A quest, a hero, what could go wrong? Plenty in this humorous short story by renowned author Charles Gramlich,
A TALE OF SIGFRED THE HERO
Sigfred the hero turned his gaze from the distant castle of his enemy to the small band of followers gathered around him:
“You all know the black-hearted villain of a sorcerer that dwells in that castle,” he said to the men. “His walls are manned by a thousand undead warriors. He has five hundred war-hounds trained to tear the living limb from limb. His throne is guarded by demon apes summoned from the blackest depths of hell. He can turn himself into a dragon. But we have one thing he’ll never have.”
“Uhm, what is that?” asked Omar, Sigfred’s right-hand man.
“Our loyalty and our love for the princess who even now lies chained in the sorcerer’s foulest dungeon.”
The men around Sigfred shifted from foot to foot. Their gazes found Omar, who they’d chosen the night before as their spokesperson. Their shifting eyes and nods encouraged him. He winced, then cleared his throat. Finally, he spoke:
“Uh, well, see, about that, boss.” Omar gestured around at the others. “None of us have even met Princess Ardwalla. We know you kinda like her and have been offered her hand in marriage, but the king has sixteen other daughters.” Omar attempted a small smile. “You know what they say: There are plenty of other princesses in the kingdom.”
“Meaning?” Sigfred asked, frowning.
“Meaning that we, the men, were thinking that we might be better off returning to the city and storming a few kegs of ale instead of trying to beard that sorcerer in his lair. Who’s gonna miss one princess out of many?”
Sigfred could not believe what he was hearing. He stared at each of the men in turn but saw only resolve in their eyes. Not one of them intended to accompany him into this perilous fray. He glanced once more toward the castle of the wickedest wizard ever to visit this land. It loomed like a dark blot of rot on the horizon. Giving a long sigh, he turned back to his men:
“Screw it,” he said. “But I want mead instead of ale.”
About Charles Gramlich
Charles Gramlich moved to the New Orleans area in 1986 to teach psychology at a local university. He’s since published four novels, two nonfiction books, two collections of short stories, and a chapbook of vampire haiku.