“Otheris! Otheris!” someone called in the dark, “wake up son!” said the voice louder.
Otheris woke up but saw Karim and four of the men aiming their swords at him.
“Where is Thakina?” he asked, “What have you done to her?”
“I am here, I am okay!” she said, “don’t move!”
“What?” asked Otheris, a bit frightened.
“Don’t move Otheris! We’re thinking of the best thing to do, whatever you do…don’t move!” said Karim.
“I don’t understand?” said Otheris as he looked at his feet carefully then sighted a big black snaked curled itself around his right ankle.
“Where are the rest of the men? Otheris asked with apprehension, “and please…what is that?”
“Mekel and Pelinias? They are dead! And that’s a big snake curled up on your right ankle.” Zuka replied, “We believe that those two damn women killed them…somehow, after we all gave in to slumber!”
“It was a very stupid thing to do!” uttered one of the men.
“Yes, a very stupid thing to do!” added Zuka as he shook his head.
Otheris was sweating, “I’m dreaming, right guys?” he turned to Thakina.
“No!” They all chorused.
Otheris did not bother to listen to what they were saying and he saw how scared they all were. He looked around and sighted a small rock, then cautiously dragged his body towards the rock with the snake still curled to his ankle.
“No! No!” they cried out as they slowly follow him.
Otheris picked the rock and smashed the head of the snake but it refused to let go, instead it curled itself tighter around Otheris’ ankle. Otheris then raised the rock higher and aimed its head again not minding his own leg, the snake quickly loosen its grip on Otheris as Karim ran forth and cut off its head.
Thakina rushed to Otheris to make sure he was not hurt, “Are you okay?” as she checked his ankle.
“Yes! I am fine!” he replied.
“Hmm! So much for the one who’d slay the serpents of Qhudrus!” said Zuka, “well, all the horses are dead too! All killed!”
While they wondered what just transpired, they heard a sound in the woods as though something large was making its way through and so kept their guard up, and as they gathered in one place forming a circle, a wild wind blew its way through and swept them all off their feet. A huge golden scaled serpent made its way and stood tall before them with its head spread like that of a mad cobra. Otheris quickly moved backwards in search of a weapon good enough to attack the serpent but could not find, he then saw his sword lying on the ground near the ashes from the fire and made an attempt to pick it, unknown to him a huge serpent same colour as the earth was lying close to it. The serpent expelled venom from its fangs and aimed directly at Otheris’ eyes, Otheris used his left hand and covered his eyes as fast as his eyelids could.
The serpent continued to disgorge its venoms until it drenched Otheris’ entire clothe as though his entire body was immersed in a slimed substance. He realised that the closer he moved towards the sword the more venom the serpent spewed.
While its attention was on Otheris, the serpent sensed Karim approaching from behind so it turned fast and like lightning struck Karim on the chest, his sword fell off his hand on one side, his body on the other.
Otheris lowered his hand and went straight for his sword, picked it and attacked the serpent but his attempt was futile.
Thakina got scared and turned to flee, the serpent hit her with its tail sending her into the air as it charged towards her, she fainted on landing as six more huge serpents came and surrounded her. The serpents began hissing and a great dark smoke arose and swallowed Thakina and all the serpents away into the woods.
“No! No! Thakina!” yelled Otheris as the men ran after the smoke but it disappeared leaving an evil laughter that echoed through the surroundings.
“I thought princess Thakina is supposed to use her powers to repel these blood suckers!” said Otheris.
“She’s only a dreamer! She dream dreams and the king mistook her for an oracle,” said Zuka, “and now it is your power that we are yet to see young Otheris!”
“I do not have any powers!” Otheris answered, “I only have faith in someone, that’s all!”
“You’ve got lucky Otheris, that serpent wanted to blind you,” said Fakal.
“Faith? Hmm!” exclaimed Zuka, “You should have put your faith into good use when they appeared and not land us in this fate. Faith! We’ll see about that! Let’s go save your princess Otheris, they couldn’t have gone far!”
“Let me check on Karim!” said Fakal as he turned to move.
“He’s dead! Let’s forge ahead before we lose their trail!” Zuka yelled.
The men walked through the woods that same night and arrived at an old house up on the mountain that looked haunted; the house looked like it stood the test of time through centuries. They approached carefully and broke their way in through its mighty doors, and because it had no light in it, they lit their way with torches. Thick cobwebs were everywhere, it seemed no one had lived there in a long while.
The men looked around carefully and with great caution. The wooden stair cases cracked and squeaked as they go up searching for signs of life in there. The entire house was old and cold, and it felt as though it watches them through its many hidden eyes on the walls.
