The Golden Serpent

Originally published in The Lorelei Signal in April 2014 (link)

Arisa grazed the moist grass with her palms and pulled her crimson hair in
a high ponytail. She closed the last button on her green tunic, picked the
last two arrows off the ground and slid them inside the leather quiver.

A brisk wind swept through the trees and whispered softly. Arisa closed her
eyes and took a deep breath, filling her nostrils with the smooth scent of
linden flowers and mint blossoms.

The forest trembled and sighed with the wind, waving at the hills, wiggling
their thin shadows over the bridle path. Arisa tousled the curly bangs on
her forehead and jumped on her feet. Her horse waited motionless a few
steps away, majestic and silent, a perfect statue carved in blackwood.

She ran her fingers through his thick mane and caressed the curves on his
back. The firm muscles quivered under the silk skin, sending a warm shiver
through her body.

“Ready to go home?” she whispered.

The horse tilted his head, neighed and smashed his hoof into the ground a
few times.

Arisa peered into the sky and a deep wrinkle crossed her forehead.

Darkness was near.

Her palms got sweaty and her heart skipped a beat.

She loved the night, with its shadows and whispers, somber and quiet and
secretive. But of all the nights, she hated that night. The Sun hanged low
over the hills and she wanted to freeze it in place so it can never

Arisa hugged the horse’s neck and buried her face in it. The animal neighed
again and his body trembled. “All right, we’re going.” She jumped in the
saddle and put her bare feet in the stirrups.

Her orange skirt looked like a young petal on the steed’s blackened skin.
Arisa fixed the bow across her back and pulled gently on the harness. She
squeezed her legs around his body and the black steed galloped away.

As they distanced themselves from the forest, their shadows ran ahead of
them like a silent companion, pointing away from the hills.

Arisa glimpsed over her shoulder. The sunlight was slowly melting behind
the Hills of the Serpent, leaving behind an orange aura reflecting in the

Those hills. Those damned hills.

The high-priest raised his right hand an opened his palm up toward the sky.

“The Gods shall protect us as we rise, and the Gods shall guard us in our
sleep, for it is the seventh day of the seventh summer that came upon us.
On this day of torment we must pray and hope we shall receive forgiveness
from the Gods.” He paused, slowly brought his palms together and raised his
eyes from the scrolls. He waved his hand over the crowd and the people
stared back with heavy eyes.

“People of Alanya,” he said, leaning forward against the podium, “you must
hide your young ones, lock your cattle and barricade your barns, for
between today and the fourteenth day, the Serpent will return to claim its

“And we shall fight the serpent!” a voice broke out.

The priest frowned and scrutinized the crowd. A young man pushed his way
out of the crowd, wielding a double-edged sword, wrought in dark steel.

His hair was dark as a crow’s feather and his eyes were brimstone fire. He
stepped forward and thrust his sword toward the priest. He paused for a
moment, panting, then swirled the sword in the air and pinned it in the
ground. “We will fight the serpent. We will cut its head and pierce its
body with our burning arrows!” He raised his fist up in the air and the
crowd recoiled as one.

The priest removed his hood revealing a bald head and a scattered brown
beard. With teeth clenched, he pointed his finger in the crowd. “Marianne,
your son’s defiance is unforgivable! We don’t have time for foolishness in
this time of danger!”

A murmur crept over the crowd and the woman raised her hands. “Talo!”

“No!” the young man shouted. “Why are we slaves to the Serpent? Why? Why
can’t we fight back? Are we all cowards?”

A loud whiz cut his speech; an arrow fletched with red feathers flew into
the sky, descended on an arc, and sank in the ground next to the sword.

Arisa emerged from the crowd, her red hair waving in the wind like a river
of fire. “Why don’t we fight?”

Her eyes met his, and Talo smiled. She gave him a quick nod and looked at
the high priest through narrow eyes.

“Why aren’t we fighting, High Priest?”

