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Tiffany Sinegal

The Bastard

The King had a problem.
Yes; he had a problem, and it was a long time coming what with use of all those questionable
methods to earn his rule. Even the townspeople were starting to talk, and when you're a serpent
in the works like me, the whispers through the grapevine were as certain as the inevitable
misdeed of men. I know what I don't see, and hear what I can't. I know the edge of the world
without having ever stared into its face, and I know the way a succubus screams when a spear
pierces her breast.
And I know what's happening in the Capitol.
People are very kind with information, you see. Some will call me a wolf among kinder sheep
for feeding off the sin of gossip, but I consider myself as doing them all a favor they have
something they want to confess, and I have the ears to listen.
In a way, you may consider me a priest or a saint!
.. jests aside, my intention is simple. The King had a problem, and I was the only one who could
fix it. My price wouldn't be kind, but it would do the problem justice.
Am I maybe just some other peasant looking to steal his way into the riches of the world a way
out of this stone confine of a city and into a golden throne? Maybe?
Maybe.

Arlain the Bastard a monster blacker than his shadow, glistening pea-shape eyes appraised to
be the worth of all the world's rubies. His body was massive, almost as though the even the earth
should buckle underneath him, and those scales rising like mechanical grooves and leaving his
back, spine, and the top of his head protected by massive stalagmites. Those wings, they say
stupendous. Battle-torn, and still functional, twice the length of his body across.
And yet, you can still hear from the old folks of the Capitol, he's just a babe! they wail; a
babe in comparison to the dragons I've seen!
He's a conjurer! A master of the arts! A beast that small ain't use size to kill!

Well, well. Apparently the King's little magic-play attracted an admirer.
But Arlain the Bastard, regardless of comparison to other dragons, as I've heard, was of an
immense size. Have I ever seen him? No. But I was there the day his shadow crowded the entire
city as he moved north to the castle. It was dark. The sun was eaten by his size.
If he's akin to a babe, I'd hate to see his mother.
Some argue that The Bastard shouldn't be bothered ever since he had flown in, and ever since
people have seen him thenceforth, things have been.. quiet. Much too quiet. The sturdy city is
still standing, the authorities still go on though shaken that their new king may disapprove
with the use of force and life, as we've always known it, goes on. Sure, every now and then
virgin daughters are sacrificed or left at the castle gates by people scared stiff of his coming
wrath, but The Bastard hasn't made any attacks.
He hasn't made any attacks, but our land still suffers.
It's always suffered. The soil was never rich, the prosperity never kind, the luck never in our
favor. People steal, authorities are twisted, and no one can be trusted. It's a moshpit here; a city
of sin. If you want to live here, you have to be.. well, like me.
It's funny that the history of this place tell much different what happened? Where did all of that
promise go?
No matter. The King had a problem, and I was the only one who could fix it.
I don't ask questions. I get results.

(CHAPTER ONE)

It's been months. For the longest time, the King and his greatest few were crushed under the
shadow of this demon who took his castle they remained in fear, their lives unchanged, but
this.. massive THING was coiled around the head of the castle. Sitting. Waiting. No one knew
just when, but one of my sources were oh so kind enough to tell me that the King had fled
between now and two weeks ago. It was a very quiet affair, and The Bastard let him. Why?
Maybe they weren't enemies maybe this was some switch of the throne. Or maybe this
conjurer managed to out-talk the king's will.

It's his damn black magic! He seduced the king into leavin' his castle!
How can you be certain it wasn't a consensual end? The king has never been an attentive man,
and.. who am I kidding? I'd leave this shithole to die, too. but my source wasn't convinced.
The Bastard was a deceiver a devil who armed his heart with scales and sprouted wings to fly.
They say he gets what he wants without a struggle using illusion and deception of the heart.
People cling to my coat tails, pleading for me not to become a part of his charter.
No magic of a bastard is going to blind me I say, but no one I know is convinced. Everyone is
afraid. Too afraid to act; too afraid to move. You know it's bad when a thief is to the rescue.
But just in case, I figure, I should at least see a good friend of mine a man in the know who
can prepare me for whatever's up there.
Whatever battle, whether mental or physical, is waiting for me on that castletop.

Come out, witch!
The rough man called, and his hardened voice rang through the garden square. Stone pillars
stood in ceremony around the forested clearing; the pipes within them which once spouted water
were intentionally clogged with moss from the surrounding trees. A curious creature it was who
live here, below the western shadow of the Capitol a garden which was said to be haunted, and
so people simply forgot this place to its own curse.
Within the blink of an eye, a fox, glistening white, stood high upon the bust of a beheaded
goddess statue. A magnificent vulpine stranger that it was, eyes bluer than the ocean and rich
with mystique. Cool winds suddenly blew to meet it, ruffling the heavy pelt of the one who
answered such a debasing call.

What do you want at this time, child of man?


A long call, dulcet in nature, and it was of a kind from a man who knew the secrets of the world
and swore to keep quiet. A long-faced predator of man, preceding their status with age, power
and magic. Such was the Witch of the Capitol's Garden.