“Thakina!” whispered Otheris.
“I don’t like this place!” Fakal said, he drew a second sword as they walked gently up the stairs.
They pushed themselves deep into the creepy old house but could not find the serpents nor anyone, instead, they came across cages made of steel filled with many starved children; when the children saw them they all stood up stretching their hands, “Help us!” the children said in a weak voice, they all looked sapless.
Otheris approached one of the cages, bent on his knees and looked around for a way to open the cage as the little girl stared at him.
“Please give me water to drink!” said the little girl.
Otheris tried to open the locks.
“You can’t open it without the keys!” she said.
“Where are the keys? Who has them?” he asked looking into the girl’s eyes as the rest of the children gathered behind her, all looking weak and feeble.
“With the witch down below!” the children responded.
“With the witch down below?” he asked.
The children shook their heads.
“What’s your name little one?” he asked.
“Aaricia!” answered the little girl.
“Lovely name!” he smiled, “I’ll get you out of here! All of you!”
“Otheris! Come on we’re running out time. Let’s go, we can come for them later!” suggested Zuka, Otheris stood to his feet.
“Please don’t leave us Mister! Mister please stay with us!” the children cried.
Saddened by the unpleasant situation, Otheris exhaled audibly and said, “I’ll be back for you! I promise! Just stay quiet okay?” he ran his hand through the little girl’s dusty hair, “stay strong, I’ll be back!”
“Come back with food and water! We are all hungry!” said Aaricia.
“We’ll bring something better than that Aaricia, we’ll bring freedom!” he answered. The children smiled and some in tears as they felt a glimpse of hope.
“Otheris!” Zuka yelled.
The men planned to split in order to comb the old house and after a long otiose hunt they all came down and gathered in what appeared to be the living room.
“I don’t think they are here!” said Zuka.
The men saw old paintings dating more than a century old,
Otheris approached one of the big paintings hung on the wall above the fire place, “I know this face!” he raised his torch higher revealing what appeared to be the portrait of the great witch of Moughdug.
“Who is it then?” Zuka asked as he admired his beards in a dusty mirror on the wall, “Hmm I think my beard would soon look like Karim’s! Maybe even longer, and finer!”
They heard a horrible laughter from the rooms upstairs that echoed throughout the creepy-old house, all went on alert and drew their swords pressing their backs against each other, then something began to roll downstairs like a crystal ball. It bounced its way down the big old wooden staircase, emitting smoke as it landed on the floor. The men watched it roll to the centre of the room.
“What’s this?” asked Zuka as he lowered his torch down walking towards the crystal ball. There seemed to be something shiny in the crystal, it glittered and dimmed continuously, Zuka turned away from the crystal ball and looked up the stairs.
“I think we should stick together!” said Fakal, “come and see what’s inside the crystal!”
The men stared down at the crystal ball as their reflections stared back at them, they saw something like a golden scaled serpent raising its head in the crystal ball. Unknown to them, it was the reflection of what was hanging on the big chandelier above their heads.
“Yes! You should!” hissed the golden scaled serpent as the crystal ball shattered to pieces breaking the floor beneath their feet, exposing what appeared to be a big conical opening about fifteen feet in diameter. The golden scaled serpent dropped itself upon them as they all slid along into the hole and down below into a cavern; the men screamed and yelled as they fell, then plunged into a slimy pool filled with human skulls and bones. The golden scaled serpent disappeared under the slimy pool.
The men got out of the slimy pool and laid on the rocks, and as they panted, they heard a sound, then looked around the cave and saw an old woman seated naked on a big rock humming a song.
Otheris left the others and walked a little closer to see her face, he saw her gently sponge-bathing something between her thighs so he stopped and wondered whether he should go ahead or not, the old woman then turned; the sight of her sent chills down his spine.
“Otheris! Son of Delial…I told you no one would burn me that night, didn’t I?” she said as the cave shook a bit over the sound of her laughter.
“Melnourat!?” he said in shock, gazing at the golden necklace around her neck ornamented with many keys.
“Otheris!” shouted Thakina.
The men sighted Thakina lying on the ground with her hands tied together across on the other side, surrounded by twelve Serpents.
“Aww! Isn’t this romantic? Hey Princess…your knight in shining armour is here to save you!” the witch mocked, “while the world burns and needs saving, you young lads rushed in like fools to come save just one…lady in distress!?” She laughed, “Oh! Otheris my hero, you’ve come to save me!” mimicked in Thakina’s voice.
“Melnourat? The great witch of Moughdug?” Zuka asked.
“Yes! Oh Yes! It is I, in the flesh you sons of wretched whores!” she managed to stand on her shaky feet stack naked with a huge black serpent hanging in between her thighs.
