THE BROWN SCORPION
There was a villain
Who became a monster
Who by the need of a little princess
Became a hero
—Wizard Marshal Chronicles
The Brown Scorpion grinned as his eyes fastened on what he saw. Below in the distance, escorted by two knights of shiny armor, rolled the glorious coach. Coming between a wooded hill on the left and a crop of boulders on the right, a tan-gray dust cloud trailed behind her. She was a stylish carriage pulled by four white horses. She ran swiftly drawing closer and closer to her peril.
The Brown Scorpion turned to his partners. “Gnat, Tick,” he spat. “We go down at my signal.”
Atop their dark mounts, Gnat the fat and Tick the thin, each of sinister gray eyes, furrowed their brows and tightened their jaws as they poised for their boss’s beckon.
TheScorpion placed a cupped hand on the side of his mouth, “Beetle! Be ready!” he yelled.
With wave of hand and putting heel to his black steed Scorpion beat a hasty descent over the rough mountain route. Gnat and Tick, clothed in deerskins, followed close behind.
The coach shook and rattled on the bumpy road. Now one could read the R-O-A-C-H blazed across the door. She rumbled on, she and her silver-clad cavaliers on bay stallions, with no clue of the threatprepared for them—to the strike point as they neared the mountain’s base.
Of gray-white shirt open revealing his great bronzed chest, Beetle the eight-foot giant of long black hair and bulging muscles pushed the partially cut big oak. With a crunching groan the tree fell into the coach’s path bringing the horses to a hoof-grating halt. Women’s screams now filled the air. The knights turned their heads toward the mountain. Their faces paled and mouths gaping, their eyes widened as they froze in their saddles.
From the high ground Scorpion first noted ‘twas the Cock himself that drove the coach with an archer sitting beside him. Scorpion and his two men armed with bows unleashed a storm of zinging arrows that struck the coach’s side. The two knight escorts raised their shields thwarting more feathered bolts. They formed a line of defense against the oncoming threesome who forsook their bows and reached for thespears in their saddle scabbards.
A spear from Gnat lodged in the archer’s shoulder, sent his arrow awry and felled him off his seat to the ground.
Scorpion charged and met the two knight escorts in combat. Tick joined him keeping the knights engaged in a spark-flying double-duel of clashing blades. Scorpion laughed at his adversaries’ poor skill. They were not nearly an equal for him and Tick.
To certain the knights’ uselessness, Beetle, who bynow having lumbered onto the scene, snatched them from behind and threw them to the dirt making the armored ones clank and clatter. Beetle’s sledgehammer fists smashed their helmets sending the knights to doze with the tweeting dark fairies.
Cock drew sword and Gnat, to keep the driver duly occupied, matched weapons with him. In the length of a swine’s tail Gnat managed a strike to the hilt and dashed Cock’s sword from his hand. Gnat smiled and kept a guard on Cock.
The coach stripped defenseless, the riders dismounted. Tick grabbed a handle, swung the door open and stuck his long nose inside.
“Out!” Tick ordered.
The first passenger to step forth was one all in the kingdom knew—the rich and grand Lady June Bug. June Bug gave Scorpion such a dark stare a lesser man’s knees might have shook. She wore her hair in a high top bundle. A husky woman of profound bosom, she wore a blue dress of flared sleeves and pleatedskirt.
The next passenger stepped out. Ah…Scorpion silently sighed at the beauty of Princess Cricket. She of hourglass build and thick copper braid that hung over her shoulder and caressed the left portion of her shapely form, wore a long, flowing aquamarine tunic tied with a white belt that hugged her narrow waist. A band of glittering diamonds circled her forehead.
It was also widely known that Princess Cricket of the Capitulates was coming to visit Princess Beeof the Risenlesses. Both were engaged to be married. Cricket to Serge of the Fallmores and Bee to Selwyn of the same family. Too, the Scorpion had received word from an informer who required a sizeable cut of the bounty, that the Roach Coach carried a shipment of gold and silver—a payment from King Earwig Fallmore to King Risenless to distribute among the workers for their labors building city walls and towers and other important edifices for the new Fallfersure city.
The third passenger was the renowned princess’ protector Sir Goodfellow.
“Be wary there, fancy breeches,” Tick growled. “If ye goes fer yer blade I’ll slice up one of these women.”
