Princess Tilliana & Smythlak Ironblood

Smythlak and Princess

Rolamus was a fortunate being. Not only was this handsome and fearless warrior the youngest Gauldian to attain the rank of General but his two year campaign to conquer the 'Pirate Isles', those fragments of land that lay to the south east of the Gauldian Empire, had been a complete success. He was now poised to return home with riches that exceeded that of most Gauldians twice his age. Also, upon his return, he was to marry the beautiful young princess Tilliana. Yes, he was indeed a fortunate being.

Back at the mainland port of Graahl the army rested, gathering supplies and indulging in some much needed and deserved recreation prior to their four month march home. The main interest was the local arena which was providing the Gauldians with their 'fix' of violence without them having to leave their seats. This was the case for all except Rolamus, for he had challenged and defeated the arena's champion.

Now, to the delight of his soldiers, he was taking challenges from any creature that dared to (or were forced to) enter the ring against him. A Doka beast, a rare two headed Cave Troll, even a Wyvern that had been under the charge of the local magistrate were his latest, unfortunate opponents. It seemed as though he was invincible - until the day the Circus came to town.

Shoker's Circus was a rag-tag band of 'entertainers' which include, among others, a few clumsy Acrobats, a half-decent Magician and a rather depressive Jester. The main attraction, however, was 'The Beast', a half troll / half demon hybrid that never failed to amaze the meagre audiences with its feats of incredible strength. Shoker, the circus owner, was a cruel and miserly master who didn't really want to risk losing his main money earner in the arena, but the box of gold which was the prize for the victor was incentive enough for anyone.

Besides, Shoker had seen The Beast's rage! While camping on the mountain pass, the previous winter, the Circus had come under attack from a large pack of Blackdogs. Shoker had watched, in awe, as The Beast had broken free from its shackles and using horns, claws, teeth and tail, had ploughed into the pack with a ferocity he had never witnessed before or since.

The Blackdogs eventually retreated, taking with them two squealing mules and the limp, lifeless body of the Jester's wife. The next morning a body count revealed that The Beast had killed nine Blackdogs.. NINE! It was with this memory comforting him that Shoker watched as The Beast stepped into the arena to challenge the mighty Rolamus.

When Tilliana had first heard the news of the death of Rolamus she did not cry. Even now as she watched his badly sewn together body disappear under the ice of the great Lake of Lament she still remained outwardly calm. She was letting her grief turn into something else. That very night she moved her things to the ice temple.

The priests were to coach her in the ancient arts, to show her fighting techniques with swords, with lance, with bare hands that had been passed down to only Gauldian royalty. Two years later she emerged with one thing on her mind. If this beast that had taken her betrothed still lived, she would find it and kill it, and she would slay any creature that stood in her way.

From the notes for the Dark Anvil story 'Before the Beginning' by Joe Bailey

Next Story: The Great Seagate

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