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Fall of the Serpent King

A girl in a long, tattered frock ran to the slender shadow carved into the horizon.

"Please... don't do this! There has to be another way!"

The silhouette stopped for a moment, than vanished over the hills in the distance. There were no alternatives, and nothing to discuss. It was foolish for her to get so close... and for him to grant her that opportunity. He tightened the grip on his dagger and continued onward, to the forest glen where the end awaited him.

He stopped at a massive hole punched into the dry, cracked earth. Nothing grew around its edges, and any plant life that dared to even approach it was brown and choked of life. It was less of a burrow and more of a festering wound.

"Show yourself!," he screamed as he peered into its inky depths.

He felt a presence behind him, although he dared not glance over his shoulder. He heard the crackling of dead weeds and a frustrated growl. Surely the monster would already have overtaken him if not for his finely polished armor.

"Clever," the beast hissed through clenched teeth, "but you only postpone your death."

"And yours is already assured. My presence alone seals your fate."

"So it does." He howled in agony as rows of sharp teeth pierced his ankle and tore a chunk of fur and flesh from his leg. The creature spiraled itself around his body and arched its head over his. It looked down at him with shining scarlet eyes, catching him in its fatal stare.

"This is the end once more," it whispered, growing weak from the essence of its mortal enemy.

He frantically hacked at the monster with his dagger, as if it mattered. His arm felt heavy after just a few strikes, its soft supple fur replaced by a prison of stone. His feet were held fast to the ground, and a tear streamed down his cheek as the stone crept upward.

He had missed so much to prepare for this moment. He will miss so much afterward. Still, if his sacrifice spared the village from the tyranny of the Serpent King, it had to be worthwhile. If it really was the end, it would be enough.

Finally, merciful silence. Silence broken by the anguished cry of a newborn weasel, and the crack of a hen's egg buried in the muddy den of a toad.
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