Dragonslayer 2 image
Image by James Robert Terrell (Bob)

DRAGONSLAYER
and
Witchery Justice

She stole into the dark forest, crying as she went, and did not heed the gathering gloom of dusk. Soon, she had gone so deep into the woods that thorns reached out to her like the claws of that legendary dragon her father was said to have slain, shortly after her birth when it had devoured her mother. Ragged, weary, and bloodied, she settled upon a rocky outcropping from which nothing grew, and the emerging stars began to twinkle through a rosy sunset. She barely took note of the rising full moon that set some of the huge spreading oaks and and tall pines encircling the clearing into dark relief.

She sat upon a still-warm stone and pulled her knees to her breasts, and began to cry again. From out of a dark cave unseen to her, the many eyes of a creature gazed upon the long, dark, leaf-tangled mess of hair that draped over the beautiful girl. Awful memories just out of thought licked at his mind as he silently watched her sob far into the night. He never once blinked, even if he could, daring not to lose a single moment of her beauty, phantom-like though it was in the deepening cold of starlight, and the moon, now high.

A pool of tears grew by her feet until she finally sobbed her final hiccup, and gently whisked away the mist in her large brown eyes. She slowly let herself lie back, without heeding the cold and wetness of her pool of tears, and cradled her head on the round stone by the hidden cave, and let herself be enchanted by the stillness all around, and the twinkling of stars above. Between herself and the moon, crept a dark cloud, its feathery edges glowing white.

It was not long before the baying of three hound dogs in the far distance cut through the stillness. The creature within the cave witnessed her face grow dark with fear.

"Dear God," she finally whispered in a voice that reminded the creature of a gentle spring breeze through young leaves, "I would give You anything to be free of him."

The creature was at first frightened by her voice, and then grew even more anxious when words came into his own mind that demanded expression.

Little girl, purred the creature with a reedy voice from vibrating the spindly legs by his head, who gives you such great fear that you would give anything to be free of him?

The voice, having echoed out of the cave, sounded much deeper than it truly was. The girl closed her eyes, thinking the stars had spoken to her, and hearing as well the approach of her father's dogs.

"My father, who rules all these lands, has kept me locked in his castle since my birth eighteen years ago. In all these years I have no memory of ever setting foot into the green forest, save in my imagination as I gazed down from a high window."

The creature within the cave was again startled when human thoughts that needed expression entered his mind. Has your father perhaps not protected you from the dangers in these deep and dark woods, whose view you state has only been that which has been reflected off the green canopy, which in fact perhaps keeps hidden old and deadly secrets? Oddly, for the little creature, those words felt like a contradiction to an even more ancient set of thoughts, fully out of grasp.

The girl opened her eyes. For the first time, the stars above seemed too far away for comfort, the moon behind the cloud and the ringlet of dark trees dangerously threatening, and the baying of the three hounds symbolic of her eighteen years of darkly sheltered life. Her breathing came and went in uncontrollable gasps, like a doe felled by an archer's arrow, lying bleeding on the white snow. She had seen this happen once from her high window view of the world.

The creature within the cave now found words in his mind that no longer felt so alien anymore, as he softly purred, Please, I did not mean to hurt you with such thoughts as my words have provoked.

Her breathing quieted even as the dogs drew nearer. She asked to the stars above, "Are you, who are frightening and comforting all at once, the ones who, in concert, are speaking to me?"

I wish perhaps I were. But, alas, I am but a small voice within...

As the moon slipped out from behind the cloud, a large dog burst into the rocky clearing. The hound sensed her proximity but could not see where she lay. To his eyes, she blended perfectly into the features of the rocks around her. He opened his large mouth, revealing a set of gleaming teeth that could easily rip off an arm, to bay to his master. The purring voice from within the tiny cave then barked a command which the girl could not quite understand. The dog obeyed and lay down, silent except for his heavy breathing. In the distance approached two more dogs, each larger than the first from the sound of their excited voices.

“Oh...” heard the tiny voice within from her.

