Damsel in Distress

The dark cavern echoed with the sonorous tone of his chanting, the vile words' echoes causing the very walls to vibrate with his malice. Well, perhaps malice was too strong a word—mother wouldn't approve of vibrating malice. It was more like the walls vibrated with unpleasantness. Eldritch power—whatever that was—coursed through the veins of the black sorcerer Nokturne Casis, pulsing with each vile cadence. Soon his slumbering master would be awakened.

"Da mihi fermentum, insidiari—,"

"Please let me go," his captive shrieked yet again. Sigh. He winced under her shrill voice, his concentration broken yet again. The Princess Sarah Aphrodite was certainly an attractive prize for his lord, but she was so noisy.

"My father the king will pay you anything." Tears fell as she squirmed in futility upon the bloodstained altar. "He'll—"

"Be silent, wench!" Nokturne raised a pale, scrawny arm as if to strike her. She did so with a whimper. Good thing too. He couldn't bear to actually hit a girl.

"Sniveling child," sneering his most wicked sneer, "What use have I for your father's riches? Once the dark ritual is completed the Black God Gadaborgin will live again and lay waste to your pitiful kingdom of Feytail. Then I will be master of this land and all its riches. Muwhahaha!"

He was quiet pleased with himself. He had spent most of the morning practicing that speech.

"You're insane," came the inevitable shriek.

"I am an evil but misunderstood genius," he cackled, folding the voluminous sleeves of his midnight robes together, "Do not question my authority over you." He snarled at her puzzled expression. What did she want? They couldn't all be award winning. Besides, what did it matter what a sacrifice thinks?

He took a deep, wicked breath.

"Da mihi—,"

"My love, the great general Erik Hiro, will soon come to save me," the princess' voice smashed through his spell yet again, causing the sorcerer's to set his yellowed teeth a-grinding. "He'll make you sorry. He'll—,"

"Oh, will you just shut up already?" Nokturne's voice cracked a bit before he cleared his throat. "I mean, foolish princess. Your beloved cannot save you, for I have prepared a most fiendish trap for the noble Erik. By the time he arrives—no, if he arrives it will only be to find that the virgin sacrifice is complete, and my lord Gabadorgin returned to this mortal plane. Then he shall suffer an agony few have ever felt."

The princess convulsed in what was no-doubt panic-stricken horror.

"You fiend!"

"Yes," he said, glad for the renewed respect. He stabbed a ragged nail at her and uttered the words of power. "Silentium."

She opened her mouth, no doubt to shriek or plead some more, but instead her struggles against her bonds became more frantic when no sound came out.

With that nuisance taken care of, he turned back to the sinister, bone-crafted lectern that stood at the altar's side.

"Now where was I?" He ran his still-smooth hand over the oily parchment of the great leather bound grimoire, tracing each rune with the more tender reverence. "Ah, yes."

With another clearing of the throat, the sorcerer raised his hands and voice in demonic prayer.

"Da mihi fermentum. Mortuus redire somnum. Crusta Insidari. Rotha convortit XXII preteria longus." Yet again the dark power of his master filled his being, a trembling ecstasy which called to mind every twisted delight he had ever indulged in. He was no longer the sickly weak child he was ten years before, but a true master of the darkness. He was power, he was freedom, he was—

"You're doing it wrong."

The dark power left him as Nokturne froze. His captive was staring at him with mournful blue eyes. No, it wasn't despair, but pity! He raised himself to his full (admittedly unimpressive) height) and demanded in his most imperious voice, "What's that supposed to mean?"

He clutched at his throat. He really had to work out that whine.

"It means what I'm saying," the princess answered with a patient tone, not appearing the least frightened. "It's not rotha convortit, it's rota convertit. And it's too soon for that part anyway. You skipped two whole lines. Graeci ite domum. Diabolus ibat desupo Aigreogum."