A grunt came from the crowd. “It’s not our place to fight.” An old man
stumbled toward Arisa. “Listen to your elders, maiden!” He leaned against a
crooked wooden cane and limped forward. “It has never been our place to

“Why not?” Arisa locked her hands in her waist. She stomped each foot solid
into the ground and raised her chin. “Tell me, why not?”

A woman sprinted and grabbed Arisa by the left arm. “Stop it, you are
embarrassing me!”

“Mother, let go! I want to know why not?”

The old man arched his bushy eyebrows and stepped closer to Arisa. “Because
that’s the way of the world, child. The man hunts the deer and the serpent
hunts the man. It is not up to us to judge how the world works! The serpent
is sent by the gods, and the gods choose its prey—”

Arisa shook her head. “I don’t believe it. Why must we let one of ours go
every seven summers? Just because that’s the way things are?”

Talo moved closer to Arisa, his body shivering like a bow string. “Yes, why
can’t we fight?”

A tremor crossed Arisa’s body when he spoke. His voice was deep and firm.
She glanced at him for a moment and her cheeks warmed up.

The old man waved his cane in front of their eyes. “You can’t fight because
you cannot kill the Golden Serpent, you fools. You think you are the first
ones? Many have tried before you and many have died, over and over again.
What good does it do if ten people die trying to kill the serpent every
time? Isn’t it wiser to let the serpent take its pray?”

Arisa thrust her finger in the old man’s face. “That’s because they didn’t
believe they can do it, so they failed.” She turned toward the High Priest.
“Tell me, what is the harm in trying to kill the Serpent? What is the harm
in trying to fight for our people?”

The priest waddled around the podium and pulled up his large sleeves. “The
harm is the one you will cast upon your parents, foolish fledgling. You
will not make it alive, and you will leave your parents and siblings
behind, mourning and praying for your lost souls!”

Arisa’s mother moved between the priest and her daughter and put her
shivering hands on Arisa’s shoulders. The girl glanced into her blue eyes
filled with sadness and devoid of hope.

“Arisa,” the mother said in a low voice, her lower lip trembling. “Listen
to me, listen to the Priest. You are young; you have your whole life ahead
of you. Don’t ruin everything with a stupid—”

“Stupid?” Arisa exploded and pushed her mother’s arms away. “Is it stupid
to defend your village and your people? Is it stupid to try to bring peace
and end the massacres?”

Arisa turned toward the crowd, pulled her rapier out of its sheath, and
raised it above her head. “Is it wrong to fight for freedom?” she screamed
at the top of her lungs.

Talo pulled his sword from the ground and crossed it in the air with
Arisa’s. “Those who are with us, are those who will never be forgotten.
Those who stand behind and hide, have no right to complain about their
life, for it is them who have chosen to live in fear. And it is us who
chose freedom!”

“May the Gods help us!” Arisa shouted.

The crowd responded with a cheer. Arisa’s mother fell to her knees and
covered her tearing eyes.

The night came fast that evening. The darkness lumbered over the village
and wrapped it in its cloak. The only sounds breaking the silence were the
sharp hoots of the guardian owls and the distant howling of the wolf packs.

Arisa sat on a bearskin, by the fireplace. She ruffled the logs with an
iron poker and the fire grew stronger. She took her bow and started to
tighten its string.

The door opened. Her mother came in, dropped a basket of logs on the floor,
and sat on a chair, panting.

Arisa felt her mother’s eyes poking in her neck. “What?” She turned her

“Why are you doing this?” Her mother’s voice cracked as she tried to
withhold her tears. “I’ll be alone—”

“What if the serpent comes to get me? Would you live with that fear all
your life?”

Her mother sighed and exhaled loudly. She got up and walked to a dark-wood
cabinet on the other side of the room. She unlocked it with the key around
her neck and took out a narrow wooden box. She put it on the table, opened
it, and wiped a tear of her cheek. “Come here.”

Arisa approached the table and looked inside the box. She saw one arrow,
whittled from red wood and finished with a black iron tip, sharp as a

“What is it?”