“Whoa! Whoa!” Zuka screamed as they all took some steps backward.
“How come?” asked Otheris, “I killed you! I cut your head off!”
“Yes you did Otheris, indeed you had killed that body…and saved me from that old sacking bag that fateful night!” she uttered with such great pride, “you see, the body is just a vessel, son of Delial, you can channel the substance anywhere anytime, and you did to me a great favour that night!” she mocked, “how do I look now, huh?” laughed and raised her hands up like a peacock’s tail, as the black serpent between her thighs made a fierce hissing sound.
“It’s impossible!” said Otheris.
“Yes! Yes! Oh yes! It is…impossible son of Delial! But considering the fact that you have whom you worship and we have whom we bow to as well! Ha! Ha! Ha!” bragged the witch, “You see, you did destroy a body that night. Oh yes, but then it is only a body, as long as I am willing to serve and sacrifice as much to darkness the blood it seeks then having another body is as easy as milking a lactating cow! When you take this path son of Delial, you’d find that even the dark lord provides for his own!”
The black serpent between her thighs swung its head up with half of its body still stuck inside of her. The sight terrified the men, they began to look around for a way out.
“The only way out is up gents,” said the witch, “there is no escaping this Otheris! There-is-no escaping Melnourat the great witch of Moughdug…tonight!” she yelled, “You and these poor devils have had your fill of self-glorification and the gates of Hades await your ill-scented souls…all you wretched beings, I shall devour you!” she prided herself on being the most vicious of them all, “after that fateful night I knew that old wilt of a king would gather the grunts to come hunting for my offspring so I await his army yet he sent you-imbeciles and as I waited patiently, I smelled the essence of Delial. That foolish king directed his best warriors and you Otheris right into my snare!”
The serpent that hung between her thighs raised its head and hissed at Otheris.
“Your time has come Otheris! I had told you once and will tell you again…no one shall burn me tonight! I shall devour you and once done with you and this worthless daughter of your king, my babies and I will walk through your little villages and wipe out all your people!” added the old witch, “come out my babies!” Thousands of snakes of many colours began to make their way slowly out of rocks that surrounded them, and from the pool behind the men “you think you know me. Well, you’re dead wrong!”
Zuka signalled Otheris to take on the old witch as he and the rest of the two men quickly sprang into action to attack the twelve serpents of Qhudrus.
“Such pitiful waste of bootless effort, don’t you think Otheris?" said the old witch, “your lives have come face to face with the portal that leads to its doom!”
Otheris raised his sword, “Hey you listen to me old witch, you let Thakina go and we…I mean I’ll let you live to see the sunrise!” a bit frightened.
The old witch laughed so hard then took two giant steps forward as the cave shook, “Show me what you’ve got Otheris son of Delial!” turned to the thirteen serpents, “Kill them all my babies! Kill them all!”
A fierce fight broke out between the serpents and the men, after a long and fierce battle, Zuka was able to free Thakina and she ran to Otheris.
“What do we do?” Thakina asked Otheris.
“What can you do?” yelled the great witch of Moughdug, she took another step down as the black serpent protruded more of its body out of her, as it struggled to have a taste of Otheris’ blood while it tried to forcefully exit her fragile vessel.
The twelve serpents killed three of the men, they also ganged up against Zuka and devoured him.
“I don’t want to die like this my love!” said Thakina.
Otheris’ eyes got wider, “Did you just? Wait, does this mean you’ve agreed to marry me?”
“Shut up and think of a way out of here, silly!” she shouted, “How can I marry you when I am dead? Or are you going to run your sweet lips and tell me you’d still marry me even when I’m dead!?”
The serpents began to advance toward them as the old witch took another heavy step, the snakes continued to make their way out of the surrounding rocks moving swiftly and advancing toward Otheris and Thakina.
“We shall not die tonight!” said Otheris as he closed his eyes. Thakina watched his lips moved as though he was enchanting.
“What are you doing?” she asked, “what do you think you’re doing? We’re about to be ingested and you’re what? Praying? Seriously Otheris?”
Otheris used his hand and covered her mouth, “I am trying to concentrate here! Do you mind?”
“Oh! Otheris listen to the princess and just beg for mercy!” said witch, “he prays every time he’s afraid princess but tonight, prayer saves no one from the great witch of Moughdug!” She laughed wickedly and advanced towards them as the golden coloured serpent emerged from the slimy pool.
Otheris turned to Thakina and looked into her beautiful eyes, “Can you trust me?”
“I-I-I do!” she stammered.
“You do?” he reacted with a lift of his eyebrow, “wait, this feels like a wedding!”
