|Series||Fable: The Return by Scorponix|
|← Chapter 11||Chapter Chronology||Chapter 13 →|
The king stares into the face of an ancient and powerful foe.
The giant Pale Balverine pushes and shoves its way through the massive horde of albino hobbes. Its distorted snout snarls and barks at the illuminated face of the king. Its claws are long like knives and its teeth are as white as its fur. The balverine gets to the front of the army, and stands straight and tall, towering over the king. Its eyes glare down onto him, burning yellow orbs within a pale and demonic skull. A long strand of drool drops from the still snarling snout of the beast. The king readies his fires in both of his palms.
"It has been a long time since a Hero has come to our borders." The Balverine speaks with perfect tongue, distorting his jaws to do so.
"You…you can speak?"
"Of course I can speak, I have always spoken, eons before you were even prophesied boy."
The king is speechless, he has not seen a balverine talk since his run in with a murderer from Silverpines.
"You have nothing to fear from me Hero. The hobbes will only attack if I do, and I do not intend to strike you."
"You aren't going to fight me?"
"No no no, unlike the rest of my brood I am not a reckless savage."
"Your brood?" The king is quite confused at this.
"Oh, pardon my rudeness, I suppose I am foolish for believing that people still remember me. Allow me to introduce myself," The giant balverine extends a very long and terrifying hand. "My name is Woltach." The king again looks confused. "And of course, a Hero from the surface does not know the meaning of my name. Nobody ever does, nobody has understood my name for centuries, many of them."
"I'm sorry, your name is just not familiar to me. I mean no disrespect by it."
"No I know you mean no disrespect. And there is no need to be so proper with me, Heroes are never proper, that's why they killed them all."
"Not all Woltach, one of my ancestors survived."
"Obviously," Woltach seems to be getting impatient with him.
"And I have been raised to be proper, I am the king after all."
"King?!" Woltach howls out the word. "What king?! Have I been thrust back to the Old Kingdom?! Are you one of those accursed Archon figureheads?"
"No, kind creature. Much has changed, I believe, since you have last been to the surface. I am the king of Albion, my father was king before me, the first king to rule Albion since the Old Kingdom."
Woltach spits his fowl saliva in front of the king's feet. "A king…bah! And what exactly do I owe for the pleasure of the gracious 'King of Albion' to walk to my doorstep and slaughter my pets?"
"I…I am seeking a way out. I found myself into the ruins of the Guild and my way out was no longer an option. I ventured down here into the darkness in hopes of finding a way back to the surface." The king begins to look worried once more.
"A way back to the surface? Well, you may indeed have come to the right place, but we have not gone to the surface in a very long time. Opening the wall to the outside may…make me…hungry."
"Is…there any other way out of these caves?"
"No." Woltach stares deeply into the eyes of the king and watches the flickering of his flames. His long, slimy tongue slips out of the monstrous jaws and flicks on Woltach's teeth. The king observes the balverine's enormous body, his tremendous girth of muscle, and his aged face.
"Is there anywhere we can…discuss things? A place where an army of hobbes is not staring me down with murderous intent?"
"Ha…but of course." Woltach raises one of his giant hands and the horde splits in two. "Follow me…your majesty." The king follows behind Woltach at a safe distance, being sure to watch his back as he passes through the angry hobbes. They come to the very center tower that looms over the great wooden city. This is the large stone and wooden tower that houses the Guild Seal stories above them. Woltach leads the king up flights of well-supported steps, to the very top. Up there, the giant room is home to a floor of grand and plentiful furs. There is also a throne fit for a massive White Balverine in the very front of the room, looking over the opening above the giant Guild Seal. The king walks to this balcony-type area and stares down, he has only now forgotten that he is the only light here, he is only looking down into darkness. But, he can feel the eyes of thousands of hobbes glaring angrily into his soul.
Woltach speaks first, "Marvelous isn't it?"
"My city. When I first arrived into these caverns I found this small settlement of hobbes, doomed to die off this far underground." Woltach stands tall and proud, his canine arms wrapped behind his muscular back. "I came to them, helped them to place a foot in the ground and actually survive. They very quickly accepted me as a leader, almost even as their god. Throughout the centuries we built up this civilization…and I day by day resisted my urge to slaughter them all. I kept them as company, something to raise and nourish rather than consume and infect. Then, when the Guild fell, we took advantage of the rubble and we built this city to be the greatest hobbe civilization in known history."
"How old are you Woltach?" The question throws the balverine off. He takes a very long time to think.
"I do not know." The balverine looks somewhat sadly into the king's eyes. "You will be able to leave when it is morning…on one condition."
"What may that be?"
"When the wall opens, and you crawl your way back to whatever royal dwelling stands in Bowerstone in this age, you will not return here. Not to slaughter us all at least, we have lived here longer than Bowerstone itself has even existed. I am older than Albion, older than the oceans, than the krakens…Sleep, Hero. You will leave when you awake…and if you ever return to us, you must promise to have it be a peaceful return. We will not harm you if you return the favor."
"And what if what you said comes to be real? What if you become hungry?"
"Then you will no longer be in any position to return…Sleep"