Danse Macabre

By , Palmyra, PA

In a time sponged away from the known history of our world, a castle of cold bricks stood in an endless sea of tall grasses. This royal shelter was blazed with the battle of a bloody revolution created by commoners and penniless farmers. All caked in filth with an unstoppable rage possessing their broken hearts. The king’s guards, once men who honored a chivalrous code, panicked with polished steel loudly clanking with every step they took, with swords of Damascus steel gripped by hands of clay like flesh. While this chaos played out in the courtyard of blood and mud, the king remained in his mighty throne room.
The room was a long hall of grey stone; for it was not gowned in jewels chipped from the lightless deep caves nor precious metals hammered into the naked walls. Only chandlers hung from the ceiling gave the hall light. There the elderly king sat upon his seat of stone wearing a cape of an ancient beast’s fur and a bronze crown. He held a golden goblet filled with the sweetest of red wines, listening to the cries of battle reminiscing the days when he was younger; the days when all the land knew him as the Berserker. Back when the All-Father, Wodan, blessed him with the Spirit of the Bear at the time of his birth; for it would make him go into a horrific madness slaughtering all that dared challenge him on the fields of war. The king laughed as every memory awoke of when he stood before a weakened foe cowering in fear pleading for their life. How glorious it would feel to see one's enemy’s life vanish with their last breath. To the Berserker there was no greater experience than warfare; for it was made boys become true men and when it would end all the bards of every tavern would sing and rejoice of his conquests. Yet, those years are long gone. None have called him the Berserker since he crushed the skull of the king before him. The people he once led now are praying for his swift death. ‘The young,’ he thought, ‘had become weak shuddering at the thought of killing savages that threaten their people’s way of life.’ “Fools,” he said to himself, “all of them.” The Berserker then took his goblet, brought it to his mouth allowing the wine to pour between his dry chapped lips sending a few drops scurrying into his ash colored beard . Suddenly, a loud banging came upon his doors of decaying oak wood. The boisterousness startled the king, causing him to drop his cup spilling the wine painting the floor in an eerie crimson. A knight in steel armor as black as coal broke through the doors holding a greatsword coated in blood including a bow and quiver hanged from the living soul’s back.
The warrior stood nine yards from the surprised king. The Berserker said with a tired scowl on his face “Tis another man trying to pry me from my throne.”
“I am no man!”, said the knight in a queer high pitched voice. The soldier proceeded to remove the helmet; revealing her face. She let her fair blonde hair to snap in the wind and dropped the headpiece with a definite clatter. A great cackle burst forth from the Berserker causing him to lean forward with his boney hand gripped to his breast.
Once he had the ability to contain himself, he straightened his spine and spoke, “What do the rebels think, do they believe that some girl can mutilate their king! Do they believe I am now weak! Do they pity to think of me, a ‘weary’ man, such as myself that they send a puny girl to assassinate me so that I might have a chance?!?” A hearty laugh then echoed once more from his mouth.
“If I am just some puny girl, then how have I passed through all your guards; do you not recognize their blood coated on my sword? Do you not see how dark my armor is; surly have you not heard the stories of the rebellion’s leader who is a demon of the shadows?” The Berserker leaned back into his seat. His fingers interlocked, resting on his flat stomach. His eyes emotionlessly stared at the chandlers above. He indeed has caught some of his own men telling rumor’s of the rebellion’s leader. The one whose father was a course demon of the shadows. The king then gazed at her once more. ‘She is the She-Devil’ his subconscious whispered, he knows why she is here.
The Berserker spoke, “If you expect to cleave my head and put it on a spike, I’m sorry to say that your time has been wasted. You think you have the strength to murder me? I have seen my wife wither away within my very arms, I buried all nine of my children as their hairs whitened and skin sagged! Thousands of years I have wondered this realm and another thousand more I shall remain!”
The She-Devil let a small smirk appear. “Your old age has made you mad.” the knight spit forth like lethal venom, “Your reign of tyranny is over. You have betrayed the people who loved you! They beg for you to give them aid in times of need, and every time you turn them aside. Hoarding your riches like a fiery drake! We will all be at peace once your heart beats no more.” The king began move in his chair restlessly, he was finished of talking to this insufferable. He desired to see this She-Devil’s head crushed beneath his malignant hammer. He thirsted for the beautiful sound of her  brittle bones slowly snapping one by one.
“Enough of this parley!!!”, he barked, “I’ll let you see what you came here for.” She only responded, “About time.”