The ravens are fond of gossip I have a feeling you know why I'm here.
Unmoved, and unamused.
I trust that is so.
Tell me what I can expect.
The Bastard is a wise man. Gradually leaping from his perch, the witch glided about the
scenery like the coquettish smile of a woman; deceptively, and sweetly so. The thief was wise to
grip his knife behind the shelter of his long coat.
.. Ha. Child of man, I assure you that a knife won't be enough to prepare you. And as soon as
the object was spoken, the steel grew searing within the man's palm, as red as hell, and he
released it to the moist soil in panic with a salty swear.
You're expecting a monster a clumsy, rowdy, brainless animal. For that, a blade would
suffice. But for Arlain...
.. aren't you wondering what business a man like me has slaying a dragon? It had to finally be
asked. But the fox merely paused at his feet and sat, curling its tail about like a feline in quiet as
though a machine which was not prepared to answer such a thing.
Witch, tell me. If not blade, what should I bring to the castle?
Knowledge. Enlightenment, an immediate response, but it was clear that he had only just
begun.
There are too many accounts to refute Arlain uses deceptive and illusionist magicks. It won't
be likely that you will be standing in a fight to the death at least, not with a fair advantage. You
cannot fight back if you cannot see who your enemy is. And so you need to strengthen yourself,
child of man. Armor will not suffice on the outside steel, as I've just showed you, will only turn
to bite you in his breath of fire, but.. armor that shields you from his magic will be invaluable.
So how A trial. A trial will strengthen you. My instructions will be clear. When complete, I
will arm you with exactly what you need to resist him.

A trial? It sounded like I was doing his chores in exchange for assistance.
Fucking witch.

(CHAPTER TWO)

And those chores I did I've been to hell and back. I scaled the highest mountain, and I traversed
the nastiest labyrinth. I slayed spirits and outsmarted centaurs. I gathered golden ash for a brew,
and ancient texts guarded by a cluster of greedy corpse. Each and every time, I returned, and the
Witch was certainly impressed. Was he fucking with me? Were these achievements and articles
nothing but garbage?
I didn't know. I didn't know anything. I had no recollection of time.
I've been here for days.
No, weeks.
Yes, it's been weeks and I've been trapped in this garden doing work for this damn witch without
rest and my arms are screaming in pain and my ribs are abrasive against my skin. I can't breathe.
I can't breathe without screaming and I can't sleep without pulling myself awake to swear at the
black sky.
The Witch. The Witch is doing this to me he's trying to kill me or break me or whatever Arlain
has told him to do. He just sits there on that damn statue as I go berserk or sometimes he's just
nowhere to be seen. There's no rest and scarce food and no leisure between tasks This must be
done immediately as I have said he says, and he can see how exhausted I am and how furious I
am with my own inability my own human weaknesses. Is that it, Witch? Are you trying to
teach me a lesson? What makes a child of man think that they can defeat The Bastard? Are you
trying to make me forget or trying to make me realize that I should just submit?
Was The Bastard even inclined to magic or was this all just some joke? Were you protecting
him? Are you protecting him now?!

I am not blind, child of man. I see you. The Witch approached the man writhing on his back in
a cold sweat during the night. The lithe thing danced to his side, a smug disposition settled in the
black lips of its face. Brown eyes met blue with a blind rage, and the fox was forced to leap from
the merciless slam of a fist into the cool soil. W-what are you... what are you doing to me.. it's
something it's a curse! Is this you what you're... but his words could not be adjusted to make
sense of his emotions and depraved being. Even now his fist shook in the soil, cold, misguided
and crazed. The Witch merely shook his head. Vanity, ego, narcissism. This ordeal was always
about you, wasn't it thief? You came here, demanding that I help you to which you were not
clear on how and you had a certainty that you could slay Arlain. For what, and why? The king
despises those like you, so he has not enlisted any help from your type. I told you once, in the
beginning, that Arlain was no beast he is like me, and he is like you That bastard is
NOTHING LIKE ME! Finally, the dam shattered and left the man who was once sane as a
bundle of chaos. Of raw nerves.
But the Witch was not at all dissuaded. I disagree. We are all the same we have different
intentions and agendas, but that is what makes us the same. We are sentient. And you you
would kill another living thing for what resolve? What was your resolve? Were you going to kill
in cold blood? Do you know the toll of I didn't do ALL THAT WORK for you for a
FUCKING LECTURE, YOU GODDAMN RAT. As the pain rose throughout his body with
each coming breath, as did his rage. The Witch did this to him no, The Bastard had done it or
was he to blame? Weren't they all the same, the Witch said?
Seemingly realizing that this went awry, the Witch decided no longer to wait to disclose what
was known.
Your sources are not as clear-sighted as my ravens, thief, and as focused and intrigued as he
had been within the weeks, the thief slowly turned his head to face the white beast which stood
above his crumpled figure.
The king and his men have gone, but he left something behind. Elentine remains. Immediately,
the thief was furious that this was kept from him, but the Witch was wise to speak ahead of any
possible response Perhaps in confusion, or perhaps in sacrifice, the princess is still within the
castle at the hands of Arlain. As I said, once you have completed my tasks, I would deem you
ready. You have braved countless tasks, each further demanding than the last, strengthening
and yet tiring you, and you grew angry. You grew angry at the world, thief. You realized your
weaknesses and strengths, and separated them from your ego and vanity. Yes.. at last, you are
ready to welcome her. You are prepared to plan for this, and you are prepared to stand against
Arlain's magic with a resolve that will keep you content in your path. The King may have been
so easily coaxed into fleeing, and why not? His land was certainly nothing to fight for. It was not
enough to fight Arlain's magic, and his daughter betrayed his trust and love by mingling with a
common man. But this you you are so full of hatred and your bones ache to remind you of it.
You are prepared for the hardship, and your mind can be content on a single thought the
princess. Arlain's magic no, forget of it. You will be impervious. Not knowing whether the
glassy-eyed man was comprehending any words spoken, the Witch remained only until he was
finished, then retreating to his perch upon the broken statue.

