Dark Side of the Rainbow (Episode 2)
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 was exhausted. After getting kicked out by his father, he joined the entourage surrounding Lissa, the monster slayer. Not like there had been much choice in the matter. She saved his life from a dragon, so he had to pay off his debt to her.
At first, he was excited to live a life like that, jump from one adventure to the next, become a hero. But reality hit him hard. Turns out life on the road involved a lot of walking. Which he wasn’t used to. They usually had taken the carriage within the confines of the great city of Lindburg.
Three days on the road and his entire body was nothing but pain. The blisters on his feet already had another layer of blisters on top of them.
Maybe he’d fare better if he didn’t have to drag the severed head of the dragon on a cart behind him all the time. “Nobody pays us for pretty words. Gotta get them a trophy.”, Lissa had replied. The thing was massive and reeked disgustingly. It attracted flocks of flies that kept buzzing around Milton and his cart.
Most of his companions kept their distance because of that. But they also didn’t exactly like Milton. If they ever talked to him- they rarely bothered- they called him pretty boy or His majesty with a fair amount of contempt in their voice.
The only exception was Ox, the giant of a man he’d seen the night he met Lissa. Milton didn’t know if it was his real name or some sort of nickname. It was fitting either way.
Since the dawn of the third day, he had fallen behind the group significantly. It was a bleak day, a layer of grey clouds hanging low in the sky. Milton feared he would never get the dust and the stench of the rotting dragon out of his nose when he finally caught up with them at noon.
They had paused for a break, and he was glad to put down the cart down for a while. The crew was slouching in front of their covered wagon, playing cards, caught up in a conversation or taking a nap. Obviously, they were there for quite some time and had already eaten.
Lissa sat on a big stone. She was wearing some light clothes and a simple gambeson- casual wear for a traveling adventurer. On her lap lay an ugly piece of a shortsword that the slayer just had finished polishing. Clearly, she valued it for its practicality, not it’s beauty. Ox was sitting next to her, his big pipe in hand. A sickly sweet smell surrounded him. As Milton passed them, he overheard their conversation.
“A rich merchant brought it here. Got loose and killed him and his entire household. Might be something worth looking into.”, Ox said. “I still don’t get why they never learn.” Ox shrugged to her reply. “The prospect of eternal life and riches, if I had to take a guess.”
“I’d rather just get up North, cash in and lay low for a while. One of those is the last thing I need right now.” Lissa responded, looking into the distance. Ox inhaled a big breath of smoke and blew it out in circles. “Imagine what happens if people unknowingly cross its way…” Lissa sighed. Her companion certainly knew how to get to her. She stood up and looked at the crew. “We’ll leave in five.”
Milton threw his arms up in a fit that might have looked like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. “I literally just got here! How about cutting me some slack?” Lissa looked at him. Her gaze was hard. “Arrive earlier next time. Then you get to take your break.”
“That’s not fair…”, mumbled Milton. His anger was building up on the inside, ready to burst out. But he knew better than to direct it at her. “Life’s tough. Better get used to it.” She turned away, and in passing, she nodded to Ox. “Get everything ready.”
Ox got on his feet. He put his big hand on Milton’s shoulder and squeezed. “I give you a moment, boy. There is a small pond over there.” He pointed at the trees. “Calm down and refresh yourself there.”
Milton had precisely entered the woods in the direction Ox had pointed out. Tired of all the walking, he dragged his feet over the dry forest floor while in search of that pond. He must have missed it because it took him way too long to get there. He would have turned around if he hadn’t been sure that the group must already have moved on without him.
Whatever, he thought, he hated his new life anyways. Not even three days in and he missed the leisure time he had with his friends back in Lindburg. Sitting and pretending to sound smart beats all that walking by a mile. The only pain he experienced there was a headache after a long night touring the countless bars of the city. Now all he had was a dusty road and the mockery of his new companions.
In the distance, he could hear the soft murmuring of water flowing nearby. He decided to rest at its shore. After descending a gentle slope, Milton had to push through the thick reed to get at the river bank. It barely deserved that name and resembled more a bigger creek.
He stepped into the cold, shallow water and washed his face, managing to clear his troubled mind, if only for a moment. Heading back to Lindburg and settling things with his father, might have been the best shot he had. Alone he wouldn’t last a day out here. That much he understood by now.
Milton kept pondering while staring at his own reflection. When he looked up, he noticed that the bank on the other side seemed so much more inviting.