"F-fool!" the sorcerer sputtered, forgetting in his rage that she wasn't supposed to be speaking anyway. "Do not speak of things your mind can scarcely comprehend!"

"You're trying to raise the demon god Dagagorgin, right?" A cocked eyebrow went with her patient tone.

He stared at her as if she had guessed his favorite color was periwinkle. "How—?"

"Malicar the Mad kidnapped me last month," she explained with surprising casualness. "He was trying to do the same thing. He must have spent three hours practicing that bleeding spell before he finally got underway. I kind of memorized it, seeing as I was tied to an altar an all. Not much else to do."

Nokturne tried to sneer, but found it hard to when his face felt like it was on fire.

"Do you think me a fool? I know my ritual, and it clearly says here on page ninety-four… Crusta Insidari. Graeci…oh." He spun around to glare at her and her cheeky smile.

"Perhaps I made an error—,"

"Perhaps you did." Nokturne held his breath and counted to five.

"—But do not presume that you can tell a sorcerer of my caliber how to cast his spells." Again he stretched out his arms and raised his terrible voice so that it echoed through the entire chamber. "For I am Nokturne Casis, the Scourge of Macronia. I have studied at the foot of the most dread necromancers, commanded legions of the undead, dragged demon lords up from Hell to force from them the most forbidden secrets of magic. I—are you rolling your eyes at me?"

"You think that impresses me?" the supposed captive countered with all her royal snootiness. "Any drop-out from necromancer's college can do that."

How dare she.

"I graduated last year at the top of my class, thank you very much." He missed the shrieky, whimpery girl. "Ahem. Do not presume to command me child, for my powers are beyond your comprehension!"

An unreadable smile spread across her full lips.

"Oh, Mr. Casis. I believe that the limits of my comprehension are significantly broader than you have inferred."

The sorcerer's face fell. "Pardon?"

"I've been kidnapped thirty-seven times," she said. Her smile became playful when his face fell in disbelief. "Yeah, it's true. Since I was ten. Over six times a year."

Nokturne flattened his expression, pulling hard on his curled goatee. He wasn't impressed, not in the least. "What of it?"

"So I know my way around evil plots," she said, her smile dripping condescension. "And I hate having to tell you this, but you rate fairly low."

"How dare you!"

"Well look at this place," she countered, "All your henchman are out trying to waylay Erik, but you've left nothing to protect you here in the main room. I don't see any hidey-holes or secret passages. It's bare but for this boring altar. Even the goblins kept plenty of guards at all of the important checkpoints, and they barely have a language."

Nokturne's nails were digging into his palms.

"What comparison is there between me and those maggot folk?" Sparks leapt about his fingers in an impressive display of power. "The only defense my lair requires is me!"

"Meh. Zelken Blackheart could conjure golems out of dust. Can you?"

"Wha—?"

"Didn't think so," she said, yawning. "What about vampire minions? The Underkings had vampire minions. And he had a much better plan than yours. Cause really, summoning a demon god? How déclassé."

"Say that again," the air smoldered with his aura. This wasn't right. She was his prisoner, dammit. "How dare you mock the lord Digagorin?"

The nasty wretch rolled her eyes yet again. It was all he could do to not incinerate her right there."

"It's not him I'm mocking, idiot. Think about it. If summoning an evil god is as simple as to summon as saying a bunch of silly words and sacrificing a virgin—which, by the way, isn't a strict requirement—then any hack evil doer could have all of Hell at their command. Ever consider that there might be more than that?"

"Uh…of course there's more than that. And I'm quite prepared, too." He had honestly never thought about it before, and the book was rather vague beyond the initial summoning.

"And what's the point in even destroying the kingdom? You said you wanted to rule it, right?"

"Lord Doragorbin will purge this land of his enemies," he said, his chest puffed with pride, "and then reward me with rule of the survivors. Why are you laughing?"

