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The night was chill and dark. Dead leaves rustled in every stray gentle breeze. The moon, hidden partially by the black clouds, gave off no comforting light to the small boy, wandering aimlessly in fear of the night. Shadows flitted across the trees and ground bringing up thoughts of monsters and wolves to a young boy named Daniel. His thin jacket gave no warmth to him as he searched in vain for his friends. Daniel had been on a weekend camping trip with them in the Uintah mountain range.
Daniel's greatest fear was the dark. But he came on the thrice-accursed camp trip for one reason: one hundred dollars was his if he came on the trip with his friends and went out into the woods alone for two hours. The bet had been made by his friend Sam.
“There's no way that you could ever do that, Daniel,” he had said the night before.
To which Daniel replied, “I'm going to take that bet, Sam. Get ready to cough up the money!”
Regretting the bet now, he squinted his eyes, searching for any sign of the warm campfire or the bright red tent that Sam brought with them. They were probably all playing a game of cards in their sleeping bags by now. All warm and cozy. . .
A sudden, strong gust of wind swept Daniel back into reality. He shivered and pressed on with his hunt for the long-wanted welcoming warmth of the campsite. His time must be almost up by now.
The socks he wore constantly slipped down to his ankles. Once again, Daniel pulled them back up and tied the laces on his boots. When he looked up, he noticed a faint glow coming from the thick trees. Maybe that was his friends. He walked towards the glow, supposing it to obviously be the campfire. If it was them, he would stay slightly away from the camp until his time was up and then join them again. If not, then once again he would have to take up his ongoing search for the rest of the group.
Already planning how to spend his money, Daniel edged toward the grove of trees, now in an extremely close proximity to it. He heard faint whispers coming from the clearing. Something about them rose the hairs on the back of Daniel's neck As he crept closer, he could make out a few distinct words.
“What if nothing comes?” said a harsh voice. It was like steel, sharp and cold.
“Then we'll end up just like the others! Keep searching!” snapped a second voice. This one was very deep.
Sensing that these were definitely not his friends, Daniel stepped backward before he heard the first voice again.
“Wait! There's something just outside the red circle. A faint presence, but it's there! I think that it's one of those. . . humans.”
“Ah! The kind of catch the master enjoys best! Call up the Krinjar from the stone!”
Panic broke out in Daniel's chest. He turned and ran flat-out in the opposite direction as fast as he could. But his fastest was not enough. Strong arms grabbed his ankles, sending him hurtling to the earth. Fighting against the enemy, Daniel finally broke loose and launched himself forward again, hoping to escape this horror. He turned and looked to catch a glimpse of his foe: A large opaque monster protruded from a circle of red light. It had exceedingly long arms and the head of it looked like a serpent. Thick legs with talons erupted from it's scaled torso. A spiked tail was slightly visible from between its legs, curling like ribbon.
Petrified with fear, Daniel legs seemed frozen in place as the supernatural creature's arms reached out toward him, flexing its fingers.
“Do not resist human.” said the voice. “Do not resist. . .”
Daniel opened his eyes to utter darkness so thick it smothered him in a cloak of night. His arms were bound together with thick cords as were his already raw legs. He swung his arms under his legs and began to grope around in the darkness for a sharp object to cut his bonds. Only then did he realize that he was in a large bag. This gave him hope. He felt around the bag for the opening and found it in a few seconds. Slowly, he began to unseal the bag with his prying fingers. The cord clasping it was tough but it soon gave way to Daniel's persistent force. Now out of the bag, he concentrated his efforts on finding a tool to sever his bonds. It was also dark outside the bag. His captors were nowhere in sight and Daniel definitely wasn't in the forest anymore.
The world outside him was breath-taking. Even in the dark of night, Daniel still beheld vivid colors of green and red leaping out at him from colossal trees, gargantuan rivers and vast cliffs. The sky was a violent shade of purple and blue with thousands of twinkling stars. Strange calls from creatures echoed off the rock walls as did the endless calls of the irritating insects. Even from his uncomfortable kneeling position on the ground, Daniel was overcome with wonder.
His next thought was panic. What would happen if some fearsome beast was lurking in the woods, ever waiting for the right moment to spring its trap? What if he could never find a way to release his bonds? Where was edible food to be found in this strange place? Question after question ran through his head like a stampede of bison. Then, another question arose in his mind. Why was he just left here without any guards?