Yes?

In all these years, she had so longed to hold them with her whole body, have them muzzle her with their wet snouts, happy, playful... dance with them... one after the other, fore-paws in her hands, tails wagging happy, as the others ran about, barking lightly.

“There... there was another, I think, long ago, maybe? But it is more of a dream than memory.”

Ah, purred the voice, now we're getting somewhere.

“It's as if my mother danced with him when he was so much smaller, in a garden, not by the castle but deep in the woods, a bit like here, together with...” But her throat tightened around her words, as the image of the black robed priest, her teacher, confessor... and more... came crashing into her mind. Time and again, each night before falling asleep, she had asked in so many different ways about her father’s hounds, and maybe a fourth in the shadows... so like many dreams that evaded recollection upon awakening.

The priest, or his enslaved chamber maid, always scolded her for such questions, before offering her the holy sacrament from a silver chalice each night before sleep. “This is the blood of Almighty God's only begotten Son” he repeated each night. “His angels will now keep watch for the devils that hound your dreams.”

But she always asked, again and again, about the dogs, and the dreams where they also existed.

“They are evil... devil’s spawns,” And he’d cringe each time, the hairy crags of his gnarly face sinking to the bone, always reminding her of the witch he'd endlessly describe, whom he said had unnaturally conjugated with a slave woman of the castle. He described new details, each time, of how they had screamed horridly as their flesh had bubbled and sloughed off their bodies, to, in Almighty God's name, send them both to a hell even worse than the one they were experiencing while still breathing amidst the licking flames.

And she briefly whiffed, from memory, also a stench, from within the robed darkness enveloping her to what she couldn’t see, deep to where she no longer could remember. Tonight was the first night in memory where she had refused the sacrament.

But then the girl pondered the creature's last words. She remembered an old sermon from the shadowy minister, with skeletal fingers always pointing, and casting memories of pain. He spoke of a huge God in Heaven who punished the wicked with eternal damnation in the bowels of Hell and rewarded the good with an everlasting life free of earthly gravity in Heaven. He had once told her, in answer to a question she had posed, that God's voice spoke from deep within her heart of hearts. It seemed, at that moment, as she reflected in the woods, that everything the frail, foul-smelling minister had ever said – and indeed, he had loved to speak for hours, quoting this and that verse – could be forgotten, except for that one phrase. But there was more, just out of memory's grasp, both of the priest's black robe approaching, and deeper still, to when she was very very small and without a grasp of language, except feelings with form in motion, which gently touched her whole being further back in time than what language could describe. And none of that had anything whatsoever to do with the priest, or even her father.

"Are you God?" asked the girl timidly, and once more allowing the tranquility of the jagged night to enter her. The fullness of the Mourning Moon now lit the clearing as if to give flight to fancy.

The creature replied, But you have not answered me. Why do you run from your father so?

Suddenly it was as though her memory had been dashed. She could not remember why her father frightened her. Maybe it was something hiding behind the black patch over his missing right eye. Nor could she accurately remember how it was that she had first set foot into the forest. Her memory of things seemed to have begun in this rocky clearing, and all else a vague sort of dream. She grew aware of the cold salty pool of her tears, her thickly tangled hair, and the blood-crusted scrapes upon her body.

Just then, the second dog crashed into the clearing and stumbled over her. He did not see her, but felt her beneath him, and was about to loudly bay to his master when the creature within the cave strangely barked a purring order for the dog to go lie next to his smaller brother. As if scolded, the larger dog whimpered as it crawled and lay next to the smaller dog -- who actually was quite large by any standard.

The girl, having deeply pondered the last words spoken to her, said, "Is not the pain, blood, and tears on or about me come from my father?"

It's not polite to answer a question with a question, said the voice. I ask again, why do you fear your father?

A burst of anger erupted from her. "I demand to know who you are?"

Ha! retorted the voice. You demand!?

