“Otheris! Otheris!” a woman voiced out, “wake up Otheris!”
“Oh come on, can’t a man just have a good rest in this house?” he grumbled.
“Yes he can! Of course he can…if he sleeps like normal people do and not go about hunting crones and fays every night. Get up!” commanded the woman.
“Alright! Alright! I am up already,” he said as he stretched, “what’s for breakfast? I am hungry!”
“Of course you are! But first, the king has sent for you, the guards are outside!” she said.
“I have to eat something! I don’t want to die of hunger, and I know you won’t be happy if your precious Otheris dies either!” joked Otheris as he yawned.
“Well, I promise you by the time you get back son I’d have your favourite meal on the table! Now go before the villagers have another reason to start spreading silly rumours about you again dear!” she pleaded.
“Okay aunt Zeenah!” he said as he stood up and walked out of his room, “off I go!”
Otheris met the guards outside and tried to keep up with them as they walked to the third palace, but he was too weak so he spoke to one of the guards to please run fast and have food be made ready for him at the palace.
On their arrival, he met most of the village folk standing and some men seated near the king.
“Aha! Otheris! You have earned a place amongst men, my friend. Here!” said the king to Otheris as he pointed his finger at the seat next to him.
Otheris walked through the crowds, “I am hungry my liege!” he said.
“Oh no,” exclaimed the king, “if the great village of Moughdug lacked no food, it would be an insult for its king to have half of what it owned in the storehouse my friend,” he laughed, “what would you like to eat?” asked the king as he smiled gleefully at Otheris.
“Anything with bread would be fine your majesty!” replied Otheris.
“I like you!” said the king, “Ha-ha! Bring him the finest of the wines and make sure the finest of the soup and meat is brought along with the loaf.” ordered the king as he tapped Otheris, “You know, when I was your age my father taught me a lot of things. He even taught me how to woo a woman my friend,” he laughed, “my father, before he died advised me to try and make every village under my rule look like the capital, and do you know what I did?” he smiled, “well, I built a palace in all the seven villages, just like this one! This way I can spend time with my people and understand them better and of course, this requires I spend about a year or so in every village I visit,” he tapped Otheris on the shoulder, “now, you! I see that you have hidden gifts which will be of benefit to these villages, and my entire kingdom as a whole,” he lowered his hand and pulled out a small crown from underneath his throne and said, “could you believe I have crowns like this one under all my thrones, in all the seven villages under this kingdom? With all that I have known and with all the wives and concubines I have, my friend, not a single male child!?” he simpered, “however, I believe I need not worry anymore,” as he returned the crown where he pulled it from.
Three maids walked in with trays.
“Ah! You! Bring the table here!” ordered the king as one of the guards quickly brought a small table and kept it before the king and Otheris. The maids placed some bread, a bowl of soup, roasted turkey and a jar filled with wine on the table.
“Today you eat with your king! Today this kingdom celebrates and honours you Otheris son of Delial! Eat!” said the king as he pushed the table in front of Otheris, “I shall soon organise a feast in your honour my friend!”
Otheris cut a piece of bread from the loaf and dipped into the soup before him and then he swallowed it.
“Ha-Ha! I can see you are a man of action my friend! I like you!” added the king, “Okay! Everybody out!” he clapped, “Karim, you stay!” pointed at one of the well-built men among his guards.
“I like his beard!” referred Otheris to the one called Karim as he turned to the king, “I really would love to have a beard like that!”
“It’s easy Otheris, grow it!” answered the king laughing.
The guards, the maids and all the men walked out silently leaving only Otheris and the king.
“I will not waste your time my friend. We both know how precious time is, don’t we? Now, you have proven wrong all the village folk after all these years and you have gladdened my heart. But I am not happy about a few things; one, I don’t like the way these witches wrapped their chains around the feet of these young men in my kingdom, amongst other things! Otheris, I need to ask you for a favour, just one!” the king said, “You look like a young man who has got too much to do! Ah! Too little time!”
Otheris cut more from the loaf and dipped it in the soup nodding his head as he ate.
“There is also a rumour long dispersed in the kingdom which appears tangible; they say that my loins lack the seeds to yield a male child…which also, typically means I would not have any heir. I want it to remain a rumour!” he stood to his feet and began to walk gently, “you know, the oracle said that there lies a finical hag and serpents that are working against my throne,” he stopped, “however, the oracle made it clear months back that this hag’s identity would never be known and that if or when known and killed along with the serpents, then I can bear even many sons!” the king turned to Otheris, “I do not expect you to understand the importance of this thing-of you not only capturing the great witch of Moughdug but delivering her headless body! It’s also very important to deliver to me the heads of all the serpents…of Qhudrus, for anytime these serpents feed destinies are stolen Otheris, serpents do not chomp their meal they swallow it whole so when you encounter them do not only bruise them, decapitate them all even when they appear to you in dreams!”
