The Beast Slayer's Apprentice

by James

This natural world of ours full of wonders. Sprinkled with horrors too. The Black Widow spider springs first to mind, the female who rips the head from her mate then consumes his flesh to feed their children. A myth they say. A myth! Why would the good Lord put such creatures on our wonderful earth?

A myth, perhaps. But I say look closer.

Let me take you to the banks of the River Oose, where a cosy inn hunkers for shelter from the steamy forbidding dark forests spilling from the mountains above. Only a fool walks at night, and look, meet Geoffrey de Puce, a young man on the cusp of graduation from imbecile to full oafhood. He left the comfort of the inn, not for him the two penny benches near the fire, because what could be cosier than a stable stuffed with hay and four hooved heating?

But not just horses in this stable.

Geoffrey crossed the yard where he chanced to meet a young lad stood facing the open stable door. This boy’s teeth were gritted, his eyes bulging. He was clinging with both hands to a long sword with tip grinding sparks from the cobbles.

‘Whot ho,’ Geoffrey said brightly.

More sparks from the cobbles as the boy’s whole being tensed. Geoffrey followed his gaze.

Something was moving at the open door of the stable. It was silvery pink in the moonlight.

‘I say,’ Geoffrey said. ‘That’s a filly’s leg, no?’

Geoffrey took a step closer. From the other side of the door slid something into view, something slender, something pinky.

‘By jove, there’s another one!’

Geoffrey was plucking at his collar, smoothing out imagined creases in his jupon.

Two more legs appeared, hissing into view from the top of the door.

Geoffrey’s eyes shone. ‘I say, acrobats! From the dusky East? Of course! At the village of Plwmp they were setting up a show!’

He scampered for the stable. The boy drew his sword from the cobbles, but could only manage a whisper - ‘sir, no. You mustn’t.’

Geoffrey reached the stable door where now eight beautiful slender pink legs were reaching for him. As he crossed the threshold they were all whisked away in an instant.

‘Ladies! Oh ladies, where are you hiding?’ Geoffrey called.

It wasn’t the lad’s fault of course. His orders were stop it leaving, not stop randy idiots going inside. His sword returned to scrape the cobbles, the boy’s stomach turning cartwheels until at last a prick of light grew into the blazing brand held above the grim reassuring countenance of his master.

‘I got the oil and the flame,’ the beast slayer said. ‘The bitch still inside?’

At that moment a scream sang, cut mid cry by a sound akin to a champagne cork popping fleshily. Something shot from the stable, rolling gently across the cobbles before coming to rest at their feet.

Geoffrey’s face looked up at them, still full of vim and vigour, but his eyes not so much.

The beast slayer smiled in grim satisfaction.

‘She’ll be too busy feeding. Here, you take the oil. I have the fire.’