“It was your father’s.” Her mother took the arrow and caressed it with her
finger. “The last arrow he ever made. He wanted your brother Brody to have
it, but—”

Arisa took the arrow from her hand. It was light as a leaf and the tip was
sharper than any arrow she had ever seen. She squeezed it between her palms
and jolt thundered through her body.

“He put his soul in it, your father.”

“I can feel it,” Arisa whispered and closed her eyes.

She tried to remember her father’s face, but it was harder than she
thought. Seven years have passed and his image faded away.

“Take it,” the mother said and looked at her daughter with watery eyes.
“That’s the least I can do.”

Arisa hugged her tight and cried on her shoulder. “I love you, mom. I would
never abandon you. Never.”

The next morning, Arisa went to meet Talo at the old barn at the top of the
Hill of the Elders. She got there first, propped the horse by an old oak
tree, and strolled through the cemetery.

She brought two bright red flowers and put one on her grandfather’s grave
and the other on her grandmother’s. She asked the Gods for mercy on their
souls and for eternal peace.

Next to the two graves, were two others, modest and simple— just a stone
at the head and a few red flowers. Just as he would’ve liked it,
Arisa thought and wiped a tear away.

Talo tapped her shoulder and she jumped up, startled. She cleared her eyes
with her sleeve and smiled.

“We’ll get the Serpent,” Talo said with a nod. “No one will have to lose
their brother ever again. Not like this.”

She took a deep breath and they walked toward the barn. “Who came?”

“A few boys from the village joined us, and a few elders as well. There are
two girls too, armed with strong bows and steel swords.”

“Good,” Arisa said, “we need all the swords we can get.”

They continued to walk in silence for a while. Arisa studied his face from
the corner of her eye. Such intensity, such power.

Talo motioned her forward as they reached the barn’s gate. “There’ll be
more, you’ll see.”

Inside a few young men talked in a circle, and the two girls waited by the
doors. Once Arisa walked in, the girls rushed toward her.

“Arisa, we want to help,” Hylena said.

“We got arrows and swords,” added Kasandra squeezing a knife in her hand.
“We will do everything we can.”

Arisa gave them a long hug. “Thank you. It is those like you that we need
most in these times.”

“We came to help as well,” Santonius said from the back of the barn. “I am
here with my three brothers and my friends. We want to kill the serpent,
burn its body and spread its ashes into the four corners, to avenge the
death of my baby cousin.”

Talo dropped his shield on the ground. “Come, my friends, we need to talk.
The serpent is cunning, so we must have a plan ready.”

The boys came closer and they all sat around in a circle. Santonius lit up
a fire at the center and put a few pieces of meat on his sword to warm up.

“So, what do we know about the Golden Serpent?” Arisa said.

Talo cleared his throat and raised one finger. “We know it always comes
between the seventh and the fourteenth day of the first month of summer,
every seven summers. And we know he comes in the last hours of the night,
under the veil of darkness, like a coward.”

Hylena leaned forward. “We know he chooses a young man or woman as its
victim, and it doesn’t seem to be any reason to his choosing.”

“It’s chance,” Arisa added.

“Exactly,” Kasandra responded. “We know that he crawls through the forests
and comes to the house of his choosing, breaks through the door or window
and swallows its victim whole—”

“And then he leaves,” Santonius interrupted, “and never returns for seven

Arisa took a bite from a piece of dried meat and nodded. “Tonight is the
eighth day. It means we must wait every day from nightfall until sunrise
and cover all paths the Serpent might take.”

Santonius snorted and spat. “How are we supposed to do that? We are just a

“We catch him like a fish,” Talo said, “with a net.”

“A net?” Santonius said, eyes wide open. “What kind of net is big enough to
capture a giant serpent?”

Talo took an apple out of his pocket and bit hard in it. “Not catch it,
really, but just let us know it’s coming.”

Arisa looked at Talo and lifted a brow.

“Let me explain,” Talo said. “The serpent crawls, and we know that from the
stories of the elders. It crawls and it must enter the village to capture
its prey. So, what we do is cast a net around the village, so when the
serpent does come, he will disturb the net and let us know where to look!”

