The World of Stories and Fables Chapter 7

Katy Abby, Columnist

The next day was fairly calm. Everyone in the town was sluggish and lazy from the ball. A few were loudly complaining about headaches, and others were simply batting their eyelids tiredly, feigning awakeness. Chase, Arthur, and I, however, were well rested and ready to get to work. Once the sun rose, Arthur ushered us outside of the house and over to the castle.

He led us through the hallways, offering a greeting to those passing by, but never stopping long enough to hold a conversation. After a few twists and turns, we came to a large arched door and Arthur pushed it open.

The door gave away to a circular room, filled with books. Books lined the curved walls, and shelves that stretched towards the ceiling were packed with bound paper. A few desks lay between rows, and over at the far side of the room there was a hearth, crackling with snapping flames. I took in a deep breath, inhaling the gentle scent of musty parchment and rich smoke. The room, though enormous, was filled with warmth, giving it a cozy atmosphere. I wondered what it would be like to work there, surrounded by the pages and their soothing musk, encased in the warm embrace of the book filled room.

“You like it?” Arthur grinned. I started and nodded, blushing as I realized he had seen me ogle the library.

“It’s lovely,” I took a step forward, watching Chase as he flew off to one of the sections. “I bet it gets used a lot.”

“No, not really.” Arthur followed me, gazing up at the books. “Zander and I are really the only ones who spend a lot of time here. Kay and a few of the other knights will join me here, and occasionally Cendrillon will stop by for a new story, but I’ve always liked this place.”

“I can see why.” I nodded, awe filling my heart. “It’s really wonderful.”

“Well, I need to get to work.” Arthur said. I turned to him and watched as he pointed out a few sections. “There is where you can find maps, from just our kingdom of Animma to the larger continent of Confictura and the kingdoms that dwell there.” I frowned, none of those names sounded familiar. “And any history books will be there, got that?”

“Yeah,” I nodded slowly. Arthur turned to go, but I grabbed his sleeve. He glanced over his shoulder, holding my gaze curiously.

“Um, do we know where I came from yet?” I asked. “Can Zander find that out, or……” I trailed off, unsure how to continue. Arthur pivoted on his feet and leaned down, giving me a confident look.

“I’m sure Zander can figure it out, I’ll see if he can when I see him, can you wait until I get back?”

“Yeah,” I bit my lip. A moment passed, and feeling the need to lighten the mood, I added, “Just hurry up! Because when you come back, I’m going to know everything there is to know about this place!”

“Alright then,” Arthur took a step towards the door, returning my smile. “I expect you to be an expert. Good luck Artemis,” and with that, he left. My heart gave a little flutter, which I assumed was in anticipation of when he returned with news about my home. Thinking that was all it was, I turned towards the never ending expanse of literature before me and began in my pursuit of knowledge.

A few hours passed and I had read all about Animma. I knew about the four great wars that had ripped through the entirety of Conficture and how Vulgas and Animma remained enemies to that day. I had read about all the different creatures that had been catalogued in one field book, where I learned a great deal about dragons, mermaids, nymphs, and even the great magicians that came from unknown backgrounds. I even learned about a few heroes who could move mountains and defeat any evil. What was interesting was that one of the heroes I read about was Gilgamesh.

Apparently, back when the land was prosperous and the current king’s father was in power, Gilgamesh worked for the castle. He was a great wizard and loyal to the king. He helped any in need and everyone loved him, but one day something changed.

Gilgamesh disappeared for a few weeks, and when he returned, he brought back a worn book and a strange staff. Zander, who was apprenticing to Gilgamesh at the time, told everyone that his master had changed a great deal. But no one listened to him.

Then came kidnappings. Young girls and boys were taken in the middle of the night, and spirited away to some unknown danger. The people of the kingdom came to the king in mobs, begging for Gilgamesh to do something to find and save their children. One couple was extremely distressed. They cried out that their daughter, Kalliope, was deathly ill and if they didn’t get her back soon, they feared she would die of her disease before anyone could reach her. The king promised to ask Gilgamesh to lend his strength, but the wizard refused.

Upon dismissal, the parents took matters into their own hands. They passed out papers, describing their daughter and begged for any clues as to where she could have gone. Zander had received one such paper, and was surprised to find that he had seen the girl before. He rushed towards the castle, but was interrupted by a scream. On impulse he ran towards the house where a high-pitched sobbing was emanating.

Inside, he found a young woman and her husband. The woman appeared to be expecting, and she wobbled as she walked. Her husband was furious with scarlet cheeks. They cried out that their child of seven had been taken. Zander, who had begun to figure out who was behind the kidnappings, promised to find their boy. The wife thanked him profusely, telling Zander that the child responded to Arthur. Zander agreed to find their boy, and asked them to keep looking incase little Arthur had just wandered off.

With the couple looking for their boy, Zander used a spell to transport him to the castle. There, he ran into Gilgamesh’s study, and, as expected, found Kalliope and a young boy who resembled the worried parents by the old wizard.

