A vision set in greyscale. The skies overhead now weep. Colorless curtains fall on the just and the unjust. Whartleburg is seen powerless, on the ground, defeated.
Whartleburg had cut through the forces of wicked Spider King Ahab. Nothing could stand before Whartleburg’s might and as he fought, he could feel the oppression lifting. But the last of the giants was different from the others. This one used cunning.
“I have a message for you,” he said to Whartleburg.
“You must atone for what you did to my kingdom,” said Whartleburg.
“You will not listen to me, even if it’s from your beloved?” asked the giant.
“You have only to listen to my spinning blades,” answered Whartleburg as he threw his axes at the giant.
“You only have two of those magnificent axes,” said the giant,”And those mandibles are only good for close range combat. What happens if you lose them all?”
The giant caught the axes with his bare hands. No one had ever done that. Who was this heathen? He gave the signal. Armed guards dressed in black armor brought forth a beautiful maiden in a tattered dress. Salyria. Her long dark hair flowed over her face. She looked up. When their eyes met, Whartleburg ran to her but was immediately blocked.
“I’ll tell you what,” said the giant, “His Arachness decried he will give you Lady Salyria with his blessing. But you must turn yourself in.”
Whartleburg looked at the giant, expecting an answer. Then he looked at Salyria. Her blue eyes pleaded with him. Alas, he agreed.
“If I can have her back, and rebuild my kingdom, then I will turn myself in,” said Whartleburg.
The guards released Salyria. She walked up to Whartleburg. For the first time in ages, they embraced. The smell of her hair was as it had always been, the smell of the sea. But there was a sudden change in the air. Even as Whartleburg held his fiancee, her eyes changed color.
Whartleburg felt a sharp pain in his back. He immediately pushed the imposter Salyria to the ground and removed the knife. She had been concealing it in her sleeve and took advantage of the embrace.
The real Salyria was still far away, trapped in a granite tower. There was no way Spider King Ahab would ever let her go. Not even if Whartleburg turned himself in.
He called for his axes, and they answered in a flash of light, but the damage was done. The knife had been laced with insecticide poison. The damage had been done. He sank to his knees.
“How the tables have turned,” says the final giant. He smiles big, revealing missing teeth. Then he kicks Whartleburg in the side.
“I’ll never eat an apple again because you knocked my teeth out!” screams the giant. His underlings await the command to finish him off. But orders are orders. They want him brought in alive. A simple antidote injection removes the poison.
“His Arachness has plans for you.”
It was a month later. Whartleburg was sentenced to death. For now he was held in chains, forced to eat on an hourly basis. The food-grade insect market was a rich industry, and they loved Enzectozoid meat. They were going to sell him off piece by piece to the highest bidder.
Yet on the night before his execution, Whartleburg heard loud knocking from within the prison walls.
“My liege, is that you?” came a voice from inside the wall.
“Who are you?” said Whartleburg.
The chains suddenly came loose from the wall. A long snout poked out briefly.
“I’m called Whevelbor. My army is ready to get you out.”
Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?
Next chapter: “Metamorphosis”
Previous chapter, “Insurmountable Odds.”