The answer soon came to him. As he urgently looked around for some type of knife, the first morning rays peaked over the snow-capped mountains. Suddenly, the cry of a legendary monster shook the earth with its rebounding bellow. Trees were felled off in the distance and flocks of mysterious birds took off, shrieking their fear and disapproval. Daniel wasn't left for dead. He was left as this demon's offering of food.
He held the worst cards. Tied up and sore he could only sit there without a plan. Then, he had an idea that might, just might work. Remaining calm, he waited until he could see the behemoth.
It was a huge mass of flesh and scars covering a heap of blue skin, with no discernible facial features except its gaping red mouth. Fangs three feet long were crusted with blood as was the rest of his mouth giving off the putrid aroma of death. Huge arms with one red circle on either erupted from its mass of flesh while powerful bull-like legs shot out of its under-belly. Yellowing talons curved out of its four limbs, while the stub of what might have once been a tail was visible from between its shanks.
“Human! The best meal I've had in years!” It bellowed.
Keeping his head, Daniel waited until just the right moment and fell over backwards, enabling him to use the monsters talons as way to free his legs.
Howling with rage that its prey was suddenly taken from it, the beast swiveled around and charged again. Daniel leaped forward at his foe again and sliced off the cords incarcerating his hands. Now Daniel ran with all his might as the creature, once again robbed of his meal, furiously attacked him. Daniel dodged every attempt the beast made to kill him and finally hid in a ditch while the brute carried on its search, shrieking, “You cannot hide from me, human! Come out now!”
Only when his foes cries died away did Daniel dare come out. He looked around the area and climbed out of the ditch. As abruptly as he clambered out of his hiding place, a powerful arm grabbed his neck from behind and hoisted him into the air. He beheld two monsters who both looked like enormous toads, although one skinnier than the other. Their red eyes gleamed in the morning light and rotting fangs stuck out of their jaws. A small tuft of hair on either was capped with a battle-worn helmet. The huskier wore a battle ax at his hip and a tunic made of what looked like elephant hide. Daggers adorned his belt and his buckler was swung over his shoulder. The other villain boasted two sheathed blades on his back and wore a chain mail coat. No other protection was seen on him.
“Where did you think you were going?” jeered the heavier one, pushing Daniel to the ground.
“N-nowhere,” stuttered Daniel, shaking with fear.
“Shut up! You won't avoid death or capture this time, for we are personally going to throw your body to our master's jaws and enjoy the pleasure of hearing your bones crack and snap!” taunted the other. Sudden realization struck Daniel. These were his captors. The demon smoothly withdrew his sabers and prepared to strike him.
Daniel held his arms in front of his face, awaiting the imminent blow. But it never came. Instead, a thud and a sharp squeal came to Daniel's ears. He uncovered his face and beheld an arrow protruding from his executioners neck. The other spun on his heels and howled a war cry before an arrow caught him in the chest. He looked at it, dazed, then fell to the ground, dead.
Three heavily armed warriors stepped from the dew tipped leaves of the trees. Each held a bow in his hand and a set of daggers at his belt. All were tanned by the sun and wore a silver gauntlet on their left wrists. One had long, wild hair, golden as melted butter. His twinkling blue eyes gave him a friendly appearance. The second had short brown hair and a large mustache and beard to match it. Sparkling teeth reflected off the sun, hurting Daniel's eyes. The last was frightening to Daniel. Long untamed black hair was knotted and caked with dirt and leaves. Scorch marks climbed up his arms arising horrible torture to Daniel's mind. Long scars swam up his neck and face, some still fresh. His eyes were dark and black, giving no comfort or warmth to the viewer. A long array of bloodstained knives lined his belt and he carried not a sword, but a long spiked whip.
“Are you all right lad?” asked the golden-haired one. “That was a close call.”
“Yeah,” Daniel said shakily, “I'm alright.”
“Why are you out here? The call to desert this place was months ago. Nobody should be in this forsaken land,” snarled the wild one.
“I-I didn't know. I just barely got transported here by those two,” he said gesturing at the bodies, “So I could be that monster's breakfast.”
“What monster? Did it have two red circles on its arms?” asked the brown-haired one.
“Yeah, how did you know?”
“We'll explain later,” he answered shortly.
Daniel was then picked up by the wild one and slung over his back. The trio set off at an unimaginable speed for men. Trees and lakes flew by in a blur of color. Miles were swept away as they carried on.
