Curse of the Goblin King
It was stupid, futile, even childish of her to think that even if he was in trouble that there was anything she could do. She was only human after all and he was…she wasn't sure if he was human or not. He didn't look like a demon, but something told her that she should not be deceived by his looks.
Besides, what debt did she owe him; for what reason was she riding through the dense forest? The mists clung on to her as she breezed through, melting into her clothing and pooling into cold water droplets on her face and hair that drenched her to the bone. She was shaking, never had she ridden so fast before, and never had she been so chilled as this. Her teeth rattled and she clamped them together to keep them from distracting her from directing the horse, for they were moving so fast that low-hanging branches would dismember or decapitate them with ease.
Pressing herself close to the horse's warm body, she watched through sleep-heavy eyes as they left the path and dove into the thick foliage of the forest. The horse balked and neighed at a large bushel of brambles in the way only to jump them in a single flying leap that jolted Erutis upward when they landed. Scrambling to hold on, she forced the horse still onward, even though she could tell it had slowed and there was a definite limp in its gait now.
The hiss and rattle of her steed's breathing was lost on her ears as they plunged still further into the depths of the forest. The horse could sense the power of the Goblin King in the air very well by now and seemed to want to shy away or gallop in some other direction. However, Erutis, despite her thoughts being elsewhere, would not let the horse stray from the correct path – or what she hoped was correct – or to slow or hinder her journey in any way.
By now it was tired, its muscles exhausted to the point that it would soon collapse if not given a break. The cold air that pushed in around them did little good for the horse either as it started to shiver and sway uneasily.
Suddenly its tired legs gave out and the horse stumbled forward, giving a hissing neigh it collapsed on the dirt, rolling into the brush and kicking his legs futilely. Erutis gasped and manage to escape from underneath the writhing horse before she was hurt too badly.
She was scraped and bleeding, but she was not as badly wounded as the horse was. As it rolled about in the dirt, she could see the large red gashes, the fur and skin rubbed away from the shoulder. Bits of dirt clung to the wounds, stinging and biting.
Calming down, the beast lay on its side, wheezing for breath, its eyes darting about wildly in shock. Erutis pressed her hand over her wounds for a moment before taking a closer look at the horse to see if it was hurt very badly.
Looking it over, she grimaced. The horse was crippled, or at least was for now, and she doubted that it would be back on its feet that night. Patting its sweaty neck, she mumbled a few reassuring words to the horse and stroked it calmly before turning to face the direction she hoped the castle was in.
The fall had given her quite a scare too; she could hear the pounding of her heart in her ears as she tried to steady her breathing. She was cold and wet, yet she still felt as if she should keep moving, despite the fact that it would take her another few hours on foot to reach the castle. She had already been gone too long, soon the people in the town would wake to find her disappeared again and that would not bode well for her. Chris would be furious. What's more, the stable owner would be furious with her for stealing his horse and crippling it.
She shook her head, giving herself a sad smirk. 'I am insane, I must be,' she thought to herself as she set off walking again, eyes trained straight ahead. For only insanity could have made her do something as stupid as this, to go running back to him like she was…in love.
Again she smirked sadly, hating herself all the more as her damp hair and clothing clung to her against the chill air. This escapade would be the end of her, she knew it would. At this rate, she would catch her death, probably already had and was harboring it. She was a fool to go through the forests in this weather, they were treacherous and if it shared the heart of the Goblin King, then he was probably watching her and willing the forest to smother her alive.
That was it! He had sent that silly dream to her, was driving her on like this by his magic to her death. But his magic could not reach outside of the forest; he had said that, hadn't he? She couldn't remember; everything was so vague and blurry now. She was half-mad anyway, so why did she keep on bothering to wonder what there was that was making her drive forward like this? She was insane, or at least, that's the only reason she would believe.
He had very little time left; he could feel the power draining from him now. Every grain of sand that fell took another minute off his fading existence. He could feel time slipping away from his grasp; his powers were fleeting away from him as well, leaving him in a vulnerable near-human state.
Quietly he waited, sensing the coming of Erutis, but doubted that she would make it in time. He supposed she was coming back to kill him now; he sighed to himself and closed his eyes. It was not like him to accept his fate so readily, but then again, what was there for him to do really but sit and wait for this to happen? Nothing he had tried thus far had worked; the curse would not lift.
