Ras recalled the first time he’d encountered the King, the day he’d received the black jewel that now adorned the hilt of his sword. The cave was darker than any he’d seen in his short life. His fairy eyes were capable of seeing in near pitch black but, the absence of light was merely annoying. There were other, more frightening elements that created his sense of unease. His reason for being here and the potential consequences of this rash action were more the cause of his tightened stomach, racing pulse and oversensitive reactions to anything that moved than anything else - including the dark.
A slithering on his left caused him to jump, turning in mid-air and drawing his sword at the same time. He landed several feet to the right of his initial position and facing the direction of the sound. His breath rasped through his nose and mouth creating a wisp of a cloud that quickly dissipated in the cold, cave air. His senses on full alert, he heard voices. He couldn’t distinguish, however, how near or far away they were.
“Fairy meat”, “Dinner is served”, were among the words he could clearly hear followed by cackling laughter. His lips tightened in determination. He turned on the slopping cave floor and called out, “I am Prince Ras and I have come with an offer for King Sklaborn. An offer he will surely be interested in.” He hoped his voice was strong and confident. He tried to enforce a confident appearance, too. He sheathed his sword and stood, legs apart, hands on hips and head high.
More laughter echoed through the cave, but to his great relief a booming voice, as well. “Enter Fairy Prince, but know that King Sklaborn does not take lightly to flights of fancy.” Ras gulped. Briefly, he thought he’d made a mistake coming here - a fatal mistake. He’d never personally known of it, but from childhood he’d heard the stories of goblins capturing and eating fairies. What if what he’d come to offer the King, in exchange for what he wanted, was also merely a legend? A story to scare Fairie children into staying away from goblins? They were certainly fearsome enough on their own without inventing stories. Warriors. Mercenaries. The tales of their bloody adventures throughout time were many. Ras was putting all of his trust, his dreams and yes, even his life on the line for the one story he’d heard that, if indeed the truth, would give King Sklaborn and Ras, himself, their dearest prizes.
The throne room was cavernous and filled with goblins, elves and some creatures that Ras couldn’t identify. Eerie silence accompanied him as he walked along a center aisle toward the large throne, and the King that occupied it. All along the sides, rows of tables were piled with food, beer mugs and wine flasks. Creatures of every description stopped their feast to glare at him, but no one said a word. The laughter had ceased. Ras’ skin tingled as if the stares were small hate bugs, thrown forth from the wicked eyes of the onlookers. He looked neither left nor right as he traversed the hundred meters between him and the King.
The King sat on a huge throne, constructed of bones. Two human skulls were mounted on the posts that framed the back of the chair and they seemed to survey the entire room from their lofty perch. Ras had no idea whether the throne was human bones or the bones of fairy’s, elf’s and perhaps even a few goblins. Regardless, he preferred not to dwell on the throne’s construction, lest he give away how nervous he already was. He shifted his gaze to the King.
Sklaborn, king of the Goblins, was not a goblin. His facial features were very similar, but his body was something else entirely. He was bigger than any of the goblin tribes, standing over two meters tall with broad shoulders and a deep chest that tapered to a small waist and then, exploded again in thighs that were larger around than Ras’ own upper body. Ras recalled seeing pictures of the humans’ “Mr. Universe”. Except for the grotesque face, warts, open oozing blisters and scars, Ras thought he looked a lot like one of those human weight lifters.
Although it galled him to kneel before this creature, Ras consoled himself with thoughts of the end prize. “Great King Sklaborn - I, Prince Ras of the Fairies, have come to offer you a great prize.”
Sklaborn glared at him. There was silence throughout the hall until one brave soul laughed. Like a pandemic, the laughter spread quickly and soon, the throne room resonated with laughter, guffaws, eerily screeching noises and cries of, “spit the fairy”, “butcher and grill the twink!”. Sklaborn leaned forward and raised an eyebrow, silently asking what Ras thought of the pandemonium.
Surprising even himself, Ras stood and shot both arms straight up into the air, signalling silence. And it was so. Once again quiet descended upon the hall. Sklaborn grinned and leaned back. His voice was like thunder. “Indeed, you are the boldest fairy I’ve ever met, but that, alone, will not save you. No fairy enters my realm and leaves alive. Your offer had better be.... extraordinary!” He chuckled and looked at the goblin standing next to the throne.
Ras lowered his arms and looked at the exceptionally small goblin. His head barely reached the armrest of the throne. He had a round head with large ears that extended straight up, ending two or three inches above the top of his head in sharp points. His eyes were huge and perfectly round. Narrow shoulders supported a dark blue robe that extended to the floor and was covered with yellow signs. Ras recognized the moon in all four of it’s incarnations, full, half and quarter ascending and descending. He saw stars arranged in various astrological formations; prominent among these, the Hunter and the red eye of Sauron. This must be the mage that filled the tales of fairies - a wizrd extraordinaire - he that was said to have battled the mighty Crimson King to a draw thousands of years ago; he had teamed up with Gandalf to defeat the mighty Sauron. This must be the mighty archmage - Goldrang!