Otheris sipped some wine and went for more bread, “Mmm!” expressed Otheris as he nodded.
“A quarter of my gold and silver all for you if you can locate these serpents and bring to me their heads!” said the king.
Otheris swallowed the bread in his mouth and grinned, “I’ll need something more palpable!”
“You can carry the oracle along with you on your journey; the best guide and protection together with seven of my best men!” said the king, “in the end you’d find out that my offer is more staggering than any reward a man in this kingdom could ever gain.” The king returned to his throne, “Question is, do you have what it takes to earn it?”
“When I return I shall tell you how I ensnared the great witch of Moughdug! I have all the luck I need to slay the serpents of Qhudrus!” said Otheris.
“You will need more than just luck when you encounter the serpents of Qhudrus,” said a tender voice, “for they are more cunning and malignant than the great witch of Moughdug…who begot them!”
Otheris quaffed his wine and turned to see the one who spoke.
“Such pleasing sight!” said Otheris as he stood to his feet amazed by her looks, “I feel intoxicated by your beauty my lady. I am Otheris, son of…!”
“I know who you are son of Delial, I’ve longed to see you ever since you first appeared in my dream!” she said, “You’ll need more than just yourself on this journey. Your skills are no match for the serpents of Qhudrus, so I suggest you take with you seventy men, for the ones who hold Qhudrus in bondage bore many more of their kind, and they boast of spifflicating the dreams of many a more men than you could ever imagine!”
“The soothing sight of your beauty would not allow my ears serve their purpose correctly my lady, and you are?” asked Otheris.
“You haven’t met the Oracle before, hmm?” inquired the king.
“The Oracle?” asked Otheris smiling, “this is the…I mean…she’s the-Oracle?” He emphasised.
“Uh huh!” replied the king, “Thakina shall go with you on this journey, and when you come face to face with the serpents of Qhudrus she would be more than useful to you!”
“Well, in that case I will do it for half of what you have promised me if she’d marry me on our return!” Otheris said.
“Your words, so strong…like a huge block of ice under the desert sun at midday Otheris!” she said.
Otheris sneezed, “Well, trust me I am…”
“Bless you! Now, can we focus on what we are all here for? Lady and gentleman!?” interrupted the king as he spread his arms, “alright! Good! Now where was I? Oh yes! If you bring me their heads I shall offer you what I have promised.”
“What do I get for killing the great witch?” asked Otheris.
“Nothing! Besides, you ate from the king’s table that should be enough!” she joked.
“Two great men are conversing, you don’t mind, do you?” said Otheris.
“My big farm on the northern side of Avigia, the former capital,” replied the king.
“This is not happening!?” she protested.
“I want the garden on the western side of this village, my aunt loves fruits!” Otheris injected.
“No! Father you cannot give him that! My favourite fish pond is in the middle of that garden!” she shouted.
“You don’t have to break my eardrums Thakina!” the king said, “calm down love!”
Otheris bent and held the turkey on the table then pulled off a lap and took a bite, “The Oracle is your daughter?” he asked in amazement, “okay fine, you know what? I don’t want the garden anymore I have changed my mind.”
“Changed? Your mind?” the king responded, “So you will do it for free?”
“Well, Yes! Sort of, but on the condition that she will be my bride when I slay the serpents of Qhudrus! Deal?” he said, as he kept the meat back on the table stretching his right hand to the king.
“Hmm! Well, it seems you’ve left me with no choice,” said the king as he shook Otheris’ hand, “deal!”
“Father, seriously?” she shouted, “you forced me to work at the temple like that isn’t enough punishment, now this!?”
“He’s a good boy…I guess,” the king replied.
“Who would want to marry a boy?” she said.
“Well, I meant to say a man!” responded the king as he turned to Otheris, “okay agreed! You can have my daughter’s hand in marriage…and the western garden! Because you…deserve it! And you shall find that I, King Ikaneziah, is very generous!” he stretched his right hand to Otheris once more, “Just bring me their heads,” whispered the king, “all of them!”
“Give me seven of your best men! We set to Qhudrus at dawn tomorrow!” Otheris said.
“Seven? I advise you take seventy. Besides, you look like a man with too much pride whose fall is inevitable!” said Thakina.
“Done! They shall await you by the palace gates earlier than that!” answered the king as he turned to Karim, “Assemble six of your best men!”
“Try and wear something light, the temperature is well, not suitable for thick clothes…princess!” Otheris teased.
“Don’t you ever call me princess!” she said as she walked away.
“Don’t worry, she behaves like that whenever she feels cared for!” said the king as he winked, “You know what I mean?”