Chapter 4 - Book of Fates



The Fates chose not to help anyone and attack the monster instead.


The last vote I amused myself by testing you, my divine Fates, on your moral compass. I am appalled to announce that you are almost unanimously devoid of scruples. Appalled, I say! To abandon your fellow humans in the heat of battle isn’t very chivalrous.


Are you sure you want to go down this path? Yes? All of you? Ah, I hear a lone ‘boo’ somewhere in the audience. Well, tough luck. The votes are binding once cast. Besides, torturing our mortal Subject and those around him is half the fun in this game, isn’t it? So, let us proceed.


***


The Eternal Knight weighs his options, then he turns his back on the old man and the elven girl, leaving them unprotected on the beach. He sidesteps, evading the oncoming attack, and oar firmly in hand, the knight charges through the shallows at the writhing, green mass of algae at the monster’s core.


Defense without an opening to attack wins no battles. It’s a recipe for a slow death. Better to test your luck, look the demon in the eye, and go out fighting.


Seawater scatters under his heavy, armored steps, foaming as the knight runs. His oar moves as if of its own volition. The paddle audibly cuts through the air, drawing a circle, ready to sink deep into the beast’s giant body — and misses.


The writhing vines pull back, leaving an empty space where the oar struck. Surprised, the knight loses his rhythm and lurches forward to regain balance. The monster’s body extends forward, vines grappling his arms and legs, leaves enveloping his armor, rooting him on the spot. Its face pulls apart, a column of vines shoots up out of the knight’s reach and reassembles high above his head into a new mask nestled in a large, leafy rosette. Its eyes glow with fury, focused on the knight. The vines wind around his joints, crushing the metal. His armor creaks.


A new column of tentacles shoots out past him, aiming for Turcifa. The old man has barely time to flinch before he is dangling upside down, his body also enveloped in tendrils, winding around his throat, seeking for his head.


The elven mage, up on her feet, forces her horror-stricken expression into one of grave concentration and aims her fingertips at the tentacles. Magic crackles around her, static raising her rose-colored hair, she lifts her pointed chin, big eyes wide, and blasts a stream of air at the vines. It grazes them gently and hits Turcifa square in the face. He screams and struggles for freedom.


“Sorry!” the girl cries in anguish, her small face scarlet with mortification. “I’m so sorry! My hands were sweaty and — let me try again!”


The monster gives Turcifa a sharp shake and something glints and falls from him to the rocks below, landing in the sand near the girl’s feet.


At once, the knight feels the monster’s hold on him slacken. It lets Turcifa fall on the stone below, and vines shoot toward the glinting, golden orb in the sand.


“My eye! Give it back! Don’t let it have it!” Turcifa shrieks, as the elf snatches the golden eye and jumps back away from the incoming vines.


No time to look. The Eternal Knight thrusts the grip of the oar under his loosened restraints and twists against the sinewy stems. The plant tears and parts under the pressure, green juice flows down the length of the oar, and the knight’s arms are free. He ignores the stiffness in his left elbow joint and grabs the rest of the vines holding him, his gauntlets digging into them, ripping them apart one by one.


The creature doesn’t flinch, remaining focused on the beach. The girl didn’t get far. She looks half-conscious, pinned to the rock wall, vines thrashing around her and choking her. Turcifa cowers on the ground, whimpering desperately, his body twisting and jerking under the cape.


Suddenly, Turcifa lifts his head. Below the hood looms a warped face, barely human, the one remaining eye wide in terror. A branch emerges from the void left behind by the golden orb. More offshoots burst out. Buds open, leaves unfurl, they rip and lift his soiled cape revealing a contorted body and flesh being overtaken by plants. The old man groans and gags. The knight does not think this is normal, but he has neither the memory to know for sure nor the skill to set it right. He remains focused on the plant colossus and a problem he can solve.


Undulating in the sea breeze, the monster’s long neck cranes over the knight, its head approaching the girl prey. The Eternal Knight lifts his oar, gripping it firmly by the handle and giving it a twirl.


“Time to finish off the bastard.”


The paddle whooshes through the air in a strong arc before it leaps out of his hand, soaring through the air and bursting through the beast’s neck. The monster lets out an unearthly scream, the sound reverberating inside his armor. Its head sways, then crashes to the ground like a felled tree. The headless body recoils, its tentacles retreating into a swirling mass, releasing the girl who slides down the rock wall and collapses on the sand.


The Eternal Knight catches his trusty oar out of the air, lifts it over his right shoulder, parallel to the ground, and swings for the beast’s belly. The trusty oar finds its target. It sinks into the green mass and vines wrap around it. The creature recoils and, defeated, plunges itself back into the sea — tearing the oar from the knight’s hands. Oar and monster disappear into the depths.


“My oar!” The knight shouts. “No!”


Water froths and bubbles behind the monster. A displaced wave swells past the knight’s shins then pulls back. Everything is quiet. His gauntlets are empty, his mind fumbling to protect his only memory, as if it was attached to the oar. It’s there, it’s safe. Still, his unease persists.



***


Divine Fates, judges of destiny. It is time to vote once more. Which action will you choose?


Option 1: Will the Eternal Knight retreat to recuperate before the inevitable pursuit of the oar? You know, if you feel at all bad for causing so much pain to our mortal playthings, you may consider giving them a breather and an opportunity for some first aid.


Option 2: Will the Eternal Knight immediately run after the monster to retrieve his oar? Rash actions are your style, but we don’t even know whether the knight can swim.


Option 3: Will the Eternal Knight be reasonable and find himself another oar? I mean let’s face it. There must be another lying around the beach somewhere.


***

The chapter voting closed every Monday at 8:00 AM WEST (Lisbon, Portugal time).


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