The Beast

by Font Bookfarthing

Long, long ago, there were many fair and foul things in the world. Among them were human beings. The humans of course judged themselves to be fair. But they began to have no respect for the rest of their world or the life forms with whom they shared their world. And so the world spirit finally had enough. And the Beast was born. The Beast was a four-legged monster as large as two houses. Its mouth was the widest part of its body, tapering back to the tip of its fat tail. Its teeth were as sharp as daggers. It existed only to kill. And it took pleasure in killing. Where the Beast walked, only death remained.

One day when things were going pretty badly, and the Beast had destroyed more than half the known world, and the people were fleeing, and the king didn't know how to stop the Beast, he offered rewards to anyone who could slay it. And then one day shortly thereafter, a Warrior appeared. None had seen him arrive. None had ever seen him before. But he was let into the castle where he said unto the king, "Majesty, I can slay the Beast."

"How canst thou do this?" The king of course wanted to believe him. But he couldn't just accept this stranger's word for it and send him off to save the day and get all the credit.

"I have magic coursing through me as blood flows through your own body. But even so, it is not enough to defeat the Beast. I must have the assistance of the one who rightfully represents the people and the land."

But the king and everyone else in the kingdom were all afraid to face the Beast. The Warrior explained, "If I face the Beast alone, I can only banish it for a thousand years. That is all that I can do on my own."

That was good enough for the king. So he accepted the help of the Warrior stranger. "What care we of a thousand years from now? So long as the Beast is done ruining our reign. What is your name?"

"I am only called the Warrior."

"Very well, Warrior. Slay the Beast and you shall have our gratitude."

The next day the Warrior walked off into the valley where the Beast lay. And he faced the great Beast. It was a long and bloody battle. It lasted nearly the length of the day itself. But by sundown, the Warrior alone walked back into the city. The Beast was gone.

And then peace returned, and rebuilding began. The Warrior was gratefully given a banquet, and his own suite of rooms in the royal palace.

Unfortunately memory fades. A few years later, the king challenged the Warrior. "You do nothing in the castle except sit idly. You protect us from nothing. You no longer have any function. For what is a Warrior with no one on whom to make war?"

The king then drew his sword... But the Warrior did not want to fight the king. However the king insisted. And so the Warrior agreed to a compromise. He would relinquish some of his magic powers to the king himself... on a single condition only. The king agreed immediately, and it was only then that he heard the condition: that the Warrior would be allowed to spend one night alone with the queen. And only after a full year would he give some of his powers to the king.

The king felt his will bend to the Warrior's. He knew that he should slay the Warrior, but couldn't bring himself to oppose him. So the Warrior spent one night with the queen, giving her a child. But nine months later, something went wrong with the birth. The queen screamed louder and louder, and finally she screamed one final time... and then no more. She died. The doctors proceeded to cut her open, but found that there was no child inside her womb. Some insisted that the child had therefore never been there.

The king was greatly upset, mainly because he had planned to secretly kill the bastard child himself.

And then came the day in which the Warrior had agreed to uphold his part of the bargain. He would give the king some of his magic powers. So he and the king journeyed into the mountains. And there they stayed for twelve days and twelve nights as the magic worked its way out of the Warrior's body and into that of the king. Upon their return, the king immediately had his soldiers throw the Warrior into prison.

As the king tried to wield this new magic power, he found that his power was linked to his morality. The more good he did, the stronger he became. And the more evil that was done by him, the weaker he became.

Unfortunately the king decided to wield his new powers, and thus be his use of force, ruined everything. For power corrupts.

The king increased the taxes for his own personal gain, and became ill. The king used his powers to control the minds of others so they might fight to the death for his own amusement, and the king was near death before the first battle concluded. His healers found they could do nothing for him.

Eventually the king died. By this time he had re-married and had a son. But when his heir took over, he found that he too had the magic powers. It was indeed hereditary.

So for the next several hundred years, the royal family continued in this way, using their magic powers to subjugate their citizens, continually weakening themselves. And they all died early deaths.

Several people over the years came forward to challenge the royal family. But bent and crippled though they were, the rulers still wielded magic powers... and defeated all challengers.

The royal family continued to grow weaker and weaker. Their children were soon born virtually lifeless shells confined to their beds their whole lives.