“But other animals would disturb it as well, no?” Hylena said.

“Not really, animals are scared during the weeks of the serpent. They know.
The forests are deserted and all animals flee on high ground.”

Arisa swallowed the last piece of dried meat and gulped a few mouths of
water from her leather waterskin. “So we get him like a spider gets its

“Exactly,” Talo said. “The only problem is— we have to find a net.”

Arisa snickered. “I think I know what we can use— Kalista’s thread.”

“That old witch?” Santonius said with a scoff. “How is she going to help

“She lost her son to the serpent many years ago. She’ll help us. She makes
her special thread, the strongest thread in the land. She even sends it to
the king’s court and the army uses it to make ropes.”

“And how do we use the thread?” Hylena asked. “We can’t possibly knit a
giant net.”

“No, this is what we do. We tie the thread to a tree, extend it through the
woods all around the village, like a belt. We tie the thread to the trees
and guard it. Whoever sees the thread pulled, signals the others.”

Santonius jumped up. “That’s brilliant! We can use burning arrows to

“Exactly,” Arisa said. “We’ll make enough before the day’s end, so we can
all have them.”

“Just one thing.” Talo lifted his hands. “It’s all good to know where the
serpent is, but how do we kill it? It’s a strong creature, covered by sharp
scales made out of hard gold. His fangs are said to break through a tree,
and the touch of its tail is more powerful than the strongest sword.”

“Many tried,” Hylena said and looked down. “My father—” she stopped and
covered her mouth.

Arisa touched her shoulder.

“They just didn’t have enough weapons,” Hylena continued and wiped a tear.
“It was too strong.”

Santonius sat back down and put his head on his hands. Arisa shook her head
and looked at Talo sideways.

“It’s a vain creature, isn’t it?”

“The serpent?”

“Yes. It dwells on its power and dominion, rules through fear, and its
ultimate goal is to kill.”

“That’s what we’re up against,” Santonius said and shrugged. “So?”

Arisa smashed her fist in her palm. “This means it will not steer away from
a challenge. It will not hesitate to follow the one who taunts it. So, we
taunt it, and bring it into a trap.”

“What are you thinking?” Talo asked.

“We attract the beast to the old wooden bridge over the river at the west.
The bridge is broken, rotten to the core, barely standing. It can hold a
young warrior, but it can’t stand a huge serpent made out of gold. The
bridge runs over the deep, wild canyon and down below are the raging waters
of the Black River.”

Talo turned around and looked at Arisa with wide eyes. “So we draw the
serpent on the bridge, and watch the beast fall into the abyss.”

“Brilliant again,” Santonius exclaimed. “Those waters are rough and deep,
and they lead to underground streams. Many got lost in those channels,
searching for treasures and no one has ever returned.”

“His body will shatter,” Arisa said and lifted her fist. “The waters and
rocks will break it to pieces!”

Talo hit his fist into the ground. “I think we got a plan! But we need more
people. We need a lot more to surround the entire village.”

The barn door burst opened with a bang and a white steed barged in. Mounted
on the horse was a tall knight, wearing a silver armor and a red velvet
cape flowing behind him like a waterfall. He shook his blond hair off his
forehead and dismounted.

Arisa jumped on her feet and Talo followed her.

“Sir Canaan!” Santonius said and bowed on one knee.

“Greetings,” the knight said, staring at Arisa.

She felt a shiver in her belly and glimpsed at Talo. He was watching the
knight with his arms crossed.

“It has come to the court’s attention,” Canaan said, “that you are planning
a battle against a Golden Serpent. Is that a true fact?”

“It is, and why does that matter to you?” Talo shouted.

Canaan laughed and took his gloves of. “I feel a seed of resentment—”

“What does the kingscourt ever do for us?” Talo exploded. “What else other
than sending their collectors and taking our men to war?”

Canaan lifted his hands. “Well, if you’d let me speak, perhaps we can all
understand why I’m here.”