It was making sense. Finally. I almost chuckled I almost laughed and I still want to. In some
moments I want to get up and dance and in other moments I want to plunge a blade into that
Witch's skull and I can't help alternating between either.
It was so obvious! It was in my face the entire time and yet my mind was so gone that I couldn't
tell. I couldn't read the signs. Instead I believed that the Witch was conspiring against me or that
the entire Capitol was under Arlain's spell and I was the only one left with my brains but I realize
that, ironically, I was the one going mad.
But now it made sense. This was the knowledge he promised; this was the mental armor; this
was the final artifact that I needed to be prepared for The Bastard and as though a right of
passage, I was elated.
But the Princess how did I not know this? About her being there?
I had forgotten about her. I forgot to ask myself if she had escaped with the King. How did I
forget about caring about her?
It was because of the way I am. I became this way. After all I've been through, I became this
man. Vain and strong and only myself mattered. I became a wolf among sheep and a thief among
men. I didn't care. I didn't care about sickness or crime or about the huge FUCKING dragon
taking over the Capitol. I was in it for the money and a way out of this shithole.
I forgot how to give a damn.
A man like me and a woman like Elentine just didn't mix. I learned that the hard way when her
father caught me seeing her in secret and had his men beat my ass to a pulp in front of her. I was
stripped of all my pride, so yes maybe I spent the past few years trying to get it back. Maybe
that's what this was all about!
.. no. Maybe it was about her. I'm right. It was about her.
Maybe I wanted the castle, I said earlier, but that was wrong. Maybe it was getting the favor of
the King maybe I wanted to see her again.
I was her slave the day I heard her laugh, and saw how that long white hair danced as he pranced
towards me. But after her father discovered how I would keep her company in the evenings, she
no longer frequented the city. She's been trapped for all these years and the only difference now
was that her warden changed shifts with another but not anymore. I was going to free her. I
was going to free her and hold her and tell her how I truly felt during those summer nights and
how I feel... how I feel now.
But I don't know how I feel. All I know is that I have to see her again. I have to make sure she's
okay.
The Witch. The Witch was watching me. He was watching me as my emotions changed and how
I gripped the soil longingly and how in other moments I gritted my teeth. Was he thinking that I
was insane, or a fool? Or was he enjoying this? Was he enjoying his handiwork, or was he seeing
this for what it really was?
He seemed to smile just then, but I'm not sure. Perhaps he can hear this perhaps he can hear all
my thoughts.
He knows. He knows.

When your heart is empty of resolve, Arlain will be able to fill this cavity. ... The Witch
moved from the man, his gait flouncing across the earth as he had, and the thief was given the
space to
scramble and claw his way rather shamefully to his gelatinous feet. There is a spell that I
can give you it is pre-written, the fox preceded the image of capturing a miniscule scroll in his
jaws and presenting it to the man too weak to step forward for it. and as such, you do not need
to be inclined in the art to execute it. For as long as your intentions are clear and strong, the spell
will do your bidding, but child of man this is no trinket. The ink will only last for two uses. Do
not trifle with it. I will hold this until your leave.
Will you let me rest here then, Witch? The man rasped, freeing his back from a kink that
certainly hindered his mobility.
The Witch placed the scroll once more at the feet of the statue ands faced the thief with a shake
of his head, his figure low and eyes unreadable.
But there is still a final task for you.
A task? Confusion. Had they not all been for this purpose; this moment of strength?
Yes.
B-but I.. Witch, weren't all these trials to strengthen me? he breathed, .. fine. What is my task,
Witch?
The disposition of the Witch melted before the man's eyes no, it was the Witch's entire face
that was melting, becoming something else; contorting, ruined, shape-shifting. A rotten scent
called to the air, whispers of magic carrying throughout the cursed garden to warn that magic
was more than present.
Through the smile that remained carved into the rotting image like into the face of wood, the
words were said, cooed, chuckled; Why, Hawke, you still have to defeat Alrain, don't you?
It was unbelievable.
Silly of you to forget.
I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I just stood there, adrenaline thicker
than my own blood, standing and staring and simply aghast by what I was seeing. What I was
experiencing. I just sat and watched. I sat and watched as the moon was eclipsed by this
enormous black mass that was forming and shaping itself to its original shape and I stood there
watching as the Witch broke open like a FUCKING COCCOON releasing The Bastard from his
tiny body. I just wanted to lay down under his growing weight and die it was a fight I wasn't
prepared to win and he knew that. I wasn't being strengthened but I was being worn down,
prevented from sleep. Prevented from eating. Prevented from protecting myself.
I wasn't ready.
I wasn't ready.
I had such faith in the one who I met but never knew because I was too absorbed in myself to ask
and I didn't even know his name or if he had one. Maybe if I had been more attentive, maybe if I
had been more kind and more concerned I would be standing here at his side, in the castle, in the
throne, with The Bastard as my ally and Elentine as my wi
Elentine.
Elentine.
Elentine.

