Lissa – the Monster Slayer (Episode 1)

Warning: this story contains violence, strong language, mature themes. fantastic elements, savage beasts, dark magic, questionable humor and much more. Procede at your own risk!
Enjoy the story of Lissa, the Monster Slayer.

Milton and his friends sat around a round table in their favorite bar, The limping Oger. Like every night, the five students spent their time discussing the fine arts, analyzing the imagery of classical poetry and comparing their favorite heroes of the old tales by setting them up in fictional fights against each other. And lots and lots of booze. Their spirits were high until Joshua emptied his tankard and made a serious face.

“Did you hear about the missing freshmen?” Milton nodded. The rumor was making rounds all over Lindburg. During a fraternity initiation ritual, a group of candidates went out into the woods at night and hadn’t returned yet. “A friend told me that they were supposed to stay at a cave. Folks say that a dragon just recently settled down inside.” Carl started laughing. “Don’t tell me it´s the Lindworm!” Milton and the others joined his laughter.

The Lindworm was the official city symbol. Legends say that the giant creature had formed the hills of the region with its snakelike body until it met the wrong end of a sword by the courageous city founders. “No beast nor monster of any kind has been seen in the Heartlands for generations. They probably never existed in the first place. Just made up figments of simple-minded people’s imagination to explain what they cannot understand.”, repeated Paul the opinion that they all shared.

Of course, they knew that monsters, ghosts, demons, and magic existed. But to meet a significant amount of them – besides those pesky trash imps – they had to go to the border regions of the land, which none of the nobles ever did. Besides, they prided themselves in holding controversial opinions, even if they were blatantly wrong.

“But you can’t deny that the freshmen vanished.”, insisted Milton. After a while, Ben banged his fist on the table. He was clearly drunker than the others, but he saw an opportunity to escape their dull lives. “We have to find them!” Paul was quick to pick up his buddy’s line of thinking. “Imagine how they’d honor us at university!” Ben nodded grinning. “And if we happen to find the Lindworm, we chase it back to where it belongs! What do you say, boys?”

The prospect of ending up as decorated heroes quickly caught on with the young men- even with Milton, who was usually more reserved. They emptied their tankards and went to get everything they thought they needed for the nightly adventure. Ten minutes later, they met at the city gate.

Even though it was way past midnight, their plan had made rounds quickly. The tired guards just shrugged and watched baffled as the students left the safety of the city wall, followed by a remarkable mob of curious witnesses.
The road winded through the forested hillside. Joshua led the way. Soon the foliage grew thick enough to block the dim lights of the starlit sky. Their torch threw long ghostly shadows into the night.

In the growing darkness, surrounded by the eerie sounds of the woods, the fire that had started in Milton’s heart just mere moments ago, was quickly fading away. Maybe, just maybe, he thought, it might have been a bad idea to go out in the middle of the night, and he’d been better off in his cozy and safe bed. To distract himself from his growing doubts, he joined the others in their bragging about how they would quickly deal with the Great Lindworm.

They walked for hours. Joshua had lost his orientation several times and wasn’t sure anymore where the cave was. Of their once large mob of spectators, only a handful was still following them. The moon already hung low when the dark forest abruptly parted, and a clearing opened before them. The entrance to the cave was looming ominously like the silhouette of a feline predator. Everything was quiet and peaceful. No signs of the legendary creature – or anyone at all.

Milton looked behind where the audience had gathered. Just now he noticed a hulking man who was towering over the others. The guy was broad as an ox and had a thick braided beard. He crossed his arms, which revealed strange symbols that were inked into his skin. Milton was sure that he was not from around. But before he could waste any more thoughts on the stranger, his attention was pulled back when Paul’s sharp elbow dug into his side.

Ben was standing at the head – a sword in one hand, a bottle of expensive red wine in the other. He took a big swallow. His speech was heavily slurred. “Let’s find ‘em! And show this ‘beast’ what we are made of!” In answer, the students raised their swords. Their self-appointed leader wanted to imitate the gesture but lifted the bottle instead and spilled its valuable content.

