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United Kingdom has a minion!

Royalty the Goliath




United Kingdom
Legacy Name: United Kingdom


The Spectrum Terracoon
Owner: SEOUL

Age: 7 years, 3 months, 2 days

Born: May 16th, 2015

Adopted: 6 years, 1 month, 1 week ago

Adopted: July 8th, 2016


Pet Spotlight Winner
March 4th, 2019

Statistics


  • Level: 11
     
  • Strength: 28
     
  • Defense: 25
     
  • Speed: 20
     
  • Health: 24
     
  • HP: 24/24
     
  • Intelligence: 21
     
  • Books Read: 20
  • Food Eaten: 0
  • Job: Mens Specialist


Half Life

The London fog wraps around me as I pad on silent feet down the length of some cobbled avenue. I cannot remember its name. Such details are of little importance to a man who cannot live in one place for more than a handful of years.

The paper scrap curled in my pocket was too intriguing to dismiss as another false lead. Its potential promise of putting an end to my quest is worth a few miserable weeks in this urban sprawl.

Without the Key promised by the Sorceress, I cannot die. Immortality is the cruelest of curses.

*****

I was born to an open world where even nobles had the sense to keep summer castles. Children ran in the free air and caught fireflies beneath the stars. Wisdom came from wizards with flowing white beards and pentagrams on silver chains, not these bloody screens that turn men into slack-jawed cattle.

My appointment to serve Sir William as a page was no great surprise. While my father was not deemed worthy of his own coat of arms, it was no secret that he had My Lord's ear in most matters. He was a steward of some renown and he had a way of turning losses into profits that none could imitate.

It took me a few years to advance from a bearer of cups to a carrier of My Lord's blade when he went to defend his lordly vows. Though few could match my skill while on horseback, my lax attitude toward all dull tasks earned me plenty of afternoons scrubbing armor in barrels of sand. Leaving my sword out in the rain got me a whipping. I did not make that mistake twice.

As a squire, I teased the serving girls mercilessly and found every excuse to peer around the corner at My Lord's lovely daughter, a slip of a girl too distracted by her pet doves to remember the importance of closing one's chamber door when preparing for a bath. I was a saucy wretch who got away with far more than My Lord ever punished me for. Cook took to leaving pastries in a little basket outside the kitchen as an offering so I would not put a snake in his boot or pop out of the grate and frighten the servant girls in the early morning hours.

The day My Lord touched the tip of his blade to my shoulders was the proudest of my life. It was only after the ceremony that I realized I had forgotten to pin My Lord's family crest to my sleeve. It was no wonder the other knights looked at me strangely.

For all my faults, I was a good knight. I went out of my way to aid the weak and many a maiden was saved from a fate worse than death when I stepped in to protect their honor from bandits and rogues. My Lord made me a permanent resident of his castle. Never again would I sleep beneath my father's thatched roof - even he was not granted so high an honor.

Father and his friends hid their smiles behind the rims of their goblets when the Sorceress came into My Lord's hall. His lady wife had died six years prior in giving him a third daughter. His new mistress was enchanting in her beauty and it was said she had fantastic powers. Her command of the language of magic was shaky. Half the time, she got the words wrong and nothing happened. When she got them right, she tended to mispronounce some critical part of the phrase. Her summons of a loaf of bread managed to summon an oaf and a bard. A sleep potion turned the captain of My Lord's guard into a sheep for twenty-four hours.

None of us knew that her incompetence in all other areas gave her plenty of time to perfect her curses.

I was as careless with my tongue as with my blade. I held Gwen the scullery maid close to me, kissing the line of her neck and whispering the latest gossip in her ear. She loved choice gossip more than meat or mead. I told her the Sorceress was a fool with gold. Father would never dare openly cheat My Lord, but this false lady of the house was another matter. He'd been scamming her for months, charging thrice the value of the spell ingredients she needed and convincing her that she had the best dresses in the land - when in reality, they were not even silk. Gwen giggled and nibbled my shoulder, beckoning with a crooked finger. I didn't notice the smell of horse when she threw me down on the hay. I stumbled my way back to my chambers well after midnight.