The immense figure at last righted itself with a playful crack of its back, and had there been
enough light streaming within the clearing, the beast's nefarious smile would have been so well
seen beneath those eyes' red glare. Segmented tail slammed into the statue at the beast's rear, at
last putting the beheaded artwork out of its misery. The Bastard stood at a height that was
impeccable, impossible, impervious to attacks and attempts to slay him. Those wings were
folded tightly at his back there was no need and those hooked claws rested up on knees as a
crouching position was assumed.
The human man stood no chance.
In another language, the dragon spoke of the odds clearly being in his favor, but the thief could
not understand. No, even if it had been in his own tongue, he would not have understand his
ears had gone quiet. His vision focused solely on the thing threatened to crush him. Adrenaline
fueled his determination his resolve.
The scroll was it a ruse? Was it real? Why would The Bastard allow something like that to
exist? And yet it appeared so authentic, so real.. It had been on the parchment that he recovered
in one those tasks, and so perhaps perhaps the difficulty that such a task held to retrieve
that empty scroll was a testimony to its authenticity.
It was insane to try!
But it was the only chance the unarmed, weakened human man had to survive. He would have to
scramble through the rubble of the statue and search, but first he would have to distract The
Bastard and

No. It was too late.
It was painless.
Within the blink of an eye, the massive tail was thrown hard against the man, sending him
airborne many feet above the rich soil. A grunt sounded as the wind in his lungs immediately left
him, and his coherence of what was happening was shaken. Missing a boulder by an inch, the
thief fell hard onto the earth at an angle, and though numb, a loud pop was all it took to realize
that his left arm had been brutally removed from its socket. As he tried to crawl across the
vegetation, hold his rended arm tight to his chest to reduce damage, The Bastard fell hard on his
forelimbs, advancing so slowly and so playfully victorious without a doubt outreaching an
arm to pluck the man up between two fingers, dragging him across the earth by the tails of his
coat, and the thief senselessly grasped hard at the grass and debris to remain grounded. While it
slowed the speed at which he was being abducted from the garden floor, the traction was
constant, foreboding of the end.
A silver thread shined.
In what remained of the pale moonlight, a silver glimmer forced its way into the man's eyes as he
attempted to free himself with only a single hand grasping about.
And there it was shining, calling, begging to be remembered by the man who kept it.
The knife. The knife was there. It was dropped when it bit him with heat, and was forgotten once
told that it would do no good.
Was that a lie, as well? Of course The Bastard would have said such a thing.
The grip of the ground was sacrificed to reach for the knife...

It was quick. This was happening. I didn't have much time.
The scream deafened me. Shards poured out no, blood. It was blood and fragments that came
out, but my knife did not.
No, it stayed plunged deep in the beast's right eye, shattering the tough material and blinding that
MOTHERFUCKER.
I could hear his pain. I could feel my body no longer being held up. I can't let go of my knife.
Not until I find a way to fall without dying.
There's moss. I see it. I have to go there now before he recovers, or before I fall.

It hurt. IT HURT SO MUCH.
It wasn't enough to stop the pain. To stop the breaking to stop the NOISE of the breaking.
But I... I'm alive. I'm breathing, but painfully, but alive, but how much so? It didn't matter. He
was coming down; he was crying to the sky and toppling over in blindness. His head his head
was coming low and he was falling on his shoulder and his chest hit the debris of the statue. He
his it hard. I heard cracking. I heard debris shuffling down and cracks forming and his cry was
pitiful. A babe, they called him, and a babe he was. Listen to him cry.
I don't have time to assess my own body. I need to get up. I need to go. My hands were numb,
but my eyes were still good. I could see my knife in hand. I was ready. I was ready to end this.
But it felt like hours. I was crawling, begging for some deity to kick the scroll over to me and
save my body from wasting away over this sharp debris, but I couldn't stand. Maybe I'm
exhausted, or maybe it was my legs breaking that I heard.
I can feel it, now. The sweet parchment on my fingertips, and I just need a little more

Damn it. GODDAMN IT!
It was happening again. Why? Why was this happening again? Where was the ground, and why
was it leaving me again? I reached so hard for the parchment I reached and caught it between
two fingers only two just as The Bastard was grabbing me up again in the same way. I know
now that this is what's happening.
It's unraveling on its own between my fingers, clinging in my clutches, and showing me its
naked body and there, in there ink. Words. Symbols. Written spells.
I don't have time to ask. I don't have time to wonder or question. Will this kill me?

