"Vilos" by Romeo Esparrago

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Jacob and the Sorceress's Daughter
by Justin R. Lawfer


There once was a simple young man named Jacob, who lived with his mother on a small farm. One day Jacob's mother said, "My son, the land has not yielded enough crops for us to pay next month's rent. I want you to take our three best milk cows to the market and sell them, so that we will have money to keep our home."

Jacob did as his mother told him, and set off down the road with the three cows. As he walked along, whistling nonsense tones and kicking at pebbles, he came across a tall, broad-chested merchant. The man looked the cows over and said, "My dear fellow, I would like to buy one of your fine animals."

"And what will you give me, sir?" Jacob asked.

The merchant, who had perceived Jacob's simpleness, reached into the sack hanging at his side and pulled out a pair of worn boots. "I will give you these magical boots, sir. With these you can walk in the air high above the ground!"

Now Jacob liked the idea of owning magical boots. He traded one of his cows for the items, unaware that they were, in fact, not magical. Then he continued down the road until he happened upon another merchant, who also showed an interest in one of his cows.

"And what will you give me, sir?" Jacob asked the short, dark-haired man.

The merchant reached into his sack and pulled out a pair of frayed gloves. "These are magical gloves. With them you can break through any door and crush boulders into pebbles!"

Jacob was intrigued, so he agreed to the trade. Like the boots, the gloves were also not magical, but Jacob did not know this as he proceeded to the market. Before he arrived, he met a third merchant. "I would like to buy your cow," the wide-eyed fellow with scraggly blond hair said.

"And what will you give me, sir?"

The merchant pulled off his cap. "I will give you this magical cap, which allows you to know the thoughts of someone else five seconds before they even think it!"

Jacob loved the sound of that, so he traded his last cow for the cap, which also was not possessed of magical properties. He put on the boots, the gloves, and the cap, and went through a walk in a nearby forest to test the abilities of his new wardrobe. But before he could do anything, he heard a cry for help. He ran toward the sound, and discovered an old woman standing beside a cart that had become trapped in a huge mudhole.

"Please help me," she pleaded. "I was riding along and did not see this mudhole, and my cart sank right into it. Can you pull it out?"

"Of course, madam." Jacob was not very bright, but growing up on a farm had made him strong, and with one heave he yanked the cart out of the hole.

"Thank you, young man," the woman said. "How can I ever repay you?"

"You need not repay me," he said, "for today I traded three cows for these boots that let me fly through the air, these gloves that can break through doors and crush boulders into pebbles, and this cap that allows me to know what someone else is thinking five seconds before they do. I am truly the luckiest man in the world!"

What Jacob did not know was that the old woman was a sorceress whose powers had diminished over the years as she had aged. She knew that the items were not magical, but she wanted to repay the lad for his kindness. With a twist of her hand and a mumbled verse she enchanted the items so that they would do what Jacob had said.

"You have my eternal gratitude," the old woman said. "And I bid you a long life and good fortune."

"And I bid you the same," Jacob said. He watched her ride off, then proceeded on his way through the forest. It was not long before he heard a shrill scream. He raced ahead, and saw three large men attacking a young raven-haired maiden.

"Witch!" they yelled at her. "Devil's spawn! Demon lover!"

"Stop!" Jacob ordered.

The men looked at him. They laughed at the sight of the poorly-dressed country bumpkin, then continued to assault the woman.

Jacob raced at them. He let out a yell, and this time the men drew their swords. However, because of his cap, Jacob knew where his attackers were going to strike before they did, so he held up his gloves. The blades hit them and shattered into pieces. Jacob jumped up and walked through the air above the men, who became so frightened by this that they immediately fled.

Jacob returned to the ground and helped the maiden to her feet. She embraced him. "Oh, what a wonderful man you are! I thank you for saving my life." She introduced herself as Vilos, and insisted that Jacob come home to meet her mother Yutril, who would make him a fine meal as a reward for his courageous deed.