The old man began to stand, showing the Berserker's true stature. He dwarfed the imp by more than five whole feet. The Berserker bent over reaching for too massive objects that were laid beside the now vacant throne. One, a massive warhammer in his right with carvings of eldritch runes covering it like constellations in night sky; the other was a heater shield of filthy iron in his left. The king with weapon and protection now in his grasp, stretched his back, shut his eyes, and sucked in the air and stench of rot; trapping both inside his feeble lungs. A feeling, like a ravenous wildfire, slowly built within the king. It started at his gut  and crept to his legs to the tips of his toes and then crawled to his hands causing them to furiously shake trying to dominate the rush. At last, the heat arose from  the throat to the mouth. The Berserker remembered this feeling and relished it. ‘Hello, old friend’ he said silently to the Spirit of the Bear. The Berserker's eyes opened to reveal that they changed, becoming completely white like the skin of a frozen corpse. Then, a mighty roar erupted from his mouth. This was not a battle cry of man, no, this was the feral call of a bear. The king could see the She-Devil; she clutched her greatsword pointing to his head and small beads of sweat bleed from her forehead. He charged on ward with his shield before him and raising his warhammer high in the air. The hammer then smashed into the floor which caused shards of stone to fly. The Berserker looked to his side to see the knight preparing to deliver a speedy blow that would slice off his head. He immediately turned making shield  clash with blade.  The She-Devil then began to continuously beat on the buffer causing the metals to shriek and cough sparks. The king thrusted his shield with the force of a lightning bolt towards the knight. She stumbled back wards, unaware of the Berserker's hammer headed straight for her  boussom. The impact of the weapon caused her to glide in the air.
The knight’s spine hit the dreary wall behind which made her yell out in pain. A spiteful look emanated from the old man, seeing his enemy whale in agony never ceased to fill him with endless pleasure. ‘This welp won’t last with us fighting’, the Berserker thought as he slowly stepped toward her. The She-Devil quickly glanced above where he stood, and then reached for her bow of tan wood. The Imp took a slender arrow putting its back on the thin white string and its head on the middle of the weapon. She released the string from her grip making the arrow cut through the air without a sound. The old man glanced above himself to only see a gargantuan chandelier fall upon him. The weight made him topple onto the ground; dropping both weapon and defense . His skull cracked, arms crushed, and left knee dislocated with a sudden pop. The world began to dance and swirl around him. Voices echoed within his mind, mocking the Berserker for such a humiliating defeat at the hands of some commoner girl. ‘I'm not finished, I will never die!’
The king’s bones began to pull his skin as they elongated and repositioned. Ageing hairs vanished, as fur dressed his wrinkled skin. Fangs flowered from the crooked yellow teeth with torrents of blood flooding his jaws. His clothes tore at the seems; crown and cloak fell onto the floor below. The king arose, flinging the candelabrum from of his back. The She-Devil took atwo small steps back; she took her left hand behind her back as it started to twitch. The Berserker transformed into a bear as black as a raven’s feather, the power gifted to him by the All-Father. He let out a roar that made the entire castle convulse and shudder, then lifted its right paw. The Imp ran away from the beast with all the energy she had left. Scythe like claws slashed onto the barren wall leaving four deep indents into the stone, just barely hitting the girl. The feral animal turned its head to witness the knight standing, heaving and gasping, in front of the throne holding her bow prepared to cast an arrow into his side. The arrow speeded into the bear just for it to only bounce off its hide with not even leaving a single scratch. The bear began to dash forward to the defenseless girl. The Imp sent another arrow between his dark eyes. Still nothing. The beast leaped into the air so to crush the challenger. She sprinted out from the bear’s line of sight. The beast collided into the throne it once sat upon turning it to nothing but tiny sharp pieces.
The monstrous animal pushed through the rubble, sniffing the air and  swiftly turning its head in all directions to find the She-Devil. She had somehow disappeared. Then, a burst of pain sprout from the bear’s right shoulder. The bones inside him shattering and splintering his muscles sending shocks of anguish sprinted about him. The beast turned to meet the azure eyes of the Imp holding his warhammer caged in both of her hands. The bear whimpering, limped away from the girl. Yet, the knight raised the hammer once more letting it fall onto the animal’s back. This new wound infected his conscious, and he fell onto the ground. ‘You old fool,’ the king thought to himself, ‘you really believed you could live this one, it's time, my loved ones have waited for me far too long.’ The Berserker closed his eyes waiting patiently for her to finish the job. The Imp steadily stepped towards the injured monstrosity; she then lifted the metal head of the warhammer and let it fall on the head of the bear crushing  the skull to a pulp. Weak and weary, she let the heavy hammer roll free from her finger’s. The knight turned around, seeing a peculiar sight. The fur cape and bronze crown of the now deceased king lay perfectly untouched in the middle of the hall. The She-Devil crept toward the strange sight. She lifted the cloak of beasts hide letting it rest on her shoulders and to squeeze her neck. The Imp held the crest that was now her’s by right. She stared at it rubbing the layer of dirt off revealing its hidden glimmer. A tyrant falls, a new one rises, and a cry of another rebellion echoes in the courtyard. For the dance must go on.
 






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