It was a gentle hill with a lush meadow. The grass was greener; the sea of flowers more colorful. Bees and butterflies were circling in perfect harmony. Somewhere birds were singing a beautiful duet. A radiant rainbow framed the marvelous scene that Milton had thought to only exist in corny artwork.
And then, he saw it. At first, he thought it to be a regular horse grazing amid all the wonder. But something about it captured him. The long slender legs; the shiny white fur sparkled in the soft sunlight; the pink mane was flowing in the soft breeze; it all looked like it had just escaped a child’s imagination.
On its forehead, there was a long, spiraling horn. Milton couldn’t believe his own eyes. A unicorn? The fabled creature, so many poets spoke about in their work, was standing right in front of him. Back at university, he thought it to be an unsophisticated metaphor- amusing at first but by the time he had read the hundredth reference of it just tiring. But there it was, in all its glory.
A desire to join the unicorn in its paradise awoke inside Milton and quickly overwhelmed him. Cautiously he waded through the shallow water to not startle the animal with a sudden movement. He was already halfway there when Lissa screamed from behind. “MILTON! Don’t get closer!” First, he was puzzled. But then he realized what her concern was all about.
The unicorn’s white fur was spangled with crimson stains. Its hooves were caked in dried blood. When it lifted the head, he could see the madness and bloodlust beaming from its golden eyes. The animal let loose a demonic sound that made the blood in Milton’s veins freeze.
Abruptly, he turned on his heels and stumbled back through the water as quickly as he could. The trample grew to a low growling thunder as the unicorn gained speed to chase him. Milton hit his food on a stone and fell.
Fortunately, Lissa had already started to meet him halfway. Her shortsword in hand, she jumped past him, slashing the attacking beast. The blade cut deep into the unicorn’s flesh. It reared, kicking with its front legs at Lissa who had already backed off. Silvery blood gushed out of the wound. A hissing sound filled the air as it was dripping into the water.
Milton came back on his feet. Any ordinary animal would have been lethally wounded by a blow like that, or at least profoundly impaired. But the unicorn just pulled back for a short moment until it regained it’s mad vigor and looked at them with bloody murder in its eyes. “Run. And don’t stop!”, commanded Lissa. Milton didn’t need to hear that twice.
As fast as he could, he started for the shore. His tired legs were burning when he fought his way through the reed. Following her orders, he kept running until his legs began to cramp and he couldn’t push on. Panting he collapsed against a big old oak tree. Even though his clothes were still soaked, he felt like he was burning up from the inside.
Lissa’s cursing announcing her arrival woke him from his fainting state. “Shit…” He sat up and was shocked when she finally broke through the undergrowth.
The slayer looked horrible. Chunks of fabric were torn out of her gambeson where the horn had pierced it. Milton couldn’t make out any deep wound, but blood was dripping down her side and tainted the cloth armor. Her gambeson was torn. Bite marks showed at her neck. The skin of her hands was burnt by the acidic blood.
“Are you okay?”, he asked as he made a step to support her. She brushed his hand away. “Don’t worry about me. We’ve got bigger problems now.” Bewildered Milton looked at her. “The unicorn is still…?” She nodded. “Yes. And it is really pissed.”
Lissa took a second to catch her breath and wiped her face with her sleeve. “Aren’t unicorns supposed to be gentle guardians of life and everything beautiful?” Milton still couldn’t make sense of any of this “They sure are. That’s why you stay the fuck away from them. As far as humanly possible.”
Skeptically, she looked at the sword in her hand. Its blade was corroded by the unicorn’s blood and had lost all its sharpness. It was basically a glorified bludgeon at this point. So she dropped it.
“I’ve once known a man who did exactly what you did. Unicorns are scary fuckers, so he fled to the other side of the country. It tracked him down. Somehow, he got away and sought shelter on an island. Nobody knows how, but the unicorn got there and slaughtered him. We’re in deep shit is what I am saying.” Milton went pale. “That means…” She nodded. “Yes. Now it’s it or us.”
Lissa leaned against the tree and closed her eyes to regain her focus. Milton had managed to step into a big pile of shit unknowingly. Again. Maybe it was his thing. His track record lately sure suggested so. The moment felt like a painful eternity.