Jacob traveled with Vilos, and when he entered her house he saw an old woman sitting by the fireplace. To his surprise, it was the same woman whose cart he had freed from the mudhole.

"How wonderful this is!" the old woman said after Vilos explained what had happened. "You have helped both me and my oldest daughter in the same day."

The daughter said, "Mother, do you think Jacob could use his magical items to save Myrel?"

Yutril frowned. "Vilos, I do not think we should ask him to perform such a dangerous task."

"Who is Myrel?" Jacob asked.

"She is my younger daughter," the old woman answered. "Several months ago she was kidnapped by a ferocious flying monster called Rejahi, who resides in a palace above the clouds. I have been unable to find someone brave and clever enough to rescue her."

"I will do it!" Jacob declared, for his recent acquirement of the magical items had filled him with confidence. "Just tell me how to reach the monster's palace, and I will rescue your daughter."

Yutril and Vilos exchanged smirks. "Listen to me carefully," the old woman said. "Two days' journey to the east is a cave, wherein lies a great golden goose that belongs to Rejahi. One night the goose was out flying during a terrible storm. The rain forced her into the cave, where she sat to dry her wings. However, the cave is guarded by the monster Nehalob, who prevents the giant bird from escaping because he enjoys feasting upon her delicious eggs." She looked Jacob in the eye. "Do you still wish to rescue my daughter?"

"Of course!" Jacob answered, excited by the prospect of adventure.

Yutril smiled. She whispered something to her daughter, who went to another room, then returned with a golden rope. The old woman said, "You must tie this around the goose's neck. Once you have done so, the bird will obey your every command. Use her to reach Rejahi's palace and save Myrel."

Jacob took the rope. "I will get the goose and rescue your daughter," he promised. And after he had packed a bag with food and filled a flask with water, he set out on his journey.

* * *

Two days later, Jacob stood at the mouth of a massive cave. He straightened his cap, pulled his gloves and boots tight, and charged in.

"Who goes there?" a voice bellowed.

Jacob stopped and stared at the red-skinned creature that sat by a blazing fire in the center of the cave. He had a large down-turned horn on the end of his top jaw, and rows of small spikes running along the sides of his long neck.

"I am Jacob," the lad said to the beast.

Nehalob's pointed ears stood up. "What do you want, human?"

"I have come for the golden goose. And I am willing to fight you to get her."

Nehalob let out a laugh as he got to his feet, revealing that he stood ten times taller than Jacob. "Do you really think you can defeat me?"

"Yes, I do, for I possess magical objects that make me the greatest fighter in all the world!"

Nehalob growled. "Your arrogance will be your undoing, boy!" He raced toward Jacob.

Because of the cap, Jacob knew what Nehalob was thinking, and quickly dove out of the monster's path. Nehalob spun around and swiped at Jacob with his long claws, but Jacob leapt into the air before he was struck. He flew at the monster's left knee and bashed it with his gloved fists.

Nehalob fell to the ground, clenching his knee in pain. Jacob smiled, landed on the ground, and raced to the back of the cave. There he found a giant nest of mud, moss, and pine trees, inside of which slept a cottage-sized bird. Her golden plumage shone like the sun, and her beak and webbed feet were flaming orange in color.

Jacob leapt into the nest and carefully tied the rope around the bird's neck. She opened her eyes as he climbed onto her back. "Golden goose, take me to the palace of Rejahi," Jacob commanded.

The goose honked in affirmation. She stood, shook herself a few times, and spread her wings. She soared away from the nest, over the moaning form of Nehalob, and up into the sky. After several moments she reached Rejahi's castle above the clouds. The goose flew around the gigantic silver structure until Jacob ordered her to land on a window sill. Jacob peered into a massive chamber. He guessed it to be some sort of immaculate dining room, for there was a long golden table adorned with candles half as tall as houses. On the table was a plate wide enough to build a cottage on, beside which lay silverware longer than a horse and chariot combined.