He approached Arisa and extended his hand. “Maiden—”


Canaan bowed his head slightly and smiled. “It is not often that one
encounters a beautiful maiden wielding a sword and a bow.”

Arisa felt a tickle in her stomach. She put her hands in her waist and
pushed her chin forward. “And you do not wish to find your sword against
mine, Sir Canaan.” She looked back at him with squinted eyes.

“Ha-ha, I would not think of it,” Canaan said and shook his finger. “But
the fact of the matter is I am actually here to help you.”

Talo stepped between Arisa and the knight. “Help us? With what?”

Canaan turned around and motioned one of the guards following him. “Take
the horse to the spring.” He then walked around the barn, his hands behind
his back.

“You see, there’s this legend of the Golden Serpent, a story, if you will,
that’s been passed around and made its way to the courts. It seems—”
Canaan stopped, raised his hands defensively and tilted his head. “— they
say, that there’s a giant serpent coming over and eating people every seven

“It’s not a story,” Hylena protested and took a step toward the knight.
“It’s the truth. Many of us lost loved ones to the Serpent!”

“So be it,” Canaan answered with a toothy smile. “Needless to say, these
stories, make their way to the courts every so often and—”

“You ignore them,” Talo said.

“Ignore, ignore… such a strong word.” Canaan wiggled his hands in the
air, “We don’t ignore them, we just have much more important things to take
care of. The borders of the kingdom, the dragons from the North. There are
things that the King’s court does that you cannot possibly comprehend.”

Talo moved forward, but Arisa grabbed his hand and pulled him back. She
gave him a sideways, icy look, and he backed down, fists squeezed.

“But every year,” Canaan continued, hands in his waist, “we choose one
village worthy to receive our undivided help.”

He paused, probably waiting for applause, Arisa thought.

She walked up to the knight and looked at him with creased brows. “Sir
Canaan, are you here to help us, or are you here to talk about helping us?”

Canaan crossed his arms and nodded his head. “Fair point.” He pursed his
lips. “I say let’s not waste any more time and kill a serpent.”

Arisa took a deep breath and motioned her hand toward the fire. “Join us,
we will share our plan.”

“I don’t trust him,” Talo whispered in her ear.

“Me either,” Arisa whispered back. “But we need more people.”

For ten nights they stood watch— up in the trees, or hidden in thick
bushes and shallow trenches dug in the ground. They had braided Kalista’s
thread and ran it around the village, then tied the thread around the old
trees. Next to each tree, one of the mounted kingsguard soldiers stood
watch, waiting for a move.

Arisa was up in her favorite tree, an oak so thick, four people could
barely hug it, its branches so dense not even a ray of sun or a drop of
rain could pass through.

Perched on a branch, she watched over the forest, waiting for the moment,
her hand clenched on the sword. The moon was half-way down, a full and
bright ivory light illuminating the sky.

In the last hours of the night, she saw movement and heard clamor in the
trees. The forest twitched as if it was alive; it trembled and sighed like
a hunted animal and a thunder wave swept through the trees. Far in the
distance a flaming arrow shoot up into the sky.

“It’s here!” she shouted and jumped from the tree.

She mounted the horse, grabbed the harness and hit her heels. The steed
smashed its hoof into the ground, rose up on its back legs, neighed a few
times, and dashed through the trees like a spear.

Arisa knew exactly where to go— the arrow flew from the valley of the
poppy flowers, at the base of the mountain.

She lowered her head, her face in the horse’s mane, keeping her legs tight
around the animal’s body. The stallion ran like the wind, dashing between
trees, over brooks and boulders.

She heard a growl, a deafening roar that shook her body to the core. An ice
chill went over her back, and she clenched her teeth and kicked the horse

She pushed her sword up in the air, just as the black steed jumped between
two trees into an open glade. The kingsguard soldiers were all there,
waiting in a circle, weapons drawn. Talo was in front of them, Sir Canaan
by his side.