Finally, he broke the silence. “Is there a way to stop it?” Lissa answered with hesitation. “There is. I’d rather not do it, but we’re past that point now.” Despite her occupation as a monster slayer, she seemed troubled. “There is a way to kill it. I just need to find a way to get on it’s back.” Out of nowhere, Milton found the courage to make a decision. His voice was trembling. “How can I help?”
After explaining the bare minimum that Milton needed to know, Lissa went behind the big oak tree. Nervously Milton started to pace up and down, making sure to stay close to the thick low hanging oak branches. His chest was heaving up and down fast, starting to doubt his decision. A bird took off from the branches above him, and he flinched at the sound.
It didn’t take long until the relentless beast had found him. Dry leaves and branches were crackling under its demonic hooves. And there it was.
Majestically, the unicorn stopped between two trees and lifted its head. It seemed to rejoice in the moment of its rightful revenge. The wounds that Lissa’s sword had inflicted were already healed up. Pink flesh shined where the blade had cut through fur and skin. It’s golden eyes were gleaming in its zealous pursuit to end him.
Milton gulped. He couldn’t grasp how intelligent this creature was, but he struck a ready pose. With his hand, he signaled the unicorn to bring it on. In acknowledgment, it lowered it’s head and scraped with one hoof. Then it charged at him.
His survival instinct kicked in, but he forced himself to face the beast as long as he could. Their plan- and in extension their lives- depended on it. When it was just an arm’s length away from him, he gathered all his power and jumped out of its path.
The animal had enough speed that it dashed past him. When Milton got back to his feet, the unicorn had turned around and was already closing in again. He panicked. Where was Lissa? Had she ditched him?
Lissa finally broke through the leaves of the oak, just when the unicorn was right beneath its branches. She landed hard on its back and struggled to stay on. In answer, the unicorn lashed out in all directions to throw her off. Milton watched their fight, unable to intervene.
To stay in control, Lissa buried her hands deep in the pink mane. The resulting pain enraged the animal even more. Kicking and thrashing, it tried to get rid of the unwanted rider. Slowly but surely, Lissa crept up and closed her legs around its neck.
Finally, she got her hands on the horn. Something in the unicorns movement became increasingly desperate as it seemed to realize that the tables had turned. Now it wasn’t the attacker anymore, but the one who had to fight for its own survival.
Lissa’s muscles bulged as she pulled the horn towards her. Just as it looked like she couldn’t do it, it broke with a loud crack. The unicorn cried inhumanly. All it’s thrashing and bucking slowed down. Skillfully, Lissa turned the horn in her hand around and stabbed it through the unicorns eye, before she jumped off it’s back exhausted.
Still, it refused to give up and slowly stumbled towards Milton. Hatred and agony burning in its one good eye.
Finally, it’s unspeakable drive died, and it went down on. Black smoke rose from its body. In a flurry of sparks, the fur fell out and burned up in the air. The unicorn let loose one last scream of bitter agony and pain before it fell on its side and died. The memory of the scene would haunt Milton’s dreams for weeks to come.
The sun was hanging low when Milton and Lissa finally got back to the camp. The fight had already left them both in bad shape but dragging the damn corpse with them, as Lissa had insisted, had been the final straw for Milton.
Everybody was keeping themselves busy and barely noticed their arrival. Milton didn’t expect anyone to give a rat’s ass about him, yet he didn’t understand why nobody seemed to care that their leader had disappeared for half a day. But he was too tired to think about it.
Ox was the only one that had moved to greet them. He stroke his braided beard and grinned. “You look like shit, Lissa.” “Shut the fuck up.” The slayer was obviously not in the mood for jokes.
Her burly companion didn’t care. “I see you’ve found the lost boy. And made a friend along the way.” Lissa snarled. “You better find someone who pays us a ton of money for that.” With that, she was done talking and went past Ox. “We’ve got no more time to waste. Let’s get moving.”, she barked before she jumped on the back of the wagon and closed the flap behind her.
“Gimme a hand, boy.” The big man lifted the carcass with ease and didn’t need Milton’s help at all. So he just scuffled at his side. “Scary things, these unicorns, huh?”, asked Ox him as they went over to the cart that already hosted the dragon’s head. “Whatever.” Milton was dead tired, and the prospect of getting back on the road horrified him.
When Ox threw the body on the cart, Milton plainly stated the facts. “Even if I were rested, I couldn’t move all of that.” Ox laughed. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take over for now. Why don’t you hop on and tell me what happened?”
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