The following is a kind-of true story from one of the multi-player games I’m playing, although I stretched the truth a bit. It’s a story about the mighty Hydra, but one may also consider it a story for the Jester King as well.
The legend of the lone Hydra
Gather around children, and hear the tale of the noble sacrifice a wild hydra once payed in the war against the immortal blight. Huddle up and listen to a legend that most likely turned the tides of battle before they tipped over to the immortals side. Sit and hear a story that is shared amongst troll and dwarf alike, and who even the few goblin survivors of Hidden Dangle carry in their hearts.
Like many stories of this era, the tale begins with grave news. The blight, the accursed blight that had taken so many lives before and would take many more lives still, suddenly appeared in the peaceful valley of Jester’s Ball. When the news of this threat spread, people thought it must have happened to the dwarves whom inhabited the mountains, for it were their gryphons who spread the curse like wildfire. Or it must have been trolls in the swamps, who were too slow and laid-back to intervene before it was too late.
But nay, it was neither of these! To the surprise of many it were the Goblins amongst whom the blight first appeared, and none were more surprised then the Goblins themselves. Their camps were surrounded by thick swamps on all sides, and those swamps were surrounded by Dwarven claimed mountains and forests overseen by elves. What place would be safer and more secure than their little alcove in the very mids of these guardians?
But alas, it was them among whom the blight first appeared, and it was them who fell before they could muster up a defence able of warding off the dead. In less than a day, the life bled out of the camp of Hidden Dangle and many others and turned its inhabitants into servants of the evil necromancer.
Leading these goblins twisted into hideous monsters was the Jester King. A man of royal status amongst his peers, who was already one known to care little for etiquette, duty and proper strategy when he was still alive.
But after his demise and a bath in the now corrupted waters of the gloomy well, the mind of the Jester King was twisted into even more wicked ways and he began to dance. He danced and he danced, and he compelled his fellow demised to share this dance of the mad.
Some say this dance is the late King’s last act of resistance against the blight, for while the undead would spread in all directions to lay waste upon all settlements around much faster, they too would be easy pickings once we mortals would muster up our defenses. And others say that it was no act of resistance that compelled the Jester king to dance this dance, but the mere habit to disrespect his superiors and wipe his arse with his responsibilities like he did when he were still a mortal man.
Be that as it may, the Jester King danced and by this decree he danced alone. Now this is an important thing to remember, for without his solitude this legend would have never been possible. Were he accompanied by a hundred Goblin or by just one, I would most likely lack the beating heart to tell this tale and you the freedom of mind to listen to it. But the King danced and left his minions far behind as he ran into the shadows of the swamps.
The Jester King danced and the Jester King ran, he ran with frighting speed towards the Troll caves of Crowswater and the Dwarven kingdom of Tiredpass. And for the trolls of Crowswater, this mad king would be the end of their tale. While being just a lone Goblin, the Jester King proved more powerful than the entire garrison of trolls and their fortifications. I have no doubt they fought valiantly, but the wicked movements of the king fueled by the dance of hundreds of Goblins was too much to handle for these unfortunate trolls and their caves fell to the blight.
The clan leaders of Tiredpass heard of this terrible act and knew of its danger, none suggesting that they should wait out this storm in the confinements of their fortresses. Every dwarven man and woman capable of wielding an axe was sent with all urgency to the troll village of Huntersmoor to support the living or give the dead their final rest. They ran as fast as Dwarves can run, hoping to reach the trolls in time but at the same time hoping the Jester King would not spare these trolls as well.
This thought may seem dark and grim, it was monstrous even to wish demise and blighting upon a fellow race, but it was the lesser of two dangers. Because while none wished this fate to the trolls, they rather faced these immortals over the hydra that were already fearsome alive, much more in death.
But alas, the Jester King’s resistance against his own curse did not prevail this time and he left the roads leading to Huntersmoor for the damp and dark swamps to the south, sensing beings of great power in that direction. Troll and Dwarf alike gasped in terror as they got word of this development, knowing the grave implications. Surely, the southern swamps would be all but lost to the living once immortal hydra would roam it.
And the Jester King ran. Ignoring the foul smells the swamps produced as he trumped through it, paying no heed to the many branches and vines tearing at his expensive garments as he ran to the promise of life to slay.
He ran and he ran, until he reached the hydra pits of Remembered pool, where a whole family of these long-necked swamp lizards were cautiously eying this foul-smelling threat. Hydras never allowed other beings into their den, and this man was no exception. Yet they were cautious, for even they could sense the great strength emanating from the small Goblin’s frame.