It's real.
It's real.
He's screaming to the rush of wind and finally there's something to shut him up. I'm free. His
hand his entire body it freezes beneath the spell's power. He freezes like that, low and broken
and at least half blind by now, but I can also see a glow in his chest there's something there.
Was that what I heard breaking, but couldn't see? Did the debris of the statue rend his
impenetrable armor? Was this my chance?
I don't ask questions.
It was time. I was so slow, so slow. So tired, and maybe just so broken. But I was able to do it. I
was sliding, and then crawling, and then kneeling and soon standing. My body knows I can't give
up I'm too fucked to give up, and too close to forget it. I had to finish this. I had to destroy him,
and I wouldn't take a step back until my arms were BURIED deep into that crevice of his chest
I had to make sure I do it right. He has to die. I don't care if I never see my knife again. It has to
hit. It has to kill.

It was done, and I didn't even know what I expected to feel. My heart felt heavy with the sin of a
kill even before his death, but it wasn't over. Just like before, he was shaping and shifting and
contorting and his voice was getting high and low and fast and slow... He twisted and
reconfiguring and getting taller and shorter or thinner or fatter. Now he's just a black mass,
whirling like a pot of stew and coming to the end, balling up and meeting my crumpled height
and then bundling even smaller than that, and then... and then...
I was falling. I felt onto my ass and filled my lungs with pain not air and my eyes.. they were
soon staring into the ocean of one and the destruction of another.
I didn't understand it, but it was like he was whispering in my ear and telling me about his life
and what he knew and what he wanted to do and what he did. His story was over, the climax had
come, and mine was only beginning, he said in my mind.
Finally, I saw him in his true form; a man, paler than the moon, hair and stubble blacker than the
beast I had just vanquished, but... there was no beast, was there? I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry.
That blue, blue eye remained, stone cold, but it was what I saw before it was normal. It was the
usual. It was The Witch.
Y Your final... task, ch-child of man... But I stopped him. Blood was coming out and all I
could do was grunt to quiet him. His pale body was pierced and brought to life with red, my
knife true into his chest, and I wished I could take it back. In this moment, I was as sane as I had
maybe ever been. I knew what was happening and I didn't need any sources to whisper it to me
from under the table like a dirty secret.
It was my final task. I had it all. I have resolve and strength, but I still didn't I didn't know.. I
didn't know how it felt to kill.
Now I did. I watched The Witch as he remained petrified in his own resolve to remain crouched,
kneeling before me, simply holding on until I pieced it all together.
I knew how it felt to kill something sentient something so precious and kind and good and I
had to carry that weight with me for my entire life. I had to know what it was and I had to be able
to make the informed decision on whether I would do it again and I had to. I was prepared and I
was strong I was able to survive myself and my doubts when I refused to lay down and die like
I wanted to and when I reached for the scroll that I thought for certain would have been fake, but
it wasn't. It was real. And it had been written to have two uses.
One for The Bastard, and one for The Witch.
.. but he would be back. I felt this in him when I groomed his hair away from his eyes. He was
something that defied the laws of life, or maybe he was the kind of being who was in charge of
writing those laws.
So yes. I will search this place until I find a book or text or scroll on how to give a proper burial
for him so that he would come back so soon. Then I'll say goodbye a second time but for now,
I was going to say goodbye and thank you now, while he was still here to hear it. Then, when
he's back, he'll find me waiting for him we'll leave this shithole together and I'll repay him for
what he's done. But for now, for here, I wasn't done.
R-recover here, H-Hawke.. then, Arlain.. I ugh! .. I.. know. .. Rest now.. and with that,
and with every ounce of my strength left, I plunge forward, and his one good eye fades away
with the loud crack from his chest as I twist my knife so deep into him, cutting away his life and
putting him out of his misery. I had to kill him it wasn't the same as watching nature and time
do it, as I had always done. I'm a thief, a spy, but never a murderer. But now, it was my hands
that did it. Mine alone. I killed once, and now I was prepared to kill again.

I'm coming, Elentine.

