and left the small village, and made his way toward the mountains, never to be seen again in those parts by any creature yet living.
So, there ye be Gentle Reader, the tale Master Silvestrus, himself, did present at the Mid-Summer Night's stopover the night our Apprentices did first meet.
Now if ye enjoyed the tale by the least little bit, be no’ shy-ful aboot lettin’ this old Mule know. Fer other wise, in our next edition, we’ll be relatin’ the story, in two parts, now, that our beloved Mistress did tell.
So, then, until that time, fare-thee-well.
The Great North Tower, Northfast