27. Blazing Bibelots (Part 4)

The princess giggled when the bird stopped to flap its heavy wings. “How lovely!”

“Pardon me!” A tenuous voice squeaked as a pair of hands foisted a mountain of books upon the table, knocking the automaton to the floor where it crumbled into a pile of screws and bolts, causing the princess to yelp in fright. “Oh, sorry, there,” the clerk apologized, “don’t worry about that old trinket. Your friend suggested that one of these might appeal to you, filled with lots of interesting information. Enjoy!” bowing, Bertrand, left as quickly and silently as he had appeared. Shrugging their shoulders at one another, the captain and the girl both reached for a tome.

Hataru gingerly took a dust-caked volume titled Tales of Myth and Legend from the stack. Thumbing through the jagged, yellow pages, she perused the hand-written text and noted the detailed illustrations of various stories ─ the creation of the world, the creation of man, monsters killing heroes, and heroes killing monsters. A prickling sensation swept across her skin like a winter storm through a northern valley when she spied one image, however. In remarkable detail, a brilliant, flaming bird of prey with outspread wings emerged from the tip of a silver flute, ready to fly off the parchment at the princess. Fighting the urge to slam the book closed and throw it across the room, she turned to read the story that accompanied the frightful image:

The son of a female jinn and a human man, the malevolent Lord Andivad, Duke of Gloomorose, was known for his ability to manipulate the fiery element of his mother's realm, which he employed to rule his domain with violent cruelty. Men would beg at his feet for their lives to no avail; when he grew tired of their pleas he would simply set them alight with the wave of a jewel encrusted hand. Women and children were not excused from his wrath, either.

With such terrifying strength, the duke feared nothing ─ except death. In order to prolong his malicious reign, Lord Andivad forged an instrument of exceptional power. Dabbling in the dark arts, he ensnared the heart of a newborn phoenix within his favorite titanium flute. No longer a mere plaything, the instrument could summon the spirit of the slain, immortal bird of rebirth when played, and as long as the flute was in his possession, Andivad could never die.

Over the course of the next four hundred years, the duke took over the entire Pyronian Kingdom by force of flames. Entire villages were razed to the ground. There was never a shortage of victims to torture, and those who survived suffocated on the ash-filled smoke of their fallen brethren. Despite the perpetual glow of the duke's ever-burning fires, the world was a dismally dark place.

That is until Fate finally intervened, for no man can withstand such divine powers. On the anniversary of the flute's creation, a vast flood arose from the River Slukke, which flowed near the duke’s palace, dowsing the fires and drowning Lord Andivad. The flute was swept away in the current and not seen again for many millennia.

The End

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