(CHAPTER THREE)

It was time. I should have spent more than a day recovering at the very least, but I couldn't do it.
I don't know if the Witch left casting some sort of spell on me, but my pain didn't cripple me. I'm
still very much in pain, yes but bones that are broken only make me scream, and they don't
paralyze me. For that, I knew I couldn't wait I had to go while whatever this was remained in
effect. I had to travel far north of the Capitol grounds that I'm accustomed to, and I have to scale
the castle and prepare myself for the battle at its very top.
Elentine.
She was in there somewhere. I was remembering her, now. I know what she was like again. I
know that she would have been so scared, so afraid, and would probably be in her room locked
away from the prying eyes of that monster. I know that every bit of me would be aching to tear
through her door and embrace her, but that wasn't it that's not why the Witch died. He died so
that The Bastard could be slain. I had to do that first.
I lost track of time. It seemed like it was always night always dark and I didn't remember
seeing the sun in a long time. Everything was happening so fast. I was in the Capitol, and then I
was on the bridge leading into the mouth of the castle, and from there I could see it blackened
out by distance on the highest point of the castle was the massive figure, coiled about with its
chest propped up by the ledge. But I didn't have time to gawk. I slipped through the slanted
doors, scroll in hand and bloodstained knife in the other.
I was prepared.

Quiet. The castle was petrified under the weight of the one who now claimed it. None guarded
the doors and none greeted their visitor cheerfully. There was no chaos, no disarray, and no ruin.
It was at it had always been, except all life had gone vanished.
All except the three who remained.
Blindly, the thief moved through the floors and rose to the next, careful but not fearful, for the
dragon was surely at the very top. His breath drew hard under the weight of broken ribs, but he
was still permitted to move still permitted to fight. If a similar method used on the Witch could
be used on The Bastard then surely there would be no need to fight. But Arlain the Bastard, he
was warned, was a very crafty and wise man. It was through what was told that the enlightened
thief suspected that it was not meant to be a fight of physical means.
But even still, that knife glistened within his hardened right hand. His left was still dislocated,
and thus would serve no good for dealing a final blow when the chance showed itself.
Soon, he would come to the spiral of stairs and the door that waited high at the top the highest
point, the overlook, of the castle, and he would push the door from its resting place and enter the
cool midnight air...