Why the six hydras didn’t attack all at once and tore the Jester King apart with ease is a mystery repeated many times before. It speaks for itself why they didn’t flee from their pit, we mortals would not leave our homes so easily either and these primal beings feel an even stronger instinctive urge to never abandon their place of birth to the blight. But why they wouldn’t fight back with the ferocity that their kind is feared for, is not as easily explained. Unlike us mortals, whose citizens are unable to fight against the immortals without weapons and training, they were all savage beasts armed with their fangs and massive frames.
Together, their strength could never be bested by the undead. Yet they all cowered and would lay down their lives without struggle if their alpha male were to be defeated, as many other mystical beings did before them. And alone, the alpha male stood no chance against this mighty foe.
The alpha looked down upon the small being invading his territory, making himself look as big as possible and revealing his terrifying teeth in a snarl. To any mortal man this display would be plenty of reason to soil his pants and run home to mommy. The Jester King was not impressed however, and began his dance macabre once again to call upon the strength of the many mad minions he left to reap havoc across the lands.
The alpha roared and swung two of its massive heads to the Goblin, attacking the puny creature from both sides to force it into a hasty retreat. His middle head loomed over this scene, carefully observing everything that happened and pondering about what could happen next.
Middle had always been the clever one, being more careful and patient than its two brothers whose necks had been severed and whose craniums had sustained lethal damage several times before. Middle never had to go through the shame and pain of growing back, and saved their body on numerous occasions when the other two fell to greater foes or clever ruses.
But Middle could comprehend the Jester King’s movements just as little as his brethren. As if the king were standing on the solid tiles of his once admirable throne-room rather than ankle deep in the mud, he danced vigorously and jumped over Right like the scaled nightmare were but a simple chair or table. Landing on top of Right, the Jester King bellowed a most maniacal laugh and planted his fist into Rights temple.
Middle lunged at the Goblin as fast as he could, but he couldn’t prevent his brother’s fate. As if Right’s skull were made of soft clay, the king’s hand broke right through it and send spasms of pain through the alpha’s whole body. Left and Middle winched when they felt his pain and Right’s eyes rolled into the back of his head, as if to see what the King’s hand was doing in there.
Then, Middle’s teeth found the Jester King’s torso and caught the tiny being in a deathly trap. Biting down on the rotting flesh so hard he almost tore the goblin apart, Middle raised his head and swung it from side to side with ferocious swings. Four times did he jerk his head violently to the sides before he opened his mouth to get rid of the disgusting piece of meat. The Jester King’s body flew away and hit a nearby stone wall with a sickening crunch.
Middle smacked his lips with disgust as he tried to get rid of the foul taste of the undead creature, while Left gently nudged the motionless body of Right. Middle knew this gesture was in vain, there was no way Right could’ve survive that attack. And he had to be put down even if he did. Middle looked down and placed his mouth around Right’s neck just underneath his skull. Bracing himself for the pain he too would feel, he bit down and started to chew and tear through the thick meat to sever Right’s head.
As Middle was focusing on this macabre but necessary task, Left nudged him for attention. Middle ignored him, he didn’t want to hear the youngster’s objections. Left nudged him again, more pressing this time. Again, Middle ignored him. He heard Left move away and felt a small sense of relieve that the young head wasn’t making an issue out of this.
Suddenly, he heard Left snarl viciously. Middle looked up, surprised and agitated, only to find Left’s attention directed somewhere else. Middle followed his gaze and to his surprise, he saw the small Goblin he killed just moments ago stand up again, chuckling despite his beyond lethal injuries.
The Jester King’s royal status was no longer visible to anyone but those who knew who this man originally was. His robes were more tattered than those of a beggar, his jewelery covered in gore and his body mangled beyond repair. His guts hanging out, his chest torn up to the bone and one of his arms hanging from a lap of skin. It was no strange thing that the Hydra had deemed him dead, even those familiar with immortal tenacity would be surprised to see a body so far gone still being able to move, much less stand up.
But the Jester King didn’t just stand up straight. His chuckle turned into a laugh and his torn up feet started to tap to a tune none but he himself could hear. And his one good arm raised to the sky to orchestrate an invisible choir while his torn arm swung along awkwardly. And the dance began once again, more enthusiastic and terrifying than ever.
Middle looked at this scene, his primal mind unable to process the information. Left snarled more viciously, his simpler thoughts less impressed by the superhuman feats of the Goblin. And then he shrieked in pain and surprise as hundreds of sharp teeth dug themselves into his neck.
Right moaned angrily as he tried to tear out Left’s throat, his glazed over eyes showing no emotion as he tried to kill his own brother. Middle looked down in horror before he himself bit down into the spot he had been chewing at just moments before, trying to kill Right before he could kill Left.