The Sorceress stood at my door as the sun's light struck my face. Her voice was solemn. Father had not been to his post. My Lord had sent a man, only to find that Father was dying. The Sorceress had always admired his integrity, she said. There was a poultice she always kept around, one that would cure his ailment. I was too alarmed at his supposed condition to question why My Lord did not come himself. I left by dawn's light, my arm linked around that of the Sorceress.

My family was surprised to see me. I realized my mistake in an instant but before I could draw my blade, the Sorceress began to weave her spell. The threads caught my heart. I could see the same fear and loathing echoed on the faces of Father, Mother, Thomas and Beatrice. We were entranced, frozen in place by her magical snare.

When the spell was done, the five of us collapsed on the ground, panting like animals. She stood over us, her smug gaze falling on each in turn as she began to explain what she had done.

"You are cursed, doomed to lead a half-life from this point on. Each of you will take on the form of the animal within your spirit at the designated time. For a man that would cheat the Wielder of Light and Shadow, the cunning fox. His mate that would look the other way will be the rabbit that must look in all directions if she would not be devoured. The growing boy will make a suitable wolf, stronger than the father yet driven beneath the knife by his own impulses. The girl child is a perfect mouse. See how she squeaks and hides behind her mother at the sound of my voice. These will live out their lives, sharing the human and animal shapes until the natural span of the animal self expires. Thus will their spirits die, cursed and unable to reach paradise."

She turned to me last. "Not without hope, for every curse must be left open to a blessing least the caster's curse be turned against her for creating Hopelessness. The knight who would not protect the interests of an innocent will have his own form, one I leave to him to discover. His life will be measured in centuries, even millennia, until he is able to hunt down the key to his mortal return. Then will the souls of those he loves be freed and only then may he be welcomed by Death's cold embrace."

The first transformation happened to Beatrice and it was horrible to behold. Her small body twisted in unnatural ways until her terrified shrieks became the frantic squeaks of a mouse. Afraid and ashamed, she darted through a hole in the stone before we could stop her. Father's own transformation took place shortly after and Mother soon followed. Thomas nearly tore the house apart, a half-mad wolf trapped in a stone cage. He lunged at me, snarling and ready to tear me apart. It was at that moment the sun set.

My brother's fangs sank into the thick fur of the badger I had become. There was no reason in us. We fought as two beasts, enemies since the first predators cut their teeth on the bones of downed prey. With a bitter howl, Thomas managed to launch himself out the window, disappearing into the night.

With nothing else to distract me, I lumbered out the front door. The grass was cool beneath my pads and Mother's small garden proved a fantastic hunting site for grubs and beetles. With a full belly, I sought the comforting roof of forest trees.

I woke at the moment the sun rose, groaning nearly as much as the joints of my wet armor. I returned to my childhood home to find Mother's body torn apart by a hawk or eagle. Father wept over the limp form of Beatrice.

He looked up to me with haunted eyes and I knew what he had done. The smell of prey was in his nostrils at the moment he transformed. Beatrice's protector could smell nothing of himself in that small, warm body.

I turned away from my own father, not caring about his pain. I had always loved Beatrice best. I have no doubt that as Father learned to control the transformation, he purposefully slept near the best hunting sites. He so enraged the hounds that they tore his body apart, despite the anger of the handlers. Thomas met a fate much the same. Cornered on a ledge in the mountains, he chose to throw himself from the heights rather than face the fangs of a pack he could not defeat.

I was learning my own kind of control. I could not choose when the transformation would grip me, but my mind was slowly becoming my own. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, I began to really think about what the Sorceress had said. There was some way out of this misery. I never wanted to be one of those knights that went on epic quests, not when there were so many interesting battles to be fought right at home. The Sorceress wasn't giving me a choice in the matter.

On my next transformation, I lumbered to the gates of My Lord's castle, fur bristling against the attack I expected. Though I could not die, my immortality did not protect me from pain. A spear through the heart would leave me gasping for breath for at least a full day.

My Lord's castle was not destroyed or even abandoned. It was simply gone. Lying in the mud was a roll of parchment with a corner torn away.

My first clue.

*****

Her clues have grown more obscure over the years. I have no doubt the Sorceress has safely ensconced herself in some magical location from which she can monitor my progress. Several hundred years have passed and I can still see that smug look on her face.