Finally the latest king and queen found that they were too weak to have children. The king tried and tried, and finally he was able to make his queen pregnant. But two months into her pregnancy, she had a miscarriage. The king tried again, and she had a miscarriage again.

So the king had his servants steal a child from among his people. In order to prove this new offspring's "true" heritage, the king's loyal followers began faking acts of magic for all to see.

And the true royal family bloodline was ended when the boy was only thirteen.

#

Nine hundred and eighty years after the last appearance of the Beast, a priest named Havlock woke up from a sound sleep in the middle of the night. He had had a vision in his sleep. He threw on a robe and made his way to the castle, and down into the chamber where the queen had died long ago during childbirth, even though there had been no child. The priest found the chamber, and on the slab where the queen had lain, he beheld a newborn baby boy... the offspring of the Warrior. The priest then heard a voice on the wind. It said that this child was their new Warrior-savior. He gathered the child up and secreted him back to the church where he told the others in his congregation what had happened. And he signed a sworn statement, attesting to what he had seen and heard.

As a child, the Warrior savior started to exhibit certain habits in common with the Warrior savior who had lost his powers to the king many years ago.

They brought the child to the king. The royal family at this time had continued faking their magic acts for centuries, and were at this point certain that any magic the royal family had ever had was only a myth. And so this new child was not believed to be their savior, and the priests kept him safe in the church.

#

On the twentieth birthday of the boy, the Beast returned.

The current king heard the news of the Beast's return and he summoned the royal guards and sent them to dispatch the Beast. But none returned. And the Beast began to decimate the kingdom.

The royal court advisors reminded the king that since he, as part of the royal family, now had the magic power of the original Warrior, that it was the king's duty to save them. The king looked into their eyes. And none of them were on his side. All he saw there was blame. And so he had no choice. "I am in my fortieth year. But I will do battle with the Beast at sunrise tomorrow." And he returned to his bed chambers to try to think of a way out of it.

During the night, the king summoned his most trusted advisor. The advisor knew that the royal court had been faking the magic acts, and pleaded with him to help him come up with a way to get out of it. But the advisor had no suggestions. And it was very easy to lay blame at the feet of the king.

The next morning, the king made ready for battle. He hadn't slept at all. And he donned his armor, found the sharpest, longest blade in the castle, and headed out.

Standing at the doorway to the castle was the queen. With tears in her eyes, she pleaded with him to stay. But the king knew there was no way the people would let him do that. And he had to admit... he was the king. He touched her cheek tenderly, "My wife, we all have responsibilities in life. Whether we ask for them or not. They are there. I chose to accept mine. For I am the king. And if I do not face the Beast... who will?"

She embraced her husband, and ran back to her bed chamber in tears.

When the king reached the hill at the edge of the castle, looking down onto the village, he found his fifteen year old son standing there, also suited up for battle. "No," the king said gently to his son. "You return to the castle."

But his son was resolute. And together, father and son faced the Beast.

But the Beast was fierce and the young prince fell with a single swipe of his claw. The king rushed to the fallen body of his son. He held the lifeless body and wept loudly in fury and frustration. The Beast stood some distance away, waiting for tiny the king, knowing in his pride that nothing could stop the monster.

And then someone stood over the king... The king looked up, and he saw the so-called Warrior-savior, the magical child of the Warrior and the queen from a thousand years ago. "I will help you," said the savior who was now a young man.

The savior asked the king for his help, but the king was still grieving for the loss of his son. And the savior explained things as his father had a thousand years ago: "If you help me, I can slay the Beast. But if I am left to do it on my own, I can only banish the Beast for another thousand years." But the king didn't care any more. He didn't care if he himself even lived or died.

And so the savior acted alone, and the Beast was banished once again... but not slain.

News eventually got around the kingdom that the king didn't have the savior's powers. But the king did not want to give up his political power, and so made the new savior an advisor to the royal court. "This is how it was in the time of my grandfather's grandfather. And thus I redeem my family and our Warrior-savior. Thus restoring the kingdom to how it should be." But many people were unhappy and insisted that the savior be the king. For he was the one with the magic in him.

But the king simply would not relinquish his power, and so adopted the savior as his new son, so that he was now a part of the royal family.

The magic powers did not manifest themselves in the next generation of the royal family, nor in the next. And the people once again began doubting that there was ever anyone with these powers.

This was approximately one thousand years ago.