Alexander continued on his search for the Holy Grail, but now he had a new goal as well: to liberate Gwendolyn from the two giants. He didn't know where or how he would get enough treasure to satisfy them by the end of the year, but he knew that he must do so, or else Gwendolyn's fate would be sealed...
Upon pondering this, he came across a large ash tree. It was an impressive sight, far larger than it should normally have grown, almost reaching the heavens. Alex stared at it in wonder when he heard a nasty hissing sound.
"Who daresss intrude upon my domain?" The hissing voice exclaimed, contempt ringing behind in its tone. "I shall consssume you asss I have all who have came before you!"
Alex watched as a gigantic serpent slithered down from the top of the tree. It was a bright red color, with eyes as green as emeralds, slitted with malice. It had rows upon rows of teeth, and a long forked tongue darted in and out of its triangular maw. The hideous snake stared straight into Alex's eyes, and cocked its head to one side when he noticed Alex's heterochromatic eyes. "You are different from thossse who have come in here before... I thought you were another sssucculent maiden that thossse idiotic giantsss reccceived asss payment... their were originally eight women... but one by one, ssseven fled and resssted by my tree, where I made them my meal... only the one remainsss..."
Alex realized then that the serpent was referring to the giants Ymir and Surtr, and that Gwendolyn was the only maiden who did not flee the giants... the other seven were consumed by the snake... perhaps they still lived within the serpent's belly? It was a longshot, but he at least had to try.
"As you can plainly see, o wise serpent," Alex began, "I am obviously not a maiden, but a knight in search of a magical object. Perhaps you would be so kind as to tell me where I can find what I seek?"
The serpent coiled itself around a treelimb, resting as if in deep thought. "Perhapsss I can, perhapsss not. Whatever you ssseek, however, mussst have a priccce, and nothing in life isss free... essspecccially informatttion."
"And what is it that you want?" Alex asked.
"Thessse maidensss that I have eaten are a tad dry... the payment thossse giantsss reccceived were obviousssly women consssidered asss outcassstsss by the rulersss of the land the giantsss aided... my throat isss quite parched with thirssst... could you bring me a drink of sssome kind? Maybe then will I anssswer your questionsss..." The serpent pointed to his left. "There isss a sssmall town down that way. Sssurely they have sssomething that fitsss a meal of tender meat..."
Alex bowed low, and a plan formulated in his mind all the while. He knew just what to get the snake, and that very thing will lead to its downfall. "As you wish... might I ask your name, before I leave?"
"I am Nidhogg, Ssserpent of the World Assshhh... and you are?"
"Sir Alexander Kahner, the Black Knight of Camelot. I shall return with what you ask..." With that, Alex left, knowing full well of his triumph.
Alex went into town, and with the gold that he had brought over from Britain, bought multiple crates of fine wine. The taste and arouma would make anyone a bit loose after a while, and the snake would be no exception. Alex carried them away, the strength of the draught given him by Ethelred Balore making the feat quite simple.
He returned to the snake, who stared at the crates with great thirst. "Yesss, that'sss it. Niccce, deliccciousss nectar..." It muttered as Alex poured the wine into a silver basin.
Alex watched as the snake bent and drunk greedily from the silver basin, and then proceeded to add more wine. The snake bent low again and Alex refilled it again. After repeating the process a third time, the snake was obviously a little drunk. "Alright... now, tell me what it isss that you ssseek."
"The Holy Grail." He simply stated, and the serpent stopped drink and began laughing.
"Gah ha ha haaaaaa! That'sss rich! You will never find that sssacred chaliccce! Even if you did, you would only doom yourssself and thossse you cared about!" It snorted, its cheeks growing pinker as it grew drunker.
Alex shook his head. "Would more wine loosen you tongue? I've come a long way to find the Holy Grail, and I won't return home until I find it and get the answers I seek." He poured more wine into the basin, and the snake again drunk greedily.
"The object you ssseek isss far to the eassst, within an ancient temple located in the ruined cccity of Rome... but you will never reach it..." The snake muttered.
Alex again filled the basin. "Oh, I'm sure I can manage. Even if I don't reach it I will at least learn something from the experience... like whether fate can be changed and death avoided."
The snake drank once more, and teetered as it spoke. "Sssuch thingsss asss that have been asssked by men for millenia... I have yet to hear of one who never left thisss plane of exissstenccce at leassst onccce..." And then the snake began to fall off its branch, and spoke. "Ughhhh... I'm ssso sssleepy..."
"Good... just what I was waiting for." Alex pulled out his silver blade, Rapture, and cut the snake's head clear off, the creature being far too drunk to defend itself. Alex then crushed its head, making absolutely sure that it would not come back, knowing such creatures as this snake often had magical powers that prevent death from being so easy. He then dropped a rock on the crushed skull and proceeded to check the insides of the serpent's corpse, hoping to find some trace of the women he devoured.
All that poured out at first was wine and blood, then bones and tattered cloth that belonged to the maidens. Alex kept searching, never giving up hope for at least one survivor. Then his hands touched something odd within the pit of the dead snake: metal, cold, sharp... a sword?
Alex grabbed the blade and tore it out, and looked at it in magnificence. The blade shined blue and gold, with a black center and handle. The markings on the handle were reminicent of a bird's wings, and it glistened in the light, beautiful yet eerie to behold. Alex then knew: the blade was forged not from the hands of a blacksmith, but within the pit of the snake's stomach, and was the cause of the creature's discomfort. The souls of the seven maidens it had devoured fused themselves together, creating a weapon unlike any the world had ever seen. It was the souls of the dead maiden's he held in his hands, not alive but not dead, trapped forever in unity, and the blade glistened as though death itself was the blade's edge.
Alex wiped it carefully with a ragged cloth, and sheathed it on his back. "This blade was born from seven souls trapped in a tempest of emotions... as such, this sword shall be known as 'Tempest' from this day onward."
Alex walked away from the World Ash and the serpent's corpse, now knowing precisely where he must go and what he must do. He had a long journey ahead of him... but he knew that the journey will not be as difficult now that he knew where to go.