..by Jon Simonds..


The thunder draws her attention. Rain pelts the earth all around her. Lightning hurts her eyes.
"I'm no sorceress," she says, shaking her head from side to side. "I'm just somebody who can share her thoughts with animals."

The ground trembles beneath Sandrell's feet and the sorceress drops to her knees. She shuts her eyes, holds her breath and clasps her hands over her ears, but it does nothing to block out the thunder. One blast builds upon another and it goes on and on and on; deafening; maddening and then all of a sudden, it is gone.

Sandrell opens her eyes. When she is confident the thunder is finally over, the sky suddenly explodes with the loudest blast of all. Sandrell, still on her knees, peers timidly up at the heavens. In all her wildest dreams, she never could have imagined what she now bore witness to.

Oryus comes soaring down from the clouds on a white-winged stallion. Tiny flames dance in his red glowing eyes. A touch of madness stems from his smile. The tips of his ears point angrily up at the heavens and he seems to exhale fire from his long, flat, sloping nose.

Sandrell stares up at him in awe. His chest, stomach and back are so full of black, matted hair, she can barely see the pink colored skin beneath it. His legs are the scaly legs of a reptile. They are like two sleek snakes, joined at the ankles by the hooves of a pig. His arms are like his legs and his hands are enormous. Long, crooked fingers cling loosely to the reins of his stallion. The horse lingers in the sky as Oryus cries out in joy.

"Free," he sings and his voice is a high, piercing instrument. "Free at last! Free to roam the ends of a world that for too long dared to hold me its prisoner."
"Hear me now!" He adds, turning his gaze towards the heavens. "That which is yours, shall soon be mine."

He laughs and his glee is the giddiness of the mad; the insane; the empty shell of those who shriek at the moon; leap at the shadows and throw themselves at the walls of their cells, cackling all the while.

Sandrell shivers, but in spite of her fear, her eyes never stray from the demon. She watches in disbelief as the horse rears its ugly head backward and lifts its snow white body upward. Were it not for the incessant flapping of the wings, one would swear the animal were suspended in midair.

Sandrell is mesmerized.

Oryus draws a staff from the side of the stallion's saddle. He aims the wooden stick down at the forest and a bolt of lightning shoots forth. It strikes a tree not more than ten feet from the very spot Sandrell is standing. She reacts with cat-like grace, leaping behind the safety of a large boulder, but her spell falters, freeing the rain to sop her body and soak the leaves covering the clearing.

Rain runs down her face as she cautiously peers around the edge of the huge rock. A thin trail of smoke winds its way up into the sky. It becomes a path, beckoning horse and rider down to the forest floor. Sandrell, legs bent at the knees, presses her body firmly against the rock.

"He's seen me," she thinks as the stallion touches the ground. "He has to have seen me."

Oryus dismounts the animal. He begins to stroke its long, white mane.

Sandrell reaches for the pearl handle of her sword. She has always been amazingly light on her feet. Quiet. Swift. She comes upon him like a breeze, driving her weapon into the demons hairy spine. Blood sprays through the air, hitting her in the face, the hair; soaking the front of her shirt. He turns, a wounded animal; lower lip quivering and Sandrell drives her mighty sword into his heart, but only in the eye of her mind. Oryus has already walked around to the other side of the stallion. He is facing the boulder and he is huge.

"I don't have a prayer," she thinks, sinking back against the rock.
"Don't be stupid," some part of her utters. "If he knows you're here, you have to know whether or not he is coming."

Sandrell gets down on her hands and knees and peers around the edge of the boulder. She is soaked to the skin. Rain slaps her in the face; stinging her eyes; filling her mouth and running off the tip of her nose, but it all pales when she spots several goblins marching into view.

Oryus turns towards the small band of warriors.
"What took you so long?" He asks and the ugliest goblin of them all, steps forward. He has a number of scars on his face and is built like an ox.
"Griblits," he says and his response sends shivers up and down Sandrell's spine. "We come upon some griblits."
"Griblits?" Oryus asks. He is puzzled. "And just what are these, err, griblits?"
"An accident," the goblin explains. "An accident of elves and dwarves."
The goblins start laughing. Oryus does not join them. He fails to see the humor and so, they grow quiet.

Sandrell, also, fails to see the humor. She is burning with rage. Griblits are the result of mixed breeding between elves and dwarves back in the days when individuals of different sects were still permitted to mix. Though they share many of the same features as their forefathers, they don't look enough like an elf, or, a dwarf, to be called either. So they were laughingly called griblits, until the laughter became so spiteful, they were forced to leave their homes and seek out a kingdom of their own.

"And what did you do with these-," Oryus begins.
"What did you call them?"
"Griblits," the ox-like goblin replies.
"Yes," Oryus says. He is feeding his stallion lumps of sugar. "What did you do with these griblits?"
"At the moment," a young goblin begins, "they are being cut and stuffed into sacks. You see, we find them rather tasty."
The goblins are laughing all over again.
Sandrell's stomach turns. She heaves. If the goblins had not been so caught up in their own sick joy, they might have heard her.
"You bas-" she begins, but checks her rage. Her anger doesn't blind her to the fact that she is grossly out numbered. She leans back against the boulder and her thoughts turn inward.
"If it wasn't for the events of last night," she thinks, folding her arms over her knees. "It would be us stuffing you into sacks?"

Continued...Part Two