Story 2: Victor and the Hydra of Lake Ferruco Part 1
A little explanation for this story:
In Poisonroot, Victor accidentally signed away the rights to his stories and J. R., a travelling bard/minstrel/teller of tall tales, would romanticise them and sell them to the masses. This is one such story.
Essentially, this is in-world fanfic for my own character :D
Victor the Victor in
VICTOR AND THE HYDRA OF LAKE FERRUCO
As told to J.R.
It was a bright morning and the sun was riding high as Victor strolled down the road. He was feeling good after the adventure he had just finished, up in the mountains of Zar, and his bag was weighed down with many gold coins and jewels. He dug one out and held it up to the light, an enormous ruby as big as a hen’s egg. It sparkled and shimmered, casting red light onto his face and tightly-cropped hair.
The cry came from someone around the next corner, hidden by a fence. There was a scream, then the sound of an immense roar as if some gigantic creature had suddenly appeared. Victor stuck the ruby back into his pack and sprinted for the corner, already drawing his weapon. Valour, his longsword, glittered menacingly in the sunlight as he ran.
He skidded to a stop as a bright flash of colour rippled across the road. The people in the road up ahead stopped what they were doing and stared back at him. Three of them, dressed in a fancy costume made of paper and wood painted up to look like a hydra slowly took their hats off and gaped at him. The audience, watching patiently, looked ready to run at a moment’s notice.
Then he started to laugh deeply, sheathing his sword and walking towards the people. They looked at each other and then back at the laughing man, then slowly began to laugh themselves. Soon everyone was laughing until tears rolled down their faces, and Victor, finally tiring, clapped one of the men on the back.
“I seem t’have disturbed your festival,” he said.
The man shrugged. “It’s not so bad. We do this every year to keep the hydra away, but no-one’s seen it in so long that we do it more for fun and good food now.” He pointed over to a nearby meadow where a few tents and stalls were set up. Coloured flags flickered gaily in the wind and children ran from one adult to another gathering sweets and favours.
Victor felt the wind and sun on his face and suddenly desired to be doing nothing more than walking among the stalls and sampling the local goodness. He slung his bag off his back.
“Mind if I join ye?” He held out a hand. “Victor.”
“Jeryl,” the other man said, shaking Victor’s hand. “Jeryl Baker.” He swept his long brown hair back from his eyes and wiped the sweat from his brow. “Let us finish this pageant and I’ll give you the tour. Why not let my son show you around?”
“Sure thing,” Victor replied, backing away. “You does what you has to.” He stepped back until he could see the whole show as Jeryl replaced the amazingly detailed hydra head back on his body. Shame it’s not accurate, Victor thought. Hydra heads had longer pointy snouts than that, that hooked down for disembowelling. Their necks were longer relative to their body, and they had four heads to start with, not three. Still, near enough.
The act seemed to revolve around a small boy being chased by the Hydra until tiredness, though it was the adults in the costume that tired first. The boy, grinning fiercely, allowed himself to be ‘caught’ by the hydra and shrieked for help. From the mouths of the costume a loud roaring came and Victor fingered the hilt of Valour, itching for the fight that should follow that roar. That, at least, was close enough.
Finally, someone ran up to the hydra and swung a wooden sword at it. The blow hit the creature’s side and Victor heard the audible “oof, watch it!” from whoever was under the strike. The hydra coughed once, fell over and lay still, leading the watching audience to start cheering and clapping.
As they dispersed, the boy of about seven who had been captured wandered over to Victor.
“Hello,” he said boldly. “I’m Jer Baker, Jeryl’s son. You’re Victor, yes?”
“I’m to show you round, sir. Where shall we start?”
Victor’s stomach decided things for him by suddenly growling deeply. “Food, I think,” he said.
A short while later, clutching a meat pie and a pint of frothing local ale, Victor was sat on a bench questioning Jer.
“So then, what part did you play, young man?”
Jer grinned. “I’m Boryck, the boy who stumbled into the Hydra of Lake Ferruco’s lair and got eaten for his trouble.”
“Looks like you came out of it ok,” Victor said, taking another deep gulp.
“Better than Boryck did. He died before Haskin the Hero could get to the hydra and slay it in one strike. But they saved his body and some say,” Jer said, his voice dropping to a ghostly whisper, “the the spirit of the boy still walks on the island in the centre of the lake.” He shrugged. “But I don’t believe that. I’m nearly eight, you know!”
