If only Princess Burtatris had done one other major thing in the last book, she wouldn’t now be staring at a seven foot tall fangy, flesh-eating merserpent with only a short sword as a weapon. At least she did one thing right – got it blessed by the Goddess of Life. Still, it was no match for the steely, razor sharp tail whipping about in the air and threatening to slice her to ribbons. If only she had done the second thing on the list of prophecies, then she could be sporting a flaming spear blessed by the God of War and this would be a cake walk. But no! She had to ignore the dire warnings clearly spelled out because she was written as TSTL. Without a plot device to turn back time and rethink her poor, hasty decision, she will have to wing it and do what she can to thwart the evil wizard’s plot to take over the world by turning everyone into merserpents. Failure is not an option if the kingdom and even the world is to survive unscaled.
“Take that, royal scum!” Prince Bartos said as he lunged forward with his bright orange rubber short sword.
“Hey, you’re royal too,” countered Bartos’ sister, Princess Burtatris, as she executed a perfect parry with her own rubberized sword. Hers was a bright green ever since being blessed by the Goddess of Life. Now that was quite a long story.
“No I’m not,” countered Bartos. “I am the Dread Pirate Bob!”
The two royal children thwacked their swords together in the royal garden—a place where they were specifically told time and time again not to play by their parents. But since it made the best place ever for sword fighting, the children naturally disobeyed.
In this one instance, that choice saved them from some horrors but introduced them to another.
The thunderous cry was so loud it rattled the windows.
“What was that?” Dread Pirate Bob froze and suddenly turned into a freaked out little boy of ten years.
Princess Burtratris’s face paled. “Uho,” she thought. “But it was just a stupid scroll!”
Despite her protests, something large and lumbering stomped closer to the kids’ chosen play area.
A large, green, scaly, lizard-like head appeared above the garden wall and fixed its beady yellow eyes on the children.
It roared at them with hungry-eyed interest.
Princess Butratis took charge. “Run to the sewers!” She grabbed her little brother’s arm and dragged him along as they ran to the sewer grate. Both children were well acquainted with its location. The dark tunnels ran underneath the entire castle and made the best play pretend dungeon filled with imaginary foes. They used to play there in the winter and on rainy days until finding a muddy pit the hard way and wound up dripping filthy water all over the castle. Now it was another forbidden area, but one that just might save their lives.
THUMP THUMP THUMP!
The heavy footsteps shook the ground as the lizard like thing gave chase.
The princess scrabbled at the gate, breaking a few nails. Finally it opened. She pushed her brother in and dove in after. The lizard head thumped into the hole with a resounding shudder that knocked dust and rock particles down from the ceiling.
“Agh!” Bartos screamed.
“It’s ok, the head doesn’t fit.” Butratris looked back just to make sure. The lizard head was definitely too large and right now its mouth was opened, revealing six inch razor sharp teeth and drool. Eww. Make that lots of drool. “C’mon, let’s get to the other side.”
This part of the journey was dark without a light. Too bad the princess slacked off on her magical studies or she might have been able to summon a light. Yet another bad decision to go along with not following the prophetic list. But she wasn’t ready to face that guilt just yet.
Using the amazing memory gifted her, Burtratris was able to navigate the cold, slimy, bug-ridden, dark, muddy in places tunnel. Light at the end of a tunnel, literally, was truly welcome. What wasn’t welcome, was what waited for them—the seven foot tall lizard-headed, snake-bodied, and scaly green thing with two small arms and a menacingly long tail with a wicked steely spike at the end.
“Agh!” Again Bartos expressed his scared kid nature.
Butratris was scared too and would have loved nothing better than to express her fear vocally, but a sixteen year old trained for crown duty was supposed to have more decorum. She straightened her shoulders and put an arm around Bartos to comfort him. “It’s ok, we’ll think of something.”
This was all her fault. At fifteen when she was supposed to travel to the God of War’s mountain because some moldy prophecy said so, she looked at the cold weather journey and was like, oh heck no. She didn’t mind getting the rubbery sword blessed by a goddess since that involved a short trip in the summer. It was just a stupid old scroll written by some dead guy anyway. But staring at a very real seven foot merserpent foretold by that same dead guy, she couldn’t deny it any longer. The prophecy was real. And they were in deep trouble.
“I need to sneak into the library.”
“What for?” Bartos perked up.
“I need to read the prophecy again.”
Bartos scrunched his nose like something smelled. “Why? That thing is dumb.”
“Because I’m forgetting something about an evil wizard. If I could find him, I might be able to fix this.”
“Oh I remember that. That’s easy.” Bartos quickly rattled off the relevant verse.
When the merserpents rise
The wizard spies from his tower on the shore.
At midnight with no light
The people are no more.
“Ah! That’s right. The old abandoned tower. We just have to get outside the city. Let’s go!”
