So I didn't have time to work on my second short story with the fairy, elf, and wishing star in Capitol City, but I was able to give "Boldaphist the Brave" a pretty great ending, in my opinion. ^_^ I'm so proud of myself for finishing this, since I don't have many stories that I can say I've finished, and I only wrote this in 2 days! Plus I put another great dent in my word count, adding 2,300+ words! Whoo-hoo! So yeah, hope you enjoy the rest of the story! ^,~
“That is all that I remember,” said Yashir as he finished telling his sad tale.
Everyone was silent around the table for a while, heads bowed somberly and respectfully.
Boldaphist stroked his thick beard in thought, shaking his head slowly. “Yashir, laddie, I’m mighty sorry ya had to go through all that.” He turned to one of Yashir’s uncles, a man named Ari. “What happened after the boy went off to get help?”
“Well, of course we immediately sent a few men to investigate what had happened to his parents and sister. Unfortunately, we lost a couple of men at that time, for they turned into stone, just like his family did. But the men who did come back said that they saw stone hens and animals everywhere, and believed they had seen a misshapen white rooster wandering about.”
Boldaphist's bushy eyebrows rose suddenly at this, and he leaned forward with great interest. “A rooster, you say? Is that so?”
“Yes, we believe it is this creature that is causing all the mayhem. Those who looked directly into the animal’s eyes became frozen, so no one could get a very good look at it without being turned themselves, but they described it to have spines and a bright red tail like a lizard’s, but besides that, it seemed to be just a chicken.”
To everyone’s surprise, Boldaphist started to laugh. A rumbling laugh like a boulder rolling down a mountain. Yashir, Ari and the others all stared at the dwarf. “Hahaha!... Oh, I’m sorry. I really don’t mean to be laughin' at you all, but… Hahahaha!... You folks have nothin' to worry about! No one has been lost at all!”
Yashir’s eyes blinked with hope. “They… they haven’t?”
“That’s right, laddie. In fact, I happen to know exactly the kind of animal yer dealin' with!”
“Yessir, Yashir m’boy. You poor folks sound like ya have a cockatrice on yer hands.”
The men in the room looked at each other in confusion.
“Excuse me, a coke-a-trees?” asked a man wearing a turban. He sat at the corner of the table, another one of Yashir’s uncles.
“A cock-a-triss, laddie, a cock-a-triss,” repeated Boldaphist. “Deadly creatures. Will stop yer heart and turn ya to stone just as soon as look at ya. I’m guessin' this one musta come about cuz of that black bit of chicken feed Yashir found that day. You were quite right to be suspicious of it from the start, laddie. That there was a Bramble Seed. Anyone who plants it, or has any animal that eats it has incredibly evil luck comin' their way. Not sure how it coulda come to be in yer possession, though. Anyhow, the chicken that ate the Bramble Seed musta laid an egg that held the cockatrice in it.”
Yashir’s head sunk. “I see. So that is what happened to them.”
“Yes, but the good news is, none of those stony people are dead! They’re just trapped in there, encased in the rock.”
When the dwarf said that, the young boy looked up. “What?” His lips began to curl into a smile for the first time since they’d met. “Do you mean to say that Vivi, and my parents... they are actually alive?”
Boldaphist nodded. “Yes I do, laddie. All ya gotta do is chisel yer folks and everyone else out of the stone… very lightly, mind you!... and you’ll find them perfectly right as rubies. Probably they’ll still be stiff like statues for a day or 2, but they’ll be quite fine.”
“But how are we to get to the people with this cockatrice running about?” asked Ari. “We don’t exactly want to risk anyone else getting turned.”
Boldaphist grunted. “Hmph, that is true.” The dwarf then banged his fists on the table, accidentally rattling a few cups and dishes, and stood up from his seat. It didn’t really give him much of a height difference, but it was still a dramatic gesture. “Well kind folks, I’ll be more’n happy to take care of yer pesky cockatrice problem. ‘Tis the least I can do to thank all of ya fer savin' me from dyin' of thirst out there, and kindly takin' me in like this.”
Yashir’s expression became frightened. “No, Boldaphist, sir! Won’t the cockatrice just freeze you as well?”
