The Trial of the Dungeon Mistress: Part VIII

An Espresso Tale


Accipiter G. Goshawk

Here is Part VIII!



He grinned toothily, his long snout smouldering with barely-contained flames.

“Excellent! This will be most entertaining.”

He reached behind him, pulled a small scroll from atop a pile of treasure and handed it to her.

“I will give you some time to read it and get in the right frame of mind,” he purred menacingly. “But don’t take too long…I get unstable when I’m bored.”

Then, to Hala’s growing horror, he disappeared.

She knew that he had only cast an invisibility spell on himself; she could still hear his massive serpentine body moving around the chamber. But just hearing him, without seeing was nerve-racking, and it was all she could do to open the scroll and read the first few lines.

She quickly realized that the spell itself was impossibly simple. Even a novice could cast it; possibly even someone without magical powers.

She sighed heavily and sat down on a small pile of treasure.

“Now for the hard part,” she murmured, as Rijax beat his massive wings lazily behind her.

She closed her eyes, and willed herself to believe. To have faith in herself. To forge an ironclad certainty that she was worthy, that she was the hero of the story.

“You should leave,” she heard her brother say from the other side of the chamber. “This is too much for you; you can’t succeed. You were always second-best.”

Fiasha rose from her crumpled ball and flitted over, placing her hands on her trembling shoulders.

“You are unoriginal. A drunk; a side character at best and a liability most times. And what are you wearing?”

A small tear ran down Hala’s cheek, but she forced herself to ignore the voices. To believe.

From inside the dragon’s stomach, Kol sighed heavily.

“I would help you if I could, small one. I just don’t think you can manage this one…”

They swarmed around her, casually undermining her confidence as they had been unknowingly doing for all her life.

She ignored them and began humming, using a last speck of magic to inspire herself.

Silence fell around her.

She trembled. The dragon had stopped moving.

Or she couldn’t hear him anymore.

She began to panic, and as she struggled with her failing concentration, a new voice twisted around her.

“I’m not good enough. I was never good enough. I deserve to fail; it’s the just punishment for all my past transgressions.”

She looked into her own eyes and saw herself fall.

Somewhere in front of her, the dragon roared.

“Time’s up, little assassin! Now, cast the spell or bow before me!”

She heard him charge, but was numb.

She felt nothing, only despair and the familiar feeling of wanting to give up.

Then, she turned towards herself and refused.

She refused every single preconceived notion of who she was. She broke the dark habits and she tore away the labels. She ripped apart her past and from it made herself anew. The ghostly voices turned to wails as she sat up straighter, her humming turning to song.

Her eyes snapped open and she began to read.

In an instant, the dragon was upon her, slashing at her head to sever it from her body.

She ducked and kept on reading, ignoring the pain and the blood running down her face.

Finally, the spell reverberated around her and spiralled outward, free at last.

It took the dragon with it, somewhere beyond reality, freeing Hala from his tyranny and from herself.-

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