The audience’s murmuring died down when the students finally approached the cave. Stale air mixed with a distinct stench that Milton couldn’t place greeted them once they entered it. They had agreed on a simple plan. One of them went looking for traces of the missing students. In the absurd case of actually encountering the Lindworm, they would lure it out to surround it on the clearing. Their audience would want a show.

Carl was the unfortunate one. “There is no goddamn Lindworm…”, he muttered as he took their only torch and walked further into the cave. The light faded slowly as he disappeared around a corner. Milton pitied him, if only for a second. He was glad that the lot hadn’t fallen upon him. Even though none of them expected to encounter anything out here.

Time passed painfully slow, and an inexplicable fear was creeping upon him. His sweaty fingers clamped around the sword hilt. Milton flinched when a scream echoed from the walls.

Alerted, they stared into the darkness. Someone came stumbling around the corner. It was Carl. He must have dropped the torch somewhere. A giant shadow stomped after him and stopped just a few feet short of them. “LINDWORM!”, he shouted and dashed past them. Whatever they had woken, it was way taller than the tallest horse Milton had ever seen. And it was mightily pissed. It’s head lowered into an attacking position, it charged at them surprisingly fast.

Instinctively, Milton jumped to the side and pressed his back up against the wall. As the creature passed him, he hacked with his sword at it. But the blade bounced off its thick skin. He lost his grip, and the weapon went flying into the darkness.

Everybody had managed to evade the creature’s charge, except Carl, who was standing in the middle of the clearing, gasping for breath. In the blink of an eye, it had caught up to him and trampled him unceremoniously. The viewers screamed and fled in panic.

“Okay. Okay. Stick to the plan.”, Milton said to himself. Clumsily he slid on his knees and fumbled in the darkness for his sword. Finally, the student found it and sprang to his feed. His heart was beating furiously when he stepped outside.

Once he saw the creature bathed in moonlight, Milton wasn’t sure what he was looking at. Impressive as it was, that wasn’t at all how he had imagined the Great Lindworm.

Matching the size of an elephant, it was big, for sure, but not great. Milton had thought it to be more snake-ish, but four strong legs supported it’s massive body instead, ending in feet with sharp claws. Dark red scales shimmered dully on its skin. Wings like those of a bat spanned its whole back, but Milton had his doubt that a creature of that size could ever fly. The long muscular tail was the only thing that matched his imagination at least a tiny bit, as it slithered lazily over the ground.

For now, it was distracted and began to feast on Carl’s body. Milton held his breath and cautiously sneaked toward the tree line. Only then he noticed that he wasn’t holding his sword, but a femur with a big chunk of rotten flesh left on it. Shrieking he let go of it, only to put his own hand over his mouth. But it was too late.

The Lindworm had noticed him. Its entire front was splattered with blood. The green, cold reptile eyes were fixed on him and, even though Milton couldn’t explain why or how, cast a paralyzing spell over him. As it came closer and closer, he couldn’t but admire the grace in its moves until it was only a step away from him.

He had already accepted his fate when someone shoved him to the side. “Move for fuck’s sake!” Milton went down hard but just in time. The Lindworm’s jaws bit the air where he had been standing only a second ago. After he had regained his orientation, he saw a figure evading another attack with ease.

The stranger was wearing plate armor. It was segmented to ensure mobility. Chain mail shimmered where the plates of dark steel ended. A plain helmet with visor hid their identity. In the right hand, they held a big mace- a simple blunt weapon but gruesomely effective in close combat. But Milton failed to see how it would help in an uneven fight like that.

The creature roared frustrated and charged at the strange knight. The weight of their armor didn’t slow them down as they started to meet the beast head-on. Milton forced himself to watch as the two clashed and didn’t fully comprehend what was going on.

In the last second, the knight dove under the Lindworm’s head, sidestepping slightly to give them enough room to smash their weapon on its front leg. It screamed in pain as it’s leg gave way, and the momentum of its charge pushed it headfirst into the ground. An enormous cloud of dust whirled up. A bloodcurdling crack sent shivers down Milton’s spine.

When the dust had settled, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was lying still on the ground. Who was that person that singlehandedly dealt with the Great Lindworm in just one blow?!