Arisa stopped and listened. Another scream came from the forest. A
high-pitched, gut wrenching death scream— a shriek so primitive, the
horses backed up in fear.

She jumped off her horse and ran forward.

“Leave the horses,” she screamed.

Talo jumped off his and joined her at the front. Sir Canaan came besides
them, waving his sword.

The ground shook and the trees in front of them started to curl and crack,
falling sideways like a defeated army.

A yellow head, bigger than a bear, broke out above the trees. Two fangs
flanked its split tongue, under his eyes of fire. The golden serpent rose
up, twice as high as the highest tree, twisting its head in the air.

Arisa’s body was statue, a thick knot clogging her throat. The Serpent was
enormous, much bigger than she had ever imagined.

“Archers!” Canaan screamed and a wall of burning arrows whizzed over their

The arrows hit the golden snake and ricochet leaving the body untouched.
The beast shook its head and shrieked again toward the sky, its ear
bleeding scream echoing over the mountain peaks.

Talo shouted and lifted his sword up in the sky. He ran forward, twirling
the weapon over his head.

“No!” Arisa yelled.

She took a step forward, but Canaan grabbed her hand and pulled her back.
“Stop, we must draw the beast to the bridge!”


Canaan held her back. “You’ll die, and this will all be for nothing. We
must stick to the plan. It’s the only way.”

Arisa looked after Talo. He was under the snake’s head, his sword up high,
screaming his lungs out.

“Come on! This is for my uncle, you beast!”

The snake’s head descended like lightning, its veracious mouth wide open,
tongue swinging in the air. When it was just a foot above Talo, he turned
around and spun his sword. The sharp blade hit the snake’s tongue and cut
it in half. The split half flew away and the snake let a demonic squeal

Talo turned around and ran, but he snake lowered its head again, this time
faster and angrier. Its red eyes spun in his head, throwing flames.

“Talooooo!” Arisa screamed, but it was too late.

The snake’s mouth fell over Talo’s body. Arisa saw him push his sword deep
into the beast’s throat with his last breath, but the fanged mouth closed
over him, and swallowed him whole.

“Noooo,” Arisa yelled and squeezed her sword.

“Stop,” Canaan shouted, “we must run to the bridge, it’s the only way.”

The creature rose again and moved forward, waiving its enormous body out of
the forest.


Another curtain of arrows flew toward the snake, with no damage.

“Everyone, run! To the bridge,” Arisa screamed and leaped toward the trees.

She ran as fast as she could cutting between branches, her heart pounding
like a war drum.

She didn’t look back— she didn’t have to. Talo was gone. She wanted to cry
but there was no time. She wanted to scream but she had to run. She
had to get to that bridge. The blood curdling roar of the beast followed
her closely, making her hair stand on ends and blood boil in her veins.

When the forest cleared, the old wooden bridge wasn’t far away. She stopped
mid-way and turned around. The others followed her, running out of the
woods, eyes filled with fear and faces white as clouds.

“Quickly, over the bridge, it’s coming!” Santonius screamed, passing by
her, eyes wide open.

Canaan appeared from the trees as well, wielding his sword and shield.

“This way,” Arisa shouted.

She turned around and to run toward the bridge, when she noticed movement
far on the right field. She stopped to look and saw an army— a battalion
of soldiers gathered around two catapults.

“What is this?” Arisa said.

Canaan stopped by her and looked at the army.

The ground shook and the trees moved. Another gnarl came from the forest.
Arisa glanced at Canaan. He rose his right arm and signaled one of the
soldiers by the catapults. She looked at him with wide eyes.

“You are trying to capture the snake, aren’t you?”

Canaan looked back at her with fiery eyes. “Listen, girl, you don’t let a
Golden Serpent run away. You capture it, you kill it and melt it into

Arisa’s stomach jumped in her throat and her hand trembled uncontrollably.

“You used us,” she said throwing him a deadly glance. “He died today.”

Canaan wrinkled his brows. “It’s war, maiden, and in war people die. What
matters is who lives and who wins.”