Gilgamesh greeted Zander darkly, confused as to why he was there, it was Zander’s day off, after all. Zander responded with malice, repeated the same question he had asked at the start of all this, “Who is that little girl?” Gilgamesh smiled placidly, leaning on his staff and repeating the same answer he gave before. “She is my ward, a lame girl who I found, homeless and lost.” Gilgamesh smiled gently, his crooked teeth glittering.

“Homeless and lost.” The girl repeated, her voice small and pained as she stared at Zander with her empty gaze. Zander confronted Gilgamesh, unveiling the parchment with Kalliope’s portrait painted on. Gilgamesh glared at Zander with warning eyes, but Zander ignored him, instead he called out to the small boy. Arthur, upon hearing his name, ran over to Zander, who put an arm around the child protectively.

“You are a wise apprentice.” Gilgamesh sneered.

“Wise apprentice.” Kalliope echoed.

“What did you do her?” Zander asked, his gaze flickering over to the young girl, feeling uneasy as she returned his glance blankly. “What did you do to the other children?”

“Kalliope is a mistake.” Gilgamesh answered as he turned on his heels, his long, tattered robe swishing behind him.

“A mistake.” the child’s voice squeaked out.

“I found a new spell, and I needed test subjects.” Gilgamesh continued once he reached the window. Kalliope echoed his final couple words. “Children were the easiest to obtain. I took a couple and performed the spells. Kalliope was the first, and I made an error.”

“An error.” Zander shuddered as he watched the girl. The poor child. He hugged Arthur closer, who remained silent.

“The other children?” Zander had asked. “What of them?”

“Gone.” Gilgamesh looked back over his shoulder, his black eyes dark and amused. “I was successful with the ones after Kalliope. They don’t exist.”

“Don’t exist.” Kalliope’s young voice said.

“You killed them?” Zander’s eyes widened. Without a moment of hesitation, he whisked young Arthur into his arms and held him close.

“No, not really.” Gilgamesh turned, facing Zander head on, his back hunched into a gnarly curl. “They still exist.” He lifted his staff, which was golden with a large misty black orb on top. “Their bodies may be ash, but I have their essence here.” He tapped the black orb as Kalliope repeated him. Zander was mortified.

“You’ve what?! You have been charring children alive and doing what with their essence?”

“They make me more powerful.” Gilgamesh shrugged with a gruesome smirk. “And I plan to collect more. I will become the most powerful wizard in all of the universes, and there is nothing that will stop me. I will leave you, Zander with a warning, do not get in my way or you will suffer the same fate as the children.”

“As the children.” Kalliope whispered. Zander objected, he refused to let Gilgamesh get away. With Arthur still in his arms, Zander lifted his hand and motioned towards Gilgamesh, shouting a freezing spell. Gilgamesh countered, though, and blocked the spell with a dark mist. The mist filled the room and enveloped Zander with a sickly scent. Zander’s mind grew fuzzy and he fell to the ground with Arthur, both coughing and hacking as their bodies went numb.

When Zander came to, Arthur was sleeping peacefully next to him, in the empty room. It took a bit of sleuthing, but Zander soon found the book Gilgamesh had found the spell in. Zander was mortified to learn that the spell was used to rip the spirit out of a person’s body and uses it to increase the user’s overall magic.

Zander took action immediately. After making sure Arthur was okay, he was a bit dazed as Gilgamesh had used a pacifying spell on him, Zander warned the king and other kingdoms of the evil man, Gilgamesh.

Apparently, Gilgamesh remained quiet for most of the time. There were a few kidnappings, but no one could ever catch the cruel wizard. Over time, Zander worked with other wizards to increase security, but it did little to stop Gilgamesh. With each new child or person he took, he grew in power and magical might.

No one knew where Gilgamesh was, though according to one of Zander’s journals, he was somewhere in the southern mountain range. I would have to start there in my search for him.

As I reshelved the books, after copying a map with directions to the mountain range, Chase came running up to me, books piled in his hands.

“Artemis! Artemis! Do you want to come reading with me?! I found a book about a warrior princess you might like! She’s brave, just like you!” I chuckled, laughing at his enthusiasm.

“Alright, that sounds like fun. But first, I need you to tell me something.” I crouched down, meeting his gaze. “Where is the nearest market? I need to pick up a few things.”

“Well,” Chase said thoughtfully. “There’s one by the blacksmith, Arthur can take us when he comes back!” I nodded, thinking it would be best if Arthur didn’t tag along to see that I would be purchasing a week’s worth of supplies and food. Then again, I didn’t have any money, if I could just lose them in the market with a few coins I could figure something out..

“Very well,” I smiled, pushing to my feet. I would just have to cross that bridge when I got there. “Let’s go read, I’m excited to see what you found.” I smiled at the excitable child. Chase beamed back, grabbing my hand and pulling me over to the fireplace.

All the while, my thoughts were with Gilgamesh, and Arthur, and Kalliope, and Zander. I just hoped there was something I could do to help them.