The unknown knight was heading straight toward him. Just now Milton noticed the strange crest that decorated the centerpiece of the armor. It looked like a triangle with an open base pointing upwards, surrounded by three stars. He had never seen it before. “You are one of those drunk idiots, aren’t you?”

At a loss of words, Milton nodded. The knight took off the helmet and revealed herself to be a very unimpressed woman.

She showed no sign of exhaustion, no heavy breathing, not even a single bead of sweat. Her features were surprisingly simple. Her dark hair was hacked short and held back by a broad headband. She was just slightly taller than Milton, but the seriousness of her gaze and the fact that she just had slain a legendary monster made Milton shrink in his boots. “You just killed the Lindworm… with only one blow!”

She looked over her shoulder and snorted. “That’s no bloody Lindworm. Just a plain old lesser dragon.” Milton didn’t relent. “But how did you do that?” She shrugged. “If you know what you’re up against, it’s straightforward.” Her voice was warm and melodious, but Milton felt the ridicule sting. He blushed. “But…”

She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “What are you doing out here anyway? Guys like you belong behind the safety of the city wall.” Her words alarmed him. “The freshmen! Are they here? What if the dragon REALLY got them.” His savior frowned before she observed distantly. “Then they are dragon chow by now.”

Milton slumped down. Not only didn’t they find any clue and ridiculed themselves in front of an audience, but Carl died for their ignorance. “Hey, buddy.” She patted him on the shoulder, grinning a cheerful grin. “Don’t worry, just now. Let’s talk business first.”

*

Nervously, Milton walked up and down the hall. The woman whose name he still hadn’t dared to ask, was in the study. Milton’s father hadn’t been happy when Milton had told him about the night’s events. As a result, he had excluded his son from the talks once his savior arrived. The strange guy he had noticed earlier that night had accompanied her but stayed out on the street smoking his pipe.

What took them so long? And why was he treated like a child? Unwilling to wait any longer, Milton pressed his ear against the door. Since his childhood, he managed to eavesdrop on his parents like that, and it was working again.

“For the last time, Lissa.”, he heard his father say. Lissa that must have been her name he figured. “I won’t pay a dime for that idiot of a son.” Lissa’s response was calm and collected. “But only because of me he still is a breathing idiot.”

A tapping sound filled the ensuing silence before his father answered. “I know people like you. Slayers. Hunting monsters and imaginary beasts, preying on the fears of us upright citizens.” – “For imaginary creatures they have surprisingly sharp claws, cutting pretty noble boys to shreds with ease.”, she commented sarcastically. “You are nothing but drunkards, bullies and worse!”, his father continued his tirade without even listening.

Lissa didn’t bother to respond further to his provocation. “Your opinion doesn’t change the facts.” His father laughed bitter. “True, it does not. But I know the old customs. You won’t see any money. Instead, I offer you my son as a servant.” “No-” Milton threw the door open and jumped into the conversation, interrupting whatever Lissa wanted to say.

“You can’t!”, he screamed with angry tears in his eyes. His stomach was tingling nervously. “You can’t be serious!” His thin voice croaked and tumbled. “Yes, Milton, I am.”, his father answered cold. “You had the same chances as your siblings, and what did you do with it? Nothing but trouble. But enough is enough.” Every word stung like a dagger to Milton’s heart. “This time, I am not bailing you out. Maybe this way you will learn that your actions have consequences. You’re not welcome here anymore, Milton.”

It hit him hard. His whole world was shaking and started to fall apart. This must have been a bad dream, he was sure and waited desperately to wake up. But it didn’t happen. “But…”, he said helplessly. His breathing was flat and fast. Milton cried.

Lissa didn’t have any interest to get pulled into a prolonged family drama and cut her losses. “Fuck my life…”, she muttered under her breath as she turned away and stepped up to the door. Before she left, she looked back at Milton. “What are you waiting for? An extra invitation? Let’s go.”

If Milton had known what he would get himself into by leaving with her, he’d probably chosen to stay and talk things out with his estranged father. But he didn’t. So, without seeing any other choice, he left everything behind and followed Lissa.


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