Outlaws charged from the black wood, buoyed, fearless by means of drink. They ran wild, beating their painted chests, racing each other to the vanguard of the throng. A pack of dogs trotted at their side. The animals were chained and armored with breast plates; they plodded through the mud, shoveling the soil with their muck caked paws.
The knight rode at the heart of the mob, a wave of ripples swept through the fabric of his Arabian mare’s caparison. He was black-bearded and braided like a barbarian. His nose was pierced in eastern styles and his eyes were outlined with black soot. The knight’s armor was hammered and dented, refurbished out of a collection of mismatched metallic plating. He wielded a pole-axe and slashed the air in angry circumrotations. A mat of flensed shag, the pelt of a skinned bear was fixed on top of his bald head.
He was a wanderer, picking up strays and brigands on the road, building his numbers, raiding the country-side. His bandits killed for coin and fed off loot, booze and arson. He served no master, living like a vandal, hiding out in the woods, skulking throughout the outskirts for prey and plunder.
The outlaws dashed toward the walls; their torches glowing behind a thick mist. A tower stood behind the tall crenellated fortification. It was covered by grime, burn marks and a web of spiked vines. A grotesquerie of gargoyles sat atop of the gate and spat out an overflow of gutter-water.
Filthy and sobering, the men lumbered through the mud carrying a makeshift battering-ram. The tree trunk was carved with misspelled graffiti and crude drawings of oversized genitals. They reached the gates and pounded on the wooden portcullis. The latticed grill cracked and split an opening. The throng howled and poured through the gatehouse with their war-dogs unchained.
They split into smaller groups to search the tower. Their torches sizzled and smoked as they explored the dark halls. Windows were draped over with cobwebs and small critters crept in the corners of every room. The men climbed up the spiraling steps and made their way to the fortress’s summit, unlatching a hatch that opened up into the night sky.
The tower was empty.
The men whispered amongst themselves, some cloaked their faces from sight. A young toothless boy bit his lip with his gums and backed-away casually, one step behind another. The dogs scurried and went on the chase of a nest of rats that skidded throughout the unlit corridors.
Outside the tower, the knight’s voice was hoarse and desperate, “Where is it?”
One-eyed Marcel spat out a wad of phlegm, “This place is empty and the boys aren’t happy. They came here for a looting, not to hold their cock’s in their hands. Their blood’s running hot.”
The knight dug his heels into his mare’s sides, “Share a wineskin and burn the tower. All a man needs is spectacle and drink.” The animal bucked and ran circles around the bandit, “I need time, Marcel. It’s here. I know it.”
“I have but one eye,” Marcel wiped his nose with the back of his hand, “Maybe you see something I don’t.”
Smoke rose and then dissolved into the horizon. The tower burned. His caped mare flared her nostrils and sneezed. The knight dismounted before a small chapel. Its doors had been barred by interlocked planks and rusted nails. The barricade splintered and dislodged with one smash of his pole-axe.
He walked cautiously through the chapel’s nave. The knight was flanked by rows of columns, their surfaces chipped and cracked. Outgrown weeds carpeted the ground, wiry tendrils climbed up the walls and shrubbery grew in plush green patches.
He crossed the transept and reached the main altar. It was made of one solid slab of black rock. The relief of a dead tree stretching out its crooked branches was imprinted on its side.
Perched at the altar’s top was the skull of a horned stag. The bone was polished to a gleam. Its antlers spread in the shape of ivory veins.
The knight ran his fingers over a padlocked door at the back of the chapel. With a kick he broke apart the lock and bolt from the old wood. The scent of fresh grass and ripe fruit wafted from the cloister behind the shattered door.
A spread of overgrown grass parted to give way to a pair of twisting trees. Low hanging pomegranates dangled from branches that swayed with the breeze. At its center flowed a large spring tinted with a hue of mint by a bed of soil and jade.
The lady of the spring floated supine, sliding cross the liquid borders of the fount, her mane unfolded in golden curls that coated the waters like a spill of honey.
