ArborothHubert, the last free wizard, stood firm as he prepared to confront the greatest threat the land of Arboroth had ever faced. His white robes fluttered in the cold breeze while he remained still, a strong branch before the storm. Hubert had little hope, yet he had to buy the people time. Vivid memories flooded his mind in the moments before he battled the evil witch.
He remembered being a young boy without a care, running along the white sands at the edge of The Seaforthe Ocean, its huge waves crashing against the rocks as wildly as his joyous heart. His first spell—a light for his mother when she wanted to sew but had no more candles to burn. The call of the giant Ospore before it dove for a fish. The early morning smell of baking gombread.
He remembered his warning to King Kovis, but the King had not heeded him. Perhaps it was my fault, Hubert wondered, not for the first time. I should have made him see the consequences of his love for Isabella. But the King had never trusted him. Not from the very start. Things might have been different if he had come to King Kovis’ court an older wizard. He had been so young and inexperienced.
Hubert sighed and steeled himself for the witch’s onslaught, but even as he took a deep breath to prepare, he felt his mind’s defences being shredded as easily as wet paper. She had so much power.
‘More power than you’ll ever know,’ the witch replied, reading his thoughts.
In desperation, Hubert helped her tear through his defences, hoping to keep her unaware of the fact. In a little bubble, hidden in a tiny part of himself, Hubert placed the knowledge of the changes he had wrought upon Rupert, his humble aide. Hidden from sight, Rupert might be able to offer help when it was needed.
Distracting the witch, Hubert asked, ‘Why must you kill the people?’
The witch scowled. ‘They sided with the King. They allowed Him to punish me for something I had not yet done. I want to return the favour and punish them all, just as I have punished His wizards.’
‘I’m a wizard and I’m still here, Witch.’
‘Not for long.’
Hubert, The Master Wizard of Arboroth, felt the last of his resistance evaporate.
The battle decided, the witch stood in the middle of the castle’s grounds, her right foot on Hubert’s chest. The castle lay in ruins around her: wood still smouldering and bodies trapped beneath the rubble. In the distance, a child cried out for a mother lost in the destruction.
‘Any last requests?’ she asked.
‘None you’d be interested in,’ replied Hubert as he lay flat on his back. Her foot pressed down upon his rib cage until he thought his bones would snap.
‘You know, Hubert,’ continued the witch, ‘now that I’ve destroyed my parents I really have no need to destroy you. Tell me how to find the sacred path and I’ll let you live out your life in a cottage in the forest.’
‘The path is not for the likes of you.’
‘Come, come; I merely want to see it.’
‘Given my present circumstances, please forgive me if I struggle to believe you.’
‘I must have the secret of the path.’ She pressed harder with her foot. ‘Tell me what I need to know.’
Hubert thought his bones would break. ‘I cannot help you. The path is denied to you and that’s the end of the matter.’
The witch read his thoughts and saw that he spoke the truth. The path was never something she could control. So the witch put it out of her mind and considered Hubert’s fate instead.
‘Come join my hounds, Wizard,’ said the witch. ‘Join them as they hunt the people of Arboroth.’
The witch removed her foot from the wizard’s chest. She stepped back and said, clearly, while waving her hand across Hubert’s form, ‘Rursus hunc canem.’
Hubert screamed as the magic started to take effect. His body convulsed, his robes shimmered and changed to fur. He screamed again, the agony making him forget everything except the pain. Bones remade themselves, feet changed shape, his jaw elongated and teeth stretched into sharp fangs.
‘Ah,’ said the witch, ‘a much more suitable form. Come hound; come join the others and hunt for me. Hunt for any survivors in this land.’
Hubert rose upon his four legs and barked loudly. Seven other hounds came bounding up, baying, as if already on the hunt. A fierce man appeared with them. He walked up to the witch. He held a knife that he flicked so that it spun twice end over end before he caught it by the handle and then flicked it again.
‘That takes care of the King’s wizards and most of his people,’ he said.
‘Now for The Land itself,’ replied the witch.
‘I want to teach it a lesson. It tried to ignore me, to stop me from becoming what I was destined to become. It can’t ignore me anymore. I want to walk this realm and listen. I want to hear The Land’s screams. I want to hear Her pain, Her anguish. When I hear it I shall be pleased because it will be me that causes that pain and distress, and it will bring me more joy than even the killing of my brother and his wife.’
‘And the child?’ asked the man as he tossed the knife again.
‘Yes… the child,’ replied the witch.
Genre – Fantasy
Rating – PG