“Ah, but you forget, laddie. I’m a dwarf, not a man,” Boldaphist explained, winking at the boy. He pointed at his beady, granite grey eyes. “Me eyes are already made of stone, so that critter won’t have any effect on me at all.”
The uncles all started murmuring to each other, grinning at this incredible news. Ari stood up. “Very well, dwarf. We would be very grateful to you and be forever in your debt if you would rid our village of this cursed cockatrice.”
Boldaphist nodded proudly. “They don’t call me Boldaphist the Brave fer nothin'!”
The next day, the sky was once again a pale, deathly blue, with not a cloud in the sky as the sun climbed towards its apex. The dwarf approached the farmhouse of Yashir’s family, which no one had been to since that tragic day the cockatrice had attacked them. In his fists, he carried a huge, red double-edged axe, the blade part of it practically as big as himself!
“How… how are you able to hold that?” Yashir had asked him. He'd been quite shocked when Boldaphist had taken what seemed like a short stick out of one of his tool-belt pockets, only to see it extend suddenly and transform into an impressive weapon with a flick of the dwarf’s wrist.
“Ah, don’t ya worry about me, Yashir. I may not look it, but I’m about as strong as an ant. This here is nothing but a toy fer me,” he’d explained, and pumped the axe easily above his head like he was weight-lifting, purely for dramatic effect. Yashir’s eyes had widened in amazement.
Now, Boldaphist was all alone with his axe, hunting for the cockatrice. For some reason, it didn’t seem to be around, though its victims were all still standing around. The statues of all the poor men and chickens must have been baking for ages and ages under this desert heat. Boldaphist rubbed his sweaty forehead and thanked his lucky stars he’d never have to be in their shoes, being totally immune to the cockatrice’s stony curse.
He looked inside the hen house, and saw the forms of Yashir’s family, just as the boy had described them. Little Vivi, with her hands clutched to her face, her mouth formed in a perpetual scream of terror. The father, with his arms reaching out to her, trying to protect her, while the mother hugged him desperately, also with a terrified face.
Boldaphist sadly patted the stone woman’s back. He wasn’t tall enough to reach her shoulder. “Don’t worry ma’am. I’m gonna get all of ya out of here, just as soon as I deal with the monster that did this to ya. For yer boy, Yashir.”
Just then he heard a noise, coming from inside the house. A kind of gurgly, raspy kind of cluck that could have been a growl. Boldaphist's head turned and he gripped the handle of his axe tighter, wielding it above his head, ready if the creature decided to strike him.
Out walked the strangest little chicken you'd ever seen. Its body was a small, round mass of white feathery fluff, and where a chicken would have had its wings, the cockatrice had its legs, poking out from the sides and scaly black like an evil dragon's legs. It had bony spines sticking out of its back, and a red spiked tail waving back and forth as it waddled forward, head bobbing comically.
"Aw, hey there, little fella!" Boldaphist lowered his axe and crouched down, waving at the creature. He'd forgotten that the thing was only a couple of months old and, because it wasn't very dangerous to him personally, in its own creepy way he found it a little cute. The creature barely came up to his kneecaps.
The cockatrice saw him and tried to give the dwarf the stony stare. When it saw that it wasn't working, it gave a puzzled "bu-krawr?"
Boldaphist chuckled. "Hehe, yer tricks won't work on me, laddie." He stood up again and held up his axe. "Now it's time fer you to go."
He took a step forward, and suddenly the cockatrice hissed at him and shot at him faster than the dwarf thought was possible with its little monster legs. It was nothing but a blur.
Quickly Boldaphist dodged out of the way, and the thing barreled past him, missing. He swung around, and saw the cockatrice scratching at the dirt with its claws, not unlike a bull pawing its hooves to the ground at a bullfight.
Great granite, thought Boldaphist. Even for a young 'un, you've got quite a terrible speed on ya. Probably the Bramble Seed its mother had eaten before giving birth to it had been particularly nasty.
The cockatrice ran at him again, streaking like a bullet. Boldaphist tried to swing his axe at the reptilian bird, but he missed, and instead the creature got him, biting him in the leg.
