He felt the feeling of spring come into the air. The temperature
which awoke the birds in the Oak Grove. Meltoff from the Blizzard Pass
trickled into the stream by the Forest Track. Small yellow buds showed
their heads tentatively in the Magnolia Tree by the Mansion. The
and robins chirped the news: the WitchKing had been defeated. The
had been destroyed.
William was in the Temple of Paradise when Gabriele arrived there after
completing her quest. Many residents of the realm gathered by the
warm fire to congratulate the Legend on her achievement and hear stories
the icy realm she had just come from. The mighty ArchWizard Og came
little yellow duck following him. Ellyll the WoodElf swung down out of
trees. An infamous DemiGod called Kalzar appeared with an ear-splitting
Even the Goddess Vitastjern came, her presence given away by the scent
roses that preceded her.
Other mortals entered, including Tiggerone and an ugly goblin who went
the cumbersome name of WxrtlHltl. William, too, was a mortal, having
become a Knight after finding an important lost earring in the Troll
He knew Gabriele was a Legend, more powerful than he, but still only
well built. He wondered how someone of her size could have defeated not
the evil WitchKing, but the paralyzing IceFear as well. He heard the
WitchKing could fire icy rays at mortals, freezing them to death. This
was also rumored to curse all one was carrying, so that it never worked
quite right again. How had Gabriele done it?
William lurked by the wall covered with old runes, listening to Gabriele
tell of how the IceFear had made her nauseous and nearly pass out, and
the WitchKing was insane. Her hair was still wet with frost, and her
looked haggard. Everyone listened intently, their eyes widening as she
described the desolate landscape of the misty northern land. Og healed
Gabriele and took her to Ellyll's Treehouse to rest. William frowned,
shooting a dark look at Gabriele as she limped out of the Temple.
Everyone thought she was so great.
Why was everyone making such a big deal about this, William wondered.
were more dangerous parts in the realm of Northern Lights. He'd heard
that swarms of mosquitos lived near the pyramids, that bit mortals to
death. He knew evil demons dwelled in and below the Elven Forest, and
that dragons of all colors had been spotted around the Braidwood Forest.
Gabriele had only fought one being. I'd like to see her take on a herd
of dragons, William thought.
Dragons, William pondered. I am certainly powerful enough to take on
a bunch of those. Gabriele might be a Legend, and probably thought she
stronger than everybody in Northern Lights, but she was only a girl, and
not very big or strong. William was proud of his Knight status and knew
he was much stronger than some girl. WitchKing, so what! William would
take on these dragons in the forest and show them all. These dragons
breathed fire, which was worse than a land made of winter.
William rummaged through his backpack. He'd collected a
for swiping at monsters, a jacket made of mithrilrings, and a pair of
he'd found near a small well. Taking a deep breath, he announced his
to those remaining in the Temple.
"I will seek out and destroy those dragons which dwell in Braidwood."
William put on the bravest face he could muster, waiting for the shock
those not quite so daring.
Kalzar peered at him quizzically. "Are you sure you are equipped enough
to take on such a task?"
William sighed dramatically. "I will rely on my own strength as a
"These dragons," Kalzar said. "Their breath will singe all that is not
covered with armor. Your skin will blacken and you will die."
"I am quick and strong, they will never have a chance," replied William.
WxrtlHltl spoke in a low, growling voice. William had forgotten this
creature was still in the Temple. "Take this." The goblin extended his
scaly claw and handed William a large, undented shield. A green dragon
had been painted on the shield's right corner.
William accepted the shield and raised his eyebrows at the shield's
lightness. It weighed next to nothing. "Can such a thing be of any
good to me?" He asked the ugly monster.
WxrtlHltl let out a soft growl, and bared his yellow fangs. "Fool!" He
hissed at William. "You do not know the power this shield holds. It is
William had never heard of it. He shifted it from his right to left
feeling how light it rested on his body. This thing was too light to be
of any protection!
"You are gracious and generous," Vitastjern said to WxrtlHltl. "This
prevent the dragons' deadly breath from ever touching William."
Blushing, William bowed to the goblin and thanked him.
"A bit of advice before you depart," the Goddess said.
William turned, a look of question on his face.
WxrtlHltl growled again. "Most people show respect when spoken to by
Under his breath, he muttered "Ungrateful, disrespectful fool."
Hastily, William bowed to Vitastjern. He wanted to get out of this
it was beginning to smell from this hideous goblin.
The Goddess smiled happily. "Be sure to examine the forest well," she
"Long ago, the Ancaster Knights roamed Braidwood looking for mink and
The fur of these animals was collected and made into clothing to be
on the Empire. Watch your footing, and mind the larger creatures."
William nodded solemnly, exiting the Temple. Vitastjern, Kalzar, and
WxrtlHltl shook their heads.
Blinding snow bombarded William in the Blizzard Pass. Night had fallen
in the land, and the peaks of the mountains could not be seen. William
struggled against the wind, straining to see ahead of him. Was this
the land of Midnight had been like for Gabriele? Well, he would not be
defeated by this storm. Leaning into the howling wind, he trudged south
through the Pass.
A light was barely visible in the distance, and William knew he was
close to the Warm Haven. Maybe he would stop in for some ale, and to
listen to any news the mandolin-strumming bard might have. He began to
A low growl directly in front of William startled him. Stopping, he
ahead into the white gloom. The growl came again, louder this time.
