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Sleeping Beauty


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The sun was just barely setting, its last flickering rays creating a blanket of shadow before the coming night. A solitary figure stumbled forward, clad in silver armor stained green and darkened with soot. The lone individual dropped to his knees, and coughed, using the massive glowing sword in his right hand to support himself.


"By Torm, that's the last time I rely on a gnome for directions," grumbled the man, and he with his left hand, pushed open his visor revealing a man's face with a full, peppery beard that did seem to remove a few years from his wrinkled face.


"'Keldorn, this is right up yer alley,'" groused the armored figure to himself, "'A princess who needs to be woken with a kiss. All who ventured there have never returned.'"


Keldorn twisted around, and gazed at where he just exited, and whispered, "But did he mention the hedge maze? Of course not. Nor did he mention the glass slope, or the guardian at the bridge. Answer these questions three, my foot."


For as Keldorn stared back, he saw a massive wall of green and yellow vines, bearing thorns as large as daggers, interlaced to make a thick wall. He did take grim delight in seeing the plumes of smoke rising into the air from where he made his passage through the spiked obstruction. He shuddered, though, when he saw the wall was already closing up from his passage, the vines growing and binding once more to block where he entered.


Keldorn sighed, and glanced heavenward, "Forgive me Torm. I guess I'm just growing crotchety in my old age."


And just what am I doing out here anyway? Trying to find a last moment of glory? Or avoiding going back home? It's not like Maria is without blame, but somehow she still manages to turn it all back and make me think it's my fault. he thought bitterly.


Keldorn let a few more uncharitable thoughts drift through his mind before noticing a cave in the background. With the dying sun, it almost matched the rocky embankment it was part of. When he grasped his sword, though, the blade blazed with a fiery aura, revealing the entrance as plain as day.


"She must be in there," he mumbled to himself, then bit back a wry chuckle as an inner part sardonically added, Where else would she be, mulch for the plants?


Keldorn shook his head, muttering, "Even Edwin's derision is contagious."


The aged paladin squared his and entered the tunnel. Though his senses were keyed for any possible disturbance, nothing came rushing toward him. Soon, he exited the dank passage only to come upon a large, well-illuminated room.


Squinting, Keldorn scanned the room quickly, and saw that the light came from several small globes held into niches carved into solid rock, yellow flames captured within. He almost gagged as a strong floral scent filled his nose, for as he looked around, the room was filled vivid red roses and vibrant lilacs.


What drew his attention, though, was a massive oak bed in the center of the room. Upon the bed was a young woman of such heart-braking beauty that Keldorn momentarily forgot all his cares. He studied the woman carefully, carefully noting the shiny, crimson lips, the cascade of jet-black hair that framed a face of porcelain white skin. Carefully, Keldorn leaned over her, pressing an ear on the woman's bountiful bosom. He sighed with relief as he heard a very faint, very slow heartbeat within.


The aged warrior stood back up, and gazed at the woman who looked to be no older than his daughter Vesper.


"A kiss," he wondered, "To break a spell. Well, Gerhard was right about the woman, most likely he is right about how to break the spell."


Keldorn slid his sword into the scabbard, and for a moment a flush of betrayal filled him, for in all his life, he had kissed only one woman previously.


"Torm forgive me," he prayed, and pressed his lips tightly to the woman's. For a brief moment, Keldorn thought maybe his action was not doing any good. However, the courtly warrior then felt a gentle hand on the back of his skull, pressing him ever closer to the woman's yielding, tangy lips.


"My lady," Keldorn mumbled, trying to break free only to find himself firmly held in place by the single hand. That was when his mind registered the fact that the strong scent of the flowers also hid the odor of death within the room, a stench of decay whose strongest odor wafted from the woman. Finally, while he desperately sought to break the hold of the princess, his mind clued on the fact that the woman's lips had been slick with wetness, and the tang was that of fresh blood.


Then, welcoming blackness filled the paladin's mind, driving the white flare of pain from his awareness. Keldorn's body slumped to the ground, and a figure stretched languorously on the bed.


"Not a bad year," she purred to herself, running a hand through her immaculate hair, "Though not of the blood royale. I swear, there are fewer and fewer princes each year."


She poked the paladin's body with a toe, and grumbled, "And I so hate cleaning up after dinner."

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