Left screamed in agony and fear, his panicking attempts to break free of this deathly embrace speeding up the process more than preventing it. Middle winched in pain as Left’s fangs scraped over his head and left nasty gashes around his eyes. But he pressed on and finally managed to chew through Right’s spine. Biting down as hard as he could before jerking his head to the side, Right’s head was torn of his neck and Middle screamed in agony as he too felt the immense pain of his brethren.
Left continued to scream, swinging his head violently to shake of the still latched on head of Right, the hydra’s jaws locked in place even after the curse left his body. Suddenly, the head shot loose and flew out of sight.
Middle looked at Left, who was panting hysterically. The young head had never been so scared and helpless before, and even now he could feel the blood gushing out of his veins. He couldn’t focus, he couldn’t think. He couldn’t react when a small frame shot at him like an arrow from a bow.
Left screamed again, his fear regained faster than even the Jester King’s movements. But not by a lot, because the speed with which the king slashed through hydra’s open wounds with his one good arm was terrifying.
Unable to come up with a better plan, Middle could only bash his head into the Goblin as fast as he could, sending it flying once again. Beside him, Left’s head fell to the ground lifelessly, the wounds upon wounds too much to handle for any living being.
Middle wept a single tear as bit down upon the already battered part of Left’s neck but showed no mercy and spared no energy trying to chew it off. With ferocious prowess he tore through the flesh before Left would rise again like Right. Mere moments later, there was nothing more than tatters hanging from the left neck.
Middle rose his head again, trying to find the man responsible for all of this. His brethren would grow back again in due time, but that creature threatened not only his very existence but the future of his family. And if his first attempt didn’t kill the creature, a mere nudge like that wasn’t going to either.
Middle looked around, trying to come up with a strategy as his eyes wandered around the familiar breeding grounds he lived in all his life. With both his brothers gone, he not only lost over half his combat strength but gained two cumbersome appendages to worry about as well. Beating this Goblin was not going to be easy.
Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in his chest and looked down. Below him, in his blind spot, was the Jester King tearing into his flesh. Slashing through his flesh and ribs as if they were paper mache, the creature had already inflicted mortal wounds upon the alpha’s body and Middle stumbled back. To cover this soft spot his neck could not reach, he instead fell over to ensure the wounds would be protected by his entire weight.
The Jester king jumped back and chuckled. Middle looked at him and snarled. If he were to tear off the king’s head, the accursed creature ought to stay dead. Middle lunged and the Jester king jumped out of harms way.
But the next moment, the Jester King felt himself caught by surprise as a hundred teeth enveloped themselves around him. Where most mystical creatures, hydra or otherwise, would aim for the head to sever it from the body, Middle had instead targeted the body. Knowing the Goblin were most likely fast enough to dodge, Middle has instead planned to bite into the body.
The Jester King reacted just as Middle expected by suddenly changing direction and placing his whole body within the monstrous mouth. Where no living being would ever willingly imprison itself into these fangs, the undead king felt no fear when he got swallowed up by Middle and began to tear into his insides with vigor.
With his last ounce of strength, Middle rose up and looked at his family. He knew he couldn’t survive the king’s assault for long, and he knew what would happen if he would allow himself to die like this. He knew, because he could already feel the blight coursing through his veins.
A single tone arose from his throat and turned into a beautiful song rarely heard by mortal ears. From all around, the swamp gases that ignited in blue and green flames flared up more brightly and turned to the Alpha hydra’s direction as if searching for the source of this magical sound. Then, the swamp wisps rose from their marshes and floated towards Middle.
The ground around him dried up and the humidity in the air dissipated as dozens of wisps started to circle around the singing hydra. Middle didn’t like this new sensation of dry skin, but he sang on. Then, his body suddenly caught on fire and the roaring of the flames mixed with the unearthly sound of his voice. For the first time, the Jester King screamed in actual fear as he franticly tried to claw his way out of harm’s way and the heads of Right and Left burned to crisps as Middle’s voice faded away.
The wisps floated back to their marshes again and the still smoldering body of a mangled Goblin tried to crawl away before it literally crumbled into dust.
And that, children, is the tale of the lone hydra. A feat of bravery few beings could match, for even a mighty hydra would often see itself come short when facing an immortal lord alone. And if it weren’t for Middle being as wise and experienced as he was, or if the Jester King had brought servants along, this tale wouldn’t have had the bittersweet ending that it has.
As you can imagine, the trolls of Huntersmoor and the dwarves of Tiredpass reveled in joy as they heard of the unexpected victory of the mighty hydra against the immortals. Suddenly, the threat that had seemed like an unavoidable disaster became a problem they could deal with.
The war was far from over, even for this small valley, but this single act of sacrifice had inspired hope into the hearts of everyone who was still fighting. And with the help of the lone hydra’s family, that hope would not go to waste.