Jacob's astonishment at the room changed into heart-stopping awe as he watched a horrific monster enter the room. The creature had a leonine face with horns protruding from his forehead, cheeks, and chin. His thick red arms and legs ended in hawk-like talons. Two leathery wings were folded across his back, and the tip of his tail was adorned with six twisted spines.

"So that is Rejahi," Jacob thought. "He certainly is an evil-looking creature."

Rejahi placed something on the table, then turned and left. Jacob leaned closer to the window and discovered that the thing was a maiden with long blonde hair.

"That must be Myrel," Jacob thought.

Rejahi returned with a huge platter of meat. He set down the platter and carefully transferred a piece of meat to his plate. He took the knife and fork and, with the precision of a diamond-cutter, sliced off a tiny piece, which he slid to the edge of the plate.

Myrel picked up the tiny piece and ate it. Rejahi smiled. "Sing for me," he said.

The girl nodded, and proceeded to sing a beautiful song whose melody reached through the windowpane to tug at Jacob's heart.

Rejahi applauded as Myrel finished her song. "Excellent, my dear." He gave her another piece of meat.

Jacob turned to the goose. "So that monster is keeping her here for his entertainment! Well, I promised to save her, and that is what I am going to do!" He sat and thought for several moments until an idea popped into his mind. He flew the goose to the front step, then knocked as hard as he could on the door. He quickly untied the golden rope from the goose's neck and hid under her wing as Rejahi emerged.

"My golden goose!" the monster cried happily. "My golden goose has returned to me!" He joyfully scooped up the bird and carried her inside. He stroked her head as he walked into his bed chamber, where there sat a giant golden cage. "I have missed you, my dear goose. I have not tasted your golden eggs for so long." He gently placed the goose inside the cage, then fetched some grain and water. "Eat and drink well, my pet, so that I may feast upon your eggs tomorrow."

Rejahi left to finish his meal. For almost an hour Jacob held himself close to the goose's warm body. Then Rejahi returned. With him was Myrel, whom he placed in a silver cage on the other side of the room. Rejahi laid down in his bed, and within minutes was snoring loudly.

Now Jacob proceeded with his plan. He left the goose's wing, squeezed between the bars of the cage, and unfastened the latch. After he had quietly swung open the door, he swiftly tied the rope around the goose's neck and got on her back.

"Fly to that cage," he whispered as he pointed to where Myrel slept. The goose fluttered across the room and alighted beside the cage. Jacob jumped off, threw open the door and stepped inside. His heart leapt into his throat, for Myrel was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. He slowly ran his hand through her shimmering hair, then knelt beside her and stared at her delicate face. He removed his cap, leaned forward, and kissed her.

Her eyelids flung open. She looked at Jacob and screamed.

Jacob was taken by surprise. "No, no, it's all right," he said. "I'm here to rescue you!"

This statement did not cause Myrel to abate her screaming. Rejahi stirred. Jacob lifted Myrel from her bed and carried her to the goose. He placed her on the bird's back, then quickly jumped on.

"What is going on?" Rejahi asked. "Myrel, are you all right?"

Myrel let out another scream as the goose flew out of the chamber.

Rejahi roared, "Who dares trespass into my castle to steal both my singing maiden and my golden goose?"

Jacob guided the goose toward the front door of the castle. But when he saw that it was shut, he turned the goose toward a window.

Rejahi stormed into the room. "You will pay for your crime, thief!" He raced forward and knocked over a table as he reached for Jacob. The lad piloted the goose out of the creature's grasp. The window loomed ahead. Jacob scrambled up the goose's neck and stood on the end of her beak. He held his fists forward. The gloves struck the window and shattered it, thus clearing the way for the goose. Jacob returned to his place by Myrel as the goose soared away from the castle. Rejahi stormed out of the front door. He spread his massive wings and followed.