Victor smiled and ruffled the boy’s hair. At that moment, Jeryl came up, looking hot.
“I see you’ve made yourself comfortable here. That’s good,” he said. “Are you passing through?”
“On your way to Loknir no doubt?”
Victor nodded. “The Low King has requested my presence. Can’t say I know what for, though. He has plenty of swords to do his biddin’”
Jeryl’s eyes widened at the mention of the king. “You are to be a guest of our King? Then the least I can do is have you as a guest of mine this evening. We have comfier beds than the inn and a warmer hearth to boot.”
“I don’t want to impose,” Victor said, but he could see Jer nodding behind Jeryl’s back. He smiled ruefully. “But I can’t turn down an offer like that!”
Jer and Victor talked long into the evening, and when the young boy finally fell asleep his father carried him off to bed. Victor took a sip of a glass of red wine he had been given and smacked his lips. Dinner had been wonderful, and Jeryl’s wife had been full of laughter and interest at his stories.
Jeryl came back. “Lad fair talked himself to sleep,” he said, chuckling. “Never seen the like; normally we have to chase him up and down the house to get him to lay his head down!”
Victor smiled, but said nothing.
“You ever had children?” Jerly asked. “You’re a natural.”
“No,” Victor said, shaking his head. “Never had the time, I think. Or the want.”
“It’s worth it,” the baker said. He sipped at his own glass and stared out into the night. They were sat on the porch of Jeryl’s house which looked out over the fields. There was a companionable silence broken only by the sounds of the night.
“Ferruco Lake’s near here, you know,” Jeryl said. He pointed out into the darkness. “Right there’s a hill; behind it lies the lake.”
“Quite a story you folks have,” Victor said. “Hydra, I mean.”
“Ah, it was so long ago. Perhaps it never really happened. I mean, hydras.” Jeryl laughed. “Who believes in hydras?”
“Seen on,” Victor said. “Fought it. Nearly had me, but… it didn’t.”
“You fought a hydra?” Jeryl said. “Pull the other one, it’s got-“
Suddenly, an enormous roar rent the air. Victor shot to his feet. It had come from the direction Jeryl had pointed. It had come from Ferruco Lake.
“Stay inside!” Victor said, grabbing at Valour, which was leaning up against the wall. “Look after your family.” He started to move off into the night, towards the sound, as Jeryl went inside.
He had been walking quickly for less than five minutes when he heard footsteps on the road behind him and heavy breathing. He turned around, sword out but held down, to see Jeryl running up the road, his face beetroot red.
“It’s… Jer…” he gasped, almost collapsing, as he reached Victor. “He woke up while we were talking! Left the house, Tree knows why. He does it sometimes, but I thought he was asleep! Perhaps he’s sleepwalking again.”
Victor scowled. This complicated things. He grabbed Jeryl by the shoulders and drew him up.
“Now you listen,” he said. “We will find your boy. We’re going to the lake and we will bring back Jer. Can you run some more?”
Jeryl nodded, trying to catch his breath.
“Do you have a weapon?”
The man shook his head and Victor scowled again. He pulled out a knife from his boot and gave it to Jeryl.
“Better than nothing,” he said. “Now, are you ready to run?”
Jeryl nodded, and without another word Victor turned and jogged towards the dark hill in the near distance. In the moonlight everything looked grey or silver, and he had no trouble avoiding small bushes and the occasional stump.
As he climbed the hill, the lake beyond came into view. Sure enough, the surface of the lake was boiling up and, down by the shore, a small figure was about to stride directly into it. As soon as the boy’s feet touched the water, he seemed to jerk back, as if waking up, and stumbled. He fell as the lake’s bubbling suddenly seemed to reach a fever pitch.
Then, without warning, a massive spout of water erupted from the centre of the lake and, from out of it, an immense snakelike head thrashed around in every direction. A second head gushed out, and then a third. Finally, a fourth, dragging out onto the land two dozen feet from the boy, bringing with it a long sinewy body and tail, four short legs just keeping its bulk above the ground.
Jeryl, staring down at the scene open-mouthed, suddenly started forwards. “Jer!” he shouted, “Jer! Come back!”
The boy seemed to pay not attention and Victor realised that Jer was rooted to the spot by fear. He pulled back Valour and gathered his strength for a charge.