He thought he might go to her, end his suffering early and see her face one last time as well. He was too weak though, his body felt too sluggishly heavy now, and his powers were no longer strong enough to transport him any distance at all. It saddened him that he would not get to see her one last time, but he understood that this was merely the workings of the curse and did not fuss.
It was only his punishment for breaking that girl's heart so long ago; her jealous anger at him had not abated in all those centuries. Still it clung to him, dragging him down slowly and painfully, making him suffer in the same way that she had and more. It was only fair…It was only fair that he should experience the pain of a broken heart.
Ever since he had first seen the girl, he had known. His heart broke upon meeting her, his soul cried out upon seeing her smile at another, never shining that grin at him. It was horrible; the pain was unbearable! Deeper and more lasting than any wound he had ever experienced before. It bit at him constantly, making him tired, lethargic. All he wanted to do was think about her, and yet thoughts of her brought such pain…
Finding the strength to pull himself up onto one of the dusty couches, he attempted to sit up, slouching in the seat and breathing heavily from his exertions.
This was certainly a way to go out, he thought to himself ruefully as he looked around the room with bleary eyes. One minute he was a great Demon Lord feared by all and playing with the emotions of the humans, the next minute he was lying here like a babe, waiting for the great sleep to take him away. All his powers had diminished, his great empire had crumbled, his heart had been stolen and broken by a mortal woman; yes, this was the ultimate downfall for one of his stature. He would not even die as a warrior, but die as a sickly cripple in this rotting castle that would surely crumble the moment he was gone.
It simply was too much, far too ironic, he chuckled to himself, feeling quite like he was out of his mind, and who was to say he wasn't? He had probably been driven mad the moment he had seen that human woman, no, his Erutis. To meet the one he knew he would love and lose was an unbearable thought, and still was. Yes, he decided at that moment that he had been driven mad with love for her. Love that would never be returned, for all she did was scorn him and turn him away. She hated him, despised him, she would never love him…never. The only joy she would ever gain from him was when she destroyed him, this he knew and though it was a deranged idea, he felt content. She would not make it in time to finish him with her own hands anyway.
He wondered, as he closed his eyes, if she would cry when she found him dead.
Erutis used the nearest tree to lean her weight against as she rested. She was on her last leg, panting from running so hard and for so long. She was in good shape, being a swordsman, but the job of a swordsman did not include running, so she easily tuckered out in this field.
The blockade of trees, brush and mist did not help her any either. A stitch had formed in her side and it hurt to take a large breath of air. She felt it sting in her throat, down to her lungs, and finally searing into her side. She bent to try and stop the pain.
Looking on ahead, she stumbled forward, walking as fast as she could, her clothes catching on every thorn and low-hanging branch. The mist parted but for a moment and she felt a touch of relief spread through her as she saw the dark outline of the castle loom forward.
Dread tied a knot in her stomach and made the breath sting whisper with anxiety. She had finally made it! It was nearly dawn now, but she had made her. She stumbled again, toward the castle.
Forgetting the stitch in her side and her weak leg muscles, she leaped forward, hand on her sword. She was not sure what awaited her in the castle, nor why she was in such a hurry to find out, but at least she had come prepared nonetheless.
Hurrying up the stone steps, she leapt over them two at a time. Finding that the doors to the castle were open, she ran inside, stopping when she came into the main hall. She was at an intersection. Where should she go? Looking about, she panted for breath as she tried to rapidly decide which way was best to take.
Her room? Well, the room she had stayed in at least? Would he be in there? It seemed mostly likely, after all, he seemed to have a strange infatuation with her.
Taking off down the hallway, she held the sheath of her sword to keep it from banging against her legs. The hallways seemed to extend forever as she dashed past the large pillars, not at all heeding the ugly sight of the castle.
It was decrepit, she had noticed, of course, but there was no time to stand about and gawk at the terrible ruin the castle had fallen into in so short a time. Well, she thought that there was no time. She would probably burst into her room and find herself sleeping, having a fitful dream, and when she woke, she would realize that the entire castle and the Goblin King escapade was a dream. Either that or he'd be waiting for her with that smug grin of his, knowing that she would come to his aid now if he ever were in need of her.
Shoving the doors open roughly, she stepped back with a grimace when a blast of warm air washed over her, bringing with it the smell of damp decay. The room was in shambles; dust covered every inch of it.
Taking a step inside, she touched the edge of the western-style bed uncertainly, only to start with alarm as it crumbled beneath her fingertips. Staring at the pile of rubble that had once passed for a lovely bed, she turned back out of the room for fear that the roof might decide to suddenly collapse as well.