A new shiver of fear coursed through his body. At the same time, Ras realized that if Goldrang was in service to King Sklaborn, his chances of success were far greater. If anyone understood what Ras sought and his intended payment for the favor - it would be Goldrang. At the same time, Ras was confused. Goldrang of legend had always sided with the good against evil. How was it that now, he sided with evil? Or, had all of his teachings been wrong and the goblins were, in fact, not evil? Surely not, but the fact that a so-called white archmage would be in service to goblins was disturbing and would require further investigation. If he lived long enough!
With renewed confidence, Ras announced, “I have come for a favor....”. He was interrupted by another burst of laughter throughout the hall. Even Sklaborn joined in but, only briefly. The king raised his hands for silence.
“A fairy prince comes to me for a favor.” Sklaborn leaned toward the archmage and asked, “Magician, has that ever happened before?” The king chuckled at his own redundant question.
Goldrang merely shook his head, side to side, and stared at Ras.
The king leaned forward. With his words, his foul, stinking breath rolled over Ras, “A favor, you say? I grant no favor’s to fairies.”
“I offer a prize for this favor, great king. A prize that I am certain will allow you to make an exception to your ‘no favor’ rule.” Ras was sweating and hoped the king didn’t notice. He threw a glance toward Goldrang who continued to stare at him, as if he could see right into his very thoughts. Ras shivered anew.
Before the king could respond, Goldrang spoke. His voice was that of a child. It was soft, high pitched and rhythmic, his words rose and fell as if on a musical scale. “The only prize worthy of a favor from King Sklaborn is one that you cannot produce - unless it be your own; and, in that case, your favor must something very unusual - something that could not benefit yourself.”
Sklaborn scratched his head. “Of what do you speak, wizard?”
Ras thought he should interject. He had his own plans for presenting his offer. He opened his mouth to speak, but Goldrang held up a hand, stopping him cold.
Goldrang looked up at the king and whispered, “The essence of fairy royalty.” Although Goldrang had whispered, the keen ears of the goblins had heard and a long drawn out sighs and moans echoed throughout the hall. King Sklaborn seemed slow to understand but, when he did he turned toward Ras with an evil grin.
“Is that what you’ve come to offer, fairy?”
His plan for requesting the favor and offering the prize taken from him, Ras could only say, “Yes, great king, that is my offer and for that I wish....”
“For that you will keep your life, not a wish!” Sklabold had leaned so far forward that he was mere inches from Ras’ face and the stench of him was so overwhelming that Ras thought he would puke and faint, all at the same time.
Wobbling from the effect of the creature’s words and stink, Ras needed several seconds before he could respond. “I will die here, on the spot, before I provide you the essence of my sister with nothing in return!” He hoped his voice sounded confident. He hoped he could pull this bluff through.
“So be it,” roared the King but, Goldrang raised his hand to stop any action to fulfill the King’s command.
Goldrang appeared to jump up onto the armrest of the throne, but Ras knew that that wasn’t what he did. He simply disappeared from his spot next to the throne and reappeared on the armrest - instantaneously. He watched as the wizard stood on tiptoes and whispered directly into the king’s ear. No one could overhear his words. Ras did hear the king mumble, “it will do all that?”; and saw the wizard smile and nod his wizened head.
The king turned his attention back to Ras. “Very well, fairy prince. I accept your offer. Goldrang tells me that your wish is to ascend the fairy throne and rule over all fairies, elves and nymphs. Is that your wish?”
Ras was surprised at the abrupt change in the course of events. He couldn’t speak. He nodded his head slowly. As he looked again towards the wizard, he realized that, in the future, he would have to devise a way to keep his thoughts - his alone.
He blinked and jerked backward as the wizard appeared directly in front of him. “You are an evil, evil creature, Ras, Prince of the Fairies. To sacrifice your own sister is beyond evil, but King Sklaborn admires such traits.”
Goldrang extended two stones, one in each hand. He raised his right hand. In it sparkled a huge diamond. “When the time is right you will follow my instructions and the essence of Queen Layla will be captured in this stone.” He held up his left hand displaying a deep black onyx stone. “This you will keep close. Whenever you need help or advice, rub the stone and whisper my name three times - ‘Goldrang, Goldrang, Goldrang’ - like that. An essence, a spirit will enter you and combine with your own essence. This spirit will lead you to accomplish your desires.”
It had been ten years before the “time was right”. He had called the spirit forward several times in the interim. Each time he’d felt the pulse travel up his arm and into his head as the evil spirit entered and mixed with his own essence. All had gone perfectly until now, until that damned Commander Zane had stolen the diamond. Ras rubbed the stone and whispered the wizard’s name. His body trembled with the force that entered but only for a few seconds. He felt invincible, now and he closed his eyes allowing the spirit of the ‘other’ to search out Commander Zane and the diamond.
His mind’s eye saw the streets of a human city and then, Zane running through the night on one of these streets. Ras willed himself there...and so it came to be.