Finally, at long last, the men slowed to a stop. The one holding Daniel dropped him to the earth. Daniel's stomach turned. Never had he ever been that fast in his life.
“Quickly! To the entrance!” called the golden-haired one.
Daniel lifted his head up and found himself staring at a gigantic fortress built out of stone and wood. A huge portcullis stood in front of the gate. Large towers spiked out into the heavens, while a bell tower stood ready for signals. One hundred armed guards stood waiting over the battlements testing their bowstrings and exchanging few words.
“Come along boy.” said the bearded one, bringing Daniel out of his awe. “My name is Berthon. What's yours?”
“Daniel.” he swiftly replied. “And who are they?” He gestured to the others.
“The wild one is Lupor and the other is Gilthrim. This land is named Arkfiland after our first king.”
They marched through the gates promptly after a quick identification were allowed to proceed to the king's chamber. White marble covered the inside of the fortress, glinting in the midmorning light. They passed through several tapestries and doors before they finally arrived at a golden door lined with blue sapphires.
“Listen Daniel,” said Berthon, “inform the king of what has happened to you. The monster will interest him greatly.”
Daniel nodded and knocked on the door nervously.
“Enter!” barked a gruff voice.
Daniel pushed open the door and found a guard in shining chain mail blocking the door with a spear.
“What do you need lad?” he demanded.
“I-I um. . . need to inform the. . . uh. . . king of a monster outside the f-fortress,” he stuttered at a loss for words.
The guard snorted and let him pass. Probably out of amusement, thought Daniel.
“Hello my young friend,” called the king. He had red hair and a large beard. His eyes twinkled with laughter. “Tell me what brings you here.”
Daniel told all the king all he knew about the monster. He also told him of the two strange creatures who brought him to the kingdom, Arkfiland.
“And you say that this creature had a red circle on each arm?” inquired the king with a deep sigh of relief. “Two red circles means that the creature has necromancer powers. Many of them swarmed our valley at one time. The last we could never find to kill. Here's our chance!”
One hour later, the king's hand-select rangers were fully battle-dressed and ready for action. The plan was set. To lure it into a trap, a large section of beef was hung down from the topmost trees. Then, two men would dash into the presence of the beast and distract it from the actual trap: a large pit full of oil and tar.
Full of curiosity, Daniel wanted to watch from a safe distance. He seated himself on a tall stone about fifty feet away from the scene.
“Prepare for the beast, men! It will come rapidly like the rest!” called the king to his hidden troops. Each held a longbow and a quiver of arrows. Beside them on the ground was a fire stone to perfect the trap. It didn't take long for the behemoth to detect the meat. A great rumbling shook the forest as it came ever closer. Finally, with roars enough to shake the world, the beast came charging through the forest and immediately attacked the meat. The men went into action with war cries and all hell broke loose.
“You dare challenge me?” yelled the monster. It killed both men at once.
Two more men jumped into action and began fastening manacles to the legs of their foe, halting the beast's resistance momentarily as it stared down in surprise. It screamed its resent and clawed at the chains. One of its arms caught the rock that Daniel was perched on and sent him rolling to the ground. Daniel was caught by complete and utter surprise. He bounced off his opponent's back and lay stunned. The beast was immediately charged by the rangers, most of whom died instantly in the attack. Glancing at the its weak legs, Daniel suddenly knew what to do. He seized the chains and, using the demon's weight to his advantage, toppled the colossal being into the great pit.
An archer set a fire arrow to his bow and let it fly into the pit. It burst into flames instantaneously. The horrible creature screamed in agony and cursed as the fire licked its body, pulling it into its gaping jaws. The stench that emanated from the corpse was horrific.
Then the men burst into cheer. “Hurray!” chanted the throng as one.
“Our many thanks to you, Daniel.” said the king, clapping Daniel on the back. “You saved us from certain doom. Is there anything I can reward you with?”
“Thank you, sir,” Daniel replied. “I wish to have jewel from your crown. Then a portal home.”
“Very well.” the king smiled. He pried a sparkling sapphire from his crown and called a magician to summon a portal. Everyone called their good-byes as Daniel waved back and leaped into the circle. Instantly, the world around him changed into the forest. Nothing really seemed frightening to Daniel anymore. Happily, he strode through the woods until he spotted the tent. He sighed, thinking of his warm sleeping bag as he clambered into the tent. All the other boys were asleep. So, he thought, why wake them up now? Fingering the jewel, he chuckled to himself and slipped into a peaceful slumber.