Gerald traveled for weeks, and met many people in towns scattered across the countryside. He followed the trail on the map, and as he got closer to his destination people began to speak of the Tower. He did not keep his mission a secret, and asked for any information the people around the area could give him. He was told of a mighty ogre that guarded the door, and used a great tree trunk as a club. The braver ones who’d crept within sight of the Tower said that at night, the roaring of some great beast could be heard, and great gouts of what they surmised could only be dragon fire spouted from the upper windows. More distressing, they claimed that on clear nights, when the wind was light, the weeping of a woman could be heard for miles around the Tower.
These tales filled him with trepidation, yes, but also hardened his resolve. He was charged with the rescue of this princess, fool’s errand though it may be, and by Enkil he was going to see it through. In his years serving the King, he had learned to listen to the peasants, but not to put overmuch stock in their tall tales. He left the last town before the Tower, refusing to worry about what might lie ahead. He would deal with whatever it turned out to be when the time came.
After a few days of riding through comfortable country, he spied the Tower on the horizon. It was a massive edifice, looking as though it had been built yesterday. That was the way with wizard towers, Gerald supposed. Magic was able to do strange things, few of which were known by mortals. As he drew closer, he saw a large, iron-banded door, and in front of it a great figure stood.
The knight tied his horse to a tree a fair distance off and gathered up his sword and shield. Steeling himself, he marched towards the base of the tower. The creature had to be three meters tall at least, well over Gerald’s height. Iron muscles rippled under ash grey skin, and sharp tusks jutted up from the thing’s lower jaw. Lying on the ground next to it was a tree trunk, almost as big around as Gerald, that had been trimmed and had a well-worn grip. The cloth the thing was wearing looked to be animal skins, but had an air of craftsmanship about it that spoke of a certain level of intelligence.
The thing’s head moved ponderously, and regarded Gerald with casual disinterest. Gerald stopped a ways off and held out his sword in salute, and he would swear the thing smirked at that. Putting more force and confidence into his voice than he felt, he shouted, “Mighty ogre! I am Sir Gerald Ilberd, and I request entry to this Tower! Stand aside, and I shall let you live!”
The ogre’s eyebrows raised, and it let out a mighty guffaw that ended in a fit of coughing. It wiped a tear from its eye with one great clawed hand, and sighed as the attack subsided. “Oh, Sir Knight,” it said, and it had a voice like boulders falling down a mountainside, “jest not with me in that way! I’m an old ogre, and my heart isn’t what it once was. You seem to know little of these matters, so I shall give you this warning. Go back to your horse and ride away, little morsel. It has been long since I’ve tasted man flesh, but as thanks for the laugh I will give you a chance to leave unspitted and unroasted. Go. Now.”
Gerald’s stance did not waver, and he replied, “I cannot, for I am charged by King Thainor to rescue the princess within and return her to her father. Now open the door and stand aside, or I shall have to force you to do so.”
“Oh, another one, eh?” The ogre harrumphed and got to its feet, taking up its tree trunk club in a hand that could crush Gerald should it catch him. “Do you know how many others like you’ve I’ve eaten? You’ve been sent to your death, boy, for none have gotten past Mogurk! One last time. Leave.”
“It seems we are at an impasse,” Gerald called, and lowered his sword to a fighting stance. “Defend yourself, Mogurk, for I shall not be defeated this day!”
The ogre shook his head, saying, “You have no idea what’s in this tower, do you, lad?”
“I know the Princess of Zaevaria lies within, and from what the peasants say she is guarded by a dragon.”
Mogurk chuckled. “You could say that.”
“I have no wish to fight you and a dragon, but I shall if I must. Take up your club!”
“Have it your way,” the giant monster sighed, and cocking back its mighty arm it swung the tree trunk in a horizontal strike at Gerald.
The knight ducked, feeling the wind from the blow that surely would’ve pulped his insides, and ran under it towards the creature. With a cry he struck out and stabbed the ogre in the thigh. A great gout of blood followed his sword from the wound, and Mogurk grunted in pain. The giant reversed its grip on the club and struck Gerald with the butt full in the chest, knocking him backwards.
Gerald hit the ground, the wind knocked out of him, thanking Enkil for the protection of his armor. Mogurk raised the tree in both hands, swinging down to crush the knight. Rolling to the side, Gerald came up and cut at the creature’s hands, slicing off a few fingers that fell to the ground with dull thuds. The ogre screamed at that, and renewed his attack with greater ferocity.
It reached out with its good hand and grabbed Gerald by the torso, lifting him from the ground and throwing him against the wall of the Tower. Despite his armor, the knight felt something snap in his chest, and breathing became a chore. Mogurk roared at him, and he picked himself up off the ground as the creature raised up a foot to stomp him flat. As he dodged around the clumsy strike, he sliced up and severed the hamstring of the leg as the foot pounded into the ground he’d just been lying on.
Mogurk cried out again, and backhanded him. Gerald managed to get his shield up in time, and felt his arm go numb with the force of the blow as he was thrown to the ground again. He rolled with it this time, and got to his feet while the ogre was straining to retain its balance. Breathing hard, the knight shouted a battle cry and ran at the monster.
Turning, the ogre came around just in time to catch an upthrust of Gerald’s sword in the belly. The knight wrenched his sword to the side and opened the creature up, cringing at the smell of the innards spilling out on the ground. He backed away, gagging, and circled around as Mogurk tried to stuff his intestines back into the hole in his gut. With a scream and a swipe, he cut the giant’s other hamstring, and the beast toppled over. Diving out of the way, breathing as though he’d just fought ten men, Gerald watched it fall.
Mogurk knew it was dying, and it looked up at the knight who’d bested it and somehow managed a laugh. It nodded, coughing, and said, “You got me, lad. I guess I was getting old, even for an ogre.”
“Give me the key to the door, beast,” Gerald growled through clenched teeth.
“Aye, you’ve earned it.” The whole hand fumbled with a pouch on its belt, removing it and tossing it to the knight. “That’s the key, Sir Knight. But beware,” it coughed again, “there are more dangerous things than Mogurk in that Tower.”
“Like the dragon?”
This set the ogre to laughing, but he stopped fast as the pain in his gut flared up like a bonfire. “That, and others. The master of the Tower has other guardians, and he will come himself if his treasure is threatened. Be wary, boy. That’s all I can say. Now, do an old ogre a mercy and end it swiftly.”
Gerald nodded, attached the pouch to his belt, and raised his sword. “You were a worthy foe, Mogurk,” he said, and swung down with all the force he could muster.
The blade split flesh, sending fountains of stinking blood everywhere, but the cut was clean. The ogre’s massive head rolled away into the meadow, and Gerald was glad to see it gone. He saw that where the blood landed, the grass died, and avoided stepping in it. He cleaned his sword and rested. Pulling the large, crudely wrought key from the pouch, he regarded the door. If what lay beyond that portal was more dangerous than Mogurk, he was not looking forward to entering. But he had come this far, and he would complete his task, dragons and worse dangers be damned.