Again, the dome of stars, and the ascending moon, grew chillingly distant, the gap between their flickerings, and dish of white, and her, filled with endless peril. The cold rocks, pool of tears, and now, the air itself sapped what little warmth she had in her. It seemed that perhaps now she could die, as that doe she had seen from her window, and be forever rid of her shadowy fears.

You wish to die? purred the creature. You may, if that is your honest wish. But there is another way. But you must tell me why you fear your father, whom you say rules all that you know.

With frustration, the girl said, "I don't know why! In the castle I had all that a girl could possibly have want for. But something in that castle, larger than life itself, perhaps even larger than God, stifles me. Keeps me locked away from my deeper wants, and works to make me into the image of its wants. I am to meet a prince from the land next to ours tomorrow, whom I must marry. The priest says it is ordained by God."

Your father?

"I don't know. At this moment, he is but a faceless shadow that rises taller than the castle, and the clouds, and even the morning sun so bright. But what does anything matter if things are as the priest says? That he rules all by a special right given to him by God."

At that very moment, the third dog – the largest of all – exploded through the thicket into the clearing. The roar of his approach sounded like a tornado, his mad sniffling like a wet wind through a forest of leafless trees. The girl let out a yelp before she could restrain herself. She had no memory of being so close to her father's largest dog, Dragonslayer. Huge as a horse, his face was a map of scars from a lifetime of battles with the fabled creatures of the forest. All black except for a triad of white marks on his muscular forehead, he was the very face of death. Yet, the purring voice in the cave erupted with a bark that evoked from the mastiff a single whimper. He lumbered to his two smaller brothers, and lay still.

Are they, asked the voice in the cave, the ones who frighten you?

Her answer flowed from her mouth without thought. "No."

Do you truly wish to die?

Her answer took longer. "Where would I go?”

The creature seemed to laugh. Another question to a question. But I will answer. You and I would then become the same, a voice without form.

”I thought God was large."

God? Who is this God?

This puzzled the girl beyond anything. "Why do I have to think of all that? I ran from the castle to here. Now I can hear my father's horsemen approaching yonder. I think I even see their torches glowing against the treetops. Please, take me away from all this to where You are."

She waited for an answer. In the distance, the crashing of horses through the forest grew louder, as did the movement of much flickering reflected off the tops of trees. She tried moving an arm but found no strength to do so.

The creature, from the unseen cave, saw her attempts to rise, and was startled again by thoughts that turned into a voice. You already are where I am. But again, I ask, why do you run from a father who seems so devoted as to be seeking you like this?

Her answer flowed unexpectedly again: "Because it must be his shadow that has no face at night and which blocks the morning sun when I awaken. --Why cannot I move my limbs? Why am I frozen into the earth like stone? Have I arrived at Hell?"

The smallest dog, himself as large as a deer but more muscular, began to growl. Then the middle dog, the size of a pony, growled. Finally, the one larger than any of her father's steeds, growled deepest of all. The first of her father's knights rushed into the clearing, setting it aglow with their many torches. The voice in the cave growled also, just once, and the three dogs rose and encircled the girl, facing outward to the horsemen. They bared their teeth, saliva drooling, and growled threateningly. The girl again tried to rise but could not.

The voice gently purred, No, this is not Hell, though Hell is quite close by. And you cannot rise because you have sunk into the earth, filtered into the cold air, and have sought to join the distant stars.

She tried to pay attention to the voice, through the confusion of frightened horses bucking and heaving, and the falling of the men. As though from a great distance, she felt the barest ability to move a thumb. Oddest of all, she could see herself, as from an altitude, and see as well the entry into the rocky knoll of her father. She heard him scream a command to his three dogs who stood guard by her prone body. It was seeing herself that evoked the greatest fear.

"Where am I?" she cried.

Where your father would be most afraid to find you.

"I demand to see you?"

There was a brief lull, even from the melee of horses and knights and their King, when the voice said, Look by where your head rests.

She stared very hard from far and near, and in the light of the torches, saw a grouping of eyes that twinkled like moonlight upon fresh snow. "That is you? A spider?"