"Return to me what is mine, and I will make your death swift," he promised.

Jacob instructed the goose to descend. He smiled, knowing that Rejahi would lose them in the clouds. As the goose flew in the direction of Yutril's cottage, Jacob suddenly realized that Myrel had not said a word since being rescued. He turned around, and felt his stomach turn to mush when he saw her glorious face. Sweat formed on his face and in his armpits despite the coolness of the air. He managed to maintain his composure as he said, "Fair maiden, I have rescued you from that terrible monster, and am now taking you to your mother and sister, who eagerly await your return."

Myrel frowned. "You are a fool, sir."

"What do you mean?"

"You have taken me from the only creature who can protect me."

"Protect you? Protect you from what?"

"From my mother and sister."

The goose cleared the clouds and swooped over the forest. The cottage of Myrel's family could be seen in the distance.

"I don't understand."

"My mother and sister are evil sorceresses who practice dark magic," Myrel said. "They need me to become the third member of their triad, so that they may elevate their malignant powers to their fullest potential."

Jacob scratched his head. "But they seemed so nice . . . "

"Of course. They didn't want anyone to know of their evil scheme. But Rejahi discovered their plans and took me away before I could be corrupted."

"But why did he have you in a cage? And why did he force you to sing for him?"

"He didn't force me to sing -- I did that because he is my friend. And he kept in a cage for my protection, in case my mother and sister tried to kidnap me."

The goose circled over the cottage and let out a heavy honk.

"The goose is getting tired," Jacob said. "I must let her land." He ordered the bird to alight by the cottage, which she did as Yutril and Vilos emerged.

"Sister!" Vilos ran to Myrel as she stepped off of the goose. "It is so good to see you again! I was afraid that--"

"Silence!" Myrel interrupted. "I know of your vile scheme. You have tricked this man into helping you."

"Indeed we have," Yutril cackled. "Rejahi would have sensed our dark magic if Vilos or I had tried to approach his castle. However, he never detected this country lad." She grinned at her daughter. "And now that we are together again, no force will be able to stop us!" She grabbed Myrel's wrist, and Vilos clenched the other one. Then Yutril and Vilos held hands. "We are now united!" the crone exclaimed as bolts of black lightning snaked through their arms and passed through their bodies. "Our powers are limitless!"

"I don't think so," a deep voice said. From the sky descended Rejahi. "I won't allow this union to happen!"

"You are a fool to think that you can stop us!" Yutril released the hand that held Myrel and pointed it at Rejahi. Bolts of red lightning flew from her fingertips and darted toward the monster. Rejahi flipped, twisted, and turned in the air, dodging all the bolts.

As Jacob watched the battle, he finally understood what was happening. He raced forward and yanked Myrel from the circle.

"No!" Vilos screamed. She opened her mouth, revealing long blue fangs. Her red tongue lashed out like a whip, striking Jacob in the face. The lad flew into the air to avoid another strike. He pulled on the cap. With the knowledge of Vilos's thoughts of attack, he managed to grab her tongue when she lashed out again. He wrapped the tongue around her neck and upper body, then kicked her to the ground.

Jacob alighted as Rejahi let out a great cry. Yutril's rays had hit the monster and driven him to his knees. Jacob ran toward the old woman with the intention of punching her from behind. She suddenly spun around and knocked him away.

"Fool!" she hissed. "Do you think you can harm me? Although the dark triangle was broken, I still have enough power to crush you!" She laughed as sparks of white light flashed across her body. She began to grow. Her fingers changed into twisted claws. Massive spines protruded from her shoulders, chest, and back. Her lower jaw stretched out as tendrils grew from her cheeks. Her eyes became yellow orbs. When she stopped growing, she stood as tall as Rejahi.

"Now you die!" Yutril growled. She raised her foot above Jacob. The lad did not need the cap to know what she planned to do. Then Yutril was shoved aside by Rejahi. The two tumbled through the forest, crushing all the trees that stood in their way.