There he was, in his entirety, and it seemed in the pale light of the moon that he was far more
authentic than the beast that the Witch had conjured. Nails clutched hard in the stone walls
ruined by his weight, shoulders lax and the rest of his body hanging off the side of the castle
overlook while his tail coiled about it. His breath was like a typhoon, loud as a thunderclap, and
those eyes as mean as hell. Frozen despite the rise and fall of chest, the warrior was allowed to
advance, though cautiously, and with good reason. Confidently, he stepped forward, and almost
too confidently he spoke;
Well, well. What would a dragon like you need with a castle like this? almost patronizing.
True to the tale, the dragon was no invalid. A wicked smile carved into his face, and his voice
akin to a low purr or the sturdy voice of a ripe-aged gentleman was equally patronizing to the
man who stood before him in such insolence, Ah, now there's a face not even its own mother
could love.
The scars of time, particularly the ones that were given when he had been beaten senseless by the
king's men, were certainly exposed and certainly apparent. Despite the odds, once more against
him, the warrior stood his ground still, and somehow, someway, his lips managed to crack a
smile. Huh. I'm not the one they call a bastard, am I?
It was clear by the distortion in that grin that such a title was not favored.
Tell me, thief. What is your intention? You have no business with me, and I none with you. A
place like this was certainly never to your familiarity. What could you possibly reclaim! A
hearty chuckle fell hard from his chest.
But I have been monitoring you for quite some time, and you.. you certainly have done a great
deal, and come quite far.. .. hmm, perhaps.. yes.. Perhaps, I was simply thinking, that a man of
your strength and fortitude could certainly be of Enough!
Nothing more was to be heard the winged demon would not have his mind.
And before the beast could part his jaws and pour flames from the gape, the scroll was thrown
with the entirety of the warrior's built up strength gathered for this one occasion, this one chance.
Just as it had done before, just as the Witch had promised, The Bastard was petrified, motion of
body paralyzed, but it seemed that his breath was allowed and his voice still strong, furious with
a struggle that would not free his body. A-Agh! What is this, you insolent thing?! .. The Witch.
This is the Witch's writing! how he could be so sure just from glancing down at that scroll
unraveled at his hands was something the warrior wouldnt understand, but it was enough.
It was finished. The dragon would wait, here, to be slain.
And yet, after so long, it was no longer time to shun questions. It was no longer time to move
through without inquiry. The man was different now from who he was before all his trials had
led to this one moment and seeing as the dragon could not free himself, there was no need to
rush. There was time to relax and convince this monster of his exact worth.
Do you like it? A friend of mine wrote it for me.
Upset that this common man could consider one as powerful as the Witch a friend, Arlain
groaned his spite as he struggled still. I suppose I could just gradually chip away at your scales
until I can plunge my knife into your heart, the warrior begins, but I have some answers I'd
like to get from you. The Bastard would not be allowed to approve or disapprove How did
you do it? How did you get the king to leave? And how did you get him to leave his
Daughter? mocking. The warrior gritted his teeth. Elentine. What did you do to her.
Hmmm. I have done nothing to your precious lady, prince. She roams the castle as she does,
I assume. Or perhaps, and as I have heard, her father locked her away in a corridor of the castle.
.. Hmm.. I imagine her resources are running low by now, do you not think?
How could he have forgotten? Elentine was Now, man, let me take an answer from you, as
confident as his words were, it was clear that the dragon was entirely at the human man's mercy,
and it was this contradiction which pulled the warrior's attention back once more. Why are you
here? What places you before me? Why is there a disgusting parchment at my feet?
How conciliating. A smile, Why, Arlain, I'm here to kill you. Why else would I have frozen you
there with that spell and ah, this knife. You see, my friend sacrificed himself to prepare me for
you. You don't stand a chance against me you can't move, you can't respond, you can't cast
magic!
.. fair enough, but my my such arrogance And why not? I hold all the cards, Bastard.
What can you possibly do that would prevent me from destroying you whenever I feel like it?
.. I suppose that is the case, man. So then, a final question if your patience permits it.
I'll allow it. he swallowed hard in preparation for whatever was to be said.
What happens now? When you destroy me just as you have your only friend, what happens?
My shadow will be gone from the horizon, and the king, the coward, will return he will return
to his castle, his Capitol, his daughter... well, certainly you could take the woman and plant the
seed of speculation that I have devoured her just as I have all the virgins placed before me, and
you could flee with her to live a simple life beyond this godforsaken place.
We can live here. anything to disagree with that bastard of a living thing.
Oh? And risk that degree of being beaten again? How long has it taken you to regain the pride
you shove down my throat now? And you're willing to lose it again, man? .. I think not. You will
be prompted to escape but huh. Such a flower will only wilt in rotten soil. She is not the same
as you. You are a weed, the kind which will dare strangle a predator like me, and slay a valuable
ally like the Witch You don't have the right to talk about him. teeth gritted in anger, and
that moist palm tightened hard around the hilt of the knife. Fine, if the dragon was able to grin
he certainly would have, let us forget about him.
What are you trying to say? Out with it! particularly desperate, but not simply out of curiosity
but merely because the dragon was wasting his valuable time, and such a thing was a sin that
could not be forgiven.
And with the way that the dragon was so obedient was certainly not helping the warrior's
growing ego, I simply imply that a woman like that belongs in a castle, and only her father can
provide that. Surely you no. It would be a waste of time to spin that jest!
What are you talking about, he hissed.
Only the obvious, commoner. You cannot provide for the type of woman that she is. You are
rubbish in comparison you would only tarnish her. Your life, like most, has been filled with
hardships and uncouth beginnings. Whereas she will allow her tea to trickle in as she drinks, you
would slurp it. You could never provide the stimulation and setting that a flower like that needs
not like you are now. HAHA! Did you truly come here thinking you would be embraced, and
that she would live happily ever after with you? After she tires of turning her nose away from
your smell, the romance will be over. I look now at a man who will never stand in royal garb
beside his wife I stare at a man in tattered, stolen articles.
Quiet. Nothing in countenance and nothing from lips. The warrior, pride crushed once more,
began to advance towards the petrified dragon, whose breath tightened in obvious stress. But
despite the coming punishment, his voice remained just as warm; You could kill me as you
wish, and yes, take the castle for yourself, but the king will know soon, won't he? He will hear
word that I have gone, and return to see you with his daughter, and how much of a chance do
you stand against him and an entire castle of elite on your own?
On my own, is that right? he challenged the vulnerable beast as he paused right before his
massive snout, the knife in his right hand longing, begging, to be thrown into the eyes of the
damned beast to begin his well deserved torture. But despite what was coming what he knew
was coming the winged demon could only chuckle.
Isn't this my fitting end, you say? I find it so amusing that I have been here for months, moving
only to feed, and the pandemonium that resulted was only from the overactive imaginations of
you putrid humankind. What have I done, child of man? Name a single sin I have committed.
Name a single sin, and.. I will willingly submit my life to you. You will kill me knowing that it
was a consensual end that I am prepared to repent with my life.

Everything was almost complete I had our lives decided but I had to find her. I had to find
my love. My yes. I loved her. I loved Elentine. It wasn't going to be perfect, I knew that, I
knew that it was going to take some time before she felt the same way about me, but I was going
to be so kind to her, and of course she would owe it to me for saving her at least she would owe
it to me to listen to me and what I had to say. Maybe I could convince her in that time.
There it was. Her room. I was certain of it. The door holds the family crest, and the king was a
widower and Elentine was his only child. This had to be her room.
I pushed, but the door pushed back. It was jammed, or something lodged across its face. But it's
only wood. I can break through this in no minute.