Goodfellow raised his hands. “No. Don’t do that. I beg you. I’ll brook no aggression while the ladies are endangered.” Goodfellow carefully stepped out. Tall and slender with small dusky moustache and slick-backed hair, he wore a black shirt of glittering gold vest andtight-fitting ebon pants with a line of embroidery that resembled daisy petals running down the sides. He had a slight quake and Scorpion read fear in his eyes.
“Oh!” Princess Cricket exclaimed. “It’s the infamous Brown Scorpion!” Cricket put a hand on her breast and almost swooned, Lady June Bug having to steady her.
“How do you know ‘tis he?” asked Sir Goodfellow.
“Why by his namesake emblazoned on his tunic,” Cricketsaid.
“Oh,” Sir Goodfellow said. “That might identify him indeed.” Goodfellow cleared his throat. “You seem to have the better of us ol’ chap.” He cautiously went for his weapon. “I surrender my sword.” Scorpion took Goodfellow’s steel and sheathed it. “And my dagger.” Scorpion tucked the blade under his wide belt.
“Goodfellow, you coward!” Princess Cricket exclaimed.
Judging Cricket’s expression, Scorpion thought she was sickened by Goodfellow’s cooperation. Too bad.
“Nay not that,” Goodfellow said. “Survival’s the best strategy here. I choose to live to fight another day as the saying is.”
“Good day to you, your Highness,” Scorpion tipped his red plumed hat and gave the charming princess a winsome smile.
At that Cricket threw herself at him, curled her arms round his neck and kissed him.
Women always became as warm butter for Scorpionand Princess Cricket was like any other. He feasted on her sweet lips and it sent ripples of honeybee delight through him. His soul spiraled to the clouds, aye, but no doubt to taste him did so much more for her. It likely took her to the gates of heaven itself. For God had blessed women to partake of him. He spellbound women, loved them for what they were—mere playthings in his hands. He’d enjoyed many. True they might steal his attention and affections for a time but no fair maidhe swore was bright enough to capture his heart. He could sweep this girl off her feet right now but women were plentiful. Gold was harder to come by.
“Stop that now, Cricket!” Lady June Bug protested. “This man means to rob us.”
Cricket broke off from Scorpion and gasped for air. “But June Bug, he’s so irresistible.” She kissed him again.
“Stop it I say.” June Bug whacked Cricket with her fan. But when Cricket heeded her not she grabbed the princess by the arm and yanked her safe distance away.
Cricket breathed a gusty sigh.
Lady June Bug put her hands on her hips and spouted, “It’s a shame one so strikingly handsome should be a dastardly highwayman.”
The last passenger, a very grim-looking chap with black piercing eyes and pointed beard sat in the shadowy corner of the coach. With his arms folded across his chest, he of high collared cloak seemed under no alarmand in no hurry to exit.
Brown Scorpion narrowed his gaze at this disturbing character. Though the man possessed no weapon that could be seen, icy slivers of dread chilled Scorpion’s blood. For unlike the other passengers, this dark one seemed apparently unafraid and not the least bit bullied by Scorpion and his thieve band. That did not set well with Scorpion. He was accustomed to being a body-trembling terror to all that suffered the dire fate of encountering him. This scumdog however, had Scorpion not a spine of iron, would have struck terror into him.
“Out with you!” Scorpion ordered, hiding the tight strings of unease that gripped him to the core.
The man stared at him then slid across the seat and climbed out of the coach. Straight and immovable was the cloaked one’s stance as he watched with merciless intent while Scorpion’s men began to pillage the wealth of the passengers.
Scorpion spied hard the stiffened one, never once relenting. He gritted his teeth over the proud knave. Who did this dog think he was? Did he think himself a steel champion and would he try at any moment to prove his metal with a lightning swift heroic charge? But the man did nothing but remain still.
“Get the bag,” Scorpion told Tick. Fixed on Tick’s saddle was a hemp sack sizable to carry loot. Returning, he with swordpoint first to Goodfellow’s neck, then proceeding to the ladies,collected rings, necklaces, bracelets and locket watches even Princess Cricket’s diamond studded circlet.
Cock observed all that was happening with a wary eye and, hoping for an opportunity, he slowly reached for his dagger.