No! I am speaking from within you, as I already have said. Your essence moved from your body as you lay, and slipped into the spider, giving him the voice of an antiquity beyond memory of time, and has slipped also into most of what you now behold, including the stars above.

"We are one?"

Perhaps. But only if you wish. But we must now take care of those who have gathered here. We cannot hold back many arrows should your father order his knights to kill his dogs.

Something inside her clicked, actually made a snapping noise that seemed to have been felt where her neck ought to be. In the next moment, everything changed. That which had been the spider's voice now merged into her own thinking. That which had been uncertain, painful and fearful within her, evaporated. In its stead, emerged antiquity grounded in an absolute presence. All her life, each morning upon awakening, she had sought this feeling. All her life, until now, it had eluded her with the bits of dreams that forever escaped her attempts to grasp them.

Without moving a single muscle in her prone body, not even from her tongue and throat, she heard herself shout from all corners of the clearing: "Men, I am your worst nightmare! If you depart at once and never turn back even to peek I will spare your lives!”

There was a scuffling of men mounting their steeds and rushing out even as their King shouted, "I will slay every cursed one of you who listens to this witch's voice. Stay! I command it! Archers, I command that you pierce these cursed hounds of mine with arrows such that they tremble like dying porcupines. --You," he said to his sergeant-at-arms, "I believe I see my daughter between the dogs. Gather her up as soon as the dogs begin to bleed."

But it was as though he had been talking to himself. The King found himself almost alone in the clearing. A sniffling figure cowered not far away.

From everywhere, without form, she said, "Father, the days of you ordering everyone has drawn to a close as this dawn approaches. Do you not recognize this place which you have sought with such speed through the night?"

Fear exploded across his face. "It...it...." He struggled to speak, as a dark cloud began to eclipse the moon again. "--Cannot be."

As from a nightmare that had haunted him for so long, he beheld an all to familiar phantom scene rising from the ground in tack with the ghostly moonlight slowly growing darker from behind the cloud. He saw himself from long ago, on horseback among his men crowding and waiting to be pleasured by the horror that was to come. With a torch held high in one hand, and a cross in the other, from out of the crowd, the priest, so much younger, approached two women, one with long, gray hair, tied to stakes fitted into the rocky outcropping. Straw and wood rose up to their naked bound knees.

The ancient scene took stronger form as the cloud's density fully eclipsed the moon. A much younger king yelled at an enslaved wet-nurse to bring the baby to him. He approached the bound women, holding the swathed little girl up, and said to the one with gray hair, “Witch! Now you must choose.” He looked behind, and yelled a command.

His sergeant at arms brought four large puppies forth, each larger than the other, straining on thick leather leashes around their necks.

“Which shall live?” growled the king, “And which four shall perish with you?”

Giving her daughter, staked next to her, a familiar smile, the older woman whispered hoarsely to the king, “Draw nearer. My voice is not what it had been.”

He treaded carefully up over the stack of wood and straw, grabbed her long gray hair, and said, “Yes? Entertain me with your last words.”

Swifter than a striking black adder, she lunged her head forward, pursed her lips around his right eye, sucked deep, and took hold of the eyeball that popped out. His eye, disengaged but still viable, was now in her mouth behind teeth that bit lightly on the sinewy, throbbing stands.

“I would pay strict attention to what I now will say,” said the bound girl next to her mother, laughing loudly into the still night beneath the shadowed full moon. “Or you will loose that eye.”

The crowd of knights and sadistic others drew closer, many swords rising high, and arrows notched under the strain of drawn bows.

“No, men!” yelped the king in agony, feeling hot blood oozing down his cheek to his neck. His pain was excruciating, but he dared not move or cry too much.

“Good,” said the younger woman. “Now, there is no hope for either of us. We've been resigned to our deaths for some time as your priests have had their way with us. But my daughter there,” and she nodded to the baby, “shall not die tonight...” She looked down at her puppies, and yelled in an old language, “Draeb!”