Before William could do anything else, a large, furry, white monster
towered over him. It roared as it glimpsed William, and swiped one
paw at him. The thing drew blood as its claws slashed William's hand.
The Yeti! William had come across this thing before, but managed to run
by it before it could grab him. He cursed the blizzard that took away
view of the Pass before him.
The Yeti hit William very hard with its bare hands, never stopping its
angry roaring. William retaliated with a slash to the monster's head
with his shortsword. This infuriated the Yeti, and it picked William up
and tossed him to the frozen ground.
William's breath rushed out of him as he hit the ground. He sat
glowering at this white monster. It looked weakly built, and here it
throwing him down. He had more important quests to do, and this thing
holding him up. How dare it! William staggered to his feet and rushed
monster. He plunged his sword into the monster's chest as hard as he
once, twice, again. Blood splashed from the wounds, darkening the
The Yeti roared, but this time it seemed halfhearted, diminished.
knew it was dying. He thrust his sword at the creature again, but
need to. It had sunk to its knees, and keeled over on the icy ground.
It let out one last grunt of despair and reached one bloody claw towards
William. William stomped on it and kicked it aside. He stepped over
the Yeti and examined himself. Aside from the wound on his hand, he was
still in very good condition. Triumphant, he continued south. Foolish
winter creature, he thought. No match for me.
The Blizzard Pass widened into a Valley, with many trees and a small
waterfall. Beyond the waterfall, William walked through patches of
and knew by the small sign stuck into the ground that he had reached
Braidwood. The snow was not so deep here as it was in the Blizzard
but it was still cold. William's breath steamed from his mouth and
but he was still fairly warm from his fight with the Yeti. Small
poked their heads around trees and gazed at William. A Skylark examined
him from a high branch, and a moose trotted close by, trying to sniff
There was a mink with very sharp claws, one of those the Knights sought
William knew he could easily kill these animals and gain strength from
doing so. But he was here for dragons; he would not waste his time on
these small things.
He looked around him for clues of the dragons' whereabouts. He checked
trees for burn marks and looked at the snow for their footprints.
He stooped over the ground looking for fallen colored scales. Nothing.
Muttering to himself, he looked around, beginning to feel disoriented.
he already been in this part of the forest?
He grew angry again. He would find these dragons who hid from him and
slaughter them! They were hiding because they were afraid, because he
big, powerful knight, with a fireproof shield! And they should be
No amount of fire could touch him, and when he saw the first one, he
plunge his sword right into its filthy heart--
The trap was old and rusty, leftover from the days when the Ancaster
hunted in Braidwood. And it was large. Big enough to trap one of the
that still stomped through the woods. Despite the many winters that had
battered it, its spring remained sharp. Its metal teeth bit into
leg, and he dropped his sword and shield, screaming in pain. Now it was
turn to bleed, and the blood arced into the frigid air. It steamed as
fell upon the snow. William paled, falling to the ground. He pried at
trap's jaws with his fingers, trying to force it apart. It would not
Gritting his teeth, he pulled harder, and cut his fingers on its
edge. The blood seeped over his hand, and his grip on the trap slipped.
"Help me!" He screamed into the forest. A startled ptarmigan flew off,
and a fox bolted. Tears forced themselves from his eyes as pain
his leg. He had to free himself from this trap!
Gasping, William yanked at the trap one more time. Blood ran out of his
leg in a steady stream. The blood seemed to carry his strength out
with it. He could not move the trap.
He tried screaming again. "Help me! I'm stuck in a trap!" His only
was Braidwood's silence.
As a last resort, he reached for his shortsword and tried to cut the big
trap. His hands trembled and it slipped from his grip, tumbling to the
snowy ground. He kicked at the trap with his other foot, but only
succeeded in digging the trap's jaws deeper into his leg.
His vision was clouding now, and it was getting more difficult to
His hands and feet grew numb from the cold, and shivers shook him. As
watched, light snowflakes began to fall, and his teeth clattered
Blood flowed freely. As his body emptied of its life, he slumped, his
spread out beneath him on the snow. Red splotches melted parts of the
that gradually covered him.
When night fell in the realm, those who had been in the Temple gathered
the Old Seadog Inn for some ale and fresh fish caught off the Island.
"The Knight has not returned," WxrtlHltl noted, wrapping his claws
a smooth, chilled glass of Kingsland Ale. "We would have felt the land
shake as the great dragons fell."
Kalzar shook his head, and Og frowned. Og waved his hands and uttered
words to the spell that would tell him William's location.
listened to his inner voice, straining to hear over the loud table of
the corner. Finally, he looked at the others solemnly.
"He has fallen into a Mantrap," Og announced.
"Is there still time to rescue him?" WxrtlHltl asked.
"We will go there," Kalzar said. They gulped the rest of their ale and
rose. Outside the Inn, Vitastjern spoke the words that would teleport
to the cold forest, and they found themselves standing before a blood-
covered mound of snow. It was still snowing in this part of the land,
Og pawed some of the freezing layer away from the pile on the ground.
William's face was revealed, frozen in a grimace of pain.
Vitastjern shook her head sadly. "The arrogant ones who do not listen
wisdom as it is presented to them will fail in their quests." Using the
strength bestowed upon her as a Goddess, she pushed the snow off the
yanked the trap open, and freed William's leg. His leg thumped to the
useless. He had been dead several hours.
Together, the four carried William's body out of Braidwood and laid it
to rest in the Graveyard near the decaying church.
The news of William's defeat spread throughout the realm, and the
bards nodded knowingly.