Uncertain as to where else she could possibly go, she flung herself back down the hallway, thinking that any movement at all - even if in the wrong direction – would be better than standing still and wondering what to do. She was a swordsman damn it! She was not allowed the luxury to stand about hopelessly, unlike other women her age. No, she had been trained to never waste a second, even in the most confusing and direst of situations.
So, with that thought keenly set in her mind, she dashed back down the hallway, past the doors to the castle and kept on going. She raced past the dining hall, past the balcony and the grand ballroom, but still she found nothing. She couldn't find one place where he might be. All the doors stood open on their hinges, so it was easy to look in when passing to see if anyone was inside.
After a time, she slowed her pace, finding herself unable to keep on running any longer. Slumping against one of the pillars, she tried to catch her breath and think of where to go next. She was utterly lost now that she was actually in the castle. Where could he be, if he was here at all?
Looking up, she started as she spotted a staircase climbing steeply upwards. It had not been there a moment before! In fact, she did not remember there ever being a staircase in this God-forsaken castle. So where had this one come from?
It sparkled and glinted for a moment, almost winking at her as if to say: 'you know quite well.' Another of his tricks? Well, she had fallen for all of them so far, why not fall for this one too?
Was he asleep or awake? He couldn't tell anymore; he seemed to be somewhere between the two, like a half-sleep. He was awake and yet his thoughts were slow, grinding along at an alarmingly snail-paced rate. Groggily, he tried to move, but he felt like a dead weight. All he could do was sit there, his mind flickering with half-cognitive thoughts.
Maybe this was death; his pain was ebbing away, so maybe he was finally dying. He had lost the ability to sense aura's some time ago, so he was no longer aware of where his Erutis was, but he was sure that she was nowhere near the castle.
So, he would die alone, just as he had first thought. There was no miracle wind bringing the girl to him at his last hour, or was it last minute?
The door burst open in the middle of his thoughts, and he felt a thrill of happiness run through him. He thought he felt his dry lips turn up in a sad smile as she stood panting in the doorway, looking at him with wide eyes.
What was she thinking, standing there, looking at him as if it were the first time? Was she musing on how much he had fallen in so short a time, or was she saddened that she had come too late?
Krayon spied the sword at her side and felt a calm reserve flood through. So, she truly had come to kill him then. Well, his final wish had been granted at least, he could die in peace knowing that she was in some way happy.
Coming forward, she stood by the large chair that he was sitting in, watching her through bleary half-opened eyes.
Her mouth moved, but he couldn't hear her words.
Erutis stumbled over things in both her mind and her mouth. She couldn't think of anything to say or do, for it would seem that her nightmare had come true. She hadn't thought that she would ever really find him here, much less reach the castle! Now what? She was at a loss…
He looked horrible though; his floppy hair had lost some of its color and was even floppier than usual. His skin had lost its pallor and he looked as if he were drenched in a cold sweat. He was giving her a sad smile; his eyes were only half-opened.
"What happened to you?" She felt herself saying before she could stop. What did she care if he died? He was her enemy! He had killed her men, kept her captive! He was no one she should have pity on, but her heart still ached at seeing him like this…
He did not reply; his eyes closed and the smile faded somewhat, though a quirky little grin was still in place.
She swallowed and blinked, looking around the room, trying to find some clue as to what had happened to him. She had been gone but a day and this place was already in ruins!
Her eyes fell on a single glowing golden object in the darkest, dingiest corner she had ever seen. Looking apprehensively at the Goblin King, she went over to investigate, feeling almost drawn to it.
He started in his large chair and made a groaning sound as if he were trying to catch her attention, but the object in the corner had enraptured her, snared her and pulled her in. Her thoughts centered on it, as if she had somehow always known that it was there, waiting for her and she waiting for it. She was lost to the world behind her, completely lost.
She stopped in front of it, watching it with wide eyes that shone in the light coming off of the hourglass. For she saw that that was what it was truthfully. Not some random golden object, but a large glass-and-gold hourglass, the last bits of sand trailing through slowly.
An idea suddenly struck her as she looked at it- this hourglass was the source of the Goblin King's strife! She wasn't sure where the idea had come from, but it clicked and stayed.
Her fingertips reached out to stroke the top of the first glass dome. There was a shriek of laughter that peeled out of thin air as she did so, and with that noise her mind came back from the sluggish world it had been in and snapped to attention. In a moment her hand was on her sword and it let out a hiss as it rattled against the sheath.