The largest of them instantly yanked on its leather leash, jumped up to the knight holding them all, clamped down on his neck, and shook as hard as ever in his young life while hanging in mid air. Only able to briefly gasp, the knight's head severed raggedly. Blood spurted from his neck as he crumbled like a limp doll, his head rolling to the other puppies. A knight instinctively plunged his sword into the offending puppy – it yelped once -- as the remaining three puppies began ravishing his comrade's bloody head.

Men about to spear the others, the girl at the stake said, “Stop! Or your king will loose his eye.”

“Do as she says,” moaned their king, desperately trying to hold his balance on the slippery wood.

The young woman then said, “Now, listen, and listen very very carefully. You will not harm any more of my kin, including the remaining dogs. And you will care for my daughter such as you have never cared for anyone innocent. Or you will go completely blind prior to your miserable, pain-ridden death! That is our curse on you... Mama! Now!

The young king screamed once as the older woman bit his right eye clean off. He rolled off the pile of firewood and straw, kicking and screaming. As the two women laughed loudly, and his men hurried up to pull him away, the king shouted through a fog of pain and half blindness, “Burn them!”

The ethereal scene before the aging frightened king shimmered at that moment, as the Mourning Moon briefly came out from behind a crack in the thick cloud, evaporating the ghostly horrid scene and putting the rocky clearing into stark relief in the here and now. But only for a moment. The split in the dark cloud above closed, and what then slowly rose, like a translucent shimmering ghost from the ground, slowly taking form, was as huge as the king's imagination of a dragon could be. But it was a dog. It growled but once, with an earsplitting noise that sent a hurricane hot wind filled with sticks from shrubs and stones from the ground towards the king. He rattled out a scream, as the spiny branch from a mistletoe pierced his remaining eye.

The three dogs around the prone girl howled like wolves at the scene, tails wagging happily at seeing their sister having returned from a memory so long ago. The king could only hear them, as he crumbled to his knees.

The prone girl, as though having witnessed it all from every treetop, and through little eyes by a tiny stony cave, felt herself slowly return to her body as if by countless strands of spider threads. The ghostly huge dog, as it dissolved, seemed to transform into a monstrous wolf spider, so many eyes of different sizes and shapes gleaming in the starlight. That was how it felt, as the spectral scene evaporated yet again, only to be slowly replaced by anther apparition. This one filled her with the greatest joy she had ever felt with clear memory. Cloaked in cloth woven by spiders, Mama and Grandma rose from the rocky outcropping by her body. In the background, she could hear the king still moaning miserably, as well as the happy whining of the three remaining dogs.

“Come, dearest,” they sang as one, while opening their thin gowns, which shimmered of dewdrops with every move in the pale light still not clarified by the moon behind the thick cloud. Slowly, she rose into their warm embrace, and their silky smooth cloth enveloped her. The scent inside was the sweetest of night-blooming jasmine with a tinge of musky olibanum. Nothing was spoken between them in that embrace, though countless ancient dreams of endless generations of women filled her heart and mind with a beauty and power she had sought after her whole life. It overwhelmed her with thick exhaustion, and just before she fell off to sleep, cold metal was gently offered into her right hand.

She awoke, as though never having fallen asleep. From a setting moon, and stars still brilliant, with thin clouds tinged red by a sun not yet risen, she saw herself from near and far, attached to it all as if by a web. An orchestra of songbirds vibrated against the vast weave, filling her with a sense of beauty. She felt the warmth of the three dogs, who lay so close to her prone body that she could hear the gentle but strong thumping of their synchronized heartbeats. She smiled formlessly, upon seeing how her head slowly rose and sank from where it lay upon the breathing chest of the smallest. And the largest, Dragonslayer, rose like a mountain from where his wet snout lay by her neck to far past her feet. The mid-sized dog had a huge paw and part of his chest over her like a blanket. With all her might upon the countless strands that reached to the treetops, she tried forcing her arms to stretch out and hug them all.