Myrel ran to Jacob. "Are you all right?"

Jacob adjusted his cap. "Yes, but I don't think your mother likes me."

"She will kill every living thing in the land if she is not stopped."

"Then she must be stopped," Jacob concluded. He leapt onto the goose and ordered her into the air. He flew toward the battling titans. Yutril had jabbed her claws into Rejahi's shoulder. The flying beast roared in pain as he whipped her with his tail. Yutril grabbed the appendage and twisted it. Rejahi's roar became a deafening howl.

The goose swooped by Yutril's face. Jacob leapt off and slammed his fists into her nose. The monster released her hold on Rejahi and took several steps back. She swatted at Jacob, but he leapt off too soon, and she struck her nose instead. She shrieked as blood sprayed from her nostrils.

Jacob raced through the air and hovered by Rejahi's ear. "Listen to me. I need you to cut through her chest so that I may enter her heart."

The beast nodded in understanding. Jacob moved away as Rejahi sprang forward. He embedded his horns into Yutril's chest, causing her to scream. Particles of blue light rained from her mouth and poured over Rejahi. He backed away as they exploded across his skin. Weakened, he fell to the ground.

Yutril placed a foot on her opponent's chest. "You shall be the first victim of my newfound powers, Rejahi!"

As she spoke, Jacob flew into one of her chest wounds. He used his fists to clear a way to her heart. He found an artery, and used the gloves to rip it in half. He found more blood vessels and tore those apart as well. Yutril gripped her chest and stumbled back. She jerked wildly as blood flowed from her wounds. Jacob, covered with blood, leapt out as the monster gave one final death-cry before toppling backwards. Her body sizzled and bubbled, then disintegrated into a black pool that instantly seeped into the ground.

The blood on Jacob also vanished, as did the magic in his cap, gloves, and boots. He plummeted toward the ground.

"I am going to die," he thought sadly. "But at least I have saved Myrel, and the world."

He struck something, but it was not the ground. He sat up, and found himself in Rejahi's open palm. The monster smiled at him as he carefully placed the lad on the ground.

"Well done," Rejahi said.

"I thank you for saving my life, sir," Jacob replied.

"And I thank you for saving mine."

Jacob nodded. He tossed off the worthless cap and gloves as Myrel ran up and embraced him. "You have saved us!"

"Yes, but I am sorry that your mother had to die."

Myrel shook her head sadly. "She chose to follow the path of darkness, and as such she had to pay the price."

"What about your sister?"

They looked around, but she was gone.

"She must have fled during the battle," Myrel said. "No matter. Now that our mother is dead, Vilos's dark powers will fade."

Jacob nodded. "But now what is to happen to you?"

Myrel sighed. "I suppose I must return with Rejahi to his castle."

Jacob looked at the ground. "Yes, I suppose you must."

"It does not have to be that way," Rejahi said. "Since your mother is gone, Myrel, you will be safe here. You may live your life as you please."

Myrel's face lit up. "Yes, you're right!" She took Jacob's hand. "Jacob, may I stay with your family?"

"Of course you may." He thought for a moment. "But it will be a long trek back to my home."

"Not if you fly," Rejahi said. He whistled for the goose, who landed at his feet. "Jacob, I want you to fly home on my golden goose before I take her back to my castle. And when she lays her next egg, I will give it to you. Its center will be pure liquid gold, and it will make you a rich man."

"Thank you, Rejahi." He helped Myrel onto the goose's back, then sat behind her. Myrel wrapped Jacob's arms around her waist. As the goose took off, Myrel saw a contemplative look come over the lad's face.

"What is the matter?"

"Oh, I was just thinking of a way to tell my mother about what happened to the cows."



Story © 2003 by Justin R. Lawfer jlawfer@hotmail.com

Illustration © 2003 by Romeo Esparrago romeo@planetmag.com

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