She must know that my sources grow more scarce with each passing year. Those medieval texts not destroyed by the influence of time are locked away in vaults and private collections or protected by bullet-proof glass in museums. They are frustratingly close. Billionaires and museum directors do not look kindly on a man attempting to crack the spines of their most valued literary treasures.

The pub I'm looking for isn't the sort of place you'd find in the tourist papers. There's a squat man sitting beside the door smoking a pipe. He's one of those chaps that nods but never says a word, despite the fact that I'm wearing chain mail and a hand-and-a-half sword strapped to my back.

"Oy, Mister? Are you with one of the local troupes?"

The voice is young, male, and too energetic for such an early hour. I try to fix him with my most unwelcoming stare but he stares right back. The bugger has about a thousand freckles and great, wide ears that nearly reach down to his jaw.

It's a question I get a lot.

"It's casual Friday, mate."

I slip inside before the pesky bloke can comment that today is Wednesday.

The man I'm supposed to meet is seated in a corner, hunched down in his oversized peacoat. His fingers scuttle over the table's surface as I take the time to order a beer. I wait for the drink to come, paying the barmaid outright so she won't hover. The stranger eyes the sheepskin bag that I slowly pull from my back.

Money's easy to get when you have all the time in the world and a zero percent chance of death. Ten thousand pounds gets me a small plastic tube with a roll of film. It's the old-fashioned kind that needs to be developed.

There's only one shop in this part of London that still accepts these canisters. I'll never make it there before sunset. I spend my last peaceful hour in the crummy bar, sipping beer and enjoying the premature dusk made by cheap lighting and smoky beams.

The surprised cry of a woman freezes me in place when I step out through the back door. The woman is struggling, trying to fight off the thickset man that rips away her purse. I've only got fifteen minutes before this slum gets a good view of the one and only half-human in the world. Bugger.

I draw myself up, trying to look impressive. It's not in my nature to turn away from a damsel in distress, but this one proves more a dragon. Her high-heeled shoe comes down on the robber's sandaled foot, jarring his hand enough that she can give it a good bite. Her purse flies into the gutter as he runs away screaming curses.

I pick it up and brush the slime away, offering the bag to its owner. Whatever she's seeing on my face, she finds it amusing.

"Bet you never thought to see that kind of action in a piss-poor little neighborhood like this, eh? Relax, Sir Knight. This princess is quite able to care for herself."

She's not a princess, but she is attractive. Dangerously so.

I am the only hope for my family, the only one of my kind. I cannot afford the luxury of love. I will not see my own children and grandchildren given to the earth, nor will I be unfaithful to a string of wives who will never understand why I do not age.

I touch a hand to my brow. "Beg pardon, ma'am. I've a show to do at ten."

Her smile is both teasing...and bitter. "See you around, Sir Gawker."

The conversation costs too much time. I spend the night crouched in shadows, growling in a low tone when the rats come too close. Most are intimidated by my musk, but there are always those few bold ones too hungry or stupid to heed the obvious warnings. Rats are not so unlike men.

The teenager behind the photo desk stares at me with an open mouth, his breakfast of half-chewed Doritos made visible to the whole lot of customers. He takes his time running the machine, glancing over his shoulder at me as my photos slowly print.

The small, moss-coated church has almost been reclaimed by the elements. I know this place. It is the chapel where My Lord once married a Sorceress.

She wants me to return to the land of my birth, to walk the valley where once I rode a steed and called myself a true night. The sickness at my core has nothing to do with bad grubs.

The run is tedious even in my badger form. Though I do not regret leaving London behind, I would almost rather breathe its thick smog than feel the mossy stones beneath my feet again.

All around the forest I played in as a boy are developments that slowly creep over the green world and devour it. The chapel itself is little more than a grassy boulder. No man can enter its half-caved door but for a badger it is almost as comfortable as a sett dug with claws and powerful hind legs.

I am able to drag the small jeweled box out into the moonlight. The swat of a furry paw knocks the lid away, allowing me to view the yellowed page written in a spidery script.

The page describes a spell for transforming a man into an animal. It is the most powerful clue she has yet provided, one that names a tiny village far to the north. Perhaps she too tires of this timeless game. Perhaps not.

All I can do is continue to follow the clues.

Credits:
Profile by ZivaArt reddragon1989Story Pureflower

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