But that was impossible even as they drew closer into her body, mewing almost like puppies. Dragonslayer, one of his dish-sized eyes wide open and staring into her closed eyes with devotion, slipped a tiny tip of his pink tongue out to kiss her, and slick away the web on her face. She laughed from everywhere over how much like gritty stone it felt. But then the mid-sized dog let out an angry growl, as he rose his head to look though the misty web towards the edge of the clearing.

There staggered the king up to his full height, as if having also awakened. Defiant and sightless, ensnared in a web his mind could not grasp, he yelled, “Witch! Is that you?”

Nearby, cowered the priest, madly rubbing away sticky spider-webbing from his face, and then to pick up a huge bow with quiver of arrows in hands too weak, and sticky from a web that encompassed the entire clearing, to truly hold it all.

All three dogs instantly rose aggressively, webbing falling from their fur like fine silky cloth.

“Easy, dear ones,” she said softly from everywhere, feeling, in the grasp of her right hand, the comforting steel hilt from a massive sword in a body that only moved from its slow, steady breathing. “Not yet.”

“Here, my Lord,” she heard the priest whisper loudly. “Your bow and arrows. I will guide you.”

"Yes," said she boomed loudly from the treetops, and even the stars, ignoring the priest, and in response to his first utterance. "Father, you are unnatural, and as such, I give you one chance to save your essence before the sun rises. Look high to the stars and beg for forgiveness. Beg from the depth of your heart or I cannot save you from a worse death than the rotting of mortal flesh. I must hear you plead, not as reprisal to your deeds against Mama and Grandma, or my body and spirit, and to all which you call your kingdom. But for you to connect again with the purity you once possessed as an infant. Surely all children enter the world with equal grace."

Sadly, though not terribly so, she watched her father's face turn red with even greater anger. He reached forward blindly, as the bow, with an arrow notched at the ready by the priest, was placed into hands that now glued themselves to it. But before he had anchored the drawn line to his cheek, crusty old blood plastered to his face beneath empty dark sockets of what had been eyes, she briefly saw that giant ghostly spider remanifest at the treetops, to then jump out of sight, with thick strands of silk spewing downward slowly.

As the priest began guiding the arrow's direction, she barked a command to the smallest dog. Without hesitation, he lunged effortlessly through the translucence of the web upon her father, and ravaged at his feet until they were mere bleeding stumps. The priest held him steady, mumbling prayers in a language meant only to disguise intent. She then barked an order to the dog. He quietly retreated a few steps, licking the blood and silk from his chops.

Her father, now forever several inches shorter than his former stature, stared sightless around in pain and bewilderment, rubbing away the web that constantly reattached itself to his face. He mumbled angry, then forlorn, words to his dog. "I am your master," she heard him say. "I am the one who has fed and sheltered and trained you. How dare you turn on me!?"

"They," said his daughter, "are not yours to command. They are independent of you now. Perhaps they sense that freedom for the first time since your sadism from so long ago unto tonight." She grew pensively silent as she felt herself draw through the web like a Spring breeze, caressing the trees with a thousand million strands. With eyes as countless as the dewdrops sparkling from the web, she saw the approach of dawn from the pink haze to the east. "You haven't much time. You will never again feel the sun, so I ask once more that you reach up to the stars with contrite heart, and beg for forgiveness. By your deeds, you have violated the very stars that created the Earth, and the star nearest by will not be made to suffer again by warming your wretched body."

Her father screamed an obscenity, shouting, "How dare you speak to me as such! I am your father! I am King! God has placed me here to rule over all this."

He tried dropping the bow, but could not, and had to cast it from its sticky attachment to everything it touched on his body. As he reached for the sword at his side, to then raise it high, she barked another command.

Instantly, the mid-sized dog simply reached down with his head and bit off the King's offending arm and swallowed it whole, first spitting out the sword. Her father howled in pain. Above, the sun's rosy hues struck the piny crowns with an explosion of rainbow colors erupting from the massive dewy web.