But Scorpion had already poised a dagger of his own. “That’s right, driver,” Scorpion said. “Ease that thing out nice and easy and drop it on the ground.”
Cock bit his teeth over the matter but complied with Scorpion’scommand. Cock’s dagger thudded as it struck the earth.
Gnat, after pillaging a key from Cock, curled a lip and showed the prize to Scorpion. “One guess what this goes to, boss.”
“Aye,” Scorpion said. “Down with it,” he pointed with his chin toward the railing atop the coach.
Beetle the giant reached up and grabbed a hold of the chest.
“Argggh,” Beetle groaned in his deep drawl. He set down the load. “Heavy.”
“Good,” Scorpion said. “That means it’s full.”
Gnat and Tick nodded and grinned in enthusiastic agreement.
“Unlock it,” Scorpion told Gnat. When Gnat did he threw open the chest’s lid. His eyes grew big as apples when he along with his master and comrades saw the bounty of gold and silver coinage.
Then when all the gold, jewels and assorted valuables had been pilfered from the coach travelers, Scorpion’s men gathered near thegrim one.
Scorpion raised a hand prompting a hesitation in their approach. “Who be ye, sir?” he asked the dread one who frowned. “I perceive the stone heart of defiance in you. What mean you? And by what foolish design do you purpose to deter me?”
The wind picked up blowing everyone’s hair and the sky darkened. Thunder boomed and big raindrops began a slow fall. The man looked at him coldly. “I know you, Brown Scorpion. Long have I despised you. You andyour men be a foul stench that shall be removed. I am the Ant King and Wizard Marshal. I am the law that will stop you. This day justice shall be served and you will ravage the innocent no more.”
The Scorpion tired of this scum dog. He put the point of his blade into the pompous one’s chest. “I asked you a simple question you cursed dungfly. Big mouth, you’ll have a big heartache and a busted head if you don’t turn over your treasures forthwith!”
He of the cloak glared at him. “I carry not any treasures save the power that is within me. I shall make you regret this day for the rest of your miserable life.”
Scorpion drew nose to nose with this snooty bragger and snarled. “How so, you filthy son of a swine?”
The Ant King shot up his hands. “Feel my sting, Scorpion!”
A flash of blinding white light engulfed the wizard and sent Scorpion reeling. White rays struck him and each of his threecomrades stunning them and felling them on their backsides. Only Scorpion could move thereafter and he, in body-acing struggle, could move only slightly. To his grief, his thieve bandsmen appeared dead and he bit his teeth over the humiliation he endured as the coach party looked on in speechless astonishment.
Rain now began to pour down in buckets, a mighty wind howled and the day became almost as black as night.
Scorpion’s arms and legs felt like they weighedtons. It took all his strength just to move as he attempted to rise. At length he managed to sit up.
“Scorpion!” The wizard’s voice, wicked and course, now blasted like a trumpet. “Your villain friends are hereby sentenced to twenty years working the Ant Kingdom mines in the deep channels of the earth. You, Scorpion, I’ve given special consideration. Your days of pillage and plunder are no more. Your punishment shall be indefinite. Until you have accomplished a deed of great good.”
To do good? No! That would be excruciating. “No!” Scorpion begged. “Please not that, great one. Mercy, mercy.”
Tears welled in Scorpion’s eyes. He was mortified to be defamed in front of all these witnesses. It seemed all the robber glory he’d enjoyed was about to vanish like a blown-out candle flame. Sorrow and regret coiled round his insides. Cold dread gripped him. Now he realized there’d be hell to pay.
“Mercy? Nay!” The wizard roared.
The downpour intensified. Scorpion was getting soaked. Through the mist and rain pellets that obscured his vision he could see his onlookers—clothes drenched, water streamed down them, pounded and pooled at their feet. Dunderheads! Why didn’t they seek the coach for cover? Evidently they too had become spellbound, unable to move an inch. The knights, they had recovered and stood nearby like ghosts raised from the grave. Yet, to his amazement,the Wizard Marshal remained dry.
“I pronounce judgment on you!” The wizard bellowed. “Judgment deserving of your crimes. You shall be blinked to Danger Mountain and there transformed into a horrid monstrosity. Henceforth you shall be… YAK.”