The king of Phero, was a kind but mislead man, with many advisers at hand that guided him through bloodthirsty wars, which overall protected his lands but yet did nothing to the famine that raged through the lands and killed many a chillun or an elderly peasant.
He had three sons, Prince Jadeer, the most vain and prideful of the three. Prince Kalur, the middle son, very much average in everything. Average in his studies, average in his sword-fighting skills, and adequate enough to skewer boars on spit-roast fires. Prince Lemar brought up the rear of the troupe, a crafty skinny little thing who had a petulance to steal, even when everything in the castle belonged to his ancestors before him.
There was many a beautiful maiden who graced the walls of the main castle in Jarput, but they were aloof, cold creatures whom only dilly-dallied with a man with a large pouch of coins strapped to his waist. Even King Keshan, although married and bounded to another woman, couldn't help but drift an eye in their direction when they graced the dining hall at moon-rise. He pondered a particular girl he had been keeping his eye on- Shaleen he believed her name was, and dreamt of her supple curves under that delightful, slightly transparent shift she wore before bed-time.
After several times of looking through his scope, he had even once witnessed a maid bathing the wondrous woman! That had immediately sent blood raging rampant to his sword that was nestled between his legs and made his dear, old wife raise an eyebrow every time she saw it.
Alas, was he to know that his beloved Shaleen whom brought him so much pleasure through the cold winter nights was to be the thirty-sixth victim of a beast intent of satisfying his cruel hunger by bathing himself in the blood of desirable women.
This beast was known....as The Dragon of Jarput.
"Tell me, adviser..."The King turned to the man next to him, using the loud banter and the courting of jesters to ask the next question. "Where is that delightful girl who normally sits six chairs away from me? Shaleen, I believe her name to be."
The King then proceeded to drown the contents of his jewelled chalice and take a hearty bite out of the boar the cooks had roasted that night. The adviser, by the name of Gamir, dabbed his forehead with a sheath of cloth and twisted a ring with the crest of Jarput around his middle finger. He was a cruel man, who hid it well with pleasant smiles and words of admiration but inside he longed to see the King dead on his bed, with not one member of the Royal Court beside his side.
Recently the lands had been plagued with a horrific beast, who had arrived on the North-easterly breeze one December evening and had remained ever since, killing a lowly commoner every night and each night, the killings came closer and closer to the castle. Gamir wished heavily for the beast to swoop down one night and swipe the king himself from his luxurious bed. He had sent out men, with promises of dimes and trinkets, to investigate this mysterious but yet deadly beast but not one had survived to live the tale.
The next morning, horrified villagers discovered dismemembered body parts strewn across their long-dead corn fields or bloody clothes covered in slimy entrails, ripped to shreds. The only thing common between each killing, was the fact that the head was always gone.
And now on the thirty-sixth night of the beast entering the town, Gamir had calculated the next victim to be taken from the Castle Courtyards themselves.
"I believe she was outside but just an hour earlier, wanting to take a peaceful stroll through the courtyard and perhaps pick some orchids for you, My Majesty."
Kerchan looked incredibly pleased and took another bite out of his carefully peppered meat. "That sounds wonderful," he thoughtfully said before directing his gaze down the opposite side of the table, and snapping, " Jadeer! Must you keep staring into that looking-glass at the dinner table?! You remind me of your mother, when she was at her prime, long ago...If you are not careful son, you may slip over in the bath one day, like she, and impale yourself in a nearby sword...."
Jadeer paled at once, and quickly stashed away the looking-glass into the folds of his robes. "Yes father," he replied meekly, before turning to his younger brother and snapping, "Lemar! You will not steal my chalice again!"
Lemar, looking incredibly guilty, returned back to kicking his chair legs with the soles of his hide boots, looking incredibly bored. Being an eight-year-old in a midst of thirty head-strong men who did not appreciate the art of tom-foolery, could do that to one as young as he.
At once, a terrible scream from outside the dining hall arose, and immediately sent the men, and several women too rushing to their feet. Keshan was the last person to stand, and leaning heavily on his orb watched with barely hidden surprise as a young, pretty girl of sixteen summers or so burst into the room. " We are all to die!" she shrieked and came to a standstill a mere metre from the King's table. "My King, a person of noble standing has been murdered!"
The room, which had gone deadly silent throughout the little outburst from the girl, broke out into loud whipsers again, men and women alike looking incredibly panicked. Only Gamir looked suitably unperturbed.
"SILENCE!" roared the king, and glared at the girl fiercely. "Explain your ideals to why you storm into the Feasting room, at once! If I do not find your reasoning adequate enough, you shall be sent to the gallows for your imminent death!"
"I was with Lady Shaleen, my Lord," she sobbed, tears delicately trailing down her frail face and soddening the teal gown she had worn tonight. The teal gown itself, was rather worse for wear, streaks of mud destroying the cashmere silk and damp leaves coiled within her dirtied hair. "We were picking orchids, and...and...we heard the most dreadful rumble in the sky! We thought it was the Thunder-Gods, prepared to unleash hell upon the lands, and started-started- to hurry back...."
The girl broke off for another wail. King Keshan felt extremely ill, as he listened to the first part of the story and the hardened grip around his Chalice didn't go amissed by Gamir, who smirked rather triumphantly.
"Go on," The King said impatiently, not caring now that the whole court could hear the desperation in his voice. For the clever few, they might have pondered why the normally cold, emotionally detached King was sounding worried, but even they, with their quick minds, failed to reach the correct answer. Instead they dismissed their ponderings and continued listening to the girl's unbelieveable story.
"There was a roar....a mighty roar....and Shaleen tri- tripped and I didn't notice because I was running up the steps and then, and then, I heard such a scream that it made my blood freeze and I-I turned around to see Lady Shaleen on the ground, all in a heap and suchlike! And, and I went back and saw-"
The next few words were about to send the Court into turmoil, Keshan could sense it. "Her head was gone and there was such a awful clawprint about twenty barrels wide by her chest!"
Keshan watched helplessly as Jadeer accidentally broke his looking glass, which had somehow miraculously reappeared in his hand, by jerking rather painfully into the table. Kalur looked speechless as Lemar accidentally stabbed his own thigh with a knife that had minutes earlier been lying at the furthest end of the table, some ten feet away. Gamir, all the while, fussed over Lemar's bloody leg as he hid a secret grin threatening to devour his face whole.
Keshan and his bastard sons were as good as dead.