"Bat-King" by Andy McCann


The Captive
by Justin R. Lawfer


King Seratin, ruler of the Goblin Nation, slowly circled the stone slab in the center of his torture chamber. "So, at long last, warrior, I have triumphed," he said, a tooth-filled grin upon his bat-like face.

His prisoner, a heavily muscled, blond-haired man who was shackled to the slab, made no reply. He only stared up at the ceiling, from which hung an iron platform whose bottom was covered with hundreds of foot-long spikes.

"You have given me quite a lot of trouble over the past five years," Seratin continued. "You have killed hundreds of my minions and sent their souls to the Shadowlands. You have slain multitudes of my ferocious monsters. You have destroyed dozens of my strongholds. You have freed thousands of the human and elfin slaves who toiled in my mines, digging up the raw materials used to make weapons and chariots for my army. And all this has made you a legend amongst the oppressed, which is why they have given you the title of Victor the Victorious." He raised his fists into the air. "But who is victorious now, eh?" Seratin let out a hideous cackle that resounded throughout the chamber. "I have conquered the almighty conqueror, and now have him chained up like a mongrel dog!"

Seratin shuffled forward and leaned close to Victor's face, his words a rancid whisper. "You must admit that my plan was ingenious. By promising her a quarter of my massive wealth and the Seat of Power in my new Southern Territory, I convinced your beloved, your soul-mate, the one person you trusted above all else, to help me cause your downfall. You never suspected that she slipped a sleeping potion into your wine when the two of you drank to yet another triumph over my forces! What have you to say to that, hero?"

Victor's piercing gray eyes met Seratin's. "I will see to it that my former lover pays for her treachery," he calmly said. "After that, I will continue my quest of vanquishing your forces and freeing those whom you have enslaved."

Seratin frowned as he pulled away from Victor. He turned from the warrior and began pacing, slowly clenching and unclenching his taloned fists. Seratin stopped, the muscles across his ridged, reptilian back still working. "Bold words, hero," Seratin said loudly, "but they will do you no good, for this is the day of your execution. I will drink your blood as it flows from your body, and savor every drop as it washes over my tongue and passes down my throat."

"The only thing you will taste, Seratin, is defeat." He gazed levelly at the powerful, yet bent, figure of the infamous king.

The goblin curled his talons, the nails pressing deeply into his black palms. "An empty threat from a defeated warrior! Nothing can stop me now!" He shambled over to an iron wheel set in the rocky wall. With a grunt and a groan, he started to turn the creaking wheel. The spike-covered platform slowly descended on a rattling chain.

"You had better start praying to whatever weak gods you worship, Victor," Seratin said with a wide grin. "For every moment that passes brings you nearer to oblivion. Every second brings you one step closer to joining my deceased soldiers in the bowels of the Shadowlands. Farewell, hero!" The king let out a squealing, maniacal laugh.

Victor watched grimly as the bloodstained spikes descended closer and closer to his body. He pulled against his shackles, the tendons on his arms standing out in rigid relief, but the sleeping potion had weakened him considerably. He took in a deep breath, ready to die with pride and dignity.

* * *

Suddenly, the heavy wooden door to the torture chamber slammed open. "Seratin!" a shrill voice called. The goblin king stopped turning the wheel. He and Victor looked up to the rough-carved doorway and watched as a blue-furred she-goblin -- with long, red-painted fingernails and polished bones rolled into her hair -- stormed down the stone stairs.

"Seratin!" the she-goblin called again. "What are you doing down here?"

"Desperelda, my dear, look!" Seratin said excitedly. "I've captured Victor the Victorious, and am just about to kill him!"

"I don't care," Desperelda snapped. "My parents are going to be here in half an hour, and you haven't even started to get ready!"

Seratin's jaw dropped. "Your parents are coming tonight? I thought they were coming tomorrow night!"

"No, you cotton-brained furball!" She shook her head. "Some ruler you are! It's bad enough that you forget my birthday and our anniversary, but it's ridiculous when you can't even remember when my parents are coming for dinner! I want you to come up and get ready this instant!"

"But, dear, I'm in the middle of killing my archenemy, and I... "

"I don't care if you're playing poker with the Dark One himself! You let that poor man go, and come up and get ready."

"Let him go?"

"I'll not have the smell of human blood on your breath and disgusting rotting human flesh infecting the castle again, NOR will I tolerate any mess! I want everything cleaned up BEFORE my parents get here, including you! And that means you take off that ratty old cape!"

Seratin clenched the scrap of red cloth hanging from his neck. "But I've had this cape ever since I became ruler of the Goblin Nation! My father gave it to me when he was on his deathbed!"

She narrowed her batlike eyes. "I don't care if the Dark One himself gave it to you as a birthday present! I hate that cape, so you're going to wear something else, and that's that!"

Seratin snarled, but Desperelda growled back. "I swear, Seratin, if you aren't ready by the time they're here, you won't be getting any snook-snook for the next decade! And you know I mean it!"

Seratin's eyes went wide. "Yes, dear..."

Desperelda smiled, turned, and left the chamber.

Seratin went to the stone slab and unfastened Victor's shackles with flicks of his talons. The hero stood, rubbing his numb arms and slowly backing away to the stairs.

Seratin smiled slowly, maliciously, looking up at Victor as the warrior paused in the doorway. "It seems that the demon Fate has smiled upon you, hero. You will not be killed this day." He pointed one long, black claw at Victor. "But depart with this piece of advice that I have long known: No matter how many enemy warriors you defeat or monsters you slay, you will find no opponent more challenging, more daunting, or more dangerous than your mate!"

Story © 2002 by Justin R. Lawfer jlawfer@hotmail.com

Illustration © 2002 by Andy McCann andy@planetmag.com

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