"Yowch!" Boldaphist began hopping on one foot, temporarily dropping his weapon.
The cockatrice faced him again, rasping an evil hiss.
It hadn't done too much damage, really it was only a scratch, but it made Boldaphist fall over in his pain. He shook his fist angrily at the cockatrice. "Why, you little...!"
Ignoring him, the little monster bolted forward, intending to go in for the kill. It jumped up into the air, clawed feet extended in front of it, itching to dig into the dwarf's flesh.
Before that could happen, Boldaphist picked up his axe again, holding it in front of him like a shield and wincing his eyes closed.
He heard a heavy THUNK right next to him. Surprised to be unharmed, Boldaphist opened his eyes, looked beside him, and found a grey cockatrice statue lying on its side.
Grinning at how fortunate he was, the dwarf winked at himself in the shiny metal of his axe, which he had only polished earlier that morning. The poor creature hadn't had anyone to teach it that looking at its own reflection in a mirror was a fatal mistake.
"Hehe, not so tough now, are ya, ya little devil, you?" said Boldaphist, kicking at the stone cockatrice by his feet.
The statue wasn't quite frozen, though, and suddenly started to rattle on the ground, shaking with rage. "Uh-oh," said the dwarf, and he quickly swung his axe at the creature's neck, beheading it. The cockatrice stopped moving.
"That's more like it," Boldaphist said.
Yashir approached the statue of his mother slowly. He looked back at his short, brave dwarf friend, looking almost afraid. "Are you sure I can do this?"
"Of course you can, Yashir m'boy. You see everyone else workin' to free the stone people, and they're all fine, see?"
Indeed, Yashir's uncles were all working hard around them, with pick axes, hammers and chiseling nails, hacking away at the' tough, rocky prisons they'd been trapped in for nearly 2 months. Slowly but surely, hands and legs and faces were being freed, and the statues fell away to the living people still underneath.
The boy still hesitated. "I don't want to hurt her. Show me the way how, first."
"Alright, laddie, alright. Gimme yer chisel." When Yashir had handed him his tool, Boldaphist went to work, tapping lightly at the mother's leg. "I tell ya, there's nothin' to it. Ya just have to make some cracks in the stone and peel away the pieces."
After removing some stone bits, the boy started to see the dark, olive skin of his mother being revealed. He accepted the chisel that the dwarf handed back to him, and started carefully poking and scratching at her stone surface.
"You can do it a little harder than that, boy."
"Sorry." Yashir stood on his tiptoes and made the stone on his mothers face split into little pieces. Carefully he moved the pieces away, and he heard a shuddering gasp, then the sound of heavy breathing, like the person hadn't tasted fresh air in a long, long time.
"Mother!" Yashir worked quickly around her, though still being careful, freeing the rest of her face, her arms, her hair. Boldaphist just watched him, smiling a proud, bushy bearded smile.
"Y-Yashir?" Her voice was so weak, and though she was no longer encased in stone, she could barely move.
"Yes mother, it is me!" Yashir put down his tool for a moment so he could wrap his arms around her, hugging her tightly.
Slowly, stiffly, his mother's arms surrounded him as she returned the hug. "Oh, my Yashir. Your voice is music to my ears." Weakly, she pushed him back so she could get a good look at him. "I thought I would never see you again."
"I didn't either, until I met Boldaphist the Brave," said Yashir with a child's joyful smile. He turned around to point out the dwarf, but he was no longer standing where he had been.
Yashir frowned, glanced around for his friend, and he saw the dwarf already quite in the distance. He could see him riding a fat little donkey, pulling a cartload's worth of supplies, and holding a pea-green sun-faded parasol over his head. One of his uncles must have lent it to Boldaphist, to show the village's thanks.
The boy was disappointed to see his friend leave without properly saying goodbye. He let go of his mother and cupped his hands around his mouth. "I'll never forget you!"
He wasn't sure, but Yashir thought he could see the dwarf waving at him. He must have had a huge smile under that fantastic beard of his.
A couple of seconds later, right before Yashir turned around, so fast that he might have missed it had he blinked, he saw dwarf, donkey, and cart vanish into thin desert air.