The knight prowled behind the thick cluster of vegetation, weapon in hand, the bear pelt on his bald head slipping down his forehead.
Her body drifted in languorous circles. She was naked and seemed half asleep. Her fingers were playful with the waters, tracing shapes on its wet surface. On her belly, a pair of false eyes had been tattooed in golden ink; they stared out aggressive and lidless. She turned her head in his direction, submerging half of her face into the pool.
Her lips opened and a stream of green water flowed into her mouth, “You’ve come.” The woman’s eyes were colorless and milky, blind and reflecting everything, “There is no resisting temptation. Come and get what you came for.”
The knight impaled his pole-axe on the ground and bolted towards the spring, metal clanked and his armor shifted, plates grazing against each other. He splashed into the pool, paddling wildly. Taking a suntanned thigh in each hand he spread her open by force, pressing her against the wet iron.
She struggled and whipped her yellow curls, a burst of water sprayed from her lips.
He struck her face hard with his gauntlet and managed to pull himself out from underneath his body-armor, “The last of nymph of the old world. They said you were but a story, a pleasant fiction for lonely men on the road.”
“I am flesh.” She said.
“So am I.” The Knight slipped insider her, slamming her against the cold plating, “I have taken your tower and claim you by right of conquest. I know the legends well. When I spill into your womb, horrible things will grow in your belly. Savage abominations, hoofed men with curling horns, winged beasts with a bulls head. You will bear me an army of sons, monsters that will savage the countryside and raid cities like the giants of antiquity.”
She spat out gushes of fluid, algae and half digested fish. “Do you like monsters?”
Her milky eyes reflected everything. The missing bear pelt on his head, the streams of black soot running down his cheeks and the wave of ripples cutting through the water behind him. The Knight dropped her into the spring and turned.
It approached submerged, the creature’s shape warped by the optical distortion of the water. The silhouette veered and coiled closer beneath the pool’s surface. An underwater cloud of sediment inked the transparency of the spring.
The knight ran his fingers over his mouth and went for his weapon, but it was lying on the shore, planted on the soil. He had attacked the woman unarmed; she had been weak and exposed, easy pickings.
When the creature surfaced the knight froze, it had blocked his path. A tubular trunk had risen and curled in a loop, encircling him. The creature was muscled and lean, undulating and contorting on the water. It was armored with a covering of tubercular spikes and golden scales, a series of black rings were stamped across the length of its ridged back.
He felt something graze his leg and he kicked blindly under the water. The knight could feel it closing in and licking at his boots. He dug his heels into the sediment. The creature wrapped itself around his ankle and sunk him into the pool. The knight swallowed mouthfuls of water and was dragged through the weeds and soil; he could no longer feel his leg. A cold pang shot up his spine as he was plunged into a deep tunnel that lead to a cavern at the bottom of the spring.
The Knight tried to swim to the surface, but he was anchored and going nowhere. At his feet, the lady of the spring was weighing him down; her hands clamped on tight to his leg. He flailed and kicked at her in an absurd and unmanly display. His leg was dislocated, popped loose from its sockets. The knight’s his eyes bulged with the pressure, close to popping.
The lady swam circles around him, swallowing water and regurgitating flawless spheres of encased air. An elongated tail decked in golden scales was attached to her backside. It glistened slickly underwater, curving and coiling in sinewy alternating grooves. Her slithering outgrowth curled around the knight’s body in loops.
She squeezed with her tail, crunching him in her grip. The pressure deformed the knight’s iron exoskeleton, crumpling it. His torso was being crushed; jagged pieces of his scrunched plating were slicing through his skin. Her muscles flexed and constricted, wringing the metal until his armor was triturated and shattered into pieces. The knight’s ribcage cracked and his mouth split open for breath. She released him from her hold and his rumpled corpse sunk down to the base of the pool, dropping on a pile of armor and bones.
She floated lazily on the spring’s surface, milky eyes half-closed, the nib of her golden tail drawing circles on the water.
I'm writer from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I've done work as DJ and had an unfortunate stint as a telemarketer. My work has appeared online in Zerozine and Cherry Bleeds.