“Yea…yes I can! I do trust you! God!” she shouted, “Otheris!”
“Oh!” he exclaimed, “Then close your eyes! Hold me tight and don’t let go no matter what!”
“Okay!” she said as she held him with her eyes close, “What now?”
“Just hush!” He said.
The snakes parented by the serpents gathered and placed Otheris and Thakina in the centre, the old witch laughed and boasted manically. Chanting as she emphasised her name.
Otheris then put his sword back into its sheath and as he continued to pray, something like a ball of fire surrounded them and began to burn the snakes close to them.
“Impossible!” cried the witch as the black serpent hanging between her thighs made a swift attempt to strike Otheris but the fiery force field protected them.
On seeing that they are being shielded by a fiery force field, Thakina could not believe her eyes, “Teach me Otheris! Please teach me!” she said softly without hesitation.
Otheris opened his eyes, “I told you to keep those beautiful eyes close!” he sighed, smiled and whispered something into her ears.
“That’s it?” she asked.
Otheris nodded smiling, “Yeah! That’s all you need! But you must have no doubt, not even a drop of it.”
The witch and all the serpents watched from where they stood as Otheris talked to Thakina and she seemed to repeat every word he said.
“What are you reciting!?” yelled the witch, “Get them!”
The serpents turned and looked at the witch.
“Go after them!” added the witch, but the serpents moved back as Thakina closed her eyes and uttered something, then another ball of fire formed inside the one Otheris commanded and there were two force fields made of fire protecting them each.
Thakina looked a bit excited and reacted like a little girl as she stepped out of the first fiery force field created by Otheris.
Otheris then turned and faced the witch and the serpents, the fiery force field continued to expand as it incinerate the snakes.
“My babies! No! My babies!” cried the witch.
Otheris drew his sword, jumped up and cut off the head of the black serpent that hung between the witch’s thighs and as he landed right in front of the old witch, he pieced his sword through her heart, the fiery force field burnt her as the witch sank to her knees then the fire grew with such strong explosion and consumed all the serpents.
The only thing that stood in the cave was Thakina and Otheris, even the slimy pool dried up and all the skulls burnt.
“Look for the necklace!” said Otheris as the fiery force field subsided.
Thakina ran up and started searching for the necklace the witch wore; she found the necklace buried in ashes exactly where the witch stood with the keys tied to it as Otheris looked for a way out of the cave but could not find any.
“What do we do now?” she asked.
“We wait!” he responded.
Thakina smiled, walked to him and immersed herself in his arms.
“Woman, this is no time for hugs! I am trying to find us a way out!” he said.
“Hmm! Stop acting like you wouldn’t kill for a hug from me” she replied lost in his eyes.
“Princess Thakina can you hear me?” yelled a voice through the hole from above.
“Karim? Is that you?” she answered, “Yes! Oh my God yes we can hear you! It’s Karim”
“Can you throw us a rope down here Karim!” said Otheris!
“Yes on one condition!” echoed Karim’s voice.
“What’s that?” Otheris and Thakina asked in unison.
“You’ll name your first child after me!?” shouted Karim.
“What if it’s a girl?” Otheris asked.
“Then uh! Then we spell my name backwards and name her that!” said Karim, he managed to swing down on a thick rope and suspended himself as he held firm his sword with his left hand looking down the cave.
“What happened here?” he asked while hanging from the rope.
“I don’t think that’s important for now, how the hell did you survive that?” asked Otheris.
Karim beat his chest hard with his left hand, “The armour never fails my brother! One of the king’s best gift to his humble servant…a sword-proof vest he got as a gift from Jheet of Sunthai!”
“How many gifts has the king given you Karim?” asked Otheris.
“When you get close to the king, you’d find that he is very generous!” Answered Karim.
“Generous Indeed!” protested Otheris, “I just hope when we get back you won’t tell me that the garden promised to me was offered to you as well!”
Thakina shook her head as Otheris held her by the waist and dragged her back into his arms again.
“Take it easy handsome! I hope you’d be as good of a father to our babies as you are a good talker!” she said looking into his eyes.
“Our babies!?” he responded excitedly, “I wonder what you are going to teach them!”
Thakina blushed, “You of all people should know…I will spend my time teaching them the power behind the name you whispered into my ears!”
“A name? I can’t recall ever mentioning any name!” he joked.
“Jesus!” she blushed, “You sweet rescuer!” she pinched Otheris and they kissed passionately.
“The king is so not-going to be happy with you, you know!” Said Karim as he hung from the rope, “If I remember correctly, he specifically ordered you to bring their heads, not to… incinerate them all to oblivion!”
They all laughed!