"Because you can say that with a straight face," she managed through her giggles. "Even if Dagagorin does keep his promise you'd have about a week before every hero, adventurer and brave farmboy in a thousand mile radius coming after you. I mean, just look at that goatee. It screams evil dictator."

Nokturne's eyes brightened. "You really think so?"

"And let's not forget the neighboring kingdoms. Did you forget that this isn't the only kingdom on the continent? Or that none of them like seeing powerful magic users wearing crowns?"

"Um…" Nokturne bit at his lip. He really hadn't thought of that.

Those stupid wide eyes fluttered as she heaved a dreamy sigh. "Of course it'll never come to that. My beloved Erik will come to rescue me."

Nokturne had to bite back the urge to gag. "You put far too much stock in the boy."

"Oh, I don't need him to rescue me," she said, "But I just love the way he lights up whenever he comes crashing through the window to save the day, and it'd just kill him not to be needed. Strong heroic types have such a delicate ego, you know."

"Who doesn't need help?" Nokturne fought to turn his angry twitches into a convincing snarl. "That's quite a claim for someone who's tied—." A bundle of ropes were tossed into his face.

"The thing about being constantly kidnapped," she said, stretching with her hands high above her head, "is that you become well acquainted with knots. Oh, it does feel good to stretch."

"How did…I…how long have you been lose?"

"Now where were we? She ignored him. "Ah, right Evil plots. Now, if I were to take over the kingdom I'd start out by working my way into the king's inner circle. Then I'd put a spell on him to make him my slave and then rule from behind the throne."

The sorcerer scoffed. "And where's the fun in that? No one knows it's you."

"No, but if something goes wrong it's not your head the heroes are coming after," she was lounging on the altar now with her legs unbound, and looking far too at home.

"I told Zakorbis, Overlord of the Blight about it when he captured me, and when Erik beat him he went to Idelia to try it out. But the poor goon was like you. This group of adventurers beat the so-called evil tyrant, and immediately he goes and reveals himself as the true mastermind. Needless to say, they turned him into dragonbait."

Nokturne pulled his robes closer around him as she gave a low, wicked laugh. For some reason the lair had gotten much colder.

The princess gave a small sigh. "We still keep in touch. He's puppet-ruler of a small principality somewhere in the south. Much mellowed out. I hear he's looking for a student or two."

"Fascinating," Nokturne's knuckles were almost transparent. Rage was skittering about his innards like spiders. But at once he was afraid. Princesses were supposed to be pretty little twits in modest pink dresses that you kept in towers and shrieked loudly whenever you just looked menacingly. They weren't supposed to be offering criticism and coming up with their own plots. She actually looked like she was comfortable in that tiny black sacrificial gown. Then again, that she voluntarily got into it should probably have tipped him off.

He found comfort in the weight of the knife at his hip. No matter how many kidnappings she had survived, he was still the murderous sorcerer and she was his victim. He had the knife and the magic. She had words and rope tricks.

The dying reverberations of a battle horn echoed in the distance.

"There's my Eric," she sighed again with that dopey expression. "Just a few booby trapped, monster-filled rooms and he'll be here."

"Yes, to feed Lord Dalgorgin." Her eyes widened as the obsidian blade appeared at her throat. Damn her, why was she still smiling? "This stalling ends now. Da mihi—gerk!"

Nokturne stumbled back, clasping at the living rope as it grew taught about his neck. He raised the knife to his defense, only to freeze at the flickering crimson dot pointed at his forehead.

"Now look here, you amateur. Don't think for an instant that I didn't let you capture me." She was smiling still, but her eyes were hollow. The princess—the sorceress' voice was cold with a cordial menace. "You see, I do this because the life of a princess is so stupidly dull. Tapestry work? Court gossip? Boring! But this? The thrill of danger and being rescued? After the third one I started letting myself get captured so that my beloved could rescue me. What comes after the 'How can I ever repay you,'s are always pretty fun too," she added with a smile.

The distant rumble could not divert her chill gaze.