Careful to spare his wounded left shoulder from the blow, the warrior shifted onto his right side
and pounded into the door several times and varying strengths. Finally it gave away its last
strength to the man, splintering and sending him toppling over the mess and through the naked
doorway. And it was there that he saw it the jewel of the castle, climbing quickly out of her
canopied bed with a gasp, gorgeous amber eyes wide with fear and exhaustion, her frame which
was once just plump enough now lithe and thin from malnutrition. But even then, the warrior
saw, she was just as desirable; standing before him in her rosy lingerie, her fists tight in
anticipation of her end. He would try to speak, but words would fail him, and so he would
scramble to find them and tell her that he was not there to harm her.
His name. His name would do it.
But it didn't. She remembered, her eyes showed that much, but the man before her wasn't the
same. He was not the same sweet, gentle creature she had known the man who dealt with odd
jobs around the Capitol and often the castle, and how they would run into one another in her
garden when her father demanded that his frail daughter enlist help. No this man was hardened;
his skin was tight, his eyes were hard and his body riddled with scars. His clothing was no longer
the best he could afford, but rather rags or expensive clothing re-worn and re-worn until they
tore.
And he held a knife.
He held a knife that was stained in blood, that had been witness of murder, not at all like the
hatchets he once held to cut free her roses from weeds. This man was no prince or warrior, but a
thief and assassin.
He took a step forward and she took two back, and it was a continuous dance between predator
and prey until his words rang to hurt her delicate ears; E-Elentine! What are you.. don't you
remember me? I'm here to take care of you! Please! He cried, his voice less so pleading and
more so disbelieving of her fragile insolence. It didn't make any sense. She was behaving so
foolishly! Stop this, Elentine! He abrasively yelled to clear the tension in his own head, but it
caused the sweet thing to fearfully reel away from him as though he bared fangs, her heels
catching a fallen chair and falling backwards. True to his form, however, the thief was
immediately at her side, mercilessly grasping her arm to keep her from falling, as it seemed she
was so fragile that she would shatter on impact. The princess righted herself squarely against his
chest, gasping for a way out before taking a moment to settle and stare into the intruder's eyes
with the realization that she recognized something deep in there.
And so did he captured once more by her grace and beauty, the man was bound by his desire,
moving quickly to embrace her with a kiss, but it was far too much and much too soon.
She struggled. She fought. He grabbed her. He pinned her there. She screamed. He grew furious.
He swore. He grunted. She whimpered and grew still. Her body shook and grew cold and wet.
Her eyes were still. They understood. They knew what was happening. She staggered back,
gorgeous lingerie stained with red; a wet stain that was growing and growing. Her frail hands
touched the hilt of the deposited knife with disbelief as he yelled at her; He was right! He was
right about you! You could never love a man like me! You're ashamed to touch me! To be t-
touched by me... How can I love you if you're disgusted by me?! Why didn't you let me love
you?!
She was gasping. He was watching. It was over.

She wasn't moving. She wasn't moving. I didn't mean it but she made me and I didn't understand
why she wasn't breathing anymore. Was she dead? Did I kill her? I was upset but I would have
never done such a thing!
But that was it. She hurt me she was my enemy. She was more of my enemy than the dragon
ever wa
The Bastard. I left him there, frozen in the spell, still alive. He promised to protect the castle
from the king and to protect me and my new wife but my wife Elentine she didn't want it.
She had to RUIN IT. I should have told her. I should have told her that we were going to keep
the castle, and that I was going to shower everyday and wear nice clothes and I wasn't going to
SLURP MY TEA like the dragon told me she hated.
I'm so fucked. I'm so fucked up. I need to cry. I need to scream. I need someone to help me.

I'm running. I ran as fast as I could. I had scrambled like a dog on the castletop and I forgot my
knife so I had to use my teeth and nails to claw at and tear the scroll tear it into a MILLION
PIECES. I had to free him. He had to be free to help me. I had to tell him what happened. I'm so
sorry. I'm so sorry. You're all I have left. I killed my only friend who DIED for me and then I
killed the love of my life and then you you're all that I have left.
SAY SOMETHING, DRAGON!

It's going to be okay. He said it was okay. He was so kind and gentle and wiped her blood from
my face with a single finger.
We were still keeping the Capitol. We were still keeping the castle. We were still keeping the
townspeople and the riches and the garments and we would soon find more servants and maybe
we could fool the king into coming back I would love to have him as a jester, The Bastard
sai Arlain. Arlain said. And he was all I had of course I was going to get him that jester. He
gave me this castle this gorgeous castle, and now I wasn't so pitiful, was I? I finally had my
pride. I was worthless before, and maybe that's what I needed to overcome. I wasn't rubbish.
But I still have nightmares. I still have nightmares of that day and how she looked at me like I
was some monster some thing. Sometimes I'll wake up screaming, and the dragon will coo
above the quiet of the night to soothe me. I owe so much to him, and my new wife it was all
thanks to him that she finally came to her senses and wed to me. Wanted me. She saw how I was
dressed and how I smelled so clean now, and so she came back.
She's absolutely gorgeous, don't you think? Long white hair, magnificent amber eyes and a body
that she never hides behind anything but her enticing pink lingerie. The throne suits you,
milord. she's a lot less bashful than I remember, and she talks to me like a predator just
waiting to catch me alone so that she can ravage me. And she does.
I like that. I love the demand.
But I still worry. My friend will be back someday, I say, but my precious lady my queen, my
master she merely grooms my hair as we share the throne my throne. Her throne. Don't
worry about the Witch. I'm sure we can convince him to sit at your side, milord.
But it was funny.

I don't ever remember telling her that my friend was the Witch.