He turned around and ran toward the soldiers. “Prepare the catapults and
light the fires!” the knight screamed.

Arisa remained frozen, her body vibrating like a string. She took one arrow
from her quiver— the red-wood arrow with the black iron tip.

The trees parted, and the golden snake’s head appeared between them,
roaring like a beast.

“Light them up!” Canaan screamed from a distance, and the soldiers set fire
to a pile of hay bales.

Arisa looked at them and back at the snake. She knew their plan; they
wanted to draw the snake to their fire, away from the bridge.

She squeezed the arrow, kissed its tip, and put it in her bow.

“This is for you, papa. For you and for Brody.”

She pulled the string and aimed the arrow toward the golden snake’s head.

Wait, wait.
The beast’s head twirled through the air.

The serpent suddenly stopped moving, ready to attack. It noticed the fire
burning in the distance, opened its mouth and hissed.

Arisa released the arrow. The metallic death bringer buzzed through the air
and hit the creature in its right eye. The eye popped like a porcelain
plate, and the Golden Serpent screamed.

She dropped the bow and ran toward the bridge. The half-blinded beast dived
after her.

Arisa stepped on the rotten bridge and saw the others waving on the other
side, screaming. She felt a breath of hot air blowing in her back; she
peered over her shoulder. The ravenous mouth was biting the air behind her.

She jumped forward— once, twice— the giant mouth closing and opening by
her back, the cut tongue touching her hair.

She finally leaped forward and grabbed Hylena’s hand. She rolled on the
ground and turned around.

The Golden Serpent was on the bridge, its mutilated face ready to pass on
the other side, mouth wide open.

A giant boulder fell from the sky, trailing a rope behind it, and coiled
around the beast’s tail.

Arisa saw Canaan’s army running forward toward the Serpent. The boulder
came from the catapults and it was tied to them. The Serpent fought to
escape its grip— he spun its head ready to bite off the rope, but a wall
of arrows hit it like a hammer.

Arisa lifted her sword and smashed into the bridge’s base. The steel
vibrated in her hand and stuck in the wood. She pulled the sword up and hit
again. The rotten wood chipped under her iron sword and started to crack.
She hit again, and again, smashing the rotten structure with all her

With one loud blast, the bridge’s right side suddenly splintered. The
support beams bent with a bang, ruptured, and started to shatter. The
entire structure collapsed downward, under the weight of the beast, and
with one final crack the bridge cleaved in half and opened up like a gate
to a bottomless pit. The serpent fell into the void, but remained anchored
by the rope twirled around its tail, clinging by its sharp scales.

The soldiers grabbed the rope and started to pull. Arisa watched the
Serpent twirl in the air and reach up.

She weighted her sword in her hand, leaned on her left foot and threw the
sword toward the serpent’s tail. The iron weapon spun in the air and hit
the rope with its sharp edge. The rope snapped and the Serpent dived into
the canyon, roaring like a demon.

It plunged into the abyss, prey to the unforgiving grip of the raging
river. Arisa saw its body smash against rocks and boulders, and shatter in
pieces. The angry waters pulled the beast toward the underground caverns,
continuing to crush it on its sharp rocks, like a hungry mouth devouring
its victim.

The mountain finally swallowed the limp, contorted body of the serpent. Its
tail disappeared, sucked inside the mountain core, and all left behind was
the steam of the river waters.

It was as if the beast had never existed.

Arisa unclenched her fists and exhaled. She looked up.

On the other side of the canyon, the soldiers and Sir Canaan were staring
back at her, jaws at the floor.

Santonius put his hand on her shoulder. “We did it,” he whispered, his
voice cracking.

Sir Canaan walked at the edge of the canyon and looked at Arisa with fire
in his eyes. He pointed his finger at her, and she knew they will meet
again soon.

But she didn’t care. The beast was gone. That’s all that mattered.

Arisa closed her eyes and fell to her knees.

She avenged them. She brought justice for all. Now papa and Brody can
finally sleep in peace.