The priest backed away, holding up a silver cross no longer silvery but whitish from the spider silk, while mumbling prayers in that language of his.

"You have only a few moments, father," she said from everywhere. With the sun's warmth on the air wherein she danced, she yearned for the beat of her own heart and to feel the sun's glow on her skin.

Her father, weakened by massive blood loss, had fallen to his side. He looked to Dragonslayer and whispered an old command. The black mastiff's ears perked up at hearing the long forgotten command. But before he could carry out the King's demand, he turned his white-spotted furry face skyward. The daughter gulped as only an essence can, and with a voice as quiet as a breeze that doesn't even move a blade of grass, made her wish known to the mastiff. Without hesitating, the dog opened his massive maw and inhaled what was left of her father, swallowing only once, and then wincing as though having ingested something bitter.

"Don't worry," she said to him. "In a day or so he will come out of you and will make some flies and worms in the soil quite happy. Your bowels shall be his first Hell, though you will never suffer for it. And when he departs your bowels, your former master will enjoy the bowels of earth's tiniest creatures until one day a tree pulls him up from the soil, in bits and pieces smaller than the eye can see, and he can again have his choice of begging the stars that wrought his existence for forgiveness. Though, somehow I doubt he will do that until the very sun shall consume the Earth and all creatures have departed beyond all the gods men make, and beyond all heavens and hells."

With that, the sun crested over the trees and she felt herself gently flow into her body from a myriad of silken threads, to finally sink into a comforting sleep.

When she awakened, the huge web had dissolved into nothing, except for one black clump on the ground, which tried futilely to escape it. Her right hand still grasped the huge sword with great comfort. Her three dogs sat silently before her, waiting for her words, and a spider beneath the stone upon which she had first rested her head purred softly. She smiled, and with her heart thanked the diminutive creature, and said to the dogs, "I think it's time to put my domain in order. But first..." And the dogs wagged their tails expectantly, setting three small tornadoes of dirt into motion, each huger than the other. ”No,” she smiled, ”you've had enough meat for one day.”

She walked over to the web-encased, black robed man struggling on the ground.

”Priest, I give you a choice.”

He mumbled an indistinguishable reply through the gag of webbing within his mouth.

“No.  Your days of expressing vile words are forever finished. As I said, I give you a choice. You can nod yes or shake your head no to reply. Do you understand?”

But he only kept trying to escape while mumbling nonsense. So she lowered her sword until its razor sharp forward edge cut through a bit of the web and cloth between his legs.

He mumbled a loud yelp as it lightly sliced slightly into his member, which began to bleed a bit.

“You have lustfully raped and tortured to death countless women, boys, and girls in your wicked adult life with that organ. Never again. Here is my choice to you. I can slice off that organ clean through, and the web will hold back enough blood from ending your life here and now...”

He tried screaming curses in horror.

“Now, now,” she replied, feeling the mid-sized dog nuzzling the nape of her neck sweetly. “No more words, as I said. Ever! For that web in your mouth is already strangling your tongue into its decay.” And she thrust her sword slightly deeper to make her point clear. “Or I can leave you as you are, entangled to await all the creatures of the forest, large and small, to have their natural way with you.”

After he'd made his choice, the two smaller dogs helped her up upon the shoulders of Dragonslayer. With the priest's mumbling attempts at cursing growing ever more silent the farther away from the clearing towards the castle she rode, she inhaled deeply, and spread open her arms wide, slightly bloody sword still in hand, to let the sun bathe her in its warmth. And she wondered only slightly what the prince would choose when it was his turn to face a woman as ancient as the first stirrings of life on the planet. She looked back and forth to the two beautiful dogs walking alongside the mastiff she rode, and said, “Now, what shall we name you?”

All three dogs stopped. With one huge contended voice, all four howled like no wolves ever have.


In memory of Agnes (1954-1995), who died for the sins of her father and priestsagnes




Thank you, Mehrak

Link to purring wolf spiders
https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/these-spiders-can-purr

Bent Lorentzen

Bent Lorentzen

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