They got lucky. The sewer exit that led out into the ocean was free of merserpents. Butratris had to kick the gate several times before it came crashing down. Wincing at the noise, she backed up and waited a good long while to see if the sound attracted any of the creatures.
“I’m just gonna poke my head out, stay here,” Butratris whispered before slowly stepping closer to the exit. Poking her head out, only the sight and sounds of gulls in the distance greeted her foray.
“Ok, all clear.” She waved her little brother forward and together they splashed along the shoreline headed for the crooked tower south of the city. She’d never been there before. In fact, rumor had it the place was haunted. More like occupied by a madman if the prophecy was right and this wizard was the source of all the trouble. There wasn’t much about the wizard in the scroll. Just a list of things to get before the big event. Butratris could see the advantages of having a long, flaming spear now. Still, that winter journey would have sucked big time.
Butratris grabbed her brother and dove for a boulder. Just ahead was one of the seven foot monstrosities. It was stomping around a fish net, chomping on now dead fish while getting all tangled up in the net. With no way to go around it without being seen, they were stuck waiting until it got bored and left.
With more time to study it, she noticed the merserpent was wearing the remnants of a dress which was pretty weird until she recalled the last part of the prophecy—the people are no more. Oh great goddess! They were once people. Butratris’s stomach balled up and wanted to hurl. She kept it back… barely. But why was she not affected? Or her brother?
The merserpent stepped closer and the rubber sword began to glow. Oh shoot! Afraid the light would give them away, she placed it on the ground and slid on top of it. Then it hit her—the blessing must be protecting them! That’s why it lit up and that’s why they were still human. She also realized her brother would have to go in the tower with her instead of staying safely behind. Well, that was rubbish!
The merserpent hung around for another hour until Butratris was ready to risk a chase that would probably end with her death but would warm her up. It was freezing outside in autumn this close to the water. Fortunately, the thing shrugged off the last of the netting and stalked towards the city. She waited a good long while before standing up. Making sure the sword was no longer glowing, she led her brother to the very doorstep of the old tower. Now there was no choice but to enter and hope the wizard was here.
The door just had to creak. Loudly. Let’s just announce to the evil wizard that somebody was coming. Great! Done with her internal monologue, Butratris scanned the place. Stone walls, no carpets, nothing but a spiral staircase that did not look like a threatening trap at all. Nope. Not at all.
“Stay behind me,” she cautioned. Taking the lead, she led her brother up, up and more up. In fact, they went so far up she was beginning to think this was some magic evil wizard trick until they reached a landing. Now this room was cozy with its bear skinned rugs and even a fireplace with a crackling fire. On the walls were the almost obligatory heads of animals. It was a surprisingly hunter-y lodge rather than the musty scrolls she thought a wizard would have.
“I’ve been expecting you.” The voice, more of a sneer, came from the left side of the room. An area cloaked in shadow.
Butratris boldly stepped forward. “I demand you restore everyone right this instant!” she ordered in her best imperial tone.
Sinister laughter filled the room. “I’m not frightened by your silly rubber sword.”
Butratris looked down at her bright green rubbery sword and chastised herself yet again for failing to do that stupid quest that would have given her a flaming spear. It was rather dumb to come here with a toy weapon, but what else could she do? Then she thought of the blessing and smiled to herself.
“You should be,” she boldly declared. “This rubbery weapon was blessed by the Goddess of Life.” She pointed it at the shadowy figure. “One touch and you regain a heart.”
The shadowy figure wasn’t laughing now. In fact, he looked a bit shivery.
Butratris took a step forward.
“No!” The figure shrieked. “Don’t come any closer!”
“Transform everyone back and I’ll hold my wrath.”
“Ok, sure.” He waved shadowy hands and pronounced, “There, all done. You can leave now.”
Oh she wasn’t falling for that. He didn’t even say a word. She might have slept through magic lessons but even she knew a spell had a verbal component.
“You’re lying!” she accused.
The man laughed a wicked, taunting laugh that chilled the bones. “Of course I’m lying. I’m an evil villain, that’s what I do. What else did you expect?”
“I expect you to-” She didn’t finish, instead lunging at him with the blessed sword. As it touched his chest he shrieked as if in great physical pain and began to shrivel.
His shriek started loud but got soft and tiny as he shrunk into a wrinkled sphere. Then he winked out entirely.
“Well, I didn’t quite expect that,” Burtratris exclaimed in surprise. Taking her brother’s hand she said, “C’mon, let’s go home and see if everyone has been restored.”
When they arrived at the castle, the king and queen were standing in the entryway. Upon seeing their children, they began to chastise them.
“Where have you been?” the king yelled.
“What mess did you cause now?” the queen said more sedately but with that exasperated tone that only parents got.
Princess Butratris just smiled at her parents standing there completely unscaled. It was great to be home.