The hourglass split into two separate pieces cleanly, the glass shattering as it hit the floor and the sand spilling in every direction.
A scream like someone dying pierced the air and filled the room, nearly deafening Erutis and Krayon. A blast of hot air swam forth, stifling them and bursting out the windows and doors with the scream. Erutis could almost taste the crackling heat energy that went with a curse and knew then that she had been drawn to the hourglass because it had contained a sinister spirit bent on revenge. Such creatures were known to ensnare trouble humans' hearts and minds when they were simply glanced at.
There was a luminous head hovering above the sand and the now tarnished golden remains of the hourglass, glaring at Erutis as if the head meant to kill her. The voice that came forth was like a hiss as the head spoke, "Damn you! Curse you! To think that my curse was truly undone by some mortal! Pitiful, pitiful, pitiful…" With that it vanished, still muttering curses to itself as it faded away.
Erutis stared, shocked that the peculiar object had contained such a vile spirit. Had that spirit been plaguing the Goblin King since her departure?
Remembering the villain suddenly, she turned to find that he was still sitting in the chair, pale-faced and quite slack. His eyes were closed and not one of his limbs twitched. Looking at his chest expectantly, she felt her sword clatter to the ground noisily as she discovered that not even a flutter of breath seemed to be moving in him.
Feeling her heart pound, she rushed forward, feeling her own breath choke in her throat as she came to his side, a sad half-frown half-smile on her lips.
"Krayon?" She tried out his name for the first time in a trembling voice. She touched his shoulder, but there was no response. Had he died? The head had mentioned something about a curse, but this couldn't mean that-
Erutis felt a knot form in her throat, making it hard for her to breathe correctly. Warm tears filled the corners of her eyes, but they did not yet dare to spill over.
Was this curse hers? Was she the one that was cursed to come to his aid only to find him dead? No, she thought to herself in tears, i she /i was the one that was supposed to kill him! Not some stupid curse!
Crumpling, she placed her head on his chest, forsaking her old bull-headedness about being seen in such a wrecked state. She was fire too tired of everything to care right now whether anyone walked in and saw her. They could simply assume she was mad, and who was to say that she wasn't?
She sobbed, not entirely sure why she was, for he was her enemy, wasn't he…?
"Ah, finally warming up to me, I see," a familiar voice rumbled inside of the chest she had her head pressed against. Her heart thudded with joy and love at the sound of it, but she withheld the feelings, looking up into the glimmering eyes with a glare.
Tears were still spilling down her cheeks and she was still sniffling, so the effect was not the same. "You were awake that whole time, weren't you?" She accused bitingly.
He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and pulled her closer to him with a loving sigh and a warm smile. "Of course not, I nearly died back there, quick thinking on your part," he replied matter-of-factly.
Erutis, surprisingly, didn't pull away from his grasp, but she was not so silly as to give in to it either. "Then why didn't you?" She asked, teasing him in her morbid way.
Krayon pretended to be hurt by her words. "My dear Erutis, fate does not bind us all."
HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Wow, I never thought that I would actually get so far as to finish this fiction. Didn't exactly expect it to raise quite so much commotion as well. I have really enjoyed writing this fic, and I'm kind of sad that I won't get to write for it anymore. Of course, I have another multi-chap EruKra fiction in the works, but that probably won't be posted for a while since I have so many other things already to finish up.
Since I couldn't figure out a way to incorporate a way as to explaining the appearance of the castle at the end of this fic, I'll just go ahead and explain it here. The castle was always torn down and ruddy looking, it was simply Krayon's magic that kept it looking more splendid to the eyes of Chris and Erutis. Krayon also was always weaker than he appeared to Erutis and Chris. Again, he used his magic to sustain the illusion that there was nothing wrong. The castle and Krayon were supposed to be connected somehow in this story, y'know, like symbolism. So when Erutis left, the illusion faded and we see that it was just Krayon's little bit of magic he had left. Hmm, I hope that explains everything pretty well.
Well, now that everything else is out of the way, I would like to thank everyone. Thanks very much for reading this fic, reviewing, sending in questions or comments, helpful tips and most of all: putting up with my extreme laziness. I really do appreciate everyone's support and I hope you will all spread the EruKra love. Heehee.
Thanks again minna-san and goodbye for now! Ja'ne!