"Maybe someday I'll get bored with this and give villainy a try. But until then, you're going to wait until the very last second to try to sacrifice me, and you're going to let him beat you into a sulfur-scented pulp and save the day. If you do everything right I'll put in a good work for you with Zakky. If you disobey, an uncontrollable demon god will be the very last thing of your concerns."

"If I don't, you'll be dead," he said, never taking his eyes off of her unwavering finger. There was no reason to be frightened, anyone could learn to conjure light. What princess would know a death curse? What princess gets herself kidnapped thirty-seven times, conjectured the lump in his throat.

"Be a dear and tie me back up, Noky." She wasn't even paying attention to him as she handed him the ropes. "I need to look my best for Erik."

Perhaps he could stab her in the back, he thought, mechanically carrying out her order. He could shut her up once and for all. Just one quick thrust and then he would deal with her charming idiot. But no, he thrashed the thought from his mind, he had come too far to give in to this brat's taunts. So what if old Malikarth and thirty-five others had failed before him? That would only further his reputation as a master of evil. He might even be able to move out of his mother's house. And he'd have the kingdom too.

But….

Nokturne's thoughts scattered like so many roaches as the antechamber's gates burst open. In came Erik Hiro, the celebrated farmer turned champion of the kingdom of Feytail. He was tall, he was blond, he was handsome, and he strode with a princely gait. Well, he was less tall than he was just shy above average, and the buckteeth and acne detracted a bit from his looks. And he didn't so much stride as fall flat on his face beneath the weight of his plate armor and the man-sized greatsword strapped to his back. But he was blond.

"Oh, Erik! You're here, by beloved." The terrible sorceress disappeared within the squeals of an infatuated teenage girl.

"I-I'm here, my princess. Have…no fear," the boy managed as he regained his feet. With each ragged breath came the pulse of magic from the runes inscribed upon his armor. Nokturne rolled his wicked eyes. No wonder the brat had got through his traps and minions. There were so many protective spells on him that he could have survived an ogre stampede. Providing that he wore a helmet, of course.

"I have come for my beloved Sarah," Erik said. Could they say 'beloved,' just a little more often? Somehow managing to get the massive sword off of his back, the mistakenly commissioned hero twirled the weapon over his head with far too much ease, further proving the presence of magic. Then he struck what he probably thought was a heroic pose as he trumpeted, "Let her go, you wicked villain. Evil can never banish the light of justice."

He went on like this for a while longer, something about truth and peace. Nokturne tuned him out and tried to imagine he was someplace else.

"Isn't he wonderful?" the princess whispered.

"I…can't help but question your taste in men." That was the polite way to say it.

"Shaddup," the sorceress sent him scurrying backwards. Then she went back to making puppy eyes at her idiot boyfriend.

The dagger glistened in his right hand while lightning danced in his left. So what if he couldn't summon Lord Dagorgin today? He would be free of this tyrant, and there were always more princesses. Actually, he realized with a hideous grin, the Libris de Non-Gratus Res didn't specify that the sacrificial victim had to be a virgin or a princess. Or even female. The dark power crackled and the knife drew back as Nokturne stepped forward.

Hellish blue eyes bored into his and grasped his soul with terror. He remembered how much he liked living.

"Muwhahaha! Foolish hero! You believe yourself able to defeat Nokturne Casis, greatest servant of the demon god Goblasorbin?"

Sarah gave an approving nod.

"Who?"

"The demon god—you know what? It doesn't matter. Have at you!"

Fin

Author's Note- Here's another piece that I did for my Creative Writing class this semester. I've had the idea for this story since spring, so I'm quite glad that I finally got the opportunity to use it. I meant to get this out much earlier, but my source for Latin was pretty busy for the last couple of weeks. This story is just a fun one shot and has no connection to any of my other pieces, but I hope that you enjoy it nonetheless.

I'm still trying to revise, so please feel free to critique and make suggestions.